Buying a keyboard for your church band is a significant investment, and it’s important to make a good choice. Here are some things I’d look for.
- Buy the best instrument you can afford
There is no sense in skimping on a musical instrument - quality really matters, so make sure you plan to spread the cost over a number of years. A good quality instrument will sound better, last longer and be less frustrating to play.
- Work out what you want
There are a couple of basic questions you need to answer before you know what to look for.
Are you looking for a weighted keyboard (full size 88 note piano style keys which feels like a real piano when you play it) or a non-weighted keyboard (usually 61 notes with lighter touch but the same size keys). Weighted keyboards are preferred for playing mainly 'acoustic piano' type sounds, but unweighted keyboards are better for playing organ or synth sounds.
Are you looking for something which can play mainly acoustic piano sounds (these are usually called 'digital pianos' or 'stage pianos'), or do you want to be able to play organs, synths, electric pianos etc as well (these are usually called 'synthesizers' or just plain 'keyboards')?
- Don't buy any synthesizer with a built in music stand or speakers
This is a stereotype, and there are some notable exceptions, but on the whole professional keyboards don't come with these things built in. The situation is a bit different if you're looking for a 'digital piano' or 'stage piano' as these usually come with speakers and a music stand built in.
- Make sure you sit down and play them lots
There is no sure fire way to guarantee you'll like an instrument unless you play it. I'm about to give you some guidance as to brands which I'd look at, but it really comes down to your taste and style. Set aside some time to go into a good music shop which lets you play them all through good speakers for as long as you like.
-Here are some brands to look out for
If piano sound is your main requirement (and let's face it, nobody wants a bad piano sound) then I highly recommend Yamaha's range. Look at the CP series digital pianos. If you want something with an excellent piano sound but also some great synths and organs a great all rounder is the s90 series. I have an original s90 which has served me well for almost 10 years.
Roland also make a very attractive bunch of keyboards in the 'RD' series (RD300, RD700) which like the s90 have a good piano sound and weighted keys, plus heaps of other sounds. To my ear it's not quite as good as the Yamaha, but my old church uses one and I grew to appreciate it.
If synthesizers are your best bet then have a go at the Korg offerings - they have a billion different products at different price points, but the Triton is what I've been using for a long time and it still serves me really well.
The Nord series (electro2, stage, etc) are very popular but are a little more specialist. They do electric pianos and organs very very well, but are a bit hit and miss with the piano sounds. And they have limited other sounds depending on the model. Can be a bit intimidating for the average keyboard player.
Other great brands to look out for are Kurzweil and Kawaii.