Whether you’re just learning to play the piano for fun or you are a student with dreams of becoming a musical virtuoso, finding the ideal keyboard can be a significant factor in your playing technique.
What is a Weighted Keyboard?
A weighted keyboard is a type of keyboard designed with a mechanism that weighs down the keys. While playing, this helps the keyboard to resemble the keys of an acoustic piano.
With an acoustic piano the keys are usually weighted. When your fingers press the keys of an acoustic piano this action leads to a hammer within the piano striking the strings. This creates a vibration that forms the note you hear.
The hammer is linked to the keys by a lever-type system that creates a weight. The volume of the sound depends on the intensity of force used when the keys are pressed. A softer sound is the result of a delicate touch and firm pressure yields louder volume.
The main difference between an acoustic piano’s keyboard and digital piano’s keyboard is the mechanism. With digital pianos and keyboards, there are no strings, instead technology detects pressure on the keys and translates this to notes and sound.
With the rise in popularity of digital pianos, which are a lighter, more mobile, and cost-effective alternative to a traditional acoustic piano, modifications have been made to improve the comfortability of these keyboards. Weighted key are a part of this as it helps the digital keyboard to resemble an acoustic piano more closely.
The Different Types of Weighted Keyboards
The three main types of weighted keyboards are semi-weighted, hammer action keyboards, and graded weighting.
A semi-weighted keyboard uses light weights attached to each key and offers light to moderate resistance. Usually this system is found in synthesisers.
Hammer Action Keyboards
Hammer action keyboards have a similar mechanism to that of an acoustic piano. These use weighted leverage instead of springs and as you play, you will encounter a similar level of resistance to a piano.
Graded or Progressive Hammer Action Keyboards
Designed to mirror an acoustic piano as closely as possible, these keys have precision graded weighting. This means they have more resistance in the lower range of notes where the keys are heavier and less resistance in the upper range.
Digital Piano vs. Synthesiser
With digital pianos, learning to play is now easier than before. With a contemporary design, a digital piano delivers an authentic piano playing experience. Digital pianos are also a cost-effective option and can be transported and moved more easily. The latest models also often feature controls and screens that allow you to access and play different sounds which can lend your music a new dimension.
If you’re an advanced player and looking for something more creative, why not try a synthesiser? You’ll be able to recreate any sound from traditional instruments to sounds that are yet to be dreamed of (think movie scores!).
Synthesiser keyboards are usually semi-weighted and with the wide possibility of sounds they can create they are used by everyone from DJs to composers, music producers and performers. With the right synth keyboard, good playing experience, and boundless imagination, the possibilities for making phenomenal music are endless.
Weighted vs Non-Weighted Keyboards
With non-weighted keyboards, there are no weights used within the keybed making the keys feel much lighter than a traditional keyboard. Some good examples of non-weighted keyboards include pipe organs that are often used in churches and home electronic organs.
Both weighted and non-weighted keyboards have their own specific advantages. In the end, the option which is best for you depends on your learning level and personal preference. With time and practice, you will find a keyboard that you’re not only most comfortable with but one that matches your intentions and aspirations.
Many students find that non-weighted keyboards are good for precisely playing contemporary styles of music. However, classicists that want to perfect their technique often prefer weighted keyboards.
Does The Number of Keys Matter For Beginners?
When searching for keyboards, you will be confronted by a plethora of options. You’ll need to first factor in why you are learning and what style. Are you keen to learn and play classical music or do you prefer modern grooves that you can improvise?
The number of keys on a keyboard can include 36, 56, 61, 76, and 88. While a standard full-size keyboard has 88 keys, most beginners start with 76- and 61-key keyboards.
Though they have the same notes, the main difference is a shorter range (five octaves instead of seven) as a 61-key keyboard removes the first and last octaves from the traditional piano.
So if you’d like to learn modern songs and compose your own music, a 61- or 76-key keyboard will do. On the other hand, if mastering La Campanella by Liszt is on your bucket list, it would be wiser to invest in a full-size keyboard so you can keep practising.
5 Benefits of a Weighted Keyboard
In addition to offering a piano playing experience which resembles a traditional acoustic piano, playing on a weighted keyboard can offer a few benefits that are outlined below:
- They’re Great For Beginners. Particularly good for beginners, weighted keys can help improve dexterity and build up strength in your fingers as you move between the keys. With regular practice on weighted keys, you’ll learn to maintain good momentum.
- Improves Muscle Memory. Playing musical pieces sometimes involves playing from memory. Using a weighted keyboard helps to develop your muscle memory so that you can play pieces from memory more easily.
- Dynamically Adjust The Tempo. Weighted keys offer better depth of expression and make it much easier to control the dynamics – you can effortlessly raise the tempo or dial it down to perfectly express the mood of a musical passage.
- Boost Your Stamina. Using a weighted keyboard enhances the uniformity of your playing technique. This is because the resistance gradually improves your overall stamina especially when you play longer pieces.
- Seamlessly Transition to Piano. Finally, playing on weighted keyboards helps to ensure a smooth transition whenever you want to play an acoustic piano so that you can easily play music beautifully – just as you imagined!