Kronos vs Kurzweil PC3 -- My article -


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“The New Performance Ergonomics in the Information Age”
©2014 William Brookfield


Ergonomics” : a science that deals with designing and arranging things so that people can use them easily and safely: - Merriam Webster


I recently (March 2014) purchased a new synthesizer - a Korg Kronos - and while it is a great synth/workstation with some great sounds and features I rarely play it anymore and I am back playing my good old Kurzweil PC3. The reason for this has to do with “The New Performance Ergonomics in the Information Age” and my inability (thus far) to bring the Kronos into line.


In the olden days, live performances were limited to what the physical human body could accomplish, given the physical size, weight and design limitations of physical instruments. The standard physical drum kit is ergonomically designed physically. The toms for instance are conveniently located beside the drummer so that they can be easily reached. It would not be ergonomically sensible to keep the toms on the other side of the room because this configuration would force the drummer to run to the other side of the room in order to perform tom fills.


The optimal ergonomics of physical drum kit however are very different than the optimal ergonomics of a digital drum kit. Similarly the optimal ergonomics for a full physical live band is completely different than the optimal ergonomics of a full digital live band. This is because informational instruments don’t take up space in the way that physical instruments do.


Digital instruments can be stacked, toggled and momentarily accessed in a way that physical instruments cannot. One cannot put a physical piano on top of a physical drum kit and expect to play them both. I have however have made my living (since 1997) playing live drums and live piano keyboard (and more) at the same time. This is only possible because digital instruments can be accessed (played) in ways that physical instruments cannot.


Unfortunately standard Program Change controls will not work because they are too specific. I.E, A PG change that specifies a brush kit patch will always specify a brush kit and nothing else and I am stuck playing a brush kit all night. A pitch bender is useless if it is too specific and instead of bending the instrument/patch in question it always makes the sound of say, a brush kit being bent when used. My various layouts are therefore live performance modulations of patches/setups and not the patches themselves “PG.”


My recent purchase of a Kronos has brought me face to face with how drastically my performance techniques have changed over the years. In my setups I don’t have to chase the toms around the room or even around the drum kit as physical drummers do. Instead I use a momentary switch pedal to instantaneously bring the toms to my right hand for me to hit/play.


In Conclusion:

Over the years of working with a Kurzweil synth (K2000) I have gotten into the habit of bringing sounds within complex musical layouts (higher piano octaves, strings, trumpets, drums etc) to my hands instead of my hands reaching outward for them over a physical distance. These layouts are changed either by my foot pedals or by my hands during sustained chords. Thus far however, I have been unable to get my Kronos to do live, efficient (and somewhat complex?) changes of this type. This is most unfortunate given the Smooth Sound Transition SST feature of the Korg which could be a great advantage in this regard.


Perhaps I will find a way to do this on my Kronos and perhaps not. For now however, I continue to perform live and earn my living on my Kurzweil.


Technical Info


Please correct me if I am wrong here but, while the Kronos (it seems!) can only remote CC toggle between two sounds A/B the Kurzweil can remote CC toggle between 32 layers A/B/C/D..Z..32 in a single program/patch. I would be very interested if there were a way around this bottleneck for the Kronos.
 
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Hi Gary,

I have no problem with you liberally re-posting this to the Mastering Vast forum
Thank you for your interest.

Yes Paul,

I have considered the possibility of selling my Kronos but it really does have some great sounds for recording purposes. For now, I think I will keep it, if not for my live performances, then for my upcoming recording work.
 
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At this point I am thinking that these two keyboard are quite fundamentally different in term of their internal designs. so much so that they could even be classified separately. I am using the Kurzweil as a live performance facilitator whereas the Korg is more of a pro-arranger/pro-arpepgiator. While the Kurzweil has both an arpeggiator and and sequencer I don't use them.
 
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Just an update. I have now had some success with the Korg Kronos and I am now more hopeful that it will function reasonably well as a *live performance* keyboard (though not to the level of Kurzweil yet in certain important regards). I have been using my computer to convert CC's into Prg change and Bank commands and will be getting a Midi Solutions Event Processor to interface between the two (kurzweil and Korg) once I have mapped out all the necessary controls on the computer.
 
