A piano student or player has a lot of options when choosing a keyboard. You can find different models with all kinds of features. But all the brands and models aim to achieve the same goal: resemblance with the acoustic piano in the sound and design.
The concept of a keyboard with weighted keys comes from this common aim.
Maybe you’re a student with no acoustic piano and no budget to afford one, or maybe you are a professional player that needs to travel with your instrument to gigs and concerts. In all the cases, you’re going to need the instrument you choose to feel and sound as the acoustic piano.
These necessities were the creators of weighted-keys digital keyboards.
But, what are these keyboards? How do they work? Are they really the closest I can get to an acoustic piano?
WHAT ARE WEIGHTED KEYBOARDS?
These are a type of digital keyboards that try to emulate the feeling of an acoustic piano tile when being pressed.
An acoustic piano works with hammers attached to the back of the tiles that are moved when they’re pressed. That hammer strikes a string inside the piano and that’s what produce the note we hear. The hammer movement makes a little resistance when pressing the tile and that reflects on how playing an acoustic piano feels under our fingers.
This is a feeling we can’t obtain when we play a regular digital keyboard. In those instruments the tiles have no resistance and are softer to play. This creates a whole different playing technique that some students, teachers and players do not like.
The weighted keyboard is the closest attempt to emulate this feeling in order to reduce the difference between digital and acoustic piano techniques. They have weights inside the keys that emulates the response and feeling of an acoustic piano tile.
The main focus of weighted-keys digital pianos is to offer a realistic acoustic piano playing experience. It is almost like they have actual hammers and strings inside. For example, if you press a tile very slowly in an acoustic piano no sound is produced, because the hammer doesn’t hit the string with enough strength. That effect is commonly well reproduced in these weighted keyboards. Another characteristic of acoustic pianos is that when you press a tile really hard, the hammer strikes the string with enough strength to make it vibrate and crash against the body of the piano, producing a particular sound that these digital keyboards can emulate too.
DOES IT REALLY IMPROVES THE TECHNIQUE?
Due to the weighted feeling, playing in one of these keyboards really help you keeping the strength in your fingers that an acoustic piano demands. And it really improves velocity and agility.
Once you master a fast piece in a weighted keyboard, playing it in a non-weighted one is going to be way more easier. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work the other way around. Many students have problems facing acoustic pianos when their techniques were practiced in non-weighted keyboards. It is common for piano teachers to recommend that their students use keyboards with weighted keys.
Some would say that having a weighted keyboard is even better than having an acoustic one. Primarily because of the other features it brings. We are talking about an instrument that is half the size – or less – of an acoustic piano and it has a really close sound and feeling. This means you can have it in a small apartment or in a single room of a house. They commonly have headphones ports too, which allows you to practice without disturbing your neighbors or your family. Also, you can move them easier and some of them can be really portables and easy-to-travel.
WHAT ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF KEYBOARDS WITH WEIGHTED KEYS?
You can find the terms “Fully weighted keys” or “Semi-weighted keys” when you go out looking for a keyboard.
A fully weighted keyboard has all the characteristics mentioned above: the keys feels like an acoustic piano. A semi-weighted keyboard still has some resistance when pressing the tiles but the feeling is closer to a non-weighted keyboard than to an acoustic piano.
You can divide them by the number of keys too. As any other digital piano, you’re going to find models with 61, 76 or 88 keys.
IS WEIGHTED KEYBOARD AND A TOUCH RESPONSE KEYBOARD THE SAME?
No, they are different.
A Touch Response or Touch Sensitive keyboard is a digital piano that increases or decreases the volume of the sound according to how hard you press the tile. It doesn’t need to have weighted keys to do so.
A Weighted Keyboard has touch response keys as well, but adding the weight effect.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST KEYBOARD WITH WEIGHTED KEYS?
- Go over your budget once again. These keyboards tend to be more expensive than others. If your budget is not large enough maybe you can consider a touch sensitive one, that works as a first step to get closer to an acoustic piano feeling.
- Ask yourself what do you really need. There are weighted keyboards with tons of other functions that reflect on their price. If you’re looking for a simple acoustic piano feeling maybe you can look for a model without so many digital sounds and connectivity features.
