This guide is for those who don't know where to start or have limited budget
or to get a general idea for learning music with a keyboard/piano
Which Keyboard is most suitable for learning properly ?
Though keyboards price starts from range 3,500 Indian Rupees (INR) (Casio 44-49 Key ones) and 5,000-5,500 INR (no touch response 61 keys) for the purpose of learning to play a piano/keyboard properly it's highly recommended that you start with atleast a 61 key entry level keyboard with Touch response ( velocity sensitive ) also if you want to connect the keyboard to your computer for recording/composing, a USB to Host MIDI port is necessary, 61 key gives proper playability with both hands compared to 49 key keyboard, most of the popular songs can be played with a 61 key instrument, and the cheapest you can buy is Casio CTK 3200 it's price is around 8,000-8,500 INR (has got pitch bend wheel) or CTK 4400 (has more features but no pitch bend wheel) around 9,500-10,000 INR both have USB MIDI connectivity, so you can use it for composing/music production, btw, Casio entry level keyboards have a lil problem, the keys will start making lil sounds (like click sounds/ spring sound ) after a month of playing, or in a week if you practice fast songs, it's not a big problem if we up the volume of keyboard, but when we get deep into music, those lil sounds will be annoying..(it also happens with other brands like yamaha but that effect is less than CASIO )
Yamaha keyboards cost 2-3K more for it's entry level 61 Key with Touch response and USB MIDI (10-11K INR for PSR E353)
A small thing to note is CASIO keyboards have Piano Style Keys (Keys will be a block) and Yamaha have Organ Style (keys will look cut/ have space underneath) though some Yamaha model have piano style keys, how they differ ?, you have to give it a try at your nearest music store and then make your personal choice (basically it's about how we feel the keys when it's pressed as both style has different hitting point in the keybed and that produce different sensation on fingers) also budget wise, if you can comfortably spend more money, there's a wide range of keyboards from high end brands like KORG, Roland along with CASIO, Yamaha etc with lot's of cool functions :)
The standard 88 key Digital piano with touch and hammer action from both brands (CASIO and Yamaha starts around 40,000 INR, please check the respective websites / online stores or your nearest music store for more details
Another section is MIDI controller keyboards, the ones which only produce MIDI data and no sound, they usually have added potentiometers for MIDI control values in the form of knobs and faders and they come in all sizes from 25 key to full 88 keys, the budget ones are AKAI mpk mini 25 and Arturia minilab (both around 9,000-9500 INR) while Samson mini 25 is more cheaper option at around 6,000 INR, but all these are very plastic and small built and is usable only for production/composing while traveling or so, better option will be Nektar Impact LX25 ( which is lil less priced but sturdy and large build (I think its out of production now) further in the budget MIDI controllers are KORG nano series (ya very small), around same price in India, as above written ones, to compare controllers with higher keys and function, an AKAI MPK 61 key might cost around 45,000 INR while M-audio Oxygen 61 Key can be bought for around 20,000 INR, at same price range of 20K Novation while Nektar Impact LX61 is being more budget frindly at around 17,000 INR ( M-Audio, Novation, Nektar has more budget friendly options here in INDIA, so don't forget to check them out first ) btw, the cheapest 61 key MIDI controller currently available is Samson Carbon 61, and Nektar ImpactGX 61 priced at around 10,000 INR (these has no pads/mixers etc, therefore a casio/yamaha keyboard with onboard sound/speakers will be a better choice )
What does graded hammer action, weighted, semi-weighted, touch response, USB MIDI etc means ?
In a grand piano (which cost anywhere from 7-10 lakhs INR for base models from Yamaha)(or 3-5 lakhs INR for upright pianos) can even go upwards like 20-40 Lakhs INR ( Steinway ) :) In the real thing, when we press a key, the key makes a tiny hammer move and the hammer hit the strings to produce the notes, now the keys will be having a resistance and a hit point where we can actually feel when the key is lifting the hammer and the hammer is about to hit the strings, this usually happens halfway of key press, then there will be tension to get it back to it's position, and left side keys will be hard to press compared to right side keys, also if we play a grand piano softly it will produce less volume and if we hit the keys fast and hard, the piano will make louder volume
reproducing these effects in modern keyboards/digital pianos are the terms like graded hammer action, weighted, semi-weighted, and touch response appears, so a graded hammer action in a digital piano means, the keys at the left will be more hard to press and gets easier as we go right, weighted keys mimics the grand piano key press feel, and can be found in synthesizers, arrangers from KORG, Roland etc and high end ones frm CASIO, Yamaha etc., semi-weighted keys produce similar feel of grand piano keys(but not complete, therefore 'semi') can also be found on synthesizers and general MIDI keyboards (btw, a 61 key, touch response, semi-weighted MIDI only keyboard from M-audio (keyboard doesn't produce any sound, only MIDI information which can be interpreted/processed via computer or other MIDI instruments) will cost like 13 to 15,000 INR and can only be used with a computer) touch response means the same volume thing I mentioned above, it plays softly if we plays softly and the keyboard plays high volume if we play fast and hard, and finally the USB MIDI TO HOST means, the keyboard can send MIDI data ( a communication protocol for musical instruments ) to a computer via USB ports, for electronic music production with a keyboard, a USB to Host MIDI connection is required ( though there are options to make electronic music just by using the computer mouse or computer keyboard, learning to play a real keyboard helps to make quality music )
What all things are needed to learn electronic music production ?
a) A PC/Laptop with minimum 512 MB RAM (2/4 GB recommended), Windows OS/ Mac, Linux or even Android
b) A USB to Host MIDI Keyboard (optional), minimum 25 keys (61 keys for proper playability)
( if the MIDI keyboard have controls like knobs/faders it's added benefit, look from AKAI, Novation, Nektar, M-Audio etc )
( please note, unlike a normal keyboard/piano which contains inbuilt sounds and speakers, a midi controller keyboard
doesn't produce any sounds by itself, they only sends MIDI data and need a computer software to work)
Actually you don't need a MIDI keyboard at all, as notes can be created with a mouse or played with virtual keyboard, only problem will be realtime velocity variation won't be recorded as these methods register full volume for every notes, ofcourse you can manually edit velocity information for all notes in MIDI editor later
c) Optional, not necessary : Audio Interface, Microphone, Studio Headphones, Studio Monitors, Room Acoustic Treatments etc.
above things are costly options, so it's upto you to decide how much you want to spent, just for learning purpose, onboard sound of your PC and a decent 2.1 Speakers or decent Headphones will do..
more doubts ? please give Adarsh a call, thanks :)
(models/prices obtained on Nov 2016, expect changes, be sure to check online stores too as there will be offers )