The Essential Studio Instrument: A Guide to Choosing the Right Keyboard or Synthesizer

Image credit: Pexels

By Nicole McCray

There are so many keyboards and synthesizers on the market today that you may not know what the best one is for you. Moreover, with all of the different bells and whistles, thanks to technology, it can be downright confusing.

When you want to find the right studio instrument for your home or if you teach, there are questions you need to answer and things that should be made clear ahead of time. Here’s a handy guide to help you find the essential keyboard or synthesizer right for your needs.

Figure Out Your Studio Needs First

You must first establish what you’re looking for in a keyboard or synthesizer. For example, you may need to evaluate your studio setup or access and see how big a keyboard would fit the space. For instance, if you have an in-home studio, you may not have as much space for a stage piano as you would a digital workstation.

You also might want to look at how you want to use your keyboard or synth. Perhaps you’re only looking to create musical compositions as an independent artist for music licensing, or you play in a band, so you’re looking for something that emits great sound and is portable.

It helps if you create a list of the specifics you’ll need to help narrow your search. Write down everything you’re looking for and any details questions, so you can readily access it when purchasing.

Keyboard and Synthesizer Features

Other factors to take into consideration when it comes to the features include the following:

  • The number of keys: keys range anywhere from only 25 on smaller models to the full 88, as seen on a traditional piano.
  • Key weight: there are weighted keys that mimic traditional pianos, semi-weighted, synth, and hammer action. All of these feel different, so it’s best if you practice and see what feels best.
  • Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) and computer connectivity: MIDI is a communication for hardware or software where you can communicate with the keyboard or synth. Many keyboards and synths connect to computers in different ways. Most digital models use USB or MIDI ports, the easiest and most common connectivity.
  • Input/Output: make sure you have the right cords for a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) if you plan to utilize your keyboard with audio on your computer or if you want to hook to things like amps, mixers, and speakers.

These are just some of the basics to look over. You should also consider other aspects of the keyboard or synthesizer you’re looking for, such as controllers, storage, and the kinds of sounds you’d like it to generate for your studio needs.

Keyboard Types

There are varying keyboard types that serve specific purposes. You should know the differences so you can go into the investment with an idea of the type you want to purchase. 

Two main keyboard options to differentiate are self-contained and modular. Self-contained types package the keyboard, connectors, controls, and all circuits together as one unit, which can be beneficial if you plan to be more portable or play in a band. 

There are different types of keyboards within the self-contained realm, including:

  • Stage pianos are more portable and include other common sounds to play with technological advances like strings, brass, and other instruments. There also may be options right on the keyboard to record music, but their main focus is portability and easy live-play setup.
  • Workstations are designed for the studio and the stage and have features where you can create compositions with sequencers, where you can loop and make recordings.
  • Arranger keyboards are geared toward private home use and solo performing. You can create full accompaniments with drum backing tracks, and there are many music genres and styles.

Modular-style keyboards have separate master controls and usually some way to connect to a computer or MIDI (like a USB cable). If this sort of cable is for you, feel free to shop here and grab one today. These keyboards are designed primarily to control hardware in a computer-based form. 

Vincent at Music To Your Home states that with a modular keyboard setup, you’re aiming to play only for a method where you’re only going to use the keyboard to create music, not to play in any capacity. If your home studio is strictly to help you create music and not play it live, a modular keyboard is an excellent option. 

On the other hand, stage pianos with USB plugins can be used to create music digitally and play live. If you are a piano teacher and a musician and want a real keyboard in your studio, that is one of the best options.

Synthesizer Types 

Synthesizers come with several options, too. The earliest type of synths was analog, more reliant on specially-designed circuits to modify sound (think transistors). 

Analog synthesizers can take on the form of a monophonic or polyphonic keyboard, desktop, or rack unit. The analog synth is more versatile than a keyboard but also has more complexities in sound, which can be challenging to figure out if you’re not sound and MIDI savvy. 

Digital synthesizers are another type that (surprise!) use more digital technology to make sounds. They produce a much bigger range of sound than analogs can, and if you’re leaning toward working in more sound production where you’d need computer hardware and audio software, this is the perfect choice to give you the most control.

Virtual analog (VA) synthesizers are digital synthesizers focused on giving you the same behavior as an analog synthesizer. There are also hybrid synths to combine both analog and digital components. Some prefer the sound of an analog to a digital synth, so you’ll have to do some experimenting when choosing a synthesizer to see which you like best. 

Take Your Time to Find the Right Fit

Choosing an efficient keyboard or synthesizer for your studio isn’t easy. Take your time and explore the benefits of each type after determining what your studio truly needs. You want to get the most out of the instrument you choose, so ensure that you’ve researched and understand all you can when finding the best fit.

Nicole McCray is a contributor for and may be reached at

2 thoughts on “The Essential Studio Instrument: A Guide to Choosing the Right Keyboard or Synthesizer

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: