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Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

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Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby sepandee » Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:31 am

I've played piano for many years and at some point in my teens was pretty decent, actually. Now I just play for fun. But I already digress: I'm looking for a keyboard that serves two functions, and I know nothing about keyboards, hence why I'm looking for advice:

1) to play piano. I don't have space for a full standup piano, so I'm looking for something smaller but still with at least 72 and ideally 88 keys. It should also be sensitive to the amount of force I put on the keys, so that if I hit a note harder it sounds louder than if I touch it more gently. I want to play it as if I'm playing on a piano, if that's possible.

2) For years and years I've had all sorts of different music in my head, from simple, one-instrument classical tunes to music and tunes with different layers of instruments (classical, electronic, etc.). I'd like to finally try to capture some of these tunes in my head. Again, clueless as to how. So the keyboard should give me the ability to play different instruments as well as connect to a software on my Mac, for example (and later I'll have to ask about the software) so I can layer the different instruments, edit them, etc.

Again, I'm a newb at this, so any advice would be welcomed. I really appreciate the help. Thanks.
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:59 am

Hi and welcome to the forum.

There are lots of different keyboards that will fulfil your brief, 88 notes, velocity sensitive and with decent piano sounds. The simpler ones will have a few pianos and organs and maybe strings, others will include orchestral and/or synth sounds, on up to 'workstation synths' which also have recording 'sequencer' facilities and other stuff. All will have midi (either over USB or old style DIN) which will allow you to expand the onboard sounds and record to a computer. Let us know your budget.

However, as we are on the verge of being able to go into music shops again so I'd suggest going to your local shop and spending some time playing and listening to different keyboards.
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby sepandee » Sat Jun 05, 2021 10:03 am

Sam Spoons wrote:Hi and welcome to the forum.

There are lots of different keyboards that will fulfil your brief, 88 notes, velocity sensitive and with decent piano sounds. The simpler ones will have a few pianos and organs and maybe strings, others will include orchestral and/or synth sounds, on up to 'workstation synths' which also have recording 'sequencer' facilities and other stuff. All will have midi (either over USB or old style DIN) which will allow you to expand the onboard sounds and record to a computer. Let us know your budget.

However, as we are on the verge of being able to go into music shops again so I'd suggest going to your local shop and spending some time playing and listening to different keyboards.

I will definitely go to a local shop. Where I am shops are already open, but I want to have some clue as to what I'm doing first before go in to the store.

Budget... I have no clue. I was ready to splash at least $8K on a piano, but for a keyboard... would $1000 or $2000 get me far? Ideally the keyboard will also have some synth sounds as well.

And you lost me at workstation synths and recording sequencer facilities, lol.
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby The Red Bladder » Sat Jun 05, 2021 11:13 am

Something like a used Korg Triton Pro-X (88-key, weighted keyboard) or the Yamaha MX88 new is stupidly cheap.
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby ManFromGlass » Sat Jun 05, 2021 12:20 pm

I’ve heard some classical players are surprised by the feel and playability of what passes for a keyboard on a synth. Also the nuances one can achieve on the synth can get close to the real thing but will never match it.
Disclaimer - I haven’t played one of the newer synths in awhile so maybe the gap between real piano and synth is even smaller now. There are those here with greater expertise than mine on this forum.
The shops are a great idea.
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby sepandee » Sat Jun 05, 2021 12:38 pm

I don't even know what kind of a shop I should go to. There's a piano shop next to me, but I doubt they have keyboards (just a lot of grand pianos). Are there generally shops dedicated to keyboards?
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby blinddrew » Sat Jun 05, 2021 2:08 pm

Tell us roughly where you are and we might even be able to give you some first hand recommendations. :thumbup:
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby MOF » Sat Jun 05, 2021 3:05 pm

Upto £2k budget I would suggest Kontrol S88 with Komplete software.
There are bundles that will save you money over buying them separately.

https://www.native-instruments.com/en/p ... ntrol-s88/

https://www.native-instruments.com/en/catalog/komplete/
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Jun 05, 2021 7:15 pm

Go into your local 'guitar shop', in my home town it's PMT in Salford, they will have people who can answer your questions and let you try out various options. I would expect one of the more sophisticated home electric pianos with a range of preset orchestral instruments would be where you'll end up, your piano shop may well carry them. Stick with the well known makers like Roland, Korg and Yamaha, and avoid keyboard synths and workstations (which they all make) unless you are prepared to cope with a steep learning curve. £2k budget should get you into the mid range. If you want a piano with a few additional sounds there are some used bargains out there like older Yamaha Clavinova pianos, these home instruments can go for peanuts and play and sound very good.
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby Wonks » Sat Jun 05, 2021 7:52 pm

It's more likely to be Sweetwater, Sam Ash or Guitar Center (yes they do keyboards) as the OP was talking in $, not £.
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:39 pm

Classically trained pianist and synth fanatic reporting in.

