Keyboards and PCs


Joined
Apr 4, 2009
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
I'm sure my questions have been answered a thousand times, but I paged through the first few pages of this section and didn't catch it, so maybe folks won't mind 1001.

I have an EnsoniqSQ-1 but it doesn't work - the board fried, or something, and it can't be repaired. I loved it. Sequencer, midi capable (though I never used it), great sounds, flexible. But, as most of you know, this is very old technology. I haven't kept up with changes in the tech for the past 10-15 years. I'm sure (I hope) lots has changed. I'll describe my perfect scenario then, I hope, someone can tell me if it's possible, and what recommendations they might have.

I would like a very simple keyboard that has, at a minimum, at least 65 full-sized keys. I imagine it would have to have some on-board sounds like drums, misc. percussion, strings, piano, etc. I would like to be able to lay down multiple tracks, then have the keyboard play the tracks back. However, I wonder if the sequencer needs to be on-board. It seems to me we should be able to hook these things up to PCs and let the PCs do the sequencing work. Moreover, it seems to me we should be able to download everything into a PC, screw with it however we want, then push it back out to the keyboard - basically, doing all the sound and song editing with PC software, on a nice big PC screen, with a nice big PC typing keyboard rather than on the piano keyboard.

I don't want to perform with this, so I'd be fine with it being hooked up to a PC all the time. I would like my PC to also score whatever I download to it - for all instruments. Also, it would be nice if the keyboard could not only download the digital info for screwing with the sounds, tracks, sequences, songs, etc., but also if the keyboard would play the music straight to an .mp3 or .wav file onto the PC so I can just write it to a CD.

I'm sure this is all simple stuff, but I don't have the necessary tech vocab under my belt to figure out if any certain keyboard will do what I ask. Moreover, I'm guessing this is a multi-part solution - that is, a keyboard might be able to do the sounds and playing stuff, but PC software does the sequencing, editing, and scoring stuff.

If anyone has some suggestions, starting with the lowest cost option, I would really appreciate it.

Thanks!
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joined
Nov 5, 2008
Messages
433
Reaction score
3
Location
Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
Why 65 keys? Seems an odd number. Keyboards tend to come in 25 (2-octave), 49 (4-octave), 61 (5-octave), 73 (6-octave), 76 (6-octave plus the lower three notes you'd find on a piano) and 88 (7-octaves plus the lower 3 notes on a piano - a full piano keyboard).

If you're working with a computer, there are only two workflows that make sense. You'll either want to record the MIDI data from your keyboard in a sequencer and push the MIDI data back to the keyboard so the keyboard produces sounds, or you'll want to record the MIDI from your keyboard and have a software-based instrument produce the sound. Software-based instruments will sound better but will often require a good computer with a lot of hard drive space.

Really, you need to let us know a few things. What kinds of sounds do you want (what genres do you play in, what instruments do you favour, do you care about having better synthesized sounds or better acoustic instrument sounds?) How much do you have to spend? Do you intend to play live with your keyboard (in which case a MIDI controller won't work, unless you want to bring your computer with you) or are you just trying to make tracks at home but don't care about live performance? How good is your computer? Do you have a good audio interface already? (If you have to ask what an audio interface is, you don't - it's like a soundcard but is built for quality recording of audio; if you want to produce a finished MP3 or make a CD of your music, you'll need a way to get the audio from your keyboard onto your computer).
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2009
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
kanthos - thank you for replying.
Why 65 keys?
I only wish to avoid those tiny keyboards/synths which really aren't any good for playing (the 2-octs, I imagine). Full 88 keys isn't necessary, but I would like something large enough for some range while playing - probably 6 octaves.
If you're working with a computer, there are only two workflows that make sense. You'll either want to record the MIDI data from your keyboard in a sequencer and push the MIDI data back to the keyboard so the keyboard produces sounds, or you'll want to record the MIDI from your keyboard and have a software-based instrument produce the sound. Software-based instruments will sound better but will often require a good computer with a lot of hard drive space.
What I used to do with my ESQ1 was lay down a percussion track, plus some other instruments (strings, horns, bass), then play piano along with the recorded tracks. The ESQ1 really was a nice setup, but editing was a real pain. I never did get into sound editing since it was such a pain; laying down tracks and editing those was painful enough. I would much rather do the editing with a PC, then push it all back out to the synth. I could play around while composing, but the goal would be to have a completed piece, scored and recorded. I'm not interested in performing.
What kinds of sounds do you want (what genres do you play in, what instruments do you favour, do you care about having better synthesized sounds or better acoustic instrument sounds?)
A good piano sound (I hope they're better these days), organ, strings, percussion, horns, some electric/steel guitar. It would be nice to be able to alter the sounds (attack, decline, distortion, etc.).
How much do you have to spend?
Well, that's an excellent question, and one I'm not really prepared to answer the way I'm sure you need it answered. It's not that money is no object, it's just that I don't even know if what I want to do is possible, and if it is I wouldn't even know where to begin pricing it. I think I paid about $1100 USD for my ESQ1 20 some years ago. I also had an Alesis Data Disk (still do) that I could download songs and sounds to. That was probably an extra $200. If I could find something like the ESQ1 for around $500 I would be really happy. It would seem to me that after 20 years I should be able to get the sounds and playability the ESQ1 offered without having the onboard sequencer for this price, but I could be completely mistaken. The only thing I would want changed would be a way to edit and score the songs on a PC. That's probably a software solution unrelated to the keyboard though, so I would like some suggestions on that.
Do you intend to play live with your keyboard
No, in the sense of traveling and playing live. A few free concerts for friends and family wouldn't be out of the question though. A keyboard as backup to a real piano or guitar would be fun.
How good is your computer? Do you have a good audio interface already?
Pretty good PC, pretty much the same specs as your laptop with double the ram. I would have to ask what an audio interface is, so I'm sure I don't have a good one. Is there software which would take the digital data from a keyboard/synth and just turn it into an mp3?

