Portable Keyboard with Accompaniment

Discussion in 'Keyboard Purchase Recommendations' started by right.idea, May 16, 2017.

  1. right.idea

    right.idea

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    Been lurking for a while, but this is my first post (I searched the archives and didn't find anything). I was at a piano store recently and heard a demo of the accompaniment features on a Lowrey EZP8. The EZP8 is not portable, which I would prefer, but I understand the Kawai ES8 has the same accompaniment capabilities and it is portable. So what are the opinions of the ES8? Are there any other or better alternatives that will allow me to add accompaniment to my music? TIA
     
    right.idea, May 16, 2017
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  2. right.idea

    Fred Coulter Collector of ancient keyboards

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    What you seem to be describing is an arranger. Right now, the top arrangers are made by Yamaha and by Korg.

    I lean towards Yamaha, not because their arrangers are better but because there is a lot of third party support for their keyboards, with a lot of FREE resources. But I understand that Korg is giving them a run for the money for their arrangers. Roland and Casio also make good arrangers.

    Arrangers create arrangements on the fly, with the player in control of the chords live. On the other hand, there are software solutions available if you plan out your chord sequences in advance. (There are also software solutions roughly equivalent to arrangers.) So the first question is whether you're looking for a preplanned arrangement or an improvised arrangement. And the second question is whether you want a software solution or a keyboard.

    Then comes the real question. What's your budget? You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on an arranger, OR you can spend a couple hundred (or less, if you look used). Or anywhere in between. (For those who question the tens of thousands price, remember Wersi. They may be overkill, but they are, among other things, arrangers.)

    Also, what do you mean by portable? Do you mean something a normal person can carry, or do you mean something that runs off batteries?

    Once we know these answers, then we can drill down a bit for you.

    (Yes, there are also arranger modules that connect to some other keyboard. But that's a pretty esoteric market niche. But if that's the way you swing...)
     
    Fred Coulter, May 16, 2017
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  3. right.idea

    right.idea

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    Wow, I've never even heard the term "arranger" before, so that's a lot to digest. Instead of looking for a complete new instrument, then, would it be possible to add an arranger to, say, a Casio PX150 and achieve full orchestral accompaniment to whatever song I'm playing? For instance, if I want to play Mack the Knife, instead of playing chords with my left hand and melody with my right hand, would I be able to control the orchestral accompaniment with my left hand and play the melody with my right hand? If so, what add-on equipment should I look for?
     
    right.idea, May 16, 2017
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  4. right.idea

    SeaGtGruff I meant to play that note! Moderator

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    Are you saying that you already have a Casio PX-150, and you're trying to decide whether to keep it or trade up to something else?

    The PX-150 doesn't have the variety of tones needed to play auto accompaniments, so you'd need to play them on your computer. You'd need software to play the accompaniment patterns, as well as virtual instrument software. You can find free virtual instrument software and soundfonts on the internet, and some of them are very good, but you'll generally need to pay for the best virtual instruments. I'm not familiar with any of the available programs for playing accompaniment patterns, but I assume they aren't free.

    If you're going to have to spend money anyway, you might want to consider just buying a new keyboard. It looks like the next model up in the Privia line-- the PX-350 or PX-360-- have auto accompaniments built in, plus the variety of tones needed to play them.
     
    SeaGtGruff, May 17, 2017
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  5. right.idea

    right.idea

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    Yes, I do have a PX-150, but what you said about its limitations makes sense. So I'll look at the Casio PX-350 and PX-360. Also mentioned were Yamaha and Korg arrangers. I like the fact that there is third-party support for the Yamahas. Any advice on specific Yamaha/Korg models would be appreciated. Then there's the Kawai ES8. How extensive are the onboard music libraries on these various instruments? Any consensus on best bang for the buck?
     
    right.idea, May 17, 2017
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  6. right.idea

    Kiên

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    What you seem to be describing is an arranger. Right now, the top arrangers are made by Yamaha and by Korg.
     
    Kiên, May 17, 2017
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  7. right.idea

    SeaGtGruff I meant to play that note! Moderator

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    In descending order, Yamaha's arrangers are Tyros, PSR-S970, PSR-S770, PSR-S670, PSR-E453/PSR-EW400, PSR-E363/PSR-EW300, and PSR-E263. There are also PSR-A models aimed at Arabic music, with the top model being PSR-A3000. And there are PSR-I models aimed at Indian music, with the top model being PSR-I455.

    The Tyros is the top of the line, but it isn't very portable, and is extremely expensive.

    The PSR-S models are less expensive than the Tyros, but are still on the pricey side, with the PSR-S670 being the least expensive.

