The keyboard is a great instrument! Sadly, I may have killed my Novation 61SLmk2. Next up for me is a hammer weighted 88 key board. Foremost in the running is the Roland A-88mk2 since it has that and I will probably never gig as a keyboardist.
I feel like I've looked at everything: Yamaha-P45 through P-515, Kawai es110 through mp11se, Kurzweil PC4 and SP6, synth-weighted 88 keys like M Audio Keystation and those by Nektar and Alesis. Korg, Native Instruments - everything.
That being said, I just want to ask for feedback on recommendations. It needs to be under $1500 (with tax), have weighted keys, preferably not gunk up due to dust, MIDI controls beyond note data would be nice, and overall just be a workhorse. I don't need a proper digital piano because I'm umbilically tied to my computer. If you have any ideas, please let me know.
The trouble I have found with keyboards is that there's really no ONE KB that does everything the BEST. Many do a lot but depending on what you want one is probably going to be better at something. And the of course there's the price:(
Sounds like you're really looking for a controller if you're using a computer for your sounds. I would imagine one that can send on multiple midi channels would be good. I used an M-audio Axiom61 (but I don't think they make an 88) to run VB3 (clonewheel software) and that had enough controls that I could get to most of the parameters I needed to control.
My advice would be to determine what you really want it to do for you and narrow it down from there.
I picked up a non-working (cheap for $25) M-audio Keystation 88II Plus (I think) with on a few board sounds and got it running (hairline fractured pcb trace on the power supply board). It sits at a friends house when we jam etc. Point is, the on-board sounds are crap! So I resurrected an old Kurzweil Micro Piano module just to have some decent piano sounds.
But all I have is old junk that happens to still work. If I were serious, I'd get rid of it all and start over...but I think it's too late:)
Ya, no doubt that the features are distributed unevenly. I don't think the Keystation has sounds but I'm pretty sure it's also synth action.
Reading around, not everyone loves the Roland PHA-IV Standard action. "Too slow," they say. The upgrade, PHA-50, goes on instruments $2,000 and up. My budget and experience level don't seem to justify that range.
More than likely I'll go with a P-125 or the newish M-Audio Hammer 88. Both of these do splits for separate MIDI channels and accept at least a damper pedal. The M-Audio has pitch/mod wheels and at least two CC controllers. My desk is also sporting a Maschine mk2 which has 12 unused CC knobs; eight knobs over two pages, four assigned to DAW control. Seems like if those two aren't enough then I could get a small A-49 or other small keyboard with a few extra knobs to sit between my QWERTY and monitor to fill in the gaps.
What would you get if you started over today? Also, is it true what they say about needing a hammer action to develop your piano technique? All I've ever had is synth action so that kind of thing gives me key-ness envy.
I wish 73 keys would be enough but no way. Funny because I thought I'd never even need the 61 keys I have.
For the way I play piano, I'm actually OK with 73 or 76 keys. The way I look at it for (my) piano playing, the left hand needs to get down to at least E1 and if you can get your right hand up to E7 you'll be high enough to get the point across. I do have an 88 now but when I play a 76 (I've not played a 73 lately) I don't feel constricted. But 61 is certainly not enough (for me)... but some players are Ok with it (or maybe they just put-up with it?)
61 is fine for organ and just about anything else. I have gotten used to having a dedicated organ (61) KB plus a 88 piano with other sounds. I have a 37 key synth (Alesis Micron) on top of the whole thing. I have customized my stand so all the KBs are on top of each other so there's minimum distance between each playing keyboard.
About getting new gear, I really don't know what I would get; there's something new every year. I'd have to go shopping and do lots of research...just like you are doing. One thing that makes a huge difference is using a computer or not; it changes everything. I'm still in the dedicated KB mode, just because I'm used to it.
The weighted hammer action is nice to have but be careful not to get one too heavy, but they are making them pretty reasonably weighted these days so you should be OK. Some pianist are really fussy (I don't blame them) but acoustic pianos are all different too. Since acoustic piano hammers do have actual weight, the keys have to move that weight and you can feel it. The resistance informs you how hard/loud or soft you're playing and you get used to it. It's like feedback to your fingers, hands and forearms.
But for rock and jazz organ playing, you want keys you can wipe, palm-smear and bongo on. You can't do that easily on a weighted action.
It sounds like you've got a pretty good idea of what you need for midi control maybe it's down to choosing one the the touch you like. Good luck!
I read an interview with Donald Fagen and he has a 76 key at home. Of course, I'm not him. The reason I want all the keys is because the instrument is still new to me. My feeling is that once you're good, it's easier to forego the obvious.
For example, the song "Nel blu dipinto di blu" commonly known as "Volare". The intro piano uses octaves rooted from the sixth octave and I can't play those on my 61 keys without transposing the entire instrument but then I have to transpose down again for the verse. I'd rather just be able to play it and then learn it in 12 keys without constantly hitting the transpose button.
Same thing goes for playing bass notes. C2 is not low enough! I'll agree that E1 is probably mostly sufficient but it'd be nice to play B0 so, again, I don't have to move MIDI notes when entering in some bass lines or playing in different keys.
