Workstations are going to be the workhorse of your performances. You want them to be sturdy and take all the hits like a champ. I was a keyboard player who is like a one-man band in church playing with workstations for a long time. I used a Yamaha Psr-s550. It’s old now and it’s outdated. In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how to pick your first workstation keyboard and all the nuances that come along with it. We will be covering what increases the price range, and what additional functions you get while increasing your price range as well. Let’s get this started.
The top 12 factors in investing on your first keyboard workstation are,
5. One-touch features
At the end of the article, I will give my top recommendations for all budget ranges.
I have written a lot of guides on purchasing your first “musical equipment”.In every one of those articles, I always start with the budget. It’s not because of some weird habit or like it’s an easy way to pick equipment.
It’s because of the fact that your music workstation keyboard is an investment. Your investments should always bring value to you and your family. Money invested in a wrong materialistic object is like money flushed down the toilet. People always love to flex as if they have the best keyboard, they have the best stuff.
So before you start to make your choice of what’s your budget, I would ask you to think long and hard on why you are purchasing this workstation keyboard.
Getting that question out of the way let’s focus on the budget ranges at which we get workstation keyboards.
3000$ plus range.
This is a great place to start if you are a beginner. The 200$ budget range offers great value but with fewer functions. I have seen people use these keyboards even after 10-15 years. If you are choosing performing music as a career then you would upgrade later, but for anyone who wants just a workstation keyboard for a hobby or practice go with a 200$ keyboard. It’s perfect.
This is where things start to get interesting. This budget range is for people who are going to perform on stages or basically in gigs. You need a tank of a keyboard that can handle everything that you throw at it. The functionalities will be premium and have a great warranty as well. If you are investing money on this make sure it’s for a long time investment.
These are beasts that are sturdy and heavy. Trust me when I say this, if you are a beginner it will take you at least 3 months to even figure out what all the buttons are for. It would be a solid investment if you are motivated to work towards performing music. The advantage of these keyboards is that these can be used as a midi keyboard in your home studio as well. You don’t have to invest extra money on keyboards later.
In a 200$ workstation keyboard, the functions are limited. The other problem is that they are not meant to be used during the live performance so the way to get to a lot of functions will. Be through some complex pressing of buttons. Let me give an example,
If you want to Transpose the scale in a 200$ keyboard you have to press. Functions and navigate to the transpose page and then change the scale. If you are using a 1000$ keyboard you will have a dedicated button for Transpose.
In a 1000$ workstation keyboard, you will have an extensive array of functions ranging from weird effects to awesome voices and USB capabilities that you wouldn’t get from a 200$.
Leave the effects if you touch the keyboard, you will feel the word premium written all over it. If this was premium the 3000$ workstation keyboard is on a whole another level.
The keys feel like they were imported from heaven, you will also get weighted keys if you are looking for the piano feel.
Let’s go through differences that can be seen in each range of keyboards one by one.
what is a voice?, voices are nothing but the term Used to refer onboard sounds. Each workstation keyboard comes with its own number of sounds. Every brand tries to emulate a lot of different sounds and install them in their keyboards.
The 200$ workstations come with 500 to 600 voicings and maybe some additional effects as well. The important thing to consider here is that the 600 sounds you get here are not low quality at all. They sound good and are equalized properly for optimum performance even when heard through a crappy speaker.
If you take a look at the 1000$ keyboards, they will come with amazing voicing and they allow you to add soundbanks as well. So you can add or make your own sounds and add them to the keyboard. The voices will be a little more premium than the 200$ keyboards as these will be using different sound engine than the 200$ ones.
If we take a leap in the 3000$ mark, we are entering sonic sweetness, every sound you hear will be crafted with utmost perfection so that the listener will be mesmerized. The sound banks are unlimited in these huge tank-like keyboards. The voices will also have an additional feature called aftertouch.which is basically a way to emulate the actual playing of the instruments.
What is a style? These are nothing but the patterns that come with the keyboard. It will include a lot of categories from rock, pop, world, polka, Latin, hip-hop.
The 200$ workstation keyboard comes with about 100 to 150 styles. They are crafted properly with fill-ins and proper endings as well. The quality is awesome you can’t complain much. You will get about two variations of each style. the A and the B version.
The 1000$ workstation comes with about 500 to 1000 styles. You will also have an option to import your own styles. Which is really really cool. Each style will have four variations A, B, C, and D. They all will have three intros and outros as well.
