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. James Harding Post author

    Hello and thanks for reading! I think the Roland FP-80 is much easier to understand than the PSR-2000 was. I think you will be very pleased with it. Unfortunately, I am not sure what to recommend for you in Nigeria. I would start by contacting Roland. Do a Google search for Roland Digital Pianos and select the website for your area. Best of luck!

  2. Alfred

    Hello James i am thinking about looking into buying the Roland rd800. Do it have after touch and is it worth it to upgrade from the rd700.
    Alfred

  3. James Harding Post author

    Hello, Alfred, and thank you for your comment. I have an RD-700 myself and I would definitely upgrade to the RD-800. You should give it a try and see what you think!

  4. Felicia

    Hi James, would you recommend a RD300NX? We are planning to upgrade from the old p-95 Yamaha. we are looking at RD300NX and Korg SV1 it’s more in our price range. what would you comment on this? thanks!

  5. Roman varakuta

    We are looking for something that has a very good piano feel but also want some warm pads in the background.

    A big thing for me is possibly loading more sounds if I need to. Any recommendation for the 1500 range?

    I personally like the sound of Yamaha and would like to know which keyboard will allow more voices to be loaded through usb.

  6. Kesa

    Hey James Harding
    Im going outta my mind…literally
    Im in South Africa, know nothing about keyboards but want to contribute to the church
    Our worship leader is a fan of organ and strings

    Please help
    #Desperate

  7. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Felicia, and thanks for reading! Yes, I would recommend a RD-300NX if it is all you can fit into the budget. Keep in mind that it has no onboard speakers and it has a very basic design. If you can squeak up to the FP-50, I think you would like it better… but the RD-300NX will do just fine. Best of luck!

  8. James Harding Post author

    Sorry, Roman, adding more sounds after the purchase is not an easy trait to find – especially in the $1500 range. I don’t have any recommendations for you at this point. Best of luck to you!

  9. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Kesa! Thank you for reading. I am not sure what I can do to help, but I’d be glad to offer whatever advice I can. Almost any keyboard you can buy has keyboard sounds, strings and organ tones. What do you need to know?

  10. Abi

    Hi James. What do you think about tyros range? We are looking to upgrade our current (not good at all) Yamaha and I played this tyros once and loved being able to mix sounds and split the keyboard.
    I would say I’m an intermediate player but wanting to improve!

  11. James Harding Post author

    Certainly, Tyros keyboards have a ton of options… but I find that very few people actually USE the options on the Tyros. In addition, it doesn’t have a great touch, it’s cabinet is clunky for anything other than a recording studio and it is not very portable. That said – you should check out the Roland RD-800 or the FP-80 and see if they will do what you are looking for. Both of those are better choices in my opinion.

  12. Sam Killman

    Hey James,
    Im currently looking for a keyboard that acts in a similar function as the Yamaha MO8. I like that in performance mode you can assign the 4 faders to different sounds and mix them simultaneously. But they don’t make that model any more and I’m on a budget. Any options you can think of?

  13. Su

    Hello,

    I brought a Roland FP80 for our church and I do agree that it is my favorite. The acoustic sound is great but when the sound comes out of the speakers (where the mic and guitar are projected) it sounds terrible. So I am looking for an amplifier that I can use but I know very little and from the research I have done thus far, it doesn’t seem like a simple task especially considering our church does not have a huge budget. Any suggestions? Thank you in advance for you help!

  14. James Harding Post author

    Hello, Su, and thank you for your question. Before you buy anything else, I’d have a professional sound technician check out the way your keyboard is connected to your PA system. If you are not using a Direct Input box to connect the piano’s LINE OUT signal to the proper input on your PA, it won’t sound right. The problem could also be a host of other things, including cables, gain settings and the PA system itself. Once you have a professional sound technician check out the system and recommend a solution, it should fix the problem. If not, you should check out the Roland BA-55 portable amp or the Roland KC-550 if you need bigger sound. Best of luck to you!

  15. Richard

    James – this is a great post, thanks so much. You have hit the nail on the head on all counts. I came from a church that had a Yamaha Motif, on which we used probably 10% of its capability when playing for worship services. The current church I play at has a Yamaha P series digital piano, which is OK for piano sounds, but it has NO synth pad voice/setting which drives me nuts, since I have to substitute strings at times (which I consider a poor substitute). I’m sure the average worshipper doesn’t really notice the difference, but this worshipper does! 🙂

    My question is, in addition to Roland FP-80, what 2 or 3 other keyboards or keyboard “families” might you recommend for a contemporary worship keyboard, for someone about to go on an investigative/fact-finding trip to a Guitar-Center-Sam-Ash-type store? I’m thinking my budget will allow $2500 max, and I’d be very happy if I can stay under $2000.

