6 Keyboards for Aspiring Players


So, you want to try your hand at playing the piano? Maybe you’re spending every waking and unconscious moment indoors (thanks, 2020) and you need a new hobby, perhaps you find yourself drawn to writing and performing your own songs, or it could be that you know a little one who has expressed interest in becoming the next Mozart and could use a strong start. Whichever the case, an aspiring player won’t get far without a keyboard of their own. So, whether it’s a small and portable keyboard that would be best or only a full-size model that feels like a real piano will do, reputable brands such as Yamaha, Korg, Alesis, and Casio have plenty of options to please the eager player.

You Can Take It with You

There’s nothing wrong with being small, especially when it comes to keyboards that travel well. Perfect for “why are these walls so close to me” apartments, tight budgets, and modern-day minstrels, these compact and portable keyboards can help you out.

The extremely affordable Alesis Harmony packs 32 mini-size keys, educational features, an array of sounds and rhythms, a speaker, and a headphone output into a lightweight frame that can be powered by four AA batteries or via USB. With hundreds of built-in sound effects, the Harmony can keep novices interested through its sounds alone. Plus, it has 300 preset accompaniment styles, a metronome function, and 40 preset songs that are great for practicing rudiments and getting familiar with famous tunes.

Loaded with bigger keys (and more of them), stereo speakers, more sounds, more songs, and access to extensive online lessons, the Alesis Harmony 54 manages to bring features usually found in larger and more expensive keyboards while still being very cost-effective and portable. This 54-key keyboard has layer and split modes, 300 tones, 300 rhythms, and 40 demo songs—you can play with the preset songs, record your performances, and even sing along using the included microphone. If you have an iPad or a tablet, set it on the Harmony 54’s music rest and be thoroughly engaged with Skoove—online adaptable lessons and personal support from seasoned musicians—and two months of free live classes from TakeLessons. Though the Harmony 54 comes with a power adapter for home use, it can alternatively be powered with six AA batteries for mobile operation.

Alesis Harmony 54 Portable Keyboard

Plenty of Keys for Wandering Hands

For players who really want to explore multiple octaves of musical space, as well as more dynamic playability, these larger keyboards are ideal.

Available as the 61-key PSR-E373 or the 76-key PSR-EW310, both are Yamaha keyboards outfitted with touch-sensitive key beds for more responsive performance and AWM stereo sampling technology for natural, realistic sounds. With 622 voices, 205 accompaniment styles that follow your lead, and 153 preset songs, there are multitudes of ways to inspire enthusiastic players. Play intricate chords without using all your fingers, suppress melodies in your favorite tracks as you play along, and use the built-in arpeggiator to turn chords into rhythmically exciting phrases. You’ll also get immediate access to Yamaha’s “Keys to Success,” built-in lessons that break songs into digestible chunks and guide you step-by-step through learning them.

Yamaha 61-Key Touch Sensitive Portable Keyboard

Those who seek to dabble in the art of multi-instrument production should look to the Casio WK-7600 workstation keyboard. Equipped with 76 touch-sensitive keys, a 17-track sequencer, a 32-channel mixer, external mic and instrument inputs, and 305 presets that configure the keyboard for various musical styles, the WK-7600 is a powerful all-in-one tool for creating keyboard-driven tunes. Step recording lets you efficiently assemble parts that are difficult to play in real time, onboard DSP effects and EQ make it easy to enhance your tracks, and the ability to record audio to an SDHC card provides a convenient way to get material out of the keyboard and into the world. Additional goodies include a two-way, four-speaker sound system, USB connectivity with Mac/Windows computers, extensive tone editing, and 150 arpeggiator types. Considering that the WK-7600 has 820 tones—50 are drawbar organ sounds that can be modified via the nine front-panel sliders—and 260 preset rhythms with auto accompaniment, you should have no trouble tinkering around with anything from piano to full orchestral compositions.

Casio WK-7600

The Feel and Sound of a Real Piano

Let us say that deep down in your soul, it’s the experience of a real acoustic piano that matters most to you. The problem? You have neither the space nor the funds to obtain one. The solution? Get a digital piano like one of these models. They have big piano sounds in a small footprint, plus onboard speakers so you don’t even need a stereo system.

The Korg B2SP can be had in black or white and comes complete with a color-matched stand, a large music rest, and a three-pedal unit (ideal for realistic sustain, soft, and sostenuto). Just like a traditional acoustic piano, the B2SP features 88 keys, which utilize a weighted, hammer-action design to ensure natural playing response—to the extent that you’ll find heavier action in the lower register and lighter action at the high register. It is quite piano focused, with five expressive piano sounds and seven others such as strings, harpsichord, and organ. To access more sounds, connect the B2SP via USB to your computer or mobile device and load up a virtual instrument such as the supplied Korg Module piano app or the synths and drums in the included Korg Gadget 2 Le music production app; the B2SP can easily trigger it via MIDI. There’s an audio input so you can plug in your smartphone and play along with songs from your own music library, or you can just practice to the built-in metronome. For music education, tap into three months of free access to Skoove online lessons to learn using an effective three-step process, over 10 courses, and more than 300 songs.

Korg B2SPBK 88-Key Digital Piano with Stand and Three-Pedal System

Lastly, I’d like to introduce the Yamaha DGX-660 (also available in black or white). Like the B2SP, it includes a color-matched stand and a music rest, but it opts for a footswitch in place of a three-pedal unit. It has 88 weighted keys and built-in DSP to handle damper response. Its Pure CF sound engine gives you the sound of a meticulously sampled Yamaha 9' CFIIIS concert grand, and with 539 total sounds, 15 drum kits, and 205 auto-accompaniment styles, it can take you far beyond the ivories. The including of a mic input means you can practice and record vocals along with your keyboard performance. Thanks to the supplied interactive software and the onboard music notation display, the DGX-660 is quite the capable learning tool.

Signing Off

I hope this has steered you in the right direction for your first keyboard purchase. Consider yourself invited to visit our website and the B&H SuperStore to learn more about these keyboards and others! If you’re an experienced player, drop a comment below to let us know what keyboard you first took on a musical journey.