Simple keyboard for live layering?

May 16, 2014
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Hi everyone,
I was hoping you could help me with a specific logistical problem concerning live keyboards.
I’m a complete techno-dummy and therefore please forgive my shockingly unsophisticated terminology and any obvious overlookings on my part...
Anyway, I’m looking to get a new keyboard to use live with our band. I’ve only ever used really old and really basic 80s ones. The problem is I need a keyboard that can play pre-recorded (by me) layers at the same time that I’m playing other layers. This needs to occur at specific times during a song, obviously. So in short, I need a keyboard that can recreate the presence of another human keyboard player.
So an example of the problem/necessity would be on a song we do, say at 1:07 some keyboard flute chords come in and at the same time a xylophone melody comes in. I need a keyboard that ‘knows’ when and how to be the xylophone whilst I’m actually playing the flute chords in real time. I don’t want to split the keys because I’m not that accomplished a player, plus I think I’d need maybe 13 or 14 fingers! Splitting isn’t an option anyway because I think there are a few songs we do that require three simultaneous keyboard layers.
I just need something simple. Something good with a nice array of synth sounds yes, but essentially, an easy to operate but quality machine (Roland, korg?).
I read about ‘Arranger’ keyboards doing full chords with one left finger whilst melody is played on the right. I don’t want that; I don’t want the keyboard to do too much for me really (other than become a ghost and play back an entire part!). I also see ‘Workstations’, which seem to do everything, but seem pretty complex, and probably do way more stuff than I need.
As I think more and more about the issue, I see other logistical hurdles ahead e.g our drummer would surely need headphones, and drum to a click track omitted by the keyboard that only he can hear, surely? - In order to ensure that the pre-recorded keyboard bits come in at the right time, and are IN time too?
I’m convinced this is such a universally basic problem for all musicians who have ever needed extra people to play the available musical parts, but for whatever reason can’t source them, therefore need to rely on ‘technology’ for the parts to be heard at the right time. Do I need to be thinking about words such as ‘sequencer’ or ‘sampling’ here? Again, I wouldn’t know where to start...
So I guess my requirements are:
1. Needs to be able to create a multiple-layered ‘song’ with layers knowing to come in at specific times
2. Needs to sync up with a drummer somehow
3. Needs to have an 8 or 16 track recorder (just because it might be nice to tinker with for getting embryonic ideas down in the future)
4. Needs to be simple, simple, simple.
Any advice or external sources would be a godsend!
Thanks in advance.


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