External MIDI Controller for JUNO DS61 (or advice on MIDI Controllers and Splits)

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I love my Roland Juno DS61, but I don't like the keys.
I use a lot of splits and layers, and I love how simple it is with the DS.
This keybed is too short for me, and it's too late to return the DS, so an external controller seems to be my only option.

I've purchased a few MIDI controllers to try out with my DS (Alesis V161, Nektar T6, Novation Launchkey 61, and Arturia Keylab), but I have concerns getting them to work with the splits and layers.

For instance, last night the Novation Launchkey 61 arrived.
I got the layers to work by setting every Patch in RxCH to "1".
I can't seem to find a way to get the Controller to identify splits.
95% of the Launchkey user guide is about Controller+DAW, there's nothing about Controller+Keyboard.

I have a few other controllers on the way, but I fear I'll have the same issue.
I've tried to research the problem, but most solutions are about fixing a Controller+DAW or Controller+PC issue, nothing about Controller+Keyboard.

I can imagine four outcomes here:
1. Order a MIDI Controller that just serendipitously works
2. Program the JUNO to work
3. Program the Controller to work
4. It's not possible

I'm hoping someone here has experience in this department and can lead me in the right direction.
Thanks for your time.
 

happyrat1

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I owned a DS61, but I managed to trade mine in for a DS88.

Look around and see if anyone in your area is selling one and offer your 61 in trade plus a bit of cash.

Or you could try at a music store but it would cost you more.

Gary ;)
 
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I owned a DS61, but I managed to trade mine in for a DS88.

Look around and see if anyone in your area is selling one and offer your 61 in trade plus a bit of cash.

Or you could try at a music store but it would cost you more.

Gary ;)
I appreciate that Gary, I actually read many of your posts on this forum before deciding to post here.
I was hoping I'd hear from you.

88 keys is overkill for me, I'd have to get a whole new stand, gig bag, hell maybe even a new vehicle!
I'm hoping I can simply fix this with a Controller.
 

happyrat1

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Well to get the Novation working, you'd have to assign each voice and split and layer to their own respective channels and send those signals on those channels simultaneously with the Novation.

It may or may not work with the Novation depending on if it has those abilities.

If it only sends on a single channel at a time then it's a futile exercise.

If it allows splits and layers in the docs that's where you should be looking.

Gary ;)

EDIT >>>>>> Worst case scenario, you should at least be able to use the Novation as a second manual set to a different channel and voice on the DS basically giving you two instruments at once.

Remember, every single voice in a layer has its own channel.
 
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I can imagine four outcomes here:
1. Order a MIDI Controller that just serendipitously works

It's not a controller issue, it's a Roland issue. Split points created on the DS are only seen internally, not from external MIDI.

2. Program the JUNO to work

Not possible, AFAIK. Their Fantom-0 and the earlier FA have a "remote keyboard switch" parameter that allows an external keyboard to mirror what the internal keyboard does, but I don't see anything like that on the DS, to allow an external keyboard to automatically recognize the splits you created for the internal keys.

3. Program the Controller to work

That could be possible, depending on the controller. For every sound in your performance that covers the whole keyboard (layered, not split), as you discovered, you can put them on the same channel if you need to (though there are limitations to doing that, which I'll get back to). For each additional sound (or combination of sounds) in the Performance that need to cover a particular more limited range of keys , you need to use a different channel, and you'll need to define that keyboard range for that channel on the controller, not on the DS. The number of different key ranges you can address this way depends on how many zones your controller supports (how many independent key ranges you can define on the controller itself). And of course the controller has to have a 5-pin MIDI Out.

Ideally, even if two sounds cover the same key range, it is good to keep them on separate channels. That way, for example, you can have a slider on your controller change the volume of one of the sounds without changing the volume of the other. But then you need to have that many more zones available on your controller.
 