    Again thanks for the excellent post.

  16. James Harding Post author

    Hello, Richard, and thank you for your kind words. I am really glad you found this article helpful!

    I would urge you to keep a close eye on the Roland FP-80 and it’s smaller cousin, the Roland FP-50. Both are going through a price reduction right now and they will both fit comfortably into your “ideal” price range. Frankly, these are the only two keyboards I have seen that represent the ideals of the above article. They are easy to use, they sound great and they last forever! I can’t think of anything else that I would point you to.

    If you do find something, though, please let me know. We’re all in this together! Best wishes and God bless! – James

  17. Jonathan

    Hi James, I’ve been looking for a digital piano for my fiancée who plays in church and was almost certain on Roland RD300NX – that is until I chanced upon your post! 🙂 On the surface, it always seemed to me that you’re getting more “bang for the buck” given the amount of control, tweakability, and sounds on the RD over the FPs. My questions would be: What exactly are we paying a premium for on the FPs given its higher price, and what do you feel are tipping points for the FD over the RDs? Also, for the price of the FP80 in Malaysia, I could get a RD300NX and a pair of Yamaha HS8 studio monitors – would this sound better than FPs and their inbuilts? Appreciate any insight or advice. Cheers!

  18. Richard

    James, posted a comment earlier in August… and I’m still looking for that great worship keyboard 🙂 Main problem is that I can’t seem to find anyone who has one of the Rolands (FP-80 or FP-50) on their floor for me to try (been to a couple of the big box music stores around here, e.g. Guitar Center, Sam Ash). I have come across the Yamaha DGX650 that goes for about $800 street price, and it seems to have a lot of capabilities (also full size keyboard, “graded hammer action”, etc.) and I thought it was pretty nice when I played it. What do you think of this particular Yamaha model relative to the Rolands? Yamaha also has another model, P-255, that seems to have similar capabilities but is in the street price range of the 2 Rolands. Thanks for any thoughts you might have on the Yamahas.

    Richard

    PS If you’d like to continue this discussion offline of this blog comment thread, let me know. I think my email address is included when I comment. Thx

  19. James Harding Post author

    Hello, Jonathan, and thanks for your note! Honestly, the RD is a great keyboard as well. It has a lower-quality action, it is not as intuitive, and (as you know) it doesn’t have built-in speakers and those are my biggest complaints. I always find it cumbersome having to attach external speakers or headphones every time I want to use my keyboard. However, if those three things are not big deals to you, I think you’d be fine with the RD. It is less expensive. I REALLY like the action on the FP-80, though. You should play both before you buy one if you can. Best of luck!

  20. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Richard! Thanks again for your note. I hope I am helping! I have certainly seen the DGX-650. In fact, we sell those as well. The problem with alot of these online keyboards is that they are so cheap online that a store doesn’t make any money selling them. Thus, we can’t afford to stock them. That’s why I only carry the FP-80 here. That said, I can tell you that the DGX is a much lower quality instrument. It is designed primarily for the home. It won’t have the nuances of tone that you’d like and it has a very cheap action. It uses the term “graded hammer action” very loosely in my opinion. The action is spring-operated (which builds in a guaranteed future repair regimen) and it is built out of a thin, reinforced plastic. Certainly it and the P-255 (same action and sound technology with different features) are lower-priced options, but the folks I know who have them aren’t happy – especially if they expected them to compete with the Roland FPs. I hope that helps!

  21. Tonitia Lewis

    Hi James,
    I absolutely love your information as it is right on the money! Now, maybe you can help me understand why we are not getting that “warm and rich through the church sound system.” I think it’s because of our “Crisp” or “tinny” sounding keyboard often sound very thin and unsatisfying through a P.A.” We have a Casio it has all the connectivity, but when I play it sounds horrible! We had a Korg and comparing it to this Casio, members and my pastor think I am nervous and that’s why it sounds the way it do. hahahaha. But this is not the case. I can hear that the keyboard is probably not compatible with the amp (or whatever other “stuff” that’s used to get that surround sound in church) or maybe the other stuff isn’t compatible or any good for the keyboard. When I turn the keyboard volume up, it sounds extremely staticky: (lots of static) UGH! They keys don’t sound the same as on the Korg, for example a basic Ab chord sounds real high pitch and just off. This is best I can explain it. Hope you get what I’m trying to say. Do you think we need a different keyboard or could it be the system?

