Keyboards with touch sensitivity allow you to have greater control over the dynamics of the instrument. Without this ability, the keyboard can sound lifeless and lacking in character.
7 Best Touch Sensitive Keyboard Pianos
Yamaha’s PSR-E360 first captured my attention due to the interesting choice of wood-finish designs it is available in. The front panel of this keyboard looks great in either a dark walnut or maple finish that blends into the aesthetics of your home.
The PSR-E360 is both light and portable. It can easily be moved around the house, to a practice room or gig venue. With 61 touch sensitive keys that enhance the expression of your playing, this Yamaha keyboard is a great entry-level model to introduce a keyboardist to the main functions commonly included on the instrument.
Yamaha have been generous by installing 400 high-end voices into this responsive piano. There is also a total of 130 auto accompaniment styles, which are basically backing tracks to be used as the foundations of your songwriting material.
If you’re still early in the journey of playing keys and piano, the PSR-E360 has some great features to keep you improving. The Song Book includes 112 songs that can be downloaded from the Yamaha website. The songs start out easy and gradually become more complex.
There’s also a nine-step lesson function courtesy of the Yamaha Education Suite which will further expand your knowledge of music theory and keyboard playing. Thanks to the built-in recording function, you can track your progress while learning songs or use it to store songwriting ideas.
This touch sensitive keyboard is powered by 6xAA batteries, so you can use it for busking or gigging without the need of a power supply. It has an AUX input so you can connect external audio sources, and a master EQ for shaping the output to your preference.
When I think of Casio keyboards, I think of class, elegance, and playability. The CTK-3500 delivers on all of these, and more. With touch sensitive, piano-shaped keys, you are gently encouraged to position your fingers in the correct technical positions which will improve your playing in the long term.
In total there are 400 sounds built into the CTK-3500’s memory, along with an additional 100 rhythm tracks. In some respects, this keyboard acts like a hub for your songwriting and productions, like a portable DAW. You can load up percussion tracks at your chosen tempo and begin to compose around the rhythms.
This responsive Casio keyboard is also a great educational tool for the budding musicians. Any of the 60 songs that are embedded in the library can be taught to you in real time on the keyboard, using the display screen and audio cues.
By downloading Casio’s Chordana Play App, you get access to a huge number of songs that can also be broken down into step-by-step lessons. This keyboard can be powered by AC or battery, and has an AUX input too.
The Alesis Concert is a digital piano with touch sensitive keys and a variety of useful features. The playability of this keyboard is second to none, with 88 full sized semi-weighted keys that have adjustable touch responsiveness to suit your playing style.
Although the Concert doesn’t have hundreds of built-in sounds, it features 10 highly realistic, natural sounding instruments. These are namely, acoustic piano, bright piano, electric piano, harpsichord, drawbar organ, church organ, synth, strings, bass, and clavi.
For songwriting purposes, you can combine two of these authentic sounding voices simultaneously using the layer mode. They can then be panned into the left or right speaker using the split mode, to create full-sounding representations of your compositions as you write them.
In terms of playability, the Alesis Concert digital piano is the perfect middle ground between a genuine acoustic piano and a basic MIDI keyboard. Its expressive, touch sensitive keys make it highly enjoyable to play and make you feel in control of the dynamics of every note.
Another great thing about this keyboard is that you don’t need a pair of studio monitors to get good quality playback. There are two 20-watt speakers built in, so you can clearly hear your playing and compositions without external amplification. Additionally, it is capable of 128-note polyphony, further improving the overall sound quality.
GO:KEYS by Roland is a brilliant option for those who are in the formative stages of learning keyboard or piano, and need a responsive instrument to improve their playing and technique.
The GO:KEYS is centered around allowing you to play along with your favorite songs, with a vision of improving your skills. You can stream music via Bluetooth, play it back through the powerful onboard speakers and start figuring out the parts section by section.
I really like the fact that this Roland keyboard encourages you to learn things by listening, rather than just providing you with visual representations of the music. I’ve found that although it can be frustrating at times, learning by ear is without a doubt the quickest way to improve as a musician and songwriter.
The GO:KEYS is powered by 6 AA batteries, and thanks to its compact, mobile design, you can take it anywhere with you. With the Loop Mix function, you can create interesting rhythm sections for your compositions and play over the top of them.
