Deciding what keyboard to buy for your church can be a long all-consuming and somewhat frustrating experience.
We at [WM] have put together a list of 10 great keyboard options to help you navigate with recommendations and an easy to read chart of key features. Our goal is to help educate your teams to get better every week.
We have included models in several price ranges. Some are for a traditional Worship styles, and some for more modern styles including EDM.
Hopefully this will help you in your research as you budget for and buy a keyboard for yourself or for your team. We will start with five 88 key models. These are mostly what are called weighted or semi-weighted, which refers to them “feeling” and responding like an acoustic piano. Most piano players will strongly prefer these. The non-weighted feel more like an organ keyboard and are well suited for a second synth keyboard player, that’s playing lines and cool arpeggiated pads etc.
Note: The keyboards are only arranged by number of keys, they are not in order
The award-winning Nord Stage 3, 88 key weighted board is a great choice. It’s like the big daddy of this round-up: on top are two OLED displays, sliders that double as drawbars and tons of knobs and switches. It’s a favorite choice among many pro players in terms of sounds, feel and intuitive features, and you can download free patches from the Nord Piano library. It’s well built and can hold up to the abuse of a rotating group of keyboard players. The Nord Stage 3 includes the Nord C2D Organ patches with B3 and two Pipe Organ patches. On the Synth side is the Nord Lead A1 Synth Engine combined with Sample Playback with Synchronizable Arpeggiator & LFO. Nord Stage 3 covers all three bases with Piano, Organ and Synth in one. At 41 lbs, this is a great choice for a permanent set-up.
The Korg Kronos is another beast. It has premium waterfall light-touch keys, which are smoother and more solid than regular synth action, and on top, nine sliders, eight knobs, 2 Joy Sticks, ribbon slider and a large bright 8” color LCD touch display. On the Piano side, there are German and Japanese pianos from the SGX-1 engine and the SGX-2 Premium Piano Berlin Grand. There are 9 Synth engines with a ton of patches. Inside is everything from Drums, Strings, Orchestral sounds, Guitars, Analog and Digital Synths, and classic electric keyboards. There’s a ton of memory with 21GB of preset waves and an additional 62GB of SSD capacity. It’s a complete composing workstation. It can Sample, Record and sequence 16 tracks internally. It’s also lighter than the previous model. Kronos is a great all-around choice, and has the workstation capabilities for sequencing and recording.
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The Kawai ES8 features an 88 key graded action weighted hammer for a realistic experience. On top is a LCD display, and convenient labeled buttons to quickly grab patches, and an easy to use recorder. There are 2 speakers on top for rehearsing without bringing an amp. On back are two headphone outputs perfect for teaching piano without disturbing anyone. There are 3 Kawai grand pianos: Shigeru Kawai EX, Kawai EX, and Shigeru Kawai SK-5. Also included are 34 instruments: organs, vibes, strings, choirs, bass, and guitar. There are 100 rhythm accompaniments including pop, rock, jazz, funk, and Latin styles. The Kawai is a great option if you need an easy to use interface with great piano sounds. The speakers are a plus for quick rehearsing without having to use an amp or fire up the PA. There is an optional stand that has a classic look. It’s a great choice for a traditional worship team.
Buy at Sweetwater
The Yamaha Montage 8 is their beastly flagship 88 key, Balanced Hammer Action synthesizer. It is an amazingly state of the art keyboard that’s well suited for all styles of worship from traditional to EDM. On top, the Montage has a large touch screen that does a ton of stuff. The Super knob is a secret weapon to control in real time all kinds of parameters in real time. There are plenty of sliders and knobs that are actually user friendly. Piano wise there’s the Yamaha CFX Premium Grand Piano, which is fantastic. Synth wise, it has almost 10 times the waveform capacity of the Motif. The AWM2 (waveform synthesis) has 128 notes of stereo polyphony and don’t forget the FM-X (waveform synthesis) Yamaha is famous for. There are tons of DSP effects on board, and the arpeggiator has 10,000 presets! Also included is a 16-track performance recorded with a 64-song memory. It also comes with a version of Steinberg Cubase and is great for using Mainstage along with your synth. The Montage 8 is a solid choice if you are looking for the feel of a Yamaha piano and play any style of music. Yamaha also has a great track record for quality construction; it can hold up to multiple players.
