praise bandAfter four years of music ministry training in college and over a decade leading children, youth, and adults in worship at a variety of different churches, I have seen just about every worship keyboard out there.  …and, in all honesty, I haven’t liked any of them.

The commentaries were no help either.  Beyond “do your research, itemize your needs, and use a well-known local music store,” most articles I read had little meaningful advice.  In fact, I was shocked to discover that there really weren’t any good sources of information specifically geared towards worship leaders.  I had to learn “the hard way.”

Now, as a former music minister and current professional piano consultant, I’m happy to share my experiences (and some of my God-given geekery) with you.  I hope the following information blesses you and helps your ministry grow.

Finding the Ultimate Praise Band Piano

As many in the medical field can tell you, the Internet is both a blessing and a curse.  Nowadays, anybody with a website and enough free time can present themselves as an “expert.”  This is particularly problematic when it comes to keyboards and digital pianos.  I’ve read woefully inaccurate and misleading blogs.  I’ve even read blogs by very well-meaning piano retailers who can “only imagine” what it’s like to lead a worship service.  There’s a TON of static out there, but very few blogs seem to address the specific concerns church pianists have when selecting a worship instrument.  …and, as a result, countless churches end up with the wrong piano.

 

Most Common Problems:

  1. korg-tritonThey are too complicated. Flashy LED lights and exciting “wow” features often sell expensive workstations (like the Korg Triton, the Roland Fantom, the Yamaha Motif, and even the Nord Stage) to worship leaders who will never actually learn to USE the features they are paying for.  Workstation keyboards are designed to function in a music production  They are not designed for real-time worship leading.  If you’re not sampling your own sounds or creating audio landscapes for feature films, then you don’t need to spend the money on a workstation.  Besides, if your worship leader is ill, how successful will your backup pianist be?  My recommendation?  Keep it simple.  There is no reason for your keyboard to have a television screen, a mouse or a modulation wheel built into it.  Focus on features that lead people to worship and avoid extras that drive up the price and the learning curve.
  2. They don’t sound good. The most expensive part of a digital keyboard or piano isn’t the “bells and whistles” features; it’s the quality of its sound chip and action.  I could write a whole blog on this topic but suffice to say that cheap options (under $1000 US) won’t deliver the warmth, depth and clarity of a true musical instrument.  …and when you’re trying to bring people into the heart of worship, the last thing you want is a poor-quality instrument distracting folks from The Message.  Remember, “Good Stewardship” isn’t about buying cheap, inadequate equipment.  It’s about getting the best possible value on tools that will further your ministry.  Avoid any instrument that you’d find at a warehouse store or that you’d have to connect to your PA system via the headphones port.  In my experience, “going cheap” always leads to trouble.
  3. They don’t have onboard speakers. There is nothing more frustrating than coming in on a weekday to practice with your choir or children’s group only to discover your practice instrument doesn’t have speakers and you don’t know how to operate the PA system.  If your keyboard or digital piano doesn’t have its own built-in speakers, you are forced to depend on others when and wherever you want to use it.  What if you have an outdoor VBS event?  What if you want to have a special service at a city park or local charity?  Even a basic set of built-in speakers gives you a host of options that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
  4. portable grandThey are cheaply made and won’t last long. Worship instruments should be rugged.  If yours is made of plastic or un-reinforced particleboard, how long can you realistically expect it to last?  How long do those touchscreens on your smart phone or tablet last?  How problematic is obsolescence to your work?  If you can’t afford the right tool now, wait until you can.  $500 is too much money to waste.
  5. They have too many “Danger Buttons.” Undoubtedly, this is the greatest nightmare any church pianist can have.  You know – the one where you accidentally engage an automatic rhythm right in the middle of the service and you can’t figure out how to turn it off while the whole congregation scowls in disapproval?  Buttons like the auto-rhythm start, song start and that annoying button that mysteriously turns your left-hand into chord sounds are not only useless in a worship service, they are downright dangerous.  Accidentally engage one of those buttons and you can disrupt an entire service.  …and who “in the heat of the moment“ wants to find themselves frantically looking for a reset button to terminate the disruption?

