Starter Keyboard

Hey, Renoisers!

How to say… I’m no musician really - can’t read sheets, can’t really recognize notes I hear. But I have that music thing close since I was a kid. I even took piano lessons then, but then it all fell apart somehow. I’ve done many musical fumblings since then, lately some for SDCompo even, should you want to check. I have chosen to invest into getting a decent starter keyboard to play around more.

I believe that, except for some Mozarts, everyone was a newb one day and didn’t start with Nord, Kawai or Steinway Grands.
Look at the country I’m from. If anything, it means that I’m pretty much forced to like what I can get. Not that I need much, some starter Yamahas here seem to be highly recommended on the “Internets”.

I’ve finally decided to post up here. I trust that fellow Renoisers, a pretty interesting community I’ve been silently following for quite some time, could give me some great advice in this matter. :)

Are you looking for a synthesizer or a midi keyboard/controller?

Doesn’t matter what you’ve got…but how you use it. Don’t mean to be harsh but get something and start working out simple melodies and rhythms. Harmonica, melodica, recorder, guitar, piano

…but you need to learn to translate what is in your head…and that takes practise not a Nord etc

Exactly the thing I haven’t decided. I’m more inclined towards a synth, so I can just turn it on and play (with it), without hooking up to PC and DAW. Also, it would ease up learning all the stuff again. But that costs.
Do I need weighted keys? I have been toying with a couple of simple keyboards without any kind of velocity controls and I didn’t like the feeling. But that piano feeling costs, too. If it’s possible to recreate that at all, given the price.
How many keys do I need?
I suppose I need to take a day and find some musical instrument shop to take a look, probably try some.

I agree. Then again, a tool that fits the hand is easier to work with.

To bo honest it’s really not that difficult. It’s a matter of what you want! Do you want to place it on your desktop next to/above your keyboard, you’ll want 2 or 3 octaves. Do you want to play pianopieces on it? You’ll need a masterkeyboard or electric piano. I myself have got 2 midikeyboards. One is small (m-audio axiom 25) and one is big with hammer action blabla (m-audio keystationpro 88). The ony real synth I have doesn’t have keys but it controlled by midi (which almost all synths handle these days).

Bare in mind that a midicontroller like the axiom only costs about 150euro’s/pounds(200dollarsIguess) while a mono synth as the DS Mopho Keys with as many keys quickly will be 700euro’s/pounds(800dollars) (ofcourse there are cheaper ones with lesser quality but just to give you an idea)

A five or six octave keyboard is enough to start. 88 is not needed and you would spend the money for the extra octave(s) that you can use for something else. I don’t know whats available in your country, but buy used with midi ports just in case. Yamaha usually has a decent price to value ratio, but look around.

In the new market, Casio has some entry level full size boards that may suit you that are hammer action. They cost around 200-600 LVL ( I think that’s right )

i’d recommend just getting a keyboard-less synth with midi-input, and a seperate midi-keyboard.

get the meeblip synth. the starter kit you have to build yourself without soldering, just putting in some screws and plugging a couple of wires, and you can play it with a simple midi-keyboard that does not have to be all that expensive. i always try to get the biggest result for the smallest amount of money. that’s why i ended up with Renoise.

That ‘for hackers’ kit looks very interesting. 60 euro’s for a VA-synth… hmm

don’t be surprised when the shipping costs add to that. i bought the ‘no soldering’-kit for EUR 120 and had to pay TNT another EUR 30 i think.
also, wait a little bit as i just read they are changing the USB power to 6V inputs to reduce the noise. keep an eye on the blogposts on that site.

Hmm yeah, 20 dollars shipping for me. Thats 73 euros in total without casing.
Thanks for the tips though!

i think the casing could be made yourself, if you are already into the diy thing you could probably make a custom casing somehow. they have almost all the stuff needed for that documented i think.
anyway, its a nice, cheap, simple synth, very hackable if you like that.

(sorry for hijacking the thread!)

you need an amplifier for a synth, just so that you know. it’s a bit confusing but in general is a synth with built-in speakers called a keyboard.

velocity sensitive keys is not the same as weighted keys in my book. even the cheapest midi controllers today have velocity sensitivity (and you need that!) but weighted keys is more expensive.

id’ say that weighted keys and hammer action type of keyboards is definitely not a must for getting to learn to play the piano. you don’t necessarily need 88 keys either but you definitely need at least 6 octaves imo.

Hey there Cralias - I am a keyboard player, and basically I always own 2 keyboards. One to simulate a real piano, meant for performance / practice. The other is a MIDI controller which I use for Renoise or Finale. The two keyboards serve such different functions that I think it’s worth giving some thought into what you need.

The performance/practice function is 10x more expensive than the MIDI controller function. You should consider if you can get away with a simple MIDI controller. The only drawbacks a full size keyboard has for controlling Renoise is:

  • It’s big, heavy, and doesn’t really fit well next to my computer (but this is not a huge problem)
  • It may not have controller knobs useful for controlling many soft synths. For me this is not a problem though.

On the other hand, it’s simply impossible to practice keyboard using a basic MIDI controller. MIDI controllers tend to suffer from:

  • Being lightweight and fragile; they may slip on the desk / stand unless fastened
  • Keys tend to have a lot of “play” and the plastic is often cheap and the keys literally bend. Can make for sloppy and annoying performance.
  • Keys, even if they say weighted, are never weighted in a way that inspires good performance if your fingers are used to proper weighting.
  • The velocity sensitivity is usually pretty clumsy and doesn’t resemble an acoustic piano in the slightest; requires getting used to something that sucks and might even make your acoustic keyboard performance worse (speculative).

This is just my limited experience though; I would LOVE if there was a low-priced MIDI controller which was compact, built like a tank, and had excellent key response.

If you are prioritizing performance / practice, then you can almost forget about the MIDI capabilities; it will be there and you should focus on the performance aspect.

Well, I caught flu. Or maybe it caught me. Anyway, didn’t predict the possibility, so had to shell out best part of my hobby funds for treatment, meds and living.
This leaves me with just a small selection of cheapos that I can afford currently.

  • Yamaha PSR E-323
  • Casio CTK-4000
  • Casio CTK-900 (used)

And one with pitch bend wheel (that I think I’d like):

  • Clifton MC-120

I’m wary, however, of the manufacturer. Never heard of it, somehow, and the stuff is really cheap.

Any ideas on these?
I mean, any of these will do for me and my playing. But I’d like to know whether they may have some quirks or “known diseases” apart from being cheap in general.