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... "standard Program Change controls will not work (for these live perfomance functions) because they are too specific." -WB

Happily, I have now learned that I was wrong here and that Program Change codes will work in the Kronos (as a replacement for some of the CC's changes I use in the Kurzweil PC3). That is to say that Bank change code can be used to specify the overall set list (0-127) style (rock, pop, jazz etc,) while simple Prg change commands specifying slots within Kronos set lists. Due to a mild latency problems with Kronos Pgr change function, alternating fast drum layout switching of my drum layouts can be done live on the Kronos using up to 4 karma layers.

I learned this thanks to this youtube video...


I am now much more hopeful that I can do a significant amount of my live performance work on the Kronos. It will take me some time however to rebuild my live one man band systems within the Kronos environment, but I can now see how it can be done.. Thank you all for your comments.
 
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Just an update. I am continuing to use the PC3 for all my live performance work. The PC3 has 16 channels with 32 layers per channel. Any of these layers (or groups of layers) can be enabled or disabled by sending midi controllers cc's or by using the PC3's buttons or sliders. This is the flexibility that I need in order to do my live work. I am still using the Kronos at home only for recording, and as a sound module. Unfortunately the use of Karma for drum switching disables other functions that I had hoped to retain.
 
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Another update..I have yet to perform live on the Kronos but am now using it A LOT for recording (primarily audio recording). The Kronos has some great sounds as well (midi) that I use for bit parts for songs. The Kurzweil remains my performance keyboard however.
 
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I've long admired Kurzweil for it's V.A.S.T. engine and build quality & when Kurzweil became affordable...I jumped on the PC3LE6.Loved the sounds...but hated the abhorrently poor LCD display and onscreen configurations.Since my main interest was for studio use,I found the sequencer section to tedious and frustrating and it killed my creativity.
Gigging musicians love this keyboard and rightly so,but for a one-man-band,type of musician in a studio environment...well...the outdated screen size and graphics,are absolutely absurd(when using the sequencer)...so I sold it.

Of course though...in the case of the Korg Kronos,it's ideally suited for the studio and it's a wonderful,low cost alternative to the former Oasys...but these days,for me...spending even $4,000 on a hardware worksation.is not at all practical...on my budget.
Also...I once had a Korg M3 and though it was a great recording tool...the boot up time was far too long and the OS ended up crashing on me....so the thought of buying a massive computer keyboard like the Kronos and then dealing with the expense of sound library expansions for it,made absolutely no sense to me(since I already have to PC workstations.)
The depth of sound design of the Kronos is fantastic,but without any flash memory...the boot up time is twice as long as a desktop PC and to me,it's not worth the investment(since I don't gig at all.

All that said,I chose to go with the new Casio Privia PX-560(when it is made available),as it's a pro synth workstation in every respect(sort of like a Kronos,but scaled down with no massive HD or expansions)...but manages massive polyphony(256 notes),sound design options,great presets,5.3" color touch screen,17 track midi recording and 1 audio track,incredible key-bed(88,weighted and textured keys),10 second boot up time,650 tones and has built in speakers.
So for me,it's the perfect scratch pad for my songs and a nice reprieve from the daily grind of my PC(during those times I need a break from my computer.)The best part is,it's only $1199!

Personally,I don't think Kurzweil had any business including a sequencer in their keyboards,as their displays and graphics are 20+ years behind the times....I mean...I read that most Kurzweil users,don't ever bother with the sequencer and I find it really pathetic,that a brand like Casio,is starting to pull ahead of Kurzweil,in many ways.

In fact...if Casio continues to make products like the PX-560 and they progress further into the pro market with expanded versions that match keyboards like the Kronos(especially at Casio's prices)...they just may dominate the market(or at least the budget to mid-level market) and absolutely demolish brands like Yamaha and Roland(as they're generally way too expensive.)
 
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HI Elwood,

Thanks for your comments.

