Piano Keyboard Guide
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5 Best Keyboards for Advanced Players
As a seasoned musician, you know how important it is to have a fantastic instrument by your side. As a piano player, even if you have a grand concert piano at home, you’re going to need the right keyboard for practice, rehearsals, and gig situations.
With this in mind, we present you with the 5 best keyboards for advanced players.
Knowing which aspects of a digital piano are the most important to look at is essential for your buyer’s experience. Here are some factors to keep in mind.
This is, without a doubt, the most critical feature on any keyboard. It can and will make or break an instrument, so pay close attention to it.
As a rule of thumb, you’re looking for a keyboard that feels as close as possible to that of the acoustic piano.
Build and Dimensions
Depending on what your goal with an advanced keyboard is, you’ll want to take the dimensions and its weight into account. If you don’t expect to move it around a lot, you can go with heavier ones. If you intend on doing a lot of gigging with it, aim for the lighter ones.
Build-wise, the sturdier the model is, the better.
Sound and Tone
The quest for the perfect sound and tone is a long one that can’t be really put into words. However, you should be on the lookout for models with dynamic tonal capabilities and various sound and effect features.
Best Keyboard for Advanced Players – Reviews
Best Keyboard for Advanced Players – Reviews
Kawai ES8 Digital Home Piano
The Kawai ES8 is, without a doubt, among the most realistic keyboards out there, under $2,000. It’s widely acclaimed by many keyboardists, who use this professional keyboard for everything from live gigs to recordings.
Although brilliant and player-friendly, the Kawai ES8 does come with its own set of strengths and downsides.
It isn’t very compact for a portable keyboard. Yes, it’s very much portable and yes, you will take it to band practices and live gigs, but not without grief. You’ll find yourself complaining along the way.
With that said, the ES8 is very elegant. It has a glossy metal cabinet with a long speaker-grill, which stretches for the entire width of the instrument.
Although the side panels are plastic, this in no way affects the keyboard’s sturdiness. In fact, the model is built to last. The moment you sit in front of the piano, you’ll forget all about the materials and design and realize that it’s a top-quality instrument.
The ES8 is on the larger side for gigging pianos, but it’s still used by a variety of performers and session players out there. The 54” width is quite something for a portable keyboard. It’s also 14.5” deep and 50 lbs. heavy (roadies hate it).
You’d think these dimensions are due to the fact that the ES8 has 88 keys (like the acoustic piano), but many keyboards have this number of keys without being this large and heavy.
When you start playing the instrument and feel the keys, you’ll quickly forget all about the weight.
As a rule of thumb, every piano player aims at getting a digital piano that resembles the key feel of a real piano. But that isn’t so easy to achieve. What comes as natural on acoustic pianos has to be simulated on digital ones and that’s a really difficult feat.
The Kawai ES8 is equipped with the Responsive Hammer III action – likely the most realistic key action on the digital piano market. This action uses hammers of different weights to replicate the real, mechanical movement found on acoustic pianos.
The RH3 also has a system called triple-sensor key detection that captures each key strike accurately, making it easier for an advanced player to play trills and fast passages. Ever played a real piano? You’ll have noticed how you don’t have to completely let the key return to its resting position to play it again, right? Well, the RH3 makes this possible on the Kawai ES8.
A very cool thing about the ES8 is that it features absolutely brilliant sound and tone options. Although it’s a mid-range model, it still features the best sound chip found in Kawai digital pianos. Yes, the same sound chip found in the CA78 and CA98, which are definitely high-end.
With a variety of 10 different piano tones available, you’ll definitely find something to suit your needs. Kawai has managed to meticulously sample some of the most popular concert pianos: the 9-ft Shigeru Kawai SK-EX, the 9-ft Kawai EX, and the 6ft 7” SK-5 Chamber grand.
Speaker-wise, the ES8 features two 15-watt speakers, which are pretty damn great. Oh, and they’re solidly loud, almost like a real acoustic piano. So, you probably won’t need an extra amp for band practice sessions and small gigs. The two speakers bring a more than solid sound to the table. Yes, it doesn’t compare to the amp sound, but no one can expect it to, really.