This is no doubt all old hat to you or any other keyboardist. That's why I think you're more comfortable not having it - you've already had it. You have to have it before you can throw it away!
But, yes, all that funky organ and some electric piano is probably left to a synth action. Gotta save my pennies, I guess.
If you are playing piano repertoire you're gonna need 88, no question. I just play rock piano in a band setting, much of it improvised and I'm a limited player but you know, everyone develops personal preferences. I know at least one bass player who considers 4 string bass essentially obsolete but others who consider it the "Gold Standard", to each his own. Bottom line, you can't go wrong with 88. For vintage electric pianos, especially Rhodes, they had mechanical actions so a weighted action is good for them too.
If down the road you want to work on organ technique, you can probably pick a simple used 61 controller cheap. Here's the new version of VB3 (Virtual B3, as in Hammond B3) for PC or Mac www.genuinesoundware.com/?a=showproduct&b=44 (check out the audio demos) I still have the old version but for 100 euros I thinks it's a fantastic value if not simply the best at any price. It can accept midi inputs from 2 keyboards (or split to 2 midi channels) plus one more for the bass pedals (if you have them). This is a modeler and since there are no samples, it takes up very little memory.
People develop weird ideas. Another one is that a great song needs to be playable by an acoustic guitar or piano. That's weird because some songs like "Informer" don't have a ton of 'music' - mostly rhythmic. Anyway, I consider instrumentation and chords as part of production as opposed to songwriting since they're more swappable than words or main melody which are essential.
I think you told me about VB3 before but I'm glad you reminded me. RME is sending out trial links to the GG Audio Blue3 organ VST and it seems slightly different, maybe a more hi-fi sound. This brings me to the concept of waterfall actions. Do you have a waterfall action controller for your organ playing or is synth action fine?
Do you want to real play and emulate the feel of the real piano? or just keyboard with many sounds? Piano is totally different. I bought Yamaha p-45b, 4-5months ago. I think it does great job emulating a real piano, even tho its quite cheap weighted one.
I love piano. Its dynamic range and all you can do with it, amazing instrument. I started my music journey with guitar, but its probably the instrument I least like nowadays.
Hey, Pasim. Ya, I'm a guitarist too as a 'first' instrument. I have a synth action MIDI controller and am looking for more of a piano/big Rhodes experience and to build my technique. For me, it's akin to playing acoustic guitar; build the big boy muscles.
I've looked into the P-45/71 and it looks tempting. While I haven't yet dialed in my exact wants and needs, that keyboard, much like the Roland FP-30 and the Casio CDP-S150 is that none of them support half-pedal damping. Nor do they support splitting to separate MIDI channels and, pretty sure, layers on separate MIDI channels. The models above them, starting with the Yamaha P-125, Roland FP-30, and Casio CDP-S350, begin to include more of these features - though no keyboard seems to have everything until you spend at least $1500.
This is something I should ask: how important is half pedaling and/or three-pedal support? I'm under the impression that half pedal damping is pretty important whereas the importance of having the una corda and sostenuto pedals is debatable.
You know, I started to hate the guitar a few years ago. I was convinced that it was dead and everyone was either rehashing classic rock or a metal disciple. Surprisingly, I've returned to it - at least for now - with the attitude that it's up to me to define. Just because every other instagram post is Back In Black/Sweet Child O Mine or Jump for keyboard doesn't mean I have to fall in line.
In any case, I've found that learning the keyboard has helped me come back to guitar with fresh ideas.
Regarding the pedals, from my experience, 95% (I'm totally guessing this number) of players only use the right pedal (aka, damper pedal, sustain pedal, loud pedal). What I call "high level" players do also use the una corda and half pedaling. The sostenuto is very rarely written for (I only know this from what other techs familiar with repertoire tell me) and the average piano players actually don't know that it does! In general, only grand pianos actually implement the una corda and sostenuto pedals properly. Vertical and some cheap, small (baby) grand pianos virtually never implement the true sostenuto and if there is a center pedal, it is assigned other functions like 1.) a split damper/sustain (bass only) or 2.) a practice mute which is damps the sound of every note for quiet practice and not for enhancement or expression of music or 3.) a greater or lesser degree of positioning of the hammer rail which is what the left pedal does on most verticals to approximate the una corda by reducing the hammer blow distance thereby reducing the velocity and ultimately making the note quieter. This last one #3 is usually pretty lame and it's often hard to tell if it's even doing anything. My best guess is that the reason for it's existence is for students to learn to use the una corda so when they do play on a piano with a real una corda, they'll know what to do.
Half pedaling the damper pedal is certainly possible on any acoustic piano because the dampers come off the strings gradually as the pedal is pressed. Theoretically there are infinite positions of the damper pedal so "half pedaling" is not binary (or is that trinary?) In practice, you might find a couple or three (or more?) useable "halfway" positions of the damper pedal but it's got a lot to do with how precisely the entire damper system is "regulated" basically meaning adjusted or set-up.
