6 Hidden Features Of The Piano Keyboard
Playing the piano has the ability to inspire, move, and excite the pianist as well as listeners. With an electronic keyboard, however, added benefits turn the instrument into something so much greater. It has high functionality, a lightweight design and is especially helpful to those first learning to play piano. It not only allows aspiring musicians to learn to play music quickly, but also encourages exploration.
When considering purchasing a keyboard, it’s important to remember that features will vary greatly based on the manufacturer, model and price of the instrument. Still, there are many benefits to electronic keyboards over digital and acoustic pianos. Following are six of my favorites.
Developing a sense of rhythm is critical to becoming a good pianist. Electronic keyboards have a wide range of percussion sounds built in that can be activated by pressing a single key. Many offer up to 47 programmed percussion sounds. Additionally, a tempo control automatically generates the beats per minute and mid-range to high-end models even feature visual or audio metronomes so new pianists can learn to keep time as they learn how to play.
Computer chips embedded into the electronic components of keyboards allows the user to interact with the menus and controllers. The feature allows the selection of various instruments, digital effects, and other types of features that enhance outcome. Many keyboards come with 128 electronic and acoustic instrument sounds and even vocal effects.
Specialty sounds include chorus, distortion, tremolo, delay, reverberation and even pitch bending. The sounds generated by keyboards can range from electronic organs to harpsichord and everything in-between. To make learning more fun and exciting, sounds can even be mixed to create something completely new. Unlike a regular piano, keyboard speakers are built into the system which allows for volume adjustment. They can also be used with headphones so only the musician can hear what they are playing.
3) Recording Feature
Recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses is essential to improving skills. With the self-recording feature on the newer keyboards, it has never been easier. Whole songs, single lines of music, and the blending of songs can all be accomplished with the recording program. One function that is found in some models is the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) function.
The feature enables the keyboard to be directly connected to another source such as a PC computer or 2nd keyboard. The result is the ability to play a keyboard directly through a computer system or to even download a song onto a flash drive to be transferred to a computer at a later date. In that way, the computer can be turned into a recording studio.
Acoustic pianos have what are called weighted keys in order to ensure the correct hammers strike the appropriate key strings. Digital pianos now come with keyboard actions such as semi-weighted, weighted, hammer and graded hammer action, etc. to ensure that the pianist has an instrument that is comfortable yet prepares them for an acoustic model as skills improve.
Electronic keyboards, on the other hand, either come in soft touch keys in the least expensive models or levels that can be set for key “hardness” as found in mid-priced to professional level equipment. Based on the setting, the resistance to touch as well as loudness are impacted. In the higher-end models both a change in volume and timbre can be achieved because sound is generated in chordophones that react to how hard a key is pressed. Several samples of an acoustic note can also be generated per key through the same system so that inexperienced pianists can determine the setting they prefer.
Another area where touch is important is in what’s called polyphony or the number of notes that the instrument can generate at a single time. The benefit is that it allows for smoother and more natural transitions between notes as well as enhances the music played.
For the least expensive option only 24 to 32 notes can be played at one time whereas in more expensive models up to 128 notes can be played. What that means is that the keyboard can be set to replicate several instruments being played at the same time to generate the sound of an orchestra or band.
5) Optional Accessories
One of the best things about electronic keyboards is the fact that they can be enhanced with accessories that can be purchased as skills increase. Although the following list is not inclusive, here are a few of the most popular.
* To increase the desired sound beyond what the keyboard is capable of generating the system comes with output jacks that enable an amplifier to be easily attached. It is especially popular when musicians begin playing at clubs, amphitheaters or at other types venues.
* When carrying a keyboard from place to place a hard-shell case is essential. If lessons are given at home and/or the instrument never leaves the residence, however, it can be protected with a dust cover or appropriately sized bag.
* When playing an acoustic piano one of the pedals pressed with the foot allows notes to be sustained for longer than the key is pressed. The sustain pedal that can be purchased for a keyboard works much the same way allowing the notes to continue playing for longer than would otherwise be expected.
* Due to its lightweight and compact size, playing an electronic keyboard while it is on your lap is fairly easy. For larger more advanced models, however, elevation and stability can be achieved with a stand designed to hold the instrument securely. For many musicians a stool is also preferred over standing for prolonged periods of time especially during a performance.
The moderate range of prices and the smaller size of the digital piano makes it more convenient and affordable than their acoustic counterparts. A keyboard that is electronic, however, is a cost-effective synthesizer that utilizes small speakers and a built-in amplifier.
As such, it can recreate sounds made by organs, violins, pianos, and a number of other instruments with synthesis that is less complex. Prices can range from under $100 to over $700 depending on the features included in the machine and manufacturer.
Even if someone taking up an electronic keyboard isn’t sure they will make a long-term commitment on continued use, it is the springboard for all other instruments. According to Plato “music is a more potent instrument than any other for education” and educators and researchers agree. Although music benefits children most through cognitive development, adults can also benefit in that the brain learns to work differently through music.
The purchase of an electronic keyboard has many advantages in that technology has developed to such a point that even entry level models now come with features that make learning to play an exciting adventure. By speaking with a knowledgeable representative, like those I work with at Cooper Piano in Atlanta, GA, the full range of features and characteristics that best fit your needs can be found.