Best digital piano for experienced musician but newbie keyboard player


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I'm an experienced amateur musician coming to piano for the first time.

In actual fact I really want to play harmonium (I restore portable harmoniums) which fits my musical interests pretty well (Nordic traditional music). A digital keyboard offers the advantage of potentially playing without disturbing the neighbours :)

I've been looking at the Casio CDP-230 - but the lack of ivory feel keys and the whole loads of samples and effects I dont need and will never use is a turn off - I'd rather put my ££ into a better digital piano that offers a limited number of good sounds.

What I'm considering is:
- good piano and organ sounds
- ability to sample and playback samples (I fancy sampling my harmoniums)
- some effects (eg hall) would be nice
- ability to play along to a backing track
- weighted keys
- ivory feel keys
- good built-in speakers

Thinking further ahead, I'd like to take to jam sessions and/or gig with the keyboard too.

My budget could stretch to £1k for the right instrument.

What would you suggest as a good starter instrument?
 
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Ah -- harmonium -- the kirtan's favorite instrument . . .

I found that the closest thing to a harmonium sound, in the "General MIDI" soundset that many keyboards have, was a "Reed Organ". Not the same, but similar (as you would expect).

I was able to take one of the organ sounds on my MicroKorg XL+, and modify it so that it sounds reasonably close to a harmonium, complete with the slow "breathing" (low-frequency tremelo effect) that is integral to the sound.
_If_ you want to play in that sandbox, you'll need a fully-programmable synthesizer.

I have a Casio PX-350. 88 fully-weighted keys, a decent set of organs and pianos, and lots of other sounds. It won't record or play samples, but it fulfills the rest of your requirements (if by "backing track" you mean either "accompaniment patterns", or "sequences I record myself"), and its well within your budget. The "new model" is a PX-360, which is quite similar.

IMHO, there is _no_ portable keyboard with "good built-in speakers". If you want good sound, use headphones, or invest in a small PA speaker, or "powered monitor".

. CHarles
 

happyrat1

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Just wanted to add, a decent sampler in a synth will at least double your budget.

Gary ;)
 
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Thanks for the replies.

I can get away with a church organ sound too - provided it's a good one. Since I have portable harmoniums (English name for reed organ) I might as well take a harmonium with me.

But this is all some way off - I need to learn to play the thing - most rythmic accompaniment for dancing and filler for fidlles and other instruments.
 
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Something to consider (and it is not standard advice):

When most pianists hear "I want to learn piano, what should I get?", they (and me) automatically respond

. . . "Something with 88 weighted keys."

"Something" has a minimum weight around 25 pounds, and is awkward to carry.

However, since you already play harmonium (un-weighted keys, with what we call "synth action" or "organ action"), and your goal isn't to play normal piano repertoire, but to accompany Celtic music :

You might do OK with a shorter (61-key), "synth action" keyboard.
You'd save some money, and some weight (61-key synth-action keyboard come in around 12 pounds, with built-in speakers), and considerable awkwardness (you can carry one easily under your arm). Most such keyboards (not all!) are "touch-sensitive" (hit harder, to get louder sound) more-or-less like a piano.

61 keys is (IMHO) as short as you can go, and still do 2-handed playing. And it's as short as you can go, and "split" the keyboard into a "bass" section (left hand), and "melody" section (right hand).

The Yamaha "PSR" series (PSR E353 / E454 etc) is on the low end (of price, and sound quality) of that range. The cheapest PSR's _don't_ have touch-sensitive keyboards, and I wouldn't advise those.

The Yamaha MX61 is on the high end -- lots of excellent built-in sounds -- but has no built-in speakers. And there are dozens of new and used synthesizers that will work, mostly without built-in speakers.

So you have some thinking to do . . .

And, as you say, you have to learn to play the darned thing.<g>

. Charles
 
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Thanks, Charles, for the ideas.

You're right a 'synth action' keyboard is worth considering, would be a good analog for a harmonium - it's something I hadn't considered. I doubt I'll ever be a concert pianist since I'm too long in the tooth - but I'd love to back up Celtic and Nordic folk music for sessions and dance.

What's critical is that the sounds (piano, organ) are good.

Maybe the question I should ask is - what are the digital keyboard options for an aspiring organ player?
 
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FWIW --

Several ideas:

The Yamaha MM6 is out of production. It's at the very bottom end of the "Motif-based" hierarchy, and it looks like a "toy keyboard". 61 synth-action keys. But . . .

I played around on one, in a local store. I was impressed by the quality of the sounds -- particularly piano. The keyboard was quite playable. I was surprised to find "ADSR" controls, that let me sharpen the attack, or lengthen the decay. It's got lots of sounds (the list is probably in the user manual). It's a very light, relatively inexpensive "pro quality" instrument. Lots of rhythm accompaniments, and (I think) "backing-track" patterns, built-in. Here's a description:

https://www.long-mcquade.com/10268/Keyboards/Workstations/Yamaha/MM6_-_Music_Synthesizer.htm

It has a bunch of organ sounds, but no real "drawbar organ" (= Hammond organ simulator) that gives you the freedom to design your own.

It has an MM8 "big brother" -- electrically identical, with 88 hammer-action keys (same keyboard as the Yamaha P115 digital piano). The MM8, used, sells for between $400 and $550 US.

Neither of those has built-in speakers -- add the cost of a small PA speaker.

There are a few current-production "vintage electronic keyboards" available, that have good electronic-organ and "electric piano" sounds (Rhodes / Wurlitzer simulations). The Roland VR-09 and Korg SV-1 are examples. They're not cheap, and don't have built-in speakers. They're designed as professional instruments for players who need "Rhodes sounds" and "Hammond sounds". They _do_ have "drawbar organ" simulations -- you can pull the sliders, and the harmonic structure changes.

