Keyboard arrangers are kind of like black licorice; some people love them and some people don’t find them to be useful. What I do know is that over the last few years, companies have been putting out some incredible arrangers that are changing the game for solo musicians.
My opinion is that keyboard arrangers 100% have their place in the music world. Just by hitting a few buttons, you can find yourself with a full backing band behind you. The style in which your band plays with you can also vary tremendously depending on which arranger you get.
People often confuse keyboard workstations and keyboard arrangers. I want to note that there is a difference and I will get into this a little bit later into this article.
- Instantly Play With Backing Band
- Abundance of pre-sets
- Great For Gigging
- Typically lightweight
- Can Be Expensive
- Can’t Go Crazy With Editing And Sound Designing
- Keys Can Feel Cheap
Let’s get into the best options below.
Best Keyboard Arrangers
- The color touch screen allows you to easily see the state of Voice and Style assignments and quickly access and adjust a wealth of features and settings
- Assignable Knobs allow you to manipulate various effects and parameters on Voices, Styles and more, in real time
- Assignable Sliders can be configured to control a wide variety of parameters allowing for quick, on-the-fly control during your performance, or while fine tuning your production
- The CFX Premium Grand Piano Voice recreates the power and tone of Yamaha's flagship CFX concert grand piano
- Revo! Drums take advantage of unprecedented multi-dynamic sample layers and round-robin sample cycling to produce the most realistic MIDI drums ever created
The Genos is the powerhouse arranger keyboard. With this also comes a powerful price. The next question is: is it worth it?
I recently did a full review of the Genos that you might find helpful.
My opinion is, yes. I think the main reason why I enjoy this so much is the fact that the drum sounds are hands down my favorite sounds. The organic drum sounds seem so realistic.
The drums have something called wave cycling. Basically, what this does is makes it so that every time a drum is hit, the sound is slightly altered. This makes you the Genos capture that live feel.
It is packed with 1,652 different sounds and 58 drum kits that were all recorded in different environments.
If you can afford it, you won’t be disappointed. From the sounds, to the ease of recording ideas and bringing in the full band; this nails it all. I also really enjoy the 9 inch LCD touch-screen. Everything about this keyboard feels like quality.
- Two models to choose from: 76-key or 61-key
- Semi-weighted keys with velocity sensitivity and aftertouch
- Massive internal ROM with a renewed PCM database
- 512 user Sound and 128 user Drum kit locations with full editing features
- Over 1,500 sounds* including GM and XG sets
The Korg PA4X is a high-end arranger keyboard that packs a powerful punch. There are a lot of keyboard players in the community that swear by this for arranger keyboards.
This comes in 76 keys or 61 keys. Which you choose will most likely depend on budget, as the 61 is going to be cheaper.
The keys are velocity-sensitive and they have aftertouch on both models.
Many people find the Korg sounds to be some of the best that you can find in an arranger. To be honest, I’m not sure that I would disagree. I will say that I find them to be quite pleasing, but I also find a couple other keyboards to be the same.
Korg didn’t hold back with the PA4X and because of this, they have built a cult following. If you frequently play Korg keyboards, chances are you’re going to love this. The sounds are the selling point with the PA4x and I think that overall, this is an amazing keyboard.
- Voice & Style Expansion Packs enable you to customize your PSR-S series Arranger Workstation with a wide range of additional content from all over the world. Instantly access authentic new sounds, rhythms, and backing in the musical style of your choice.
- Mega Voices feature various playing articulations, techniques and performance sounds and are used in accompaniment Styles to provide ultra-realistic expression.
- The 16-track song recorder/player lets you create full arrangements or play back songs
- Accompaniment Styles add a "backing band" to your performances while you remain in complete control of chord changes and arrangements.
- USB Audio Recording & Playback captures performances on a USB drive
The Yamaha PSR-S670 is a classic arranger that comes in a little bit cheaper than other arrangers. This is a lightweight keyboard that allows gigging musicians to easily go from venue to venue.
You’re not getting anywhere near as many options with this, but it will still provide you with everything that you need in an arranger.
The sounds are actually pretty good. I was surprised when I was bringing in the band and playing with the tracks. The screen could be just a little bit bigger, but this isn’t a big complaint. Overall, this is a great option for people who don’t want to spend thousands on a keyboard.
