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Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")?

Posted By: mezzopiano

Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/13/19 07:13 PM

I'm a piano student that travels regularly. I have a nice upright at home, and I miss the feeling of a weighted keyboard when practicing away from it.

I have owned a Yamaha NP-12 for a short time, but I did not like the feel of its semi-weighted keyboard.
A few months ago I bought a Yamaha P-121 and the feel of the GHS keyboard is very nice. However, the keyboard is too long (about 4" too long) and I cannot easily transport it by car, together with family and luggage.

So I ended up buying a used basic semi-weighted 49-keys MIDI controller to connect to my iPad for travel practice. The feel is nothing special, but it was cheap and as I read even more expensive keyboards with semi-weighted keys aren't that much closer to the feel of a real piano.

I'm in the market for any keyboard (stage piano or controller) that is less than 1m (39.5") long and has fully weighted keys. So 64 full size keys and small "bezels" is the maximum that fits my car. 73 keys are too wide, without even considering any bezels.Unfortunately, it seems that there is no product with such specs on the market right now, so I might have to consider a keyboard with semi-weighted keys that come close to the feel of a real piano.

Yamaha P-121 (73 keys) and Roland RD-64 (64 keys, discontinued) are both about 44" long.

The Studiologic SL-73 MIDI controller has the nice and light Fatar TP/100LR action, but it's 1.5" too long, sadly.

Back in 2004-2005, Studiologic released the VMK-149 and VMK-161 MIDI controllers with Fatar TP/40 hammer action, but they were since both discontinued.

I hope that one day Studiologic will make a 61-key version of the SL-73, or Yamaha a 61-key version of the P-121.
Or, that Roland or Yamaha will upgrade their 61-keys Go:Piano or Piaggero NP-12 with a hammer action keyboard.
Not holding my breath, though: I just mailed Yamaha and they told me that no such product is in the pipeline.
I mailed Fatar and got no response.

Every now and then there have been attempts at making and selling a modular or foldable piano (see "VAX77", "KOMBOS", "piano de voyage" in this thread), but the prices were usually very high or the performance below expectations. The travel piano should not cost more than upgrading my car.

I'm also considering DIY projects, but since I'm not particularly skilled with electronics, I suppose the safest choice would be getting a used RD-64 and re-package it so that the buttons are behind the keyboard instead of at the left.

Thanks in advance for any alternative suggestions, including solid (pun intended) semi-weighted keyboards.
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/15/19 11:34 AM

Any suggestions on a 61 or 64 keys controller or digital piano that comes decently close to a real piano (at least for what concerns the resistance of the keys)?
Posted By: AnotherScott

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/15/19 12:54 PM

Other than a used VMK-161? A Vintage Vibe, if money is no object.
Posted By: Outkaster

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/15/19 01:08 PM

Your a piano player that wants to practice on 61 or 64 keys?
Posted By: davedoerfler

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/15/19 03:15 PM

Originally Posted By: AnotherScott
A Vintage Vibe, if money is no object.


twothumbs
Posted By: AnotherScott

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/15/19 06:02 PM

Originally Posted By: Outkaster
Your a piano player that wants to practice on 61 or 64 keys?

It's all Mozart needed.

https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-mozar...E89O02O20121025

Though unlike the OP, Mozart's issue wasn't trying to fit it into the back of a car.
Posted By: Groove On

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/16/19 11:58 AM

Nothing currently available with 61 keys has a decent weighted action - so it’s really a matter of deciding if you can live with that compromise. The two keyboards with the correct “travel” form factor are the Roland Go Piano and the Hammond SK1. They are also almost the exact same size - around 35 inches in length. Outside of those two the pickin’s get worse.

I think it’s also important to note that while many pianos are portable it’s not the same thing as a “travel” piano.
Posted By: Groove On

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/16/19 02:03 PM

Posted By: AnotherScott

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/16/19 07:46 PM

Originally Posted By: Groove On
Nothing currently available with 61 keys has a decent weighted action - so it’s really a matter of deciding if you can live with that compromise. The two keyboards with the correct “travel” form factor are the Roland Go Piano and the Hammond SK1. They are also almost the exact same size - around 35 inches in length. Outside of those two the pickin’s get worse.

There are zero hammer action 61-key models currently available.... though this guy custom fabricates them from larger boards.

http://www.minetticustomkeyboards.com/

Originally Posted By: Groove On
The two keyboards with the correct “travel” form factor are the Roland Go Piano and the Hammond SK1. They are also almost the exact same size - around 35 inches in length. Outside of those two the pickin’s get worse.

Also about that size... Nord Electro 6D (which I would take for piano over the SK1). Also Yamaha MODX6, Korg Kross, and some Casios, with actions of varying quality... Maybe Vox Continental? I haven't played one, but some reports say it's pretty decent for piano, as non-hammer actions go.
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/17/19 04:22 AM

Originally Posted By: Outkaster
Your a piano player that wants to practice on 61 or 64 keys?