Una corda is similar in the way that it is, like half pedaling, continuously variable. The name implies that only one string is hit but that's not not exactly what is happening in a modern piano. Modern pianos have 3 strings (a tricord) for tenor and treble notes. The hammer usually strikes all three strings and in doing so, compacts and hardens the hammer felt at the strike point. As the pedal is slowly pressed, the hammers start to slide the the right under the strings, changing the strike point on the hammer to a lesser used and softer area. This softer area actually changes the tonal quality like changing from drum sticks to soft mallets. This effect is gradual and you may find several different tones as you operate the una corda pedal. Once again, fine regulation of the pedal system and hammer spacing under the stings is very important for best results.
OK, having described all that. I don't think 3 pedals are really necessary for most players but if you aspire to be a fine classical pianist, it's a good choice because you'll learn how to use them. When you finally advance to a fine quality grand, you'll be ahead of the game.
Lastly, if at all possible, get some time in playing as many different acoustic pianos as you can, both vertical and grand. Use the pedals and see what they do on an acoustic and compare with digitals. Lots of piano stores can be pretty quiet at certain times and you can probably get a better idea of what you like in digitals if you compare it with acoustics.
I just realized I didn't leave my opinion on half pedaling the dampers. For most average players, not really a big deal but again, if you aspire to be a fine classical pianist, you'll eventually find it a useful skill. If I had to choose between half pedaling and una corda, you are right, half pedaling is the one I'd go for.
Digital piano sympathetic vibration or playing harmonics.
So you know that strings vibrate in a series of harmonic modes, just like rooms. On an acoustic piano, you can demonstrate this, here's how.
Let's pick a note; C2, that's the note name AND the fundamental or 1st harmonic. The 2nd harmonic is C3, the octave. The 3rd harmonic is G3 the octave fifth. The 4th is C4, the double octave. The 5th harmonic is E4, the double octave 3rd. 6th G4 double octave fifth and so on...
If you want to demonstrate the 2nd harmonic (on a tuned piano), very slowly press the key on C3 so you don't strike the string. Next strike C2 with an FF staccato blow. Listen for C3 to sound. What you're hearing is C3 being excited by the second harmonic of C2! You can switch this around and very slowly press C2 and hit C3 the fundamental of C3 will excite the 2nd harmonic of C2. Try some of the other harmonics, they get softer as you go up. (Nomenclature note: piano tuners/techs use the term "Partial" in place of "harmonic" the reason has to do with inharmonicity...which is beyond the scope of this post )
Once you see how this works on an acoustic, see what happens on a given digital. Some have the logic built in to do this, some don't. The Pianoteq SW does this quite well; my old Casio PX-300, not at all.
Regarding waterfall keys on my midi controller: No, not waterfall, but close. My Maudio Axiom 61 (1st gen) has a kind of piano end key; it's got a little nib on the top that juts out about 1 mm or so. The true water fall has a radius on the end. Lots of "synth" type KBs have a "diving board" or "over hanging" key where the front keyend extends over the keybed. I don't have a problem with either of them for doing palm smears etc. Just don't let your hands get sweaty or sticky, it won't work. I played an outdoor gig and it was so humid I could not slide my palms across the keys, so I started carrying talcum powder in my gig bag but it never happened again. Go figure.
Where was I, oh yeah, my Hammond has a fantastic feeling KB touch and yes, it has true waterfall keys. It also sounds great! The organ is not meant to move around and I really don't have the room so one day soon, I'm just gonna have to let it go. I guess I should get rid of the Leslie too.
My clonewheel Roland VK-7 also has diving board keys and I don't have a problem with them but the VK-7's successor, the VK-8 did have waterfall keys.
Thanks, Rock! Great exposition on the pedals - mostly new info for me. I didn't know the una corda moves the hammers and that changes the hammers' response too. Since I mostly use the keyboard for voice exercises and harmony practice, it's probably not in the cards that I become a classical concert pianist. Seems like regular ol' binary damper should be fine for me.
I'm definitely familiar with sympathetic resonance. Guitars do this too! Since I'll be using this keyboard as a MIDI controller, I'll be sure to pick up Pianoteq or Spectrasonics to go with it. That's another reason I have to save on hardware cost.
Going to a piano shop seems like a great idea. However, the only piano piece I know right now is Musette in D Major and, life being hard enough, I don't want to make the employees suffer through several repetitions of it . For now, I'm sure virtually any hammer action will do. When I get better, I'll be sure to bang out some BWV Anh on some lovely grands I don't own.
Don't get rid of the organ. Maybe you can convert it into a tomb and you can be interred in it. It'll be an interactive grave site Hopefully, that's a long way off though. I'm going to have more piano questions so you can't die yet.
Don't worry about your KB chops, just get out there and play some scales and touch the keys and work the pedals! I really think it will really help you decide what an acoustic action should feel like and what you like best. Don't worry about the store staff, they just want you to buy something (but you know you don't have to) I'm sure they have heard worse:)
About chops: Do work on scales, chords and arpeggios eventually in all keys.