- Set your goals. Maybe you’re purchasing a piano because you’re studying and you need it now just to improve your technique. But try thinking ahead and look for a model that can be sufficient for your upcoming plans and goals with piano playing. There are models with big sounds libraries and MIDI features that can work if you want to do recording. There are others with simpler features that are the best if you want to focus in your piano sound only.
- Think about traveling pros and cons. This is an important thing to consider, as it will be a shame if you purchase a great sounding keyboard that’s going to stay home while you use a lower quality one in gigs and presentations. If you don’t need to move the piano around maybe it is best if you buy a non-travel one, but if your goal is to take what you learn to the stage then look deep into the traveling features like total weight, cases, connectivity on stage and the space it occupies.
BEST WEIGHTED KEYBOARDS IN THE MARKET
These keyboards are the favorite choices between amateurs and professional players with a limited budget and with high needs. They gather the highest reviews and recommendations you can find in purchasing websites and stores.
Yamaha is one of the best brands to choose from when it comes to quality and output. That’s why it’s not surprising that one of the most chosen keyboards with weighted keys belongs to this company.
The P115 is definitely a great choice. It features a great hammer effect, increasing the weight of the keys depending on how low or high you play. With a piano sound that emulates the best acoustic pianos that Yamaha has. It has 88 keys and comes with 14 voices to choose from. It counts with MIDI and plug ports.
One of the most interesting things about this keyboard is that it offers an app for iOS users. With that app, you can control different settings of the keyboard from your cellphone and access learning material and info.
It’s designed to be portable – although it can be a little too heavy – and it can be perfect both for students and professional players.
It’s not a cheap keyboard, so we recommend you to have a medium budget if you want to access this product.
- Hammer effect
- MIDI and USB ports
- IOS app
- Great piano sound
- Not cheap
- Plastic feel on the tiles
This is the non-portable favorite of the brand. This is a keyboard designed with Yamaha’s SGH (Scaled Graded Hammer) effect, that allows the player to get really close to an acoustic piano feeling. It’s one of the top recommendation for students or players that need that feeling under their fingers for technique matters.
It offers the same high quality sounds from Yamaha acoustic pianos and some other features that make it a really interesting option.
Next to its headphone port, it has an integrated microphone input so the sound of your voice can also be amplified by the keyboard’s speakers. You can upload songs in MIDI format and the piano will create its sheet music for you to learn how to play them.
Another great feature this keyboard has is its six tracks recorder, that allows you to layer your creations and to expand your ideas without further gear.
Same as the P115, this is not a cheap keyboard. But most of the costumer’s reviews say it worth the price. Definitely, one of the home favorites.
- Yamaha’s SGH
- Great piano sounds
- Integrated mic input
- Convert MIDI to sheet music
- Six track recorder
- Not cheap
- Plastic feel in the tiles
Korg is a brand mostly known for its synths. Everyone that knows about synths, knows that Korg is one of the best choices. In the keyboards case, this thought can be applied just as well.
The Korg B1 is a top designed keyboard that was made to replicate the acoustic piano feeling as best as it can be. Its keys were conceived to be felt almost the same as playing the keys on any acoustic model.
This piano is another top choice not just because of its design, but for its price. It is an affordable option that offers really high quality features. It has eight different piano sounds with effects like reverb or delay and it comes with a pedal assembly that includes the three pedals an acoustic piano always have.
However, it doesn’t have the same amount of options and sounds other keyboards have. So that makes it a good choice for simpler players that want to keep the clean piano sound. Even though you can release it from the pedal assembly, it wasn’t conceived to be portable.
- Really good weighted keys
- Price friendly
- 8 different piano sounds
- Comes with pedal assembly
- Non portable
- Little amount of voices
- Not so many sound editing options
Casio Privia PX-160
When you hear professional players talking about gear, the Privia always pops up as a good option. Being one of Casio’s top of the line doesn’t come easily. This keyboard gather the best characteristics a player looks for.
The weight of the keys and sensitivity is one of the best in the market. It offers 18 voices with effects. Even though the piano sound is not as great as others, it’s perfect for live stage performances.
It comes with an USB port included so you can connect it to your computer and use it as a MIDI controller as well. Reverb and Chorus effects are built into the keyboard, so you won’t have to spend on extra gear.
It’s one of the most common options for professional players that need a good sound and a portable instrument. It’s light-weight and easy to connect in stage.
Not the best option to be kept in the house, though. It doesn’t come with integrated speakers, so you would need an external sound device or headphones to hear it.
