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.
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! .