Pianos, and Keyboards, and DAWs (Oh My!): Newbie Needs Advice.


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Yes, I think it'll be one keyboard.

I noted up front the budget was a little flexible so part of what I need to better understand is how big of a difference a few hundred US$ makes and whether, given our intro/intermediate level, we'll use/appreciate the differences.

I'm also working to better understand the keyboard-DAW balance (e.g. pros/cons of where the production work gets done). My limited experience with a little MIDI controller had everything happening on the computer, of course (voices, effects, quantizing, etc.). Since we're not gigging, I'm still wondering if a fairly straightforward keyboard can meet the piano-experience needs + essentially serve as a fancy midi controller.

We're not in a huge hurry, so I'm reading and thinking about all this. Again, thanks for the ideas.

BTW, I thought it was interesting that the basic guide articles on this site are pretty dismissive of Roland and quite positive about Yamaha piano sounds. But that's probably a debate for another day...;)
 
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happyrat1

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At this point my advice is to go out with your wife to a few music stores and try some of the available units.

If you're composing on a DAW you definitely need the bigger palette of available sounds to work with from Woodwinds to Brass to Orchestral to Drums to Synths to Pianos and Organs and EPs since choosing the right sound for a part can make or break a mix.

If at all possible, audition a Casio Privia PX-160, PX-360 and PX-560 and hear the differences for yourself while also auditioning a Juno DS61 and a Juno DS88 to get an idea of the sounds.

My advice is to stay away from Yamaha in the budget keyboard line for reasons I have already outlined.

Key features to look for in a keyboard :

1) Polyphony : Minimum should be 128 these days.

2) Real Line Out connectors. Otherwise you're stuck with whatever cheezy speakers the manufacturer builds into them.

3) Class Compliant USB MIDI connectivity so you're not stuck with using manufacturer's drivers til doomsday or till supprt is dropped by the manufacturer entirely.

4) Genuine 5 Pin DIN MIDI ports so you can add hardware MIDI voice modules in the future.

5) A huge selection of voices and those voices should sound pleasing to the ear, not cheap or brassy so you can compose orchestral and contemporary pieces that will sound professional.

6) If you're a pianist then a decent weighted hammer action 88 keybed.

Basically we're just trying to help you avoid the mistakes which we might have made ourselves earlier on.

This is a basic checklist of what you should be looking for in a keyboard these days.

Gary ;)
 

happyrat1

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BTW, that dismissive buyer's guide article is 8 years old. The entire music industry has evolved incredibly since then.

Gary ;)
 
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David

We can bandy suggestions for an age and out suggestions will differ, it does not mean one is right and one is wrong.

I certainly did not spend $1000 to get me into playing a keyboard (I am primarily a guitarist) I bought something far cheaper, ($200) learned the craft for 18 months then eBayed the keyboard and got 1/2 what I played for it back, so it cost me less than $9 a month in the hit I took by buying a beginner keyboard.

In the time I learned my keyboard skills my requirements changed and what I then wanted was an Arranger and not a Workstation, so I now have a system that works for me and I can hook it up to my laptop for DAW use.

Hence can I suggest that after you have completed further research you re-evaluate your criteria and refine them or completely change them as suits.

Maybe take lessons for a few weeks to help you along the path.
 
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I am back from my local music store where I have checked out a Juno DS and also a Korg Kross 2 in a side by side demo.

Both are very similar in feel and functions, promand cons with each.

Google .... Korg Video Manual Kross 2 .... and you get a batch of short videos describing various features, do similar with the Roland ...... Roland Juno DS ..... and look for those produced by Product Support and again these show various features.

Roland could learn from Korg as the Korg Videos are much superior in layout and progression.

So can I suggest that you add the Korg to your list of possibilies, the price for the 88 key version should be similar to the Juno88.

Whilst you continue your research do check out Arrangers as they might meet your needs, the Korg Video Manual series on the PA700 will show you what Arrangers are capable of, I am not suggesting that they will do all you want but learning about them will help your understanding of the differences between keyboard function.

Whilst on Arrangers with my own if there is not a musical Style onboard that I want to use I can search out a suitable MIDI file online, download it and import it into my Arranger and then set about modifying each instrument to engineer the sound that I want, it is so easy. Using a DAW, no problem, the MIDI file produced by the DAW can be imported and converted into a style which in turn can be modified and instruments changed at will.

So I am suggesting keep options open whilst still in research phase.
 
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Greetings. I wanted to let you know that we're now the proud owners of a Casio PX-870. (I hear some of you groaning! ;) ) We very much like the keyboard action and feel, as well as the piano sound. I haven't had a chance to experiment with connecting it to the computer/DAW yet but that'll come. Right now, I'm focusing on basic skill-building and this will more than meet my needs for the foreseeable future.

