Help! Overwhelmed, lost, submerged... and all I wanted was a keyboard


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Hi, everyone. I've been attacked and overwhelmed by acronyms, and am seeking clarity.

I have a K2000s kurzweil, and a Yamaha YPG-525 (with a messed up display, which I haven't forgiven Yamaha for). For reasons that are unclear even to myself I was thinking about adding yet another keyboard, and had - sorta - settled on a Casio WK-7600. Not chiselled in granite, but leaning that way.

I read - somewhere - that the MIDI on the Casio is one way only; you can send from the Casio keyboard to... something, I guess a computer... but it won't listen to any signals coming the other way. I'm not sure of the implications of this, but I had wanted to hook all my keyboards together through MIDI, mostly because it was a cool thing that all the really cool musicians did. So a MIDI restriction bothered me. The Kurzwiel has V.A.S.T. architecture, and if the Casio was gonna cut half of that off, I could wind up sounding like a half-vast musician. Not what I wanted.

So I started digging into what software I needed, and that led me into Digital Audio Workstation software, and that's where I got chopped up by the lawnmower blades going through the weeds. More acronyms than I can count, and I don't know what they mean, and each definition seems to contain more acronyms... I'm drowning.

The Casio has a 17 track sequencer. But if I'm using a DAW, maybe that's no longer important. That makes me think about the Yamaha PSR-EW400 which has different and maybe better samples than the Casio, except apparently it doesn't like Linux, and lots of the free software is written for Linux, and so maybe I ought to keep my options open and go with the Casio anyway. Aargh. And I might have most of the Yamaha samples anyway, on my YPG-525.

Maybe I have enough keyboards, and should buy some software; except there's lots of free software, and if the Casio is gonna turn me into a half-vast musician anyway, maybe I should just stick with free. It might be good enough.

Really... all I wanted to do was make pretty music. Suddenly I feel like I need a 4 year engineering degree to make this whole thing happen.

I have a moderately powerful (Intel i7, 8GB ram) computer and LCD display that I can dedicate to the game, and put Linux on if necessary. The Kurzweil has traditional MIDI plugs, the Yamaha has USB-MIDI, and I've got a MIDI to USB adapter coming for the Kurzweil just so everything would at least have the same jacks.

And so, I seek clarity. I think I want to create music on a track by track basis; play a tune, edit that track and get it right, add another track, edit that and get that right, etc. Eventually I'd like to be able to print the music out in standard musical notation. Oh, and I might be adding a vocalist; at least, some of the partially written songs in my head have partially written vocals. So I guess I should allow for that possibility.

Given all of the above, what sensible path should I follow?

>Charlie
 

SeaGtGruff

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I'm not sure where you heard that the Casio CTK-7600 can't receive MIDI, but that doesn't sound correct at all. My recommendation is to go to Casio's web site and download the PDF file for the CTK-7600's User Guide. The same goes for any other make and model of keyboard you're interested in.

As for the PSR-EW400, I believe that it should work just fine with a Linux computer, although I don't have one (PSR-EW400) to try it and see. (I also don't have a Linux computer, but I do have an oldish version of Ubuntu running as a virtual machine, so presumably I could try using my PSR-E443 with that.)

If you want to connect a USB-MIDI keyboard directly to a MIDI keyboard, a simple MIDI-to-USB cable won't be enough; instead, you'll need a special MIDI-to-USB interface that can act as a USB host. But if you're going to be connecting everything to your computer so you can use a DAW and other software then the computer will act as the USB host, so that would eliminate the need to buy a special interface.

There are a number of free or inexpensive DAWs that you can use, as well as a number of free or inexpensive notation programs or scoring software. Basically, once you've recorded your keyboards to a MIDI file, you can open the MIDI file in a notation program and it will display the MIDI as sheet music! :) Or you could go in the other direction-- use the notation program to compose your music, save it to a MIDI file, and open the MIDI file in a DAW so you can sequence it to your keyboards.
 
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Hi, thanks for your input. It's helpful!

