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    If you're shopping around for a keyboard, you'll find that no single type exists out there. Some, in terms of tone, features and functionality, are closer to digital pianos. Others, however, include features for adding and layering on extra voices plus recording, and often involve a general knowledge of music theory to get started.

    For a primer of these different types:

    Portable Keyboards

    Portable keyboards are just as they sound: extremely compact, often with a stand, and can be used on a simplified level for practicing and performing. Unlike larger and more complicated systems like workstations and arranger keyboards, portable models don't have a ton of recording and sampling features. As well, because these models often don't contain all 88 keys, they're also not a complete substitute for a digital piano.

    What do you get with a portable keyboard? For one, these models, excluding any included stand, weigh less than 20 pounds, making them ideal for gigs. Secondly, portable keyboards have a smaller range, with usually no more than 61 keys, but they make up for that with build-in rhythms, voices and sounds, letting you layer on vocals, winds, strings, bells and organ tones. Yet, beyond adding these aspects, polyphony is often limited or restricted.

    Arranger Keyboards

    Many beginner keyboard players confuse this model with a workstation or synthesizer. To present a clearer picture, an arranger keyboard is geared toward individuals who frequently perform live and want the sound of a whole band but can't take a backing ensemble with them. As well, similar capabilities further prove to be a benefit for recording basic instrumentation. In turn, an arranger keyboard paves the way to the workstation's complexities for the aspiring songwriter.

    In general, an arranger keyboard gives you a full or nearly full lineup of keys, an expansive array of near-authentic instrument sounds, from piano to horns and guitar, and offers basic MIDI, MP3, and WAV editing capabilities. Overlapping with a synthesizer, a sequencer and even an arpeggiator may be part of an arranger keyboard's features. Yet, the sounds and functions are often out of the box, with few, if any, options for altering and manipulation.

    Synthesizer Keyboard

    Many will argue that a synthesizer itself isn't truly a keyboard, as it simply plays back tones. As well, many synths don't even include a set of keys. Rather, they're equipped with a menu and knobs for utilizing and incorporating specific sounds.

    Yet, for the recording studio and live performances, synthesizers have an edge over traditional keyboards: the user can manipulate the sounds to suit the music, and oftentimes, the samples sound more authentic than what arranger and workstation keyboards provide.

    Due to these factors, synthesizers are divided into creative devices, usually analog synths, for recording or altering existing sounds. Imitator devices, usually digital synths, reproduce sounds and don't have sampling and manipulation capabilities.

    Realize that regardless of synthesizer type, the automated, chord-sensitive accompaniments of an arranger and workstation aren't present. Rather, the musician or producer often needs to work these out by hand and software. As well, for both recording studio and live use, having a set of speakers and a mixing console are often essential to reproduce your sounds.

    Find Keyboards and Synthesizers at Alamo Music Center

    Take your compositions and live performances up to a new level with the right keyboard or synthesizer from Alamo Music Center. If you're unsure about which instrument is best, our associates are thoroughly knowledgeable of all products and systems. As well, we offer no-interest, 48-month financing, plus extended warranties, on all purchases.