It’s definitely price friendly for a keyboard of this quality and a reliable option.
- Good for performers
- Recommended by professionals
- Reverb and Chorus included
- No speakers integrated
- Sensitivity of the keys get limited at high velocity playing
If you’re looking for a keyboard that emulates an acoustic piano, why not come to a brand that has a place in top markets for building them? Kawai acoustic pianos are recognized world wide and this digital keyboard is a really good option to access that same quality.
The ES110 is a keyboard with a great portability, light-weighted and with features that cover the needs of beginners and professionals.
It offers 19 sounds with a plenty of piano options to choose. Comes with integrated piano lessons for you to improve your technique and a Setting Memory so you can customize your sound and save it.
One of the most important details of this keyboards is that it comes with a three years guaranty. This is a key element for a piano that was made to be moved from stage to stage.
Even though the weighted system and the touch response are not the best you can find for this price, this keyboards can become a great and simple partner in learning or performing.
- A lot of piano sounds
- Three years guaranty
- Setting Memory
- Bluetooth and MIDI connection
- Not the best weighted keys
- Functions are not very user-friendly
Best keyboards with weighted keys for the Professional’s Choice
The next keyboards are the best there is in the market today. They were made for players with the highest needs, being perfect for big scenarios or recording scopes. If you can add some extra numbers to your budget, then don’t think twice in getting one of these.
With the backup story of one of the top brands in keyboards design, the RD-64 is a digital piano that knows how to keep it simple. It offers the best sounds and features in the market without loosing the design of a regular and accessible keyboard.
It comes with great piano sounds and offers a library of high quality synths. You can use its interface to channel the sound of legendary Roland synths such as the Jupiter. It has reverb built in and offers a rare feature between keyboards: adjustable EQ.
The only complains you can have about it are, primarily, that it doesn’t have 88 keys. It’s actually small sized because it’s thought to be transportable and easy to be used on stage (you can see great players using it next to grand pianos or other synths).
The other complain that one can have about this professional keyboards is that they doesn’t come with speakers, so you need to have an external sound system to actually listen to its sound.
- Top of the market
- Great sounds
- Reverb and EQ included
- You can channel Roland emblematic sounds
- No speakers incorporated
- Not 88 keys
Nord Stage 3
A real beauty, without a doubt. This keyboard is one of the trending choices between the best players in the world, offering all that a keyboard player can desire: great weighted keys, great piano, synth and organ sounds, a big library, connectivity options and – as we can see – a stunning design.
Nord was quite shy between the other keyboards brands, but with the Stage series they raised their faces into the top of the mountain. A lot of critics define this keyboard to be “the best in the market”.
It comes with three analogical sound engines you can edit by pushing buttons and moving faders. These engines cover the piano sounds – with different models to choose, equalization and dynamics -, the synth sounds – with all kinds of wave shifters and effects – and the organ sounds – with a big amount of models and harmonics selectors.
And in the digital scope, it offers no less than 2GB of sounds uploaded into the keyboard, with the option of expanding it with Nord’s actualizations. It can be used as a MIDI controller and as a commander to other keyboards.
This is a keyboard designed for the stage and the recording studio. It’s portable – even tough a little heavy. A great choice if you want to have a keyboard for your entire life, covering all the scope of work you can choose as a piano player.
- The best there is in the market
- Separated engines for piano, synth and organ
- Vast amount of sounds
- Mostly analogical settings
- All the connectivity features
- A little heavy
- No speakers incorporated
- Really non price-friendly
SV-1 is a stage favorite option without a doubt. It offers one of the best piano playing feeling you will find on the market.
The key feature this keyboard has is that you can personalize your sound. It doesn’t have a LED screen, so most of what you’re going to edit is going to be through analogical gear included in the keyboard. It counts with reverb and chorus effects built in.
This is not a cheap option and it’s aiming be among the top range.Also, you won’t have speakers in it. The lack of the LED screen can be a little bit uncomfortable for players who have been playing in other digital pianos before. But, those little details are not significant when you face a keyboard that was built to be reliable, loyal and a tour companion.
