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Hi, my wife wants to start playing pop music and I'm looking to get her a keyboard, and have been trying to research it but am missing some key info. As background we used to have an original Motif but never mastered it. When we bought it she wanted to do some composing and recording, but that never happened. At the time our focus was on the sampled sound quality and the keyboard feel.

Now I need to think more about synthesized sounds. I realize that a lot of people use software nowadays, but I'd like to have a standalone keyboard if possible. I realize some have synthesizers, but I imagine it takes a lot of experience to try to duplicate sounds yourself. Can you download sounds that other people have created that mimic popular songs? If so, do you need a keyboard with a synthesizer to play them back or are they sampled sounds?

Thanks very much. If there is a better forum to go to please recommend. I've already read a number of buying guides but they were all lacking.
 
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Welcome

Whilst I may be making a lot of assumptions it does seem as though you both may want very different keyboards.

I would say that your Wife could be up and playing Pop music pretty quickly with an Arranger keyboard, now depending upon price Yamaha PSR E463 > Casio CT X5000 > Korg PA700 > Korg PA4X.

As for yourself, research MIDI, there are masses of songs in the MIDI format that you can download and play.

DAW software such as the free Cakewalk by BandLab will get you going and a MIDI controller keyboard as per those listed below.

Above all please do not rush it, learning to play takes a lot of practice time, effort and reading theory books.

Following is a series of basic notes that might help to clarify some confusion.
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Do you want to play a Piano or Keyboard?


That is the question my Teacher asked when I took up playing keys after years with a guitar and bass.


He qualified it by stating, there is a difference in how I teach you and in how you will develop.


Piano.

At its most basic level LH plays the Bass lines and chords, RH plays the melody.

Independent LH & RH playing actions will need to be developed.

A Digital Piano is just that 88 weighted keys with a variety of Piano sounds to call upon to be used, other sounds can also be incorporated within the unit.


Keyboard.

Two basic types, Workstation and Arranger.

Both start with 61 keys and as the models increase in complexity and cost 76 key and 88 keys versions become available as budget increases.

Each type of unit has hundreds if not thousands if instrument sounds that can be used as an example there can easily be over thirty different types of Piano sounds available to be selected.


Workstation.

Highly customisable, often with inbuilt recording, looping, and the ability to set sequence patterns of sounds that can be called upon at the touch of a button.

Usually over one thousand instrument sounds available to be used.

Orchestral sounds can be built up by layering one instrument on top of another to produce a Combination that can be saved into a User area and assigned to a Favourite button.

Watch a Band and the person on keys will probably be playing a Workstation, if they have more than one unit then a digital Piano is likely to be there unless your name is Rick Wakeman then the number of keyboards he uses is often in excess of ten.


Arranger.

A keyboard that typically incorporates onboard amplification and speakers for a fully self contained unit.

Instrument sounds or voices are categorised into families with typically thirty specific instrument sounds available.

These keyboards include Auto Accompanying of styles that are or can be triggered by the left hand.

The keyboard is electronically split (adjustable and can be switched off) so the Accompanying sounds are played with the LH and RH plays, melody lines, arpeggiated chords, improvisation, melody accompanying lines, syncopations etc.

A beginner to keyboards will probably start off learning on a low value Yamaha or Casio unit and then progress to more complex keyboard.



Synthesizer.

Is an electronic sound generator, it can be a keyboard or non keyboard model.


With all the above keyboard types, there is a considerable degrees of overlap and incorporation of functions within each category.


The choice of which type will be best for you is dependent upon what you want to play, the style and long term plans.


If you have doubts or just want to dip ones toes in then an Arranger will probably be the best unit to go for. With the auto accompaniment feature it will enable you to produce music relatively quickly.


Technicals

Polophony, this is the number of different instrument sounds that a keyboard can play at the same time.

Styles, there are hundreds of presets arrangements including in an Arranger keyboard, each Style will have a specific number of musical instrument sounds included and when the Style is initiated it will provide sounds and rhythm related to a music genre like dance, r n b, waltz, rock, ballad etc


Songs, some keyboards have a specific style, rhythm and instrument sounds that are intended to produce a sound similar to a popular song such as Ed Sheeran’s Thinking out loud, John Lennon’s Imagine, Elvis Presley The Wonder of You, Glenn Miller Moonlight Serenade etc songs that span many decades of music to cater for all ages.


Sustain pedal, a foot operated on/off switch that if it is pressed and held as a key or keys are pressed the note(s) continue to sound until the pedal is released.


