We had a couple of electric keyboards when I was a kid. One was an old miniature Casio model from the late 80s with a ton of cheesy sound effects, and one was a newer Casio.
That keyboard had a lot of cool features, such as light-up keys that taught you how to play different songs and a fun jam mode that allowed you to improvise over pre-programmed beats.
The point is, electric keyboards come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and styles.
There’s something different out there for everyone. Whether you want a simple, half-size keyboard for your little one or a keyboard with a full 88 keys and stand to practice the piano at home, there are endless choices to choose from.
That’s why we’re writing this review. I know how difficult it can be to find the right keyboard for your kid, especially if you don’t know a whole lot about music.
This guide will tell you everything you should look for when buying a piano. It also includes ten of the best digital keyboards on the market today.
Let’s get started, shall we?
What You Should Know
Picking out the right keyboard is not as easy as it sounds. There are a lot of different variables to weigh, and not all keyboards share all of the same features. I’m going to list five specific points you should consider before you buy a keyboard.
First, though, consider who you’re buying this keyboard for? Is it for a little kid to play with or a practice instrument for an aspiring musician?
Because keyboards often have a lot of fun features, you should also consider whether you’re buying the keyboard as a musical instrument or a toy.
There are no right or wrong answers here. I never had the acumen to learn to play the piano properly, but my brother and I played with our keyboard for hours regardless.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the nitty-gritty.
1. Number of Tones
One of the most enjoyable features of electric keyboards is their ability to emulate a wide variety of real-world and synthetic instruments. These sounds were pretty cheesy in the 1980s, but today these sounds can be quite lifelike. This should be considered a must for all keyboards.
Many keyboards have short songs loaded into their memory. These demo songs might be as short as thirty or forty seconds or as long as several minutes. The number of songs can vary greatly as well. There could be just a handful of songs or there could be dozens of them.
3. Teaching Mode
Electric keyboards were already being programmed to help students learn songs when I was a kid. Almost any electric keyboard worth its weight in salt will have something similar. To this end, keyboards with more songs will be advantageous for budding musicians.
4. Computer Connection
All keyboards use MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) technology to reproduce the sound of the piano and different instruments. Some keyboards may have a USB or audio line port that allows you to connect your keyboard to the computer.
This means that musicians could play songs on their keyboard and record them on a DAW (digital audio workstation) software like GarageBand.
5. Audio Lines
Most keyboards have a 3.5 mm audio jack that allows you to hook up your headphones. This is great because it allows your kid to practice in piece without disturbing anyone. Some keyboards also have audio outs that allow them to connect to speakers or PA systems to boost their volume.
The Best Portable Keyboard Pianos
Best Portable Keyboards Under $50
Early Learning Centre Carry Along Keyboard
You’re not going to get a high-quality keyboard for $30, but you can get a fun starter keyboard for an infant or toddler. That’s exactly what you get here. The Early Learning Centre Carry Along Keyboard comes complete with a handful of tunes, fun percussion tracks, eight different instrument sounds and flashing lights to enthrall your little one.
With 24 keys, this keyboard spans just two octaves, which is really the perfect range for a child. The limited range ensures that all of the notes are in the bright mid-range of the piano, with no resonant bass or tinkling highs.
My little one loved the flashing lights and how easy it was to change up the songs with a different instrument melody.
Maybe the coolest feature was the record feature. It’s pretty primitive, but it’s a great way to encourage creativity. Making a simple melody with my child, recording it and letting them hear their own song played back to them with flashing lights is a rewarding experience.
The audio quality isn’t great and the piano sounds all sound a little hokey, but this is honestly more of a toy than a genuine musical instrument. For what it is though, it’s pretty great.
Lujex Foldable 61 Keys Keyboard Piano
I had always heard about this type of roll-out keyboard, but I’d never actually had a chance to play it before. Instead of having a standard body like most keyboards, the Lujez Foldable 61 Key Keyboard Piano features a rubber pad that rolls out instead of a traditional board.
It has large keys which you tap, and these send a signal to the electronic portion at the head of the keyboard and makes a sound. The primary advantage this keyboard holds over other keyboards is its size. Because it can roll up, it is much lighter and more compact than a standard keyboard.
As a result, it’s also a lot cheaper. It has the sort of features you would expect in a much more expensive model. The Lujez has a whopping 128 different tones, 100 fun rhythms and 40 different demonstration songs. That means there’s a lot of fun to be had with this keyboard.
