Beginner Keyboard for Prog Rock Fan


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Hello all,

I'm a complete novice when it comes to keyboards but have always wanted to play. I have some musical experience but with bass and guitar, but no experience with piano/organ except some light noodling.

I'm a big fan of 70s progressive rock like Yes, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, and King Crimson as well as more modern stuff like Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson's solo work so I guess my main priority is great Hammond and Moog-style sounds. Easy editability is also key so I can learn how to program some synth sounds.

I don't really have a preference as far as weighted/semi-weighted/synth-action or keyboard size - I am a total beginner so really anything is fine. I would prefer a hardware option over a MIDI controller and PC setup.

My budget is anything up to about $1500 - used is fine.
 
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Welcome.

You are in good company with Prog Rock, there arequite a few fans of the genre here.

As for keyboards I would suggest you look at the 76 key versions which often have a better keybed than there is in the 61 key version plus having more real estate is better for multiple splits.

Checkout the Yamaha MODX7 which is just over budget.
Korg Nautilus which is way over but work a closer look.
Roland Juno DS 76 is a good $500 under
Roland FA07 at $1700
Korg Krome EX 73 @ $1150
 
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my main priority is great Hammond and Moog-style sounds. Easy editability is also key

Strong Hammond-style organ, Moog-style synth, and easy editability is going to be a tough combination of three things to find.

I'd try to find a used Nord Stage in your budget. Although be aware that the first two versions (Nord Stage, Nord Stage EX) only had organ, synth, and piano category sounds... a somewhat limited pallete but good quality and lots of hands-on controls for easy editability. The later versions (2, 2EX, 3) added a full range of sampled sounds, which would give you things like mellotrons and authentic (as opposed to synthy) sounding strings/brass/winds, etc.

My next suggestion is the much more affordable Roland VR-09/VR-730, but factor in the cost of an iPad to run the touchscreen synth editor which is the way you get the editability you want.

If you end up raising your budget, you can look at the new Hammond SK Pro, but it's brand new so you're unlikely to find a used one.

For various reasons, I would not actually recommend the ones Biggles listed.

You also might consider going with two keyboards. For $1500, you might get, for example, a used Nord Electro 3 plus a Roland Gaia.
 

happyrat1

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I'm jumping in with a Roland Juno DS in the octave size of your choice. (61, 76 or 88 key versions)

I've owned a DS88 for 3 years now and it continues to impress and amaze me with the versatility of its sounds and its sheer playability. Switch it on, power up the monitors, and over 1400 sounds dance within easy reach of your fingertips.

One of those plus a decent set of monitors and stand and accessories should just squeeze in under budget.

Now I'll let everyone else confuse you with why Brand X Scramulators are more Melodic than Brand Y's :D :D :D

Gary ;)
 
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Since now two people have suggested the Juno DS, I'll jump in with why I would absolutely NOT recommend that one... even though I think it's a great board. Seriously, if someone told me I had to gig with just one board and stay under $1000 (new), I'd likely choose the DS76 (that or maybe the Casio PX-5S, if I needed to be more piano/EP-oriented). So I am by no means dissing it. In the low cost field, Juno DS may be my favorite board. But not for your priorities.

Great Hammond organ? Nope. Simple sampled ("rompler" style) organ sounds, no drawbar control (that is, no real editability as you'd have on a real organ).

Great Moog-type sounds? Nope. All the synth sounds are sampled, they don't really behave quite like analog (or virtual analog) sounds do.

Easy editability? Nope. There are few front panel controls, everything is menu diving. (Or you can use a computer editor.)

So of the three things you said were most important, the DS is 0-for-3 at doing any of them especially well. Like I said, it's a really great board... but those aren't its strengths.

Realistically, everything is a compromise, even the ones I suggested. You're not going to get all the capabilities of those prog giants out of one low priced keyboard. But for organ and moog-like synth with easy editability, the suggestions I made will probably get you about as close as you can get in your budget, and more so than out of any menu-diving sample-playback kind of board, like a Juno DS or a Krome or a MODX, etc.

The Roland FA Biggles mentioned gets you a bit closer... it does have a real drawbar-adjustable organ engine and a real VA synth... but it falls down on the easy editability of the organ and synth sounds. Again, it's all menu diving. And its organ still sounds a bit lame, from a prog rock perspective.
 
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There is no “one size fits all” keyboard that does everything you need straight out of the box within your $1500 budget.

Now here is where I get a groan out of Gary!

In fact there is, and at about your budget. No amp or monitors required as they are built in. Drawbar organ is included even if the drawbards are onscreen and hence virtual, more than enough inbuilt sounds with a library of thousands of others available for free.

