Q: What if the Hokey-Pokey really IS what it's all about?


Tips for Buying an Electric Keyboard
If you are shopping for an electric keyboard, you'll be considering a number of different features. Here are my thoughts on what to be looking for:
 
(1) The keyboard needs to have standard-size keys, that is, not miniature keys. FYI, the width of a white key on a piano is 7/8 inch.

(2) It should have built-in speakers, because you don't want to have to deal with external ones. If you're shopping online, you'll probably be able to see the speakers in the product photos.

(3) Touch-sensitivity is a very important feature, since it allows your child to experience different playing volumes: the harder and faster they hit the keys, the louder the resulting sound. But if you have to get a keyboard without touch sensitivity, your child will still benefit from practicing on it.

(4) It should either come with or be compatible with a power adaptor that can be plugged into the wall. Many keyboards tout the fact that they can take batteries, which is convenient if you're moving it around all the time; but as all parents know, batteries can be a very expensive habit! Probably most keyboards are compatible with some kind of adaptor, but they don't all come with one.

(5) There are a few different choices when it comes to a keyboard's action, that is, the way the keys feel when you hit them. Keyboards with fully weighted keys feel the most like a real piano; they weigh anywhere from 35 to 70 pounds and cost anywhere from $650 to upwards of $3000. Keyboards with semi-weighted keys can have a very nice action, not as close to a piano but still satisfying; they usually weigh between 20 and 30 pounds and cost between $200 and $500. There are also a few Yamaha keyboards with "graded soft-touch action," which are nice to play as well; they are very lightweight (11 to 12 pounds) and reasonably priced ($200 to $350). And finally, there are keyboards with non-weighted keys, which don't feel much like a piano, but can be perfectly good for beginners to practice on; a fairly good one can cost as little as $100.

(6) Polyphony refers to the number of notes that can sound at the same time. It's great to have 32-note polyphony or higher, but since your child is a beginner, 16-note polyphony is just fine.

(7) It's also important to have a bench or chair that is the right height. Standard piano benches are 19 inches high, but this is always too low for a child, and often too low even for an adult. A player should be seated high enough so that the forearm is parallel to the floor, with a straight line from the elbow to the base knuckles. Sitting at the wrong height can make your child uncomfortable, squirmy, and ill-at-ease at the piano. It can also cause your child to develop bad posture and hand position, which hinders good playing and can even lead to pain. The best solution would be to buy an adjustable piano bench or stool. But if that's not in your budget, try some seat cushions, or resort to the old cliché: a phone book—if you can find one!

(8) You'll probably want a stand to put the keyboard on. Using a dining room table or coffee table is not ideal, because your child should be practicing at a setup that approximates a real piano. You can find an adequate X-stand for around $20 or a more sturdy table-like stand for $50 or so.

(9) Some sort of music stand (sometimes called a music desk or easel) is very good to have. This is what holds your book up when you're playing.

(10) It can be handy to have a headphone jack so that your child can practice without disturbing anyone. Something you can't do with an acoustic piano!

(11) It's also very nice to have a metronome once your child's playing advances a little.

(12) Multiple voices—like organ, harpsichord, violin, drums, ocean waves, aliens, etc.—are unnecessary, but they can inspire kids to play the keyboard a bit more often!

(13) Preset styles that play accompanying music for you—like rock, big band, polka, etc.-are also fun but unnecessary.