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Key feel on MIDI Controller

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Key feel on MIDI Controller

Postby aod » Wed Jul 01, 2020 12:20 pm

I recently bought an M-Audio Oxygen 61 to replace my cheap and cheerful Behringer controller keyboard.

One of the main improvements I was looking for was the feel of the keyboard, which had favourable reviews, so I took a punt on this one.

Unfortunately the keys don’t have the feel I like, so I’m looking into other options.

My favourite key feel is on my Yamaha PSR-6700 keyboard, which has a nice light but solid feeling response – they are not weighted but feel much nicer than the ones on the Oxygen.

For example I can play 16th or 32nd notes using 2 fingers on one key, with hardly any pressure. If I do the same on the Oxygen, the key hardly moves – it seems there is too much resistance.

I’ve actually found the keys on the M-Audio make my fingers and hands ache after a few minutes which I never got on the Yamaha.

Can someone help explain what the key types are and what to look for on a better MIDI controller keyboard?

I don’t want to spend 100’s but something as good as the Oxygen but with better keys would be ideal.
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Re: Key feel on MIDI Controller

Postby resistorman » Wed Jul 01, 2020 10:21 pm

If you like the Yamaha PSR-6700’s feel, why not use it as a midi control?
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Re: Key feel on MIDI Controller

Postby aod » Fri Jul 03, 2020 8:52 am

resistorman wrote:If you like the Yamaha PSR-6700’s feel, why not use it as a midi control?
Thanks for your reply. Several reasons I'm not using my Yamaha as a MIDI Controller

1. It has a broken key
2. It's more difficult to setup as doesn't have USB and is not GM compatible
3. It weighs over 20kg and is huge
4. Most of the control panel buttons don't work so difficult to put in MIDI mode

So to my original question, I'd like to know what the key feel type is potentially called for this keyboard and what to look for on a new modern controller keyboard for something similar?
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Re: Key feel on MIDI Controller

Postby resistorman » Fri Jul 03, 2020 3:20 pm

Hmmm. It seems to me that keys fall into unweighted, semi-weighted, and weighted categories. Weighted is intended to feel like a piano which is not what you’re looking for. I believe unweighted and possibly semi- weighted keys are referred to as “synth action”

https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/synth-action/

On a side note, weighted keybeds used to be literally weighted with lead to simulate a piano action, though the feel is now generated by more clever mechanical means. I remember well my massive KX88 which I bought as the studio midi controller.
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Re: Key feel on MIDI Controller

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Jul 03, 2020 4:46 pm

Semi-weighted IME are usually lower end electric pianos like my wife Roland EP-7 which simply have a steel weight glued to the underside of each key to give them some inertia. Fully weighted keyboards have a much more sophisticated system which everything up to something akin to a real piano action on the most expensive.
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Re: Key feel on MIDI Controller

Postby dluther » Fri Jul 03, 2020 6:24 pm

aod wrote:I recently bought an M-Audio Oxygen 61 to replace my cheap and cheerful Behringer controller keyboard.

M-Audio isn't exactly the paragon of high-end any more than Behringer is. Go to places like "shopgoodwill.com" and search for Behringer and M-Audio and you'll see an inordinate number of items from those brands, as well as countless Yamaha/Casio keyboards. The amount of stuff donated is directly related to their resale value.

aod wrote:Unfortunately the keys don’t have the feel I like, so I’m looking into other options.

My favourite key feel is on my Yamaha PSR-6700 keyboard, which has a nice light but solid feeling response – they are not weighted but feel much nicer than the ones on the Oxygen.

Yamaha makes their own keybeds, which I think is where you want to focus your attention. Yamaha is known for the feel of their quality keybeds on their high-end synth products, but they're maddeningly narrow -- but then again that may be popular with those who have long skinny fingers... As for me, my favorite action is a "synth weighted action" Fatar TP/8S keybed found on such instruments as the Roland A-70 controller, GEM S2/S3, Kawai K5000 and many others. Their TP/9S is also very popular, found on things like the original Kurzweil K2000, and today's Novation controllers and keyboards.

The thing I like about these particular keybeds are:

a) Not a flat surface, but a very wide radius that makes it easy to gliss/palm smear
b) (TP/8S) black keys are very gently textured which I find extremely useful
c) No sharp edges
d) Release velocity (implementation specific)
e) (Most importantly) the "quality" feel, hard to describe other than "fit and finish", which included key return noise, satisfying weight, minimal side travel, and decent key depth.

Search for "Ultimate Keybed Thread" that has a fairly comprehensive listing of professional keyboards and the keybeds implemented on them.

aod wrote:Can someone help explain what the key types are and what to look for on a better MIDI controller keyboard?

Keyboard keys are generally grouped into the following categories based on the side profile shape of the white keys:

a) Lipped -- most pianos are this profile, named after the "lip" at the very edge, with a straight face. Lots of M-Audio keyboards sport this keybed design; can be unweighted or fully weighted piano action
b) Diving board -- most professional synthesizers and organs use this style of key which is shaped like a diving board. The angled underside allows clearance for manufacturers to design instruments where the key ends are flush with, or even extend past the front of the case.
c) Waterfall -- the ends of the keys are a rounded-over 90 degree angle, popular with organ (Hammond B/C) players.

