Finding the Ultimate Worship Keyboard

[UPDATE] – It’s been YEARS since I wrote this blog.  Click here for the updated version.  Thanks for reading!

After four years of music ministry training in college and several years leading children, youth, or adults in worship at a variety of different churches, I have seen just about every worship keyboard out there.   …and, in all honesty, I didn’t like any of them. Arranger keyboards are hard to learn.

The commentaries were no help either.  Beyond “do your research, itemize your needs, and use a well-known local music store,” most articles I read had little meaningful advice.

To my dismay,  there were no good sources of information specifically geared towards worship leaders – so I had to learn the hard way.  Thankfully, I am a bit of an electronics geek and I also understand the importance of “good stewardship,” so I decided to pass my shopping experiences on to you.  I sincerely hope it helps you and your ministry.

While it’s true that you should select the keyboard that will do what you want it to – which creates a massive range of possibilities – it’s also true that most praise band keyboard players have similar needs.  …and similar complaints.  Here are a few of each –and, brace yourself, here are my recommendations.  I pray you find them meaningful.

 Common Complaints:

  1. Too Complicated:  Everyone knows the “Big 3.”  The Korg Triton, the Roland Fantom, and the Yamaha Motif are all very popular keyboards in churches around the World.  Sadly, however, very few worship leaders or praise band keyboardists are able to take full advantage of these expensive instruments because they are so complicated to use.  That is because they aren’t designed to be performance keyboards.  They’re workstations.  They are designed for in-depth sound manipulation and heavy-duty sequencing.  These keyboards are excellent for professional players who are writing music, sequencing orchestral pieces, and designing their own accompaniment tracks from scratch.  …but for a volunteer (or even many professional) musicians, these keyboards offer too many features.  The result is an overwhelmed player, an underused keyboard and a waste of $3000-$4000.
  2. Doesn’t Sound Good:  In an effort to save some money, many churches purchase very basic keyboards for worship (such as the Yamaha P or YDP series and almost anything by Casio).  These keyboards are on the opposite side of the spectrum from the Phantom and the Motif.  They just don’t sound very good.  They have a variety of features, but few of the professional tones or hookups necessary for today’s worship needs.  While it’s important to make sure that you’re not overspending (ie – buying keyboards with features that your worship team will never use or learn to understand), it’s just as important to make sure that you don’t purchase an instrument so basic that its poor sound and lack of versatility get in the way of The Message.  Thus, these keyboards – though often less than $1200 – also represent an unsatisfactory choice for most churches.
  3. Not very portable:  In today’s worship scene, praise teams are traveling more than ever.  It may be an off-site youth function.  It might be a special service at a sister church.  The reasons abound.  …but not many keyboards out there offer a lightweight chasse, onboard speakers, USB PC connectivity, adjustable stand, and a variety of ports to integrate with the local P.A. system.  Thus, worship leaders find themselves doing pretty amazing things to make their keyboards work for them. (I watched one band use 3 different audio adapters, 2 headphones cables, and some electrical tape just to hook their Yamaha P60 into their PA system!)  …but why bring all that extra equipment and stress into the equation?  Make sure the keyboard you select can be moved and integrated into professional P.A. systems with ease.
  4. Automatic Rhythms and pre-recorded tracks:  In smaller churches – and in bigger churches when the drummer is out ill – automatic rhythms are a tempting tool for worship.  The problem with “automatic” rhythms is that they are just that:  automatic.  Whether you are ready to move to the second verse yet or not, they are going on.  The same thing can be said for accompaniment tracks.  There is no room for expression or the freedom to improvise should the minister say “Let’s sing that chorus again!”  In their traditional form, automatic rhythms and pre-recorded tracks robotize the service.   …and they severely restrict your ministry.

Considering these things, I think it’s safe to say most worship keyboard players aren’t really happy with their instrument (save the select few who are “tech savvy” or just really comfortable with their old keyboard).