I just wanted to thank you again for taking the time to respond to an unknown newbie. It was helpful to hear from multiple perspectives.
 
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Glad you are sorted.

No groaning as the Casio certainly gets some great reviews, and I hope the computer connection works as you want it to.
 
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IMHO, the value of the Forum isn't so much to "help you make a decision", as it is to help you understand what the alternatives are, and the trade-offs between them. It worked.

The PX-870 is more "piano-like" than any of the other alternatives. It shares a nice action with the PX-360, and the sound generator is good enough to learn with. The "continuous half-pedalling" and "string resonance" are both nice features. The MIDI-over-USB connectivity (which is "class-compliant", no special drivers needed) should work fine, when you need it.

Attached to a DAW (which gives you flexible MIDI recording and editing, and an unlimited palette of sounds using VST's), you should be fine. If the PX-870 can play back multi-timbral MIDI (more than one instrument at a time), you'll be able to do multi-track composing easily, without thinking about VST's.

The features you may miss (IMHO) are Line In, and Line Out. It's unfortunate that you can't use the 20-watts-per-side built-in speakers to play computer-generated audio (that needs "Line In"). But as you know, anything you bought would have been a trade-off of various features.

Have fun! If you want more water from the firehose of advice and opinion, check out the "Piano World" piano forums. But don't let that cut into your practice time.<g>

. charles
 
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Integration with DAW was simple and smooth. No lag issues, either. (I was a little concerned about that.)

I did know I wouldn't be able to use the keyboard's speakers without a "line in" jack, but I play the computer's audio through studio monitors, so it's all good.

I'm having fun learning some basics and working on my sight reading, so it's already a success in my book! :)
 
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This looks like a great forum. I’ve already learned quite a bit by poking around.

I’m another newbie looking for some keyboard buying advice.

Purpose and situation:
  • 1 adult beginner (with a little "by ear" guitar experience) + 1 adult intermediate (with music training years ago, mostly violin, a little piano)
  • Strictly amateur home hobby use; no gigging. (Portability not an issue.)
  • Recently introduced to hands-on experience with DAWs and their (awesome!) capabilities, using a little Akai MPK-mini controller.
  • This is a long-desired, upcoming-retirement splurge. Though getting to this late in life, we’re serious (“someday when I have the time….”) and want something that will accommodate growth. This will likely be our only purchase; we don’t want to have to upgrade in just a couple of years.
  • Eclectic music tastes; not so much pop or hip hop but almost everything else including blues, folk, country, rock, EDM, “world,” new agey stuff, ambient, classical…
  • Budget is a little flexible but given my total beginner status, I have a hard time justifying spending more than $1000 or so (knowing some “extras” will add to that total). Looking for the best “bang for my buck.”

Essential:

  • Good “piano-like” experience
    • Physically: 88 keys, weighted
    • Aurally: Good-quality piano sound
  • Versatility: at least a few voices
  • Connectivity: Ability to interface easily with a DAW (I have Studio One) for some a basic music production (for fun)
    • Record/clean up live keyboard performance recordings
    • Mix/arrange MIDI tracks with audio recordings (guitar)
    • Add tracks/VST voices/effects,
    • Create more ambient soundscape stuff.
    • Export for playback just for fun.
Bonus: Beginner learning tools (not sure what these would be)

Questions (overlapping):
While I think have a basic understanding of how the terms “digital piano” vs. “synth” vs. “arranger/workstation” get used, there seems to be an awful lot of overlap. There’s the stripped-down “digital piano” (e.g. the Yamaha P 115, using sampled sound) but then there’s piano+bells and whistles under the “portable grand” category with (Yamaha DGX 660) and 88-key synthesizers, too (Yamaha MX88) Confusing. (I’ve been looking at Yamaha, primarily, but have no allegiance.)
  • Do my wants seem to suggest focusing on one category more than the others? Why? (Is it as simple as "digital pianos have higher-quality sound samples vs. synthesizers have versatility" as I read in some places?)
I’m not clear on what the relationship is between the voices that come with some keyboards versus voices available through VSTs on my DAW.
  • Can I pipe DAW-based voices through the speakers of a digital piano?
  • Would I be better off spending my money on a quality digital piano leaving all the digital extras (many voices, multitrack stuff, etc) for the computer, rather than the onboard keyboard? Or are there distinct advantages to having some of those abilities “on board”? (Lag issues?)
  • Can “on-board” voices be updated? Can new ones be added? (I keep seeing mention that Yamaha voices are getting "dated" etc.)
Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

If the main purpose is getting a realistic piano feeling check out this.
 
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