  22. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Tonitia, and thank you for your message! It sounds like you might have a couple of problems. First of all, make sure the keyboard is connected to the PA system correctly. It should not be connected via the headphones port. It should be connected via external “audio out” jacks (preferably in stereo). These jacks will be 1/4″ jacks and you should run a patch cable from those jacks to a Direct Input (or “DI”) box. This box will transform the signal into XLR (a standard 3-prong “microphone” cord). This is a more balanced signal that always sounds better through the PA.

    Finally, I would recommend something better than an inexpensive Casio. 🙂

    Best of luck to you!

  23. Aretha

    I am looking a inexpensive but good quality digital piano for a church that is just starting up. The Roland FP-80 seems to be a wonderful choice, but our church budget is not quite up to that yet. Can you recommend a less expensive one for us to start out with?

  24. James Harding Post author

    Hello, Aretha, and thank you for your email. If you’re looking to save money, you might check out the Roland FP-50. It’s only $1299 and it has most of the same features. Otherwise, I’d recommend renting a good keyboard until you can get the budget to buy one. Most churches make the mistake of buying a cheaper keyboard with the intent to play it until they can get a better one. Then, when they want to upgrade, the congregation doesn’t see the need for it because “the old one still works fine.” Don’t fall into that trap. 🙂 Save up until you can get the right piano for your needs.

  25. James

    Hello James. I have enjoyed your opinions on the different concerns. I have a Roland vr 09 combo. I love the sounds and am satisfied with the drawbars for the organ an Synth settings. Only problem that I have is with the EV 5 expression pedal, which I will soon solve with a Visual Volume pedal I came across at my local music store. A sequencer is next on my agenda to purchase. The Roland Jdxi looks good with its vocorder but I’m also looking at the Roland Fa08 or the Kursweli Pcx / Forte. I play in a beach/ RnB group. There are so many boards out there. I have a looper on my board 20 sec worth but i want something or setup i can create the whole song if need be. Your input I’ll be greatly appreciated.

  26. James Harding Post author

    Hi, James! Thanks for your kind words and for your comment. As you can probably tell, I am a dyed in the wool Roland guy so it’s hard for me to recommend Kurzweil instruments. Also, I tend to find them a bit less intuitive to operate. Thus, I’d probably lean towards one of the Roland keyboards. If you’re doing a ton of dance/techno/house music, I’d probably point you to the Fa08… but (from what you’re telling me you want to do), I think the JDXi looks like your best bet. I LOVE the vocoder because it ads a ton of versatility to the keyboard’s function… and I think the looping function is very simple to use and powerful. I’d recommend that one! Best of luck!

  27. Jason

    James,
    A thousand thank-yous to you for your high quality article! I am no musician, but my 14-year old daughter has a calling to be a worship leader and this year the extended family pooled birthday + Christmas $ for her to buy her “college-and-beyond” keyboard. I have been going crazy looking at all of the options: digital piano vs. keyboard, which brand, etc? You have saved me a ton of time because your article hit the EXACT concerns we have, and would have that we couldn’t articulate! We were planning on buying local (Los Angeles), but after finding your article, we purchased online at your site in order to thank you and support your business.
    A happy customer,
    Jason

  28. James Harding Post author

    Hello, Jason, and thank you for your kind words! I am delighted that this article helped you and I really appreciate you trusting us with your business. We will get your piano on its way first-thing Monday. Meanwhile, if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@gistpianocenter.com. Ask for me and I’ll get you the help you need. Best wishes! -James

  29. Dan

    James, this is probably not much different from the questions of many others here. We have been pretty happy with a Kurzweil PC2x our church has used for fifteen years. But yesterday it gave up the ghost for good. Our needs are fairly simple – we need something that sounds good, has a good feel, and is easy to play. We need it to serve as our church organ for hymns (playing alongside a nice Kawai baby grand), and we want it to have some good full strings and some nice B-3/rock/soul organ sounds. That’s what we need.

  30. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Dan!

    Thanks for your message. I think the FP-80 would work perfectly for you. It has a feature called “Tone Wheel Organ” which is just their version of a Hammond B3. You can even create 5 different preset “digital drawbars” so you can adjust the organ sound on the fly. It sounds great. It’s easy to use and I think it will do everything you need. Thanks again for reading!

  31. Damian

    Hi James,great article.
    I’m at a church where we already have a Motif xs7 and a Korg Triton and I know we are barely scratching the surface of what they can do but no one really understands what’s going on with it and the same sounds are used every week. I’m a guitarist but I would love to delve into what’s possible with them, especially the Yamaha. Have you got any ideas of forums or reading material or even a YouTube link that could help? Most YouTube clips are of old guys playing dance music demos…

    Anyway, any ideas would be great!