So, to avoid these pitfalls, here are some things to look for in your worship keyboard:

  1. Top-grade grand piano sound.  Customizability is the hallmark of good piano sound these days.  Your congregation wants something that sounds warm and rich through the church sound system.  “Crisp” or “tinny” sounding keyboards often sound very thin and unsatisfying through a P.A.  Find a keyboard with a satisfying piano sound that can be adapted for each worship space.
  2. 88 Full-Sized Gravity Hammer Action Keys.  “Weighted keys” are a thing of the past.  It’s not enough that the keyboard has some resistance.  It needs to have the right resistance.  Look for a spring-less gravity hammer action.  This is the most piano-like touch available and will last the longest with heavy use.  Also, make sure the keys are full-sized.  If you have a dollar bill, you can use it to measure the keys.  Piano keys should run from one end of the dollar bill to the end of the ink on the other end.
  3. At least 5 of the standard “worship sounds.”  You don’t need a trumpet or saxophone sound.  You need a strong piano with strings mix, a Warm Pad, a good Nylon (acoustic) Guitar, a healthy variety of organ sounds, and a contemporary electric piano or Rhodes sound at the minimum.  At some point, you can explore some vocal pads and a few other solo instruments depending on the music you’re playing and the instrumentation of your band.  …but these 5 are a must.
  4. Easy Layout.  Within reason, you should choose a keyboard with as few buttons as possible.  You still want to be able to make rapid tone changes, record, and layer instruments easily, but you probably don’t need automatic rhythms, internet connectivity or a ton of “flashy” features.
  5. USB.  Every worship keyboard today needs a USB interface.  You’ll use this to mix music or to make recordings.  Some keyboards even come with a USB flash drive port for audio and MIDI file play-a-long.  These can be really handy.
  6. Portability.  Your keyboard will have to be substantial enough to survive the “wings and dings” of travel …but it also has to be light enough to move from place to place easily.  A few companies even make luggage-style travel bags with wheels.  These can be very helpful.
  7. Adjustable Stand.  You want your keyboard to be stable and “wobble free”.  It also has to be at the proper height for your player (Some players prefer to stand.  Others prefer to sit.).  The right stand can make or break your keyboard player’s experience.
  8. Connectivity.  Aside from the USB port, your keyboard player needs to have the following options:  Switchable onboard speakers, ¼” stereo audio IN, ¼” stereo audio OUT, MIX IN (or iPod port) and options for damper and expression pedals.  This way, it can hook into just about any system out there.

After you have considered all of these things (and whatever other needs your specific congregation may have), you are ready to begin sampling instruments.  This absolutely cannot be done online.  It is critical that you see and play the instrument you’re considering before you bring it into your church.  Make sure it delivers the experience you are expecting.

…and if you can’t find a keyboard to match the above criteria, allow me to recommend my favorite:  the Roland FP-90.The Roland FP-7F

In addition to Roland’s cutting-edge PHA-50 Gravity Hammer Action with real hammers and ultra-authentic SuperNATURAL© Piano Modeling grand piano sound, the new Roland FP-90 has a couple of features that are totally unique to its genre.  One of the most unique features of the FP-90 is its wireless integration with FREE Bluetooth apps from the Apple or Google Play Store, including Piano Partner 2 and Anytune.  Enhance your piano’s capabilities with FREE Bluetooth apps – and, when the app gets an upgrade, so does your piano!The adjustable "Z-stand" is great for standing or seated play.

You can also take advantage of HUNDREDS of all-digital sounds and a ton of live performance “quick transition” features that help smooth out your worship service.

Add the On-Stage “Z Style” adjustable stand and the SKB KB88 keyboard luggage bag for a completely portable – and POWERFUL worship keyboard package.

Stop in and check it out today!  I think you’ll be impressed.   …especially when you discover our special Gist Piano Center House of Worship price.

God bless and I’ll see you soon!

-James Harding

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188 thoughts on “Finding the Ultimate Worship Keyboard

  1. Leslie

    I am a “one-man band” at a very small country church. I currently lead praise and worship, alone, on a grand piano. I am a vocalist who picked up chording about 10 years ago to “fill-in” as needed, and I’m still there and in desperate need of help. I’m in need of a keyboard that can give me the sound of most guitar driven modern praise without all the “canned” sound of accompaniment cd’s. I tried that and hated it. I can play worship type songs all day long, but I’m not able to play rhythm for modern praise on the piano, (can’t strum a piano!) Is it possible to buy a keyboard that can give me rhythm sounds (bass, drums, acoustic rhythm guitar, etc.) and allow me the spontaneity of leading the song without following a “track”? Is that even possible? I would prefer a full band, or at least a core band, or even a guitar player would work, but I’ve waited years for this to happen, and God willing, it will eventually come together. But in the mean time,(10 more years???) I need help. Any suggestions?

