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I'm looking to buy a digital piano and am seeking advice on what type is best for me.

Some background on my experience and interests: I have taken lessons for around 5 years (8th-12th grade) and I have played recreationally in college for about 2. I had a heavy workload last year so did not play at all; going into my final year as an undergraduate I'd like to pick it up again. I am mostly interested in classical music. I plan on going to graduate school and plan on bringing the keyboard with me.

Important features: A must have is a touch sensitive keyboard. I need the keys to respond to the force I am exerting (e.g. playing forte or piano). Another crucial aspect is that the number of keys do not restrict my repetoir; I am stuck between the 76-key models (cheaper and more compact) and the 88-key ones (more complete).

My questions are: 1) what is more preferable for someone like me, the 76-key or the 88-key? Why do some keyboards have more keys? 2) what is the difference between touch sensitive and weighted? And are there advantages to having one over the other?

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    Consider to look for an used instrument instead; the price range does not seem to match your requirements. A decent keyboard mechanic is expensive – guidot Aug 10 '15 at 15:42
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    There's touch sensitive and there's weighted action. Very different, and for a classical pianist, the latter is more important. – Tim Aug 10 '15 at 15:47
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Your two questions interrelate to a large extend because most weighted keyboards will be of the 88 note variety. A quick google reveals that most of the 76 note pianos available feature what is known as a semi-weighted action.

Having a 76 note keyboard will hardly restrict your repertoire unless you intend to explore the more extreme virtuoso piano works. If the piece goes too high or too low you can always transpose the keyboard up or down by an octave. It's only if the piece goes too high and also too low that it would be a problem (a very rare problem indeed); and if you were playing at that level you would definitely want a full weighted action 88 key piano.

A Touch Sensitive keyboard is one that responds to how hard you hit the keys. This is normally done by measuring the time taken for the key to travel from it's rest position to the fully down position. it has nothing to do with the feel or playing action of the keyboard. Depending on the quality of the instrument it will have a range of effects including varying the loudness of the sound, selecting between piano samples recorded at different strengths, simulating more or less hammer noise and damper noise, sympathetic resonance and whatever they dream up next to increase the realism of the playing experience.

A weighted keyboard is one that attempts to imitate the feel of a real piano action. The alternative is a sprung action which is the type of keyboard generally found on synthesizers, electronic organs, and home keyboards, etc. If your main interest is to be a good piano player then definitely choose a weighted action if you can afford it.

To me - and this is purely subjective - a weighted action feels more percussive as though you are providing the effort that excites the sound. A sprung keyboard feels more like you are operating a switch that allows the sound through.

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1) The 88 key is preferable in most, if not all cases. Although the portability of a 76 key might be somewhat appealing, you don't really gain too much portability to make the sacrifice of the additional keys worth it. Regardless if you're looking to be a professional musician or just to play for fun, 88 keys it the way to go.

Most keyboards are 61, 76, or 88 keys. There are a few keyboards with different amounts of keys, but these are by far the most popular counts. It appears that the main reason for the different key counts is for the comfort of younger players. A young player might not have the arm length to comfortably reach all of the keys in an 88 key keyboard without having to shift around in their bench. That's where a 61 key and 76 key keyboard start to look a little more feasible. However, even for a young student, I would advise against a keyboard that has less than 88 keys!

2) A touch sensitive keyboard responds to how hard you press the key. So if you press the key very lightly you will produce a sound that roughly mimics the lightness of your touch. A weighted keyboard is also touch sensitive, but is designed to provide more resistance and feel closer to what a real piano's keys feels like.

I want to say that whether touch sensitive keys or weighted keys are better is somewhat subjective. However, I think there is very little to debate here, I opine that weighted keys are the way to go, regardless of your goals. Touch sensitive keys usually feel plasticy and almost toy-like. Transitioning from touch sensitive keys to a real piano would prove much more difficult and foreign than going from a weighted keyboard to a real piano.

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