    The PSR-E models are fine for beginners, hobbyists, or those of us with tight budgets, but aren't as full-featured as the PSR-S models-- and I personally would stay away from the PSR-E263, as it doesn't have a touch-sensitive keyboard. The most notable drawbacks of the PSR-E models are that they have a much lower polyphony than the PSR-S and Tyros models, they can't load new voice packs, they can play only two auto accompaniment variations per style (versus four variations on the PSR-S and Tyros models), and they are only XGlite-compatible rather than XG-compatible (which basically means their voices aren't as rich-sounding and they lack many of the parameters and effects found on the PSR-S and Tyros models).

    Note that the models listed above have synth-style or organ-style keys, and most of them have 61 keys-- the Tyros is available in a 76-key version, and the PSR-EW400 and PSR-EW300 also have 76 keys.

    Another alternative from Yamaha are the DGX models, with the DGX-660 being the cream of that crop. It's basically an 88-key digital piano, although it doesn't have a high-quality keyboard as Yamaha's more expensive digital pianos do. On the other hand, it has a wide selection of voices, as well as the same basic arranger features and XGlite-compatibility as the PSR-E models.

    I have no experience with Korg or Roland models, and my only experience with Casio is with lower-end models.
     
    SeaGtGruff, May 17, 2017
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  8. right.idea

    Fred Coulter Collector of ancient keyboards

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    You asked about plugging something into your existing keyboard. The biggest problem would be managing to get the bass of your keyboard to not make it's normal sounds. I'm not sure if that's possible.

    If it is possible, there are a few options. First, Roland makes something called the BK-7m Backing Module. I've never worked with one, but it's something to look at. https://www.roland.com/us/products/bk-7m/

    There's also an Italian company which has some very high end arranger modules. The company is called Keytron, and they have four different levels of arrangers available. One problem with Ketron is that they aren't well distributed in the United States (where I live), although I've heard some very good things about them. http://www.ketronmusic.co.uk/products/Ketron/arranger_modules/index.html

    If you demand an 88 note weighted keyboard, you're not going to find fully functional arrangers. The DGX series that SeaGtGruff mentioned aren't bad, but one thing that arrangers do that most keyboards don't, is have a huge number of big buttons for modifying things on the fly. The DGX buttons are small, and harder to hit on the fly.

    For example, I lent my Tyros to my piano teacher for Easter. (She couldn't find a trumpet player.) It was very easy to show her how to transpose the keyboard since there were dedicated transpose buttons. The sound selection buttons were available for each type of sound, so she pushed the Brass button, then scrolled through the screen to find the perfect trumpet. If she wanted to use the accompaniment, there are large, easy to use buttons to switch the variation of the style being played. And the default is for one sound on the left and three on the right. You can easily pick which sound plays by pressing a button for each of the three sounds. If the sound is on, the button lights up.

    All of these are to make it easier for the live musician. And (as far as I know) none of them come with 88 keys.

    Both Korg and Yamaha make a 7X key version, with Korg's being substantially cheaper and more portable. Like I said, Korg's giving Yamaha a run for their money.

    Do you have a specific budget in mind?
     
    Fred Coulter, May 17, 2017
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  9. right.idea

    right.idea

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    Budget-wise, I'd like to stay under $1000US, but that is not a hard limit. I would like 88 weighted keys, so maybe the Kawai ES8 is the answer. Before I double my budget (which the ES8 would do), however, I would like to explore the alternatives. I know Yamaha, Korg, and Roland are respected names -- probably more so than Kawai and Lowrey, but I could be wrong.
     
    right.idea, May 18, 2017
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  10. right.idea

    Fred Coulter Collector of ancient keyboards

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    The problem with the ES8 is that it only has "34 Exceptional Instrument Sounds". That's no where near enough to create full arrangements, even with "256-note Max. Polyphony". (I'm getting these quotes from the Kawai site.) I'm also not sure how portable it is; that looks like a wooden stand which usually implies a lack of portability. It also weighs 49 pounds, which is slightly more than the DGX 660, which has over 500 voices, at a cost of two thirds of the Kawai. (Also on a wooden stand, although removing it from the stand to bring to a gig involves two thumb screws to the best of my recollection..)

    The most important difference is that the Kawai doesn't have any sort of accompaniment features that I can see, which you started off saying was very important to you. The Lowrey has double the sounds of the Kawai and simple accompaniment features. (I complain that the DGX 660 has stripped down accompaniment features, but they are far more flexible than the Lowrey.) You can also buy additional accompaniment styles for the DGX at yamahamusicsoft.com, in addition to the free resources I already mentioned. I'm not sure if you can add to the styles built into the Lowrey.

    If the accompaniment features are important to you, the Kawai shouldn't be on your radar.