  2. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Leslie!

    I have been where you are and I feel for you! My best recommendation for you is to check out Roland’s BK-7M Portable Backing Module. It’s designed to give any instrumentalist or singer an instant background band. The big news, however, is that the Apple Store has a FREE Roland BK app that controls it with the touch-screen interface on your iPad. It’s really slick and it does a great job for those of us who have to “go it alone.” We carry the BK-7M here, but it might also be available online. Good luck!

    …and thank you for the hours and effort you put into serving your congregation!

  3. Steven Rutledge

    Great blog by the way! All of these categories are essential. I was just wondering if there were any cheaper alternatives than the Roland fp-7f?
    Those are pretty pricey and I’m looking for something a bit cheaper.

    Thanks!

  4. James Harding Post author

    Thanks for reading, Steven! I am glad you found the blog useful. Now that the Roland FP-50 is out, you might look at it. It is less expensive and still packs most of the basic features. Sadly, there isn’t much under the FP-50’s price point that I would recommend. The action components are the most expensive parts and they are the most important (ie – most expensive to replace, most likely to fail, etc.). It’s important to spend the right money… or you’ll end up spending it anyway in service calls and shipping. I would save up until the FP-50 fits the budget. You’ll be glad you did! Good luck!

  5. Evelyn

    I am looking for a keyboard that fits the above criteria in your blog. By the way, great points that are very applicable to the worship team keyboardist….which I am.

    I was wondering if you had a chance to look at the newer model, fp-80, and how it compares to the fp-7f. Also, how do you think the Roland fp-7f, or fp-80 compares with the Yamaha cp-300. I’m just trying to get an honest opinion from someone in the know.

    Thanks,
    Evelyn

  6. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Evelyn. Thank you for reading and thanks for your kind words. I am glad you found my blog helpful. I do have the Roland FP-80 in stock here and I think it’s a nice upgrade from the FP-7F. They did get rid of the audio key feature (that allows you to used sampled audio files with your music) and the onboard looper, but they added a new 4-speaker sound system on the keyboard that makes it sound great without amplification. Of course, you’d still want to plug it into a PA if you are playing for the congregation. The price is the same as the FP-7F (We offer it with a stand, bench, headphones and an extended warranty for $1999.) I think it will be a welcome update to the FP-7F. I really like it!

    As for the CP-300, this is where I get into trouble with people who really love Yamaha. To me, the CP-300 is very clunky. The menu system is not user friendly, the piano tone is too sharp for my taste and it has a very “keyboardy” behavior. For example, it’s not capable of any true voicing or advanced pedaling and you don’t have much (if any) authenticity to the touch. It’s also ungodly heavy (forgive the pun)! Personally, even though I can sell the CP-300 here at Gist, I choose not to. Roland is kicking Yamaha’s tail right now when it comes to piano sound and touch. I’d also give them the award for user friendliness.

    In short, I’d definitely look into the FP-80 if you can. Especially with the FREE Roland apps (from the Apple Store), it’s a riot. Good luck! -Jmz

  7. Alfred

    Hello James I haven’t talk to you since I made a great choice when I purchase my rd700nx about a year ago. Since then I develop back problems. So I’m looking to sell my rd700nx for a lighter keyboard preferable 76 keys professional board to replace mine. Do you have any recommendation.

  8. James Harding Post author

    Hello, Alfred! Congrats on your Roland. I am sorry to hear about your back, though. You might check out the new RD-64 from Roland. If you really loved your RD-700, the 64 is very similar, but smaller. You might also check out the new FP-50. It’s still 88 notes, but it’s only 35 pounds… MUCH lighter than your RD. Best wishes!

  9. Julie Fair

    I am looking for a new keyboard for my church. I was wondering if you could tell me your thoughts on the difference between the Roland RD-300NX and the Roland FP-7F? I know that the latter has its own built in amplifiers but other than I would love to know your thoughts.

