HELP Please! Digital Keyboard vs Workstation


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Hello Everyone. :)

My Name is Axel and I've been playing the piano for about 15 years & 8 years of guitar. I also compose my own things since few years. I have until now mostly been using acoustic instruments, and I am super interested in buying an E-keyboard, synthesizer or workstation, to experiment more, play live and try producing as well.
I have few knowledge in electronic material and that's why I would need your help, to be sure to buy the right type of instrument, adapted to what I want to develop. I already spent hours trying several models, but I'm still not sure about what I should buy.
What I want to do is compose some songs, pretty "minimal", exploring / creating sonorities and combining this with some electro beats / guitar... I like working with loops, creating progressively several layers that develop themselves with the song.


These are my objectives :

- Being able to play live and control the different layers, record loops live, and then make them appear or disappear... I also want to control beats that also fade in / out etc... Like playing a theme and then improvise variations on it.
(Like Francesco Tristano is often doing !)

(Live exemple from Tristano)

- Producing songs for Artwork-Videos. Mostly "minimal" songs as well, I don't want to be a one-man band playing harp, brass and strings with a keyboard, but rather some "piano" sounds and synth sounds + effect + guitar + beat + voice... I want to be able to do a lot alone by myself..
(Sonority references : Bonobo, Moby, Rone, Worakls, Lambert, Ratatat, Francesco Tristano)


I ideally want to be able to play and develop at home, as well as taking my keyboard and go play in the parc. Important as well, 88 weighted keys.

The conclusion / question of all this is if I should rather :

1. buy a digital piano and use my computer (with Abletone live for exemple), and extra pedals / machines for the loops and other different features that are not included in a digital piano... (exemple : Roland D-300 1'200 euros)
Pros + : Maybe better "Piano" feeling / sound, 88 weighted-keys
Cons - : Have to buy and connect other features to complete it. Maybe it doesn't offer much more than a acoustic piano (which I have as well). They are more live instruments that you can plug.


2. buy a workstation and do pretty much everything with it. (exemple : Roland FA 08 1'600 euros)
Pros + : Lots of features, super instinctif, 88 weighted-keys, piano sound / feeling not that bad. No need for other things..
Cons - : More expensive, am I really gonna use what I will pay for.

I'm not an Abletone professional, I'm wondering if the workstation is not easier. I'm afraid to buy a digital piano and realize that I'm too limited. I also don't want to lose authenticity of music with going to far with electronic stuff, but I'm interested in experimenting...

Here it is ! Sorry for the long post... But I've really been spending a lot of time thinking about that and I still can't make a decision. I would be super thankful if somebody could give me few advices or his point of view, according to my intentions.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Axel
 
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Fred Coulter

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I'm not sure that there are any keyboards that let you make loops live, and move them in and out of the mix. I think that's really in the realm of software running on a computer.

Same with granular control of beats live. Arrangers let you vary the beat live, but usually only a couple of variations of the same beat, or (if using registrations), variations of several different beats. And even so, it requires much more planning ahead of time.

I don't normally recommend bringing computers to gigs, but given what you're trying to do that may be your only option. (Unless someone with more knowledge jumps in and tells me about some amazing keyboard that I know nothing about.)

Although I suppose that KARMA (on the Kronos) might do what you're looking for. But that's not a cheap solution.
 

happyrat1

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If you want to be able to play in a park you'll need something that's also capable of battery power as well as mains powered.

Off the top of my head, this includes the Casio Privia PX-5S or PX-560 and the Roland Juno DS88 or DS61 or the Korg Kross 88 or 61.

They're also all lightweight enough that transporting them is a one handed operation.

Of the three the Casio has built in sequencing capabilities but no step sequencer while the Juno has step sequencing but no full blown sequencer. I'm not certain as to the sequencing ability of the Kross.

Assuming you already own a Macbook to run Abelton on then a sequencer is not a deal breaker either way.

One of my key gripes with using soft synths is that they have zero resale value.

I've been horsetrading and upgrading my synths for decades now and currently own a pretty respectable collection. If I'd started out with soft synths and a controller I'd currently be pumping good money in after bad on constant upgrades everytime a new version of the program or OS came out. :p

As for sequencers? There's plenty of inexpensive and freeware DAW software in the world with all the beats and loops you can imagine.

Any of the synths I mentioned above would make an inexpensive, decent start in setting up for recording with a computer as the DAW.

Later on you can always add an analog or virtual analog synth to the mix to get all those juicy eurodance sounds that are so popular these days.

My advice is don't get hung up on terminology. "Workstation" and "electronic piano" are more often becoming meaningless industry buzzwords these days whereas the actual truth is that there's a lot of crossover between the classifications and the incredible variety of models available now.

ie. the Casios I mentioned are marketed as "Electronic Pianos" but truth be told they're closer to workstations than old school pianos. The Juno is marketed as a "Performance Synth" but the 88 version has full blown hammer action and very respectable piano tones.

Ultimately you'll have to make your decision based on online reviews on google and youtube and if you're fortunate enough to audition your choices before you buy you'll be better able to judge which model fits your budget and your needs.

