Hitting a high note

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Hugh John sings the praises of Yamaha's latest breed of electronic keyboard

All singing, all dancing electronic keyboards are two-a-penny, but the new range from Yamaha has raised the bar once more.

The PSR-K1 (pictured above) for instance, available online for less than Pounds 200, is a 61-key instrument with almost 500 voices. There's an on-board recorder, a SmartMedia drive for storing or exporting material and an LCD screen that displays music scores, chord sequences and lyrics.

Rhythm tracks can be created from 12 different drum kits and more than 130 accompaniment styles.

The karaoke function (and anyone who's ever been involved in a karaoke session knows how effective a teaching tool it can be) allows users to sing along to a wide selection of songs in genres including swing, hip-hop and rock. Hi-fidelity playback is assured with the built-in stereo system. The more adventurous crooner can even add reverb and echo.

The PSR-K1 comes with the interactive Yamaha Education Suite software. This includes exercises in basic keyboard skills; playing the correct notes, playing those notes in time and finally, playing with an accompaniment.

Each lesson can be attempted single or double-handed. There's also a chord directory, more than 100 tunes and a countdown function.

Phil Heeley head of rock, pop and music technology for Somerset borrowed an early model from Yamaha and liked it so much he bought it. He was particularly impressed by the ability to display lyrics as well as notation. He's also a fan of the Easy Song Arranger, which allows you to play songs in a variety of styles. Phil recommends "Little Brown Jug - the hip-hop version".

Moving onwards and upwards, the PSR-1500 (pictured right) would be equally at home in the recording studio, classroom, or on stage. It has many of the qualities of Yamaha's professional range but, with a street price of less than pound;700, it's much cheaper.

Impressive among the 800 well-modelled voices are muted trumpet, steel drums, soprano sax and some excellent organ drawbar sounds.

The LCD can be used for viewing scores, lyrics, chord symbols and the extensive song library as well as for editing keyboard sounds, settings and recording functions.

But this isn't just a well-built keyboard with excellent sounds and great features. It's also a device that makes full use of the internet. Connect the PSR-1500 to broadband and you've got access to a Yamaha website with online tuition and downloadable resources.

However, if you'd prefer to use a PC, you can log on to www.digitalmusicnotebook.com. This site offers a wide range of sheet music and instrument tuition plug-ins, graphics and videos. You'll find music from artists and composers as diverse as JS Bach, Eric Clapton and Christina Aguilera, at around pound;3 per download.

As a musical instrument, the PSR-1500 is solidly impressive. Users who buy it for its keyboard, capabilities might have hoped for an extra octave - it's the same 61 note span as the PSR-K1 - but they'll welcome the inclusion of pitch and modulation wheels. Throw in those internet facilities and suite of genuinely helpful teaching tools and you've got a persuasive claim on a chunk of the music department's budget.

Yamaha PSR-K1

Keyboard: pound;279

Yamaha PSR-1500

Keyboard: pound;1,000



PSR-K1 Entertainment Station

Fitness for purpose ****

Ease of use *****

Features ****

Quality ****

Value for money *****


Fitness for purpose ****

Ease of use ****

Features *****

Quality ****

Value for money *****

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