Holiday 2012: Key Accessories for Keyboards
If you decide to take up horseback riding, a few key accessories will be required when you arrive home with your newly acquired thoroughbred. Besides a saddle, you’ll also need horseshoes, a stable, bales of hay and a trough from which your new horse can drink. Arriving at home with a newly acquired musical keyboard also requires the acquisition of some key accessories, unless you intend to play sitting cross-legged on the floor.
The first step for getting you up off the floor is to acquire a keyboard stand. A variety of designs is available, but the most common type is an “X-Style” stand. As the name implies, these stands take the form of an "X" when they’re in use, and they fold together flat, making them easy to transport and store. If you use a keyboard that isn’t very heavy, such as a 61-key portable keyboard, then you typically only need a single-braced X-Style stand like the On Stage KS7190 or the Yamaha PKBS1. If you use a heavier keyboard, you should use a more stable double-braced X-Style stand like the On Stage KS8191 or the Ultimate Support 13241 IQ-2000.
Now that your keyboard is nicely situated at the proper playing height, you can grab a chair from the kitchen every time you want to play, but there’s something to be said about using a bona fide keyboard bench. Just as silken pants transform a horse racer into a jockey, a keyboard bench transforms the player into a musician. A good way to go is to get an X-Style keyboard bench, because, like X-Style stands, they fold up easily for storage and transport. Two good choices here are the Ultimate Support JS-MB100, and the deluxe QuikLok BX-718.
If you don’t want to stop rocking when others are trying to sleep, you can plug in a set of headphones, so you can monitor your playing privately. Sure, you could use the free earbuds that came with your mobile gadget, but let’s face it, they’re uncomfortable, they don’t really sound that great, and the cable is too short to play comfortably. Using headphones with ear cups that completely cover your ears and provide pristine sound quality is the way to go, and a few great options are the budget-friendly Audio-Technica ATH-M20, the Senal SMH-1000 (which fold up nicely and feature detachable cables) and the Roland RH-A7 (which were designed specifically for digital pianos).
Just as a horse trailer is useful for transporting your steed to the track, a keyboard case is useful for traveling with your instrument. Cases can also help prevent knobs and buttons from being damaged if you’re stuffing them into cramped closets. A good option is the Ultimate Support USS1, which is available in many sizes, so there’s a version available to protect most kinds of keyboards. They feature thick foam protection, roomy interiors, hook-and-loop straps to secure your keyboard, pockets for accessories and a padded shoulder strap. The USSS1 is available for 25 to 37- note keyboards, 49-note keyboards, 61-note keyboards, 76-note keyboards and 88-note keyboards.
The best keyboard accessories are the ones that add dimensions of emotion and nuance to your playing, and nothing does this better than a simple sustain pedal. A great option here is the M-Audio SP-2, because it’s universally compatible with any keyboard that features a dedicated 1/4” sustain pedal jack. When you play an electronic keyboard, it’s easy to forget that every acoustic piano you’ve ever laid a finger on was equipped with a sustain pedal. The SP-2 brings this fundamental capability to your digital keyboard.
Most acoustic pianos feature wooden dust covers that fold down to cover up the keys when the instrument is not going to be played. You can keep dust off your home keyboard as well by getting yourself a dust cover. On Stage makes a nice model that’s designed to fit 61 and 76-note keyboards, and another that’s dedicated to 88-note keyboards. They’re made of a stretchy spandex material, and they have a built-in locking clasp to secure onto your instrument. Please note: these covers cannot be used to drape over a horse.
Some keyboards feature built-in music stands on their top panel, so you can easily read sheet music or lyrics as you play. If your keyboard doesn’t have a built-in stand, you can use a free-standing sheet music stand instead. Very basic folding stands available, like the On-Stage SM7122BB, and more heavy-duty options are out there, too, like the Ultimate Support JS-MS200. You can even go high end and get a professional R.A.T. Jazz Stand, which easily folds into an impressively compact size and offers a full range of height adjustment. If you go this route, don’t forget the Jazz Stand Gig Bag for storage and travel.
If using paper sounds totally archaic to you, you can easily use an iPad as your musical guide. With a couple of key accessories, it’s possible to mount your iPad at eye level while you’re playing. The IK Multimedia iKlip is compatible with every generation of the full-sized iPad, and it enables you to adjust its angle. The K&M iPad Holder is another option that lets you change the view of the tablet from landscape to portrait. Both of these iPad mounts need to be attached to a floor-standing microphone stand, so be sure you have one of those as well.
If reading from an iPad and having to manually lift a hand off your instrument so you can swipe to the next page sounds archaic to you, now there’s a way to turn these pages hands-free. The Air Turn BT-105 is a wireless Bluetooth device that was made specifically for turning the pages on an iPad with a footswitch, so you don’t have to take your hands off your keyboard. The BT-105 is compatible with most momentary footswitches, and it’s sold individually, or in a kit with two ATFS-2 silent foot pedals.
Some home keyboards feature a built-in recording capability, so you can capture your performances. However, many keyboards don’t have this feature. If you want to get into recording your music, a great way to do it is with a computer audio interface. This is a device that plugs into a Mac or PC computer, and acts as the computer’s soundcard when in use. Many interfaces feature inputs for professional microphones, and direct inputs for connecting a keyboard. One option is the E-MU 0204 USB 2.0, which features a single combo XLR input. If you want to record with two microphones, the PreSonus AudioBox USB is the way to go.
If you’re going to be recording your music with microphones, then you’re going to need some microphones. It’s not terribly common for a home keyboard to have a microphone input, so these following two suggestions are strictly for people who are plugging into a computer audio interface. Large diaphragm condenser microphones are great for recording vocals and other sounds, and the Audio-Technica AT2020 is a nicely priced option for this kind of mic. Another great mic for singing and general instrumentation is the dynamic Shure SM58-LC. If you pick up either one of these babies, don’t forget that you’re also going to need a mic cable too.
Thanks for checking out this B&H InDepth article. If you have any questions or comments about keyboard accessories, you are encouraged to submit a Comment below. You can also stop by our SuperStore in New York City, where you can see these items in person, and get to test drive the many keyboards we have on display in our Pro Audio Department. You can also contact a B&H Sales Professional at 1-800-606-6969, or join us for a live chat.