A Korg Pa700 arranger will fit your bill, which has inbuilt style play auto accompaniment features and over 40 free additional Style packs available for free from Korg.

Downside, is only 61 keys but that is fixable at some stage in the future.
 
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For the 3 priorites at hand, I'd rate the PA700 a bit below the Roland FA (which is already not something I'd recommend). In organ, it's a step up from the FA in having better pseudo-drawbar manipulation, but it's still an unimpressive sounding prog rock organ. In synth, it's a step down from the FA, in that it's synth sounds are strictly sample based (no VA emulation). It also falls down in the ease of editing the sounds... again, it's all menu diving. Not an easy way to "learn how to program some synth sounds."
 
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Don’t agree Scott.

Add on an iPad and the world of Software Synths is easily accessed, in fact Korg have very many Synth Apps many of which I have used with the 700.

Korg currently are the synth kings with about 30 being shiwn on their websites and hence there are very many synth sounds already in a Korg Pa and editing them is pretty easy. As it is the menu diving is far less than on an FA which like the Juno is a very old keyboard in design terms.

Also the classic Triton sounds are readily available and install very easily on any Korg Pa, yes the sample size is cut down but they are still mightily impressive when installed on a Pa700

Movingon.

As the Op’s budget is $1500 for new or used then other keyboards could be added to the mix.
 
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happyrat1

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Listen guys. What he's looking for is a decent stage quality synth that's not going to bankrupt himself once you factor in stand , pedals, monitors and whatever.

For under $1500, you won't find a perfect organ, synth AND piano in one unit but that didn't stop me from hooking my DS88 up to a Ferrofish B4000+ organ module and a Behringer Neutron later on and using it as an excellent 88 key controller.

If he wants to sound like a pro on the cheap and in installments let the poor kid keep his lunch money :D :D :D

Gary ;)
 
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Add on an iPad and the world of Software Synths is easily accessed,
OP said he'd "prefer a hardware option over a MIDI controller and PC setup." An iPad setup is closer to the latter. Yes, I did say he'd need an iPad for synth editing on the VR09, but at least it's only needed for editing, it's not subsequently needed for actually playing the sounds or doing simple real-time manipulations. (And yes, I'd rather have avoided even that, but getting an easily editable analog-style synth and a decent drawbar organ in a single board with a $1500 budget is going to require compromise... I'm just trying to minimize those compromises, rather than adding more.)

Sure, if he's willing to use an iPad for the synth functions--or, for that matter, the organ functions, with the excellent B-3X and VB3m apps--then you open up the possibility of other keyboards. In fact, at that point, arguably almost ANY keyboard can work. But we're no longer addressing his desire to try to do this in hardware (while likely also impacting ergonomics and tactile control). Though if he gives up on that, then of course, a largely (or entirely) computer or iPad based system could be another way to go.

in fact Korg have very many Synth Apps many of which I have used with the 700.
The Korg synth apps work just as well on other keyboards as they do on a Korg. In fact, I'd say they work better on other keyboards (from Korg and others) than they would on the PA700, because of the PA700's lack of assignable knobs/sliders, and clumsy way of selecting patches from externally attached devices.

Korg currently are the synth kings with about 30 being shiwn on their websites and hence there are very many synth sounds already in a Korg Pa
There is no correlation between how many synths Korg makes, and the quantity (or type) of synth sounds that are in a PA. The PA's synth sounds are simply rompler-style samples, and very different from what Korg does in their analog and VA synth gear.

and editing them is pretty easy.
Editing most (not even all, but just most) of the common synth parameters on a PA700 sound is covered on pages 411-445 of the manual. It's very flexible, but I would by no means call that easy for a novice. It would be very hard to "learn synthesis" from that. There's tons of navigation to different screens with single-knob numerical data entry and little context.

Also the classic Triton sounds are readily available and install very easily on any Korg Pa, yes the sample size is cut down but they are still mightily impressive when installed on a Pa700
The Triton sounds are not particularly applicable to what the OP is talking about. But as an aside, the sample sizes are not cut down. The Triton download includes no samples whatsoever... it repurposes similar sounding samples that are already in the PA. BTW, since (IIRC) you no longer have your PA700, if you miss those Triton sounds, the full Triton sound set is available as a Mac/PC VST (including even the expansion packs, and I think all with their actual original sample wave data), and a "best of" Triton subset is available on the iPad as an add-on purchase for Korg Module. Lastly, just getting back to one point from your previous post...

inbuilt style play auto accompaniment features and over 40 free additional Style packs available for free from Korg.
Styles/auto-accompaniment is not of much use for prog rock, with its typical use of shifting and/or odd time signatures, specifically arranged counterpoints, changing tempos, widely varying instrumentation, etc. It is unusual among popular genres in that songs typically do NOT generally follow a formula that lends itself to the creation of single backing rhythmic accompaniement that will work through the entire song.

