The word, ‘action’ is used to describe how difficult it is to push individual keys on a piano or keyboard. It may seem like a silly concept if you’ve never thought about it before. On a very cheap keyboard with flimsy plastic keys, you might be able to make those keys depress just by blowing on them. On the other hand, the action of a Steinway piano, which is considered one of the best (and most expensive!) piano brands in the world, is very heavy. Each finger gets a mini workout as it pushes each individual key into the piano.
So why does action mater? Imagine you were to run a lap around a track. Now imagine making that same lap, but while wearing ankle weights. Lastly, imagine making that same lap, but on the moon, where gravity is only about 17% of what it is here on earth. Each experience would be quite different. The ankle weights would give you the best workout, but you’d also run slower than running a lap without weights. On the moon, you’d have far less control and your feet would touch the ground much less frequently than on earth.
Likewise, your keyboard experience will be vastly different depending on what type of action you practice with. Heavy action, like on a Steinway, is likely to train your fingers the best, but you may also have a harder time learning difficult passages of piano music with heavy action. Action that is too light will make it easy to play pieces at first, but won’t develop the fine muscles in your fingers that will take you to the next level.
When we look at keyboards, we’ll find three main types of action (listed from lightest to heaviest): not weighted or synth, semi-weighted or touch sensitive, and graded hammer weighted. If you’re mostly interested in playing electronic or pop music, you can do so with a smaller and less weighted keyboard, but that will essentially just be a mini-synthesizer. If you want to learn how to play masterpieces on the piano, you should look for keyboards with heavier action.
Number of Keys
An acoustic piano has 88 keys from top to bottom. How often are the extremities of those 88 keys used? Not a whole lot, but still often enough to be annoying if you find out that your keyboard doesn’t have enough keys to play your favorite piece of music on. Most piano music sticks to around the middle 60 keys. That means you’re unlikely to play the very highest or lowest notes in any given piece of music.
If you’re learning how to play piano online with PianoCub, you’ll find that all of our step-by-step beginner lessons can be played with a 61-key keyboard.
If you’re aspiring to play very advanced repertoire like Rachmaninoff piano concerti, then you’re going to want to invest in the best instrument you can afford. But if you’re a beginner, you’ve got a while until you get to that skill level anyhow, so a smaller keyboard should do fine for now.
What if you’re mostly interested learning how to play pop or electronic music on the piano? In that case, you’ll do fine with a smaller keyboard range because in the recording studio, you can overdub and use your computer to get those extreme registers if you ever want them.
To sum up, our advice: make sure your keyboard has at least 61 keys and you should be fine. If it’s in the budget, go for the full 88 keys.
Additional Tips for Finding the Ideal Keyboard
· Many keyboards come with electronic features such as samplers, sequencers, computer compatibility etc. If you’re interested in that, check the keyboard’s compatibility with any specific technology you want to use.
· Some keyboards come with a bench, but most do not. Be sure to order and provide yourself the proper seating for your keyboard so your wrists remain straight while you play.
· Some keyboards also come with a pedal, headphones and other accessories, but again be sure to read the fine print before placing an order.