Along with the guitar and piano, the keyboard is one of the first instruments that you’ll learn when you study music. That’s because the piano is one of the most complex and interesting instruments that you could play. Of course, it does limit you to playing only a few music genres but that’s a small price to pay for the chance to produce accurately expressive music.
However, if you’re someone who enjoys playing around with different sounds and experimenting with music in general, then you’ll love the synthesizer. It has a similar layout to the piano on account of the unique keyboard, but it works in a completely different way.
In fact, the synthesizer keyboard requires a completely different striking action when compared to the piano. The synthesizer mainly allows you to control the force and speed of the hammer. If you’re in the market for your first synthesizer keyboard, you’ve come to the right place.
Read on to figure out how to find the best synthesizer keyboard for beginners.
What is a Synthesizer Keyboard?
A synthesizer is basically an electronic instrument that has the ability to produce and convert audio signals into sound. What makes this instrument unique is its ability to imitate the sound of real instruments like the strings or a piano. This opens you up to a lot of possibilities when it comes to the amount and types of sounds that you can produce.
You can also connect synthesizers to modules such as loopers, filters, and oscillators. These modules can be used in conjunction with one another to produce a unique sound. You don’t need a keyboard to operate a synth because you can easily produce sound using a well-directed signal.
The average modular synthesizer rack has quite an intimidating aesthetic thanks to all the patch cables involved. However, you need these cables in order to send the signal required to produce sound. All told, synthesizers aren’t all that complicated and they’re actually designed to simplify the process of playing music.
Things to Consider When Shopping for the Best Synthesizer Keyboard
Now that you’ve decided to invest in your music career by purchasing a synthesizer keyboard, it’s time to look at some of the most important considerations to make in order to find a unit that you’ll make the most out of.
Synthesizers are designed to generate waveforms in order to create sound. Waveforms are basically electronic vibrations that require an oscillator. From here, the signal goes onto other parts of the synth to create a more layered and modulated sound.
Synthesis comes in three basic types namely wavetable, FM and subtractive. We’re not going into the details of how each of these works but we’re going to provide you with a helpful summary.
The subtractive is the most popular option, especially for beginners. That’s because it’s convenient and easy to work with. It comes with effective filters through which you can create new sounds. You can also use filters to smooth out the sound and get rid of any harmonic frequencies that may point to the original audio signal.
Next, you have frequency modulation synthesis also known as FM. This is commonly used in the creation of massive sound with distinctive detail and quality. A modulator can really come in handy here with its ability to change pitch frequency in ways that make the final sound far removed from that produced by the original oscillator.
The wavetable is by far the most flexible of all the three options we mentioned. How does it work? It modifies any sound source you place into it according to length. The result is natural-sounding tones and plenty of flexibility.
Effects are a great way to produce a rich sound. Some of the most popular effects to include are distortion, reverb, unison, and chorus. In the end, your sound is richer and more compelling than before and all you have to do is study how they work so you can make the most of these effects.
It’s worth noting that a majority of available synths feature built-in effects that are designed to maximize space and power. It’s an ideal option for beginners who’re looking to produce a big sound.
If sound effects are important to you then you should make sure that your synthesizer has a user-friendly control panel. The subtractive synthesizer is ideal for beginners because it comes with accessible filter controls and an oscillator that’s easy to access.
All of these technical features and terms might seem confusing at first but you’ll get used to them over time, especially if you make it a point to study a glossary of synthesizer terms, which you can easily find online.
Keyboard vs Module
The keyboard vs module debate is one that has been going on since the synth was first invented. There’s very little difference between these two varieties of the same instrument, save for a few functions and features. To choose one option between the two, consider what you want to use your synthesizer for and your level of proficiency with it.
For instance, if your interest is in loops and keyboard style music then you should consider the keyboard variety. You can use the keyboard to produce a variety of sounds and it doesn’t have a major learning curve.
On the other hand, modules are compact and space-efficient which means you can use them on the road. This type of synth is cost-effective and allows you to create different sound effects. It also comes with various knobs and features.
If you decide to go for a modular synthesizer, keep in mind that you need to purchase a separate controller as well. This could be anything from a computer to an actual keyboard.
Monophonic vs Polyphonic
The next thing you need to consider when looking for the best synthesizer keyboard for beginners is whether it’s polyphonic aka polysynth or monophonic aka monosynth. A monosynth is great for creating any type of sound while a polysynth allows you to play numerous notes at once.
To elaborate, monosynths produce a fuller and all-encompassing sound which allows you to make out the sound of each unique note. A polysynth might take some time to process the different notes resulting in a much thinner sound.
