How to Choose Best Musical Keyboard for Kids

Introducing your kid to music is certainly an excellent idea and choosing the keyboard for an instrument is the best choice. However, if you have been trying to figure out the type of item that would delight your kid, would give him or her a sense of achievement and will not disrupt the comfort of your home, you surely know that the selection of the best item to buy is far from being easy. In what follows, we would like to help you with a few aspects and factors to take into consideration while browsing pianos and keyboards and with a few product recommendations as well.

Keyboard or Piano

This is actually the very first question to make up your mind about. Pianos used to be considered the best in terms of sound quality, but with today’s advanced technologies, musical keyboards are able to deliver sound that is just as clear and crispy. Pianos also come with some notable disadvantages such as high price and bulkiness – features that are eliminated with keyboards. If you are looking for an instrument that your kid can use to find out whether he or she likes playing piano music, buying a musical keyboard is probably the best solution – it is affordable, small, lightweight, easy to move one room to the other and versatile, perfect for making the initial learning period not only efficient, but also great fun. And one more benefit of keyboards: most of them can be played using headphones, so the initial odd sounds that your kid gets out of the instrument will not disturb the rest of the family.

What to Look for in A Keyboard

Here are a few of the most important features to look for when evaluating musical keyboards:

  • Number of keys – instruments vary in size and in the number of keys as well. Standard pianos have 88 keys, and that is the number of keys you should get for advanced players, but smaller items that feature a smaller number of keys can be just perfect for a kid just about to start learning the piano
  • Maximum polyphony – the term refers to the number of notes the instrument is able to produce at the same time. Look for at least 8-note polyphony for beginners, but for an advanced player, get an instrument that provides at least 32-note polyphony
  • Integrated songs, sounds and tones – musical keyboards can help beginners a lot by showing them how to play certain songs key by key. Most units also offer variety by giving the player the choice of switching between piano, organ and other instrument sounds.

Should you Get Your Kids Lessons When Starting Out?

In the past, learning to hit the right keys maintaining the right position and to read music was impossible without a teacher. However, nowadays there are so many great online resources, such as complete courses, tutorials and other types of instructional materials, that, with a little discipline, your kids can learn to play the instrument in an easy and enjoyable way.

Our Favorite Keyboards

Here are our top picks that can make a very good choice for children:

Casio SA76 44 Mini

This super-small, lightweight, battery-operated, and portable keyboard is just perfect for beginners. The SA76 features 44 keys and 8-note polyphony for great sound that will motivate beginner players to continue practicing. The small unit comes with 10 integrated songs, 50 different rhythms and 100 different tones to make playing great fun, while the integrated audio jack allows players to play for themselves until they feel comfortable showing their skills to an audience.

Yamaha YPG-235 76-Key Portable

This unit is larger and more complex than the previous one, being suitable not only for beginner players, but also for piano masters or for those who want to compose music. The 76 keys that the keyboard comprises are touch sensitive, thus giving the player the perfect feeling of playing a grand piano – amazing sound included. The keyboard comes with an educational suit with lessons for each hand, a 6-track recorder, stereo sound and lots of other great digital features that makes learning very entertaining.

Yamaha PSRE253 61-Key Portable Keyboard

This 61-key unit comes with 32-note polyphony and a huge database that includes over 750 voices, over 200 different tempos and more than two dozen integrated songs, all of them providing great help for beginner players. The Grand button allows you to switch instantly to the grand piano mode, which replicates the sound that only sophisticated pianos can deliver.

The keyboard comes with great compatibility features as well – the provided USB port allows you to hook the keyboard to a computer for even more functionality and you can also connect your headphones, a mixer or even to another keyboard. The unit runs on battery, but you can purchase an adapter for it and operate it using a current outlet if you find that solution more comfortable.

Choose any of the above keyboards and you are guaranteed your child will love practicing on it!