Gary ;)
 

Fred Coulter

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"Workstation" and "electronic piano" are more often becoming meaningless industry buzzwords these days whereas the actual truth is that there's a lot of crossover between the classifications and the incredible variety of models available now.
I've seen keyboards called both workstations and arrangers. I've always considered a keyboard to be a workstation if it has an onboard multitrack sequencer and can play back multiple tracks from the sequencer with different sounds. This capability, while very nice, may not be what you're looking for at all. On the other hand, having that capability doesn't mean that the keyboard can't do what you are looking for.

In other words, if you need that capability, then you must buy a workstation. But if you don't need that capability, don't ignore the workstations in your search.

An arranger is one which plays auto-accompaniment. Imagine the Waltz button on very old electric organs. The auto-accompaniment now a days automatically detects chords and provides a multiple part backup band. This may or may not be what you're looking for. And like "workstation", the term is only important if it's what you're looking for. If not, the keyboard may still work for you even with that term.

A synthesizer is one which you can create new sounds.

A ROMpler is one in which the sounds on the keyboard are generally based on recorded sounds maintained inside the keyboard.

An analog synthesizer is one which uses discrete circuitry to create the sound, with separate oscillators, filters, etc., for each note that can sound. This means that generally an analog synthesizer can't play as many notes simultaneously.

There are other terms used to describe keyboards. In many cases, one keyboard can have multiple tags. And if the marketing department gets a hold of it, sometimes the tags aren't as accurate or descriptive as you'd like.
 
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I'm not sure that there are any keyboards that let you make loops live, and move them in and out of the mix. I think that's really in the realm of software running on a computer.

Same with granular control of beats live. Arrangers let you vary the beat live, but usually only a couple of variations of the same beat, or (if using registrations), variations of several different beats. And even so, it requires much more planning ahead of time.

I don't normally recommend bringing computers to gigs, but given what you're trying to do that may be your only option. (Unless someone with more knowledge jumps in and tells me about some amazing keyboard that I know nothing about.)

Although I suppose that KARMA (on the Kronos) might do what you're looking for. But that's not a cheap solution.

Thanks for the answer ! Yep, Ideally I would like to avoid the computer, but it would be stupid as well to pay more for some features that I already have on a computer...

I'll think about this ! :)
 
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Off the top of my head, this includes the Casio Privia PX-5S or PX-560 and the Roland Juno DS88 or DS61 or the Korg Kross 88 or 61.
Hey Happyrat1, Thank you for your complete answer ! That really helps.

So in my "Finalists" I'm considering three very different models : Roland RD 300 (Stage Digital piano), Juno DS 88 (synth) & Roland FA 08 (workstation).

I've watched all the tutorial and read most of the reviews... I already own a Pedal -> "Boss ME70" (for guitar though, but loop options etc work for a keyboard as well)... And I can use the sequencer from Abletone... So the question is, is it worth going for the Roland FA 08 ?

I mean I think the digital one doesn't offer that much features and I want to be able to explore a bit more without having to buy an extension everytime I want to extend something... So maybe the Juno is a good "Balance".. it's cheaper, still has 88 weighted keys, no sequencer but sampler is there, sound effects etc... I can then use my pedal and my computer and that's pretty much it !! And for exemple with the money I save I could buy a nice new amp for my guitar ;)

My only concern is if I lose General, sound, effects quality by going for the Juno instead of the Fa08... or is it just about the features...

I think that whatever I choose, I could one way or another achieve what I want...

Do you btw know alternatives of a Synth like the Juno but a small level above ? I have a budget of 1600, the Juno is 1000, so I could still consider buying a "next-level" one...

Thank you very much !

Axel
 
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happyrat1

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At this point the only correct answer you'll be able to determine is when you actually try them out in a music store for yourself.

AFAIK the sounds on the Juno and the FA are both derived from the same Supernatural Soundset that Roland is putting in all their synths these days.

The only limitation is that the Juno may be a subset of the FA, (ie. same sounds just not as many)

On the other hand, the Juno still has over 1300 sounds and if that's not enough for ya then you'd be looking at monster workstations like the Kronos or the Yamaha Montage or the Korzweil Forte.

Personally I do own a Juno DS61 and while I can't speak for the weighted action of the 88 I can attest to the beauty and purity of the Supernatural sounds.

It really is a state of the art workstation that's only missing an onboard sequencer to change its classification.

I rate it 5 stars for value and bang for the buck.

Gary ;)
 

Fred Coulter

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monster workstations like [...] the Yamaha Montage
The Montage is a wonderful (although pricey) performance synthesizer. It's really nice to see Yamaha bringing back FM. But its sequencer is a joke. You can't edit it. I wouldn't classify it as a workstation.

Although it definitely is a monster. Hell, the damn thing's heavier than my Kronos. And that's right on my limit of being able to set it up. I'm not sure what I'd do with a Montage. Playing it on the floor just seems non-optimal.
 
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Take the extra $500 you save on a Juno and buy a decent set of powered monitors and some effects pedals to play it thru :D
Hey ! Thanks again for the answer.

Yep I guess this makes more sense, if the sequencer can be plugged in the DS and I just pay 600 more for few FA 08 features I guess I should go for Juno.. It can already do a lot, has effects, loops, sampler.. and the recording should be easily achieved through Live. Furthermore the sounds are good, I tried them already.

Thanks again ! Best, Axel
 

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