Electronic Keyboards Product Guide

Electronic Keyboards

A musical or electronic keyboard is a fun and relatively easy to use device. You don't have to be a professional music player to use an electronic keyboard.

Keyboards come with hundreds of functions and tones to choose from. With MIDI technology, a world of endless possibilities opens up with customizing your music. A musical keyboard is a great device to have for children at an early age, to learn how to play, or for just exploring the world of music. There are small electronic keyboards and there are larger ones. For the music professional, there are digital pianos too. You'll find them all right here at JR.com. Here's a quick overview to what you might find.

A musical keyboard or digital piano is a sophisticated musical instrument that blends the very best of traditional piano feel and sound quality with the latest in modern electronic technology. Portable electronic keyboards vary greatly in price, size, and functionality. Musical keyboards are made to imitate the look, feel, and performance of a piano. Most full-size electronic keyboards have 61 full sized keys though some have 49 keys. You don't have to be a professional musician to own an electronic keyboard. Many keyboards come with technology that helps you learn how to play.

Most electronic keyboards have speakers built-in to them (usually two), and come featured packed with hundreds of tones and rhythm patterns. Some even have the ability to record human voices. The availability of a MIDI interface allows a keyboard user to expand their playing possibilities. These keyboards come small enough to fit in someone's lap, or large enough to place on a stand.

Digital Pianos

Digital pianos are made to replicate a piano to its fullest. Unlike other musical keyboards, digital pianos have a full set of keys just like a standard piano. Professional piano players are more likely to buy a digital piano than they are buying one with less keys. Digital pianos don't have as many tones as other keyboards have less tones and have optional ports for step pedals. They also usually come on a stand and not made to be portable.



Functionality


All musical keyboards come built with pre-recorded tunes, tones and rhythms that are all part of the fun of using them. Whether it's an amateur or high-end keyboard, be prepared for lots of buttons on the face of the device. What are all the buttons for? Well, besides basic volume buttons, there are buttons for various functions like choosing a playing voice and tune, playing a demo, recording, and more.

Tones and Voices

A good part of the fun in playing a musical keyboard is in the options you have when playing. Imagine being given the choice of what instrument you'd like to play, with the simple push of a button. Most keyboards come with hundreds of playing voices or digitally sampled musical instrument sounds. In addition to usually three or four takes on the piano (like electric piano and pipe organ,) there are other sounds to choose from like a harpsichord, flute, strings, choir and even percussion instruments.

Rhythm Patterns

Set the mood of your playing with a little help from prerecorded rhythm patterns. The simplest keyboards give users the choice of popular patterns to play along with. These are usually named by music genres like Pop/Rock, Salsa, Reggae, classical, Funk and more. Also, control how fast or slow you would like the rhythm to play with adjustable speeds and tempos.

Song Library

Besides your choice of instruments and rhythm patterns, many electronic boards also come with extensive music libraries. These libraries contain the tunes of possibly hundreds of famous songs. You can easily play along with these songs, or play right over them. Stop, pause and play the song as often as you like. With keyboards that have a floppy drive, you can play even more songs if you use appropriate disks with music files. Most of the libraries are extremely useful for learning to play, and can be combined with tutorial sessions to learn how to play.

Demos

Many musical keyboards today come with a demo feature. Press a demo button and an automatic ensemble will begin to play. A demo is made to show you all the different things you can do with your keyboard. Demos will usually use a number of different voices and switch between rhythms while playing.



MIDI and Keyboards


MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is undoubtedly one of the most important and useful music standards ever developed. MIDI was devised as a universal control system, in other words, a way of one synthesizer controlling another, irrespective of the make and model of either. MIDI makes it easy for people to compose their own music and edit it by transferring tunes to a computer. Most current musical keyboards have a MIDI port pre-installed. Some computers come with a MIDI interface installed. Many computer sound cards will even include a MIDI (MPU-301) interface port.

When a MIDI instrument is added to a MIDI-enabled computer, virtually endless creative possibilities can develop. With some software, you can take any musical composition you've created, and add instrumental sounds to it, take parts out, and basically compose your own piece. Then you can save the piece of music as a file on a computer storage drive and do whatever you'd like. You can even email it to a friend across the globe as an attachment. Music scripting software enables the printing of your composition in manuscript form with scores for varied instrumentations. Thousands of songs have been composed using MIDI and are available for keyboard users and even on the Internet.



Special Features


Touch Sensitive Keys

More and more keyboards today are being made with Touch Sensitive keys. Keyboards with touch sensitive keys respond to how hard or soft you play keyboard keys. Touch sensitive keyboards will sustain notes, and are meant to give you the feel of a real piano. When you touch softly, it will play softly and vice versa. When keys are NOT touch-sensitive, they will play at the same loudness no matter how soft or hard you press the key.

Teaching Modes

Some keyboards have tutorial playing segments that help you learn how to play a piece of music. Different manufacturers call this mode different names. Yamaha calls it Y.E.S (Yamaha Education Suite), and Panasonic terms it Music Trainer. Using simple steps, these modes can help you become familiar with playing a keyboard. These technological tutors will play several notes on the keyboard, and then expect you to follow the pattern. The Keyboard tutorial can determine if you repeated the sequence correctly or not. As you develop greater skills, the tutor will adjust to increase the challenge levels. It's the closest thing to having a live keyboard teacher!

Pitch Blend Wheels

Originally a feature found only on top-of-the-line models, the Pitch Blend Wheel is now being included in lower-level models, as well. It is usually located on the left edge of any keyboard. By pushing the wheel up and down, it varies the pitch of whatever note is being played.

Recording

Some electronic keyboards have the ability to record either a piece of music you're playing or audio from a built-in or external microphone. Most of these recordings are samplings though and cannot be too long, depending on how much memory your keyboard has. Less expensive and smaller keyboards may have sampling rates less than a minute long. Higher-end keyboards can usually record a couple of minutes.

Some keyboards may have memory card slots or a disc drive that allows greater and more permanent storage of music.

Floppy Drive

Higher end model keyboards may come with a built-in 3.5" floppy drive. What this drive allows you to do is have a music reference and save the tunes that you create onto a disk. Play MIDI music files other than the ones pre-recorded into your keyboard, by inserting a MIDI music disk. You may save your tunes onto a disk too.

Special Effects

Many keyboards have neat special effects functions. Play with your music by adding echoes, looping it, reversing it, and other fun things. Special effects functions vary from one keyboard to another. Drum pads are also common on many electronic keyboards. Press one of these and a percussion sound is made. Many keyboards also have split keyboard functionality where keys on the left hand side become cords in certain modes.



Audio Output


The audio of any keyboard is outputted through two speakers; one on the left and the other on the right of the keyboard. This is usually not exactly a "stereo" output but a BiPhonic output. The built-in speakers usually have a 2-6 watt output. There's always room for expansion. With appropriate adapters, it's easy to connect your keyboard to a minisystem (assuming the minisystem can handle MIDI) or an audio system, to hear what you play on external speakers.



Power / Batteries


Most keyboards can operate using either batteries or an AC adapter. Many full size keyboards take anywhere from 4-8 "D" batteries. The functions on a keyboard tend to eat away at battery life very quickly. Use the adapter whenever possible. Adapters may not always be included with the sale of keyboards.





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