Here's the web page that basically says bad things about the Casio WK-7600:

https://musicstudio.bigredroo.com.au/Recording_Gear_Casio_WK-7500_Capabilities.html

I guess the problem I have is a) understanding the terminology, and b) understanding the implications of the limitations. For example:

"Using the Line Outputs on a per track basis is not recommended because the Casio WK-7500 / WK-7600 can send but not receive MIDI Sync data. E.g. it's not possible to sync the WK-7500 / WK-7600 to a DAW or Digital Multi-track Recorder via MIDI."

I just don't understand what that sentence means, so I can't tell if it's going to be important to me. There's a ton of terminology flying at me, and it's easy to miss something. And there's a lot of ominous warnings on that page I mentioned. Lots of Caps, boldface type, red ink.

If you could take a quick look at that page and tell me if the concerns mentioned are valid, it would help a lot. Maybe the guy just hates Casio.

Thanks again - Charlie
 
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I would forget about a Casio or Yamaha and just buy a midi keyboard controller and do what you want in the DAW software on your computer.

Many such midi controller keyboards come with a lite version of DAW software.

Check out M Audio 61 and the Alesis V49
 

SeaGtGruff

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Yeah, a MIDI controller might be a better choice for you, although it depends on what you want to do.

If you want to be able to play the keyboard by itself, without needing to connect it to your computer, then you want an actual keyboard instrument that can produce its own sounds-- Casio, Korg, Roland, Yamaha, or whatever you prefer. A keyboard instrument should also be able to double as a keyboard controller when desired, as long as you get something with MIDI or USB-MIDI.

If you don't need to be able to play the keyboard by itself, but plan to use it as a better keyboard-- or as a second keyboard-- for playing a keyboard that you already have, or for connecting to a computer for recording in a DAW with virtual instruments, then you probably want just a keyboard controller. The primary advantage of a keyboard controller is that most of them have additional types of controls-- knobs, buttons, pads, sliders, and wheels-- that can be mapped to the virtual controls of soft synths and other virtual instruments. Then again, less-expensive keyboard controllers may have only a small number of additional controls, so it depends on what you buy. In contrast, even though most keyboard instruments also have knobs, buttons, pads, sliders, and wheels (again, depending on what you buy), most of those additional controls are strictly for controlling the instrument itself and do not generate any sort of MIDI messages, hence they are useless when it comes to controlling another connected instrument or a virtual instrument on a computer.

I'll have to read that information about the CTK-7600 to see what it says before I try to comment on it, but I can tell you that "MIDI Sync data" refers to MIDI clock signals. Those are exactly what they sound like-- signals ("ticks" or pulses) that occur at some steady and specific rate to mark off the passage of time, so a MIDI instrument or other device will know when to do things (play the next note, stop playing a previous note, switch to a different sound, etc.). A MIDI instrument has an internal MIDI clock which you can speed up or slow down by adjusting the tempo setting on the instrument. It controls how fast the keyboard plays an auto accompaniment or a song recording. It's also highly desirable for a MIDI instrument to be able to use an external MIDI clock signal rather than its internal clock, so you can synchronize the instrument with other instruments or devices or software. You might think of the external MIDI clock in terms of a conductor using a baton to tell all of the performers in an orchestra how fast to play and when each beat or measure or section occurs. A keyboard that isn't able to use an external MIDI clock instead of its own internal MIDI clock is like a performer who never looks at the conductor to watch the baton, and doesn't even listen to when the other performers play, but just sits there tapping his or her foot, eyes glued to the music, playing the instrument at his or her own tempo, beginning each beat or measure or section whenever he or she thinks it should begin with no regard to being in sync with everyone else.

If the CTK-7600 can't be set to use an external MIDI clock (and I haven't checked its manual yet to see whether or not it can), that doesn't necessarily make it worthless as far as "working and playing well with others," because it might be okay to let it set the pace for everything else-- i.e., the CTK-7600 would send out its internal MIDI clock signal, which everything else (including the DAW) would use as an external MIDI clock signal.
 
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Hi, Michael - that's an excellent suggestion re letting the Casio set the pace for the other instruments. I hadn't thought of that. As long as the other keyboards are willing to play along, we'll let the Casio be the boss.

Mr. Biggles first suggested purchasing a controller keyboard, and make use of the samples in the Kurzweil and Yamaha in order to make music. And that's an excellent suggestion, and it really spurred me to give some serious thought as to what I wanted to do.