The 3000$ keyboard Is a monster in rhythms, the no of expansions you can add is just mind-blowing. You can have unlimited variations and crazy tweaks that you cannot imagine on a 200 or 1000$ keyboard.
As I always say in my articles
What is a one-touch feature?
It’s nothing but assigning voices to buttons and recall them when you are playing a particular style in your workstation keyboard. The 200$ keyboard comes with one touch, but it’s so basic and you can’t change the tones or voices that they have allocated already. The control is really limited in this case.
The 1000$ keyboards have amazing one-touch features with banks and more than 5 buttons for manual assigning of voices and usage. One additional thing to note is that the 1000$ keyboards can modulate these sounds as well.
The 3000$ keyboards are like soundscapes of a universe. The things that you can do with them in touch settings are experience to have. Can’t be explained with words.
6. TRANSPORT CONTROLS
These are some of the important keys in a workstation keyboard. What are transport keys in a keyboard?
These are nothing but play, stop and pause keys along with the record. The term comes from midi keyboards.
If you are interested you can check my article on how to choose your first midi keyboard?
All keyboards in 200,1000,3000 dollars come with the same controls. The only difference you might find is having some additional buttons like sync start or sync stop Or even some have beat breaks.
This is nothing but the ability to pair a USB drive or a device with external memory with your workstation keyboard.
The 200$ variants can’t do this and cannot be useful in this. The 1000$ variants have these features. It has a USB drive and some even allow you to connect mini hard disks which is just fantastic.
The 3000$ guy, I don’t have to say a word. It’s the most flexible keyboard. As you can see it’s a bit costly.
External memory might be a factor for you in choosing your keyboard if you are planning to add your own sounds or soundbanks into the keyboard.
This is the major difference that you will see when you actually dig a little deep into all the three categories of 200,1000,3000 dollars keyboards.
The 200$ workstation keyboard had fewer effects control. It has reverb, delays, and some frequency modulators. You can’t expect much for it thou.
The 1000$ workstation comes with standard effects you might need during a live performance. But doesn’t have much control.
The 3000$ range is where everything will get exciting, now you are entering a territory where you can customize the heck out of the keyboard and achieve any sound you want as per how inspiration hits you.
9.INPUTS and OUTPUTS
You don’t have to worry about this too much but let’s say you have a specific gig where you need a certain output or an input from the keyboard. You will suffer at that time. So having an idea of what is needed in terms of inputs/outputs is necessary.
The 200$ workstation keyboard comes with a standard sustain pedal and stereo out.
The 1000$ is where you will see advanced outputs and inputs such as midi in, midi out. You will also see a lot of storage options in this range of keyboards.
Yes, you should look at the functionality, portability, and other factors, but if the design is sloppy it will take away the fun in playing with a costly workstation.
Make sure you love the design of the keyboard before you invest in them.
These are some of the keyboards that I have used and some I have rented to play as well in a lot of gigs.
The link I have provided is from zzsounds. The unique feature of this shop is that they give you the lowest price on the market. I really mean it, like the lowest price. They also have a 30 days return policy. Which makes these deals so good.
I have listed 2 keyboards in each category. Let’s check them out…
Yamaha EZ-220 Lighted Keyboard
The EZ-220 is a 61 touch-sensitive keyboard with lighted keys, built-in wireless connectivity to the free Page Turner iPad app and 100 preset songs with digital score make Yamaha’s EZ-220 the perfect learn-to-play keyboard.
A wide variety of 392 built-in Voices allows you to play strings, guitars, brass, synthesizers, drums, and more.
– USB to HOST connectivity with MIDI and audio transfer means you only need one cable for connecting to your DAW. – Accompaniment Styles add a “backing band” to your performances while you remain in complete control of chord changes and arrangements. – The Arpeggio function intelligently creates melodic and rhythmic patterns based on the notes you play, adding inspirational and expressive musicality to your performances.
– Number of Keys: 88 – Tone Generator: Motion Control Synthesis Engine AMW2: 8 Elements FM-X: 8 Operators, 88 Algorithms – Wave Preset: 5.67 GB (when converted to 16 bit linear format), User: 1.75 GB – Effects: Reverb x 12 types, Variation x 76 types, Insertion (A, B) x 76 types*,
Maslin JE is a Music Producer/Composer Who has been working in the Music Industry for over 10 years. Having an evolution from being a church keyboardist to becoming a full-time entrepreneur he has gained an abundance of experience in music production and entrepreneurship.