Best Keyboard Arrangers For Solo Musicians 2022

Keyboard Arrangers

Keyboard arrangers are kind of like black licorice; some people love them and some people don’t find them to be useful. We are going to be taking a look at the best arranger keyboards currently available.

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.

Quick Glance At The Best Arranger Keyboards

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS CHECK PRICE 
Editors Choice Yamaha Genos
  • Yamaha CF X Samples
  • Best samples
  • Great Drums
  • Most Powerful Arranger
  • Yamaha Releases New Expansions
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Runner Up Yamaha PSR SX700
  • 61 Keys
  • 7″ TFT Wide VGA LCD color touchscreen
  • Onboard FX
  • AWM Stereo Sampling 
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Budget Korg EK50
  • 61 Keys
  • 64 Note Polyphony
  • Great Backing Band Sounds
  • Inexpensive
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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.

Keyboard Arranger Pros

  • Instantly Play With Backing Band
  • Abundance of pre-sets
  • Great For Gigging
  • Typically lightweight

Cons

  • Can Be Expensive
  • Can’t Go Crazy With Editing And Sound Designing
  • Keys Can Feel Cheap

The Musician Playing Shows With Just A Keyboard

We’ve all seen the person in the coffee shop, casino or local bar who is playing a show with just their keyboard. While there are 2 different ways to do this, one of the options is using an arranger.

This option is often cheaper and it is sometimes easier to setup. This is because the other option requires a computer or a laptop to setup. A keyboard arranger simply requires an amp or a way to hook to a PA and the work of laying out your arrangments.

How To Use Arrangers For Live Gigs

As all arrangers are different, the best option is to head over to youtube and to watch videos for whichever keyboard you have. The good news is that there are tutorials for pretty much every keyboard you can purchase.

One thing to keep in mind is that simplicity wins. Build your tracks by focusing on one instrument at a time. This seems to be the easiest for me. If you layout the drums for the song, then you can lay down the bass and continue to build your track.

If you go with something like the Genos, you are investing in basically a band. If you take the time to learn it, you will be met with great satisfaction as well as results. Yamaha is also constantly releasing new patches for and updates for the Genos and with each one, it’s improving.

For Arrangers, Get Something Newer

While I believe a lot of older keyboards actually can have some great sounds, these types of keyboards are special in the sense that they’ve come a long way over the years.

I’ve found that you can do more with newer arranger keyboards typically, and I also think the sounds seem more expensive-sounding. Getting something new does not mean spending more. I’ve listed an option below that is under $400 and I think the sounds are surprisingly great for the price.

If you’re not someone who is looking to make this your career and you’re on a budget, go with the Korg EK50, which I have listed. You’ll save money, yet still, get a great keyboard.

Best Keyboard Arrangers

Yamaha Genos – Best Overall

Best Overall Arranger
Yamaha Genos Arranger
4.5

The Yamah Genos is downright powerful. If you're someone who loves the idea of being able to perform live with your own backing band, you will love the Genos. Yamaha also releases regular updates with new patches.

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The Yamaha Genos is hands down the best keyboard arranger overall.

I recently did a full review of the Yamaha 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.

Overall

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.

Korg PA 5x – Best 61 Key

Amazing Arranger
Korg PA 5x 61 Key
4.5

The Korg PA 5x is the newest version of the PA series. This is a streamlined arranger workstation that is great for live and the studio. The interface is a huge selling point and is definitely the nicest I have encountered.

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The Korg PA5X 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 of other keyboards to be the same.

Overall

Korg didn’t hold back with the PA5X 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 PA5x and I think that overall, this is an amazing keyboard.

Yamaha PSRSX700

Great For Swongwriters
Yamaha PSRX700
4.0

ThePSRX700 is a great tool for songwriters and it comes in at a solid price. If you're looking for some great sounds and a keyboard that gives you a great workflow, this is a great choice.

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The Yamaha PSRX700 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.

Overall

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.

Korg EK50

Best Budget Arranger
Korg EK-50
4.0

The EK 50 is hands down my favorite option for starting out. The EK50 gives you some incredible sounds and for a very good price.

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The Korg EK50 is the best arranger keyboard for those on a budget. 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.

Overall

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 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 kid’s piano? 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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

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!

12 comments
  1. Hey Chris – good review. I have been considering an arranger and was wondering if there were any instructional resources regarding developing skills for those keyboards – particulary left hand approaches and ways to make your performances sound more realistic. Thanks.

