I had been looking for a digital keyboard for the last few years, tried out many, and still use a very old one that doesn’t really do the job. When I was asked to review the Yamaha PSR-E263, I wasn’t expecting much, but for the record, I finally found what I’m looking for! (U2 would be pleased…)
I tested the keyboard out myself as a teacher, and also lent it to some students for their feedback.
To begin, I honor the physical, cognitive and emotional benefits proven by “live” instruments, but for music educators, electronic tools can make our work easier, practice more fun for students, and give more options for children with different needs. As a traveling music and theater instructor, I need a light and easy set-up keyboard with lots of options. For my beginner students, they need a fun reason to practice. That first year is critical to build a skill set so they can soon play songs that they enjoy. The E263 fits both needs.
I could carry and quickly set up this keyboard for my various choir and theater classes. It weighs just over eight pounds (four kg) and has 61 keys. The LCD display is easy to read and there are 384 sounds, plus 16 different drum and sound effect kits. If you really want to get fancy, you can adjust each sound yourself. There is a one-touch chord button for accompaniment ease. And transposition is simple.
During the weeks of testing out the E263, I put on a live radio play performance with a troupe. Although creating “live” sound effects is a fun visual, it can be very cumbersome and often isn’t quite right. I decided to incorporate the keyboard as much as possible and was very satisfied.
I needed various bird calls, squeaky doors and other random sounds, plus musical cues from other lands like bagpipes, Chinese flutes and Indian tabla. Instead of hauling all the instruments or my approximation of them, I only needed to bring the light E263 and type in the correct number for each sound during the performance. It was so much easier than in the past!
The keyboard can also hook up with an external audio device. This means I could plug in my iPhone® to play background music without bringing another set of speakers. Very convenient.
On to my piano students. First, the E263 has no touch sensitivity (non-weighted keys) and limited octave range, so is really only suitable for beginners. But wow, did those beginners love playing around with it. “I wish I could play this every week!” One doe-eyed student hoped she could keep the keyboard longer.
Parents appreciated the auto power-off feature, but the lack of a small (1/8″) headphone jack was missed. However, Yamaha does offer a “Survival Kit” for the keyboard, sold separately. It includes a power adapter, foot pedal, headphones, extended warranty, educational apps and software, and some rebate offers as well. If you’re going to get the keyboard, I recommend buying the kit as well.
There is a built-in metronome, which is a must for practicing their études. Another student found the recording feature. She recorded one hand of a piece of music, then could play along with her other hand “live” to the recording. This helped her hear how it was supposed to sound at the correct tempo. She felt it made her practice more and learn the song quicker. However, it is the incredible number of sounds that students enjoyed most. Telling a student to practice each song ten times can be a chore, even if necessary for learning. But if each time they can play it with a new sound? Ten times goes by quickly.
There is a “duo mode” on the keyboard that splits it in half so each plays the same octave. This is useful to play along with a student and hear exactly the same notes. For those who do not have a teacher to guide them in learning piano, the E263 has built-in lesson features for both individual notes, chord study and style guide.
I recommend the Yamaha PSR-E263 YPT-260 for its portability and myriad options for teachers and performers, and both fun and useful features for beginner piano students.