music composer
music composer music composition techniques cubase tutorials music essays reviews contact

choosing a good keyboard a checklist of things to look out for
touch sensitive keyboards the different types of sensitivity available
keyboard weighted keys the four different weighting options for keyboards

yamaha p95 review 88 note digital piano
casio px-330 review light weight keyboard
m-audio keystation pro-88 budget mother keyboard

Sustain Pedals
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yamaha fc4 sustain pedal a well-built yamaha pedal
yamaha fc5 review budget pedal from yamaha
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USB Microphones
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MIDI Equipment
what is MIDI? with a list of popular control numbers
usb to midi cables for recording your ideas into your computer etc. yamaha UX16 USB/MIDI a midi/USB cable adaptor guitar midi interfaces for transforming your guitar into any midi instrument!

Sound cards
usb sound cards a list of things to look our for when buying one.

sounds cards for the Mac

covering the different types of cards & uses.

maya 44 sound card a short review of this popular sound card.


Keyboard Weighted Keys




Manufacturers of digital pianos (such as Yamaha, Roland and Korg) seek to emulate the feel of an acoustic piano. In a piano, a hammer strikes one, two or three strings (depending on the pitch of the string) causing the string to vibrate and make a noise (a note). The hammer is connected to the key by a lever type system and this causes a natural weight or resistance to each key. Obviously, in an electronic keyboard or digital piano there is no need for this mechanical device.

piano hammers


Hence a problem - how does one capture the feel of a real instrument and simulate this effectively?

This is compounded by two further issues -

1. Not all acoustic pianos "feel" the same. E.g. Yamaha upright piano are generally heavier in touch and have a brighter, louder sound than other contemporary makes. In addition, a grand piano is usually lighter in touch than an upright. So there is not a universal "right" or "correct" touch to simulate.

2. There is a large market for stage keyboards - 88 or 77 key keyboards that are portable. Keyboards of the 1980's and 90's often used lead weights (housed on each key) to provide a resistance and authenticity to the playing. However, this frequently resulted in keyboards that were very heavy - sometimes over 5 or 6 stone in weight! So there became a further issue - how to replicate the feel of an acoustic piano and at the same time create an instrument that was light enough to move around with relative ease.


The different types of weighted keyboards:-

Digital pianos, acoustic pianos, organs and electronic keyboards can be weighted in a number of ways:- 1. Not weighted, 2. Semi-weighted, 3. hammer action or 4. graded hammer action. This, combined with the different types of touch sensitivity available, can contribute to the overall feel of "realism" when playing a keyboard as compared to an upright or grand piano.


1. Not weighted

Keyboards that are not weighted include most home electronic organs and pipe organs commonly found in churches and recital venues. Other instruments not weighted are accordians and entry-level keyboards - usually aimed at the beginner. Nowadays, most professional keyboards claim to be weighted in some way. (A decade or so ago synthesizers and most electronic keyboards were not weighted).


2. Semi-weighted keyboards

This action is common amongst budget-end keyboards and keyboards designed for portability. A sprung-action key with more resistance than normally found in budget-end keyboards.


3. Hammer action keys

A digital piano or stage electronic piano claiming to have "hammer action" keys mean than the key mechanism is in some way replicating the same action found on acoustic pianos. Here the resistance comes from a small hammer located and attached by a lever system near the key, rather than a spring. Manufacturers offer differing types of hammer action simulation (and usually claim their's to be the superior one!), and seek to add more realism on higher-end models. For example, Roland boast a realistic 'escapement' effect on some of their models, emulating the feel of key when played at pianissimo with a slight 'clicking' feeling.


4. Graded hammer weighting

On acoustic pianos, there is more resistance encountered in playing keys in the lower range than the upper range. Keyboards with "graded hammer weighting" or "progressive hammer-action" will exhibit heavier touch on the low notes of the instrument and lighter touch on the higher notes. Some manufacturers of high-end models make the keys out of wood rather than plastic to further enhance the feel of a real piano.



Thinking of buying a weighted action keyboard or digital piano? Then you will need to try one (or several!) out. How much you like the touch or response of an instrument will often depend on what you are already used to. If you have usually played on an old acoustic piano, then the chances are that you will prefer some kind of weighted action keyboard. If you're used to playing on a grand piano, then you may prefer keyboards that simulate a slightly lighter response (Yamaha Clavinova's are famous examples). The next time you are in a music store experiment by playing the same piece of music on a number of different keyboards and make a note of your results.




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