For less than $2,000, you get more bang-for-the-buck.
Yamaha YDP184R Arius Series Console Digital Piano with Bench, Dark Rosewood
The YDP184R, the new kid on the block, has stolen the hearts and minds of many players. It’s already renowned for its beautiful and realistic sound, as well as for its outstanding craftsmanship.
Don’t expect a low price tag for this model, though. This one is truly designed for advanced players – those who get their hands on the YDP184R don’t part from it easily. For many professional musicians, the YDP184R means the end of the quest for the perfect digital piano.
Ultimately, design doesn’t really have too much of an influence when it comes to keyboards. It doesn’t affect playability, it has nothing to do with tone and sound, and it definitely doesn’t dictate how the keys feel. However, the aesthetics of an instrument are a critical factor for many musicians.
With that said, the Yamaha YDP184R features a rich rosewood finish, making it look like an acoustic piano. It has a traditional design and certainly breathes quality and cutting-edge beauty.
Even the three pedals are positioned exactly as they would be on an acoustic piano. You also get a matching padded bench, as well as a stand for sheet music. It may not be the cheapest keyboard for the advanced player, but it certainly epitomizes quality.
Keys and Features
In addition to the three pedals found on acoustic pianos, the YDP184R has 88 fully functional keys that are nonslip ebony and ivory, allowing for better grip and handling.
This is incredibly important if you suffer from sweaty hands while performing. These keys will make for a more natural and more practical experience. Even if your hands are dry while performing, these ebony and ivory keys will make the playing experience smoother.
The keys are weighted, as well, carefully reproducing the real piano experience – heavy in the lower register and light towards the higher octaves. This is very important, as every keyboard player prefers the feel of an acoustic piano.
In addition to these features, you get an LCD display, a 1/8 AUX input, virtual resonance modeling, key-off samples, Duo mode, as well as a premium grand piano voice.
Tone and Sound
The sound sampling for this model was done from the Yamaha CFX9 concert piano and features a 256-note polyphony. This allows for more realism in resonance, a remarkable pedal effect, as well as many samples for key velocity.
The mentioned virtual resonance modeling (VRM) allows for a very realistic soundboard. It works by calculating the different states of strings and resonance in the higher register.
There are 24 instrument sounds to choose from, which include various piano sounds, stereo, guitar, strings, organs, choirs, etc.
The 60-watt stereo power is more than enough for most occasions that aren’t big stage performances.
One of the most important aspects of any digital instrument is its connectivity capabilities. In this respect, the YDP184R is very flexible. It offers MIDI, AUX out (L+R), AUX in (stereo), AC adapter, and USB port connectivity options.
It comes with two stereo jacks for headphones for a more realistic experience.
All in all, the Yamaha YDP184R is a brilliant digital piano that definitely won’t disappoint. It’s far from cheap, though.
Roland, Digital Pianos-Stage, 88 keys (FP-60-BK), FP-60
Roland is a company that has quite a place in the music instrument industry. Although famous for other things, Roland inspires the most confidence with their digital pianos.
Having been around the block more than a couple of times, the company definitely know what they’re doing. Relatively recently, their new FP-60 model replaced the FP-50 model, successfully becoming the new middle ground between the beginner’s FP-30 and their top-tier FP-90.
Make no mistake, the FP-60 is definitely not a flagship model. But, with a name this big and a keyboard of this quality, don’t expect the price to be too low, either.
Of course, like any other keyboard for advanced players, the Roland FP-60 has 88 keys and comes with integrated stereo speakers.
Now, the thing with the FP-60 is that it’s a bit bulkier than other entry-level digital pianos. However, as it’s not an entry-level instrument, its 41lbs and its 13.5” depth aren’t too much to handle.
Oh, and you get to choose between two color variations, the classic black unit and the white one. Not really a variety of colors, but most digital pianos don’t offer you any choice to begin with.
A fairly cool feature that you won’t find with most keyboards is the 3-band equalizer, featured in the left part of the instrument, right next to the volume slider. This feature allows you to shape your sound on the fly. Want to add some brightness to a warm tone? Scoop those mids and give those highs a boost. Overall, a 3-band EQ is a fairly unique feature for a keyboard.
