Full piano action keyboard

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eirikbj
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Full piano action keyboard

Post by eirikbj » Thu Aug 27, 2015 1:21 pm

Hi! I am considering purchasing a 88-key full piano action keyboard for controlling virtual instruments and piano. I am originally a piano player and a bit frustrated in getting the right feel to it with those semi-weighed keys.

Now, they sell boards for over $2000, and I plan on using no more then between $300-400.

To do that I consider buying an old one, maybe 10 or 15 years old, one that was once state of the art.

I am just going to use it as a midi controller, so if the sounds are 8 bit samples, I do not care: I just want a really good piano feel to it.

But then again: The new cheaper keyboards, such as the M-audio Oxygen: have they come up to par with the old ones, and are the new expensive ones even better than both the Oxygen and the older ones (like Fatars SL 880 and 990)?

I have searched all kinds of forums, but a lot of them is about personal opinion and from like 2009 and stuff :)

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Re: Full piano action keyboard

Post by Russell Landwehr » Fri Aug 28, 2015 7:08 am

I feel your pain. I think the best feeling "piano" keyboards will have some sort of hammer action instead of weighted/semi-weighted keys. But it's still hard to judge something without putting your hands on the keys.

If the feel is VERY important but you want to keep costs down, perhaps trying out different keyboards in a music store, then finding a comparable keyboard used on-line might work?

Also, check out Korg's RH3 Real Weighted Hammer Action. I've been real pleased with the feel.

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Re: Full piano action keyboard

Post by mikeymike2000 » Sat Aug 29, 2015 6:09 pm

I would recommend getting yourself an Alesis QS8

You will need to do some searching, they are no longer made, I am sure. I bought mine over 20 years ago and now still use it solely as a MIDI controller for this exact reason. However, this was also the exact reason I bought this one in the first place.

The action is the best I have felt on anything less than several thousand dollars, although I have not felt up any other "modern" keys in a while. (Loyal guy, what can I say) This one has full 88's and nice action. It is similar to a weighted Grand Piano.

Since it is old, outdated and utterly useless otherwise you should be able to pick one up for cheap!

I thought about replacing it not long ago but decided to keep her.

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Re: Full piano action keyboard

Post by mojobone » Tue Sep 01, 2015 6:51 pm

In your price range, you're looking at a controller; just something to trigger some really good samples, hosted on a computer. Fortunately, you have plenty of options. Find one you like the feel of, then make sure your software VI has plenty of options/response curves.
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Re: Full piano action keyboard

Post by ComposerLDG » Tue Sep 01, 2015 7:41 pm

Piano is my instrument. My favorite to date is my 1994 model Roland RD-500. Man, I love the touch on that thing. I bought it new for 2K back then, but I see them used for 1/4 that now. There are "hammers" in the action that really simulate a piano feel. Has midi in/out/through, but is not General Midi.

For new, I use a Korg SP-170s. Paid around $500 for it last year. Nice and light (26 lbs), MIDI out only. Passable onboard sounds, but not great. Keys have a decent feel though. Nice 88 key studio keyboard. Because I didn't need to worry about the sounds, I got it for the touch and am quite happy.

Of course, none of them is an acoustic piano, but you know that already. :)
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Re: Full piano action keyboard

Post by nolosolo » Sun Nov 22, 2015 7:43 pm

I'm looking for the same thing. Weighted (or semi maybe) action. If newer then want real good sounds or if old, then able to play current VIs accurately.

At present only have an old Kawai K4. My question is, aren't the older midi keyboards (no matter the action) still limited to triggering samples with whatever touch data is transmitted? I remember getting the K4 at the time due to it having aftertouch and velocity triggering (but only one step I believe?).

I'm not up at all on the current tech of playing samples from one's comp so before I lay out any bucks for new or used gear, I better know what I'm in for! :? Thanks all!

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Re: Full piano action keyboard

Post by mojobone » Mon Nov 23, 2015 9:55 am

All MIDI keyboards have 127 potential velocity layers, plus zero. Most tone generators don't have that many. I have a Casio Privia PX3 that sounds pretty badass for live work and it has four, coun't 'em four velocity layers. Most modern piano-style controllers don't include aftertouch cuz in practice (and particularly on stage) almost nobody uses it, but if you're doing orchestral or brass mockups, it's a must have, IMO, cuz string and brass players can do a LOT of things to a note after the initial attack, unlike drummers and pianists. (technically, a piano is tuned percussion, not strings, even though it has lots of strings)

So as a practical matter, what this means is, you want a tone generator that's dynamically flexible enough to suit your touch and a sample set with enough velocity layers to suit your ear. More layers is generally better, but if the sampling and programming isn't top notch, the # of layers won't matter, cuz sampling a piano happens in an acoustic space and requires really fast mic preamps and microphones that...well, most of us can't afford. But layers matter, cuz you can choose to adjust a velocity curve to affect a subset of the layers, restricting those 128 possible velocities to the piano or the fortissimo end of the spectrum, or somewhere in the middle, either for artistic purposes or just to make it easier on the player, when you don't need the full range or when your computer/sampler is limping along at the extreme outer edges of its memory capacity.