- Perfect for stage
- All analogical
- Customize sound
- One of the best piano playing feels
- No LED screen
- No speakers
Other options you can consider
The next keyboards are not top rated or the top of the market, but costumers and reviewers have been giving them certain acknowledgement. If you’re in low budget and looking for a keyboard that does its work with a good sound and functionality, these may be the options for you:
Yamaha Arius YDP-163
This is a great choice for someone looking for a quality and price-friendly home piano. The Arius give a fully acoustic piano experience from the sound to the design, being one of the best looking models of the Yamaha scope. It has a great piano sounding, since it features the sounds of the best pianos of the brand.
It comes with the elements that are taking Yamaha to the next era on keyboards. Same as the P115, it offers an iOS app that allows you to control some aspects of the piano and it gives you access to learning material. The system built in the keyboard offers a music book for you to learn too.
One of the main features you can enjoy playing this in your house, is the 2-tracks recorder included in the Arius. You can make accompaniment and then soloing, or creating new sounds and full compositions with just your two hands.
The Arius is designed to the stay at home. Is a non portable keyboard that doesn’t offers much connectivity options. Is perfect for the living room or the home studio.
- Really good acoustic piano experience
- Great piano sound
- Built in music book
- IOS app
- 2 track recorder
- Non portable
- Not so many connectivity features
Yamaha is definitely one of the most integral brands you’ll find in the market. As you can see, it offers keyboards both for the professional and amateur scopes with great reviews on both sides. It should always be a tempting option on the table if it fits in your budget.
The P71 is a great option for beginners who need a reliable piano with a good design for their practice and to find their own piano sound. It’s a model that offers a good piano sound and a variety of voices for you to experiment.
It’s portable and definitely price-friendly. One of the great pros of this keyboards is that it comes with its sustain pedal. This is actually very surprising for models in this price range and make this model a really integral option for the player who need all the tools on their places to get started.
This advantage gets complemented by the fact that it comes with a lot of connectivity features, including headphones and line-out ports.
However, if you’re a more advanced player, this is not the keyboard for you. Its design and feel may leave you wanting a better keyboard, and its library of sound is not as big as others.
- Comes with sustain pedal
- Details in the manufacturing
- Not so big sound library
- Mostly for beginners
This is another great option for beginners who doesn’t want to leave the Yamaha scope. The YPG-535 offers what an amateur player always need: portability, great keys design, big amount of sounds and speakers incorporated.
This is a very light-weighted keyboard that can be transported in your car, the bus or to carry on your back. It has a good weight on its keys, perfect for players that needs to keep their technique sharp.
The system offers a big amount of voices you can choose and combine, with a decent piano sound – yet not as good as other models – and speakers are incorporated so you can sound in your house or friend’s places.
It has and incorporated USB connection that allows you to use it as a MIDI controller and to access to several learning softwares.
This is the weighted-keys keyboard choice that a beginner player may want without the complications and sometimes useless extra features you pay for and never get to use.
- Great keys weight
- Big amount of sounds
- USB connection
- Not the best piano sound
- Mostly for beginners
- Currently not on Amazon
This is the low-priced option of Roland. With this model they’re looking to offer a keyboard that fills the expectations of middle players and, at the same time, leaves them curious about the features of their other models.
This is the perfect option for the stage players with low budgets and big expectations. We are talking about an easy-portable keyboard with a big library of high quality sounds beyond piano.
The only think to criticize is that it doesn’t comes with incorporated speakers. Roland is trying to send the message that even though it has a good price range, it’s not designed for beginner players who wants to stay home.
So, if you need a reliable keyboard that makes a good company for your gigs, without occupying a lot of spaces and with great sounds, this should be one of your tempting options.
- Great library of sounds
- Options beyond piano
- Designed for stage
- No speakers incorporated
This is Roland’s fighting horse in the market. This model is designed to be a really tempting option for the beginner/medium players. The FP-30 is a digital keyboard with the high quality semi-weighted keys of Roland’s designs.
With the really great sounding voices of the brand – and some stunning system features – this model becomes a good option for stage and home studios. It comes with bluetooth connectivity which give you access to learning and sound editing softwares. The keys comes with adjustable sensitivity depending on how hard or soft you play them.
It is design for traveling, occupying little space for a gear this integral-made. The model comes with great offers including its own sustain pedal, bench, headphones and iPad holder.
This should definitely be one of the options in a stage player’s mind when it comes to connectivity, reliable system features and traveling options. It is not a model to keep in your living room, this keyboard was made to fill the gigs.