Continue Reading

Yamaha YPT 240 Detailed Review

One of Yamaha’s entry level models and also a keyboard that makes the most of the creative design and solid engineering background that has made the manufacturer so appreciated across the world, the Yamaha YPT 240 is a versatile yet affordable keyboard that delivers sound of the highest clarity and crispiness. Most importantly, provides plenty of functionality to make learning to play the queen of all instruments in an efficient, yet fun way. The unit is highly appreciated by advanced players as well – the ample set of features guarantees that you will always find something to try and to learn, whatever your level of playing skills.

General Features that Make the Yamaha YPT 240 so Great

The unit is classified as a portable digital keyboard and it is indeed surprisingly small when you first look at it. Finished in durable and high-quality black plastic, with the interface located in the middle where it is easy to reach, this 61-key unit is less than a meter long (945 mm) and it weighs only about 4 kg. The custom LCD display is easy to read and is surrounded by easy to use and comfortably sized function buttons. Sound quality is guaranteed by the two speakers, 12 cm each and the two amplifiers, each of them of 2.5W, placed on the two opposite ends of the keyboard.

The unit runs either on batteries (six batteries size AA) or on current from a power outlet supplied via the AC adapter. It also comes with great connectivity features – it has a USB outlet and a jack for headphones as well (especially useful for shy players who want to hone on their playing skills before playing their favorite tunes in front of an audience or for those who don’t want to disturb others in the house or in the room).

More Pros that Make the Unit Stand Out

This small, but complex unit comes with lots of other pros as well:

  • The YPT 240 is very easy to use, fitted with straightforward functions that even complete beginners can figure out within a few seconds from first opening the box
  • It comes with a huge tone and accompaniment bank that allow the player to create a background of various instrument to create the perfect illusion of playing with a band
  • It spans 5 octaves when the basic settings are on, but the unit’s interface offers the possibility of adding even more using the provided settings
  • The keyboard delivers 385 perfect, natural sound voices
  • The 32-note polyphony makes the keyboard suitable not only for beginners, but also for advanced players who want to play complicated pieces and require the best sound
  • The provided Master EQ system allows for tailoring the output sound to the actual situation and location the listening takes place
  • The Ultra Wide Stereo Technology guarantees great stereo sound in any environment
  • The keyboard incorporates Yamaha’s great Education Suite that teaches the user about every aspect of playing the piano correctly. The integrated songs can be played at the speed that suits the player’s skill level and there are lots of other setting options that make playing the same song over and over again more fun than you could ever imagine
  • The YPT 240 comes with 102 preset songs and 100 preset styles,
  • It also has an integrated metronome and the tempo range can be set between 32-280.

Any Cons?

The small construction of the YPT 240 is the result not only of the great, ergonomic and economical design, but also of the fact that it comprises 61 keys (by comparison, grand pianos have a standard of 88 keys and there are many digital keyboards that come with 76 keys). Our article on the number of keys a piano has goes in to a littile more details about the keys options you have. While this feature may be perceived as a con by a master pianist, it is actually a blessing for beginners who are just trying to figure out which key is which.

An aspect frequently mentioned by users as a con is the fact that the  package the Yamaha YPT 240 comes in includes nothing but the keyboard itself. If you want to use the YPT 240 with a stand, you will need to purchase the stand separately and the same goes for the batteries, the AC adapter and the headphones as well. If you consider the great price tag, though, you will see that the unit is more than affordable, even after you add the price of the stand and of the other components to the price of the keyboard.

Conclusion

Whether you are beginner piano player, currently in the process of figuring out the instrument or you are an advanced player, the Yamaha YPT 240 will not let you down. Perfect sound quality, lots of features and great learning aids – this is what you get with this versatile, small, portable keyboard that allows you to not only play at home, but also  take your instrument with you to parties or even on holidays.

Continue Reading

The Best Tablets on the Market for Sheet Music

Some might consider that the size of the screen and the ability to run a basic PDF or image viewer is just about the only functionality needed for a tablet to be a practical tool for viewing sheet music. However, if you’re serious about your music training, you need to at least know about the technological advancements that could come at your disposal, if you buy a more advanced tablet.

The following four tablets are considered some of the best when it comes to running special sheet music apps and viewing sheet music in clear HD quality.

