Portable keyboards are great for musicians on the move. If you’re touring with your band or simply don’t want to give up playing the piano while traveling, a portable keyboard is the perfect option.
When shopping for a keyboard, you should consider the size and weight of the keyboard, the number of keys, installed features, and connectivity options.
5 Best Portable Keyboard Pianos for Every Budget
Here are five great portable keyboards that are worthy of your consideration, followed by a concise buyers' guide.
This Casio keyboard offers an excellent price to quality ratio. It is loaded with features that beginners and experienced players on the move might need for a practice or composition session. The CTK-2550’s central feature is the 61-key keyboard. It also weighs around 7lbs.
The highlight of this interesting keyboard is the Dance Music Mode which allows you compose and remix electronic music with a set of 50 built-in rhythm patterns. Aside from these, the CTK-2550 has 400 different instrument sounds and 100 rhythm patterns in various genres. Finally, you can choose between 60 onboard songs to play along with.
The CTK-2550, similar to all beginner keyboards, has a pre-installed lesson system. The system can teach you how to read music, position your fingers, and play some simple and easy melodies.
This keyboard also has a headphones jack for when you need to be quiet or don’t want your bandmates to hear a tune before you’ve finished it. The standard package only includes the power supply while the premium version also comes with a keyboard stand and headphones.
2. Casio SA-76
The SA-76 is part of the SA-76/77/78 family of kids’ synthesizers by Casio. The three models are identical in every respect, save for the color of the bottom cover. The SA-76 has an orange bottom cover, the SA-77 black, and pink for the SA-78. The price is same for all three.
These keyboards have 44 keys. The keys are small and designed for kids’ hands, so adults with bigger hands might find them too small. Also, the keys are not pressure-sensitive, which is quite understandable at this price point.
You can easily fit this super-lightweight keyboard in your backpack if you’re going on a family vacation but you don’t want your kid to skip piano practices. Another neat feature of this small keyboard is that it operates on six AA batteries. One set can last for around two weeks with moderate use.
On the technical side, this little Casio is not pretty impressive, but it offers enough for a youngster who's just starting out. There are 100 sounds (also referred to as voices), 50 built-in rhythm patterns, and 10 songs for your child to play along with.
Right above the budget class, the Yamaha PSR-EW300 can be a great addition to a keyboard player’s road gear. While definitely not built for larger-scale live performances and recording sessions, this portable keyboard is a sound option for rehearsals as well as practicing and composing sessions.
The PSR-EW300 has 76 keys, which puts it halfway between standard digital pianos and affordable 61-key digital keyboards. Additionally, the keys are pressure-sensitive, making this Yamaha one of the most affordable models to offer dynamic sound.
You can also hook up your smartphone or tablet through the aux input and jam to your favorite songs. Also, there is a standard headphones jack for when you need privacy. The PSR-EW300 has well over 500 voices, 150 beats, and 150 songs.
The Yamaha Education Suite is also included for beginners. The version featured on this model also supports MIDI files, which you can import from your computer or tablet. You can also learn songs step by step with the help of this neat education suite. Finally, you can connect this keyboard to a computer via USB. The PSR-EW300 weighs 13.7lbs
The Yamaha YPT260 portable keyboard starts with a set of 61 keys that spans 5 full octaves. It weighs around 12.5lbs and is easy to transport, making it a great companion for the road. Moreover, it is very affordable and an overall good choice for beginners on a tight budget.
The built-in Yamaha Education Suite (Y.E.S.) can help you learn notes, finger positions, and simple tunes. It has 3 operation modes: listening, timing and waiting. However, the YPT260 doesn’t offer the now-popular lighted keys feature. You can also split the keyboard in half and play alongside your teacher.
This portable keyboard is loaded with 400 instrument sounds, ranging from grand piano to strings, brass, and woodwind instruments. Guitar, bass, and various synth tones are included as well. The 130 backbeat styles cover all popular genres. There are also 112 onboard songs that you can play along with. The YPT260 also has chorus and reverb effects.
On the back panel you’ll find the headphones jack, which comes in very handy when you want to practice or compose without disturbing people around you. The auxiliary input allows you to connect a tablet or a smartphone and play along with your favorite tunes.
The RockJam 88-Key Digital Piano is among the most affordable 88-key models. The keys are semi-weighted and also pressure-sensitive, allowing them to adjust to your playing style. However, despite the full-size keyboard, this digital piano is pretty portable.
If you’re after a digital piano with minimalistic design and quality features, you might like this RockJam. The sound bank has only ten carefully selected voices, including church organ, strings, upright piano, and others.
Beginners can count on Simply Piano, an interactive learning app that RockJam includes with this digital piano. The app is free and available for both iOS and Android. It works best with a tablet.
This digital piano is also equipped with a pair of 12W speakers. Connectivity options include ¼” inputs for soft and sustainer pedals and a ¼” microphone jack. There is also a ¼” headphones jack and aux output if you’d like to connect your piano to a mixer.
While picking a suitable portable keyboard piano, these are the factors that you need to keep in mind.
Weight and Size
Portable and travel-friendly instruments should, by definition, be smaller and lighter than their full-sized counterparts. This also means that they usually have fewer bells and whistles.
Therefore, if you’re intent on shopping for something portable, you should first take the size and weight of the instrument into consideration. For example, many portable-class keyboards weigh far less than 20lbs and down to almost 10lbs. Some kids’ models may be below 5lbs. On the other hand, serious digital pianos can weigh 30lbs or more.
To make them portable, such keyboards would have fewer keys than standard digital pianos. You won’t be able to stuff them in a backpack, save perhaps for the kids’ models, but they’re pretty easy to pack and carry around. Digital pianos are significantly longer and need more space than keyboards. They also weigh more.
If you’re on the hunt for a portable keyboard, your best bet is to go with a 61-key model. These keyboards offer a five-octave range which is more than enough for the majority of situations. Portable models rarely have weighted and semi-weighted keys. Also, the really affordable options rarely have pressure-sensitive keys.
If you decide to go for more than 61 keys, your keyboard might start to lose its portability. You will gain additional range, but packing and unpacking the keyboard as well as carrying it will be harder. Digital pianos with 88 keys are significantly less portable, but they do offer the full range.
On the other hand, kids’ models tend to have fewer keys, often under 50 or even 40. The keys on these models may be smaller than usual and not pressure sensitive. You aren’t likely to find a kids’ model with weighted or semi-weighted keys.
Sounds and Rhythms
Portable keyboards, like their stationary counterparts, come with built-in sounds (instrument voices) and beats. You can expect even the affordable models to come loaded with hundreds of voices and beats.
100 to 300 voices are normal, though there are models with over 400 or more pre-installed instrument voices. You’ll also find generous numbers of pre-installed rhythm patterns or beats in affordable and portable keyboards. It is not unusual to come across well over 100.
Connectivity and Compatibility
Before making the final decision, you may also want to consider the connectivity and compatibility options. Most portable keyboards come with an auxiliary input for connecting an external device. A ¼” headphones jack is also commonplace.
Other than that, some models might also feature USB ports. You can connect these to a computer if you wish to record. Also, some models can be connected to a mixing desk via an auxiliary output jack. Some models are also compatible with MIDI devices.
If your keyboard is bundled with free apps, they’re most likely to work best with a tablet. You may also want to check if the apps support your tablet’s OS.
On the Road Again
For a piano enthusiast or working musician, being able to play music while on the road is essential. It’d make perfect sense for you to get yourself a quality portable keyboard. Have fun traveling and playing.