A decent small sized keyboard for e-piano and 60s organ sounds


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Hi all, first time post here so please go easy on me :)

I'm looking to get a small sized (say three or four octaves) keyboard that has good epiano and 60s organ sounds to play at home mostly (hence size restriction) but I may also play out in public with it from time to time. The target sounds would be the epiano in The Doors Riders on the Storm (so I guess Wurlizter style) and the organ sounds for other Doors stuff like When The Music's Over or Light My Fire (so I guess Vox organ style). But there doesn't seem to be much out there that does these sounds that is that smaller size.

What would you guys recommend? Does such a beast exist?

To summarise, my specs would be:

Proper sized keys - I have a Microkorg and hate the mini keys on that and the Yamaha Reface keyboards (though those Reface models sound lovely)

3 or 4 octaves - needs to be small to fit the space I have available for it

Sustain pedal capability

Not computer software based - I get in such a mess cabling everything up to a laptop and trying to adjust the sounds on VSTs, and I don't trust myself not to knock the laptop off whatever it's on whilst I'm using it

I'd probably use it with a trem pedal for the piano and a rotary speaker pedal for the organ.

Thank you all for your help
 
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happyrat1

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You didn't mention a budget.

Sadly I don't think what you are asking for exists. Any ROMpler keyboard with half decent pianos and organs is likely to have at least 5 octaves.

Lightweight contenders New:

Roland Juno DS61,

Korg Kross 61

Lightweight contenders used:

Older Roland Juno G or Di

Korg X50

These are about as compact as you will get with decent professional sounding keys.

Gary ;)
 
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Thanks Gary for your quick reply. I'll have a look into those but I think you are right that such a beast does not exist, thigh it is stage considering the millions of midi keyboards that do exist in that sort of size range.

I deliberately didn't mention a budget because it is flexible, for the right thing I'd spend more than if I was compromising on something.

It's frustrating a bit that those Yamaha Reface things are silly small keys, because getting two of those plus a controller makes them much less compact
 

SeaGtGruff

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I don't think there are many new portable ROMpler keyboards of that size, even though there are MIDI controllers and synthesizers with four octaves or less.

If you specifically want a portable ROMpler keyboard with four octaves, you may need to look for something used from Craigslist, eBay, or somewhere else. I regularly see such keyboards advertised for sale.

Then again, I think there are still some ROMpler keyboards like that being made, although they're usually marketed as children's toys and have miniature keys:

http://www.casio.com/products/electronic-musical-instruments/mini-keyboards/sa-76

Check out these videos:



These sorts of keyboards don't have as many voices or tones as their "big brothers," so you might need to check them out carefully before buying. And the mini keys might not be suitable for you. But they're an option, at least.
 

Fred Coulter

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Another option would be to look at the micro-key boxes. While I wouldn't touch them with a six foot pole, they may be what you're looking for. (I've been playing regular sized keys for so long that I couldn't adapt to the smaller key widths.) Yamaha makes a series of them called the Reface series. With microkeys and a small keyboard, they're definitely not going to take up much space. You can read about them here.

CS - analog modeling
DX - FM synthesis
CP - electric piano
YC - combo organ

Other manufactures also make some stuff like this.
 

happyrat1

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Guys, he said he definitely does NOT want mini keys and he's looking for professional quality voices. He even mentioned the Yamaha Reface series by name.

He also specified he didn't want to go the controller and software route.

Offhand I'm thinking aside from the models I mentioned his only hope would be some weird European boutique brand from Italy or Germany that has a 4 octave keyboard and decent voices.

Or if he could live with all the cabling he could consider a 4 octave controller and a small hardware sound module like the Ketron SD2 or a Roland Sound Canvas that wouldn't take up an excessive amount of space.

Gary ;)
 
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I have to agree with Gary here I can't think of anything that fits the bill. My first thought was "midi controller", it's the only way I'm aware of you could get those sounds at a decent enough quality level in a small keyboard with full sized keys.

I assume the reason for this is most people who want to play songs that feature organ or EP heavily probably would need a bit more range. As an example I don't know how to play "Riders on the Storm" but I'm just listening to it in my mind's eye (ear?) and I'm not sure 3-4 octaves would get the job done?

Some of the modern light weight romplers Gary suggusted would work really well if you can find the space for 61 keys!
 

Fred Coulter

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Or if he could live with all the cabling he could consider a 4 octave controller and a small hardware sound module like the Ketron SD2 or a Roland Sound Canvas that wouldn't take up an excessive amount of space.
I know, I'm beating a dead Reface. But ignoring the keys, he said he liked the sound. And they're pretty damn small. So IF he was willing to go the controller/sound module route, he could use a Reface as the sound module. One advantage is that they've got knobs, while the Ketron doesn't. They're also about the same price. (Hard to tell for sure. The only price I found for the Ketron was in Europe.) It also looks like the Reface boxes have MIDI input that's not a "needs a computer" USB connector, although I'm not sure how easy the mini-DIN in/out cords will be to find. And the Reface has it's own (probably crappy) speakers.

But I agree with

I assume the reason for this is most people who want to play songs that feature organ or EP heavily probably would need a bit more range. As an example I don't know how to play "Riders on the Storm" but I'm just listening to it in my mind's eye (ear?) and I'm not sure 3-4 octaves would get the job done?
I'm perfectly fine with making music on a five octave keyboard. But keyboards that are smaller than that are really meant for either
  1. Use with a DAW where you build the music a line at a time, or
  2. As a second keyboard in a multi-keyboard stack.
It's hard for me to imagine making music by myself on less than a five octave keyboard. (Yes, you can play Bach's first Two Part Invention on a four octave keyboard. But you're hitting the bottom and top Cs.)
 
