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Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

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Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby mitya33 » Sat Sep 01, 2018 11:51 am

Hi all

First-time poster, total noob, go easy...

I'm a classical pianist with a strong love for electronic music. With this in mind I'm considering upgrading my 20 year-old electric piano.

In my local music tech store I came across the Yamaha Montage 8. It's an amazing thing, and I barely scratched the surface in the hour or so I had with it. I later found out, though, that this is basically the bees' knees (one review said it might be the best synth ever made.)

With this in mind, is it too advanced for someone just starting out in electronic music production? I like it because it's a synth-piano combi, by which I mean it has a full piano keyboard with weighted keys. That's key for me - I'm not after a synth with non-piano-style keys. I'm a pianist first and foremost.

Or would I be better just getting a piano and doing the electronic stuff on my PC rather than on musical hardware?

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby blinddrew » Sat Sep 01, 2018 2:48 pm

mitya33 wrote:Or would I be better just getting a piano and doing the electronic stuff on my PC rather than on musical hardware?
I suspect that's a debate that could run as long as the PC vs MAC one... :D
My tuppence (and bear in mind I'm really not a synth man) is that it will entirely depend on what you want to do and how you work.
Software synths obviously give you a huge range of potential sounds and effects for potentially a fraction of the cost, but they don't have the same ability to come up with something magical whilst just playing around and twiddling knobs.

Oh, and welcome to the forums. :)
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby resistorman » Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:48 pm

Welcome! That's really a question only you can answer, they both have strong points and weaknesses. I've done both, and currently, I'm enjoying not using the PC for general music making mayhem... having tactile control is great. And that is one amazing, badass synth there.
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby mitya33 » Sun Sep 02, 2018 10:27 am

Hi guys

Thanks for the replies.

Yes I think the tactile, hands-on aspect is definitely attractive.

I'm a web developer by day so I'm actually rather turned off by the idea of making my music solely at the computer. I rather prefer the idea of leaving the PC at the end of the working day and going to my synth to do music, rather than just staying at the PC and using a different program from my day job.

Given that the Montage 8 is clearly a nuclear bit of kit, can anyone suggest any other 88-key (weighted) synths that would be cheaper and still a very good bit of kit? Bear in mind I'm totally new to this - most of the terminology is still lost on me but I'm learning fast!

Continued thanks.
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby Escapegoat » Sun Sep 02, 2018 3:04 pm

88-key synths are a very tricky thing to sell used, so you would find a lot of used workstations for sale at much lower cost: Kurzweil, Roland Fantoms, etc. They are a PITA to ship and bulky = fewer buyers.

The Fantom G is capable and people struggle to sell them for £1000 on Ebay/etc. It also has a 24-track audio and 128-track MIDI sequencer built-in, plus inputs for guitar and mic; ideal for making music without any computer. I liked mine (a 61-key version) very much, although the sequencer was just a little bit too quirky for me to gel with.

In contrast, the Montage has the most under-powered under-featured sequencer going. It's laughable, but Yamaha refuses to acknowledge that it's a shortcoming. I now have a Montage 7 and that's the only drawback (mine is hooked up to an MPC Live for sequencing).

If you chose the Motif XF8, you'd get something more like the Fantom G - a proper sequencer for making music, and the Montage's AWM2 sound engine. (But you don't get the Montage's FM sound engine in the Motifs.)

I mentioned Kurzweil above. They're much-loved by their advocates, but tweaking them via the V.A.S.T. system requires a level of study and tests of commitment that are beyond this mere mortal.
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby Dave B » Sun Sep 02, 2018 6:10 pm

mitya33 wrote:Given that the Montage 8 is clearly a nuclear bit of kit, can anyone suggest any other 88-key (weighted) synths that would be cheaper and still a very good bit of kit?

Short answer : no.

Longer answer : no, not to the same level for a significantly reduced price. Recently, the price of these kind of machines (referred to as workstations as they tend to do everything) has gone up and we are now pretty much talking 3 grand for the top of the line equipment. Roland don't seem to have a flagship at the moment (their stuff is cheaper and that means that it's not the full monty), Korg have the Kronos and Yamaha now have the Montage. For a bit less, there is the (thoroughly excellent) Kurzweil Forte. If you don't want everything under the sun, but still want a good strong piano and weighted keys, then the Korg Krome 88 is a steal at the moment. It would take you a good while to get through that.

