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Portable (ish) keyboard advice

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Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby ClemFandango » Mon Nov 25, 2019 6:16 pm

Hi, just wondering if someone could help with digital piano advice! My son is about to turn 18 and would like a keyboard that he could possibly set up in his Uni room. He is Grade 7/8 piano and has expressed an interest in "recording" different instruments and putting those layers together (not really sure what I'm talking about here). He is into computers - and I know he recently put notes individually into a program so he ended up with sheet music to play. So I need to find a decent keyboard for his 18th present. Any ideas/recommendations? I don't have the faintest idea when it comes to stuff like this. Our local music shop has two Korg(?) keyboards. Are these any good? Any advice from all those musos out there would be very gratefully received.
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby Arpangel » Mon Nov 25, 2019 7:31 pm

ClemFandango wrote:Hi, just wondering if someone could help with digital piano advice! My son is about to turn 18 and would like a keyboard that he could possibly set up in his Uni room. He is Grade 7/8 piano and has expressed an interest in "recording" different instruments and putting those layers together (not really sure what I'm talking about here). He is into computers - and I know he recently put notes individually into a program so he ended up with sheet music to play. So I need to find a decent keyboard for his 18th present. Any ideas/recommendations? I don't have the faintest idea when it comes to stuff like this. Our local music shop has two Korg(?) keyboards. Are these any good? Any advice from all those musos out there would be very gratefully received.

If he's living in halls he'll probably have little space, depends on your budget, I would recommend a "workstation" type keyboard, to save space. All of the major manufacturers, do them, Korg, Yamaha, Roland, if he's got a lap top he'll be able to use that in conjunction with the keyboard, to expand it's possibilities, a pair of monitor speakers like i Louds and an audio interface and that's that.
There are many ways to skin this cat, you could get a master keyboard and go the software route, which materially is less cumbersome, and cheaper. Sounds like your son has keyboard skills too, so he'll definitely appreciate a good 8 octave weighted master keyboard if you go down that route.
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby Eddy Deegan » Mon Nov 25, 2019 7:37 pm

Given your son is relatively advanced with his piano skills, I would suspect that he'll need less in the way of editing facilities and more in the arena of the keyboard action (how it feels to play, and how many keys it has).

As a pianist/synthesist myself, over the years I've found the ideal 'all in one' solution for both doing piano work and recording multi-tracked pieces is some form of workstation with an 88-note weighted keyboard.

Before we start throwing specific ideas at you, could you give us some indication of the budget you have? This is not a trivial purchase, so it helps to have an much information as possible in the meantime to guide you in the right direction!

Is he going to be using a computer to do the recording, or would his preference be to use a built-in recorder (we call them 'sequencers') on the keyboard itself?

A lot of people who are not particularly piano orientated use synths as sound sources, rather than as instruments in their own right, and record a chord here, a bassline there, a lead sound or whatever and then edit/extend these performances in a computer using DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software, but unless he has a burning desire to do that I would recommend the 'all in one' approach where the keyboard not only acts as a piano but also as a synthesizer with onboard sequencing.

My reasoning is that he can play well, is likely to simply re-do his parts until he's got them right and as such is less likely to need the graphical editing that comes with DAW software. The editing facilities on an all-in-one workstation are almost certainly going to be more than enough for him. They are relatively basic compared to a DAW but for cleaning up a smudge or a wrong note, correcting timing (where it's desired) and for 'copy and pasting' sections of a performance, a workstation will have all that covered.

So... a lovely idea to buy your son something so nice! Ballpark budget? :thumbup:
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby ClemFandango » Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:40 pm

Thanks so much for your very comprehensive (and helpful) replies. It's his 18th so would be happy to spend a few hundred - minimum £200, maximum £600. I guess if I was getting him an iPhone it would be around £500-£600 but I consider this a far superior purchase. Sorry, I know that's a quite a wide ballpark.
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:25 pm

ClemFandango wrote:My son is about to turn 18 and would like a keyboard that he could possibly set up in his Uni room. He is Grade 7/8 piano and has expressed an interest in "recording" different instruments and putting those layers together...

This is a tricky one.

