Q. Can you recommend a 73-key stage piano?

Published in SOS March 2013
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I seem to be the only person in the world who wants an unfussy, weighted stage piano, with — at most — 73 keys. I have little money, so can't afford to have a piano for home use and a piano for stage use, and I have no space to store them even if I could afford it. I don't play the 'dusty' ends much, so saving space by not having 88 notes suits me fine. I also have feeble arms and a small car, so it'd be great to keep the weight down too. My ideal would basically be the Casio Privia P3 with two octaves missing, as it has a great sound and lovely action. Is there really nothing out there — current or discontinued — that could do all I want? I can probably stretch to around £1500 if I had to. What might you suggest?

Lucy Weston via email

SOS contributor Robin Bigwood replies: There are actually quite a number of 73- or 76-note keyboards out there that could fit the bill. As always, you have to decide what your priorities are. For example, hammer-action keyboards are usually very heavy, so the keyboard with the action that suits you most might also be the least portable. There's also a choice to be made between a high-quality but limited piano-oriented sound set, or the 'jack of all trades' nature of a synth workstation.

I think the keyboard most worthy of your consideration is the Nord Electro. Version 4 of this well-respected and undeniably vibey keyboard was launched fairly recently, but its v3 predecessor seems to live on in Nord's range. The 73-note version comes in at around £1400, has semi-weighted keys and weighs less than 10kg. The version with a hammer action, surprisingly, weighs only 1kg more, but it'll set you back a cool £1800. Still, these are brilliant gigging instruments that are well worth the money. They can be loaded with all sounds from the Nord piano and wave libraries, and sport top-class rock organ emulations too.

Challenging Nord in this same market sector are a couple of serious players' instruments by Japanese manufacturers. The Korg SV-1-73 is £1299, offers 36 electric and acoustic piano presets, and has a decent Korg RH3 hammer action. The alternative offered by Roland is the 76-note VR700 V-Combo at about £1200. You get great organs and pianos, along with strings, synths and pads. And, with a lighter 'waterfall' keyboard, it's not too heavy. It is rather long, though, because of those extra keys and a 'bender' section to the left of the keyboard.

Next up, a couple of 76-note stage keyboard all-rounders. Cheapest of all (£599) is the Kurzweil SP4-7. There's no doubting the pedigree, but this workmanlike piano could prove a bit basic for really serious use. More flexible, though unashamedly oriented towards the synth world (the clue's in the name) is the Roland Juno Stage for £950. I spent some time with one a little while back and enjoyed playing it. Like the V-Combo it's quite long, but it has some nice live-leaning features such as audio file playback (for backing tracks and so on) from USB sticks, a click output for drummers, and a phantom-powered mic input that's routed through the internal effects. Buying a stage piano will always require some compromise, whether that means having less than you want or, in some cases, more. The excellent Nord Electro 4, for example, is easily portable, but only has semi-weighted keys, and is not cheap. However, the Korg M50, though technically a synth workstation, rather than a stage piano, is a snip at £850 but, again, only has semi-weighted keys. It's no surprise that fully weighted keys and portability do not go together!Buying a stage piano will always require some compromise, whether that means having less than you want or, in some cases, more. The excellent Nord Electro 4, for example, is easily portable, but only has semi-weighted keys, and is not cheap. However, the Korg M50, though technically a synth workstation, rather than a stage piano, is a snip at £850 but, again, only has semi-weighted keys. It's no surprise that fully weighted keys and portability do not go together!Q. Can you recommend a 73-key stage piano?

Finally we get to those synth workstations. The Korg M50-73, around £850, is a svelte 9kg and could get you safely in and out of many gigging jobs. But there's also the new Korg Krome 73 for £1000 or so, and that boasts a flagship Steinway piano sound, plus good e-pianos too: definitely one to audition. I reviewed the Kurzweil PC3LE7 for SOS a while back, and, while I thought it was a real workhorse, its pianos (in particular) are a little way off state-of-the-art. I'm sure the Yamaha S70XS at around £1600 would be nice, too, but it's a hammer-action whopper and a solid 20kg.

In essence, though, these are all rewarding, useful instruments, so choosing between them is a nice problem to have. Best of luck!  .


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