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Manuel Marino Music Composer

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Manuel is a passionate, driven, and techsavvy AV technician, artist and music composer with over ten years of experience, specializing in the captivating world of music and entertainment.

Manuel is an expert in creating soundtracks for short filmsfeature films and video games.

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20070228 - 04 - Sydney - New shared flat - My Electronic Keyboard
Photo by Kayhadrin

Not everybody wants or needs a traditional acoustic piano. Upright and baby grand pianos are expensive, difficult to move, and not well-suited for playing or composing contemporary music genres like techno, ambient, and hip-hop.

In many cases, both beginners and experts turn to electronic keyboards to meet their musical needs.

However, navigating through a music store can quickly confuse even the most enthusiastic keyboard shopper. So here are some important factors to consider when comparing keyboards:

(1) How will I use it?

This is a crucial starting point as the intended use of the keyboard will influence the size, weight, and features you’ll require.

  • Are you a beginner whose goal is to learn how to play for personal enjoyment?
  • An intermediate player interested in exploring performance options?
  • Or a professional pianist looking to compose music and explore recording options?

Keyboards come in various models with different numbers of keys, typically 37, 49, 61, 76, and 88 keys. A beginner who wants to practice basic skills may start with 3 octaves or 61 keys at a minimum, while intermediate players will prefer a 4 or 5 octave range.

An acoustic piano has 88 keys – five octaves – so to replicate the full expression of a traditional piano, you’ll need to invest in a higher-budget keyboard. This is fine if you’ll be performing on stage or creating music in a recording studio Tracking Studio - What do we mean for "tracking studio"? Individuals interested in the music industry may eventually want to create their own recordings, either vocal or instrumental. These recordings can be the starting point for many people's careers. To achieve an exceptional recording, you need a high-quality recording studio or tracking studio that captures all nuances of… .

(2) What are “voices” and how many do I need?

“Voices” refer to the different “samples” or sounds that your keyboard can produce. Modern keyboards offer a wide range of voices, ranging from a few to hundreds, most of which you may never use.

As you compare keyboards, you’ll notice a significant variation in the number of voices available. Personally, I would prefer a keyboard that offers a few high-quality voices rather than one that has a thousand low-quality ones.

(3) How user-friendly is the keyboard?

If you have ever used multiple computers, you have probably noticed that each computer keyboard has a different “feel.” The same applies to piano keyboards, especially if you’re considering buying a second-hand keyboard.

Try playing the keys when the keyboard is both turned off and turned on. The keys should not stick, and you should feel comfortable with the amount of pressure required to produce the desired sound.

Are the buttons placed in positions that make sense to you? Can you easily navigate between them? (Some of this, of course, is a matter of getting familiar with the new features, but just like with shoes, if the “fit” doesn’t seem right in the store, it won’t feel better at home.)

(4) What do “weighted” and “unweighted” keys mean?

When you press a key on an acoustic piano, a sound is produced when a small hammer, controlled by the key, strikes a string inside the piano. The effort required to press the key reflects the weight of the hammer.

Keyboards do not have hammers or strings. Pressing a key triggers the corresponding sound electronically, so the plastic keys do not have weight unless they are designed to.

Many people don’t mind the lightweight feel of plastic keys, while others prefer weighted keys to replicate the feel of a traditional piano. This is generally a matter of personal preference.

One thing to consider, though, is that if you learn to play on an electronic keyboard, you may find it difficult to switch to an acoustic piano. If you learn to play on a piano, however, it is easier to adapt to using unweighted keys, even if you don’t like the “plastic-y” feel. Another thing to keep in mind is that weighted keys add to the weight of the keyboard, affecting portability.

Something else to consider is “touch sensitivity.” The sound produced by striking a piano key can be louder or softer depending on the force of the strike. The same is not true for an electronic keyboard unless it has “touch sensitivity.”

(5) How does the keyboard sound?

Make sure to compare keyboards in different price ranges to hear the range of available quality. Sound quality is not always better in higher-priced units. Always prioritize good sound quality over the number of features. Especially as a new player, you will likely find that you won’t use as many extra features as you initially thought. Remember, you can always upgrade later.

(6) What is MIDI and what can I do with it?

Some keyboards come with MIDI capabilities. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface Understanding MIDI as an element of modern-day songs - Understanding MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is an industry-standard communication protocol that allows electronic musical instruments such as synthesizers, drum machines, computers, and samplers to communicate with each other. It does not contain audio data but transmits information related to musical notes, such as pitch, intensity, cues, volume, vibrato, and clock signals. Modern musicians… . It expands the variety of “samples” (sounds or voices) you can use by sending data to a computer or another device with additional capabilities.

Your MIDI keyboard itself does not produce any sounds. Instead, it sends information to another component that can generate the sounds of different musical instruments, such as drums or strings. Your keyboard, then, becomes a device (commonly referred to as a “controller”) that captures and transmits data instructing another device on what sounds to produce, at what volume, etc. MIDI data takes up much less space than recorded sound and is even smaller than MP3 files.

(7) New is not always better

When searching for keyboards, remember to explore the used market as well. Check newspapers, music schools, and local musical instrument stores to see what is available that is still in good condition and compatible with current PCs and software programs.

You can also browse online “for sale” listings or auctions, but keep in mind that you won’t be able to physically examine the keyboard or assess the sound quality when purchasing online. The best approach to the online market is to try out various keyboards in-store and identify the model you want. Then, you can see if you can find the same model available online.

“Scratch and Dent” sales can also save you money by allowing you to get a higher-priced keyboard for slightly less than retail due to minor imperfections or because they have been refurbished.

(8) What accessories should a beginner buy?

Only purchase accessories that are genuinely useful until you discover a specific need for them. Handy accessories for a beginner include a stand, headphones (for playing at night or in places where you might disturb others), and a keyboard bag or case to protect your keyboard if you plan on taking it with you while traveling or playing with others.

I hope these tips will help you find the keyboard that is right for you. If you approach the process with the same level of research and consideration as buying a car, you’ll do very well!

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