  32. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Damian, and thanks for your comment. I am glad you found the article helpful. Sadly, your story is the story I hear over and over in churches all over the World. The Korg Triton and the Yamaha Motif aren’t designed to be worship pianos. They are arranger keyboards designed for the professional musician who wants to thicken up a band’s sound with synthesized instruments. They are complicated. They work best when wired into a computer or sound module and nobody (except a few “die-hards”) knows how to use them well. Sadly… those “die hards” tend to be old guys playing dance music. 🙂

    I wish I had better news, but I don’t really have a good suggestion for you. You might try to contact Yamaha and see if they have any “how to” DVDs (like the “Click to Learn” series they give away with their Clavinovas), but I would guess Korg is a lost cause. I don’t have a clue where you’d find good instruction there.

    Let me know if you find anything. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help. Best wishes!

  33. Alex

    Hi James,

    Thank you for your article.
    I would like your advice – I recently bought a Korg SV-1 88, however I came across some issues with the keybed, it has a clicking noise for some of keys and after multiple research and investigation it looks like it is something that happens to a lot of Korg users, especially for this model. I tried an other SV1 and also a Kronos which has the same keybed system and the same issue appeared. It seems to me that Korg’s keybed is not very resistant and is not a very good quality.

    Even though I really like the look and the EPs sounds are great, I am heavily using Acoustic Piano sounds (mainly Grand Pianos of course) as I have been playing Classical music since I was 10 and always played on acoustic pianos. So I’m really looking for the feel on the keys and the sound of the APs. I would still like to have good enough EPs, organs, and other sounds but it’s not my main requirement.

    I want to replace my SV1 that I got for $1100 as a B-stock to something else with a more ‘real’ touch and a better APs sound (though the SV1 APs sound is not that bad). I believe to stay in my range of price (around the same than what I bought the SV1 for), the Roland RD-300NX might be a good choice for me. What are thoughts on this? Do you think I will feel a difference in touch and sound?

    Any other suggestions would be great too.

  34. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Alex! Thanks for reading and thank you for your question. My best advice right now would be to wait. Traditionally, Roland refreshes their RD models on a 2yr or 3yr cycle. We’re coming up on the expected refresh date for those models and – with the major updates we’ve seen on their HP and LX pianos – I would expect some important upgrades on those pianos. I know this advice doesn’t FEEL wonderful, but I would wait until the new models come out (September, 2016 or January, 2017) before buying one. I am sure they have some great stuff coming! Thanks again and good luck!

  35. Penri

    Hello….i have been wanting to buy a new piano for worship…..the fp-80 sounds great but it’s too costly….however i can afford fp-30…so what do you say about fp-30?….are it’s functions suitable enough for church worship and praise songs??….and also i read in some comments that there is no output to amplify the sound in fp-30 which is it’s disadvantage…is that true?…cos if it is so then it will be a problem as i am involved in my church praise team and need to amplify it to blend in with my band…..what do you suggest?

  36. James Harding Post author

    Hello, Penri, and thank you for your question. I have said this many times on this blog and I’ll say it again. The FP-80 is my recommendation (or the FP-50 since they are so close in design). These pianos are designed specifically for your purpose. If you want to spend less money, I would recommend you don’t buy anything. Save your money until you can get the proper tool for your ministry. Buying an FP-30 now (which, as lovely as it is, is absolutely NOT designed to be a stage/worship piano) will just frustrate you and use up your already tight budget. Do some fundraising. Save up some money over time. Do whatever you can to get the proper tool. Don’t waste your money on an insufficient instrument. Bringing people into worship is a big deal! It’s important to do it right.

  37. Evelyn

    Hello James!

    Thanks for the post, it was certainly informative. I am not a keyboard player but I enjoy writing songs, especially worship songs. Is there a keyboard you would recommend from experience that will have pre-set beats for gospel/worship songs, and for way cheaper than the Roland? I have been looking at arrangers and workstations. Thanks.

    ~Evelyn

  38. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Evelyn, and thank you for your question. This post isn’t focused on the cheapest keyboards with automatic beats. I really can’t help you there. Most folks today are using software to write/mix music with drum loops. You might use a program called Sequel 3 for some of that. It’s easy and it comes with a ton of customizable drum loops. 88-Note Roland Digital Pianos that work with this kind of software start at $699. If you’re for something cheaper than that, I’d probably point you to Wal-Mart or Best Buy. I’m a pianist so I can’t really recommend something that doesn’t feel or sound like a piano. Sorry if I wasn’t much help!

  39. Noel

    James! What a great article! Thank you for posting this for sure! I’m an intermediate keyboardist and I’ve been researching keyboards to buy that are under $2000. My reasoning is I’m looking to buy this for personal use and using it for church.