Anyway, I do really like my PA1000, it's just not what I'd suggest for what the OP said are his priorities.
 

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BTW Scott, the pianos on the DS may not be the greatest ever made but they sound good enough for my ears and their EPs sound really damned good.

You have to weigh what you want against what you can get. Sure I would love to own a 16 voice MOOG One and a Kronos 88 but realistically speaking I can duplicate any sound they can make with my hodgepodge of cheaper synths and modules so I REALLY don't feel like I'm missing out on the latest and greatest :p

Honestly you guys are pitching the upsell here like you are working on commission.

The last 5 pages have been have been you two arguing and not a peep out of the OP.

Now I understand why so many post a simple question and then never return. They came here for an answer, not a debate.

Gary ;)
 
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For under $1500, you won't find a perfect organ, synth AND piano in one unit but that didn't stop me from hooking my DS88 up to a Ferrofish B4000+ organ module and a Behringer Neutron later on and using it as an excellent 88 key controller.

If he wants to sound like a pro on the cheap and in installments let the poor kid keep his lunch money :D :D :D
I provided a couple of reasonable in-budget options. But yes, there will be compromises. The difference between what you did and what I recommended for the OP, is that you started with a general purpose board, and added decent organ and synth later, but in his case, the decent organ and synth are his priority. What's the point of starting with the pieces you don't care much about, and delaying the parts that you really want? I'd get the parts I really want first! It's the other stuff that can wait!

Though again, I think the biggest bang-for-buck here could be to get two keyboards. (As I said, a used Electro 3 and Gaia or similar combo should be in budget, and I can't think of a single board option that will beat that, unless maybe he finds something like a good deal on a Nord Stage 2.)
 
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BTW Scott, the pianos on the DS may not be the greatest ever made but they sound good enough for my ears and their EPs sound really damned good.
Piano/EP was not mentioned as a priority for the OP. But every suggested solution did include at least passable pianos/EPs. The harder part to find is the stuff he specifically asked about... good ("prog" suitable) organ and analog-style synth (Hammond/Moog), and easy editability so he can learn how to program it. (And I would not want to try to learn how to program a synth using page after page of menus!)
 

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You're being almost OCD with your insistence that the OP was being didactical when he jotted down his "WISH"list. Perhaps he really could live without owning a Hammond clone to begin with.

Anyway, the OP has probably unwatched the thread, soon, if not already and is terrified to jump into this overly long and complicated thread for fear of cramming his email's inbox for weeks to come.

He asked for OPINIONS, not ARGUMENTS about technicalities.

This is the reason why they all post once and run away. We not only make our suggestions but end up having to defend them, ad nauseum, until doomsday it seems.

Seriously: We gave him a list of choices. He can download the manuals and read the specs if he's a masochistic keyboard player like us, do his own homework and narrow it down himself. Hopefully he plays a few floor models in music shops and hears them WITH HIS OWN EARS. He can start easy by looking up the ones we mentioned on Youtube. He can watch both the tutorials and the jams on youtube and start narrowing the list there. Right now all you are accomplishing is either proving how intelligent you both think you are or simply engaging in a pointless p*ssing contest because we're all locked down and bored.

Let's make a pact. When a neophyte (newbie) shows up at our door looking for answers, why don't we just tell them where to start looking instead of charging up the hill our battle flags of brand loyalty?

Seriously...

Gary
 
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Thanks everyone for all of the suggestions! Looks like this is mildly more complicated than I thought - perhaps I should clarify since I didn't really think of a lot of the good points everyone has brought up here.

Regarding "easily editable" I don't mind using a computer or tablet to edit patches as long as I can save them to the device for ease of use. Drawbars (digital or physical) are a plus but not a 100% need for me as long as they can be edited and saved with the patch.

I also don't mind going slightly above my budget or looking for a two-board setup - I chose $1500 as an upper limit since it seemed to be where a lot of the used workstations were going for on Reverb/Guitar Center. Older models don't bother me either since I imagine you could pick up some high-quality older ones for less (for example, I've spotted a Kronos X locally for about $1200, which seems like a ludicrous deal).

I could also look for a MIDI setup since it seems that quality sounds may be easier that way?
 
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You're being almost OCD with your insistence that the OP was being didactical when he jotted down his "WISH"list. Perhaps he really could live without owning a Hammond clone to begin with.
You never know everything someone is thinking. But I think taking them at their word is a better starting point than guessing that they didn't mean what they said. In this case, he said, "I guess my main priority is great Hammond and Moog-style sounds. Easy editability is also key so I can learn how to program some synth sounds." And that he would prefer a hardware option. So why should I answer it from some perspective other than that one?