If you want to look at the second hand market, then there are some great deals around. Bizarrely, 88note weighted key workstations are the worst when it comes to holding their value, so you can often pick up bargains. If you were to look at an old Roland G8, I'd check the piano sound first and make sure it's good for you. Ditto the older Yamaha Motif machines (others can give better info on the various ranges). Even old Kronos / Kronos Xs are relatively good vfm and they have the same basic sounds as the currently flagship.
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby mitya33 » Mon Sep 03, 2018 1:11 pm

Thank you, guys. Some excellent shopping tips there. I will go and do my homework.

Why do you think the Montage 8 deliberately has no/a poor sequencer? That seems like a strange omission, particularly for a machine that some reviews are calling the best synth ever made.

I've seen some people say because of that it's not really a workstation, in that you can't feasibly use it as a one-stop-shop for making and recording an entire track. I don't know myself how true that is.

Finally, does anyone have any thoughts on Kronos vs. Montage? The former has full sequencer, and 9 sound engines, yet people rave about the Montage. Clearly I've much to learn...
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby desmond » Mon Sep 03, 2018 1:29 pm

One thing to note is that traditionally, the manufacturers tended to have their own family sound character - Roland, Korg and Yamaha all had fairly distinctive and easily identifiable sound characters in the past. I don't now how true that is nowadays as I haven't recently played on the big workstations - perhaps there are less differences now the tech has caught up and it's eay enough to always do high quality sound.

Even so, you may prefer the features of one model, but the sound character of another. Which doesn't make the choice any less tricky! ;)
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby Escapegoat » Mon Sep 03, 2018 4:12 pm

mitya33 wrote:
Why do you think the Montage 8 deliberately has no/a poor sequencer? That seems like a strange omission, particularly for a machine that some reviews are calling the best synth ever made.

I've seen some people say because of that it's not really a workstation, in that you can't feasibly use it as a one-stop-shop for making and recording an entire track. I don't know myself how true that is.

It's a sort-of-notepad sequencer, and OK for short ideas, or perhaps recording a phrase and playing over the top, but it has no usability features compared to the sequencer that Yamaha put into the Motif (but deliberately chose not to put into the Montage).

Search the Yamaha forums and you'll see Phil "Bad Mister" doing a great job of saying that the Montage is a performance synth, not a workstation. Poor guy has to tell people over and over again! :)

Note that "best synth" does not necessarily mean "most complete synth". I love my Montage, but YMMV.

The Kronos is a great synth, but its interface is annoyingly complicated (for me). I had the 61 key version and never really enjoyed using it (unlike the Fantom G and Montage).

IMHO, if you don't want FM sounds and programming capability, and DO want to write multi-track music with it, the Motif XF8 is way better value than the Montage.
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby mitya33 » Mon Sep 03, 2018 4:25 pm

Thanks man, really helpful. I think based on what you've said, and other stuff I've read, that the Montage is ruled out now.

This thread and some others I'm subscribed on have suggested some alternatives and I'm looking at the Kronos. I take what you're saying about the complicated interface, but I can (hopefully) live with that if I commit to it, and the reviews all say that, in practically every regard, it's a superlative piece of kit.

Will look into the Motif XF8 - not seen that one yet. Also just started looking at some Kurzweils. While I'm here, any Nords that should be on my radar?

Continued thanks, really appreciate the help.
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby Escapegoat » Mon Sep 03, 2018 8:43 pm

Good luck on the hunt. :)

Only thing on the Kronos that I forgot to mention: it takes over 2 minutes to start up. Every time. Oh, and the fan (it's actually a full PC with Atom motherboard running Linux inside) can be a bit obtrusive - especially if you are playing quietly at night without headphones.

Most other workstations are good to go in about 10-15 seconds and more or less silent.

It sounds like I've got a downer on the Kronos, but it is a lovely sounding synth. Check the Korg Forums for more user experiences. I'll shut up now and let other folk spill the beans on Kurzweil and Nord. :)
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby mitya33 » Mon Sep 03, 2018 8:49 pm

Interesting re: start-up time. That's quite a while, especially, as you say, compared to the others.

Kurzweil - I just looked at their flagship but the screen seems really small. And since I'm aiming to treat whatever I buy as a one-stop-shop without the need (at least initially) for screens and PC-based DAWs, the screen is important. Hence the Kronos is enticing if only for the fact that, from what I've read, it can function as a DAW given a) its extent of features; b) its lovely screen.

I just posted up a separate thread asking if the Fantom FA-08 could also function as DAW as that is priced really attractively. Be interesting to see what folks say.