Apple iPad Air 2

The high resolution, 9.7-inch retina display of the iPad Air 2 is one of the major assets of this tablet when it comes to using it for sheet music. Although it’s not as large as a sheet music page, the 2048×1536 screen resolution allows for a lot of freedom of movement regarding the apps you can use, the size of the sheet music and the detail you wish to see on every page.

A great thing about Apple’s revolutionary screen is that glare and clarity related issues are non-existing with the new iPad. Also, due to its high performance processor and 64-bit architecture, you won’t experience any lags or delays even when running the bulkiest and most advanced apps for viewing sheet music.

Also, the iPad Air is powered by a fast 1.5Ghz processor far superior to that of most high end tablets, and as a lightweight tablet (weighing only slightly over 15 ounces), it is not as bulky or difficult to manage than tablets developed by other brands.

Additional practical benefits include the apps available on iTunes – considered by many experts to be superior to Android – as well as the large 64 or 128 Gb of flash memory storage and the impressive LiPo battery offering an average time between charges of about 10 hours.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 is another excellent choice for viewing sheet music. The iPad is not the only device featuring an advanced screen. The Galaxy comes with an 2048×1536 (QXGA) Super AMOLED touchscreen that ensures clarity and a smooth performance even under difficult circumstances. AMOLED screens offer better cost, a more energy-efficient functionality and better refresh rate, being often used in larger screens and tablets due to their superior qualities.

The Tab S2’s main asset, however, is its combination of two Quad-core processors – a 1.9Ghz and a 1.3Ghz processor – that enables it to run as a genuine octacore (eight-core) tablet. This means speed will be significantly increased, and you can run even the largest apps for sheet music without any lags in functionality.

The tablet runs on Android, but its large screen and high performance specs – including 30Gb of storage and DDR3 memory allows you to run any app on the Android Store without worrying about how much space it would take up in the 3 Gb of RAM or the tablet’s flash memory storage.

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet

The slightly larger screen and resolution make the Sony Xperia a somewhat better option if you’re looking for the largest screen you can find. Its main asset is the 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution which offers better image detail than any of the tablets on this list. The 10.1-inch screen is also the largest, although its LCD technology is considered inferior to the LED technology used by other tablets.

Nevertheless, the Sony Xperia compensates through a 2Ghz quad-core processor, reliable 64-bit architecture and 3 Gb of RAM. This setup, together with the 32 Gb of storage, ensures that you’ll have no problem running Android apps that require extensive resources, so you can even get the most advanced paid apps for viewing sheet music.

Amazon Fire HD 8

Although the Fire HD’s touchscreen only measures 8 inches on this version (there is also a 10.1-inch version at a higher cost), the resolution is still remarkable at 1280 x 800 pixels, with 189 dpi. Designed mainly for reading and entertainment, the screen offers genuine HD functionality and brighter, crisper images, thanks to its IPS LCD architecture – ideal for viewing sheet music both indoors and outside.

There is an option for 16 and 32 Gb of storage space, depending on your preference, and the tablet comes with a 1.3Ghz processor and twice as much RAM as the previous Fire HD tablet.

When it comes to battery life, the Fire HD 8 might surprise you, since its larger battery offers enough screen on time for 12 hours of entertainment and/or music practice. This value is higher than what any other Amazon tablet can offer, and even better than the iPad Air.

Now that you’ve chosen a good tablet, it’s important to also get a hands-free solution for turning pages and having convenient access to your sheet music. A tablet page turner is the ideal solution, allowing you access to your pages just by tapping a wireless pedal that connects to your tablet through bluetooth.

IK Multimedia Tablet Page Turner

The IK Multimedia bluetooth tablet page turner is an ideal solution whether you’re using an Apple and Android device. It is supported on any of the aforementioned tablets, and runs easily on two AAA batteries.

The device features a backlit construction for easy visibility on stage, and can provide you with a sturdy padded base that connects to any surface in a convenient way. The minimal construction promotes portability, energy efficiency and ease of use, making your music sessions more enjoyable than ever.

Donner Bluetooth Page Turner Pedal

The Donner page turner pedal is a more hi-tech device with a feature-rich construction and a bluetooth range of more than 30 feet. Aside from tablets and iPads, it can also support laptops, desktop PCs and macbooks, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility.