There are 8 total voice categories installed by Roland, ranging from classical pianos, to strings, and drums. Overall you get access to 500 high-quality individual sounds to learn the ropes with.
The touch sensitive keys coupled with the small, transportable design of the Roland GO:KEYS makes it a great choice for musicians who lead a busy lifestyle. It provides you with a platform to further your playing and songwriting skills from anywhere that has a desk.
Alesis are back with another entry on our list, this time with the comprehensive keyboard and production hub, the Harmony 61 MKII. This responsive piano has 61 keys which directly respond to the velocity of your playing.
In addition to the highly playable keybed, the Harmony 61 has over 300 authentic sounds that cover pretty much every family of instrument that you can think of. Along with the classic voices of pianos, brass and synths, there’s also an extensive range of sound effects that you can incorporate into your compositions.
The Harmony 61 also has 100 built-in songs with a variety of learning tools to keep you on track with your practice routine. There’s also an additional 100 accompaniment rhythms that allow you to write songs in whatever genre you feel inspired to create.
With a large backlit LED screen, you can view a grad staff which displays the notes that you are currently playing or that is being played in playback mode. This is invaluable for learning to read sheet music or for composers who need quick access to the theory behind their songs as they write them.
The penultimate entry on this list of the best touch responsive keyboards is another quality option from Casio. The CT-S300 builds upon the manufacturer’s rich history of producing top-end electric pianos, in a compact and affordable package.
Casio state that the CT-S300 was designed to be the most portable touch-sensitive 61 note keyboard in the world. Whether they have achieved this is a subjective matter, but they’ve certainly created a high quality, mobile instrument that isn’t lacking in expression.
With some newly added features like a pitch-bend wheel, easy carry-handle, improved piano shaped keys, better battery life and a thinner overall profile, the CT-S300 is perfect for young pianists looking for a portable keyboard to edge closer to their potential.
The intuitive LCD screen and jog wheel control makes it easy to toggle through the various voices and settings of this Casio keyboard. You can also download the aforementioned Chordana Play app to discover a multitude of learning material.
The Enhanced Dance Music Mode is also worth mentioning. When this mode is activated, you can compose electronic dance tracks and remix them in real time using the keys to trigger off FX and samples. With built in speakers and an audio input, it’s a great introduction to the world of electronic music production.
To close out our list, let’s take a look at the PSR-EW410 touch sensitive keyboard by Yamaha. It's not just a playable electric piano. This instrument actively encourages you to produce your own music and in the process learn about effects, techniques, and controls.
The Quick Sampling feature lets you record sections of yourself playing using the AUX input, then effectively sample yourself by playing the audio back through the keyboard’s speakers. This is a great starting point for learning about DAWs and the process of recording audio tracks.
With Groove Creator you can then take your compositions to the next level by implementing percussive rhythms into the tracks. Simply program your beat in, tweak, and quantize it until you are satisfied with the timing then play along with the newly created groove.
It’s also worth mentioning that unlike other keyboards on this list, the PSR-EW410 has an extended 76 keys, all with semi-weighted touch sensitivity. So not only does it make a great production tool, it’s also suitable for practicing classic piano on a realistic keybed.
Different Types of Weighted Keys
As you’ve probably noticed from the reviews in this article, there are numerous functions and features that determine the quality of a keyboard.
Perhaps the greatest influence on playability is the type of weighted keys that are employed by the manufacturer. Let’s take a look at the two main types and assess what they are best suited for.
Semi Weighted Keys
A staple of affordable stage pianos, semi weighted keys provide a solid middle ground between standard keys and hammer action varieties.
The advantage of choosing this type of keybed is that it suits musicians who have gotten used to playing on a cheap MIDI controller where note sensitivity doesn’t really exist.
Hammer Action Keys
The preferred type of keys for most musicians who have had some experience with a real acoustic piano, hammer action keys give you complete control over the dynamics and expression of each note.
With more resistance than semi weighted keys, they use a mechanism which replicates the hammer that you would find on a Steinway Grand, for example.
Hopefully you’ve managed to identify the best touch responsive keyboard for your needs, and I wish you many happy hours of perfecting your skills on one of these lovely instruments.