A polysynth might be a great idea for anyone who’s used to a keyboard or piano because it allows you to play multiple notes. You’re free to purchase a monophonic synth at some point in the future once you’ve clocked more miles on your first synthesizer.
To figure out which option to choose, consider what you plan to use the synthesizer keyboard for. Most polysynths allow you to go back and forth between a monophonic and polyphonic option. But, each option comes at a different price tag depending on the brand and functionality.
Analog vs Digital
The first thing you need to do is choose between digital and analog format. This can be quite a dilemma and it’s the first challenge that you’ll come across when looking for the best synthesizer keyboard for beginners. The option you choose will depend on your own preferences when it comes to the music you want to make.
First, you have analog synthesizers that produce sound through electrical currents and they’re considered a more traditional option.
Then you have digital synthesizers which are very popular due to their ease of use. They operate through modern technology to generate a wide variety of sounds and music genres.
Experienced musos say that analog synthesizers produce a warmer and more natural sound. However, you might find a bit of instability when taken to the limit. But some say that this actually enhances the naturalness of the resulting sound.
All told, an analog synth comes highly recommended for beginners because it’s easier to use and will help you make impressive music from the get-go.
Synthesizers are available in different price tags but if this is your first purchase then you should start low at $500. Most well-known companies like Roland and Korg offer great value for money as most of their entry-level units come at this price tag. That’s why synthesizers are considered to be an accessible purchase no matter what your budget is.
The great thing about many of the available mid-range versions is the fact that they come with a wide variety of features. They’re also designed to make your life easier without any unnecessary buttons, knobs, and effects. The last thing you want is to be bombarded with too many options when you’re still starting out. At this point, you need something that’s simple, straightforward and easy to use.
By far, the lowest range models sell for about $200 a pop and they’re ideal for beginners. The only downside is that they usually come with low sound quality and there aren’t a lot of features to choose from. However, most people usually purchase this type of synthesizer as a beginner and it’s not uncommon to upgrade to something better over time.
But, if your budget allows then you can always opt for the more high-end options around $500 or more. This includes polysynths and monosynths as well.
Below we have a list of the best synthesizer keyboard for beginners with all types of features and different price tags.
Best Synthesizer Brands
In the following section, we’re going to provide you with a list of the best synthesizer keyboard manufacturers on the market.
Yamaha is a well-known manufacturer of musical instruments and their synthesizers certainly don’t disappoint. The Yamaha DX series is particularly popular with produces while the Yamaha Motif has been killing it for decades!
The Japanese brand Roland is another popular manufacturer of high-quality synthesizers. This brand is responsible for introducing 808s into the music industry and without them we wouldn’t have some of the best classics in modern music. In case you’re wondering, 808s are what trap musicians and legends like Kanye West use when producing.
Even in the 80s, some of the best pop bands used Roland synthesizers to create masterpieces. Modern-day Synthpop is a direct result of classic 80s sound made using Roland synthesizers. It’s a really great option for anyone that wants to create good music.
Moog is another fan favorite because they mostly offer analog synths. They’re a legacy brand that has been around for a long time and they’ve also contributed to the innovation of modern-day music especially among artists who enjoy analog music. Their Sub Phatty synthesizer comes highly recommended.
Korg is another go-to brand when it comes to the best synthesizer keyboard for beginners. They specialize in analog synths and the Korg M1 model is one of the pop industry’s most used synthesizers.
Some of Korg’s best synth models include the M3, the MS-20, and the MicroKorg. The MicroKorg is really cost-effective and compact yet very powerful and easy to use.
Novation manufactures synths, particularly for the EDM industry. Since the brand was founded, they’ve been acquired by Focusrite and now they come with truly impressive audio interface settings.
Novation has been doing incredibly well over the years and they’re known for their ability to provide reliable and constantly improved versions of their EDM focused synths. Their synths are also great for producing urban music.
The brand has won numerous awards over the years due to its contribution to the modern-day music industry.
Novation is definitely “in” with the cool kids and almost every user who’s tried their Launchpad product has fallen in love. If you’re looking to up your game when making electronic music, then Novation is definitely worth checking out.
Best Synthesizer Keyboard for Beginners
The synthesizer is a great instrument to use if you want to produce different sounds using the same tool. You don’t have to be an expert to get the most out of this fantastic instrument and now you know which features to look out for and which brands are the best in the business.
Read on for our review of the best synths for bass, live performance and more. We’ve included pros and cons with each option so you can make an informed purchasing decision.