- BUNDLE INCLUDES: Korg EK-50 Entertainer Keyboard, Adjustable X Style Keyboard Bench, Adjustable Double X Keyboard Stand, and Piano Style Sustain Pedal
- STYLES ACCOMPANIMENT FUNCTIONALITY: The EK-50 is equipped with automatic accompaniment functionality called "Styles," which allow you to automatically produce a rich accompaniment with just one finger on the left hand, or by playing chords. Since this accompaniment changes according to the keyboard position or the chord that you play, you can easily improvise by playing the melody with your right hand
- PERFECT COMBINATION OF SOUNDS: The EK-50 contains more than 702 realistic sounds including piano, violin, sax, and drums. You select and play the sound you need, whether you're playing a solo performance or are playing in a band. You can also use the Split function to divide the keyboard and play different sounds simultaneously
- INTUITIVE OPERATING PANEL: The middle of the operating panel of this entertainer keyboard has a bright, clear display that shows the currently selected sound and Style names in large characters for great visibility. The principal switches are illuminated by their own LEDs which help you visualize the setting of each function
- BUILT-IN SPEAKERS: This instrument is equipped with built-in powerful 10W x 10W stereo speakers. They can reproduce not only the sound of the instrument itself, but also sound from an external device that you connect to the input jack
The Korg EK50 is the cheapest option that I think is still quality. You get some quality sounds and you also get some cool accompaniments. This is a brand new arranger and the sounds reflect this.
I believe the EK50 is still a professional arranger, but it’s definitely as budget as I would recommend. You could easily play some shows with this keyboard and learn the ways of the arranger before upgrading to the PA4X or others.
The EK50 is a solid choice for people who are looking to explore arrangers. Serious musicians who have been playing for years may not find this to be appealing, but if you’re testing the waters, this is your keyboard.
What To Look For In A Keyboard Arranger
Price: This definitely comes to mind as these types of keyboards tremendously vary. You can spend a relatively small amount or you can spend thousands, depending on your budget.
Sounds: Some arrangers sound cheap compared to others. There can be a big difference in the sound department when you jump up in price. As far as sounds go, you want to have as many different sounds and accompaniments as you can get. These will all help inspire new ideas.
Memory: Hopefully the keyboard you’re working with has a lot of memory. This makes it so you can save songs and download expansions which are loaded with more sounds.
Keys: A lot of arrangers keys aren’t going to be the best as most will come 76 keys or less. With this being said, the nicer keyboards will allow you to adjust the touch-sensitivity and mess with the velocity curves.
Weight: Depending on how much gigging you’re doing, the weight might be a concern. Most of these are on the lighter side, but some can be heavier.
Why Choose A Keyboard Arranger?
When I think about arrangers I think about the local bar artist you see with just a keyboard. These are perfect for musicians who want to gig on their own, but also want to have a backing band.
Are you in the market for a kids keyboard? I recently finished a guide that I think you may enjoy here.
If you’ve ever had an idea and wanted to see what it sounds like with a band behind it, you can do this extremely easily.
Difference Between Workstations & Arrangers
So, which should you get? This all depends on what you are looking for. If you want the ability to have a backing band and your main goal is to play gigs, you will want an arranger.
If you’re looking to dive deep into editing and creating tracks for the studio, you will like keyboard workstations more.
You can read more about keyboard workstations in this article that I’ve written.
I prefer workstations as I really enjoy creating tracks and diving deep into the editing process.
Are Keyboard Arrangers For Beginners
No, they’re not. This doesn’t mean they can’t be enjoyed by beginners. I just feel that they get a bad reputation as you can bring in a backing band with your left hand.
Serious keyboard players can make these things sound incredible and there is an art in mastering with arrangers. You have the power to become a full band with one instrument.
I recently wrote about my favorite digital piano headphones in this article here.
The only reason, in my opinion, that people consider these to be for beginners is because some of them are cheap. When you get into the professional level, there’s nothing beginner about them.
Keyboard arrangers are a fun instrument that can sometimes be what you need to take your writing to the next level.
Note: If you are a live gigging musician, you may enjoy these guides below I’ve written myself below.
- Best synthesizers for live performance
- Best sustain pedals for live music
- best midi foot controllers
- best 37 key midi controllers
If you enjoy gigging and playing shows frequently, arranger keyboards are exactly what you may enjoy.
If you are looking for cheaper options, I highly recommend checking out my favorite portable keyboards here.
Do you have any experience with keyboard arrangers? What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments below!