You're basically describing a 'workstation keyboard' -- an instrument capable of producing a lot of different sounds, with an internal multitrack recording system. But most cost rather more than your available budget, especially if you want something with the traditional weighted 88 note keyboard.

So it really depends on what features and facilities your son deems important. Does he want/need something that feels like a piano to play, with a full keyboard range? Or could he manage with a lighter, smaller keyboard -- still very playable, but a different experience.

If so, there are very capable workstations with semi-weighted 61 note keyboards that would just about fall into the top of your budget. These would arguably be a more practical size for transport to, and use at, uni, as well.

The decision is actually quite a personal one. Is not just the feel and size of keyboard. It's also the operating paradigm, the range of sounds, the workflow...

So I'd strongly recommend letting your son in on your very nice idea, and involve him in the selection of something that meets his specific requirements and expectations.

The Korg Kross 2, in it's 61 note variant, might be a good place to start: https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/korg-kross-2
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:18 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:The Korg Kross 2, in it's 61 note variant, might be a good place to start: https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/korg-kross-2

I would second Hugh's suggestion. Many 88-note weighted-action workstations live in the £1500 - £2500 range (and some can cost significantly more) but in recent years there have been more workstation-like products which have inherited the technology of their larger siblings but with reduced feature sets while retaining many of the advances in sound generation.

Korg are a very good brand and produce some top quality stuff (I've used Korg hardware as part of my setup for about 25 years now) and though I've not laid hands on a Kross 2 myself, were I looking for something with multi-track sequencing and synth sounds in your price range I think it would be hard to beat.

There's a video here that gives an overview and demonstration of the Kross 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHz606PPN3s and you'll find plenty of others if you search for them.

At the £600 mark (or thereabouts) you are inevitably going to have to compromise somewhere, and I suspect that would come down to a choice between a weighted 88-note piano-style keyboard with fewer workstation-like features or a synthesizer-type keyboard (which has a much lighter and 'springier' action but with those features.

The alternative would be to focus more on the electric piano side of things. At this point it would certainly be worth having a chat with the lad and finding out what his preferences would be before deciding which way to go.

Let us know if you need any more input in the meantime.
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby Arpangel » Tue Nov 26, 2019 9:00 am

Dare I suggest an 88 note Korg Triton, still a great workstation, good keyboard too, you may even get a Triton Extreme for your budget.
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby ClemFandango » Tue Nov 26, 2019 10:29 am

Thank you! I'm going to take your advice and try and pin him down a bit more - and we'll try and get into a music shop so he can actually see what's available. But at least I feel like now we'll be armed with a little more information! That is really really helpful. Thank you.
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby fatbenelton » Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:18 pm

I have slightly different view. If he's primarily a pianist then perhaps a good digital piano should be the priority. His interest in recording can still be satisfied by connecting the piano up to his computer (no doubt all students will take pc/mac to Uni) and using the plethora of music software out there -some of it free - to record, access soft synths etc. He's already used a notation programme so may already have some of these? If you get a piano with USB then integrating with his computer will be easy. In any case, he can fire up the piano and practise at the flick of a switch without any complications a workstation may bring - not least the added cost.

Andertons have some options linked below - more on budget too!

https://www.andertons.co.uk/digital-piano-buying-guide
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:22 pm

That guide looks as if it was written by the cleaner.......

"Most modern digital pianos are super easy to record with. It’s all down to connectivity. Here are some of the most common types of connection found on a digital piano:

3/4” jack – this is the industry standard instrument audio connection. Most digital pianos will have a 3/4" jack connection, which can be easily connected to an audio interface, mixer or amplifier.
1/4” jack – also known as the 3.5mm jack. This type of connection could be used for connecting headphones or external sound sources like smartphones, tablets and laptops."
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby fatbenelton » Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:33 pm

Sure but I think it shows a useful range of options in terms of the products.
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby blinddrew » Tue Nov 26, 2019 2:07 pm

I wonder what kind of current you could safely transfer through a 3/4" jack? :D
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby Wonks » Tue Nov 26, 2019 2:13 pm

Not a lot after you've used a large hammer to force it in to a 1/4" jack socket. :D
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Re: Portable (ish) keyboard advice

Postby ClemFandango » Tue Nov 26, 2019 11:04 pm

:D :D :D
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