In many churches, the keyboardist is called upon to fill all kinds of roles, from organist to choir accompanist, to worship band leader, to substitute instrumentalist. Since the keyboardist has to wear so many proverbial hats, you’ll want to find a keyboard that can fill all of those potential needs without being so complicated that no one can figure it out. Therefore, you really need a keyboard that has excellent sound, is easy to use and fits your budget, too.
In this article, we’ll talk about the six best keyboards for church and worship. We’ll look at each one individually, talk about the criteria for choosing these keyboards, and then give you our pick for the best one. Let’s get started.
The Roland Go 88 is a compact, user-friendly keyboard. You won’t find a lot of bells and whistles on this keyboard, but what you will find is a streamlined package with some quality, basic sounds, full-size keys, and input for a sustain pedal. If you need simplicity, this will get the job done and done well. It does have the option for Bluetooth connectivity, which is nice if you are using digital sheet music on your tablet or smartphone.
Although this is a lower-end keyboard, you’ll get plenty of use out of it. It is also an inexpensive way for churches to break into digital music for the first time.
The Roland RD-2000 has impressive sound and a great acoustic piano feel. The Roland RD2000 is a professional-level keyboard that will give you all-around excellent sound, whether you choose piano or synth pads. The LCD screen helps you know what’s going on, and the lighted sound buttons make accessing sounds easy. The sturdy construction is meant to last, and the knobs and faders give you lots of control for effects.
The keyboard features eight assignable zones that you can use to access a variety of instruments. In addition, you can save up to 100 templates for quick and easy recall during live music. The preset sounds are easy to use, especially for beginners, but the keyboard has plenty of programmable options, as well.
The Yamaha CP88 provides the best acoustic piano sounds and a realistic piano feel, which is great for those who grew up playing acoustic piano. It has a total of 57 realistic sounds, including pads, organs, strings, and synths. It includes an LCD display and real-time control of effects. It has all kinds of inputs and outputs, including five-pin MIDI, USB, and audio lines. You can seamlessly switch sounds, allowing the original sound to keep playing while you switch to the next sound for the next song.
At 41 pounds, this isn’t a lightweight keyboard, but it is still light enough to be portable if you need it to be.
The Yamaha P125 is a streamlined digital keyboard that is extremely portable for its size. It replicates the sound of a Yamaha 9-foot concert grand and uses graded hammer standard to give you a rich, acoustic piano experience in a digital package. You won’t get distracted by fancy knobs or buttons. The Yamaha P125 is a streamlined package so you can focus on making music. Split mode allows you to assign multiple sounds to the keyboard.
The Korg SV2 is a throwback to the first electric pianos with a very modern twist. Realistic hammer action and rich sampled sounds make this an exciting musical instrument for all types of music. You’ll find every kind of organ, from pipe organs to rock organs, with realistic effect controls.
The preset sounds are easy to access during live music.
The Korg D1 gets our vote for the most user-friendly keyboard since it is a streamlined and paired down instrument. It includes 30 preset sounds, which are easy to access without too many different bells and whistles to drag you down. It also has graded hammer standard keys which have an authentic piano feel to them. Best of all, this compact keyboard is easy to transport and store when needed due to its slim and compact design.
It isn’t easy to choose the right keyboard for your church or worship setting. There are so many factors involved, but we’ll outline a few things you may want to consider as you shop for your church’s keyboard.
One of the most critical aspects of choosing the best keyboard for church and worship is its sound bank. You’ll probably want to use a few typical sounds during your services, such as piano, synth pads, string pads, electric piano, and possibly, an organ. But every church has different needs.
If you are playing for a traditional worship service, you’ll probably want to use an amazing sounding pipe organ and, sometimes, a grand piano. If you are leading a more modern service, you’ll probably want a high-end grand piano sound, some string pads or synth pads to layer with it, an electric piano for old-fashioned rock tunes, and some kind of soft pad to play during prayer and altar calls.
If you are playing a specific kind of music, you might want to consider what type of instrument sound you will need for that. For example, will you need to fill in for a bass player on the keyboard? If so, you’ll want some good bass sounds, too. Or perhaps you’ll fill in empty slots in the church orchestra - you may want a collection of brass, winds, and even percussion sounds to make the music come to life.
