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Advice for keyboard setup - live gigs and equipment

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Advice for keyboard setup - live gigs and equipment

Postby boynash101 » Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:09 pm

Hi there. Hoping someone can help me out!

I'm a proficient musician but not great when it comes to the tech side of things. I am performing as a vocalist in an events band and now want to add some keys to the sound (5-piece, pop/rock: think Killers, Kings Of Leon, Foos, pop stuff etc.) and am not sure the best way to do this. I am a Grade-8 pianist, but no real experience of using keyboards. Two things I want to achieve:

1. Adding additional sounds to songs. Piano / strings / synthy bits / brass. Nothing outrageous, just some nice sounds to give additional texture, and obviously decent piano in some of the bigger tracks. Thinking 49 or 61 keys for space purposes.

2. I have my eye on a Voicelive Touch 2 which it looks like I can control the harmonies using a keyboard too. Assuming this would be midi-led, although it does have ambient mics to detect the keys.

So. Is it best to get a keyboard with built-in sounds (if so, which?), or, do I get a Midi keyboard and run this through a laptop with Logic or similar (again, if so, what's the setup look like for this?).

Hope that makes sense and really appreciate any advice, with detail if possible. The gigs we do are small (weddings for up to 300 people) so need an easy solution to this so can readily replicate for weekly practices and gigs on the go.

Thanks!
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Re: Advice for keyboard setup - live gigs and equipment

Postby Dave B » Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:45 pm

Hi and welcome to the forums!

The is a bit of a 'how long is a piece of string' type question : there's a load of answers and none of them are wrong per se. I suspect a bit more information will help us narrow it down a bit so that we give you the best advice...

First, what budget are we talking about?

Second, a laptop is a fine idea - are you comfortable with using this kind of setup? Or do you just want to turn on and play?

You mention 49 or 61 keys - great. Are you happy to play piano on a synth keyboard? Or do you want to have some weight in the keys to dig in?

Do you want something easy? Or powerful? If you get something powerful, there is usually a bit of a steeper learning curve that you might not like.

Are we talking about buying brand new? Or are you happy looking at second hand units - I'm easy on this but I've known some people who don't like going s/h.

For an all in one, something like the Nord Electro series is great and can be had new for about 1300quid. It ticks a lot of boxes - excellent organ, great piano + e.piano, some nice sampled patches (strings, etc) and you see them everywhere so lots of people can help out if you get stuck.

On the other hand, if you have a spare MacBookPro, you can get Mainstage running and get a USB keyboard - again, there's a unit for every budget here. An audio interface is also a pretty good idea too (although some might say that the headphone out is fine). I'm slightly apprehensive about this kind of setup (a few delicate cables to go wrong) but others here are rocking it and loving it.

How are you going to monitor this? Just through your ordinary wedge? Or would you want separate monitoring?

I'd also budget for a small passive stereo DI box - it makes life easier patching into desks / PAs, etc

I think that the VoiceLive would need midi - it may have audio inputs for things like guitars, but I'm not sure it actually has mics to track stuff... that's a new one on me!

More info please! :)
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Re: Advice for keyboard setup - live gigs and equipment

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:56 pm

I'm a guitarist not a keyboard player but have considered the same issues. I have had various TC Voicelives over the years, currently have a Play GTX. The midi note control is going to work better than the onboard mics (or the instrument input) with the mic/instrument sensing there is some latency/lag. You need to play slightly ahead of the vocal to let the VL process the harmonies before you trigger them by singing the note/phrase. There should be a lot less latency with midi input.

WRT the choice of keyboard, there are lots of 61 note synths out there, I have a Roland Juno-D which has reasonable pianos and a decent range of other sounds (organs, clav, strings, brass etc) and is pretty simple to use. I assume you are happy playing piano on a synth keyboard but I would definitely go for 61 notes. The Juno-D is very light and about as compact as a 61 note synth can be, has a nice keyboard and decent sounds. Mine cost £160 used and is in mint condition.

As you say you are not tech minded I would not go for a laptop based system (I'm sure others will disagree) but if the piano sounds satisfy you the dedicated synth will be much simpler, easier to set up and more reliable than a computer based system. For the record, I have both options available in the studio so, while I don't play keys live I do have some experience and understanding.

edit :- Dave B types faster than me.......
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Re: Advice for keyboard setup - live gigs and equipment

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Jan 22, 2019 2:01 pm

VoiceLive Touch 2 does have a built in 'room sense' mic (many of the VL series do these days) but latency is an issue IME. Midi should be a fair bit better.
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Re: Advice for keyboard setup - live gigs and equipment

Postby Dave B » Tue Jan 22, 2019 2:25 pm

You live and learn ... well ... I do anyway .... :D
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Re: Advice for keyboard setup - live gigs and equipment

Postby boynash101 » Tue Jan 22, 2019 3:16 pm

Wow, did NOT expect such great replies already! Thank you both so much. OK.

1. Budget - for just getting keyboard setup (without the voicelive stuff), was hoping to get going for around £200-£300 max.

2. Laptop - rather NOT go down this route for now if there's another way

3. Weight would be good, but not essential

4. Something easy please!

5. Monitoring would be through wedge for now, if I get the VL, then will likely upgrade to in-ears as well.

Sam, like the idea of the synth, would this allow me to control the VL with midi AND still have live sounds coming out too?

Cheers
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Re: Advice for keyboard setup - live gigs and equipment

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Jan 22, 2019 4:44 pm

Yes, the midi out from a typical synth/keyboard sends note and CC wheel data by default. What you play on the keyboard will play the onboard sounds and also send the notes you play to the VL Touch so it can generate the harmonies. You will probably need to do a little fiddling so the correct harmonies result, either by playing inversions that cause notes you want trigger the harmonies or by programming the VL to respond the the correct notes. The VL has a limited number of harmonies available (3 or 4 I think) but I suspect it can be setup to respond to, say, the top three notes or whatever.

£200-300 should get you a decent used keyboard from one of the big names but you are unlikely to get weighted keys unless you go for a Digital Piano. Lots of those out there for pocket money but usually 88 notes and very heavy. You also lose most of the 'synth' sounds on most of them.

There are a couple of Juno-Ds on ebay as I type and a few Korgs, all under £300. You need to try the pianos though, I think the Juno-D pianos are fine (certainly in a mix) but as I said, I'm not a pianist. The other option might be a Yamaha PSR type 'home' keyboard. They are much cheaper but are surprisingly capable (if less robust).
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Re: Advice for keyboard setup - live gigs and equipment

Postby Dave B » Tue Jan 22, 2019 4:55 pm

I hate to be the one to pour fluid on your explosives, but I think that you might have to stretch a bit on the budget - 2-300 is _very_ tight and might not be enough to get you anything with a decent sound. At that sort of price, and, assuming you had one already, I'd be more tempted to get you MacBookPro out and install Mainstage and pair it with a semi-decent usb keyboard. For that money, you'd pick up a reasonable one (m-audio or Novation).
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Re: Advice for keyboard setup - live gigs and equipment

Postby Dave B » Tue Jan 22, 2019 4:57 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:£200-300 should get you a decent used keyboard from one of the big names ...

I just had a scan around and can't find anything in that range. Is that speculation or am I just missing the best places for a bargain?
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Re: Advice for keyboard setup - live gigs and equipment

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Jan 22, 2019 5:22 pm

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Re: Advice for keyboard setup - live gigs and equipment

Postby resistorman » Tue Jan 22, 2019 10:01 pm

Yes, used is the only way you’ll get anything decent in that price range. As far as bang for the buck and portability goes, and at double the money, I can recommend the Yamaha MX series.
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