This is a well-built synthesizer from Roland which is very similar to its predecessor the JD-XI. Many felt that this was a bit of a disappointment because the only difference between the two models is basically an inclusion of two brushed metal strips on the rear and front of the control panel. They’re designed to add a bit of rigidity and facilitate smooth function.
Other features include built-in analog keys, a tank-like frame and a plastic case that makes it one of the most portable options around. It’s certainly lightweight but has surprisingly sturdy dials, faders, and switches.
In terms of the controls and keyboard, this Roland 49-key synthesizer works similarly to the Alesis Andromeda which is one of the best synthesizer action keyboards on the market. The best part about this synth is that it allows you to play with speed and precision thanks to having a shallow trigger point. This is in addition to delicate cords and customizable aftertouch curves.
Comes with LFO rate covers
Filters sound in multiple modes
Analog synth engine
This is a great four-voice paraphonic synth from MicroFreak. Once you activate the Paraphonic button you can literally use this synth to play multiple voices at the same time. It’s a great option for anyone who aspires to be a one-man band because you can create music and perform with this synth.
The great thing is that under the hood you’ll find the same VCA settings, envelope, and filter for each voice option.
The sound is generated through the Digital Oscillator and you can apply open-source designs courtesy of the synth’s Mutable Instruments. Other notable features include 12 different modes, a three-parameter OLED screen, “test-tube” meters, and different knobs for different modes, including Shape, Timbre, and Shape.
Thanks to these 12 modes, you can create funky sounding tonal potential thanks to having a wide variety of digital types and analog emulators as well. Thanks to the Virtual Analog and Basic Waves oscillators, you’ll be able to enjoy different variations of several waveforms designed for classic VA sound design.
We’d be remiss not to mention the Superwave mode which offers a nicely detuned richness that gives you a massive bass.
Poly-aftertouch flat keyboard
25-key paraphonic hybrid hardware synth
Wavetable and digital oscillators
There have been complaints about this synthesizer’s firmware
According to experts, this is the best synthesizer for beginners. It comes at an affordable price tag on account of being made from low-cost hardware. However, it offers a nice balance between functionality and price.
The Bass Station II is digitally controlled but comes with fully analog features so you can use it as an analog or digital model depending on your preferences and needs. Users say the result is beautiful analog sound but produced with very little effort.
This synth is incredibly easy to use and comes with a sturdy arpeggiator, step sequencer, USB/MIDI control and 127 patch memory slots for you to choose from. If you check the rear, you’ll find a MIDI in and out as well as a convenient USB port. This is in addition to a ¼” headphone jack, an external line, sustain pedal input and a single ¼” mono line out.
Comes with arpeggiator and sequencer
Features patch memory
Durable and well built
This is the best synthesizer for beginner producers and it has a very similar design to the Minilogue because it has similar inputs and outputs as well as mini-keys and a genuine wood black panel. The only difference is that this particular model is smaller and way more lightweight. Korg has also removed an octave from the keyboard in order to improve battery power and portability.
This synth features conventional architecture but it comes with certain functional limitations. To make up for this, you’ll notice that this synth features extended range, improved step sequencer, 16 physical buttons and four flexible knobs that allow you to improvise and edit on the go.
Not to mention the drive circuit which is there to incorporate distortion and overtones as well as micro tuning support. This is the best cheap synthesizer for anyone that wants to experience a powerful yet rich sound.
Offers flexible functionality
Real-time step edit courtesy of 16 step buttons
Comes with expanded LFO capabilities with deeper modulation and higher rates
Added DRIVE for cutting leads and a rich bass
Comes with a 2-pole VCF
Needs to be handled with the utmost care if you want it to last
The Roland 37-key JD-Xi unit is the best synthesizer keyboard for versatile functionality. It comes with drums, a monologue analogue synth, and two digital synths.
Other features include a built-in sequencer and arpeggiator which allows for real-time record and playback of your music. You also get good quality instrument samples to work with in order to create a genuine sounding musical sound that doesn’t sound too “fake.”
You’ll definitely enjoy playing around with the ability to sculpt different sounds and waveforms. This is in addition to basic effects like a phaser, flanger, distortion, and reverb. You won’t find a similar quality synth for the same price range and it’s a great hybrid analogue synth.
Whatever you do, don’t use the knobs too much if your focus is on pads and organs. Otherwise, you should be able to use this to produce legendary sounds regardless of your experience level.
This is the best synthesizer keyboard for beginners
Easy to program
Vocoder and effects
Super clear digital timbres
Produces warm and rich analog sounds
The MiniNova is one of the best synths for beginners and it’s cost-effective and incredibly versatile. It comes with a unique VocalTune feature which is useful when it comes to producing urban and hip-hop tracks as well as special sound effects and techno beats.
