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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.
It is my opinion that the best keyboards for gigging musicians are MIDI controller keyboards. However, I will highlight a couple of different keyboards as not every musician likes MIDI keyboards. I want to focus on affordable, yet quality instruments for the touring musician.
Best Gigging Keyboards – My Top Picks
|Editor’s Pick||Arturia Keylab MK II 61||
|Bar/Coffe Gigs||Korg Krome||
|Organ/Electric Pianos||Korg SV-2||
|Budget Pick||Casio CTX-700||
Let’s take a look at all the various types of keyboards currently being used for gigging.
1) Arturia Keylab MKII 61 Key – Great Controller
The Arturia Keylab MKII is one of the most durable controllers on the market. This controller is packed with features and is compatible out of the box with every major DAW.
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.
2) Novation 61SL MkIII
The Novation SL MK III is one of my favorite controllers on the market. All of the controls are pre-mapped with Ableton and work out of the box.
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.
Novation keyboards have been used for gigging immensely over the last few years. They are exceptional when it comes to durability and road life. They are also usually very light in weight, making them easy to travel with.
The SL MKIII is currently one of the best 61 key MIDI controllers that I frequently recommend.
I did a full review on the Novation 61SL MKIII here. This breaks down everything you will want to know about this product.
3) Akai Professional MPK249
The Akai Professional is one of the most popular controllers on the market. It's extremely reliable and works great for live performance.
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.
4) Roland JUNO-DS88
The Juno DS 88 is a great keyboard for performing. It's equipped with over 1200 presets and some amazing synth sounds.
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.
5) Yamaha MX61
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.
6) Roland FA 08
The FA 08 is my touring keyboard that I also run as a MIDI controller. This is a great option as it doesn't overheat like other keyboards I have had. It is also far cheaper than other options.
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 FA 08 here.
If you’re looking for a keyboard that you can tour with and lay down demos on, this is truly one of the best keyboard workstations available, and it’s on the cheaper end.
7) Casio CT-X700 – Budget Pick
The Casio CT-X700 is extremely budget friendly. It is a great choice if you don't care about weighted keys and you want a lot of sounds.
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 keyboard 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.
Super helpful list, thank you! You have the Casio CT-X700 as the Budget Pick… why that one over the Yamaha NP-12?
Thanks for all your great reviews,
Hey Renee, thanks for the question!
I put the CT-X700 on this list because it provides more sounds than the NP-12. This makes it easier to switch between sounds depending on what kind of music you’re playing.
This is really helpful- thanks heaps!!
With covid I’m gigging a whole lot more outdoors and so am looking for a (affordable) keyboard that can run on battery power- do you have suggestions, or even how I’m meant to go about searching for this feature? It’s generally not mentioned in the specs!
Thanks heaps 🙂
I would recommend Roland Go 61! This can be battery operated and it has 500 plus quality sounds.
It’s great for gigging and it’s also affordable.
CTX- 700 is not 76 but 61 keys.
Looks like you haven’t played the Yamaha y cat8 yet
For budget, how would you rate / compare Yamaha PSR keyboards with the Casio CTX700?
Please am looking for Roland FA07 slightly used to buy. I will be very glad if anyone helps me out.
What about the Yamaha P515? Will that be a good keyboard?
The Yamaha P515 would be a great choice. It has some great piano sounds on it. What type of music are you looking to play?
Which 88-key keboard would you recommend purchasing to play with a live orchestra? My parts are typically the Celeste and Harp sounds. And how do I get more volume to be heard over the orchestra while they are playing?
I am classically trained and I will be playing with a full country band and looking for a good portable keyboard that is 88 keys/weighted keys, nothing super expensive. Songs like ” Walking in Memphis” etc. I have been looking on offer up etc but I think what is tough is to find one that will work playing with a band/ connections with Amp etc