Recording

Most keyboards have the ability to record your performance, the degree of flexibility and editing capabilities does vary substantially. That said a substantial number can be connected to a PC/MAC where audio recording software can record your performance but taking recording to another level is software known as a DAW where you can create a multi layered track, each with full individual recording and editing capabilities, many good DAWs are freeware.


Virtual Instruments

A MIDI keyboard controller, DAW software and a whole series of software instrument sounds can give a very capable Recording Studio in its own right. This setup can also provide a very economical entry into keyboard playing for the computer literate.


General advice

Keyboard manufacturers have online manuals available to download for current and older keyboards therefore it can be useful to read said manual to help gain an understanding of a specific keyboards features.

Keyboard manufacturers also have Video Tutorials online which can give a good grounding on the features and on using a specific keyboard.

Online reviews vary from excellent to dire so do take them with a pinch of salt, if any start with, wassup, then move on to another video.

Be flexible in your choices as what you think will be the best keyboard for you does not necessarily relate that it is the one for you.

Do not get hung up on a particular manufacturers products.

Yamaha produce some excellent keyboards but they produce very cheap ones to get learners locked into the brand, but their tutorials and customer support are almost non existent. Their higher end learner keyboards and their top of the range Arranger are the standards others have to match or better.

Within a specific price band the capabilities of different manufacturers products are very similar.


Keyboards to consider


Beginner/improver keyboard

Yamaha PSR E series

Roland Gokeys/Gopiano


Arranger

Korg PA700/1000

Roland EA7

Korg PA4X

Yamaha Genos


Workstation/Synth

Korg Kross 2

Roland Juno DS61


Workstation

Roland FA 06

Korg Kronos


MIDI controller keyboards

Novation Launchkey

Arturia Keylab Essential

Native Instrument Komplete Kontrol
 

happyrat1

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What I think he is looking for is a ROMpler style workstation with a sampler capability.

88 keys are not an absolute necessity but nice to have.

Some keys with sampling capability are the Korg Kross 2, The Roland Juno DS, The Roland FA, and the Kurzweil PC3K and Forte and the Korg Kronos.

All of these are available in 61 and 88 key sizes and prices according to your preference.

It's ultimately up to your wife. If she is serious about composing then I'd recommend 88 keys.

As for which model to choose? Compare features and specs of each and weigh them against your budget as to just how deeply you wish to jump in.

Gary ;)
 

happyrat1

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BTW, don't be shy to look at youtube demos and tutorials as well as manufacturers' specs and manuals to help make your decision.

At the very least, once you narrow it down to one or two you simply think are the bee's knees you should take the time to download and print all of the user's manuals for your selections.

Poorly written documentation can absolutely ruin the experience for a first time buyer.

Gary ;)
 
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Thanks very much. Although she may want to compose/record someday, the purpose now is performance; she would like to start a band. She's an accomplished piano player but she doesn't do real well with complex computerized things unfortunately. I will be the one to set things up and show her how to use it.

I'm not anticipating sampling our own sounds, but you still need a sampler for downloaded samples? I would think you could add sampled sounds to virtually all pro-level keyboards.

I was initially hoping to stay under $1k, and was looking at the Roland Juno, Yamaha MX, and Korg Kross. (The one my wife actually liked best was an older Yamaha MM8, but the don't seem to get a lot of love.) Weight is an issue so we aren't set on 88 keys or fully weighted at this point like we were with the Motif; I was liking the 76 key options but not all have that. But even the 88 key ones in this range are pretty light compared to our old Motif, although I've never seen anything in my life that used even close to all the keys, but maybe pop stuff is different.

I definitely will look at manuals and videos -- I have done a little already -- but what I saw didn't answer my questions and I wasn't sure what class of instruments to even look at. The Motif manual was horrible. I also had a Yamaha AW16G recording workstation and an O1v96i mixer; the recorder manual was also bad, the mixer not quite as bad but still had a reputation for being difficult to use. I have a background in electrical engineering, software development, and music, so you'd think it would be easy for me, but the guys who wrote these things were in a different world. I actually had a good experience with their customer service though. I had a bad key on the Motif and am from southern California, so I just drove down to their headquarters and dropped it off. I had it back in less than a week with a completely new key bed. I'm hoping they're better now, but once I determined what type of instrument to look at I was going to ask about manuals, ease of use, support, etc.

So back to instruments -- in an effort to make it easier to use, I started thinking the more expensive models like the Yamaha MODX, Roland FA, and Korg Krome with the larger screens (and possibly touch screens) might be worth it. I was still hoping to keep it under $1500 though, which rules out some of the 88 key options. But if it's worth spending more I can, but I don't want to go over $2k. But I noticed that the MODX dispensed with a lot of the buttons because of the touch screen, which I don't really like.