    Thank you,
    Julie

  10. James Harding Post author

    Hello, Julie! Thanks for your message. First of all, I need to report that Roland has just replaced the FP-7F with the brand new FP-80 (Stay tuned – we’ll have new YouTube videos coming in the next week or two to our YouTube channel). The price will be about the same as the FP-7F (We sell it as part of a package with a stand, bench, headphones and extended warranty for $2000). The piano, however, has a few significant upgrades. First of all, it is compatible with a number of FREE apps from the Apple store (including Air Recorder – which allows you to wirelessly record your music and share it with iTunes). Secondly, it has a new, 4-speaker system with a “surround sound” feature called “Acoustic Projection.” In short, it sounds a lot better than the FP-7F did and it still has all of the popular features. The RD-300NX uses a similar sound chip, has the same Supernatural piano technology and more features. It is a bit harder to operate, however. …so, really, both keyboards would be great for your church’s needs. The question is – how comfortable are you with technology and how “easy” do you need the piano to be? The FP-Series is easier and has onboard speakers, but the RD-series has a few more features… if you can figure out how to use them. 🙂

  11. Boni Morales

    I am a beginner at the keyboard, I plan on taking music lessons to learn how to play the keyboard because my church has no live worship at all. I need something that I can carry to my lessons and also that will be a good keyboard to grow into and be versatile. Would really appreciate your wisdom

  12. Franco

    I totally disagree with ur blog. I do have the fp7f and although it is a good piano I still prefer my yammy p95 or the 105. Yamaha makes better digital pianos than Roland. Afterall they know a little something about pianos don’t they? I just hate when people put down the yammy sound when professionals all over the world use them. Why aren’t u recommending the motif. Best guitar sounds on any keyboard. But it sounds to me like u r biased and only a Roland fanboy.

  13. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Boni, and thank you for your email. I would definitely look at the new Roland FP-50. It’s only 35lbs, so it’s very easy to carry, but it’s packed with features that you will grow into and use during worship. We sell it for $1699, so it’s pretty affordable for an 88-Note keyboard. …and it will last you for a very long time. I hope that helps! God bless!

  14. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Franco. Thank you for your comment.

    I am certainly not telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t like Yamaha digital pianos. We carry those as well. For practice (which is the purpose for which Yamaha designed the P-105) or for fun, Yamaha keyboards can be great. However, if you put Yamaha and Roland side-by-side in comparison (as I have done), you can clearly see why I prefer Roland. Right now, Yamaha does not offer behavior modeling, soundboard-style tone decay, true flutter pedaling, or any connectivity between their tri-sensor key action and their sound chip. …and, if you really want an eye-opening experience, watch this video: http://youtu.be/eo2nJBhxGYI. I put a Yamaha and a Roland in that video so you can see how they behave. That should help you understand my point.

    Yamaha is a huge company and they certainly do pay a ton of artists to play their instruments. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are superior. Roland created the digital piano and they partner with Steinway to get the very best piano sound.

    I only tell you this so you’ll know why I am a “Roland fanboy.” However, this doesn’t mean you can’t like Yamaha too! We sell both, but – for churches – my recommendation stands. When considering quality, value, longevity and ease of use, Roland will win that battle in my mind every time. (That’s why I don’t recommend the Motif – I mentioned that in the blog.)

    …but don’t hate me. Blogs are, by definition, based on opinion. Mine is no different. However, as a trained worship leader, a 20+ year professional musician and a retail director in the music industry, I hope like my “expert” opinion might help other folks.

    Thanks again for reading! All my best! -James

  15. Michael

    I am looking for a keyboard that is relatively light weight, but also contains quality pad sounds and is multitimbral with the ability to layer the pad over piano. Suggestions?

  16. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Michael. Thanks for reading. Thankfully, there are a ton of keyboards that do what you want. Depending on what other needs you have, you might consider the Roland FP-50, the Roland Juno Di or Juno Gi, the VP-770… There are a ton of options. Good luck!

  17. Mike

    Hi, I am looking for a starter keyboard that can go in our church’s upper room worship & prayer space. I recently heard the Korg Krome – great sounds. Do you know anymore about this expressive instrument?

  18. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Mike. Though I haven’t personally played the Korg Krome, I know it by reputation. It’s a swanky-looking keyboard, but it is not designed for stage performance. It’s a workstation – designed for sound editing and studio use. If you are confident enough that you can learn how to operate the instrument, it might work for you, but you’ll probably be the only one who knows how to use it at your church. 🙂

    Best of luck!

