Teacher Hub

Choosing the right keyboard for your classroom

Written by William Thompson31/05/23

When trying to decide on the best keyboard for your school there can seem to be so many variables that it is impossible to be confident you are making the right choice. Here we aim to help you understand the choices, and some of the reasons why you might pick one keyboard over another.

We’ll assume that for the purposes of our discussion we are talking about less expensive ‘classroom’ keyboards, and not portable pianos, synthesisers, or professional keyboards where buying one might break the year’s budget!

The following are some of the functions and facilities that some keyboards offer… and others don’t:

  • Touch sensitivity
  • USB connection
  • Recording facility
  • Multiple sounds

As well as these functions, which we will deal with in more detail below, there are a number of other factors that are worth considering:

Width

Not the physical width of the keyboard itself (though that can be a factor if you need them to fit into a restricted space), but the number of keys on offer. Most keyboards have 5 octaves (61 keys) but smaller and larger ones are also available

Depth

This is only an issue if you want the keyboard to fit something like a keyboard desk, where it will be on a sliding shelf below the worktop

Power supply

Nowadays most keyboards are supplied with a power supply, but it’s important to realise that Yamaha and Casio (for example) use different polarities, so the power supplies are not interchangeable. Worth noting if you are adding to your existing batch of keyboards, and want to avoid potential damage or confusion!

As a general rule facilities such as touch sensitive keys and recording functions will become available as you spend more on your keyboard. Basic keyboards like the Yamaha PSR-E283 tend not to have any of these due to cost savings, but can still be a very useful resource in a classroom. So why might you want these extra options?

Touch sensitivity

Although keyboards don’t feel like pianos, in that the keys are not weighted, you can opt for a model that will allow some variation in volume by how hard the key is played. This is useful if you want your students to be able to play with a range of dynamics, and particularly if the keyboard is to be used with a computer and software, where dynamics can be incorporated into compositions. The cheapest Yamaha model is the PSR-E373, while Casio offer the same facility on their CT-S300 model.

USB connection

Only needed if you plan to use the keyboard with a computer. Be aware that some (more expensive) keyboards may have two types of USB connection – one for the computer, and another where you can insert a flash drive in order to save or load songs. This later type tends to only be on keyboards that have a recording function.

Recording facility

The facility to record appears on even some of the cheaper keyboards, but then is usually only able to record two ‘tracks’. More expensive keyboards, like the Yamaha PSR-E473, can have a truly multi-track option, where individual parts can be recorded one at a time, with different sounds, and thus build up a complete musical ‘ensemble’ – piano, bass, drums, clarinet etc. The best models also incorporate the USB flash drive option mentioned above, so that pupil work can be downloaded before the keyboard is switched off.

Multiple sounds

Even the most basic keyboard will usually offer a range of sounds, and not just piano. As with other features, as you spend more you will get not just more sounds, but better quality sounds, and the size, volume and tone of the built-in speakers will probably improve as well. Some schools like to opt for the type of keyboard that has fewer sounds, but may come with a larger keyboard, such as the Yamaha NP35.

Whatever keyboard you opt for, remember to order any accessories that you might need for your classroom. These usually include:

…and don’t be afraid to ask for some advice if anything is confusing.