These five complaints are by no means the ONLY objections I have with many digital worship instruments, but they are the most common and you should consider them carefully when selecting a new digital piano or keyboard.

How does your worship instrument stack up?  Most likely, unless you’re tech savvy or just so used to your old keyboard that you haven’t given it much thought, you’re probably not entirely happy with your primary worship tool.  It might be time for you to replace that old instrument with something that will better serve your ministry.

 

“Must Have” Features:

  1. “Behavior Modeled” Grand Piano Sound. Most modern keyboards or digital pianos use a technology called “sampling”(sometimes called “wave synthesis,” “harmonic imaging,” or “multi-aural sampling”).  The core of this technology came about in the 80s when we started using recordings of acoustic pianos as the basis for digital piano sound.  As you play, the keyboard processor jumps you from sample to sample simulating a grand piano’s reaction to your playing style.  …and – just like a movie – the more samples, the smoother those transitions.  Sadly, this technology is very limiting.  At most, it can offer a maximum 128 volume levels per key – giving you a more mechanical piano sound with very limited voicing and dynamic range.  Also, many less expensive keyboards save money by just sampling parts of the piano tone and using computer after-affects to make the sample sound more “real.”  Behavior Modeling, however, mimics not only the sound, but the behavior of an acoustic piano. Instead of a mere 128 volume levels per key, you now have over 16,000!  You can also enjoy an immersive experience that changes based on the way you play – just like a grand piano.  Finally, a modeled piano will offer organic decays and a natural 3D sound projection that you’ll just have to experience to believe.  …and, since it’s an algorithm (an equation that describes a piano’s behavior), it’s fully customizable.  You can match the keyboard’s sound to ANY sanctuary – whether you have a marble floor and high ceilings or carpet and padded seats.
  2. hybrid gravity hammer actionHybrid-Type Gravity Hammer Action. The word “hybrid” can mean many things, but in this context, I am referring to the perfect marriage between traditional wood keys which – especially in Arizona – are NOT maintenance-free) and resin keys (which just don’t FEEL as authentic).  Look for a simple, counterweight design that will give you a grand piano feel WITHOUT the inconsistency or built-in deterioration of a spring-loaded “weighted key”
  3. Your worship instrument is (arguably) the most important tool you have.  Make sure it’s built to last.  If you are looking at a digital piano, make sure the legs are solid, the cabinets are metal-reinforced, the action is springless and the electronics do not rely on built-in touchscreens.  If you are looking at a portable stage keyboard, look for a metal cabinet with plastic, shock-absorbing corners, a springless action, and rugged electronics without touchscreens.  You should also make sure that the instrument you are considering is updateable.  The ability to update it with a USB flash drive or via a wireless technology maximizes the value of your keyboard by not only extending its life but by incorporating new technologies as they appear.
  4. easy layoutEasy Layout. Too many buttons (or too few) can make any keyboard difficult to use.  This is especially true when you consider substitute players.  YOU might be intimately familiar with your keyboard, but what if you’re ill and need someone to cover for you.  Will your substitute need a college degree to operate the piano?  Avoiding instruments with automatic drum rhythms or flashy features will definitely reduce your button count, but “easy layout” can mean so much more than just that.  Look for one that can layer sounds easily, intuitively transpose, quickly record and change instruments without a ton of button pushing.  Ideally, look for an instrument that can save your most common sounds and settings to pre-set “registrations” for instant recall.  You’ll be amazed at how much simpler a worship service can be when you’re Bluetooth MIDI and audiopressing the keys – not a ton of buttons.
  5. Nowadays, everything (including your tablet, smart phone and notebook) connects via a standard, third-party technology we call Bluetooth. Bluetooth allows you to do some amazing things on a digital piano or keyboard.  You can stream audio services (like Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, etc.) through your piano and play along with them.  You can control your piano with a tablet (giving you color touchscreen control without the built-in obsolescence).  You can even convert your cumbersome hymnals, books and music sheets into digital sheet music and turn the pages with your pedals (wirelessly)!  I wouldn’t even consider a piano or digital piano that doesn’t have Bluetooth MIDI and Bluetooth AUDIO built in.
  6. Worship Sounds. Most instruments today come with hundreds of sounds.  Make sure that you get the best (modeled) piano sound you can find, an excellent FM Rhodes or contemporary keyboard sound, a rich piano and strings mix, a warm piano and pad mix (great for Christmas), at least a couple decent organ sounds and a realistic nylon (acoustic) guitar.  You will no doubt discover other sounds that appeal to you, but these are the critical “every day” worship sounds you should look for.
  7. Necessary Accessories. If you’re considering a stage keyboard, you’ll want to make sure you have a sturdy, “wobble-free” I recommend a z-style adjustable stand if you prefer to stand while playing or (if offered) use the custom stand made by the manufacturer if it is metal-reinforced.  I would also recommend a luggage-style bag with padding, reinforced corners and wheels for easy transport.  If you’re considering a digital piano, make sure you get a lamp and a padded bench.  You might also consider a custom fallboard lock to keep curious fingers away from your piano.  Whichever instrument you get, don’t forget to pick up a USB flash drive and a good tablet or smart phone.  With the right apps, those tools will greatly enhance your ministry.
  8. You can buy a digital piano or keyboard just about anywhere.  …but how are you going to learn itFind a company who can give you the support you need.  This training should be FREE and enthusiastically conducted (in person or online) by someone who really knows the keyboard.
  9. onboard speakersOnboard Speakers. Again, look for an instrument that you can play anywhere any time you want.  With built in speakers, you don’t have to mess with a PA system or a portable amp every time you want to use the keyboard.  Save yourself time and frustration.  Get a worship piano with onboard speakers.

