What Is a Keyboard Instrument? (Explained)

Discover the world of keyboard instruments, their types, and how they can elevate your music production game. Unleash your creativity with MIDI and synths!

Ever wondered what a keyboard instrument is? Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, we’ll explore the world of keyboard instruments, from MIDI controllers and synthesizers to digital pianos and workstations. Ready to tickle the ivories and unlock new sonic dimensions? Let’s dive in!

What is a keyboard in audio? A keyboard is a versatile electronic instrument used in music production, enabling the creation and manipulation of various sounds through MIDI connections and built-in synthesizers, digital pianos, or workstations.

What are the types of keyboard instruments?

Let’s talk about the different types of keyboards that musicians and producers use. Knowing your options will help you find the right fit for your creative needs. There are three main types: synthesizers, digital pianos, and workstations. Let’s break ’em down!

Image of a man playing his keyboard on the stage. Source: unsplash
Image of a man playing his keyboard on the stage. Source: unsplash

1. Synthesizers

These bad boys are all about sound design and electronic music. A synthesizer generates sound through various methods, like subtractive synthesis, FM synthesis, or wavetable synthesis.

They allow you to sculpt unique and out-of-this-world sounds by tweaking parameters like oscillators, filters, and envelopes. For example, take the legendary Moog Minimoog, which artists like Kraftwerk and Dr. Dre have used to create iconic sounds.

2. Digital Pianos

If you’re a keyboardist who loves the feel and sound of an acoustic piano but needs the convenience of a digital instrument, look no further. Digital pianos use samples or modeling technology to recreate the sound of a real piano.

They often feature weighted keys, which mimic the feel of an acoustic piano, making them a great choice for pianists who need something portable for gigs or practice. One popular example is the Yamaha P-125, known for its authentic sound and touch.

3. Workstations

These are the Swiss Army knives of audio keyboards. Workstations combine a powerful synthesizer engine with a built-in sequencer, sampler, and effects processor. They’re perfect for producers and composers who need an all-in-one solution for creating and arranging music.

Some workstations even include advanced features like audio recording and editing, making them a one-stop shop for all your music production needs. Check out the Korg Kronos for a taste of what a workstation can do.

My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

What is a keyboard instrument? (explained) | 717qmgla7zl. Ac sl1500 | audio apartment
My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

I’m loving the AKAI MPK Mini MK3 for its compact design and the range of controls. It’s one of my essential tools. The velocity-sensitive keys and MPC-style pads are great for making beats, while the thumbstick and knobs give me precise control.

How does a keyboard work in audio production?

A keyboard in audio production is like your ultimate music-making sidekick. By connecting your keyboard to your computer or other devices via MIDI (that’s short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface), you can control software instruments, create beats, and even perform live. It’s like having a band in a box!

When you press a key on an audio keyboard, it sends a MIDI signal to your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) or other music production software. This signal contains information about the note you played, its velocity, and other data like pitch bend or modulation.

The software then interprets these signals and generates the desired sound through built-in synthesizers, digital pianos, or workstations. This process allows you to experiment with various instruments, sound designs, and textures without needing a room full of gear.

For instance, if you’re using a MIDI controller with your favorite DAW, you can easily switch between a funky electric piano, a pulsating synthesizer, or even an orchestral string section – all with the press of a button! You can also use your audio keyboard to record your performance, making it a breeze to lay down tracks or build up a song from scratch.

Image of a black and white keyboard instrument. Source: unsplash
Image of a black and white keyboard instrument. Source: unsplash

How can a keyboard enhance your music production process?

Let’s talk about how an audio keyboard can seriously up your music production game. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, a keyboard can unlock a world of creativity and make your workflow smoother. Here are some ways a keyboard can enhance your music production process:

1. Experiment with sounds and textures

With an audio keyboard and a killer software library, you can explore endless soundscapes. From lush synth pads to intricate arpeggiators, an audio keyboard lets you tweak and shape sounds to create your own sonic signature. Think of artists like Flume or Flying Lotus, who use keyboards to craft their unique soundscapes.

2. Improve songwriting and composition

A keyboard can be a powerful tool for writing melodies, chords, and basslines. Playing around with different instruments can spark inspiration and help you develop your musical ideas. Plus, with features like chord mode and scales, you can quickly create harmonically rich progressions, even if music theory isn’t your strong suit.