  19. Nikos

    Hi James great blog but I’d like to add some of my opinions. Early this year I went into a hunt for the ‘perfect’ entry level e-piano. I am a pianist but I can only have an e-piano in my apartment as a real one would create strained relations with my neighbours. I just moved here in Switzerland and my budget couldn’t afford me to have a cutting edge keyboard. Everything is expensive in this country. Anyways, I only had two brands in mind: Roland and Yamaha. I eventually bought a Yamaha YDP 141 simply because it actually sounded well for me and that the sound of the Rolands I tried weren’t my cup of tea. I hope I could tell which models but I already forgot their names. Surprisingly I am not a big fan of Yamaha Grands (I adore Bösendorfer and Steinway) but I enjoy the sound of the YDP 141. It sounded just right in the room where I placed it. It could sound better when hooked on USB or MIDI to my Mac DAW and studio monitors but hey, I get what I pay for, right? Maybe the point I am bringing here is, when choosing the sound of the keyboard, one must have an open mind. Online reviews are great, but one has to actually audition keyboards well before purchasing. It is still an individual preference of sound in keyboards (features and convenience of use as well, I must say!) that will help one making a good decision. It took me 5 returns to the store before I made a decision.

  20. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Nikos, and thank you for your comments. You are 100% right. Everybody has a different ear. Some folks like Yamaha’s least expensive keyboard sound (like the YDP stuff) and some like their most expensive Clavinova technology. I prefer the Roland tone mostly because I am used to handmade Steinway pianos and they tend to have a richer (“not so bright”) sound. …but that is highly individual and the only way you’ll know what you like is to try them out in person.

  21. Norm

    James,

    Thank you for your knowledgeable article and advice on keyboards. I am the keyboard player and the music minister for my church (a small church). We’ve been using for about 8 years now the Kurzweil Mark10. I have loved this keyboard. The piano sound and the strings were very nice. But, the weighted keys are starting to feel like they are out of sync with me when I play the keys. Some of them make a very audible clunky sound (at least it’s audible to me).

    Another issue is that I do make my own accompaniment tracks from time to time for my church choir, and also for my children’s choir at my school. I like the easy to use sequencing on the Kurzweil, but it is pretty out of date with the latest tech (no USB for example).

    The keyboard is hooked up to our sound system and still sounds nice to the congregation, but I’m afraid that sooner or later we are going to have to replace it. Not only because of the weighted keys becoming “noisy”, but also because some of the features no longer work or will work but only after a couple tries.

    My question is,and I realize that the quality of the piano sound is subjective to different people, are you familiar with Kurzweil’s grand piano sound, and if so, does the Roland FP-80’s grand piano sound as good?

    Also, are there FP-80’s that are in less portable, but more aesthetically pleasing “real piano looking” structures? That’s also something that our people liked about the Kurzweil is that it looked like an actual piano (somewhat) and didn’t look like something that could just be carried off. Portability is not really that much of an issue with me or our church.

  22. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Norm! Thanks for your comment and thank you for reading. I have played a number of Kurzweil pianos in my time and I agree – they have a fantastic piano sound. Up until last year, I would have said that they had the best piano sound in the market. However, when Roland came out with their new SuperNATURAL technology, that completely changed. To put it into perspective, SuperNATURAL gives you 16,000 different dynamic levels (compared to Kurzweil’s 128); it gives you the ability to customize every aspect of the tone and create a sound that suits you (vs. having to “make do” with one of the limited preset options); it provides smooth dynamic curves (instead of “stair-stepping dynamics); it gives you true piano resonance (Try pressing a chord so lightly it doesn’t make a sound – then mash some random keys with your other hand without using the pedal. On your keyboard, you won’t hear anything. SuperNATURAL gives you an acoustic “after-ring” just like an acoustic piano!); and it provides a smooth, natural decay (with no looping, computerized fade or unnatural beat frequencies). It’s an entirely new piano sound technology. You’ll love it once you figure out how to customize it to your liking.

    Most players are used to having a preferred sound (“I like Yamaha best!” “I like Roland best!” “I like Kawai best!” etc.)… but now you can create whatever you want with SuperNATURAL. The discussion has changed and I think you’re really like it. (Watch my SuperNATURAL video to learn more about Roland’s new piano sound technology.
    )
    Also, if you want a nice furniture cabinet, check out the black polish finish for the HP-507 or the LX-15. They are beautiful! They also have a ton of new features (like the ability to play audio files in any key, to speed up or slow down audio files in real time and to remove the vocals from most audio files!). I think you’ll have a blast.

    One quick note – most modern keyboards have gotten away from 16-track sequencing. Most folks don’t use this and with the new USB integration, software titles like Finale Print Music have gotten so good at doing it that it’s cheaper and easier to simply connect your keyboard to a laptop or PC via USB and record the tracks using print software. (Finale Print Music should be around $100-$130).