After you have considered these things (and whatever other needs your specific congregation may have), you are ready to begin sampling instruments.  This absolutely cannot be done online.  It is critical that you see and play the instrument you’re considering before you bring it into your church.  Make sure it delivers the experience you are expecting.  …and keep in mind that it will perform differently in your worship space than it does in the store.  You will likely have to customize the tone to match your sanctuary.

 

Portable Digital Piano Recommendation:

Here are just some of the incredible live worship features available on the FP-90X:

  • A truly organic modeled piano sound that can be customized to fit your worship space.
  • Switchable onboard speakers with 3D sound.
  • A hybrid wood/resin gravity hammer action with NO SPRINGS.
  • A rugged metal cabinet with plastic “shock absorbing” edges.
  • A powerful Registration feature that you can advance with the touch of a pedal!
  • Easy export options that allow you to share your registration sets via email!
  • USB, Bluetooth MIDI, and Bluetooth Audio built-in!
  • Vocal input with separate volume controls for microphone.
  • FREE Piano Every Day Control App for (Android or iOS) tablet or smart phone.

Like what you see? Click here for pricing and info.

 

Cabinet Digital Piano Recommendation:

Here are my favorite live worship features available on the LX-708:

  • A truly organic modeled piano sound that can be customized to fit your worship space.
  • A rich, 8-speaker “Acoustic Projection” 3D sound system.
  • A springless, wood/resin gravity hammer action, longer keys and haptic feedback.
  • A rugged, one-piece wood cabinet with front legs and metal reinforcements.
  • A powerful Registration feature that you can advance with the touch of a pedal!
  • Easy Export options that allow you to share your registration sets via email!
  • USB, Bluetooth MIDI and Bluetooth Audio built-in!
  • FREE Piano Every Day Control App for (Android or iOS) tablet or smart phone.
  • 10-Year Parts and Labor Warranty (ON SITE)!

Like what you see?  Contact us for pricing and more information.  We’ll be happy to discuss our House of Worship Discount with you!

Stop in today and experience the Roland FP-90X or the LX-708 for yourself.  If you want to get THE best performance, longevity and live worship features for your limited budget, you’ll want to consider these instruments for your ministry.