The sleek and well-organized interface makes controlling your sheet music easy, and the left and right footswitches are easy to use. Also, you get more than 50 hours on a single charge – a handy advantage if you’re too busy to recharge the pedal at a short notice.

All the tablets in our list can support these reliable and handy page turner gadgets. Whether you need to manage lots of files, run advanced apps, or just need a large, bright and clear tablet screen regardless of the apps you use, the devices presented above can be considered the fastest and most portable available tablets for the job.

Continue Reading

How Long Does It Take to Learn Piano

A girl Learning to play painoSo you’ve just started your piano lessons and would like a general estimate on how long it will take to learn to play the piano “fluently.” Or maybe you’re thinking of short-circuiting the typical amount of time required by finding a good teacher or course.

In each case, the time you will need depends on factors like age, the style you want to master and the amount of time and dedication you can allocate to your piano lessons and practice sessions on a daily basis. The good news is, anyone can learn how to play the piano at a good level, whether they be a 9 year-old child or a 55 year-old adult.

The Different Ways to Learn Piano

Of course the first step in learning how to play the piano is finding the right tools. A grand piano or electronic keyboard are the best instruments for the job. You can also consider learning the basics on an electronic tablet with the help of a professionally designed piano app.

That being said, there are several different paths you can take to mastering the piano:

  1. The traditional way is to get a professional piano teacher and practicing under his/her guidance every week.
  2. Music books can help you learn the basic of musical notation, as well as the notes, tones and all other concepts you have to master before becoming a piano wizard. In theory, you can learn on your own just by studying from books and practicing, however, that can be a much more challenging endeavor.
  3. YouTube and other online video websites have extensive videos published by piano experts that outline the basic rules and principles associated with playing the piano.
  4. Additionally, you can consider the convenience and ease of taking online piano lessons. Not only are they easier to follow and more flexible, but they can also be less expensive than having your piano teacher visit your home a couple of times every week.

So how long does it take to learn how to play the piano through each of these different methods. Opinions vary, however, with the help of a good teacher or a well-designed online course, the time involved is much shorter.

Typically, an adult can learn to play decently by practicing each day for 4 hours over a period of 10 to 15 years. However, factors such as talent, the style you want to learn and the specific pieces you are more interested in paying will all factor in to alter that time considerably.

Music Books

Music books have all the knowledge you need. You can use them to learn about music, notation and the position of your hand on the keyboard. You can also find sheet music you can practice with and special exercises that will train your hand’s reflexes so you can learn piano faster.

However, without a teacher to explain everything, a music book is not a resource that will take you to piano mastery in no time. In fact, learning solely from music books often takes years, and requires a lot more dedication and practice than any of the other available methods.

YouTube

YouTube is a free online visual resource for learning many skills, including playing the piano. Basic piano lessons are easy to grasp from YouTube, and the teachers who prepared these lessons have already read all the books and mastered the basics, so you don’t have to.

While YouTube can lead you on a free and much faster path to learning how to play, it still comes with drawbacks. There is no interaction between student and teacher, and if you have questions you might need to wait days or even weeks for a teacher to respond to your comments. Also, the lessons don’t account for the specific challenges you may run into (that others typically don’t), so you’re still on your own in many respects.

Online Piano courses

Finally, an online piano course is just the thing. It allows you to gain all the benefits of music books and online video lessons, but in a more personalized, friendly and encouraging manner.

Online teachers can often sync their schedules to your convenience, so you don’t have to finish your work early or skip chores to avoid missing out on your lesson. Also, many courses are flexible and personalized to your own progress. If you have difficulty with a certain technique or step, your online teacher will often help you improvise, and suggest alternative exercises that will help you get over your challenges more easily.

Continue Reading

How Many Keys Does a Piano Have?

Grand Piano KeyboardThe best instrument for learning to play the piano is an acoustic grand piano, which features a full set of 88 keys – which includes 52 white keys and 36 black ones. The white keys are designed for notes belonging to the C major scale, while the black keys are accidental ones required for playing in all the twelve keys.