I apologize for not being very specific, but I've just been out of the tech side of this for so long I wouldn't even know where to begin asking questions the right way. I just want a way to lay down tracks of different instruments to compose music. It would be fun to play along with these tracks as backup, but the goal is composition.

Again, thank you for your time.
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2008
Messages
433
Reaction score
3
Location
Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
I only wish to avoid those tiny keyboards/synths which really aren't any good for playing (the 2-octs, I imagine). Full 88 keys isn't necessary, but I would like something large enough for some range while playing - probably 6 octaves.
Given your suggested price range of $500, I don't think you'll find anything. The lowest-end keyboards I'd suggest to someone who cares about sound would be a Yamaha MM6 or Roland Juno-D, both of which retail currently for $600 US. I believe the Juno-D is 61 keys, and the MM6 certainly is. Taking that up a step gives you $1,000 for the MM8 (88 keys) and $1,400 or so for the Juno Stage (76 keys). Another option to save some money, if you don't mind having two keyboards, is to get a 61-key model (out of the two, I'd suggest the Yamaha MM6 over the Juno D) and a MIDI controller keyboard, and connect the two via MIDI so that you get the sounds from the MM6 controlled by a larger keyboard without paying for the MM8. The M-Audio KeyStation 88es is an 88-key semi-weighted controller that will run you $200, ending up $200 cheaper to buy that and the MM6 instead of the MM8 (then again, 88 weighted keys may be worth $200 more to you).

Really, the quality of the market has increased a lot; spending the same as you did on your ESQ1 now will get you a much better keyboard than the ESQ1, but still, it'll be one that's low end.

If you were to go the route of buying a MIDI controller and just using software, you wouldn't end up that much farther ahead either. A basic package I'd recommend is to get the M-Audio KeyStation 88es (88-key semi-weighted controller) for $200 US, Native Instruments Kontakt 3 ($400 US), Reaper for $50 assuming you don't want to make commercial music and have the integrity to register it (otherwise, it's free if you don't register, or $225 if you register and make commercial music), and a basic USB audio interface like the M-Audipo FastTrack USB for $100 (without a good audio interface, you'll have latency problems - a delay between when you press a key and when the software produces sound that's caused by the soundcard, though you'll still need a reasonably fast computer to make the most of a software solution anyway). That comes to $700, not counting how you register Reaper, and still requires that you have a good enough computer to do what you want.

What I used to do with my ESQ1 was lay down a percussion track, plus some other instruments (strings, horns, bass), then play piano along with the recorded tracks. The ESQ1 really was a nice setup, but editing was a real pain. I never did get into sound editing since it was such a pain; laying down tracks and editing those was painful enough. I would much rather do the editing with a PC, then push it all back out to the synth. I could play around while composing, but the goal would be to have a completed piece, scored and recorded. I'm not interested in performing.
Most, if not all, DAWs will let you record the MIDI and audio and export the MIDI tracks as a standard MIDI file. Any keyboard that can read a standard MIDI file will be fine that way. Use the PC to record and the keyboard to play back, and then get the MIDI file onto the keyboard so you can play it back without your computer.