    Compared purely as pianos, I'm not sure if the ES8 is better or worse than the DGX 660. It has slightly more polyphony, but for playing piano, once you're past 88 it becomes moot. Both have three pedals, although you have to purchase the Yamaha pedals separately. Piano sounds can be very subjective; you might want to see if you can find a store that carries both.

    By the way, my current main keyboard is a Korg Kronos 88, and it weighs 53 pounds, or slightly more than the ES8. I wouldn't call it portable. (That's without a stand. It also doesn't have internal speakers.) I can manhandle it, but it ain't easy. My Tyros is 35.3 pounds, and is still not the easiest thing to move around.
     
    Fred Coulter, May 18, 2017
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  11. right.idea

    right.idea

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    I was sure the ES8 had accompaniment but, at this point, it sounds like the DGX660 is the far better option anyway. It is data points like the ones you shared on voices, polyphony, and expandability that make all the difference -- I had no idea! Thanks for the analysis.
     
    right.idea, May 18, 2017
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  12. right.idea

    Fred Coulter Collector of ancient keyboards

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    You're right. I missed it, but the site says "Rhythm Section with 100 Accompaniment Styles". (I'm getting old and tired. It wasn't all that hidden.)

    But the ES8 is competing with the DGX 660. And the pedals on the ES8 are (apparently) also optional. "Optional Designer Stand and Pedal Lyre" In fact, the stand itself might be optional, while the one for the DGX comes with the keyboard. This makes the price differential even greater.

    So I'd conclude that the ES8 is more expensive and heavier than the DGX 650, with less flexibility in the accompaniment. HOWEVER, the most important difference is impossible to tell without going to the store and playing them both. How do they feel and how do they sound? If you're picky about the piano feel or sound, nothing I say will matter. You need to pick the one that feels or sounds the best to you. (I'm not saying the ES8 is better or worse in terms of feel or sound. I just don't know.)

    The bad news is that it may be difficult to find a store that has them both in stock. Best of luck.

    If you do find them both available to play at a store, let us know what you think when you compare them.
     
    Fred Coulter, May 18, 2017
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  13. right.idea

    Rayblewit Love Music / Love Life

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    Man you have done an exceptional job here helping the OP.
    Full credit to you.
    Ray;)
     
    Rayblewit, May 18, 2017
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  14. right.idea

    right.idea

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    OP agrees -- thanks Fred and SeaGtGruff! Leaning toward the Yamaha DGX660, but I do like that Korg Havian 30, too! Either would fit the budget. There seems to be more info out there on the DGX. Still researching the Havian 30.
     
    right.idea, May 20, 2017
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  15. right.idea

    Fred Coulter Collector of ancient keyboards

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    My snotty pianist bias comes out against "pianos" that only have one pedal. On the other hand, it looks like it will support a volume pedal if you want to replace the damper, which is something the DGX doesn't. (I'm not sure why you'd want to have a piano without a damper, but different strokes.)

    Other than that, it looks good, too. Like I said, Korg has been giving Yamaha a good run lately.

    Try them both in the store and see which one feels and sounds best to you.
     
    Fred Coulter, May 20, 2017
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  16. right.idea

    right.idea

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    LOL, then you are probably going to love this: Somebody on another forum mentioned adding a Roland BK-7m backing module to my current PX-150, and I finally had a chance to do a little research on that unit. Wow! It exceeds the price of the DGX660 by about 20%, but boy is it cool! My PX-150's Midi out is via a USB port, so I'm not at all certain the BK-7m would work with it. Anyway, it might be an interesting option. I can see a definite advantage in being able to upgrade to a better digital piano later without having to re-learn the arranger functions -- as long as the BK-7m can be kept up to date.
     
    right.idea, May 21, 2017
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  17. right.idea

    right.idea

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    Sorry, I attached the wrong quote with my last reply. I meant to quote Fred's post above.
     
    right.idea, May 21, 2017
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  18. right.idea

    SeaGtGruff I meant to play that note! Moderator

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    It looks to me like the BK-7m is a standalone device-- you wouldn't need to connect it to your PX-150.
     
    SeaGtGruff, May 21, 2017
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  19. right.idea

    right.idea

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    I believe the BK-7m would work as a standalone device (great accompaniment for guitar, I would think). But, according to this video, it can be connected to and controlled through a digital piano. I'm just not sure if the PX-150 would qualify because of its USB Midi output. Maybe.
     
    right.idea, May 21, 2017
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  20. right.idea

    SeaGtGruff I meant to play that note! Moderator

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    You would need a special USB-MIDI interface that can act as a USB host, such as a Kenton MIDI USB Host. I think some of the iConnectivity MIDI interfaces might also work (the ones that have USB Host connections), but I'm not certain of that.
     
    SeaGtGruff, May 21, 2017
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