Whether you’re embarking on a new personal hobby, setting up a system for your church band, or helping your kid learn something new: Welcome to the wonderful world of the keyboard! This blog is your shopping list for all the essential gear and accessories you need as you master the keys.
The keyboard is a great instrument and introduction to the wider world of synthesizers, but like all things digital, getting started can be overwhelming. Taking a few lessons will help you get started playing, but how do you really plug in? What other keyboard gear or accessories will you need to develop your own style – and what will you need to take your playing experience to the next level?
Here’s an overview of the essentials you will need to make your progression with this instrument that much sweeter.
8 Keyboard Products Every Beginner Needs
#1. A Keyboard, Synthesizer or Digital Piano
Of course, the only thing you REALLY need to get started playing is the instrument itself. However, there are actually three options here: a keyboard, digital piano or synthesizer.
- Keyboard: Keyboards come with a wide range of sounds and features, and they are usually smaller than traditional pianos. The number of keys ranges from as little as 25 to as many as 88 keys. They’re great for beginners to learn on before advancing to other instruments. Keyboards are also great for worship bands who want to get a good organ sound without the expense of purchasing a traditional organ.
- Digital Piano: A digital piano is designed to mimic a traditional piano, complete with weighted keys and more traditional sound and functionality. It typically comes with the full 88 keys like a traditional piano. While the options with a digital piano are limited, if you’re looking to learn classical piano and only play traditional styles of music, a digital piano is a more cost-effective way to play the piano without investing in a grand piano or keyboard with a lot of bells and whistles.
- Synthesizers: Synthesizers (aka synths) are a broad category of instruments that can produce sounds by generating different signals. Synths can produce a much wider range of sounds than keyboards and are used in all types of music like pop, EDM and hip-hop. They’re used frequently in live show settings while also being mainstays in home and professional recording studios.
Deciding which instrument to buy is up to you, your budget and how you plan to use it. There are a lot of great guides out there that can help you narrow down which keyboard (or other keyed instrument) is right for you.
Once you’ve decided on your instrument, here are some of the accessories you’ll want to get to make it your own.
#2. A Keyboard Stand
For a proper keyboard experience, you will want to set your keyboard (or digital piano or synth – hereby referenced as a keyboard) on a proper stand instead of, say, your kitchen table.
A specialized keyboard stand is great for getting your keyboard at the exact height you need to play comfortably. It also lets you get creative with your set up, providing full access to the instrument to connect extra amps, sound mixers and pedals.
When you’re starting out, you don’t need something that will cost hundreds of dollars, but you don’t want to skimp on features and quality. So, look for a stand that’s durable, lightweight and easy to set up. X-frame stands with quick-trigger height adjustments make set-up easy and consistent, and they tend to be cheaper than their Z-frame counterparts.
#3. A Bench or Stool
You don’t want to play standing up all the time, right?
Yes, you can play from just any old chair, but a stool or piano bench is a much better and ergonomic option. A proper bench allows you to sit up straight without any armrests or seat backs to get in the way of playing up and down the keys.
Getting a proper piano bench or stool can help you play with better posture, so you can practice longer and play with more precision.
#4. Covers and Cases
If you’re going to be playing shows or practicing with friends, you’ll want a case to transport your keyboard.
The sturdier, the better. Make sure you find one that’s not too small for your keyboard and comes with extra padding to prevent scratches and dents.
If you’re going to be traveling long distances, heavy-duty padding is essential because luggage tends to get shaken up in flight.
Another thing to consider is a keyboard cover to keep the dust off your instrument while you’re not playing. Dust and dirt can collect on keys and, over time, ruin their press and feel. If you’re already dealing with dusty keys, use a gentle instrument cleaner.
A good pair of headphones is essential if you live in a shared space or want to keep it down as you’re playing. Plus, some keyboards have no audio output, which means you need to be plugged into an interface or headphones to hear anything (see keyboard accessory essential #6).
Of course, your standard pair of earbuds would work. However, if you want to hear the full range of your music, you’ll want something with better sound quality – something that was made for this type of music. Here is a good pair of affordable, studio-quality headphones.
Comfort is another consideration. Find a pair that fits well over your ears without pinching or squeezing too tight, so you can play for as long as you like.
#6. A Portable Amp
Many keyboards come with built-in speakers. But if you’re going to be playing gigs or at your local church, you’ll need to amplify your sound.
You can get as fancy as you want here but don’t buy something that will be too big or too loud for the space you will be playing in. A good all-around portable amp will do the trick, especially early on in your playing career.
#7. Sustain Pedal
Sustain pedals allow you to extend the notes and cords you’re playing, helping you add even more flair and expression to your playing.
Many keyboards come with a sustain pedal or effect built-in, but if yours doesn’t or if you want to enhance the built-in effects, a new sustain pedal can help you unlock more sounds to make your play more interesting. Here is a good one for beginners available at Sweetwater.
#8. Cables to Connect it All
Last but definitely not least, make sure you have cables to connect everything.
While we know cables aren’t the most exciting piece of gear you’ll buy, you would be surprised to learn how many different cables and connectors there are. Finding the exact cable you need can be a bit of a challenge if you’re not sure what to look for.
As you progress, you might think about getting a synthesizer and setting up your own DAW or digital audio workstation. If you do, just remember that the cables you use to connect your keyboard setup won’t work on a digital set up. You’ll need MIDI cables to properly record and mix tracks.
If you’re confused about what you need, we have a cable finder tool that can help!
Start Your Keyboard Journey on the Right Foot
Picking up the keyboard for the first time can be intimidating. But it’s also an exciting start that can lead to many different instruments and ways to create music.
As you start out learning your first scales and songs, remember to keep in mind this list of gear that can help you along the way.Hosa