Our Favorite Keyboards
Don’t have time to do keyboard research? Here’s what we recommend for Synthesia:
All of these can connect to Synthesia with USB. Use our guide to learn which cables you need.
Power cords and keyboard stands
Many low and mid-level keyboards are sold without a power adapter or keyboard stand. (This is to make the price look lower than it actually is.) Double-check that at least a power cord is included (or buy one separately) so you won’t have to constantly swap out batteries.
All but the first recommendation above are keyboard bundles that include everything you need.
Consider buying used
The used market for keyboards is really healthy. And since the technology behind MIDI hasn’t changed in decades, you can still connect old keyboards to Synthesia without any trouble. There are some great deals to be had at places like eBay, Craigslist, Amazon Marketplace, or even your local garage sale.
Keyboards go by many names
Here is a short guide on the various names given to keyboards.
Personal Keyboard You’ll also hear electronic keyboard or portable keyboard. These are usually made for people looking to enjoy playing or practicing music. You’ll find lots of different instruments and beats included. Digital Piano These are made to emulate the sound and feel of a real piano as closely as possible. They usually contain only a handful of piano-like instruments, which makes them a little less useful with Synthesia. MIDI Controller A “controller” can’t make sounds on its own and must be connected to a computer to be useful. Musicians use MIDI controllers along with audio software to trigger sounds stored on their computer. Synthesizer Sound engineers use “synths” to create new sounds or reshape existing ones. These are useful for computer music or sound production, but are expensive and complicated to use. Arranger Workstation Workstations include recording and sequencing features that musicians can use to compose or arrange new music. Loaded with features, these are usually the most complicated and expensive keyboards around.
In general, the best keyboards to use with Synthesia are in the personal keyboard category. They’ve got the features Synthesia was built for and they’re usually among the lowest-priced models, too.
What do all these features do?
Some keyboard features are more useful with Synthesia.
61 / 76 / 88 keys The number of keys on a keyboard has a huge impact on which songs you’ll be able to play. 61 keys will feel limited and you will find some songs where you can only reach all the notes for one hand at a time. 76 is better. Having all 88 means you’ll be able to reach all the notes in every song.
Beware specialty keyboards with fewer than 61 keys. Their price is tempting, but you’ll grow out of them fast. Lighted keys Many entry-level keyboards have keys that individually light up. Synthesia can use those lights when you’re playing a song in Melody Practice mode. The effect is helpful and a lot of fun. Touch-sensitive keys Also called velocity sensitivity or touch response. All but the lowest-end keyboards will have touch-sensitive keys. This means that when you strike a key harder, the note will play louder. This is pretty vital if you’re planning to spend any time learning to play. Weighted keys Keyboard keys are made of lightweight plastic and don’t have a heavy hammer mechanism like a real piano, so playing most keyboards feels very different than a real piano. Accurately simulating the weight of “real” keys is one of the most expensive keyboard features you’ll find, but also the one that will make the biggest impact if you transition to playing a real piano.
Beware “lightly” or “partially” weighted keys. Those are marketing terms that don’t mean anything. That is, every plastic key is technically “lightly weighted”. Instruments One of the best parts about Synthesia is that it can play all the background instruments for you. And setting Synthesia to use your keyboard as its output device is usually the best way to get the fastest, highest-quality sound. So, it’s nice when a keyboard has the “full set” of at least the 128 General MIDI instruments. Then you know it can play every instrument in any MIDI song.
Beware digital pianos that only have a handful of instruments and no percussion sounds. USB or MIDI support Double-check that the keyboard has at least MIDI or USB ports. A headphone jack isn’t enough to connect to Synthesia.