Every aspiring or successful producer and composer understands the value of a suitable keyboard to your productivity and work environment. Keyboards take the piano one step further by incorporating sounds limited by the designer’s imagination and ambition. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best keyboards available for recording or performance. There is an item on the list to suit budgets of all sizes and players of any skill level.
Casio has been involved in the electronic keyboard game for a few decades and prides itself on making music production more accessible to the general public. The compact CTX-700 carries a nostalgic aesthetic as a tribute to the early models that gained the company its success.
The CTX-700 is the perfect entry-level model for beginner players. Each of the 61 keys has a subtle marking that indicates each note – a very handy feature for those still learning to master the instrument. The keyboard carries its own set of speakers and can operate on battery power for a couple of hours, making it ideal for satellite performances. The soundbank on the CTX-700 comes with all the essential piano sounds and some great emulations of popular analog models like the Rhodes and Wurlitzer keyboards.
It’s easy to underestimate the capabilities of the Roland- Go at first sight. The keyboard comes with a very minimal design that is free from excessive knobs and dials. However, this unassuming machine is surprisingly diverse and has a few modern functions that set it well apart from its competitors. Combined with a few reliable traditional components, the keyboard is a beautiful addition for any musician looking for a lightweight instrument that packs a punch.
The Go is built using 61 weighted keys that are highly reactive and comforting on the playing hands. Users can connect the keyboard directly to an audio source using the jack outputs or make use of the onboard Bluetooth speakers for portable playing. The keyboard also integrates with Roland’s smartphone app, which hosts an abundance of tutorials and play-along challenges for players to enjoy. One of the most useful features is the loop function, which allows users to layer phrases and rhythms to build basic compositions using only the stock sounds.
Alesis MK II
Alesis is renowned for manufacturing reliable, high-quality music gear at very reasonable prices. The MK II is a fine example of this ethos and bridges the gap between beginner and full-time professional performers. This keyboard comes with a massive library of sounds (300 in total), including pianos, organs, brass, woodwinds, and percussive elements. There are also a handful of more ethereal-sounding synth patches for more experimental soundscapes. Users can opt to play the keyboard in single or dual modes depending on their preference. The keyboard carries a set of clear, punchy onboard speakers that can be routed into an external audio source like a soundcard or mixer.
Purchase of the MK II comes with a very handy accessory pack that includes a stand, headphones, music rest, and even a microphone to kickstart your first solo performance. The keyboard can be plugged into a PC with most modern DAWs like Ableton, FL Studio, or Logic. Alesis also provides buyers with free short-term subscriptions to various learning platforms to improve their skill set.
The Kross by Korg is one of the more expansive and versatile keyboards in its price range. At the turn of the millennium, it was a firm favorite amongst many pop and hip-hop producers who wanted to create complete arrangements using sounds from a single keyboard. The Kross is essentially an audio workstation and allows users to arrange, record and playback their compositions in a healthy handful of ways.
The Kross features a dizzying array of onboard features that should be welcome in the hands of advanced producers. The keyboard boasts a step-sequencer, sample, a midi sequencer, arpeggiator, and shortlist of other secondary features that players can all utilize simultaneously during a performance. With 88 keys and over 1000 sound presets to choose from, players should have a tiny problem finding the sounds they desire for their compositions. The Kross also carries a humble but useful list of effects for personalized sound sculpting, including a delay, flanger, filter, and even the classic vocoder.
Nord Stage 3
Nord keyboards are highly sought after primarily for their rich sound production and ultra-powerful sound engines. The Stage 3 lets you select between three primary engines – a piano, organ, and synth. Users can either make use of each engine independently or mix and layer each one for a more precise sound design. In addition to the primary engines, the Stage 3 also houses an expansive oscillator module that comes with a long list of extra sound morphing capabilities.
The functionality of the Nord keyboards is unparalleled, and the interface of the keyboard is designed to encourage optimum flow during performances. Users can save their designed sounds onto a patch bank and seamlessly switch between them while playing. The quality of the sounds generated by Nord engines more than justify their selling price, and the generous bevy of features that come with the Stage 3 make it one of the most ideal keyboards for full-time composers and performers.
Whether a weekend hobbyist or a seasoned professional, having a reliable keyboard to play or practice is essential to musical productivity. The keyboards listed above should accommodate players across the range of experience and provide users with a few additional music production advantages. Try to test these items out for yourself before deciding on a final purchase, as this will help you determine which keyboard suits your needs best. Thanks for taking the time out to read through our list of the top electronic keyboards for music production.