Perhaps my determination to avoid a PC/screen is doomed ultimately in the long run!

Continued thanks
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby ef37a » Tue Sep 04, 2018 12:00 pm

Not really qualified but putting my oar in so as to follow the discussion!

Have you got something decent to listen to a keyboard on? Proper (fairly potent) studio monitors would be best but some form of PA rig or a keyboard amplifier would do.

Assuming you CAN make a noise, next step IMHO is a "dumb" keyboard" with USB and MIDI outs and an Audio Interface also with MIDI ports. The Steinberg UR22 is well thought of.

So encumbered you can now play a world of sounds but I urge you to download the trial of Modartt's Pianoteq. Lovely sounds, lovely people and a very low CPU hit bit of software.

In fact you can just get Pianoteq and put some cans on and enjoy the samples!

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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby mitya33 » Tue Sep 04, 2018 12:20 pm

Hi Dave

I appreciate the input and your expertise.

If I understand what you're saying you're suggesting I move away from my current intentions, which is to buy one piece of kit, a workstation, as a one-stop-shop for my music creation. (Plus - yes - some monitors, of course.)

I'll need to look into the tech/software you mention as I'm very new to all this but the first question I have in response is, what in that stack acts as the sequencer/DAW?

As I've mentioned before, I'm attracted to something like the Kronos as it's a DAW as well as everything else. Gets me away from the PC, and I've got everything in one place. With the stack you're suggesting, does that involve a PC screen?

Continued thanks.
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby ef37a » Tue Sep 04, 2018 12:38 pm

mitya33 wrote:Hi Dave

I appreciate the input and your expertise.

If I understand what you're saying you're suggesting I move away from my current intentions, which is to buy one piece of kit, a workstation, as a one-stop-shop for my music creation. (Plus - yes - some monitors, of course.)

I'll need to look into the tech/software you mention as I'm very new to all this but the first question I have in response is, what in that stack acts as the sequencer/DAW?

As I've mentioned before, I'm attracted to something like the Kronos as it's a DAW as well as everything else. Gets me away from the PC, and I've got everything in one place. With the stack you're suggesting, does that involve a PC screen?

Continued thanks.

Oh no! I HAVE no "expertise" I am just making the suggestion that you could get an AI and a keyboard and have a listen to software sounds?

Whatever you do and however you do it you are going to need some form of speaker reproduction? I would also say that an interface is really pretty vital. The UR22 is about £100 and even if you found it useless after a few months (bet you wouldn't!) you can chop it in on the Bay and get a good bit of the money back.

I must emphasise that I have no experience with the instruments you mention. I merely suggest a relatively cheap way to get a very versatile music system going.

DO try Pianoteq!

Dave
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby blinddrew » Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:35 pm

Out of curiosity, do any of the workstations have the facility to run a separate screen? Or link to an app on a tablet?
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby ef37a » Wed Sep 05, 2018 5:18 am

blinddrew wrote:Out of curiosity, do any of the workstations have the facility to run a separate screen? Or link to an app on a tablet?

Now, see. Drew has lost me!

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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby blinddrew » Wed Sep 05, 2018 8:01 am

I was just thinking that it would be an easy way to improve the editing experience by being able to plug in a larger screen, or use an ipad as a similar increase in screen real estate.
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby Escapegoat » Wed Sep 05, 2018 9:27 am

blinddrew wrote:I was just thinking that it would be an easy way to improve the editing experience by being able to plug in a larger screen, or use an ipad as a similar increase in screen real estate.

The Montage has an unofficial capability to run an external monitor via its USB socket (another example of Yamaha's stubborn refusal to admit to features that weren't meant for customers to use). You can see this is one of Ujiie's YT videos. As the Montage screen is a touch-screen, there's some question how useful it is to have a bigger non-touch-screen, and some chap on YT has a series of experimental videos on achieving this - not sure how far he got.

The Kronos should have that capability (it's a PC motherboard after all), but I think it's been nixed by Korg.

The Fantom G doesn't, but it's existing 800x480 screen can also use a USB mouse, which makes the sequencer very DAW-like. It's a shame, as Roland has the tech (the MV-8800 and VS-2480, for example, both had very useful VGA outputs that transformed the machines' usability).
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Re: Pianist looking to get piano-synth combi - Montage 8?

Postby mitya33 » Wed Sep 05, 2018 11:53 am

Interesting thought re: screen out / screen control with mouse.

I wonder if Roland's FA-08 would support this - I'm presently quite interested in this machine, given its lovely price.
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