A good piano sound (I hope they're better these days), organ, strings, percussion, horns, some electric/steel guitar. It would be nice to be able to alter the sounds (attack, decline, distortion, etc.).
Any decent keyboard today will have at least decent sounds, although to get the very best, you'll obviously pay much more. You tend to favour acoustic sounds, so Yamaha is probably the way to go for you. If you go the software route, I suggested Kontakt 3, which is a full-blown sampler (software that works with recorded audio, as opposed to a synthesizer that generates audio from very simple waveforms) with a 32-GB library of data.

Pretty good PC, pretty much the same specs as your laptop with double the ram. I would have to ask what an audio interface is, so I'm sure I don't have a good one. Is there software which would take the digital data from a keyboard/synth and just turn it into an mp3?
Yes, a DAW will do that (at worst, a DAW will let you record audio and export a WAV file, which can then be converted to MP3 by free third-party software). A DAW, if you don't know, is a digital audio workstation. It's software that lets you record and work with multiple tracks of MIDI and audio data, mix the tracks, add effects, and it will also host plugins, either virtual instruments or effects. Basically, it's the one tool that you'll want to do everything on the PC side that you mention. Out of everything available, Reaper is a great choice because of its incredibly low price.
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2009
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
Given your suggested price range of $500, I don't think you'll find anything.../... That comes to $700, not counting how you register Reaper, and still requires that you have a good enough computer to do what you want.
Wow, kanthos, thank you very much for the detailed reply and the education I'm getting.

So, if I understand you correctly, I could get a keyboard/synth like the MM6, or I could get a midi controller like the KeyStation. With the MM6 route, all the sounds, sequencer, and editing are onboard the keyboard. This would be like my ESQ1, just better. Would I then use Reaper to edit the sequencing and sounds, and turn the song into an mp3 on a PC? I'm assuming I could also use the MM6 to control sounds in Kontakt 3 if I ever wanted to expand?

With the midi controller route, the midi controller just acts as a way to control the sounds contained in Kontakt 3, right? So no sounds are generated by the midi controller - sound would be coming from my PC? Would it work like this: I pick a sound I want to work with in Kontakt3, that sound is mapped onto the midi controller, I play something and it's routed through the audio interface back to the computer and Kontakt3 and I hear the sound through the PC speakers. I could then play, for example, a drum line on the controller, through the audio interface, into Reaper where I could then edit that track, then record some strings, edit that track, then put them both together for a song which would also be edited in Reaper. I assume both Kontakt3 and Reaper would need to be running at the same time so RAM and CPU speed are key? Can I have these tracks playing while I lay down another track?

This sounds like the setup I would like. My ESQ1 could accept sounds created elsewhere, so I'm assuming that if I ever did want to perform I could buy a synth with the same ability, download songs and the sounds they use from Kontakt 3 into the synth and then go, right?

Can Reaper also record analog, like from a mic?

It doesn't look like Reaper has any ability to score the music. Do you have any suggestions for that?

Once again, thank you very much for your time.
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2008
Messages
433
Reaction score
3
Location
Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
So, if I understand you correctly, I could get a keyboard/synth like the MM6, or I could get a midi controller like the KeyStation. With the MM6 route, all the sounds, sequencer, and editing are onboard the keyboard. This would be like my ESQ1, just better. Would I then use Reaper to edit the sequencing and sounds, and turn the song into an mp3 on a PC? I'm assuming I could also use the MM6 to control sounds in Kontakt 3 if I ever wanted to expand?
You've almost got it. The one thing Reaper probably can't do is edit the sounds stored on the MM6. DAWs aren't generally editors/librarians for keyboards (editors edit individual programs, librarians manage the programs that are currently on your keyboard, allowing you to store many more programs on your computer and easily select the ones that will currently be on the keyboard). And yes, the MM6 can act as a MIDI controller for Kontakt 3 or for a DAW (what you'd want to do with Kontakt 3 is host it in Reaper when you wanted it to make sounds).

Actually, I just looked up the MM6 here and it comes bundled with Cubase AI4, a light version of Cubase 4, and should have pretty tight integration. It might actually be possible to edit the sounds on the MM6 from within Cubase or from a standalone program. Plus you wouldn't have to buy Reaper this way either.

With the midi controller route, the midi controller just acts as a way to control the sounds contained in Kontakt 3, right? So no sounds are generated by the midi controller - sound would be coming from my PC? Would it work like this: I pick a sound I want to work with in Kontakt3, that sound is mapped onto the midi controller, I play something and it's routed through the audio interface back to the computer and Kontakt3 and I hear the sound through the PC speakers. I could then play, for example, a drum line on the controller, through the audio interface, into Reaper where I could then edit that track, then record some strings, edit that track, then put them both together for a song which would also be edited in Reaper. I assume both Kontakt3 and Reaper would need to be running at the same time so RAM and CPU speed are key? Can I have these tracks playing while I lay down another track?
You've almost got it again. First, Kontakt would be hosted within Reaper, and Reaper would route the MIDI to Kontakt. You could have multiple channels going to the same instance of Kontakt (which is nicer on CPU and memory than multiple instances of Kontakt, each producing one sound).