I hear you crying, "But Obi-Wan, what the h-e double hockey sticks am I supposed to buy?" Well, just buy a controller (with or without an onboard tone generator) that feels right/good to you, with the caveat that the tone generator you use has a lot to do with how your touch translates to the feel, or maybe vice versa, cuz they're interrelated. A lot just simply depends on what you're used to. Software instruments are always ahead of hardware technologically, cuz they don't need to wait for tooling and manufacturing to catch up, so if you want the latest, you're only going to be buying the action, and those things wear out, sooner or later. A burly action will probably last longer and be a lil' tougher to play. But hey, now that you know that you're actually a drummer, you probably have testosterone to spare, right?

The whole trick to getting sampled/generated pianos to speak properly is in matching the controller's curve or curves to those of the tone generator and its layers. The feel of your controller is another can of worms, but it turns out, almost all the keyboard actions in the world are made by either Fatar or Yamaha, so that's more a matter of selecting a type of action and trying it on. Folks that are used to real pianos probably won't settle for less than a fully weighted, graded hammer action. Most stage pianos already have this, to one degree or another, but there's some variation among the weights and the amount of grading. (means the feel gets lighter as you run up the keyboard) you'll just have to try and see what you like.
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Re: Full piano action keyboard

Post by nolosolo » Mon Nov 23, 2015 2:58 pm

Very informative mojobone, thanks! It all reminds me that I burned out on MIDI programming in the '80s.... and from what I'm reading, I'll need a totally new comp system to run the latest and greatest software....so...

How about a single unit solution under $1500? I've always been a fan of the Roland action (having run a repair shop many years ago).

I see the FP-50, RD-64 or RD-300NX? Wish they still made a 72 note size unit as that seems the best compromise in length but since I won't be doing any performing, the 64 key RD could work I think after seeing a vid where on a keyboard run the player hits the octave switch on the fly to extend the range. Pretty slick and apparently easily doable on that model.

Might be my last hoorah so other than size, anyone know if the RD-300NZ is any better in sound quality than the RD-64? (I see it has lots more sounds) I'm out in the sticks so will be awhile til I can get some hands on. :roll: Thanks!

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Re: Full piano action keyboard

Post by mojobone » Mon Nov 23, 2015 7:06 pm

I didn't mean to imply that the greatest sounding virtual pianos are necessarily the most expensive nor that they tend to require studly amounts of CPU; some do use a ton of disc space and RAM, but there's great stuff out there that shouldn't require much computer, like Addictive Keys; it's fast, it's light and it sounds great. Then there's this: http://vstbuzz.com/deals/70-off-the-bla ... ampletekk/ which I think I recall Matto mentioning he's gotten a lot of mileage from, and the current sale price is pretty sweet. (works with HALion, EXS24 and Kontakt) ) It's a big instrument, but you don't need to load all three mic perspectives at once, and you can purge all the unused notes/velocities before rendering your performance. Of course the situation's a bit different if you also need to gig with it, but I know a bunch of guys using Mainstage and Logic instruments live with a Core 2 Duo laptop or a Mac Mini.Pretty much anything with a 64-bit OS and about 4G of RAM.

My point is that a cheap stage piano (or any stage piano whose action you like) can drive even the most sophisticated software and software is far cheaper to upgrade than hardware. (and if the axe in question has decent internal sounds, that's a bonus; it's also nice if splits, layers and MIDI channel selection aren't buried three menu layers deep) The hardware on the computer side just might be a little less portable, depending. The downside of my Casio Privia is it has fairly coarse control over its internal touch response, but via MIDI I can mitigate that with a better-equipped software VI, which of course, I do :D .
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Re: Full piano action keyboard

Post by nolosolo » Tue Dec 08, 2015 1:19 pm

For a hardware solution, any under $2K brand recommendations toward best quality (& quantity) of built-in sounds? Kurtzwell, Roland, Yamaha?

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