3. Record and edit MIDI data

With a keyboard, you can easily record your performance as MIDI data in your DAW. This means you can edit your performance later, fixing any mistakes or making adjustments to the timing and velocity. Say goodbye to drawing in notes with a mouse – with an audio keyboard, your music will feel more human and expressive.

With a keyboard, you can trigger samples, play virtual instruments, and control effects, all while keeping your hands on the keys.

4. Control your DAW and plugins

Many audio keyboards come with knobs, faders, and buttons that can be mapped to control your DAW or plugins. This gives you hands-on control over your mix, allowing you to make adjustments in real-time and add a touch of performance magic to your tracks.

5. Expand your live setup

If you’re into performing live, an audio keyboard can be a game-changer. With a keyboard, you can trigger samples, play virtual instruments, and control effects, all while keeping your hands on the keys. Just imagine a live set by Chet Faker or FKJ, where an audio keyboard is an essential part of their electrifying performances.

How can you choose the right audio keyboard for your needs?

Selecting the right audio keyboard is crucial for maximizing your creative potential, but with so many options out there, it can be overwhelming. Here’s a definitive guide to help you find the perfect keyboard for your needs:

1. Consider your musical style

What kind of music do you want to create? If you’re into electronic music or sound design, a synthesizer might be your best bet. If you’re a pianist looking for an authentic feel and sound, go for a digital piano. And if you need an all-in-one solution for composing and arranging, a workstation is the way to go.

2. Determine your budget

Audio keyboards come in a wide range of prices. Set a budget and consider the features you need. Remember, investing in a quality keyboard can make a big difference in your music production journey.

3. Think about portability and space

If you’re always on the go or have limited space, consider a compact and portable keyboard. Many models offer a slim design without sacrificing functionality.

4. Check the key count and action

Keyboards come in various sizes, from 25-key mini controllers to full 88-key pianos. Choose the right key count based on your playing style and needs. Additionally, consider the key action – semi-weighted, fully-weighted, or synth-action – to match your preferred feel.

5. Evaluate additional features

Some keyboards offer extra features like pads for beat-making, faders for controlling your DAW, or built-in speakers. Consider what additional features would benefit your workflow.

By taking these factors into account, you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect audio keyboard to unleash your creativity!

What are the popular keyboards available in the market?

In the world of audio keyboards, there’s a plethora of options to choose from. To help you navigate the market, we’ve put together a comparison table of some popular models across different categories. Check it out below to find the perfect fit for your music-making needs!

Keyboard ModelTypeKey CountKey ActionNotable Features
Moog MinimoogSynthesizer44Semi-weightedIconic analog sound, hands-on controls
Yamaha P-125Digital Piano88Fully-weightedAuthentic piano feel and sound, portable
Korg KronosWorkstation61/73/88Semi-weightedPowerful synth engine, built-in sequencer
Arturia KeyLabMIDI Controller49/61Synth-actionPads, faders, seamless DAW integration
Novation LaunchkeyMIDI Controller25/49/61Synth-actionRGB pads, dedicated Ableton Live controls
A comparison of popular audio keyboards across different types and features.

Advantages and disadvantages of keyboards

When it comes to audio keyboards, there are several pros and cons to consider before making a purchase. Let’s dive into the advantages and disadvantages of using a keyboard in audio production.

Advantages of keyboards

It’s undeniable that keyboards offer several unique advantages. Here’s an overview of some of the most noteworthy perks:

  • Versatility: Keyboards can emulate a wide range of sounds, from traditional piano to stringed instruments, drums, and even synthesized tones. This makes them an excellent choice for musicians looking to explore different musical styles.
  • Visual Layout: The layout of the keys can make understanding music theory easier. Concepts like scales, chords, and intervals are visually represented, simplifying learning for beginners.
  • Accompaniment Potential: Keyboards can play multiple notes simultaneously, enabling musicians to provide comprehensive accompaniments to songs, making it a great instrument for solo performances or composing.
  • Variety of Models: From pianos and harpsichords to synthesizers and digital keyboards, there’s an instrument to suit every budget and musical taste.
  • Durability and Maintenance: Electronic keyboards, in particular, require less maintenance compared to many other instruments. They are not as sensitive to environmental conditions like temperature and humidity, which affect acoustic instruments.