The audio would never go back to the MIDI controller though. The audio interface acts as a sound card for your computer, so any external sounds (from the MM6, for example) would be mixed with any internal sounds (from software instruments).

You can certainly have tracks playing while you lay down a new track, as long as your computer can handle the memory and CPU requirements. Worst case is, if a software instrument is taking up too much CPU, you can freeze that track, meaning that your DAW will disable the MIDI and virtual instrument and will render the audio that the virtual instrument would produce. For example, you'd normally have a MIDI track triggering drums, which would end up being routed to the DAW's mixer. You might also have a bunch of effects on the drums. Each drum hit is an individual sample (pre-recorded audio data), so an entire drum kit needs to be loaded into memory. When you freeze the track, the MIDI gets disabled and gets substituted with the audio that would have gone to the mixer (the final drum track with effects). This new audio track is a lot more lightweight than the virtual instrument and MIDI. You could even unload the virtual instrument so that it wouldn't use up memory.

This sounds like the setup I would like. My ESQ1 could accept sounds created elsewhere, so I'm assuming that if I ever did want to perform I could buy a synth with the same ability, download songs and the sounds they use from Kontakt 3 into the synth and then go, right?
What you're describing is sampling. It's not really downloading sounds from Kontakt (like I said, Kontakt's library is 32 GB and there aren't that many instruments in it; the samples are high-quality) - these sounds are also in a different format. What you'd do is record the audio from within Kontakt onto your keyboard or record it into files on your computer that are in the right format, and push those to your keyboard. It won't be as good quality and you won't have access to as many effects (unless your sampling was done with all the effects you want). The MM6/MM8 don't have sampling capabilities. I *think* the Juno D does, but it'd be limited. The low-end Korg keyboards (TR and Triton LES) that have sampling as an option are discontinued now; you'd have to find one used.

Can Reaper also record analog, like from a mic?
Yes, any good DAW will do that.

It doesn't look like Reaper has any ability to score the music. Do you have any suggestions for that?
Assuming you're not orchestrating complex classical scores (polyphony on your keyboard would be an issue if you were anyway), the two big names are Finale and Sibelius, both of which have light-weight versions. I have Finale PrintMusic which ran me about $100 CAD.
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joined
Apr 4, 2009
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
kanthos - thank you very much for the education and the suggestions. I think I got it now.
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joined
Aug 29, 2009
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
keyboard abd pcs

H
The IBM keyboard you most probably have sitting in front of you, sends scan codes to your computer. The scan codes tell your Keyboard Bios, what keys you have pressed or released. Take for example the 'A' Key. The 'A' key has a scan code of 1C (hex). When you press the 'A' key, your keyboard will send 1C down it's serial line. If you are still holding it down, for longer than it's typematic delay, another 1C will be sent. This keeps occurring until another key has been pressed, or if the 'A' key has been released.
However your keyboard will also send another code when the key has been released. Take the example of the 'A' key again, when released, the keyboard will send F0 (hex) to tell you that the key with the proceeding scan code has been released. It will then send 1C, so you know which key has been released.
Your keyboard only has one code for each key. It doesn't care it the shift key has been pressed. It will still send you the same code. It's up to your keyboard BIOS to determine this and take the appropriate action. Your keyboard doesn't even process the Num Lock, Caps Lock and Scroll Lock. When you press the Caps Lock for example, the keyboard will send the scan code for the cap locks. It is then up to your keyboard BIOS to send a code to the keyboard to turn on the Caps lock LED.
Now there's 101 keys and 8 bits make 256 different combinations, thus you only need to send one byte per key, right?
Nop. Unfortunately a handful of the keys found on your keyboard are extended keys, and thus require two scan code. These keys are preceded by a E0 (hex). But it doesn't stop at two scan codes either. How about E1,14,77,E1,F0,14,F0,77! Now that can't be a valid scan code? Wrong again. It's happens to be sent when you press the Pause/break key. Don't ask me why they have to make it so long! Maybe they were having a bad day or something?
When an extended key has been released, it would be expect that F0 would be sent to tell you that a key has been released. Then you would expect E0, telling you it was an extended key followed by thei

-----------------
washington
For more click on this link keyboard abd pcs
 

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments. After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.

Ask a Question

Top