    I hope that helps! Thanks again for reading!

  23. jul

    hi,
    I just sold my upright and have been a traditional instrument fan for a long time. But:) here’s what I’m looking for now: I need something to worship with at home, where I can try to learn to be more comfortable with technology, and learn to create the sorts of sounds modern worship uses – pads, etc, for covers as well as writing my own music. I also need my kids to be able to learn piano, and eventually worship keyboarding as well. I sold my upright because I need something portable, much better for living room worship settings, and also usable with headphones so my homeschooled children can practice during the day without disturbing others. Can you help?

    Thanks,
    Jul

  24. Minsu

    Hi, I am currently looking for a keyboard for my college church. It’s pretty small so our budget isn’t that big ($450-$530). I was wondering if you could recommend a keyboard for us within that price range and one that fits all/most of your criteria. Thanks.

  25. James Harding Post author

    Hello, Minsu, and thanks for reading. Unfortunately, I don’t have any suggestions for you in that price range. I would recommend saving your church’s money until they can afford a professional keyboard. Anything you buy in that range will disappoint you. Best wishes!

  26. Dave

    Hi James. Our church already has a Clavinova, but we’re looking at buying a keyboard to be used mainly for more electronic sounds like synths and pads and maybe strings. Since we already have a clavinova, we have piano sounds and an 88-key instrument already. Since this would be more of a supplemental instrument, I’m curious if you would suggest something different than an FP-80 or FP-50.

  27. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Dave, and thanks for reading! It sounds like you have a good piano-like instrument. If you are just looking for a great backing synth, I’d check out Roland’s FA-06. It’s very easy to use and it includes several of the top-grade sounds that made the Roland Fantom famous. The FA-06 is a 61-note synth, but it’s packed with features (including SuperNATURAL) and it’s only $1199. I would give it a close look! If that is out of the price range, you might check the Roland Juno Gi. It’s alot less expensive ($899), but it has some great sounds as well. It is harder to operate, so you will need to be more “synth-savy”, but it’s worth a look. Thanks again for reading. I hope that helps!

  28. Doug

    Hi James. Great write up with good logical arguments! The FP-80 certainly sounds like a very capable instrument.Our church has started looking for a replacement/backup for our Clavinovo 105 which is beginning to show it’s age. Several of the dealers in our area who carry multiple lines have recommended that we give consideration to the Kawia ES7. Was wondering if you’ve had any experience with this unit and how you feel it compares to the Roland FP-80.

  29. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Doug! Thanks for reading. I am glad the article helped. I have actually played and sold the Kawai ES-7. It has a great sound and I love the look. It’s lightweight and it transports well. Unfortunately, I quit carrying Kawai in two different stores over the last several years due to service issues. We were spending what little profit we made selling the keyboards on after-the-sale service. Eventually, we cancelled the line and went with a company that was more reliable (Roland). That’s a general comment, but it was important to me so I thought I would share it.

    More specifically, the ES-7 uses Harmonic Imaging (which is a stereo sampling technology). This “old school” approach to piano sound is very limited. You can only get about 128 different volume levels per key (making your volume transitions pretty sloppy), the action and the sound chip don’t communicate (so your technique doesn’t impact the piano’s tone), and you really can’t get any kind of true sympathetic resonance with the Kawai. Try this test: Hold 3 keys down so quietly they don’t make a sound. Then, with only those keys down (no pedal), mash some other keys and listen to the after-ring. On a Roland, you will hear a natural resonance just like a piano. On a Kawai/Yamaha/Korg/etc. you won’t hear anything. In short, the piano sound is much better on a Roland. It’s also much more customizable with Piano Designer. You can create any kind of piano sound you like and save it to your flash drive.

    Thus, in short, I’d recommend the Roland because it has a much better piano sound, a more durable resin for the keys, a much better service record overall and the ability to manipulate audio (Kawai can’t transpose and/or change the tempo of audio files independently.). Best of luck!

