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Setting Up a Keyboard or Digital Piano
In my last two posts, I covered my top reasons for getting a piano or a keyboard. Now let’s take a look at how to set up a keyboard or digital piano.
Things You’ll Need
- Keyboard and power cord (probably came with the keyboard)
- Power strip with surge protector
- Carrying case (for storage and transportation)
- Keyboard stand
- Music stand
- Sustain pedal
- 1/4-inch cables (if you don’t have built-in speakers)
- Keyboard amplifier (unless you have built-in speakers)
Keyboard or Digital Piano
Check out my post “Should You Get a Piano or a Keyboard (Part 2)” to learn more about keyboard options (I own a Yamaha MM8). Most likely the keyboard you choose will come with a power cord, and you can find a power strip with a surge protector lots of places. Once you have your keyboard, power cord and surge protector, you’ll want to start purchasing the other items from the list.
When choosing a carrying case, you’ll want to pick one based on the size of your keyboard/number of keys, so the case fits snugly all the way around. That way your keyboard will be protected whether you’re storing or transporting it.
My keyboard case is nylon with padding, and has held up well. It also has a pocket for storing and transporting the cables (looks like this one).
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Get started learning piano chords with this 25-page PDF. These charts will lay a great foundation for you at the piano, and will be referenced again and again!
You’ll also want to get a stand for the keyboard. Mine is an adjustable-height “X” stand similar to this one, and has worked out fine. I’ve used my stand at churches, weddings, outside and inside.
When you pick a stand, make sure it has enough support for the weight of your keyboard. There are different styles of stands, but one thing I like about the X-stand is that it folds up nicely for storage.
You’ll also want to get a keyboard bench. We didn’t spend a lot of time on this decision, we just picked an X-style keyboard bench with adjustable height.
Music stands aren’t necessary, but they’re pretty convenient. You could just place your music on top of your keyboard, behind the keys, but it’s nice to have a stand to hold everything.
If you’re like me and you end up with lots of papers and notebooks of ideas, you’ll be glad for a spot to keep it all semi-organized. I like having a music stand where the bottom legs collapse for storage. We bought a basic music stand like this one.
The sustain (or damper) pedal for a keyboard imitates the pedal all the way to the right on an acoustic piano. When you press it down, it sustains the sounds you’re playing, until you lift it. I use my sustain pedal all the time, both at the piano and keyboard, when I play creatively.
On a keyboard, the sustain pedal helps overcome the less “full” piano sound (compared to an acoustic piano). It also gives you lots of options for playing creatively when you start to experiment with the other sound options.
You can buy a universal sustain pedal for your keyboard, and it will plug into the sustain jack at the back of your keyboard (most likely).
1/4-inch cables are used frequently for connecting electronic instruments (like electric guitars and keyboards) to amplification. If your keyboard has built-in speakers, you won’t need 1/4-inch cables because you don’t need to create amplification. But most higher-end keyboards won’t have built-in speakers and you’ll need to take care of this.
You’ll probably want to own two 1/4-inch cables (they sometimes short out so it’s nice to have a backup). They can come as 1/4-inch to 1/4-inch, or as 1/4-inch to something else. For hooking your keyboard up to an amplifier, you’ll want 1/4-inch to 1/4-inch ends.
You can get these cables in different lengths, so be sure you pick something with enough reach for your setup. They can also come with a right-angle end, which can be nice for fitting your keyboard flush against a wall.
The last thing you’ll need is a keyboard amplifier (assuming your keyboard doesn’t have built-in speakers). I used to have a Peavey KB3 amp, which sounded great, but was really heavy to carry. I sold it and replaced it with a Behringer Ultratone KT108 15 watt keyboard amplifier. The lower wattage does affect the overall richness of the tone (15 watts compared to 60 watts), but it’s much more portable.
When you choose an amplifier, you’ll have options for how many channels (inputs) you want. You really only need one to be able to plug in your keyboard, but it’s nice to have at least two inputs on your amplifier for options. If you have two channels (or more), someone could plug a guitar in and play along, or you could use one input for a microphone.
Besides volume control, most amps include some combination of low, mid and high-equalizer controls, which allow you to adjust the overall sound output. They also often include a headphones jack if you want to play “silently.”
Since amplifiers can get expensive, you could look for one that’s used. Or to save money on a new amp, choose one with lower-wattage, which won’t sound quite as big and full, but will be more portable and cheaper.
Now you know how to set up your keyboard or digital piano! Don’t let the technical stuff scare you! It might seem unfamiliar, which can feel overwhelming, but soon you’ll be comfortable with all of it and it won’t seem so strange. You’ll be so glad for what you’ve learned!