Michael, if I am to be genuinely honest, I just want to sit down at a keyboard and make music. I get lost in the fun. I don't want to put out CDs, I don't want to be on stage or perform, I don't want to pursue a music career. I just want to sit down, play a little, grin, and go do something else.

And I want a new keyboard, in much the same way I sometimes want chocolate. You don't really know why, it's just there.

So I'm kinda thinking I'm going to buy the Casio WK-7600, mostly because I want it, at some deep down level. But I do want to keep my options open, hence my concerns. Who knows? I might accidentally stumble into greatness. Might win the lottery on the same day, too. You never know.

Thanks an awful lot for your input. It's really helpful. If you do find the opportunity to go through that web page I linked above, I'd really appreciate your comments. Real hard, solid information is really difficult to come by, and you clearly have a wealth of it. Thanks again!
>Charlie
 
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Okay, now I'm all messed up again.

Reading through this (and other) forums, the general message seems to be: "Casio has more features, but Yamaha has better sounding instruments". I have a Casio CTK-6200 (which I think is the same audio engine and samples as the WK-7600) and I have a Yamaha YPG-525. I don't use the keyboard because the display died on me (see picture) ; but I still have it, so I hauled it out and plugged it in. It fires up in Stereo Grand Piano, so I didn't need the display.
ypg-525-display-problem.jpg


I was able to do an A/B direct comparison of the Yamaha and the Casio, side by side. And as it happened, my sister was over, and she listened as well. We both came to the same conclusion: the Yamaha YPG-525 sounded superior to the Casio CTK-6200. It's hard to put into words what the difference is; the Yamaha simply sounded richer, deeper, more realistic. One difference is that the Yamaha sustain goes on forever with the sustain pedal depressed, while the Casio sustain dies out after 3 seconds, even with the sustain pedal depressed.

So, now I'm completely rethinking my Casio WK-7600 decision. Talk about lost in the wilderness.

I'm going to return the Casio CTK-6100. No question that's the wrong machine for me. That one is easy.

But... what to buy? I had budgeted around $500, but I could sweeten the pot if I found Casio features and Yamaha audio quality.

Any keyboard suggestions?

Anyone?

>Charlie
 

happyrat1

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Take a close look at the Roland Juno DS61 if you are able.

Voice wise and feature wise it blows away the cheaper stuff from Casio and Yamaha.

Be advised it's $200 above your budget and requires separate monitors or an amp but you can cover that with a $100 set of powered speakers from amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Roland-JUNO-DS61-61-key-Synthesizer/dp/B016NUAL5Y/

https://www.amazon.com/Edifier-R1280T-Powered-Bookshelf-Speakers/dp/B016P9HJIA/

For sequencing tunes with a computer this is an ideal starter kit.

Gary ;)
 
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I totally agree with Gary, the Juno will be by far a better keyboard.

As for sounds the Juno is vastly superior to the Casio and Yamaha, it even sounds better than a $1500 Yamaha S770 arranger.

If you have an iPad then add the Music Studio App for a few bucks and this gives a large range of voices the free Garage Band has quite a lot also add in a $100 midi keyboard and the $100 powered speakers Gary refers to or a Boss Katana Mini Amp for the same price and you are good to go for way less than your budget.
 
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Hey Biggles, HappyRat1... thanks for the recommendation. The Juno DS apparently comes in a 61 or an 88 key variety. The 61 key version sells for $999.99 on Amazon.ca, and everywhere else in Canada. I had wanted to get up to a 72 key keyboard, and I'd be happy to move up to the 88 key version. But I'm betting that is going to clock in around $1,300 - $1,400 or so. I was planning on $500-ish Canadian, originally - the approximate price of the Casio WK-7600 - so winding up around $1,250 is pushing my wallet into 'cruel and unusual punishment' range.

And I had wanted to get an arranger keyboard - where the keyboard will play a drum intro, a standard rhythm pattern from a selection (typically around 200-ish) and provide chorded accompaniment from chords played with the left hand. I don't think the Juno does that. I guess it does arpeggio, but I can't find any accompaniment vids on YouTube, or mention on websites. I'm sure it will let you create a drum track and perhaps play that back in a loop, but that wasn't quite what I wanted.

And, there's the speaker thing. Not a big deal, but... well, the wallet was already holding on for dear life.