    1. Hi Donald, thanks for the question!

      As far as arrangers go, what has always me is to type in the specific arranger on youtube and watch tutorials. I did that a lot with my Roland FA 08 and it really helped, though it’s a workstation and not an arranger.

      I am going to create a guide on arrangers that breaks down the basics as I do think that you’re right…. There’s not a lot of good resources for how to use them, especially professionally.

  2. Great Review Chris …and nice to see some positive feedback on the ‘unsung’ EK50
    I have been playing arrangers for years and never seen a board at such a low price point, basically for pocket money! offering such features and great voices / styles.
    Ok …I realise it’s an old sound chip, but what a cracking little instrument! It is just SO easy to sit and play, out of the box ( unlike Korgs other arrangers ) – without the need to adjust a thing …..bit like a ready meal!
    I really cant understand why they have not romped in popularity, maybe with the launch of 3 more new instruments by Korg recently – using the very same, easy OS …things ‘might’ just change.
    Best regards – Keith M. and thanks again for your advice especially for people dipping their toes into the keyboard world.

    1. Hey Johnny,

      Thanks so much for the comment. I believe the Genos is one of the best options around right now!

      Cheers

  3. Awesome article Chris!
    I have been a professional musician for many years playing an arranger keyboard and I have to say I found your article extremely accurate.
    I just have to say I would have loved to see at least a mention of software based arrangers. I personally switched over a few years ago and I will never go back to hardware. I wrote my own software called Soft Arranger which I’m share for free but there are many other alternatives like VArranger, 1Manband, RMCA, etc… All these programs offer some advantages and some disadvantages over their hardware counterparts but they are definitely worth consideration. Maybe in a future article.

    Keep up the great work and thanks for the article!

  4. I want to buy any arranger keyboard only when it comes with all sounds and FX in 24bit/48kHz quality just like Dexibell Vivo. Still all present keyboards include Genos and PAxX are toys sounding compare to Dexibell T2L technology.

    1. I find it interesting you say the Genos is hands down the best arranger. I say this considering how many Pa5x vs Genos reviews are out there from demo/tech players in music stores who disagree. I spoke to a few guys off the record and they all seem to favor the PA5x.

  5. Several years ago I had a Low end Hammond but I got borrred with what it could do, Recently I bought a Korg PA 700.
    Cost was $2000 Canadian. It took me a couple of weeks to undertand what it was capable and I am still finding more.
    You can start out by just using the voices on their own, but once you dig in to the capabilties It is a one woman band.
    Also the large touch screen is easy to reconfiger your sound quiclkly.

  6. I have 4 different musical projects and all of them were created using the Korg PA 500. I bought it in 2008. I loved the easy navigation and sounds it has. I realize that this isn’t the BEST Korg arranger out there. (Especially now) But my problem is, I’m stagnating with the rhythm patterns/beats and outdated sounds. These were cutting edge in 2008 but with the birth of Dubstep, Djent, etc; it’s tough keeping my sound “fresh” or current. Do you know of any Korgs similar to the PA500 arranger, that might take what that could do, to the next level? As a drummer, I have a Roland V-drum kit and I have used it with the PA500 while recording. But any help in how to update, yet still maintain a level of easy navigation for the user, is my prime interest. Thanks!

  7. Thanks for a reviews of the Yamaha and Korg arrangers available today. I’ve only used Roland arrangers, the VA (virtual assistant) series and their subsequent offering the BK series. Considerations for me now include total weight of the keyboard. My understanding is that the Yamaha comes in at about 45 lbs. Also, screen visibility, intuitive interface, lyrics scroll, and batch file organization are necessary for continuity in a live show. Anything less than 76 keys is a sacrifice to overall quality. Velocity adjustment is worth substituting for weighted keys if it keeps the keyboard from being too much to carry. Roland has seemingly backed away from production of arranger keyboards. It’s been a long affair, but I think it’s coming to an end.

    I find many options for rhythms/arrangements available on eBay and other sites, and I believe there still is software that can batch convert old backing arrangement files to a different manufacturer’s (respective) language. Hopefully, I’ll find a way to convert my stored parameters into a new keyboard without a lot of hassle. But hey, it gives me an opportunity to hear a tune in a new way, right?

    I’m always concerned about the learning curve. More often than not there’s many more options than I would ever use which only clutter my ability to navigate a new keyboard. Assignable buttons right up front would be great to simplify for go to sounds or actions if necessary.

    It would be nice if we could try a keyboard for a month and then send it back before making a final decision. Thanks again for all the comments.

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