No matter what you may read in tabloids and broadsheets, music in UK Schools and Colleges is not all doom and gloom! Quite the opposite in fact. The numbers of students who opt for, and take up GCSE, BTEC and A Level Music courses has stabilised over the past few years with healthy, sustainable class sizes. This is mainly through the support of Headteachers, Music Hubs and Music staff. All of who understand the overall educational impact the Arts - especially Music - has on attainment and student progress. Yes, school music department budgets are under pressure from accounts departments, but here at Normans we understand what classrooms and schools require. We liaise personally to supply the most suitable Keyboards and Digital Pianos.
For Key Stage 1-3 Music classrooms, the main consideration will probably be space and numbers of keyboards required. The majority of these classrooms need to accommodate class sizes of around 30 students. The logistical implications of having 30 keyboards is impractical and unmanageable for teachers. I find in many Schools that the best solution is to have a 2-1 ratio of students to keyboards, and ideally of 61-note size. Although, 49-note keyboards can be equally suitable. This allows students to work in pairs on one keyboard, but still with access to at least 2 octaves of keys each. This enhances peer and independent learning. There are many entry level, affordable keyboards on the market from the likes of Yamaha, Casio and Axus, that can fulfil these criteria. Plus they all have an array of voices & rhythms and good in-built speakers, as well as headphone connectivity.
The first recommended keyboards are those entry level models which meet the basic requirements. And tend to have a more 'basic' price.
Yamaha supply the excellent value for money PSR-F52. It has a colour coded, simple and intuitive design, you will certainly have many options for diverse lesson content and teaching. Even better for the classroom this model has duo practice mode. This allows two students to play together. Perfect for saving space and money. As always a package version is available.
Finally, the new kid on the block. The Axus AXP2 keyboard offers an industry leading specification at a very affordable cost.
- 61 touch sensitive keys, the harder your press the louder sound you create
- 200 voices, 128 rhythms, 10 built in songs. Vibrato and Pitch Bend.
- USB and Audio Inputs, ideal for headphone use or playing along your favourite songs.
- Includes mains adaptor, music stand and pair of headphones
As we progress into Key Stage 4 and 5 classrooms, the requirements and considerations have more implications and impact on student progress and outcome. Which course(s) are you teaching? How many students will require simultaneous access to a keyboard? In my experience, GCSE and BTEC Key Stage 4 courses all require an element of composition and musical theory understanding which will require access to a keyboard. Either on a 2-1 ratio for classroom learning or even 1 keyboard per student. Especially when you go into the realms of keyboard based composition tasks and exam conditions coursework units.
Similar to the earlier Key Stages, a 61-note sized Keyboard should be the one to consider, as it will be sufficient for composition and theory lessons. The important aspect is to now consider connectivity? These classroom tasks and coursework units generally require music composition software; Sibelius, Logic, GarageBand, Finale, Cubase etc., so it is essential that your keyboard has suitable connectivity to the P.C. and network for data storage and MIDI controller communication. When Schools approach us for advice, we always involve the IT/Network departments to ensure we only supply suitably connectable keyboards, i.e. USB 2/3, Firewire, Thunderbolt 2/3, MIDI in/out. The main keyboards we strongly recommend to our Schools & Colleges are the following:
One of our most popular Keyboards supplied to schools & colleges teaching Key Stage 4/5 GCSE, BTEC or A Level Music Courses. Excellent specification and USB/MIDI connections.
The best, affordable answer if you require a top quality connectable keyboard, but without the distractions of many ‘buttons’ and functions. This offering from Yamaha provides all of the features, such as touch-sensitive full-sized keys and amazing sound quality, that you would expect from the world’s largest and most popular keyboard manufacturer. For the performance elements of Key Stage 4 and 5 courses, a good quality, robust and reliable Digital Keyboard is another necessity. In my opinion, the key aspects to consider when looking for a great sounding, affordable and suitable digital performance Keyboard/Piano are;
- 88 Full size keys. A must for all traditionally tutored and amateur performance pianists and accompanists.
- Weighted Keys. Ideally, weighted graded hammer action boxed keys.
- High Quality Sound. This ensures the recorded performance exams are of the highest possible quality for assessment.
- Good quality In-Built Speakers for easy accessibility without outside amplification. Must be loud enough for ensemble work as well as solo performance.
- Pedals. The sustain is a necessity, but ideally also with soft and damper pedals.
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- The AXD2 features 88 full size piano keys in an authentic black cabinet, with sliding key cover and folding music rest. Graded Real Hammer Action Keys replicate the feel and performance of a high quality acoustic grand piano. A bench is included with the piano which has a useful storage compartment.
- There is a dual headphone input so that two people can listen at the same time, and for performance there is an audio output to connect an amplifier.
- The D2 comes equipped with a fantastic array of useful features, making it an extremely versatile instrument. As well as great piano sounds, the D2 comes with 128 voices – including grand piano, organ, bass, strings and more.
When it comes Digital Piano’s, Yamaha have been at the forefront of quality design, sound and reliability for many, many decades. They have a knack of always raising the bar, staying 2 steps ahead of the competition. (They are worried about our Axus D2 though!) From the Yamaha P45
Compact Piano - with its portability and low price tag - all the way up to the Yamaha Arius YDP165 Digital Piano
- with its professional, unrivalled sound and build quality - there is a Yamaha Piano to suit everyone’s needs and budget. This is due to their prolific functionality, robust engineering, and most importantly, an outstanding tonal sound quality. I challenge you to not
find a suitable and excellent, Yamaha Digital Piano.