6 Best Gigging Keyboards in 2021: For Performing Live & Recording

If you play live, you need a decent gigging keyboard. There are plenty of digital pianos and keyboards on the market, but not a lot of them are suitable for stage performances as they lack the power and the features that you need. This guide will help you find an exceptional digital keyboard for all of your performances.

In a hurry? Here are our top picks..

What to Look for in a Gigging Keyboard

There are several features that you want to look for when purchasing a gigging keyboard.  These features will help you get the maximum performance out of your new system.

Inputs and Outputs

You want a keyboard that has plenty of inputs and outputs. On stage, you need to connect to other musical equipment such as speakers, PA systems, and any other equipment that you might be using. You want your keyboard to have plenty of inputs and outputs, as this gives you maximum connectivity. Some keyboards don’t offer you a lot of connection options.

USB and Bluetooth

Computers are becoming a common occurrence on stage. You may use your computer as a part of your live show. It makes sense that you will want a system that has USB connections. Some of your gear may also be Wireless, so having a digital piano with Bluetooth features is also helpful. You may want to save space on stage, and a lot of wires can get in the way.

Voices and Samples

On stage, you want a system that has plenty of voices and sound banks. This allows you to get the maximum amount of different tones out of your keyboard for your live performance. There are plenty of systems on the market that have excellent voicings and different tones that you can choose from.

Sound

The sound of your keyboard or digital piano is another critical aspect.  You will want a  system that provides high-quality sound. You may need to amplify this on stage via speakers, monitors, or a good PA system. The sound that you create isn’t going to be acceptable if you have a keyboard that isn’t capable of producing pleasing tones.

Number of Keys

You will find a wide range of key options when it comes to digital pianos and keyboards. A good range is around 61 to 88 keys.  A keyboard with a full range of keys will give you the most tonal options, but these can be cumbersome as they are quite large. You can often get by with keyboards with fewer keys.  It’s up to you to decide how many keys you want. This will probably depend upon the music that you decide to play on stage.

The action of the keys may also be another critical aspect. You may want your piano to behave like a regular traditional keyboard. This makes it easier to play, and it feels more authentic. You do not want keys that are going to stick or otherwise underperform when the quality of your music during a live performance is important to you.

The Best Gigging Keyboards

1. Roland JUNO – DS88 – Best High-Performance 88-Keyboard for the Stage

Roland JUNO-DS 88-Key Lightweight Weighted-Action Keyboard with Pro Sounds

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When you are on stage, you want a high-performance keyboard that is capable of producing a wide range of tones. The Roland JUNO-DS88 is more than capable of meeting your expectations.

This is a gig-ready instrument that has enhanced performance features and professional sounds. It is an 88 note keyboard with weighted action so it feels like a regular piano. You get electric, acoustic, organs, and other sounds for the stage.  You can download other sounds from the Roland website. Everything on this instrument is easy to manipulate with sliders and knobs. There is an eight phrase pad that you can use to trigger samples which are stored in the USB memory. This piano is portable and lightweight so you can take it with you to any gig.

It’s easy to dial in the tones that you want with this system. It runs on optional battery power if you prefer, so it’s perfect to set up on stage or you might not have a lot of room for tons of cables. Use the instant access sounds that you can dial-in with the keyboard. It’s easy to use even for beginners, but professionals can also get amazing tones out of it. You can easily edit and create your own patches. The hands-on controls allow you to shape and dial in good tones right away. You can hook it up to your own expression pedals for even more tonal possibilities.  For those that need a  keyboard for any gig, the Roland JUNO-DS88  gives you everything that you need.

Pros:

  • Great tones
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to setup

Cons:

  • LCD screen could be larger
  • Some buttons are quite small

2. Korg Grandstage – Best for Authentic Piano Tones

Korg Grandstage Digital Stage Piano 88 Key

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When playing live, you need a keyboard that produces authentic tones. You want to sound like a regular acoustic piano. You will get these sorts of sounds with the Korg Grandstage.

This piano has various tone engines that recreate the sounds of acoustic pianos but also other electronic instruments.  The sounds come from top-level instruments worldwide. Top-level acoustic piano engines were used in the creation of these tones. The tones come from instruments in Berlin, Japan, Austria, Heidelberg, and other locations around the world. You have a wide range of sounds to dial in. There are over 500 different sounds that you can use with your keyboard. You will have an amazing playing experience when you used to this system. It is easy to save your preferred sounds and you can recall up to 64 of them so you will always have a tone ready to go for whatever song you are playing. if you are looking for excellent piano tones while on stage, the Korg Grandstage is a good option.

Pros:

  • Authentic acoustic sounds
  • Large bank of tones to choose from

Cons:

  • Small LCD screen
  • Buttons could be larger

3. Nord Stage 3 – Best Keyboard with the Most Options

Nord Stage 3 88-Key Digital Piano with Fully Weighted Hammer Action Keybed

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While on stage you want easy access to a ton of different tones. You will play a wide range of songs on stage and you can dial in those important tones with The Nord Stage 3.

