The best keyboard for a gigging musician is going to be a keyboard that allows for a lot of different sounds and is relatively light-weight. The quality of the keyboard is going to be based on how often you perform and what style of music you are performing.
Skip Ahead? I like the Roland Fantom FA 08 for touring.
It is my opinion that the best keyboards for gigging musicians are MIDI controller keyboards. However, I will highlight a couple different keyboards as not every musician likes MIDI keyboards. I want to focus on affordable, yet quality instruments for the touring musician.
Keep in mind that there are many types of keyboards that can be used for live performance. If you’re looking for a synthesizer you can find my post on them at best synthesizer for live performance.
Below I will be talking about keyboards that will give you a lot of sounds for a cheap price.
Best Keyboards For Live Performance
MIDI Controller Keyboards
These are the keyboards that you use with a laptop. It sounded complicated, but once you figure this out, you can access 1,000’s of sounds in just seconds. These keyboards have begun replacing the ever popular Nord’s as they’re so much cheaper and they can do so much more. If you want to learn more about MIDI controllers you can check out my favorite options here.
Arturia Keylab MKII 61 Key
- Extremely High Build Quality
- Pinnacle In Expressivity
- Smart Software Integration
- Connectivity Galore
- Pro Control For Expressive Keyboardists
The Arturia Keylab MKII is a fantastic MIDI controller keyboard that can basically do anything you will want it to do. A lot of old-school musicians are hesitant to use MIDI controllers, but that’s just because they’re not familiar with them. You can be extremely expressive with this product as it has aftertouch.
The Keylab MKII comes with 61 or 49 keys. Yes, I know it doesn’t have your full 88 keys, but you can always use a cheap digital piano that has 88 keys if you are just looking for a piano sound. This is meant more so for synth players and not just classic rock band sounds.
This is a brand new keyboard and it has some incredible features. You can read more about the Arturia Keylab MKII here.
Novation 61SL MkIII
- Bring MIDI hardware and CV/Gate synths together
- Easily integrate hardware with your DAW
- The perfect controller for Ableton Live music-making software
- Internal 8 track pattern based sequencer
- 1 routable clock for the whole system
This is one of my favorite keyboards available right now. The MIDI technology is phenomenal and it is really a product that can do everything that you will desire to do. It has aftertouch and it has 16 RGB lit pads that you can use as trigger pads.
Akai Professional MPK249
The Akai Professional MPK249 is a perfect keyboard for gigging musicians. I see this keyboard used more than most for live performance. It is made for the road and it really gets the job done. Pretty much every band that I have performed with has one of these.
You have so many options with this keyboard including the 16 different back-lit pads.
Keyboards And Workstations
These are keyboards and workstations that offer you something you different than a MIDI controller.
- Gig-ready instrument with pro sounds, enhanced performance features, and battery-powered operation 88-note Ivory Feel-G Keyboard provides weighted-action feel in a lightweight design that' easy to transport Includes all the sounds from the popular JUNO-Di, plus newly updated acoustic and electric pianos, additional organs, and other stage essentials Wave expansion slot enables users to download new sound waveforms, available for free at Roland Axial website Sample import function for
- Roland's JUNO synths are known everywhere for their great sound, ease of use, and exceptional value
- Beginning in the 70s with some of the earliest mass-produced analog synthesizers, the Juno line's new releases are always hotly anticipated
- The JUNO-DS88 takes the iconic series to a new level of performance, adding many powerful enhancements while still keeping operation streamlined and simple
- Equipped with 88 weighted-action keys for a premium feel, the versatile, intuitive JUNO-DS88 puts you in creative command, making it easy to produce exceptional music everywhere you play
The Roland JUNO-DS88 is a great synthesizer keyboard that gives you some amazing sounding pads and synths. It is light-weight and not super expensive, which is a big plus. I don’t recommend buying a super cheap keyboard for gigging, as they’re just not going to sound quality.
This is a keyboard that has pretty much everything you need on it and it competes with the best keyboards available. It is a staple of Roland keyboards.
- Class Compliant USB Audio/MIDI for true "plug and play" connectivity without installing any drivers
- Motif Sound Engine: layer, zone, switch, cycle, randomize and control up to 8 elements within a single voice
- Virtual Circuit Modeling re-creates the sound and behavior of vintage effects and signal processors
- 128 notes of polyphony ensures dropout-free performance playing live or with full 16-track sequences
- Record/playback stereo audio and 16 channels of MIDI data via a single USB cable without any external devices; Sequence Software compatible with the Remote Control function -For Windows: Cubase 6 or later, SONAR X1 ProducerFor Mac: Cubase 6 or later, Logic Pro 9, Digital Performer 7 Functions to be controlled differ depending on the software
The Yamaha MX61 is a great option for playing live and it is fairly cheap. This keyboard only has 61 keys, but it is a workstation that is loaded with a bunch of different sounds that you can use live. You can also use this keyboard as a MIDI controller. You will just need to a USB cable to do so.
Roland Fantom FA 08
- Light, mobile body with 88-note Ivory Feel-G KeyboardOver 2000 sounds from the flagship INTEGRA-7 sound module16-track sequencer with non-stop loop recordingExport sequencer tracks to SDHC card or as multitrack audio or MIDI to your DAWOnboard sampler based on the SP-404SX16 independent FX engines, six COMP+EQ processors, global EQ, chorus, and reverbSix user-assignable Sound Modify knobsD-Beam, Rhythm Pattern, Arpeggiator, and Chord Memory functionsGuitar/Mic and Line input jacksDedicated input
This is an extremely light-weight workstation that can handle any sounds you are looking for. I have used this for two years now in extensive touring. The way I use it though is as a MIDI controller. I am obsessed with Roland keyboard beds as I feel their keys feel super real.
I also like to have 88 keys when I perform live. The best part is this keyboard works as a MIDI controller flawlessly. I get the best of all worlds with this as it instantly connects with Ableton live and is read as a controller.
It has 16 pads that I used to switch between my different sounds on my laptop. You can read more on the Fantom FA 08 here.
There are only 76 keys on the Casio CT-X700, but this is a budget option. If you don’t want to break the bank, yet want to perform live, this is a good pick. It has surprisingly decent sounds and it is extremely cheap. By no means, do I think this an amazing keyboard for advanced players, but it is a keyboard with a ton of different sounds that is light-weight and affordable.
You will be able to find sounds for most types of songs on this keyboard.
I did a full review on this key and you can read about the Casio CT-X700 here.
There are a lot of different keyboards you can use for gigging. I don’t recommend to use a cheap keyboard since you are going to be playing for people every night. If you found this helpful, let me know in the comment section below.