Longtime Player... But Don't Know Much About Keyboard Gear + Synth vs Keyboard?

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Hey everyone,

So I've been playing for about 10 years, and I had always had an (acoustic? regular) piano to play. Well when I moved out I couldn't really bring the piano with me.

My parents bought me an older, used Alesis keyboard, and it's OK (kind of s****** as a piano goes, w/e haha) but in the middle somewhere, I picked up guitar and started playing more "punk/indie" type stuff with a band, and now we play out quite a bit it is a pain in the a** to lug this thing around. Seriously weighs probably 50 pounds and it takes up quite a lot of room in a vehicle.

SO, what I'm looking for:

-Relatively compact, but not TOO small. Maybe more than 3 octaves would be a decent baseline.
-Good variety of effects. A couple strings, one or two solid piano tones, some synth-y stuff, and maybe some more unique sounds
-Something that can plug in mono (for looper). The Alesis has to be plugged in stereo, with an L and R.
-Not using this to play anything technically demanding

And honestly, this is so noob, but what is the difference between a SYNTH and a KEYBOARD? If I'm going for a non-piano tone most of the time, is a synth better?

Thank you!
 

happyrat1

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Technically words like synth and keyboard and even electronic piano are thrown around pretty much interchangeably by marketing geeks these days.

Essentially all electronic keyboards are synths of one sort or another and what matters more is the TYPE of synthesis they use, be it PCM, or Subtractive or Analog or FM or PM or Samplers or any of the types used in the past 40 years.

Most modern electronic pianos and synths these days use PCM and hence are called ROMplers which are basically sampled sounds stored in a ROM chip.

As for recommending a specific synth for your purposes I'd recommend a Roland Juno DS88.

Lightweight, around 30 lbs, fully weighted hammer action keybed with great piano and organ sounds as well as about 1300 sampled synths and orchestral, wind, strings and all the bread and butter sounds for a gigging musician selling for just under $1000 USD these days.

Best bang for the buck in ROMplers these days, bar none.

I personally own the 61 key model and if I were in the market for an 88 Key main controller these days I'd buy one myself in a heartbeat.

Gary ;)
 
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Thanks a lot Gary. I'm kind of partial to the 61 key option actually, if I can find one used that would be just what I'm look for.
 

happyrat1

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I think you can find the 61 key version new for around $599 to $699 USD.

You're not likely to find one used though. They're relatively new on the market.

Gary ;)
 
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Yorkeson, one thing to note that unweighted keyboards (virtually anything under 88 keys) feel VERY DIFFERENT than an acoustic piano, and might be hard to adjust to. I've been playing for about 30 years, but since I started on piano, I've NEVER been able to adjust to an unweighted board, and to this day, pretty much only play on weighted 88s. I could go smaller, but it's the touch that makes the difference, and they just don't bother making unweighted boards under 88 because really, it's the weights that you're paying for with the 88 boards, so they wouldn't be able to make smaller ones much cheaper.

For synth and organ stuff, obviously unweighted/semi-weighted boards make sense and many people prefer them (I'm kind of weird, I play a lot of organ and synth parts, but since I started on piano, I'm totally fine playing them on weighted boards), but considering you, like me, started on piano, I highly recommend giving that some thought before you make your purchase.

If you're looking for something less expensive, but don't need many bells & whistles, like you aren't interested getting into synthesis, I recommend looking into "Electric Pianos" which basically are an inexpensive way to get a small acoustic-style piano into your house (with varying degrees of success). I recently did some research and suggested the Yamaha P-45 for my inlaws. But soon after I played my friend's Casio Privia PX-160, and really wish I had suggested that instead. So yeah, my personal recommendation, in hearing that you're a piano guy, is the Privia PX-160.

BTW: I've had Alesis stuff for years. They used to be a different company with higher quality products, but they went bankrupt and bought out by another group. They still continue to make decent gear, but it's extremely low-end stuff, priced accordingly. I wouldn't expect anyone to think it's great stuff, though. I do play an Alesis Vortex keytar as sort of a gag on stage, and at $200, you can't really go wrong, but it is what it is.

Gonna take a stab and guess that Alesis Board is a QS8? I used one for 15 years, got me through a lot of gigs, but yeah, it's 46lbs, and it's piano sound is crap. Pretty good feel though, and it's organs were very good for the time.
 

happyrat1

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If you're absolutely sold on picking up a 61 key used though, then take a look around for a used Juno DI or Juno G.

Older models somewhat available at reduced prices.

Gary ;)
 

Fred Coulter

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Something that can plug in mono (for looper). The Alesis has to be plugged in stereo, with an L and R.

Almost every stereo keyboard I've seen has the option of going mono as well as stereo. Generally, one of the stereo outputs will send a mono mixed signal if nothing is plugged into the other output. Which one may vary; read the manual.
 

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