Yeah, I could have just made my suggestions and left it at that. But I also assume that he will give no more weight to one stranger's suggestions than another. So when I see other suggestions for things that I know will not be particularly good for the things he specifically asked about (especially when multiple people are making that other suggestion), I feel it can be helpful for me to point that out. (And even though you initially posted a suggestion of the DS, it turns out even you felt its Hammond and Moog-style sounds needed shoring up, for which you bought a Ferrofish and Neutron.) And rather than just saying, "no, that's not a good choice for this," I think it's more helpful to explain why or else, again, it's just one stranger's opinion against another's, without facts that can lead to understanding. (And to get back to your point, that understanding might even lead him to come back and post that, actually, his priorities may be a bit different after all, that's okay too!)

instead of charging up the hill our battle flags of brand loyalty?
Brand loyalty? I like all brands! It's just a matter of the right tool for the job. I have often recomended (and even own!) Juno DS, MODX, Korg PA, etc.... I just didn't think they were the best suggestions for the task at hand.

And heck, we're still only on the first page. ;-)
 
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happyrat1

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How my humble setup has grown in the past 5 years.


studio-b-2021-0001.jpg




Gary ;)
 

happyrat1

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Thanks everyone for all of the suggestions! Looks like this is mildly more complicated than I thought - perhaps I should clarify since I didn't really think of a lot of the good points everyone has brought up here.

Regarding "easily editable" I don't mind using a computer or tablet to edit patches as long as I can save them to the device for ease of use. Drawbars (digital or physical) are a plus but not a 100% need for me as long as they can be edited and saved with the patch.

I also don't mind going slightly above my budget or looking for a two-board setup - I chose $1500 as an upper limit since it seemed to be where a lot of the used workstations were going for on Reverb/Guitar Center. Older models don't bother me either since I imagine you could pick up some high-quality older ones for less (for example, I've spotted a Kronos X locally for about $1200, which seems like a ludicrous deal).

I could also look for a MIDI setup since it seems that quality sounds may be easier that way?


ULTIMATELY!! All that matters is that it sounds and feels good TO YOU!!! :D :D :D
 
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I've spotted a Kronos X locally for about $1200, which seems like a ludicrous deal).
A good deal on a Kronos could be an excellent way to go! It has the drawbar organ and VA engines (and just about anything else you could imagine). While not the easiest board for a beginner, it's not a bad choice, either. On one hand, it has what could appear to be an overwhelming number of options, and the front panel controls are all definable to do different things in different contexts, which is great for flexibility, but less direct for learning (a knob that is labeled with a dedicated function is inherently simpler). But other aspects of it really suit the purposes. When you play just an organ sound, or just one of its PolySix or MS-20 synth sounds, the screen can "look" like the instrument it is emulating, and provides good, clear access to its editing capabilities. While editing/creating sounds is not as obvious and direct as on, say, a Nord or the Gaia I mentioned, it's not bad, especially in the context of your having confirmed that you don't mind using a computer or tablet for editing. Kronos editing is kind of "in between" the dedicated control approach and a computer/tablet approach. The touchscreen obviously functions much like a tablet, but it also has all the hard controls that work in conjunction with it. Also, if you have an iPad, check out the Kronos Remote app. Moving beyond editing, recalling favorite patches is among the easiest of any board, with its Set List screens. And overall, the capabilities of the board are pretty much limitless.

I could also look for a MIDI setup since it seems that quality sounds may be easier that way?
Using a computer gives you access to the most and best sounds, but can be a bit more complicated. There's another layer of "stuff" you need to learn/understand, and your keboard's controls will be an adaptation of something more generic as opposed to having a control surface that was designed with a specific architecture in mind. Another nice thing about the Kronos, though, is that it also makes a good MIDI controller, so you can incorporate external sounds as little or as much as you want.

For your purposes, if you want to take the kitchen-sink workstation approach, with good built-in functions for your organ/synth needs, I think Kronos would be my pick. Even if you were willing to spend more than what you could find a used Kronos for, the Roland, Yamaha, and other Korg workstations will lag in some combination of organ function, VA synth function, MIDI functions, or available real-time controls. The Kronos even has aftertouch, which is nice for synth work (you can alter a sound by pressing harder on the key after you've struck it... it's nicely expressive). My second choice in this category would probably be the Kurzweil PC4/PC4-7, which has pros and cons compared to the Kronos... the thing that immediately tips me toward the Kronos for you is the visual touchscreen display synth editing on the Kronos. Kurz synth editing is relatively complicated and menu-driven, and while there are computer/tablet editors, they're not first-rate and don't do enough to alleviate the complexity.
 

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