But the classic 88-key piano is not your only choice when buying a keyboard. There are two other varieties, designed for improved portability and convenience when it comes to dealing with music styles that require the use of fewer octaves.

Weighing Your Options

Finding the right keyboard isn’t easy. You have to consider the brand, the price, the specific functions you need and have no use for. However, in terms of size, when buying a piano keyboard, you have three distinct options you can choose from:

  • The smallest, 61-key version for portable use and simpler songs;
  • A larger keyboard with 76 keys that is sometimes opted for when you need to play more complex songs, but would also like to retain the practical benefits of a smaller keyboard;
  • The full-size 88-key model, which is designed to mimic a grand piano, and is perfect for learning to play the piano.

Each of these options has its own pros and cons. Some would argue that a beginner needs no more than 61 keys, but even basic music books contain songs that would require at least the 76-key version. The latter is a more balanced option, but for the full advantages of a portable piano, you will need all 88 keys.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Full 88-key Piano Keyboard?

A keyboard featuring all 88 keys has many advantages and only a few small drawbacks. Let’s take a look at the good news first: what makes these keyboards so special?

  • You can use them to play any song in the world, even the most complicated ones.
  • They faithfully imitate the sound and function of a grand piano, so once you learn to play them, you’ll know how to play the piano as well.
  • No improvisations are ever required.
  • You don’t have to pay a lot of money on upgrading from a smaller 61 or 76-key model, in case you need 88 keys after learning the basics.

That being said, keyboards with the full set of 88 keys can be more expensive, larger (measuring about 5 feet in length) and heavier than smaller keyboards. Despite these few drawbacks, they still offer the best possible experience, both for a beginner and for a seasoned piano player.

Continue Reading

The History of the Magnus Electric Chord Organ

The electric chord organ was first introduced by Magnus Harmonica Corporation in the late 1950s. A new version of the original reed organs and home organs developed by Magnus in the ‘40s and ‘50s, the design was based on an entirely new idea, to cater mainly to beginners.

The electric organ later separated from the newer electronic models, and is now seen as an intermediary stage of development, between classical reed organs and cutting edge electronic organs.

Some of the earlier version only had 22 keys which relatively small by today’s standard and didn’t have a stand for reading sheet music.

Magnus’ Revolution in Crafting Fine Chord Organs

Regular chord organs have been around for a long time. They are a variety of home organ featuring a short keyboard and a set of chord buttons that allows musicians to play the melody using one hand and access the controls for accompanying chords with the other hand.

Magnus Harmonica Corporation was the first company to introduce the electric chord organ. But even before that, Magnus had a hand in developing improved mechanical organs through a then-revolutionary molded plastic reed comb.

1958 and the Start of a New Era

The success of their design led Magnus Harmonica Corporation to begin developing newer, more affordable and easier to use organs that would be convenient for buyers. The earlier version took a little bit longer to learn how to play. In 1958, they teamed up with television salesman Eugene Tracey, and promoted the electric chord organ – a device similar to classical chord organs, but with electric functionality and, often, a tabletop design.

For more than two decades, the Magnus electric chord organ was a successful sell. Beginners continued to buy it until the 1970s, and millions of organs were sold until that time. At the height of the organ’s popularity, Magnus employed more than 1,800 workers to produce organs of various shapes and sizes, some featuring tabletop designs, others with lit music stands and/or integrated legs.

Notable Musicians Who Used Electric Chord Organs

The first Magnus electric organ model was the 300: a two-octave, six major chord version developed around 1960. Since then, many other tabletop and free-standing models have appeared, some of the most popular being the portable model 1510, the 303 (this was the first free-standing model) and the popular 391 – one of the most successful and frequently sold electric organs developed by the company.

These organs and many other Magnus models were used by renowned musicians during the Flower Power and Disco eras of the 1960s and ‘70s. Some of the most well-known bands and artists included Johnny and the Hurricanes, Cortney Tidwell and a surprising number of bands from the ‘90s and even 2000s, when the electric chord organ started to make a comeback.

Continue Reading