However, I really like the fact that it has real MIDI jacks, not USB midi. And the free downloadable samples are really nice. It would help keep the sound fresh.

I'm going to head down to Axe Music tomorrow, and play with keyboards for a while. It may simply be that I won't be able to afford the sound I want. I expect I'm not the first to encounter such a problem. But... well, we'll see. Perhaps I should just put a couple bucks a day in a jar for a couple years. Or deliver pizza, or something.

Roland is apparently paying a Canadian distributor extra $$$ to handle product distribution for them in Canada. The Juno DS61 sell for around $700 in the US; that translates into $875 Canadian at today's exchange rate. But the only price you'll find that keyboard for in Canada is $999.99. Sigh. Strangely, Casio works the other way; the US price for the WK-7600 is $449, which translates into $561 Canadian. But you can buy it for $530, pretty much anywhere in Canada.

So, there you go. Still lost in the wilderness. But I do appreciate your suggestions.

Thanks, Charlie
 
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Whilst in the Music Store do check out the Korg PA300, again it is over budget, but not by that much.

It is an Arranger and you should find that the quality of the instrument sounds are superior to the Casio.
 

happyrat1

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Charlie >>> Sorry man. I didn't realize you were stuck in the frozen North like I am.

Yeah, Canadian pricing generally sucks.

And you're right, some brands won't allow dealers to ship across the border from the US.

However it might be worth the trip to hop in the car and drive across the border into Trumpland bring one back across yourself.

It might also help to look at the local Craigslist and Kijiji for a used one. Every once in a while you'll see one being sold off by someone who needs something bigger or better in their evolution.

They're still relatively new on the market but occasionally there's a deal out there to be had for 30% below retail.

And when you're at Axe Music ask if they have any floor demos they might be willing to unload at 20% off? It never hurts to ask.

A la prochaine mon ami :)

Gary ;)
 
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Casio WK-7600

In the UK it costs £299 which converts to $518 Canadian and $414 US

US price on Amazon $414

Canadian price on Amazon $529

Not to dissimilar, which is a great surprize to this Brit.
 

happyrat1

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BTW, if you run into Brad at Axe Music tell him "Hi from Gary in Mississauga."

He should remember me. Lord knows I've bought a hell of a lot of gear from him over the years :D

Gary ;)
 
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I'll chime in on my love for Arturia, which does really good "dumb" controllers that I would say are quite a bit better than M-Audio or New Alesis (not to be confused with 90s Alesis, which actually made good hardware). Love my Keylab88. The 88 goes for $800 US, which may be a little more than your budget, but still in the ballpark.
 

happyrat1

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Both Alesis and Arturia and I think Nektar as well all use Fatar Keybeds in their controllers.

These are first rate keybeds which leaves the decision up to which if any use underpowered CPUs or software on their controllers.

Novation also uses Fatar on their controllers as well.

Gary ;)
 

happyrat1

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BTW, if you decide to sell a kidney and go for the DS88, everyone else in Canada sells it for $1499 but Tom Lee Music out in Vancouver sells it for $100 less at $1399

http://tomleemusic.ca/184361

And Like I said, keep an eye on the Alberta craigslists and kijiji pages.

Sometimes someone is selling off a brand new unit simply because it doesn't quite fit their needs.

Gary ;)
 
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Hey, Gary - I was down at Axe on Saturday, and asked for Brad. Apparently he's working online sales now, but I asked my sales guy to send the greeting forward.

Axe was a bit disappointing. They were besieged with children all running around, hammering on keys with fists. Yes, there were adults, and yes, those adults were probably considering a keyboard purchase... but, man. Trying to detect the subtleties that separate a good sample from a great sample was pretty much impossible.

And, they didn't have a Casio WK-7600 on the floor, which was kind of the reason for the whole trip. My sales guy says he'll try to get one out this week, but the online people have it flagged as 'do not display'; they feel they can sell everything they've got without having it on the floor. The wonders of online sales, I suppose. Axe sells the keyboard through Amazon.ca.