The main problem with it is the fact that there are no keys. Tapping a rubber pad doesn’t have the same sensation as pushing down keys on a piano. This makes it quite difficult to actually use this as a practice instrument. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, but the lack of keys means this isn’t a serious musical instrument.
Best Portable Keyboards Under $75
RockJam 54-Key Portable Electronic Keyboard
Like the other two keyboard above, the RockJam 54-key Electronic Keyboard is a budget model. It’s lower price makes for an attractive incentive, and unlike the Lujez rollout keyboard, the play of this one more closely resembles the weight of actual piano keys.
It has most of the same features of the rollout keyboard as well, making this in many respects the more desirable model. At 54 keys, the Rockjam has about half an octave less range than the Lujez, and it doesn’t have as many tones or demo songs either, although at 100 tones, it isn’t slouching either.
Like the previous keyboard, it also has 100 rhythms. Although there are only 8 demo songs loaded in, you can get 30 more songs on the Piano Maestro iPad app.
Where the RockJam really outshines the other model is its learning mode. It has a variety of different learning tools, and it features a blue LED screen in the middle that functions as a display to connect you or your child with these learning modes.
The keyboard has audio ports to connect both to headphones and speakers, and it includes a music rest and support for a piano stand. You won’t find a better keyboard for the price.
Best Portable Keyboards Under $100
Alesis Melody 61 Beginner Bundle
With 61 keys, the Alesis Melody Portable Keyboard has a range of just over five octaves. That’s a far cry from the standard 88 keys, but for a beginning or early-intermediate player, that won’t be much of an issue. I can’t help but compare this keyboard to the Casio I had as a kid. This is roughly the same price as the one we had, but its features are so much more advanced.
This keyboard has an incredible variety of tones – 200! – as well as 128 fun and grooving rhythms. It also features ten songs, and includes a learning mode that teaches them to you.
What’s really nice about this setup is that this bundle includes everything you need to get started, including a keyboard stand, piano bench and a pair of speakers for silent practice. It also includes a microphone that you can plug in so you or a friend can sing along with songs while you play.
The keyboard has a USB input that allows you to connect with your computer, and your purchase comes with a three-month subscription to an online music school.
I don’t know how much the lessons cost once your subscription ends, but considering how much you’re getting for the price, that subscription is icing on the proverbial cake.
Best Portable Keyboards Under $150
RockJam 61-Key Electronic Keyboard SuperKit
The 61-Key RockJam SuperKit is the next upgrade up from the 54-key model I just reviewed. This keyboard features the same number of tone and rhythm settings as the previous one, but includes 50 songs instead of 8 for a much more well-rounded experience.
Like the 54-key RockJam, this keyboard has a bright blue LCD screen and a variety of learning modes to help your child improve their skills. Like the Alesis Melody, this SuperKit also includes a piano bench, stand and headphones for silent practice mode. In addition to a headphone jack, it also has an audio line out to connect to external speakers.
Comparing this keyboard to the Alesis Melody, I’d say they measure up roughly even. The Melody has twice as many tones and over two dozen more rhythms, but the RockJam has five times the songs, as well as 30 extra songs with the JoyTunes Piano Maestro songs.
Both kits include mostly all the same things, although this one doesn’t have a microphone. Also absent is a USB port, so there’s no way to connect the RockJam to your computer. Still, this is a perfectly capable electronic keyboard, and either one would make a fine choice.
Best Portable Keyboards Under $200
Yamaha Piaggero NP12 61-Key Portable Keyboard
The Yamaha Piaggero NP12 isn’t any larger than the two previous keyboard pianos on this list. However, this keyboard isn’t on the same scale as the previous keyboards. Yamaha is known for making exquisite real-life pianos, and they apply the same care to their electronic keyboard products.
One of the challenges of transitioning from a keyboard to a piano is the feeling of the keys. Traditional keyboards don’t have weighted keys, so students don’t learn how to apply pressure to change the volume and dynamics of the notes.
The Piaggero tries to compensate by providing weighted keys that imitate the feel of actual piano keys. The keyboard also uses high-quality digital audio sampling for more lifelike, authentic piano sounds. In addition, the keyboard is outfitted with a metronome and a sound recorder, and it includes headphone and speaker audio ports and a USB connection to connect straight to your computer.
The keyboard doesn’t come with different tones and demo songs, choosing instead to emulate a real piano. There is one significant downside, however.
The power adapter is not included with the purchase, and the piano takes six AA batteries to run. Replacing batteries gets expensive, and it feels really cheap to not include a power adapter with a keyboard. None of that diminishes the quality of the keyboard itself, however.