  30. Samuel Rojas Peñaloza

    Hi James,

    By now i’m using a Kurzweil SP2X as a primary keyboard, i like its sounds… nice and fat pianos, ambients, pads, strings, organs, i like it a lot its sounds… but it’s my primary keyboard where i play pianos… most of songs we do has lots of synth stuff and “sampled” brass sections, so i play them too alternating between my kurzweil and a Yamaha MM6. The problem with this last synth is not-so-good brass section sound, no monophonic leads (i do lots of keys solos in our songs), not good organs… so i have 2 options, 1. i need a good synth with good brass sounds (as real as possible), good organs, and good monophonic lead… 2. i’m intrested in buying a controller keyboard such as novation Impulse 61, plug it into my mac and audio interfase but i don’t know how it’s gonna behave during performance… i have a macbook pro with 8GB of RAM, SSD HD, and a 7200rpm secondary HD, and i have a Profire 2626 interfase (im looking something more compact btw)

    Thanks a lot for reading, and i liked your article a lot.

  31. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Samuel, and thanks for your question. I would take a long look at the Roland Fantom-G6 (especially with the ARX-03 SuperNATURAL Brass expansion board). I have heard some of the SuperNATURAL Brass sounds from Roland and I think you will be VERY impressed. The Fantom also has some amazing organ sounds and you can manipulate the onboard tones to create the monophonic lead you like best. You’ll have to spend some time learning the keyboard, but it’s a 61-note synth (much less to carry around than a laptop and a controller keyboard with all the wiring, etc). Best of luck to you! …and thanks again for reading.

  32. meaibor

    hi…i am so grateful to have found this website..
    i’m am just in beginners in worship leading.. i want a affordable keyboard to whereby it shud be probably 6-7 octave…portable to carry and loaded with simple effects such as dual voice & just some effects…my budget is around $400.. please help me..

  33. James Harding Post author

    Hello! Thank you for reading. I hope this was helpful. My advice would be to wait a bit longer. Maybe rent something or borrow a keyboard until you have the money together for a decent worship instrument. I can’t recommend anything in that price range. Sorry! Best of luck to you!

  34. Mike Cronk

    I am the pastor and I play the guitar in the worship service. My daughter plays a Roland keyboard As of about two months ago it dropped about a step and a half. All of us that play stringed instruments use a tuner. Since the Keyboard has dropped, we all tune by ear down to the keyboard. However, the keyboard is in tune with itself. I don’t think it is the transposer, but maybe so. Can this be fixed and how?

  35. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Pastor, and thanks for your question. Have you had someone reset the keyboard back to the factory settings? It is likely that someone has transposed the keyboard into a different key on you. Most keyboards have a transpose feature. If you can reset it to factory standard, that should fix the problem! Best of luck!

  36. Arnold Peneueta

    Aloha James, came across your blog and review of the Roland FP-80. Very impressive tone and sound. Of course, living in Hawaii (Big Island) we do not have the luxury of sampling different keyboards so I have to go by reviews, especially this being a new keyboard. I have been a fan of the Yamaha stage pianos and purchased the Yamaha P-250 close to 10 years ago for our church of 1700. Today the board is showing signs of wear and tear. I heard about the Roland V series (Grand piano) but it is beyond our price range. I was also looking at the portable version but that too is to steep. I’m glad that I came across the Roland FP-80. Your review was most helpful because everything you listed is exactly what I am looking for so it is always nice to know there are others out there who understand the worship keyboardist’s plight. The price is right as well. As our church recruits more keyboardist’s I want to make sure that the keyboard is not overly complicated. I like it simple and user friendly. I do have a quick question: how complex is transposition on this keyboard? This is really important for me so if you can please detail it for me I would appreciate it. Thank you again for sharing your recommendations. God bless.

  37. James Harding Post author

    Hello, Mr. Peneueta. Thanks for your message! You made my day. The FP-80 transpose is the easiest I have ever used. You just press and hold the transpose key and press the key you want to play in. It transposes automatically. (You can also press the + or – keys and go up/down half steps if you wish.) It’s very easy! I hope that answers your question. Thanks again for your message and God bless! -James

  38. Dan

    James, I’ve just come across your article. 12 years ago our church purchased a Kurzweil PC2 to replace a small Korg we used in the worship band. It also replaced our old church organ. We have a very nice grand piano, so the Kurzweil gave us a lot of flexibility – organ for hymns as well as a variety of other voices (strings, B-3, etc.) with the worship band. This morning, our Kurzweil bit the dust. We’re looking into the cost of getting it repaired, but this also provides an opportunity to see what else might be available. We’re not into programming or gadgets – we just want something that sounds good, is not complicated, and has those essential “worship sounds” you referred to. It sounds like you would recommend the Roland FP 80 or 50. Someone mentioned the Roland XP-30. We’re a fairly small church, so while we care about the quality of our worship, we’re also working with a somewhat limited budget. I’d welcome your comments and other suggestions.