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Thank you for the replies.
I settled on the Alesis as a top tier, and just used it as a second keyboard. I routed multi-layers to it and kept the splits on the DS61.
The MIDI patching worked great, pretty seemless.

I played a gig with a dual setup (see attached) and it went great, but lugging around another controller and a new 2-tier stand (the Ultimate) was too heavy! Can't gig around with that. I even tested the DS88 but it was far too heavy. In the end I've decided to stick with the DS 61 and do my best to overcome my personal roadblocks with the keybed.

Thanks again!
 

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I settled on the Alesis as a top tier, and just used it as a second keyboard. I routed multi-layers to it and kept the splits on the DS61.
The MIDI patching worked great, pretty seemless.
The Alesis VI61 seems like a really interesting board, I've never seen one in person. How would you describe the action on it, or what would you compare it to? Or to put it differently, how would you describe it compared to the action on your DS61? Better/worse for playing pianos? or organs? Does it push back against your fingers more, less, or about the same as the DS61? Is it more even in its response from the front of the keys to the back than the DS61 is, or about the same? (The DS61 gets stiffer toward the rear of its keys.)

Based on its features, it could be a very nice pairing with the DS61. You can split the Alesis so it plays one DS61 sounds below a certain key and another above (by assigning separate MIDI channels to each side of the split). You can program its many buttons to send Program Changes, so you'd be able to hit a button on the Alesis and change which DS61 sound it is playing, without affecting what you're playing on the DS61 itself. (But note that changing to a different Performance on the DS61 will reset the sound that the Alesis is playing.) You could also connect the Alesis to something like an iPhone/iPad and use its buttons to call up different sounds from that as an additional sound source.

I played a gig with a dual setup (see attached) and it went great, but lugging around another controller and a new 2-tier stand (the Ultimate) was too heavy! Can't gig around with that. I even tested the DS88 but it was far too heavy. In the end I've decided to stick with the DS 61 and do my best to overcome my personal roadblocks with the keybed.
The Alesis is about 10 lbs, IIRC (lighter than the DS61 itself), so the biggest stumbling block in terms of weight is probably the stand, which probably weighs closer to 20 lbs. You could get a 2-tier K&M 18880 (i.e. with the 18881 stacker which is the attachment for the second tier), and then the entire stand similarly weighs only about 10 lbs, and it takes maybe 10 seconds to setup or knock down (and movies in one piece). You can also flip the stacker around "backwards" if you'd like to place the top board further back relative to the bottom board.
 
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The Alesis VI61 seems like a really interesting board, I've never seen one in person. How would you describe the action on it, or what would you compare it to? Or to put it differently, how would you describe it compared to the action on your DS61? Better/worse for playing pianos? or organs? Does it push back against your fingers more, less, or about the same as the DS61? Is it more even in its response from the front of the keys to the back than the DS61 is, or about the same? (The DS61 gets stiffer toward the rear of its keys.)

Based on its features, it could be a very nice pairing with the DS61. You can split the Alesis so it plays one DS61 sounds below a certain key and another above (by assigning separate MIDI channels to each side of the split). You can program its many buttons to send Program Changes, so you'd be able to hit a button on the Alesis and change which DS61 sound it is playing, without affecting what you're playing on the DS61 itself. (But note that changing to a different Performance on the DS61 will reset the sound that the Alesis is playing.) You could also connect the Alesis to something like an iPhone/iPad and use its buttons to call up different sounds from that as an additional sound source.