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Re: Key feel on MIDI Controller

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri Jul 03, 2020 6:28 pm

Thank you for very useful first post dluther, welcome to the forum :)
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Re: Key feel on MIDI Controller

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Jul 03, 2020 9:36 pm

Hi dluther, and welcome to the SOS Forums from me as well! 8-)

It's not often we learn something from the very first post of a new member, but yours is a corker! :clap:


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Re: Key feel on MIDI Controller

Postby resistorman » Sat Jul 04, 2020 5:13 pm

+3 on dluther’s welcome, that’s a lot of info!
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Re: Key feel on MIDI Controller

Postby aod » Mon Jul 06, 2020 5:09 pm

resistorman wrote:Hmmm. It seems to me that keys fall into unweighted, semi-weighted, and weighted categories. Weighted is intended to feel like a piano which is not what you’re looking for. I believe unweighted and possibly semi- weighted keys are referred to as “synth action”

https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/synth-action/

On a side note, weighted keybeds used to be literally weighted with lead to simulate a piano action, though the feel is now generated by more clever mechanical means. I remember well my massive KX88 which I bought as the studio midi controller.
Thanks resistorman – I read into this a bit, and figured my Yamaha was unweighted – but it’s the feel of the unweighted key that it hard to quantify and replicate!

Sam Spoons wrote:Semi-weighted IME are usually lower end electric pianos like my wife Roland EP-7 which simply have a steel weight glued to the underside of each key to give them some inertia. Fully weighted keyboards have a much more sophisticated system which everything up to something akin to a real piano action on the most expensive.
Thanks! I’m beginning to realise that perhaps there are different types of unweighted keys split between low and high end keyboards, but knowing what is what is the difficulty.

dluther wrote:
aod wrote:I recently bought an M-Audio Oxygen 61 to replace my cheap and cheerful Behringer controller keyboard.

M-Audio isn't exactly the paragon of high-end any more than Behringer is. Go to places like "shopgoodwill.com" and search for Behringer and M-Audio and you'll see an inordinate number of items from those brands, as well as countless Yamaha/Casio keyboards. The amount of stuff donated is directly related to their resale value.

aod wrote:Unfortunately the keys don’t have the feel I like, so I’m looking into other options.

My favourite key feel is on my Yamaha PSR-6700 keyboard, which has a nice light but solid feeling response – they are not weighted but feel much nicer than the ones on the Oxygen.

Yamaha makes their own keybeds, which I think is where you want to focus your attention. Yamaha is known for the feel of their quality keybeds on their high-end synth products, but they're maddeningly narrow -- but then again that may be popular with those who have long skinny fingers... As for me, my favorite action is a "synth weighted action" Fatar TP/8S keybed found on such instruments as the Roland A-70 controller, GEM S2/S3, Kawai K5000 and many others. Their TP/9S is also very popular, found on things like the original Kurzweil K2000, and today's Novation controllers and keyboards.

The thing I like about these particular keybeds are:

a) Not a flat surface, but a very wide radius that makes it easy to gliss/palm smear
b) (TP/8S) black keys are very gently textured which I find extremely useful
c) No sharp edges
d) Release velocity (implementation specific)
e) (Most importantly) the "quality" feel, hard to describe other than "fit and finish", which included key return noise, satisfying weight, minimal side travel, and decent key depth.

Search for "Ultimate Keybed Thread" that has a fairly comprehensive listing of professional keyboards and the keybeds implemented on them.

aod wrote:Can someone help explain what the key types are and what to look for on a better MIDI controller keyboard?

Keyboard keys are generally grouped into the following categories based on the side profile shape of the white keys:

a) Lipped -- most pianos are this profile, named after the "lip" at the very edge, with a straight face. Lots of M-Audio keyboards sport this keybed design; can be unweighted or fully weighted piano action
b) Diving board -- most professional synthesizers and organs use this style of key which is shaped like a diving board. The angled underside allows clearance for manufacturers to design instruments where the key ends are flush with, or even extend past the front of the case.
c) Waterfall -- the ends of the keys are a rounded-over 90 degree angle, popular with organ (Hammond B/C) players.

Image

Firstly, thank you so much for your amazingly detailed and informative reply! I appreciate you taking the time to help!

Regarding the M-Audio controller I recently bought, it’s good to know that it’s not actually anything particularly ‘premium’, as something led me to believe they were a step above stuff like Behringer. That explains some of my experience with the M-Audio – which is a great controller for the money, minus the key feel.

Regarding my Yamaha, I think you’ve hit the jackpot! I didn’t realise Yamaha made their own keybeds!

Both have the lipped profile which I like, and I’ve just done an A-B feel comparison. The M-Audio has a spongy light feel, whereas the Yamaha is still light, but has a more positive feel, and when releasing the key you can feel a slight resistance pushing the key back up, whereas the M-Audio just feels very plasticy and floaty. In a computer keyboard analogy, it’s a bit like the difference between a cheap membrane keyboard and a nice microswitch keyboard!

Thanks again for the advice, and I will have a look to see if there are any suitable Yamaha MIDI controller keyboards.
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