I've tried a lot of weighted action keyboards, own a few and most of them are 'not bad' but noticeably short of the real thing. Obviously the action is a very personal thing, probably more so on a synth than a real piano but the best, by considerable margin, I've found to date is that on the Roland Fantom 8. The piano sound is very good for a stock synth sound too.

That might be a little over your 2k budget as it's a full workstation with just about every sound you're ever likely to need as well as onboard sequencing and a bunch of other stuff but I'd certainly recommend having a go on one.

I was happily in my own little world going a bit nuts on my friend's Fantom some time ago and he sneakily recorded some of it. It's a bit messy in places but you'll get an idea of the dynamics.

It's definitely the most playable synth-as-a-piano I've laid hands on to date and I'd recommend seeing if you can try one out.

I believe there is a cheaper Roland synth that uses the same keybed but I can't remember what it is off the top of my head.
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby sepandee » Sat Jun 05, 2021 10:41 pm

blinddrew wrote:Tell us roughly where you are and we might even be able to give you some first hand recommendations. :thumbup:
Wow, I didn't expect this much help and this many comments. WHat a community. Bravo to SOS!

I recently moved to Barcelona, so that's where I'll be buying it from. There's also a second-hand website called wallapop.es that I can take a look at, maybe. For example, someone mentioned the Roland Fantom 8, which is probably way beyond my knowledge and skills but nevertheless, I found this X8 (which maybe is an older model? I don't know): https://es.wallapop.com/item/roland-fan ... -603681686
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sun Jun 06, 2021 1:36 am

As a fellow pianist, if you're looking to substitute for the real thing then I cannot emphasise enough that you do need to lay hands on something before buying it.

The technology involved in the physical build of 88-note weighted synthesizers has done a fantastic job moving towards the ideal of a real piano but it's not there yet. At this point the state of the art is in a twilight zone whereby for some pianists there are boards available that really hit the spot.

I've been a dual pianist/synthesist for well over 30 years now and as such I've gotten used to the way that synth keyboards work such that I've effectively retrained myself to be happy with a lot of them but to a pianist there are huge differences between 'weighted' boards that might not be apparent to the uninitiated and if you're a classically trained pianist coming into this cold then you should be prepared either for compromise or for the search for the right instrument for you.

I've not laid hands on the synth you linked, so cannot comment on whether it would work for you or not but in all honesty I'd be reluctant to buy anything I hadn't played personally unless you're willing to take it as it comes.

That said, you could simply adopt the attitude that a synth is a synth and a piano is a piano, thus rather than trying to seek a perfect emulation of the latter with the former you're comfortable applying your pianist skills to a synth. If you can take that to heart you're unlikely to be disappointed with most 88-note weighted action keyboards but by the same token if you can't take that to heart you likely will be.

My advice in your situation is to go try some things out in your local stores. As I said before, keyboard actions are very personal things and it's better to go the extra mile to find something you're happy with than take a punt on something you haven't played just because someone else likes it!

Edit: If it helps, in my collection there are some weighted 88-note keyboards I get along just fine with. These are the Yamaha S90, the Yamaha XS8 and the Korg Kronos 88. None are perfect and if forced to choose based on action alone I'd probably pick the S90, old though it is.

I'm going to get a Kurzweil K2700 in due course when they become available, but that's more for the synthesisis engine than anything else, though I have high hopes for the keyboard action.
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby John Stafford » Sun Jun 06, 2021 3:14 am

I mostly play classical piano music. I chose the Roland FP90 as the best compromise for me. Their more expensive console pianos have an improved action, but I've never sought one out to try, as I don't have the space for one. Hybrids like the Yamaha Avantgrand or the Kawai Novus NV-10 are wonderful as they have a modified version of a real grand action, but again I have nowhere to put one.

I have a grand in the same room, and I have no problem moving between it and my digital. I use it to control my synths too. It's more complicated with my pre-MIDI gear.
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Re: Advice for classically-trained piano player but clueless about keyboards and recording

Postby Arpangel » Sun Jun 06, 2021 8:21 am

Hi, an 88 note electronic keyboard of any type, will take up just as much physical horizontal space as a compact upright acoustic piano, I’m like you, primarily a pianist, started out learning classical music, I need a "proper" keyboard, I understand, and an acoustic piano would be my first choice, even though I’ve left that world behind now, it’s still important to me, I would try and make space.
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That would be an ecumenical matter.

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