It is easy to dial in your sounds with this instrument. It has a clear LED display so you can dial your tones easily while on stage. It’s easy to change your programs using the screen.  This keyboard also has 2GB of memory and an exclusive piano library of sounds. There are several sound-generating sections which include organs, pianos, and synthesizers. Use the organs, synths, and pianos plus your effects at the same time so you have maximum flexibility. It also comes with a wide range of dials and switches to help you maximize the tones you get out of this instrument. It doesn’t matter what type of tones you are looking for, you’ll find it with the Nord Stage 3.

Pros:

  • Synth, piano and organ tones available at the same time
  • 2GB of memory
  • Clear LCD display

Cons:

  • Wide range of dials may confuse some players
  • You need the experience to use all of the options

4. Yamaha 88-Key CP88 – Best for Effects and Voices

Yamaha CP88 88-Key Graded Hammer Action Stage Piano with Sustain Pedal

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For those looking for an authentic tone with plenty of effects and voices, have a look at the Yamaha CP88. it features 88 natural wood keys made with synthetic ivory and ebony and it also has hammer action for an authentic feel.

You get two upright pianos,  two premium grand pianos, and five Electrics, So you have a wide range of sounds to draw from. You also get EQ effects, reverb, master delay, and other effects that have dedicated real-time controls for great flexibility. You get an included FC3A sustain pedal to further enhance your sounds. The user interface for this keyboard is easy to use so you won’t have to struggle with it while you were performing live on stage.

Pros:

  • Authentic piano tones
  • Sustain pedal
  • Effects

Cons:

  • Lots of dials and switches will confuse some players
  • LCD screen is too small

5. Casio PX560BE – Best for User Interface

Casio PX560BE 88-Key Digital Stage Piano, Blue, Digital Piano

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On stage, you want easy access to the LCD screen of your keyboard. The problem with a lot of digital pianos is they have small screens. This can be hard to see on stage especially if it is dark. The Casio PX560BE makes viewing your LCD screen easy and comes with a lot of other features.

One of the best features of this piano is it has a color touch interface. This provides you with bright buttons much as your cell phone has. The display is 5.3 inches and clear. The graphics will help you select the functions on your musical instrument. You can explore new sounds, ideas and create music the way that you want.

the keyboard itself is a hammer action which recreates the responsiveness and touch of a regular grand concert piano. It’s easy to create your own tones with the instrument and there are plenty of control knobs and switches to help you achieve this. You’ll find great modulation tools, responsive envelopes, and filters to help you achieve the tones that you want for any musical performance. You also get plenty of tones and rhythms so you will always sound great no matter what you are playing.

Pros:

  • Clear LCD color screen
  • Lots of tonal options
  • Good inputs for other devices

Cons:

  • A little expensive for what you get
  • Some reported problems with expression pedal support

6. Alesis Recital Pro – Best for Gigging Beginners

Alesis Recital Pro - Digital Electric Piano / Keyboard with 88 Weighted Hammer Action Keys, 12 Premium Voices and Built in Speakers

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For those just getting started with live performances, a lot of the keyboards in the market can be intimidating as they have far too many buttons and switches. The Alesis Recital Pro is an excellent option for beginners that want to get on the stage for the first time.

This is a professional sounding piano. It has expert voices so you sound great from the moment you plug-in. It also has a lot of educational features so you can use it at home when you’re not performing live. It has 88 premium hammer style keys so you have a full octave range of sounds. It also has great 20 watt built-in speakers so you can fill up a small room. You can practice privately with the headphone jack and it has other stereo outputs for mixers, recorders, amplifiers, and other equipment that you might use on stage. It has built-in reverb, modulation, and chorus effects so you can spice up your playing. You also get three months of Skoove Premium which is an online lesson the service for piano. anyone can use the Alesis Recital Pro and sound great whether they’re at home or on the stage.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Lessons included
  • Great sounds

Cons:

  • Might not have everything advance users want
  • Small LCD screen

Conclusion

There are a lot of excellent gigging pianos on the market for beginners through to advanced players. You will find one no matter what your playing ability is. You can expect to pay more for professional keyboards, but you will get a wide range of sounds and tones so you sound amazing.

The Korg Grandstage is an excellent option for those looking for authentic piano tones. It has plenty of options so you sound great right away. The Nord Stage 3 Is the perfect option for those that want limitless abilities while they are on the stage.  It’s designed for advanced users as it has plenty of dials and switches, but it has everything that you if you want effects or a well-rounded system that is easier to use. Beginners will find options such as the Alesis Recital Pro which has great features but designed for that first-time gig.

No matter what you need, you will find excellent gigging pianos and keyboards on the market. Expect to pay more for these systems, but they have the features that you want for professional tones and performance.

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