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Absolute beginners advice please

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Absolute beginners advice please

Postby 1024-QAM » Tue May 04, 2021 10:58 am

Hi Team.

So my story is I have always loved audio from as far back as I can remember. And that is a looong time.

I dabbled in my late teens working in live audio. Every chance I had I would work for free in theatres at concerts wherever there was a desk and microphone. I started getting paid work from bumping out, stage crew for professional theatre productions, ballet companies (being a teenaged boy working with a ballet company was a treasured time). Eventually I was doing live mixes for bands corporate events and all that. I even spent a short period working in broadcast after knocking on the door and introducing myself and just started working fixing small problems stuff like that.

But I stumbled across a barrier that kept coming up when I tried to progress in the audio world. I am not a musician and any serious level in production seemed to require that skill. I seemed to have a natural ear for what is correct. I could pick up issues in people’s singing and make suggestions on what I thought might help in a situation and have a reasonable success rate even though I can’t actually sing myself. Probably something I picked up working on amateur musicals.

But I am not a musician. It was something that never actually appealed to me. I didn’t want to perform. I hate the spotlight. I just wanted to be involved in the creative process and be around talented people because I appreciated what they could do. And if I could make something pleasing to the ear I was happy.

Now I am older with a career in a different technical field I think I want to learn to play an instrument. After much thought I narrowed it down to a string instrument violin or such or piano.

I have a little arthritis in my fingers and they are big ham fitted man fingers so I have landed on piano. I think I will be trying to teach myself to a certain point and then get lessons when I reach basic understanding.

So the core of my question is what should I buy?

My probably poorly conceived wish list in order of importance to get me started is
Electric - I don’t want to deal with an elephant.
Second hand - I don’t want to over capitalise on something that I may well abandon if life gets in the way.
Weighted keys - I suppose my brain is fairly analogue and I think I will need that feedback to modulate pressure ect.
Reasonable sound through headphones - I don’t want it to be terrible but it doesn’t need to be perfect I don’t know enough to know what’s really good vs barely ok.

As cheep as possible to meet those requirements if my options outweigh my budget I will have to make a compromise between the two.

Thanks
M
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby The Elf » Tue May 04, 2021 11:19 am

I'd just question why you want to learn to play piano?

I'm not saying it's a bad idea, or saying anything against it - just suggesting that you ask yourself the question.

If you want to learn to play piano, then go for it. It will be an incredible journey of discovery. I wish I had done that many years ago.

But if you want to *make* music then take a step back and ask yourself whether all that technical training is really what you want. Pick up a cheap keyboard and a DAW and you could be making music in minutes.

I repeat that I'm not saying don't do it, just saying that you should ask yourself what your aim truly is.

I speak as one who has had to give that same advice to a family member very recently - they are now making their sixth song since lockdown, regardless of their playing ability.
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby 1024-QAM » Tue May 04, 2021 1:39 pm

That is a good question.

It’s a couple of things.
I want to understand what I enjoy. I suppose I could just fire up garage band and punch something out and I would be making music. In my mind that’s a technical process. A+b=c. Not that I think that it’s a lesser valid form of making music but I suppose I want to feel it be more connected with what it is I am doing. I actually think that making quality music electronically would be harder for me. Because I don’t know anything about making music so I suppose piano is where I am probably going to start.

Maybe I am romanticising it a bit but learning piano is leaning about music not just sound. I love the technical aspect of almost anything. But I think playing in instrument would be more than that. For me it’s purely a pleasure pursuit if I find it’s not for me I can step away and be no worse off for it.

And I just simply enjoy learning.

I don’t expect I will ever be what I would call a good musician. But as the old saying goes anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.



M
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby ef37a » Tue May 04, 2021 1:59 pm

Now that they are open again check out charity and second hand shops.

A few months ago I saw some very nice 'organs' and keyboards in my local Scope and an RSPCA shop. Cash Generators also have them at silly money.

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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby James Perrett » Tue May 04, 2021 3:14 pm

I always say that I started making music because I wanted something to record on my tape recorder. Having recorded some fine musicians over the years, I know that my musical abilities aren't going to match my ambitions so I stick mainly to the technical side of things.

