How To Choose / Useful Information for Pro Keyboards
- Why a Pro Workstation keyboard vs.a Portable/Electronic/Arranger keyboard vs. a Synthesizer?
Pro keyboards offer a multitude of additional features such as audio recording, detailed sound editing, a 16+ track sequencer with detailed editing, and a panoply of synth sounds. They will run 4 to 18 simultaneous higher quality effects such as reverb, and have no arranging or styles other than possibly arpeggiators or drum patterns. A fully orchestrated sound/song can be accomplished with a pro keyboard, but it assumes you want to create each part or instrument sound in a song much more closely (from scratch) than a portable ++
Portable/arranger type keyboards are more for fast songwriting, for backing tracks when you play or for a one person band with drum patterns, bass, and other sounds with the accompaniment having different song style genres (blues, swing, rock,...) with different patterns for the verse, chorus,... of the song. The song styles and performances are very educational as well for learning genres that you may be unfamiliar with. You can have many instruments follow what your left hand plays in real time and chord recognition for fast performing. Portables have more "meat and potato" sounds and fewer synthesizer sounds.
Synthesizers- typically do not have workstation features such as sequencing, recording audio, having all types of sounds, but rather focus on doing a few sounds extremely well which usually are not acoustic or real world instruments but "other worldly" sounds with many ways to manipulate the sound.
- What affects the price you will pay and what should you look for?
The level of realism and selection of the sounds- each keyboard typically does some sounds better than others so decide which main sounds are important to you and play each model (or listen to sound files) you are interested in to find the one that sounds best to you. Does it have all the sounds you are looking for to make a completed song?
Ease of use- hardware knobs, buttons,... how many controls are there, and are they conveniently placed?
Display size- touchscreen, color, icon based, easy to read, backlighting not too dark,...
Sequencer- Check the depth of editing features and ease of use, as you could spend most of your time here. Also, does it allow linear recording only or pattern based recording also?
Quality and number of effects- reverb, EQ per part, compressors, master FX, number of part insert FX, master/global FX, does it have enough DSP to finish a 16 track song without needing external processing
Audio recording/sampling -2 to 8 tracks or more- how easy is it to actually record and play back, does it have enough recording memory/time- (roughly 10 meg a stereo minute)? How is the recording backed up?
Drums- does it have "easy to chain" patterns or is the arpegiator easy to use? Does it have pads on top of keyboard or none at all?
The number of simultaneous notes the keyboard will play (polyphony)- important if you write denser arrangements or use instruments that use a lot of polyphony (piano)
Control computer software via hardware sliders, knobs.
Computer control the keyboard with editor/librarian- as VST plug-in, standalone, 100% editing. The visuals on a big computer screen can shorten the learning curve (much more intuitive)
Operating system- is it intuitive or obtuse?
Maximum RAM memory- will determine possibly how much recording time is available or how much room you will have for adding external samples/sounds
Connectors- # of audio outputs, balanced or unbalanced input, data storage- memory card, jump drive, USB to computer connection.
- What about speakers?
For home or studio use we prefer powered studio monitors for the best audio quality without spending a lot and keep the sound in stereo (versus a mono keyboard amp) which is much better with full orchestrations.
All have headphone jacks if you prefer not to be heard.
For stage, keyboard amplifiers come in all sizes depending on the size of the venue
- What accessories should I consider?
- Stand- stands come in many shapes and styles- X style, Z style.
- Bench- consider a more sturdy 4 leg bench if you do not need portability, X style if you do -- the wider the better.
- Headphones- full size will be more comfortable and quieter and may offer better quality audio
- Pedals- most come with a sustain pedal, some have jacks for more control - volume, expression, etc.
- Bag or case- we recommend the manufacturer bags and cases first, then Gator Cases and bags. Do you need wheels? Will only you be carrying it? Will it be on planes? (should have ATA rating)
- Jump drive/Storage card for audio, midi.
- Computer interface if no USB connection- need multi-port midi, how many channels of audio?
- Dust cover
- What is a Style?
combination of sounds like drums, bass and keys with rhythms and chord progressions in a certain genre (rock, big band, jazz, etc.) which create backing tracks that you can play a lead part over
- What are Song Sections?
These are divisions of a song that portable arranger keyboards identify as an intro, verses, choruses, bridge, fills, outro, etc., which when performed by musicians reflect the mood/feeling of each of those sections that enable faster song arranging
- What is MIDI?
MIDI is a standard interface for communicating musical information among electronical devices, (e.g., between a keyboard and a computer). MIDI sends note and other data from the keyboard to the computer or vice versa. It basically says play this note at this time at this volume level- it is not an actual audio recording, but a digital representation of the kind of information that woud be included in a written score.
- What is polyphony?
the number of simultaneous notes that can be played, though if it’s a stereo sample/recording each note can use 2 notes at once. Its important for anyone who plays a lot of notes at the same time and holds down the sustain pedal. The earliest notes played will cut out when the limit is exceeded. This can happen with pianos with 32 note polyphony especially.
- What is a sequencer?
a recorder with (usually) 1 to 16 tracks, so that multiple instruments can be played back for fully orchestrated songs and can have elaborate editing capability. Typically digital pianos have only 1 or 2 tracks for playing back a piano performance and archiving another. These can be downloaded to the computer with a MIDI interface
- What is sampling/samples?
a short audio recording of a note. For more realistic sound, digital pianos can be recorded at different velocities so that when you strike a note harder, the timbre changes for better realism
- What are effects?
to modify and enhance the sounds in the keyboard including non- piano sounds. e.g. - reverb will put the piano in a small room or up to a large concert hall.
Don’t see the answer to your question?
Call us toll-free at 1 877 778 7845 and speak to our piano experts