On the main display, you’ll find 8 buttons that you can use to wrap and twist sounds as you like, as well as convenient editing knobs and an oversized pitch. There are also 256 onboard sounds to pick from with the option to add an extra 128 sounds if you like, as well as 5 effects to each voice.
This is a nice and compact synthesizer that’s portable enough for you to carry while traveling so you can make music on the go. Plus, there are multiple MIDI ports that are useful for adding things like a bigger keyboard.
Comes with 356 inbuilt sounds
You can wrap and tweak your sounds in real-time
Unique VocalTune Vocoder and pitch correcting effect
Powerful Nova sound engine
The Akai brand is not that well-known amongst mainstream musicians but it offers a decent product with the MPK49 unit. It’s compact, slim and comes with MPC drum bands and RBG LED lights which you can customize according to color. Needless to say, this is one good looking synth.
It features 49 keys with a redesigned keyboard that’s much easier to play than previous versions. There are 8 standard control knobs to choose from and you can assign each to a specific function according to your needs and preferences. This is a great machine for tweaking and mixing different plugins, VSTs and effects.
You’ll find some great DAW programs too, including Pro Tools, Ableton and Logic Pro. In addition to such superb compatibility, the MPK29 offers a combination of four controllers and banks of pads so you can create a wide variety of sounds.
Tap tempo and time division features
Comes with 16 RGB illuminated MPC style pads
MPC mainstay controls
24 assignable Q link controllers
Customer support is not the best among the top brands
Yamaha’s REFACE DX comes with similar specs as the company’s previous Reface models but with a brown color that’s similar to the OG DX7. It features a convenient mini keyboard with three octaves and four operators including FM-oscillators.
This one has an octave missing when compared to the DX100 but we must comment Yamaha for improving the keyboard quality overall. It’s basically a miniature Motif keyboard with a mechanism that really differentiates itself from other competitors.
Similarly to the CP, the DX also offers enough velocity that you won’t need aftertouch. We absolutely love the fact that you can actually wear this synth as a keytar thanks to the included Keytar Kit.
HQ mini keyboard
Built-in phrase looper
32-voice memory locations that allow you to store and recall all of your favorite voices
4-operator FM sound engine with expressive and dynamic additive synthesis
One of the first things we noticed about this Nektar IMPACT synth is how thoughtfully designed it is. It has a retro look that’s characterized by bright backlit pads and an elegant black chassis with a clean and intuitive interface. It comes with a compact MIDI controller that’s straightforward and to the point.
We also like how beautifully laid out the buttons are and the features are super easy to navigate. The frame has dimensions of 18.75″ wide and 10.5″ deep. It’s small enough to deliver the same studio-quality sound on the go.
Although affordable, this synth doesn’t disappoint when it comes to consistency and reliability regardless of the application that you’re buying it for. With this model, Nektar offers a basic synth but with 25 velocity-sensitive synth keys that work effortlessly and offer great value for money.
Also, within the control panel is the main control cluster which is accented by 8 backlit trigger pads. These and other features make this the best synthesizer for live performance.
Compatible with different devices including iOS, PC, and Mac
8 super-sensitive backlit pads
Performance-ready built-in pitch bend and modulation wheels
High-quality midi controller with 25 expressive synth-action keys
Cheapest of the bunch, but missing a few high-end features
This tiny synthesizer from Arturia comes with much of the functionality of its much larger predecessor. This includes multi-waveform design, a single oscillator, and fewer keys but still very useful.
It also comes with a built-in sequencer and a flexible waveform section. Then there’s a Mod Matrix panel which allows you to literally patch the LFO depth and envelope through the accessible 3.5mm mini-jacks. This is definitely the most budget-friendly synthesizer bundle on the market and you get a lot for the price.
It’s not super cheap, but it’s way better than most of the “pocket synths” that you’ll find online. It’s a portable, flexible and compact analogue monosynth that actually gets the job done.
Offers a great step-sequencer
Portable and compact
Unique waveshape options
If creating music is your passion, then we hope this guide has been helpful at enabling you to find the best synthesizer keyboard for beginners. We took you on a complete journey from what you should look for the best brands to consider and lastly, a review of the best options on the market.
If we were to choose just one from this fine list of synths, it would have to be the Roland 37-Key Synthesizer. This is our top pick because it offers a built-in sequencer and arpeggiator for real-time record and music playback.
It also comes with premium instrument samples and various waveforms and sounds to choose from. There’s no denying that this is yet another masterpiece from the Roland brand and the best part is that it’s incredibly easy to use.
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