However, I like having a few instruments around and, when I want to plonk around on a keyboard, I tend to go to the electric piano first. I find that weighted keys are more satisfying to play and you can often buy discarded electronic pianos with weighted keys very cheaply when their previous owners realise that piano playing isn't for them. The one thing that I would look for on it is a MIDI output, whether on a DIN socket or USB, so that you can use it to control either real synths or soft synths in a computer which will greatly open up your horizons.
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby 1024-QAM » Wed May 05, 2021 11:09 am

Thanks for the advice so far. Can anyone offer advice on particular makes or models that are worth looking at?

I like the idea of having midi. It will probably be a dead technology by the time I use it but options are always good.
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby flozzi001 » Wed May 05, 2021 12:56 pm

I can just give you my own preference. I´m not a piano professional either. I just use it to record some ideas.

I have the Kawai ES-110.
I like it a lot especially the mechanic of the keys.
Also, it has MIDI In and Out which was a must have for me cause i use it mainly as a master keyboard with a VST Piano. The build in sounds are good too.
I´m happy that it has DIN MIDI ports instead of Midi over USB cause the driver support sometimes isn’t that great with MIDI over USB (especially in the long term).

Also consider the bigger brother the Kawai ES-520.
It seems to be easier to use due to an inbuild display. Also, it has the advantage that you can upgrade to three pedals down the line.
And it has DIN Midi Ports and MIDI over USB so basically all your needs should be satisfied.

The price point is around 720£ for the ES-520 and around 400£ for the ES-110 (new).

I also would recommend you (if current situation allows you do to so), to go to a big music store and try a few different pianos. It is the easiest way to find out which mechanic and which sound you like most.
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby The Elf » Wed May 05, 2021 1:25 pm

There are hundreds of options. You will have to help us narrow it down. At the very least:

Budget?
Number of keys? (I'm guessing 88)
Built-in speakers?
Other?
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby Arpangel » Thu May 06, 2021 9:47 am

It’s never too late to learn anything, you can take piano lessons, why not? as you say, if it’s not for you then give it ip, it’s not going to do any harm.
Given what you say, I’d go off and read some interviews with leading "non-musicians" that have made incredible music.
If you don’t know already, start with Brian Eno, the world is now full of people like this, the technological revolution has made life a lot easier, some would claim.
You say you are good at recognising things that are wrong, Eno had a good sense of that, and what was right too, that can make up for a lack of musical ability, when you combine it with technology, in new ways.
As always, you have something to say, and it's a question of finding the most suitable way to say it, music is saying things that you cannot say with verbal communication, it’s a question of how desperate you are to say something, you will want to, it’s not just about self satisfaction, it’s about communication, sharing your feelings, it’s great when someone identifies with you through your music, and you open up their feelings too.
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby Zukan » Thu May 06, 2021 10:16 am

If it were me I'd book an hour with the Elf and he will gladly answer all your questions and help you on your way.
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby OneWorld » Thu May 06, 2021 11:03 am

1024-QAM wrote:Hi Team.

So my story is I have always loved audio from as far back as I can remember. And that is a looong time.


Thanks
M

As others contributors have suggested, it might help if you can narrow your choices down a bit. Learning the piano by way of buying a cheapo synth might lead to disappointment. I say this because the feel of a piano and that of a synth can be quite different.

I do play keyboards and learned the piano. The piano took up too much room and so I sold it and bought a reasonably good quality electric piano, and I simply do not play it half as much as I used to play the acoustic piano. However I am making a comparison between the two. If you begin your learning with an electric piano/synth then you'll be accostomed to that.

I might make an analogy with the guitar. You might learn to play guitar on an electric guitar then pick up and acoustic guitar, especially a nylon strung 'Spanish' guitar, try and play as it should be played - fingerstyle and the experience will be quite different.

I have been lucky in one sense. I learned the guitar, self taught and got to quite an advanced level, but then I went to study music full time at college where all students had to learn to play piano for this crucial reason - all harmony lessons were taught at the piano.

Having the luxury of Steinways and Bechstein pianos at our disposal I learned to love playing the piano, though I didn't abandon the guitar of course. But my knowledge of music theory went way beyond what I had learned by playing the guitar. It is the logical layout of the piano that is so conducive to learning theory, yes of course it can be done with the guitar, as with any other instrument, but the piano lends itself to the understanding of the theory of harmony.

However, it doesn't have to be a £100,000 Steinway grand. You can learn the theory just as easily with a cheapo synth, I wouldn't endeavour to play Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues or the likes of Claire de Lune etc on a cheapo synth though. Doesn't mean it can't be done, but the results less convincing.