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Thanks all for your inputs, yes I definitely don't want mini keys they are useless, I play classical and jazz on a "real" acoustic piano so I need keys that are the same size.

Cowboynq - I have played Riders on the Storm on my Microkorg and that's even smaller, you just have to get handy with the octave button. I can't imagine needing more than four octaves for organ or epiano for what I play as I have a real piano for serious playing, it's to fit into a predominantly guitar based rig for a bit of variety (play a lot of white stripes so organ and epiano would come in handy).

I guess I'll have to find a way to wire up a controller
 

happyrat1

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While it's conceivable to use a Reface as a sound module bear in mind that according to reports they lack multi-timbrality hence cannot be used with a DAW to record multichannel multitrack songs.

Also to get all the organ and piano sounds he craves he'd have to buy more than one of them.

The Ketron SD2 or Roland Sound Canvas are a better buy in those respects. Coupled with an Akai MPK49 they'd make a pretty formidable stage presence for when he wanted to gig as well as a powerful studio combination for home recording.

Gary ;)
 
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I know, I'm beating a dead Reface. But ignoring the keys, he said he liked the sound. And they're pretty damn small. So IF he was willing to go the controller/sound module route, he could use a Reface as the sound module. One advantage is that they've got knobs, while the Ketron doesn't. They're also about the same price. (Hard to tell for sure. The only price I found for the Ketron was in Europe.) It also looks like the Reface boxes have MIDI input that's not a "needs a computer" USB connector, although I'm not sure how easy the mini-DIN in/out cords will be to find. And the Reface has it's own (probably crappy) speakers.

But I agree with



I'm perfectly fine with making music on a five octave keyboard. But keyboards that are smaller than that are really meant for either
  1. Use with a DAW where you build the music a line at a time, or
  2. As a second keyboard in a multi-keyboard stack.
It's hard for me to imagine making music by myself on less than a five octave keyboard. (Yes, you can play Bach's first Two Part Invention on a four octave keyboard. But you're hitting the bottom and top Cs.)
But the thing is, buying two reface units (epiano and organ) plus a controller is going to cost the same as a Nord electro rack second hand which would sound infinitely better, and to use the two in such a way that I could switch between the two and adjust them would just eradicate any size benefit. Now if Yamaha would do a reface module....
 

happyrat1

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BTW, if you're open to buying used, a Motif Rack or Triton Rack Module can be had for reasonable money on craigslist and ebay these days.

Gary ;)
 

SeaGtGruff

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If you specifically want a portable ROMpler keyboard with four octaves, you may need to look for something used from Craigslist, eBay, or somewhere else. I regularly see such keyboards advertised for sale.
That was a reference to old models with regular-sized keys. ;)
 

SeaGtGruff

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I don't know why I didn't think of this before-- although I did mention synths-- but the Yamaha MX49 might be a possible consideration for you. To my mind it's more of a ROMpler than a synth, but it's marketed as a synth. It has a lot of built-in sounds, although I'm not sure about the specific sounds you asked about-- particularly a Vox organ sound.
 

Fred Coulter

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I believe the MX49 was a mini keyboard so no cigar Mike
Looks like he's getting a cigar after all. According to Yamaha's web page, "don’t sacrifice your technique by playing tiny keys. Yamaha’s MX is an ultra portable synth with full-sized touch-sensitive keys".

On the other hand, cigars are supposed to be bad for you.
 
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Thanks all, the Yamaha MX49 is looking interesting, though I think you are both partially right in a way re the size of the keys. I was reading a review (I think Sound on Sound) where they were saying that Yamaha has two types of "full size keys", and that the ones on that are slightly smaller than normal but that might be ok, as long as it's not Microkorg/Reface small. I play church organ as well and the keys on that are slightly smaller but are fine

I'm also keeping a look out for the Korg X50 mentioned above, will be listening to some demos later on I think. There are a few of this one and the Yamaha ones available on UK Ebay not that far away so might be worth a try

Cheers guys :)
 

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The MX49 isn't a mini-keys model, although it's true that many Yamaha keyboards do have keys which are very (very) slightly narrower than standard-- on the order of about an eighth of an inch per octave. They look and feel "standard" size, although they might be a little easier to play two notes an octave apart with one hand, but if you stack a Yamaha keyboard with some other manufacturer's keyboard then the difference becomes more noticeable.
 
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Fred Coulter

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many Yamaha keyboards do have keys which are very (very) slightly narrower than standard-- on the order of about an eighth of an inch per octave. They look and feel "standard" size, although they might be a little easier to play two notes an octave apart with one hand, but if you stack a Yamaha keyboard with some other manufacturer's keyboard then the difference becomes more noticeable.
On some other forum, on some other topic, for some reason I had cause to sit down with my tape measure and measure the keyboard for the upright piano, the Korg Kronos 88, and the Yamaha Tyros 5 76 that were sitting in the same room. I had noticed that the two stacked keyboards (Kronos & Tyros) didn't seem to quite match up, but I thought it had to do with my eyes and the apparent angels to the different keys. I hadn't noticed any issues when actually playing.

But when I took out my tape measure, I found that the Tyros keyboard is just a little bit narrower than the Kronos and the piano. I also noticed that the Kronos wasn't exactly the same as the piano, either. But I've been playing multiple keyboards for a while, so I may have lost my sensitivity.

FOR ME, the difference wasn't even noticeable. But different people have different hands. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to see if you notice the difference on the MX before buying it.

BTW, the difference isn't enough for me to stretch my reach past the octave I reach on the piano. Looks like Liszt is off my repertoire list forever. (Maybe I could learn to play on a micro keyboard? Can you image Liszt played on a Reface? Well, there's that polyphony issue, too.)
 

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