The musical keyboard is an electronic or digital musical instrument best described as a synthesizer with a built-in power amplifier and a pair of speakers. The electronic keyboard recreates a wide range of instrument sounds like piano, organ, strings and wind instruments. In this article, I will use concepts like the electronic keyboard and the keyboard in the meaning of the musical keyboard.
The Playful Musical Instrument
The musical keyboard is one of the first musical instruments many people get to know, perhaps as a toy when they are young, or in music lessons in kindergarten and at school. The electronic keyboard is also a very popular beginner’s instrument before starting playing the piano, and many talented musicians have had their first musical experience by playing the keyboard as a child. Although the electronic keyboard cannot compete with the piano on sound quality, it has been of great musical importance and it will continue being that in the future.
This article is a serious attempt to emphasize the keyboard as a complete musical instrument and point to some relevant and interesting features. Note that musical keyboards can be both toys and advanced musical instruments, but I let the toys be for others to consider.
I base all my views on personal experiences from years of performances, retail, and teaching on piano and keyboard. To understand the nature of the musical keyboard, I will refer to similarities with other musical instruments, how to play the musical keyboard by taking advantage of the given possibilities. Finally, I will amplify why I recommend the musical keyboard for both beginners and the advanced. First, let us go back in time and find out how it started.
The Musical Telegraph
One would probably think that the electronic musical instrument is relatively new, but American inventor Elisha Gray invented the first real synthesizer in 1874. It was like a small two-octave keyboard that transmitted sound over the telegraph wires and he called it The Musical Telegraph or The Electro-Harmonic Telegraph. This new-fashioned device did not catch on, because the first true electric organs did not appear for another 45 years, and without the telegraph wires!
I like to think that the electronic keyboard is a mix of three instruments: the piano, the electronic organ, and the synthesizer.
- At first glance, the electronic keyboard looks a lot like the piano with the same white and black keys, but there are rather significant differences when we look into it. Imagine how much space an 88 key upright piano would take in your living room. Fortunately, the electronic keyboard is much smaller and fits in any room; I would recommend the 61 key models with a keyboard stand and a piano bench.
- It is somewhat different to play the electronic keyboard compared to the piano, although the engineers have successfully developed many piano features in the more expensive keyboard models. The expensive keyboards are usually the best to play, but you do not always have to go to the top-level models to get a great keyboard; it depends on your needs and skills. Some keyboards have touch-sensitive keys. Touch-sensitive keys simulate the weighted keys on the piano, making the playing more dynamic and sensitive, and most professional musicians prefer this feature.
- For more knowledge about weighted keys I recommend reading one of my other posts on the subject: https://keyboardplay.com/play-the-piano-or-keyboard-pros-cons
- Playing a musical keyboard is a lot like playing an electronic organ, as both instruments have a lot in common. Electronic organs and keyboards have a wide range of instrument sounds, but the most fun part is the rhythm section. Just select your style and play along with the rhythms from all over the world. In a few seconds, you are both the conductor and the soloist, and a whole orchestra is at your command; drums & percussion, bass, guitars, keyboards, brass section, woodwinds & strings.
- When comparing the electronic keyboard with the synthesizer, there are many basic similarities. Both instruments are about the same size and both are played in the same way. The relationship with the synthesizer is obvious, and most electronic keyboards recreate the best synthesizer sounds. However, the musicians in the 70s and 80s had to control a range of electronic frequencies to make sound, while today’s keyboard players are mostly pressing buttons.
Not Just Size & Prize
There are several things to consider when you want to purchase a musical keyboard; one of them is your musical needs. Are you a beginner or have you played a lot? These are issues you need to find out yourself. Some might say that the best about the musical keyboard is the size and price, that it is portable and easy to store, and just the perfect musical instrument for home. I strongly agree, but the musical keyboard has many other great features.
A selection of technical features on small to medium models:
- Built-in speakers
- Wide range of instrument sounds
- Wide variety of rhythms and music styles
- Single fingered chords
- Automatic chord accompaniment
- Power and battery operated
- Output for headphones
- Output to external speakers
- Input for external audio devices
- MIDI controls
- Recording function
- Tuning function
- Touch-sensitive keys
- Lots of more…
Why Play The Musical Keyboard
As a music teacher, I mostly play the piano while the students play electronic keyboards that are not too expensive but easy to operate. When you start playing an instrument you should select the one you think sounds the best, but it does not have to be the most expensive. I think it is more important being a music enthusiast and a music-loving person and that you like playing the musical instrument. If you choose to play the musical keyboard based on the reasons I have pointed out in this article, I would be very happy.
The musical keyboard cannot replace the piano, the organ, and the synthesizer, that is a fact, but I think it is an affordable alternative and you will get many possibilities in just one instrument. You can play all the music in the world, only yourself is the limit. Next time you are thinking of purchasing a musical instrument, consider the musical keyboard and all its benefits. I promise you will not regret it and you will get a lot of music from the 61 keys or whatever size you choose. Get started now and discover your musical skills!