Buy at Sweetwater
Not everyone has a big budget for his or her worship team. We decided to include at least one low cost 88 key alternative. It’s got a nice feeling weighted keyboard. There are 12 onboard voices including: Acoustic and Electric Pianos, Organ, Church Organ, Harpsichord, Strings and 2 Basses. It almost seems like it was made with the House of Worship in mind! The controls on top are easy to navigate, and another plus are the 2 built-in speakers on top. Perfect for rehearsals. The Alesis Recital Pro is a great bang for the buck. Perfect for a traditional worship band or as a keyboard for a youth band.
The Prophet 12 is an updated recreation of the iconic classic Prophet! It’s got 61 keys with 21 voices, each with 5 oscillators, resonant low/high pass filters, analog VCAs, and wavetables. On top are Pitch and Mod wheels, 2 ribbon sliders, and LCD display, plus all kinds of knobs to do real time editing. There’s a quad stereo delay per voice and everything on the board can be synced. It’s a powerful synth with unlimited possibilities. This is a great choice for a modern worship team and at 26 Lbs; it’s not too heavy to bring to rehearsal in a soft case.
The T12 is the 61 key version of the classic desktop Virus, updated with more features and effects. As a guitar player, I was immediately drawn to the original Virus because of its powerful arpeggio patterns and hip sounds. It’s so easy to sound like a genius. Virus control 3.0 for Mac/PC ads another dimension, if you’re using a DAW with your setup. This is a great choice for a second keyboard and can be a controller for soft synths via USB. If you do any kind of modern worship, the new Virus T 12 will get you a long way down the road.
Buy at Sweetwater
Another great choice for a second keyboard is the Moog Voyager XL. Yes, it’s mono, but has an amazing sound you can’t get anywhere else. I’ve seen guys use both delays and mod pedals on the output to create some killer sounds. It’s also a great synth for your bass player. It can do what a 4 or 5 string bass can’t. You can really shake up the place. It’s totally fun to use and a must have for serious pro keyboard programmers. This is gonna be cool for your modern worship band. Have fun!
The Roland JD-XA 49 key analog/digital crossover synth is destined to be a classic. It’s got the best of both worlds. A true analog synth with analog filters, combined with Roland’s amazing digital engine with a great selection of effects. The top is divided into user-friendly logical sections making it easy to navigate. There’s a bright LCD display with a multi-directional joystick and 2 assignable pitch wheels. A combination of sliders and knobs make real time changes easy. Also on board is a 16 -track pattern sequencer, with 16 corresponding buttons as well as a mic controlled mod source with vocoder and CV input. Downloadable Integra-7 sound libraries from Roland’s Axial sound portal always keep you up to date. Lastly, the backlit orange vibe looks fantastic on stage. Again, for a modern worship team the JD-XA is a killer option, and you’ll get a lot of really great fresh sounds and tons of vibe.
Buy at Sweetwater
Lastly in our roundup is the Behringer Deep Mind. It’s a 49 key 12 voice analog polysynth. On top are Pitch & Mod Wheels and a good-sized LCD screen for navigation. The layout is logical & they have opted to use sliders almost exclusively. These make it really easy to see with a glance what’s going on. There’s a 32-step areggiator with gates and 1,024 patch memory locations. Deep Mind also has built in Wi-Fi to use with tablet apps. In another smart move, inside are four effect engines with algorithms from TC Electronic, Midas and Klark Teknik. Behringer is aggressively positioning themselves as a major player in the synth world. Deep Mind is another great choice for a modern worship team. It’s got great sounds and is very affordable.
Buy at Sweetwater
There are no rules for what works best for you or your team. Consider your budget and needs, then go and try as many of these you can at your local store or check YouTube. Every one of these options is going to be good.
Talk to the person who is going to be using the keyboard before you buy for your team. They might have some good input. It’s also a great thing to have one person in charge of church equipment. Stuff gets lost all the time, and it si good to work to develop a culture of respect for the Lord’s equipment! Find the balance between letting people borrow gear
responsibly for church related events and keeping an eye on protecting your backline gear. Sometimes players can become complacent about caring for the church’s gear (and that is not the best practice). We hope this keyboard round up will help your team play and sound
“better by Sunday”.