Best Portable Keyboards Under $250
Alesis Recital 88-Key Beginner Digital Piano
With a full set of 88 keys, the Alesis Recital Digital Piano is the first piano on this list to cover the entire range of the piano. It’s suitable for serving as either a high-end starter piano for a beginner or as an upgrade to an older keyboard for an intermediate student who needs a better instrument.
Probably the biggest leap a student has to make from an electric keyboard to a real piano is the weight of the keys, and that’s an issue that most introductory keyboards don’t tackle.
The Alesis Recital has semi-weighted keys that give students practicing at home a more authentic experience. There is also an option for fully weighted keys, but it’s about $150 more than this model, making it a little more inaccessible for families on a budget.
Like the Yamaha Piagerro, the Recital sets out to imitate authentic piano sounds as closely as possible. To that end, there are no demo songs or rhythms programmed into the instrument and only five different tones.
The keyboard makes up for it in sound quality, however. With 128 notes of polyphony, you get beautiful, lifelike sounds. 20-watt speakers help bring your music to life with crystal-clear sound, and a variety of helpful features, such as a metronome and customized reverb levels help round the keyboard out.
It has several audio outputs as well as a USB port. The keyboard comes with an AC adapter and a three-month subscription to Skoove, which provides piano lessons online.
Yamaha PSR-EW300 76-Key Keyboard Bundle
The Yamaha PSR-EW300 76-Key toes the line between a serious electric keyboard preparing students for a transition to a real piano and a fun keyboard with plenty of songs and cool tones. The keyboard is one octave short of the traditional range of a piano, but since most musicians don’t use the extreme ends of either range, it isn’t really a big problem.
The keyboard uses Yamaha’s Graded Soft Touch action to reproduce the feeling of playing on an actual piano, allowing you to create more dynamic notes based on how hard you press down the keys, rather than the uniform tone common in less expensive keyboards.
The keyboard has a lot more going on than just that, too. It has 30 songs programmed into the keyboard, as well as a CD with 70 more songs on it. What’s more, the keyboard is programmed with a whopping 361 different tones for a truly dizzying amount of variety.
The premium pack comes with several helpful accessories, including a keyboard stand, AC adapter and a pair of headphones. The keyboard has several audio jacks and a USB port, and can be connected to the computer to download more songs.
Best Portable Keyboards Under $300
Artesia PA-88W Digital Piano
Both of the last two keyboards on this list are full-size keyboards designed with a mind toward budding musicians ready to take their piano skills to the next level. The Artesia PA-88W sampled three grand piano recordings to create a rich, nuanced sound that is sure to please.
Like other high-end electric keyboards, this instruction focuses on a few high-quality sounds rather than a smorgasbord or less quality tones. There are only eight different instrument features on this instrument, but they all sound fantastic.
High-quality speakers create a rich sound that fills the room, and the sustain pedal that comes with the keyboard gives you complete control over the sound and dynamics for a richer performance and sound.
The Artesia PA-88W has all the audio and computer ports you need and is specially designed to work with a variety of music apps, computer learning programs, and DAW software. Its keys are semi-weighted for a more life-like feel. Unfortunately, the keyboard does not come with an AC adapter.
Best Portable Keyboards Under $400
Yamaha P Series P45B 88-Key Digital Piano
Leave it to Yamaha to create a keyboard piano that’s heavy on recreating the piano experience with a minimum of fluff. All of Yamaha’s keyboards I reviewed were excellent, and the Yamaha P45B is no exception. From its 64-note polyphony to its realistic graded hammer system, this keyboard hits all of the right notes.
First, let’s talk about the weighted keys. On a real piano, lower notes are heavier to play because the hammers are larger. This recreates that, with lighter weights for higher octaves and a heavier feel for bass notes.
Realistic sampling makes the piano sounds almost indistinguishable from a real instrument to the uninitiated, and the 64-note polyphony helps to prevent notes from dropping off, even when the sustain pedal is in action.
Although the focus of the keyboard isn’t on demo songs or alternate voices, there are a handful of options to choose from, and even the option to play in dual mode, which allows you to combine two different voices for simultaneous play.
A USB port allows you to connect to your computer for music lessons, recording, and other features, and an AC adapter is included for convenience. This may not be good enough for a professional musician, but the average student or amateur will find little to complain about this keyboard.
Everybody is looking for something a little different from their electric keyboard, and that’s okay. Whether you want something fun and creative to keep your kids occupied or a serious instrument to help you practice music at home or record your own demo songs, there’s something here for everyone.
No one should have to settle for an unsatisfactory keyboard. Thanks to this list, you won’t have to.