One problem is no store near me stocks the Korg or Kurzweil keyboards as far as I've been able to find and I'd really like to try one in person, so I might wait until I go to SoCal at Christmas.

At any rate, back to my original question -- we can download samples for popular songs into any of these workstation or synthesizer keyboards?
 
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So back to instruments -- in an effort to make it easier to use, I started thinking the more expensive models like the Yamaha MODX, Roland FA, and Korg Krome
Any of these would work well in a "pop band" situation.

we can download samples for popular songs into any of these workstation or synthesizer keyboards?
In the case of the Krome, absolutely.


I don't offer a recommendation one way or the other on the above as I program all my own sounds, but the point is these sort of things are definitely available. Based on the video sounds pretty good too.

I don't have too much expertise on the other two keyboards you've mentioned but I'd be surprised if similar third party offerings weren't available for those too. Might be a case of you doing a bit of on line research.

As an aside, you'll find all three of these keyboards come pre-loaded with a mountain of sounds, so your wife might be pleasantly surprised by what's already in the box when she starts exploring.
 
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Rayblewit

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Welcome to the the forums @hemismith
To be honest . . . Your budget is healthy which is good! But your needs and desires and expectations will clash! Your choices are vast.
The many options will do your head in and as you already have experienced problems with some models.
Asking for advice here is just going to result in more confusion. @Biggles has awesome knowledge of the many current models and their features @happyrat1 is also in touch and has massive technical knowhow.
Both these members will give sound advice however the ultimate final selection must be hands on.
Your wife must physically test drive a short list to make sure the chosen model suits all your needs.
At any rate, back to my original question -- we can download samples for popular songs into any of these workstation or synthesizer keyboards?
To focus on this question . .
Are you wanting accompaniment backings of popular tunes to be downloaded into tbe keyboard itself?
This confuses me because you said your wife is an acomplished pianist. So would it not be better to have the backing tunes emit from another source? Not the Keyboard!
Or are you refering samples as to voices? In which case each and every brand, make and model has 100's or 1,000's of voices relating to popular tunes.

1. Narrow down your needs.
2. Choose to buy from a short list.
3. Once chosen, keep in touch here and you will get sound advice on set up and operation!

If there is a better forum to go to please recommend.
There are many experienced people (musos and techos) here on this forum willing and keen to guide you. Stay with us!
Get you wife involved in the conversation too!

Cheers RAY
 
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Difficult to read and follow Manuals do seem to be the norm, Roland and Korg manuals are a bit better than Yamaha (whose do seem to be comprehensive yet say nothing) but at least the Video Tutorials for both these makes are very, very good. For each keyboard on Youtube, Korg tutorials are labelled as Video Manual and Roland as Product Support.

Under $1k I would suggest that the Korg Kross 2 or the Roland DS are the prime choices, and if weight is a strong criteria the Kross 2 is by far lighter and smaller in overall dimensions to carry around, it was a close call when I decided to buy the Kross over the Juno DS in terms of sounds and build quality, both were vastly superior to similar priced Yamahas.

Samples, yes with the Kross 2, not sure with the Juno, on the Kross 2 you import files and also you can perform on the keyboard and save the file then assign the file to one of the Sequencer buttons.

Why not check out these two for your Wife and you will still have cash left over to get yourself a MIDI keyboard controller so you can both do your own things on keyboards at the same time?
 
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Thanks everyone!

To focus on this question . .
Are you wanting accompaniment backings of popular tunes to be downloaded into tbe keyboard itself?
This confuses me because you said your wife is an acomplished pianist. So would it not be better to have the backing tunes emit from another source? Not the Keyboard!
Or are you refering samples as to voices? In which case each and every brand, make and model has 100's or 1,000's of voices relating to popular tunes.
Sorry if I caused some confusion, I'll try to clarify. No, I'm not looking for any accompaniments or backing tracks or midi files. I'm just trying to figure out in general how a person can recreate the sounds of various popular songs. (I see that Yamaha uses the term voices where Roland and Korg use the term sounds.) There are in general two types, sampled (recorded) and synthesized. A lot of the sounds I hear in pop songs are synthesized, so I was wondering if you have to actually create them yourself or if you can download ones that other people have figured out, and if you can then add them to a keyboard. And if you need a synthesizer keyboard to play them back or if they are just sampled sounds that in theory any keyboard could play back. Although the instruments nowadays have an amazing number of sounds, they can't possibly have everything and new songs/sounds are always coming out.

Thanks again, I'll do more in-depth research of the models mentioned.
 

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