You might look at a Casio PX-350, which I own. Nice weighted action, decent piano sounds, built-in loudspeakers. It has built-in rhythms and accompaniment patterns. There's a selection of organ sounds (both model-specific and "General Midi"). 88 keys, 25 pounds. The Yamaha equivalent is the "DGX" series.

You'll have to look around yourself. I suspect you'll find something you like -- there's a wide range to choose from.

. Charles

EDIT -- also check the Yamaha MX61 - review here:

http://www.keyboardmag.com/combo---do-all/1191/yamaha-mx61-studio-and-performance-synthesizer/29192

Used, they are in the $400 - $500 range.
 
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happyrat1

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I'd also like to recommend the Roland Juno DS61 and DS88 also budget priced and excellent state of the art sounds. Also has the ability to load in new samples and additional voice packs, free of charge from Roland.

According to the Parameter Guide it has a couple of Harmonica Voices and a Bandoneon Voice. Also a couple of Accordion Waveforms.

http://www.roland.ca/products/juno-ds61/

and it has great reviews from every website that sells them.

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/JunoDS61

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/JunoDS88




I own the DS61 myself and find it's an amazing value for the money.

I don't hook mine up to a computer so I can't speak for the quality of the editing software but it was only introduced last year unlike the Yamaha MM series which has been around for almost a decade.

Definitely worth a looksee if you are searching for a good all purpose keyboard.

Gary ;)
 
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Many thanks everyone for your replies and guidance.

After much deliberation I decided to go with the Roland Juno DS61.

Main reasons were:
- 61 keys - good analog for harmonium
- can run off batteries so nice and portable
- input for backing tracks - so I can jam along to recordings
- ability to upload new sounds

I decided a weighted keyboard wasn't too important. I'm never going to be a concert pianist, and besides the feel of the DS61 keyboard is akin to that of the harmonium with its non-weighted keys.

I'm also impressed with the range of sounds that are built in to the device. Not sure though if I'll ever have any use for the various patterns.

I'll try sampling my harmoniums, and possibly other instruments, and have some fun uploading and trying out those sounds.

When the time comes, if I decide to take it to jam sessions, I'll get a battery-powered amplifier. In the meantime I'll play with headphones.

I found a 2nd hand DS61 (10 months old and light usage, with keyboard stand and all original packaging) and went with that - and around 55% of the list price new.

Now to find some space for it at home :)
 
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FWIW --

Several ideas:

The Yamaha MM6 is out of production. It's at the very bottom end of the "Motif-based" hierarchy, and it looks like a "toy keyboard". 61 synth-action keys. But . . .

I played around on one, in a local store. I was impressed by the quality of the sounds -- particularly piano. The keyboard was quite playable. I was surprised to find "ADSR" controls, that let me sharpen the attack, or lengthen the decay. It's got lots of sounds (the list is probably in the user manual). It's a very light, relatively inexpensive "pro quality" instrument. Lots of rhythm accompaniments, and (I think) "backing-track" patterns, built-in. Here's a description:

https://www.long-mcquade.com/10268/Keyboards/Workstations/Yamaha/MM6_-_Music_Synthesizer.htm

It has a bunch of organ sounds, but no real "drawbar organ" (= Hammond organ simulator) that gives you the freedom to design your own.

It has an MM8 "big brother" -- electrically identical, with 88 hammer-action keys (same keyboard as the Yamaha P115 digital piano). The MM8, used, sells for between $400 and $550 US.

Neither of those has built-in speakers -- add the cost of a small PA speaker.

There are a few current-production "vintage electronic keyboards" available, that have good electronic-organ and "electric piano" sounds (Rhodes / Wurlitzer simulations). The Roland VR-09 and Korg SV-1 are examples. They're not cheap, and don't have built-in speakers. They're designed as professional instruments for players who need "Rhodes sounds" and "Hammond sounds". They do have "drawbar organ" simulations -- you can pull the sliders, and the harmonic structure changes.

You might look at a Casio PX-350, which I own. Nice weighted action, decent piano sounds, built-in loudspeakers. It has built-in rhythms and accompaniment patterns. There's a selection of organ sounds (both model-specific and "General Midi"). 88 keys, 25 pounds. The Yamaha equivalent is the "DGX" series.

You'll have to look around yourself. I suspect you'll find something you like -- there's a wide range to choose from.

. Charles

EDIT -- also check the Yamaha MX61 - review here:

http://www.keyboardmag.com/combo---do-all/1191/yamaha-mx61-studio-and-performance-synthesizer/29192

Used, they are in the $400 - $500 range.
Understand the issues with weight versus number of keys. I'm an organist at heart but learnt and get press ganged into playing the piano regularly at different places. There is a piano I hate with a passion and that's the one short of keys. Don't know how many it has, maybe 76, but there is no bass to get hold of. Try and stick with 88.
 
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Zombie thread alert!

But the Juno ds61 was a nice choice. I'd also have considered Casio MZ-X300/500... you lose the battery operation but pick up the desired internal speakers and better organ (9 drawbar control). The arranger functions could possibly have been useful, too.
 
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Great choice and find.

I have a Korg Kross 2 that I took to jam sessions, it is even lighter and smaller than the DS you have bought so both of these two keyboards are very easy to transport.

I bought a Boss Katana battery powered Amp to take with my and whilst it is not very powerful is does do the job very nicely and fills the room nicely hence you may wish to test out one of these, mine only cost £85.
 

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