you might want to Learn music, but no one wants to spend a thousand dollars on a keyboard only to find themselves hating it. Most people buy beginner keyboards to hit “Hey Jude,” and you probably remember the plastic models from middle school. They work well as a tool for making sounds with your fingers, but the actual pitch leaves something to be desired.
That’s why I enjoyed my time with the Casio CT-S1000V. It’s a sleek $470 model that serves as a great beginner keyboard, but has a particularly cool party trick: You can write lyrics in it and have the keyboard sing to you. It’s a great tool for those of us who sound like angry crows.
Between sturdy construction, good sound, and an easy-to-navigate interface, I think this board is the perfect place for beginners to start. The vocal synth engine is so cool that even diehard synth nerds will want to mess around while checking your progress.
There’s a reason vintage Casio models are beloved by indie darlings like Mac Demarco. These basically functional keyboards sound nostalgic and functional. Like many Casios before it, this Casio has a decent keyboard and 800 built-in sounds, ranging from boring pianos to empty synths. If you need some inspiration, you also get 243 rhythms to play along.
You’ll be surprised how far the sound has come since you last messed up your keyboard at Guitar Center before Covid. The team at Casio has included some really great sounds, things you would have spent thousands of dollars on before the iPhone era (listen to an example below).
You can plug the keyboard into an amplifier or use it as a MIDI keyboard for your computer, but I actually like to just use the built-in speakers on the top. It’s easy to play along with music, or to quickly sample sounds without turning on an amp or opening the Casio Music Space app (available for iOS and Android and paired with a keyboard).
The included LCD display works well in a dark room, and it gives you fine-grained control over everything you might want to adjust while playing. You can assign two knobs to the top left of the board to perform various filter, effect, and EQ moves, and there’s a pitch bend wheel on the far left that’s very useful when you want to feel like Herbie Hancock’s 1970s.
You can get sound information from the keyboard in four ways: via the speakers mentioned above, the headphone jack, the stereo ¼-inch output, or via USB. You can also use the keyboard as a sampler for your favorite music, with the ability to capture sounds from Bluetooth audio and use the internal six-track sequencer to sequence beats.
Once plugged in, you can easily grab and save any sound you like for later use. Speaking of messing around and finding cool sounds, I’m really in love with the new vocal synthesis engine. It’s easy to enter lyrics into the Casio Lyric Creator app (iOS, Android), then transfer the entire lyrics to the keyboard.
If you really hate singing, or you especially like Daft Punk or Peter Frampton, then you’re going to fall in love. You can use 22 different vocals and manipulate them with a fairly wide range of effects and other sound parameters. Vocal synths are polyphonic, which means you can play really cool harmonies over your own words (listen below).