The Alesis is about 10 lbs, IIRC (lighter than the DS61 itself), so the biggest stumbling block in terms of weight is probably the stand, which probably weighs closer to 20 lbs. You could get a 2-tier K&M 18880 (i.e. with the 18881 stacker which is the attachment for the second tier), and then the entire stand similarly weighs only about 10 lbs, and it takes maybe 10 seconds to setup or knock down (and movies in one piece). You can also flip the stacker around "backwards" if you'd like to place the top board further back relative to the bottom board.
Action feels great, kinda of a semi-weighted "thickness" but springier than most semi-weighted keybeds. The keys were fat and chunky and were a pleasure to play on. There were no issues of stiffness with the keys, it all felt very comfortable and natural.
That was actually my issue with the DS88 keybed, it wasnt springy enough and I couldnt shred on it. Our band (Luminator) plays fantasy power metal so there's lots of fast harpsichord runs and the DS88 keybed just cant "bounce" fast enough for it. The Alesis kept up great with these fast bits.
The keybed was the best out of the 4 I sampled. I'd say the biggest problem was all those knobs and buttons! I don't need all of that, just a basic controller would be fine, but I couldnt find many options fittinng my needs (5 pin, full size keys).

>(The DS61 gets stiffer toward the rear of its keys.)
This is EXACTLY why I was searching for a new keybed. I have an arpeggiated run where I'm playing A#, D#, F#, A#. My fingers are all the way on the rear of the keys on D# and F#, and the key is too stiff to push! In the end I've just adjusted my playing to angle my fingers and play a bit further down on those black keys.

Regarding weight, the Ultimate Stand is about 20 lbs, the Alesis at 13 lbs, and the Juno at 17 lbs. I had the Alesis and Juno together in a bag for a combined 30 lbs. The weight wasn't a huge issue, but it's sure different from my previous setup of just the Juno and an X-stand.

The other issue is the space it takes up. We're a 6 piece metal band, usually playing very small stages, so every inch counts.

In the end I'm sure I can overcome my issues with the DS61 keybed. I really love the sounds, the ease of programming, and the reliability of the Juno, so it'll be worth it in long run. In the end, I'll always have the controller option if needed.
 

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the Alesis at 13 lbs, and the Juno at 17 lbs. I had the Alesis and Juno together in a bag for a combined 30 lbs.
The specs say that the Juno DS61 is 11.75 lbs, but still with the Alesis plus the weight of the bag itself, yeah, you'd still be at about 30 lbs.
 
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Its definitely a complication to move around with all the stuff required to play with 2 keyboards. I started playing using just the JunoDS 61 but it complicated me a little when I had to quickly switch between sounds in the middle of a song... so I decided to try adding a MIDI controller for piano playing only and use the JunoDS as the top tier for other sounds (brass, synth, etc). I started with a Samson Carbon 61... very light, a very handy socket to put an iPad, but TERRIBLE key action.. one of the WORST keybed I've ever played. Then I got an Arturia Keylab Essential.. a little heavier, no space for iPad but better key action... but at the end I got tired of carrying so many stuffs, so I went back to use just the JunoDS :)
 
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Its definitely a complication to move around with all the stuff required to play with 2 keyboards. I started playing using just the JunoDS 61 but it complicated me a little when I had to quickly switch between sounds in the middle of a song... so I decided to try adding a MIDI controller for piano playing only and use the JunoDS as the top tier for other sounds (brass, synth, etc). I started with a Samson Carbon 61... very light, a very handy socket to put an iPad, but TERRIBLE key action.. one of the WORST keybed I've ever played. Then I got an Arturia Keylab Essential.. a little heavier, no space for iPad but better key action... but at the end I got tired of carrying so many stuffs, so I went back to use just the JunoDS :)

One thing that's nice about the Juno DS is that, if you set up a split, it almost behaves like it's two separate keyboards (albeit with fewer available keys for each). You can easily change the volume, octave transposition, and even the sound assigned to one side of the keyboard, without causing any interruption in what you're playing on the other side of the keyboard.
 
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One thing that's nice about the Juno DS is that, if you set up a split, it almost behaves like it's two separate keyboards (albeit with fewer available keys for each). You can easily change the volume, octave transposition, and even the sound assigned to one side of the keyboard, without causing any interruption in what you're playing on the other side of the keyboard.

Indeed. That feature, the cool looper sequencer and the amazing Ed Diaz videos were the main points that made me choose JunoDS over the Korg Kross.
 

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