But, a keyboard controller/electric piano/synth will have the means to connect to a computer, and with he requisite software, a DAW, the synth really comes into its own and can also be an invaluable tool for learning theory, composing and arranging etc

So in the first instance, I would shop around the music shops now that we are coming out of lockdown see what suits you best. If you want to learn the piano you might consider an electric piano with a decent keybed, and of course MIDI/USB - that way you get nearer to the feel of an acoustic piano, but with the use of software, have access to the myriad of softsynths. And then when you have become more proficient, consider trading up to an acoustic piano, the immediacy of an acoustic piano, and the same goes for acoustic guitar, or indeed any other more 'organic' instrument that you can simply pickup and play is compelling, when you simply want to noodle about, applying the new techniques you've learned.

There are many that have learned an instrument 'by ear' and have even gone to the extent of 'dissing' the more formal approach. But having a knowledge of the rudiments of music does not by default mean you become less creative. One friend of mine, a bassist who became very proficient, completely mocked those that learned the theory, saying he wanted to break the rules. But my question to him was "How can you consciously break the rules if you don't know them?" Yes he did become quite proficient, at playing the same old licks over and over, ask him to place the same lick in another key, to accommodate a vocalist for example and he might as well have tried sucking on the bagpipes.

And finally, for what it's worth, and I think this goes for any instrument, like giving up smoking, the first 6 months are the hardest. There is no perceivable progress. But take a video of yourself when doing your first 'baby steps' then another vid 6 months later, then compare the 2. The learning rate is exponential not linear and you make much more progress in the later months. Best of luck and most importantly, enjoy your music.
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby 1024-QAM » Thu May 06, 2021 12:47 pm

Thanks again for the replies.

When I said absolute beginner I was not at all joking. So I would say 88 keys . I have a second pair of 8020’s that I could connect to so it probably doesn’t need speakers. As for price it’s not such an issue. But I suppose around the $500 Australian dollars.

I think what I am looking for is something that would be classed as a good beginners electric piano / keyboard. Something that people would class as a good bang for your buck second hand.


Thanks M
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby t-sun » Sun May 09, 2021 6:30 am

Music schools have to buy somewhere between 10 and 20 reliable beginners pianos, and they also have a tendency to go out of business regularly and need to unload those electric pianos. Also, as with guitars, people very regularly buy a nice weighted piano keyboard and then don't use it much, just like my grandparents' upright piano in the living room covered in dust and out of tune.

As far as brands go, I've never heard bad a bad word said about Casio or Yamaha, but I've owned various Kawai instruments over the years and they deserve the high reputation they have. Casio and Yamaha are probably what you'll find in the person-to-person used market, because people recognize the brands.

If you see Suzuki, however, it is probably worth a look. It's not related to the car/bike maker at all, it's actually the pianos used to teach the "Suzuki Method" of learning piano, which as I understand it is a highly regimented training method but they open schools everywhere and they are quality instruments.
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby UGotStyle » Fri May 14, 2021 12:34 am

1024-QAM wrote:Hi Team.

So my story is I have always loved audio from as far back as I can remember. And that is a looong time.

Thanks
M


I believe you have two passions. One thing I have tried to avoid in life is the creation of what I call surrogate goals which simply means creating stepping stones to get somewhere and then having to master them. Especially when those stepping stones are taking me far from the original path and may not be needed at all in the first place.

Your first passion was audio. Regardless of learning piano which should be a fun experience, that's not going to make you an audio guy. Hear me out. Because I think you're actually right where you want to be.

Audio involves many things you already know. And you may be so saturated in the massive amount of things you've done that they seem like nothing to you. But on a resume it would be mind blowing.

For most of us we don't constantly look at everything we've done. Especially for a onesy or twosy of a thing. We convince ourselves that the one project we did was just a fluke, some guy needed me, but it's not defining who I am. So the first thing I really want you to do is make a list and keep adding to it as you remember. Make the list of all the things you've done. Problems you've solved, things you've actually done that everyone could do and what no one can do.

THEN you'll realize you're so much further in this game than you thought you were.

Next comes your new life in audio. Have you set up mics? Have you done mic placement? Ever tested a mic at a 45 degree angle to see how it sounds? Have you diagnosed hum in an audio cable, set up DI boxes, diagnosed a ground-loop? Great. so you're ready to get signal into a recorder. do you like recording bands? because that's just like live sound except it's being tracked.