There's a YouTube channel called 'funnzies' at this link: https://www.youtube.com/user/funnzie . He did a really in depth series of videos about the Casio WK-7600; something like 10 or 15 videos. He seems to have a real love/hate relationship with the keyboard; at one point he says that he hates the keyboard, but it took him so long to learn that he couldn't make it work that he was past his 30 day return window, and now it was his, and he didn't want it. At another point he states that he will sell the Casio; and at still another point, he states that he's decided to keep it, because some characteristics of the keyboard are too good to let go. So, go figure.

He's currently using a controller to run a Korg microarranger. I don't think there's one in Canada; certainly there's nothing on Amazon.ca or Amazon.com, and Axe had never heard of it. The only place I've found it for sale is sweetwater.com for $500 USD. Sadly, although 'funnzie' has published about 9 useful videos about the microarranger, none is a concise review of the keyboards strengths and weaknesses; instead, they are all of the 'tutorial/discovery' format. Each is about 30 minutes long, and with 9 videos and counting that's just more time than I can invest to extract one mans viewpoint about a specific keyboard. Especially given that I can't find one in captivity in Canada.

Axe recommended a piece of software called reaper; the sales guy said it was free. Not really; you get a 60 day trial, then you get constant requests to purchase the software. However, it's not that expensive.

Here's an interesting link: http://www.hobbytronics.co.uk/usb-midi-converter

It's a box that (perhaps) converts USB MIDI to DIN MIDI. Count on the Brits to figure things out. Doesn't work for all keyboards, but they tell you how to check it. I really regret that all the manufacturers are jumping on the USB MIDI bandwagon. DIN MIDI was established, mature, and had all the bugs wrung out of it. USB? Not so much. And not nearly as flexible.

That's all I've got. Picked up a cold/flu thing yesterday; I've got enough of a fever that I could fry eggs on my forehead. So I'm kind of out of ideas, and energy to pursue them. If I could make my YPG-525 control a Korg microarranger, then maybe that would be a solution. But... who knows. Gonna go drink some neo-citran. Peace - Charlie
 

happyrat1

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A few points >>>

1) Brad always worked online sales. That's pretty much where I know him from. We've chatted many times on the phone but have never met each other face to face. :)

2) The Korg Microstation and Korg Microarranger are pretty anicent tech, dating back about ten years or more. Frankly I think they've been discontinued and are now listed only as legacy products.

3) If you're set on trying out a WK-7600, DO check out Kijiji and Craigslist. The classifieds websites are LOUSY with Casios mainly cause daddy bought one for his pride and joy to learn on and then took it away when junior got bored or failed to study or got caught smoking reefer in the bathroom :D :D :D Chances are you can find one in almost new condition for around $300-$350 CDN.

(BTW, are you in Calgary or Edmonton?)

4) There's quite a few of those USB MIDI host boxes available on the interweb, but the one you've linked is one of the cheapest I've seen so far.

5) Get lots of rest, drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated. This year's flu season is supposed to be a nasty one. 80 fatalities across Canada this year so far. Personally I had my flu shots as I get them every year and (knock wood) so far so good. They say this year's flu shot offers only partial protection but I'll take a milder case over a raging illness any day,.

Stay loose and get well soon :)

Gary ;)
 
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Hi, Gary - yeah, I kinda got the feeling that the microarranger was on life support. When I went to the Korg website to look for a distributor, they asked me to enter a product name. I put in microarranger, and it came back with 'invalid product name'.

I skipped getting a flu shot this year - just put it off, too busy, and poof! here I am. Ah, well. I needed to lose a few pounds anyway. Neo citron is my new friend.

I'm in Edmonton, just a short hop from Axe. Same place I purchased my Kurzweil 2000s, a quarter of a century ago. Time fries. At least, when I look in a mirror, I look fried.

I've been checking Kijiji on a semi-regular basis. So far the closest I've come is the WK-6600. The guy is asking $50 below list price, so it's a lousy deal, and I don't like the keyboard anyway. It's the 76 key version of the one I returned. I think few non-musicians will have the WK-7600, simply because Best Buy doesn't sell it; and most of those 'keyboard for my kid to learn music' purchases will be from mass retailers like Best Buy.

If we were to assume that one of those USB to DIN midi converters would work, it would mean that I could use my existing 88 key yamaha as a controller keyboard. Are there any boxes with no keyboard, but great sounds, in the $500-ish range?

OK, brain is tired. I go sleep now. >Charlie
 

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