- Designed for traveling
- Great sounds
- Adjustable sensitivity
- Comes with headphones and iPad holder
- No speakers
- Not the best choice for home
Taking some distance from stages and keyboards designed for traveling, this is Korg’s offer for your house. This model is a home keyboard that is ready to immerse you in the piano playing world without leaving your living room.
The LP380 has a smooth design, with nothing to envy to an upright piano. It has a really great playing experience, that offers a good weighted-keys system, and a great piano sound that is faithfully reproduced by its built-in speakers.
This is a keyboard that is not designed to travel and it has little connectivity options, but it compensates that with a design that is not going to leave you wanting anything else.
Definitely a good option for those players that needs a beautiful piano in their homes to play, without loosing care on technique.
- Great playing experience
- Great piano sound
- Good option for home
- Smooth design
- Not for traveling
- Little connectivity features
- Currently not on Amazon
Casio Privia PX770
This is the model that makes Casio to be in the top and amateur range at the same time. Its design is focused to reproduce almost precise acoustic piano playing experience and to offer a made-for-home instrument that fills up all the expectation a home player can have.
The playing feeling of the PX770 is one of the best. It uses actual hammers in the back of its keys to perfectly emulate the acoustic piano system. It features the Casio’s tri-sensor system, that consists three sensors under each key that can tell more precisely to the system how hard or soft you’re playing, allowing you to have all the playing dynamics you could have in an acoustic maiden.
This is not a keyboard for travelers, it was made for your living room or your home studio. It’s actually a great option for players who can’t afford an acoustic piano and turn their attention to the digital world.
- Great playing feeling
- Uses actual hammers
- Tri-sensor system
- Great design
- Not for traveling
Alesis CODA / Alesis Recital
We are grouping these two models into a single review because they are both great options coming from this brand. Alesis is an American company that manufactures a large amount of sound devices, including audio mixers, processors, interfaces, drums machines and electronic instruments like this two keyboard models.
CODA and Recital are great choices for the beginner player with a low budget and who’s looking for alternative models that provide the same quality that trending brands offer.
With a good piano sound and a semi-weighted keys system with nothing to envy from Yamaha or Roland models, the CODA and Recital becomes tempting options. They’re light-weighted, perfect to travel, but with connectivity features that allow you to keep it in-doors as well.
They offer adjustable touch response and an included recorder through which you can create full tracks without looking for a computer or other instruments.
These are keyboards that will fill all the expectations and needs a beginner player may have and a really good first step for entering the advanced models in the market.
- Accompaniment Patterns
- You can record what you’re playing
- Adjustable Sensitivity
- Non fully-weighted keys
- Best for beginners
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS BEFORE FINISHING
There are so many brands, so many models, so many features that you may feel a little overwhelmed. That feeling of not knowing if you’re purchasing the best you can find, if you should buy this one but that… that’s the secondary effects of reading a lot of reviews. So as the reviewers, we want to give you some advice so you can dissipate these confusing feelings.
- First of all, order your priorities. You can write in a paper what you’re exactly looking for in the keyboard you want to purchase, and then add the list the models that fit those requirements. This is going to make the primary list way shorter
- Don’t just look for system and design features. Make sure you know about offers and special discounts some brands may have and you can end up with a better keyboard than you thought possible.
- Think ahead and try picturing yourself using all the features a keyboard can have. If you really can’t imagine using a feature, you don’t really need it (even if it’s an incredible one).
- Think about the extras. Maybe you need a model that comes with its own sustain pedal, or with a bench or a pedal assembly.
- Space matters! Even more when you’re looking to purchase a keyboard for your home or studio. You don’t want to have a good keyboard that becomes a disturbance for your house. Look for the dimensions of each model and make sure they fit your available space.
- If you’re a professional player, don’t forget to think about your image. Once you have checked all the features and options, the outer design of a keyboard is important. If you’re a classical player for example, maybe you don’t need one of Roland’s all digital designed keyboards, maybe you need a sober design like a Privia or one of Yamaha’s models. But, in the other side, if you play modern music, maybe your audience will like to see a keyboard that glows in colors and screens.
- And ultimately, think about the sound you want to get. If you really like clean piano sound, don’t waste your money paying for incorporated effects and sound options, instead you can look for models with a big amount of clean sounds and equalizations. But, all the way around, if you want your own customized sound, make sure you don’t buy a model with a limited piano sound and think that the incorporated effects customized for a piano are always going to be better and cheaper than external ones.