So what level could you be with just the above experience? you could be the guy who records bands. You could even partner with a live venue (go first, watch a few shows, hang out, get to know the gang, mingle and they'll love you before you pitch what you can really do)

when you say you can hear issues in a vocal performance that's great. you actually have a gift when you're not musically obsessed to allow you to point out the change without offending the artist by telling them they're singing a note that lands in some kind of music theory hell.

First off any Daw will be great. They all do the same things. Cakewalk is even free, there's free ableton (best for live DJ'ing kinda stuffs) I'm sure you have Garage Band in your Mac if you have one. You'll find free software. But again, it's just what you've been doing with a record button.

I also recommend recognizing that you're ready for this next step. you have the skills and chops right now. As you get a DAW start watching videos about recording, side chain inserts, setting up VST's and effects, consider the style and sound you're going for and start learning about the pros who did the very thing you wish to do. You're not too old to dive into this. Especially if you're technically minded. Audio production requires the intuition of an artist but the execution of a technician who understands signal path and how such is affected.

Learn piano for fun Just not as a surrogate goal that will lead you to where you need to be. Especially when you're actually already there which I think you are. Then once you realize the level you're already on, what you learn on piano is backing up the skills you have instead of being expected to take you to where you already are.

As for keyboards, some great advice out there. There are some inexpensive used 88 key boards. you can obsess about piano sound quality but for the most part some older stuff holds a great sound. Yamaha S80 had a clean piano sound and it was a solid board, they're selling for about $500 /$600 used US. same with the Yamaha MM8. Lovely piano sounds. Both with fully weighted.

Get to a music store and try some keyboards to see if you're ok with Semi Weighted or need fully. I've had fully weighted and I loved it. My current board is 88 semi and it sounds great but it's definitely not the same.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Absolute beginners advice please

Postby 1024-QAM » Fri May 14, 2021 3:42 pm

Thanks for the kind words.

My time in audio was 20ish years ago. I don’t particularly want to return to the audio world as a career. I do want to dabble a little. I have no doubt that I could get behind a desk again and after a little bit of time and a few embarrassing mistakes get in the groove again. The technical side of audio now I think would come even a little bit easier. I currently work and specialise in digital RF communications both for voice and data. Many of the concepts would be largely interchangeable. The desire to learn an instrument now is probably driven by the desire to not only learn the other side of the coin but to overcome a challenge that I suppose was a road block to something I once wanted.
I always viewed myself as a creative problem solver I can get from A to Z via any path available to me. Time buys an elegant way forward and the need for a rapid response gets you a battering ram with a clean up crew when the lights are on again. This is what I believe has made me a perfect fit for any sort of technical role. But never have I though of myself as a pure creative type. I need a problem before I can provide an answer where what I call pure creative types bring something forward that exists just because it can. I suppose being able to play music has the probably highly romanticised idea in my mind that by reproducing someone else’s creation with an understanding of the technicalities of that particular art form it could possibly allow me to bridge that gap between what I do now and what the creatives can do. I can never really find the way to put this “thing” I feel into words. Others see me as creative because of my ability to find a path forward with a certain level of ease. But I know that I am not executing pure creation or vision what I am doing is being a conduit for someone else’s vision. The solutions that I might develop might be creative and not clear to the person with the problem. Still I am just answering a question asked by someone else even if they didn’t know they where asking it.

Now there is a fairly deep explanation of what I think is making me think I may want to learn piano. And in the end it may not deliver what I think I want from it but learning something is never a waste of time. And one of my favourite sayings is probably perfectly fitting here. “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly”.

In time I would like to have a small space with a little bit of gear where I could record the odd talented artist and spend a little time with them and send them home with a file of a reasonable recording at no cost to them and no expectation on me but the mutual benefit for all involved of practicing a craft we both enjoy. I don’t particularly want to be committed to a project or group where they are dependent on me to deliver a bigger picture. That I think would rob me of the joy of practicing the craft and learning just for the sake of it. Once motivated by reward or bound by the constraints or practical needs of a professional or even semi professional or even community group it would feel like just another job I think. Not saying that I wouldn’t commit to doing the best I could for whoever I was engaged with at the time it’s just it would be driven purely for the fun of the endeavour.

M
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