  39. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Dan, and thank you for writing in. If you’re looking for a really budget-friendly stage keyboard that will perform well and last a long time in the church environment, I’d take a hard look at the FP-50 or FP-80 (The XP-30 has been discontinued for quite awhile now.). In fact, we have some great packages on those two keyboards: http://www.gistpianocenter.com/pianos/roland/fp-80.php and http://www.gistpianocenter.com/pianos/roland/fp-50.php. You’ll be hard pressed to find a decent 88-key keyboard with good sound and a piano-like feel for less than the price of the FP-50 and it has all the sounds you could want. Best of luck to you!

  40. Ronaldy

    Hi, I’m currently looking for a keyboard to replace my church’s keyboard.

    Currently looking at Roland F20 v Roland RD64 or Yamaha P105.

    We’re looking at to spend around that area.

    FP50 & FP80 might be over budget for us.

    Please share your thoughts.

    thank you

  41. James Harding Post author

    Hello and thanks for your message. Of the models you mentioned, I would look at the F-20. It has very few features (though the free iPad apps can help improve that a bit), but it is the only keyboard that has a full-sized keyboard with gravity hammer action (instead of the cheaper and less durable “weighted key” action).

    Still, if you’re going to spend $900 now, I would save my money for a few months more and spend $1500 on the FP-50. It’s not that much more and it’s a huge improvement for your worship team. Too often, churches jump to buy something cheap when they would be much better off waiting and buying the right tool. Don’t make that mistake!

    Best of luck to you!

  42. Ronaldy

    Thanks for your quick reply!

    On that price range $1000-$1500, what options am I looking at?

    or FP50 will be the best for that?

    how about korg and yamaha?

    Cheers!

  43. James Harding Post author

    Hello again! I definitely recommend the Roland FP-50 above anything Yamaha or Korg currently has available in the $1000-$1500 price range. For durability, versatility and performance reasons, the FP-50 is the only keyboard in that price range that I’d recommend for a worship service. I hope that helps!

  44. Sandra

    Hi James! Appreciate your very comprehensive post. I’m Sandra, a Singaporean currently living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I’ve been a worship keyboardist for 14 years and serve actively in my church’s worship team. Our church has many church plants, and I’m often rostered to play in different church plants every week, allowing me to be exposed to a variety of keyboards of various brands and types. I must say I’ve been very impressed with the Korg Kross, primarily because (1) it’s easy to use and store sounds, (2) it’s lightweight (3) its keys don’t feel too plasticky or cheap (4) it’s got some really awesome , up-to-date synth sounds (perfect for many techno-genre worship songs trending today) and (5) its cool red colour (haha!). Any thoughts? Any keyboards similar to what i’ve described so far?

  45. James Harding Post author

    Hello! Thank you for your message. I looked up the Korg and I can see why you like it for your specific application, but it doesn’t meet the criteria I presented in my post. We also don’t do a ton of techno-genre worship here in the United States. 🙂 I really couldn’t recommend anything similar to that. Sorry I am no help!

  46. Ron

    Can you tell me about the Roland 700nx and a Nord keyboard. How do they compare to the FP80 for the worship criteria that you spoke about earlier. I’ve noticed a lot of professional worship bands seem to use these. Are they better?

  47. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Ron. Thanks for your message. I have looked into the Nord and it does not meet the criteria I listed in this article. I am sure there are several folks who have made it work for their needs, but it is not something I would recommend. The Roland RD-700NX is a discontinued model (It’s actually the keyboard I own at home.), but it has been replaced by the RD-800 (Click to see more info on that piano.). The RD-800 has made some major improvements (especially in the display area), but I still think it is more advanced than most people are comfortable with. It has a great tone and touch, though, and it offers a ton of cool features. You just need someone who can understand how to use it. I hope that helps!

  48. Nnamnso

    I like your blog! Iam an organist,i just like piano.i need a good-keyboard that will give me those piano sounds heard from professionals for my church and for personal use. Can i easily understand the settings and functions as compared to yamaha psr-2000… Please! what is the Naira equivelent of the fp-80, how can one get it in nigeria?

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