Another critical aspect of a church keyboard is the ability to multitask. Since the keyboardist is the go-to to fill in any missing musical parts, you may want a keyboard that can layer sounds and split the keyboard.
One of the most popular ways to fill out the sound of a church worship band or choral ensemble is to layer piano and strings together. This provides a rich, full sound – so you’ll want a keyboard that can layer multiple sounds this way.
Another thing you may want to do is split the keyboard so you can play your piano part in one register and fill in missing instruments (such as a bass line) in the other.
Church worship often includes a wide variety of sounds and styles, so you’ll probably want a larger keyboard. You probably need at least 76 keys, if not a full 88 key keyboard, for a typical worship service. A larger number of keys will give you the most versatility if you need to switch between playing a full pipe organ style service to a pop-rock service.
If you want a keyboard that feels most like a piano, you’ll want to find one with graded hammer standard and weighted action keys. Graded hammer standard, or GHS, gives you as realistic of a piano feeling as you can get. For example, the keys in the lower octaves will be harder to play than the keys in the upper octaves. This variation helps you produce more musical nuance, as you would find on an acoustic grand piano. The weighted keys – or weighted action keys, if you prefer – will make the keyboard heavier but will also help give it that authentic feel.
If you don’t need the keyboard to have that realistic piano feeling, you can choose one with synth-action keys as long as they are velocity-sensitive. Synth-action keys will make the keyboard lighter and less expensive, and it will be capable of dynamic changes based on the velocity of your playing.
If your church has a dedicated worship space, you may not need to worry much about portability.
However, if you are renting a space for your service and you’ll need to set up and take down the keyboard every week, you’ll want to consider one that is a little bit lighter and more portable. On the other hand, if your worship team will be traveling or leading worship outside, you may also want to find a lightweight, smaller, and more portable keyboard that will go wherever you need it to go.
You’ll definitely want a keyboard that at least has a sustain pedal input so you can make the most of your musical expression. You may not need the additional pedal inputs that you would find on a digital piano, but they won’t hurt, either.
How much use will your keyboard get? If your keyboard is only used for an hour on Sunday, you might not need to worry much about durability. But if you are going to be using your keyboard often and hard, or you’ll be moving it around a lot, you’ll need to consider something with a tougher construction.
You may also want to consider who will be playing the keyboard. Will just one or two people use it? Or will it be used by a lot of different people?
No matter how durable it is, you’ll need to take good care of it to make sure it lasts.
Your keyboardist may not have a lot of time to figure out all the buttons and sliders of a high-end workstation. You may want to consider a keyboard that has hard-wired buttons for the sounds you use most or programmable buttons that you can set ahead of time to quickly change sounds between songs.
Too many features may make the keyboard too difficult to learn, but if there aren’t enough features, you might not be able to do all of the things you need your keyboard to do for the worship service.
You’re probably going to need a keyboard with a stereo line out to get the most sound out of your keyboard. Typically, a worship keyboard will run a line into a mixer so that a sound technician can set the volume and send the music to the speakers.
You may also want to have MIDI to control additional keyboards, headphone jacks, and USB or Bluetooth connectivity.
Do you need your keyboard to have any additional functions? You might want to consider things such as:
What accessories will you need to make your worship keyboard function well? Do you need a music stand, or is a built-in music desk more appropriate? How about a keyboard stand? Will your keyboardist sit or stand to play? Do you need to be able to use a headphone or line out?
All keyboards have a cost, and while a church’s budget might be bigger than a family budget, you still need to stay within the constraints of the amount of money the church can afford. Therefore, make sure you know how much you can spend and the key features you need most so that you can choose the most effective keyboard for your church’s needs.
There are plenty of keyboards that will get the job done, but our favorite keyboard for church or worship is the Roland RD88.
We love the Roland because it has an incredible-sounding acoustic piano as well as plenty of other high-quality sampled sounds. We also love the acoustic piano feel with the graded hammer standard that will increase your ability to use musical nuance in your playing.
You won’t sacrifice ease of use, though, since there are lighted buttons that will access your favorite sounds. However, there is a lot of programming that you can do if you choose, such as dividing the keyboard into eight assignable instruments, using the LCD screen, and there are plenty of knobs and faders if you need extra effects control.
It isn’t an inexpensive keyboard, but the sound quality, playability, and durability make it worth the higher price tag. This keyboard pretty much has it all: ease of use, great feel, amazing sounds, and portability.
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