>I read that most Kurzweil users,don't ever bother with the sequencer

Yes, I don't use the midi sequencer in the Kurz, ..except to record a little of my performing free-time {no click) so that I can leave the keyboard in order to hear my sounds (sound check) from the middle and back of the theater/hall before a show.

I use the Kurz strictly as live performance tool. I don't know how to operate the arppegiator ..nor even how to spell "arpegiator."
 
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HI Elwood,

Yes, I don't use the midi sequencer in the Kurz, ..except to record a little of my performing free-time {no click) so that I can leave the keyboard in order to hear my sounds (sound check) from the middle and back of the theater/hall before a show.

I use the Kurz strictly as live performance tool. I don't know how to operate the arppegiator ..nor even how to spell "arpegiator."

Hello William,

Yep...this just further defines my point,as it's a testament to how useful Kurzweil can be to some,& virtually useless to others....which begs the question; why imbue a keyboard with a set of features to try and appeal to the masses,but seriously cut corners in the process??
I mean...it's not as if Kurzweil is still being made in the U.S. and charging $10,000 per keyboard(in which case,I could understand cutting corners to remain within the margins of a production budget.)Kurzweil...for the last 9 years or so,Kurzweil was bought out by a Korean company(Hyundai) and their products are manufactured in China and Kurzweil still doesn't have the capitol to effectively compete with the likes of Korg,Yamaha,Roland or Casio??

This is why Kurzweil remains to be a small company(& why they lost one of their star employees; Dave Wieser).Perhaps if Kurzweil focused solely on stage pianos & the live performer and left out their half-baked "studio" features and thereby making their keyboards a bit cheaper in price,they may grow as a company.

I wonder though..since most electronic gadgets are color touch screens anyway and since Casio has color touch screens on all of their keyboards in their new Privia line.how expensive can such screens be?

I guess one can only conclude,that the corporate bean counters at Kurzweil,have no vision and that they are too blinded by their greed,to make any substantial investments...in order to meet the overall demands of the current keyboard market.
 
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As of this writing I am still using the Kurzweil PC3 for live performances and the Kronos for home recording. The producers of the show have just purchased another Kurzweil. I have kind of given up on the Kronos for my multi-part multi-key layered and foot-switched type of live drumming performances. On the other hand I can see me using the Kronos for some casual work as an organist, pianist, keyboardist sideman because it has some great sounds.
 
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Hello William,

Yep...this just further defines my point,as it's a testament to how useful Kurzweil can be to some,& virtually useless to others....which begs the question; why imbue a keyboard with a set of features to try and appeal to the masses,but seriously cut corners in the process??
I mean...it's not as if Kurzweil is still being made in the U.S. and charging $10,000 per keyboard(in which case,I could understand cutting corners to remain within the margins of a production budget.)Kurzweil...for the last 9 years or so,Kurzweil was bought out by a Korean company(Hyundai) and their products are manufactured in China and Kurzweil still doesn't have the capitol to effectively compete with the likes of Korg,Yamaha,Roland or Casio??

This is why Kurzweil remains to be a small company(& why they lost one of their star employees; Dave Wieser).Perhaps if Kurzweil focused solely on stage pianos & the live performer and left out their half-baked "studio" features and thereby making their keyboards a bit cheaper in price,they may grow as a company.

I wonder though..since most electronic gadgets are color touch screens anyway and since Casio has color touch screens on all of their keyboards in their new Privia line.how expensive can such screens be?

I guess one can only conclude,that the corporate bean counters at Kurzweil,have no vision and that they are too blinded by their greed,to make any substantial investments...in order to meet the overall demands of the current keyboard market.

Who are the users? Consider that once upon a time a fellow named Ray, who was a kind of inventor, met a guy named Stevie, who played the organ and piano and much more. Ray built a music-making machine for Stevie called the K250, and Stevie liked it very much. Now, what use might a large touchscreen be to Stevie? Just something to think about.

I had to laugh at this: "I guess one can only conclude,that the corporate bean counters at Kurzweil,have no vision and that they are too blinded by their greed,to make any substantial investments ..."
 
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