A neat extra feature that you get is the Roland DP-10 damper pedal. This pedal feels like the pedals found on acoustic pianos and is brilliant for expressive playing.
Controls are definitely the FP-60’s highlight. First of all, the buttons and sliders feel greet to the touch. Every button on the keyboard has lit-edges, which look neat, but also mean a lot when playing in low-lit rooms (especially great for live gigs).
It comes with a simple screen that allows for easy navigation through various sound and tonal options. Control-wise, there aren’t many better keyboards on the market.
Although controls, design, and build quality are essential factors in digital pianos, the keyboard can definitely make or break an instrument.
Granted, the keys are plastic here, but the PHA-4 Standard provides the most realistic key action when it comes to plastic keys. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even notice that these keys aren’t made from ivory – they certainly have that ivory feel.
The keys feature escapement action, which simulates the moment on acoustic pianos, just before a hammer hits a string. Naturally, there are no strings in Roland FP-60. Instead, it uses weights to simulate the feel of the effect.
Although the keys feel brilliant, they don’t bring the most realistic piano experience in the price range. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go with this keyboard – some players aren’t looking for that acoustic piano feel.
Sound and Tone
Everything that Roland falls short on regarding the keyboard feel (in no way is the keyboard bad, though), is compensated by sound quality. Using sampling and modeling, the FP-60 creators have managed to come up with some ridiculously realistic sounds.
Using the SuperNATURAL sound engine from Roland, the FP-60 brings organic elements such as resonance to the table, as well as long natural decays and velocity transitions.
The Roland FP-60 comes with 8x12cm bi-amped speakers with a total of 30 watts of output power. This allows for a wide stereo image during regular playing. The cool thing about these speakers is that they are front-, rather than downward-facing. This means clear sound, even when working on flat surfaces.
Connectivity-wise, the FP-60 comes with a full range of options, ensuring a seamless live performance experience.
Casio Privia PX-560 Digital Piano – Blue Bundle with CS-67 Stand, SP-33 Pedal, Furniture Bench, Instructional Book, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Although it’s the most technologically advanced and the most expensive model in the Privia line, the PX-560 is still one of the most affordable instruments from this list of the 5 best keyboards for advanced players.
It’s been around since 2015, but, for some reason, it’s only started gaining traction relatively recently. Nonetheless, this is a brilliant model that’s created with performers in mind.
The Casio Privia PX-560 is an 88-key, full-fledged, fully-key-weighted portable digital piano.
This model is 51.9” wide, 5.7” high, and 11.5” deep. In terms of width, it isn’t really compact, but it does have 88 keys to brag about, plus, the PX-560 isn’t exactly the widest digital piano out there.
Weight-wise, at 26.5 lbs., this digital piano is amazingly light, especially when you take the hammer-action keys into account, and the built-in speakers.
This model is made out of matte black and blue plastic, which gives it an exclusive and interesting look.
The PX-560 does boast a decent build quality, but it isn’t really exceptional in this department. Some of its higher-priced competitors are much sturdier. With that said, this has a lot to do with PX-560’s light weight, which is a reasonable trade-off.
The knobs feel a bit cheap, but this doesn’t affect their performance and functionality in any way.
One thing that stands out from the generally mediocre design here is the 5.3” color touchscreen in the middle of the keyboard’s control panel. This is a fairly amazing feature, especially at this price range. Most high-end models don’t feature a color touchscreen. And whilst it may seem like a gimmick, it actually works wonders for the PX-560’s user experience.
Design and build quality are significant factors with digital pianos, no one is denying that. But, as we’ve emphasized before, it’s nothing compared to the keyboard feel.
The 88 keys here are fully-weighted, producing something as close as possible to the real piano action feel.
The full name of the Casio Privia PX-560’s keyboard is “Tri-sensor Scaled Hammer Action Keyboard II.” It’s a fantastic keyboard that you won’t find on most other instruments in this price range. The three integrated sensors detect every keystroke, allowing better note repetition and thrill feel.