    When I’ve been researching, I see A LOT of worship teams (Hillsong, Elevation Worship, Crowder, Jesus Culture, Bethel, etc.) using Nord Electros and Nord Stage 2s. What’s the hype? Are they really that great of keyboards? Have you had any experience with these because as of yet I have not seen anyone post about the Nord Electros OR the Stage 2?

    Also, when I went into guitar center I tried a Roland FA-06 and I honestly loved the sequencer built in and I was also much less intimidated by the actual interface that I played with this one much more than the Stage 2, although the Stage 2 was $4000. Would you feel like the Roland FA-06 is a good choice of keyboard for a church setting or should I seriously consider buying a Nord Electro 4 61 keys?

    Please let me know! Thank you so much!

  40. James Harding Post author

    Hello, Noel, and thank you for your kind words. I am glad this blog helped you!

    I am as confused as you are about some keyboard players’ fascination with Nord. They are quite a bit more complicated… and they still use old technology for synth patches and their key action. I think the big appeal is that they are very customizable for the keyboard player who likes to load in his/her own sounds and change things around from time to time. Almost NOBODY I work with would benefit from that… and I have heard from a few Nord customers that the piano patches go out of tune from time to time. In fact, I just had a customer exchange his Nord for an FP-80 for that very reason.

    Who knows? 🙂 I think the best thing is to search for the features you NEED and leave the others to their quirky hardware. Hahaha.

    In my experience, Roland makes everything easier. They have powerful stuff that sounds great, but they work hard to make sure you don’t need a degree to operate them! I would definitely recommend the FA-06 over the Nord. You won’t regret it.

  41. Daniel

    Hi James,
    Thanks for the excellent article and the open forum, it is very helpful.
    I am looking to buy a Keyboard for my son who is a mid level piano player and is still learning. I would like him to help in worship songs and we use Indian classical songs as well apart from the regular gospel songs. Does the FB80 have sitar, tabla kind of drum beats? Is it possible to download and store drum beats? As technology keeps changing fast, would this be useful down the road as it is quite a significant investment.
    Thanks in advance,
    Daniel

  42. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Daniel!

    Thanks for reading! I am glad this article and the blog in general are helpful to you. The Roland FP-80 has a few onboard beats, but (frankly) not many. There are only 90 onboard rhythms with two variations each. …but, in all honesty, most folks are using software for rhythm loops now. Programs like Sequel 3 by Steinberg are much better at giving you the automatic drum looping option (and they are far less expensive). You could use Roland’s BK-7M Backing Module… but I’d recommend a more software-based approach.

    Best of luck!

  43. Joel

    Hello James!

    Thanks for the post, it was certainly informative. I’m intermediate level Piano/keyboard player helping our worship team and using PSR-2000. I’m planning to buy Yamaha MOXF6. Would this be a ideal choice? or any inputs would be much appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Joel

  44. James Harding Post author

    Hi, Joel! Thanks for your message. As a rule, I never recommend workstation keyboards for live worship. Most people never learn how to use them to their full potential anyway… and (God forbid) if you’re sick one week, NOBODY can fill in for you on that piano. In addition, the F6 only has 61 keys (and I hate playing 69% of a piano – I need all 88 keys). The action isn’t designed to mimic a piano… and it takes forever to transition between different settings. In a nutshell? I wouldn’t recommend it. Best of luck!

  45. Joel

    Thanks James!!

    I totally agree with you. Kindly suggest one that suits well and my budget is $1000 to $1200.

    I appreciate your thoughts.

    Thanks again,
    Joel

  46. James Harding Post author

    I’m not sure you’ll appreciate my response this time, sadly. lol Unfortunately, I don’t have a recommendation for you in that budget range. A good live worship keyboard is going to start at about $1500 and go up to $2000. The good news is that most Roland dealers are offering free 12-month Same as Cash financing on their pianos right now… so you could use that option to help expand your budget to fit your needs. This is a big decision, so do yourself a favor and wait until you can purchase a Roland FP-50 ($1499) or FP-80 ($1999)… or use the 12-Month option and pay it off in the free financing period. The extra $80-$100/month will make all the difference. Best wishes!

  47. Joel

    Thanks James!

    I really appreciate your response and am decided to go with FP-80 with the 12-Month option.

    Thank you so much for the useful inputs and to make a good decision.

    Regards,
    Joel

  48. James Harding Post author

    Sounds like a great decision! I am sure you’ll be glad you did that. Everyone I’ve worked with locally has fallen in love with that piano. Take care!!

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