Affordable Yamaha Electronic Keyboard Buying Guide

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Affordable Yamaha Electronic Keyboard Buying GuideYamaha are well-known in several fields of music technology and in no field more so than in electronic keyboards. They have produced, and continue to produce, electronic keyboards ranging from electric pianos to synthesisers and have acquired a reputation for great quality along the way. The introduction of their DX range of FM synthesisers in the nineteen-eighties brought them to greater heights of recognition and respect among many professional musicians, for whom the Yamaha DX7 synthesiser became the keyboard of choice. Yamaha have a diverse range of keyboards and an equally diverse range of prices. Finding an affordable model requires a little up-front research in order to avoid paying for features that aren't necessary and are going to remain unused.

Finding a Suitable Yamaha Electronic Keyboard

When looking for an affordable Yamaha electronic keyboard to buy, the first consideration is suitability. It's important to be clear about what features and functions are required, and that will depend on what it is to be used for. A music student, for example, will have different requirements to someone who just wants a keyboard for some family entertainment. Depending on its intended use, some features are unimportant, while others are very important. Experienced keyboard players usually have no problem in this area. They know what they want, they just need to find a keyboard offering those features at an affordable price. Learners, on the other hand, tend to be unsure about which features they should consider. Some features can be great fun, but from the point of view of learning a musical instrument seriously, many are little more than gimmicks. For anyone considering buying a Yamaha electronic keyboard with the intention of learning keyboards properly, a keyboard with musical and educational features is worth more than one with countless sound effects.

Keyboard Size

All Yamaha electronic keyboards come with full-sized keys but limit the number of keys provided. The full complement of 88 keys found on pianos, including Yamaha pianos, is necessarily reduced in their portable electronic keyboard range. Their portable keyboards have 61 keys, while their newer Piaggero series keyboards have 76 keys. From a strictly musical point of view, the closer to the piano's full complement of 88 keys, the better. For beginners, however, especially beginners with affordability as a priority, the more economical complement of 61 keys is more than enough to be getting on with.

Touch Sensitivity

A touch-sensitive keyboard is one that responds to the amount of force applied to the keys while it's being played. Greater force results in greater volume for that particular note. A piano is a good example of this effect. The name itself, 'pianoforte' refers to the instrument's ability to produce music with a wide dynamics range, from barely audible pianissimo notes to loud crashing fortissimo chords. These variations in volume, or dynamics as they're called, are an essential component of music, and learning to produce them is an essential part of keyboard study. The cheapest Yamaha keyboards aren't usually touch sensitive. Every note comes out at more or less the same volume. While the notes can still be played correctly in terms of pitch and duration, if the keys aren't touch sensitive, they can't be played with the delicacy and subtlety that most music requires. Touch sensitivity, unfortunately, adds quite significantly to the price, but for serious musicians, it's usually an indispensable feature.

Voices

Yamaha keyboards have a wide range of selectable instrument tones, or voices. Literally hundreds are available on most new models. Voices are the various types of sound available from the keyboard, which can be made to sound like a piano, a flute, an organ, a snare drum, a harpsichord, and many more instruments. While even the cheapest models have an impressive amount of voices instantly available, the more expensive models have far more impressive voice qualities. Tones of good quality and variety are essential for live performance and also important for home-studio recording work too but are less important for practice and study purposes.

Midi Output

A Yamaha electronic keyboard with a midi output can be connected to a computer and can control the computer's on-board synthesiser. This is a very useful and important feature for anyone interested in home-studio multi-track recording. Note that in this case, the sound quality of the keyboard is irrelevant as it is the computer that will be generating the sounds and not the Yamaha keyboard. Whenever a key is struck, the keyboard instructs the computer to play a particular note for as long as required. If the keyboard is touch sensitive, the speed or 'velocity' of the key being pressed also instructs the computer to play that note at a specific volume level. With some suitable software, complete multi-track compositions can be recorded, layered and independently edited after recording.

Educational Features

Yamaha, via the Yamaha Music Foundation, have made a point of championing music education. In line with that, their electronic keyboards often feature a wide range of musical games and exercises. These can be very useful for those seriously learning to play their keyboard as a proper musical instrument. A typical exercise may include a famous recorded tune with missing notes that have to be supplied by the learner in correct time. Other interactive tutorials may include rhythm trainers and note recognition. All of these educational features are useful for learners, but are far less important for professional players who just want to use their electronic keyboard as a musical instrument and not as a centre of music education.

Buying a Used Yamaha Keyboard

Many lower-end Yamaha electronic keyboards are purchased purely for their family-fun value. They are there to be enjoyed and not necessarily to be learned. The fun value may not last, however, and when that wears off, the keyboard may be sold. At the other extreme, the owner may have outgrown it and needs to upgrade. Either way, there are many used Yamaha keyboards available at a fraction of their original price. Buying a used model, however, needs some care as things can go wrong with a keyboard just through normal use. The following checklist assumes a used keyboard being sold in full working order. Some used keyboards, however, may have faults, and their price should reflect that. The particular faults may not be too important for the keyboards intended use, in which case it can be a good bargain. For example, a faulty midi output may be unimportant if there's no intention of ever connecting the keyboard to a computer. Faults such as sticky keys, however, should be a reason not to buy. If possible, the following should be checked before buying a used keyboard.

Keyboard response

All keys should operate smoothly and cleanly with a firm and pleasing response.

Missing notes

Check every key to ensure that it sounds every note every time. The sound response should also be instant with no time delay.

Analogue outputs

Check every output, including speaker connections, audio output to an amplier, and headphones.

Digital Output

MIDI output is either via an inexpensive USB cable or an expensive MIDI cable. MIDI cables are usually not supplied with new keyboards but a used keyboard may have one if the owner purchased one separately. Check if a MIDI cable is available and included in the price.

Controls

Check all adjustable controls for clean and smooth operation. Crackling and distortion usually indicate excessive build-up of dirt on the electrical contacts.

Programs

Programs include auto rhythm and auto accompaniment as well as educational programs and musical games. They should all be working.

Display

Yamaha keyboards have a display of some kind. Whether it’s a simple small display giving information on current settings or a large display capable of reproducing a musical score, check for legibility and clarity.

How to Find an Affordable Yamaha Electronic Keyboard on eBay

Many Yamaha electronic keyboards can be found on eBay. Most can be found listed under eBay's Keyboards/ Piano category, which is a subcategory of their main Musical Instruments category. Go first to All Categories, then click Musical Instruments, followed by Keyboards/Piano. In order to deliver results that list affordable models, make use of the check-boxes located on the left-hand side so as to group them according to, for example, price range, condition (new or used) and free delivery offered. Great bargains can also sometimes be had if a Yamaha electronic keyboard is being auctioned and failing to attract a lot of interest.

Conclusion

Because of their overall good quality and reliability, new Yamaha keyboards aren't cheap, but they can be affordable if some of the options outlined are heeded. Look for bargains on eBay auctions, check out some used models, and try to avoid buying a model with fancy, but unnecessary, features that add to the expense but not to the quality or the required musical functionality.

 
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