The Graded Hammer Action feature means that the action gets lighter as you go up in the note range. This brilliantly reproduces the feel of an acoustic piano, which is always great to hear, especially with models this affordable.
Sound and Tone
Like every other Casio’s Privia model, the PX-560 features their proprietary Morphing AiR Sound Source. This feature uses multi-layered samples, which brings a lot of dynamics to the table. Multi-layered samples mean that every single note was sampled at various volumes and stroke intensities to provide the most lifelike experience with a digital piano.
It’s important to note that the AiR feature utilizes lossless audio compression, which is very important, especially for recording situations.
There are 650 integrated sounds, which allow the musician to properly shape their preferred sound and tone.
The touchscreen also features a 4-band master EQ, which can help you fine-tune your tone even further.
Casio Privia PX-870 Digital Piano – Black Bundle with Furniture Bench, Instructional Book, Online Lessons, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
The PX-870 has replaced the PX-860 model as the flagship of Casio’s mid-range Privia series. It has introduced a variety of improvements to the PX-860. This includes things such as the 4-layer sound, completely redesigned speakers, and many other neat features.
Casio Privia PX-870 is more than a decent digital piano model that will last you for years.
In essence, the PX-870 features 88 keys and three piano pedals. It’s a furniture-style keyboard that will fit your interior design like a glove.
It’s only 11.7” deep, meaning that it can easily fit into tight spaces. However, at 75.6lbs, it’s cumbersome, so don’t expect that you’ll be storing it when you aren’t using it.
Compared to the PX-860, the new model has fewer seams and is shorter, which makes it that more convenient. It features a narrow and long speaker-grill. This is a part of the brand-new 4-speaker system for sound projection.
As stated, this model features three pedals. The sustain pedal responds even when you don’t press it the whole way down. Yep, like the damper pedal on acoustic pianos. This is a fantastic feature, not often seen among digital pianos.
Perhaps the most noticeable change when compared to the PX-860 model are the control elements – they’ve been moved to the left side of the keyboard, giving it a much more spacious and open look.
Like every other Privia model, the PX-870 features the “Tri-sensor Scaled Hammer Action Keyboard II.” This keyboard type is significant because it actually uses hammers in order to simulate the feel of a regular, acoustic piano. Although the keys aren’t perfectly on the spot when it comes to the weight and feel of an acoustic piano, they’re as close as digital pianos get.
The triple-sensor detection system allows for faster note repetition and a generally smooth playing feel.
The keyboard features the Graded Hammer Action, meaning that the keys have a lighter feel, as you move up the board.
The keys themselves are sensitive to touch, meaning that the volume, dynamics, and intensity will change, depending on the intensity of your playing.
Sound and Tone
Using the Morphing AiR Sound Source, the PX-870 manages to nail the sound and tone. It’s as close as possible to that of an acoustic nine-footer. Thanks to the lossless audio compression, it performs brilliantly in recording environments.
Most importantly, however, the PX-870 features the 4-layer piano tone, which simply sounds incredible.
Finally, the Privia PX-870 features something called the “Lid Simulator.” You guessed it, this feature simulates the sound changes on acoustic pianos, depending on the lid. It has four different options: Lid removed, Lid open, Lid half-open, and Lid closed.
Speaker-wise, the PX-870 is equipped with four speakers, that total at 40 watts. This allows for a more immersive experience while playing.
Although every single model on this list of the 5 best keyboards for advanced players is great in its own right, Casio Privia PX-560 is probably the best choice. In addition to a more than reasonable price tag, the PX-560 has almost every single one of the best Privia class features. At 26.5 lbs., it’s more than sufficiently light and perfect for frequent gigs, practice sessions, and rehearsals.
It also features Casio’s proprietary Morphing AiR Sound Source, which provides impressive tonal capabilities to the table. Oh, and the fully-weighted keyboard brings the PX-560 as close as possible to an acoustic piano, feel-wise.
If you want a homebound version of the PX-560 that’s a bit pricier but offers more features, go with the Casio Privia PX-870.
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