Disadvantages of keyboards

Despite the numerous advantages, there are also some challenges and downsides that come with playing keyboards. Let’s take a look at some of these potential hurdles:

  • Physical Demand: Keyboard instruments can require significant physical effort, especially for advanced pieces. Long hours of practice might lead to strain or injury if not done with proper technique.
  • Cost: While there are budget options available, high-quality keyboard instruments can be quite expensive.
  • Learning Curve: While the keyboard layout can simplify some music theory concepts, mastering the technique can be challenging and time-consuming.
  • Sound Quality: In the case of electronic keyboards, the sound may not be as rich or nuanced as an acoustic instrument. This can limit the expressiveness and tonal depth of the music produced.

How can you integrate a keyboard into your existing audio setup?

Integrating a keyboard into your audio setup is a breeze when you follow these simple steps. First, consider the connection options available on your keyboard. Most modern keyboards use USB or MIDI connections to interface with your computer, so make sure you have the appropriate cables or adapters on hand.

Next, connect your keyboard to your computer or audio interface. For a USB connection, simply plug the USB cable into an available USB port on your computer. For a MIDI connection, connect the MIDI cables to the corresponding MIDI In and Out ports on your keyboard and audio interface.

Once connected, fire up your favorite DAW or music production software. Most software will automatically detect and configure the keyboard as a MIDI device, but you may need to manually set it up in some cases. Consult your software’s documentation for specific instructions on how to do this.

Finally, start making music! With your keyboard connected and configured, you can begin playing virtual instruments, recording MIDI data, and controlling your DAW’s transport and mixing functions.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “What Is the Difference Between a Keyboard and Synthesizer? – Daniel Fisher” from the Sweetwater YouTube channel.

A video called “What Is the Difference Between a Keyboard and Synthesizer? – Daniel Fisher” from the Sweetwater YouTube channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions about keyboard instruments? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions.

What is the main purpose of an audio keyboard?

An audio keyboard is a versatile instrument that allows musicians to play and record various sounds, including piano, synthesizers, and other virtual instruments. It can be connected to a computer or audio interface and used in combination with music production software to create, edit, and perform music.

Do I need any special software to use an audio keyboard?

While you can use an audio keyboard as a standalone instrument, connecting it to a computer and using it with a digital audio workstation (DAW) or music production software will unlock its full potential. Popular DAWs include Ableton Live, FL Studio, Logic Pro, and Pro Tools.

Can I use an audio keyboard if I don’t have any piano skills?

Absolutely! While having piano skills can be beneficial, many audio keyboards are designed to be user-friendly and accessible to musicians of all skill levels.

With practice and dedication, you can learn to play and create music using an audio keyboard, even if you don’t have a background in piano or traditional keyboard instruments.


Keyboards are a key component (pun intended) in any music producer’s toolkit. They offer versatility, ease of use, and endless creative possibilities. Whether you’re a seasoned musician or just getting started, an audio keyboard can unlock a whole new world of sounds and help you hit all the right notes in your music production journey.

So, go ahead, tickle those ivories, and explore the vast sonic universe that awaits you with an audio keyboard. Remember, the only thing standing between you and your next masterpiece is the right set of keys!

Did I answer your questions about audio keyboards? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below. I read and reply to every comment. If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and keep on jamming!

Key takeaways

This article covered what a keyboard instrument is. Here are some key takeaways:

  • A keyboard is a versatile instrument used for playing and recording various sounds in music production.
  • Keyboards work in audio production by connecting to a computer or audio interface and interacting with digital audio workstations (DAWs) or music production software.
  • There are various types of keyboards used in the music industry, including MIDI controllers, synthesizers, and digital pianos.
  • Using an audio keyboard can enhance your music production process by offering a hands-on approach to creating melodies, chords, and sound manipulation.
  • Audio keyboards have both advantages and disadvantages, such as versatility and learning curve, respectively.

Helpful resources

Image Andrew Ash
Written by Andrew Ash, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I'm relatively new to music production, but I've been learning a ton, and documenting my journey along the way. That's why I started this blog. If you want to improve your home studio setup and learn more along with me, this is the place for you!

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Edited by Nick Eggert, Staff Editor

Nick is our staff editor and co-founder. He has a passion for writing, editing, and website development. His expertise lies in shaping content with precision and managing digital spaces with a keen eye for detail.

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