I'm a piano learner and yes: I can easily forego the top and bottom octaves and still find enough pieces for practicing for many years to come...
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/17/19 04:26 AM

Thanks for the many suggestions. Finding a used VMK-161 is not easy and I would not want to spend more than my 73-key P-121 costed.
So I suppose I will continue traveling with a roof box for a while...
I'll give the Go Piano and the other options a try, though, if I see them in some shop.
Posted By: Losendoskeys

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/19/19 05:15 AM

Originally Posted By: mezzopiano
Thanks for the many suggestions. Finding a used VMK-161 is not easy and I would not want to spend more than my 73-key P-121 costed.
So I suppose I will continue traveling with a roof box for a while...
I'll give the Go Piano and the other options a try, though, if I see them in some shop.


I just bought a Go:Keys - same format but more sounds - for £130 slightly used on EBay like
Sounds great!
Posted By: mauriziodececco

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/19/19 08:22 AM

There is a french guy trying to do a kind of modular weighted keyboard (like you buy two modules two octave each and you connect them together to get a 4 octave keyboard).
No idea if it works and how; this is the URL:

https://pianodevoyage.com

Actually, from the FAQ it seems that the first version will not be weighted.

Maurizio
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/19/19 06:39 PM

There's this video presentation, too: piano de voyage [youtube]

The concept is nice, however:
  • each 24-key module weighs less than 1kg (2.2lbs), so the keys are unweighted or at most lightly-weighted
  • the price for a 3-modules unit (72 keys) is $900
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/19/19 07:15 PM

Originally Posted By: Losendoskeys

I just bought a Go:Keys - same format but more sounds - for £130 slightly used on EBay


I just looked up the difference between Go:Piano and Go:Keys and here is what I found.

Both keyboards have the same synthy spring-loaded 'touch/velocity sensitive' key action - and are identical in almost every respect.

Specific to GO: Keys:
1. Loop-Mix function
2. 500+ sounds
3. it is RED

Specific to GO: Piano:
1. Damper Resonance on the Piano Tones
2. Metronome
3. Music Rest
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/19/19 07:57 PM

I made an infographics that shows the relative size and weight of the various options I've considered:
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/19/19 08:00 PM

Originally Posted By: Groove On
[Picture of Go:Piano at the beach]

coolthu
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/21/19 06:20 PM

Small clarification: I only considered the options shorter than 1m , see the ones with blue background in this new image.
Posted By: drawback

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/21/19 06:33 PM

And...?
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/22/19 06:37 AM

...I realised that 49 keys are indeed not ideal. Since I travel by car, I can fit 61 or 64 keys.
So I dropped the idea of getting a hammer-action 88-keys controller (such as Studiologic SL-990) and modding it to only use the 48-keys part (they comprise a left part with 40 keys and a right part with 48 keys). I could of course use more keys, but I haven't found any sensor boards (switchboard) for individual octaves.
I truly wish Studiologic made a SL 61 or SL 64 (with Fatar TP100LR action, which seems to be a good compromise between portability and feel.

But speaking about real products, my favorite choice would be getting a used VMK-161 (or a RD-64, which I'd have to try to re-package in a shorter case), as these seem to be the only options with weighted keys. But these units are rare and I've haven't been able to find one so far).

So, unless I'm lucky, it has to be semi-weighted 61 keys.
Roland Go:Piano seems to be a good choice, but I never played one, so I'll have to see whether I can test one in a shop.
I'm quite happy with the Yamaha C5 and other free Soundfonts on my iPhone, played back trough bismark bs-16i, so the alternative would be getting a semi-weighted 61 keys controller instead of my current 49 keys, but those with decent action do not come cheap, and even those seem to be quite distant from a real piano feel.

In the meantime, I also got two Fatar 61 TP/9S cheap on eBay ($10 each). I'm thinking of pairing one of them with suitable electronics. So far I've found the FatarScan2 board, and the MKE (Universal Midi Keyboard Electronics) board. The latter has MIDI out and the velocity curves have been "optimised for the Fatar keybed 61 TP/9", so that one should be ideally suited. I'm not thrilled by the action of the TP/9, but apparently it does not get much better than this.

Can anyone compare the action of the Go:Piano to the TP/9?
Posted By: Randelph

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/22/19 02:11 PM

If you're considering the Go Piano, have you looked at the Yamaha PSR E463? It is 2.58" longer but still only 37.24", under your max width, and it gives you a PB wheel and 2 fun knobs to play with. Am surprised at how decent the action is for a super inexpensive SW.

I feel you on needing at least 61 notes. I complained about 61 notes until I started playing a 49 note board (iRig Keys I/O), and have since realized 61 notes is the minimum number of keys I'd like to play on.
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/22/19 06:35 PM

@Randelph: thanks for the suggestion.
The Yamaha PSR E463 sounds like fun, but I really just need one good acoustic piano sound. How are the pianos on the Yamaha?
Posted By: Randelph

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 03/23/19 01:53 PM

Surprisingly decent. Even on the cheapie boards, Casio and Yamaha put a good piano in them.
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 06/12/19 10:49 AM

Update: I've bought, and resold, a used Go:Piano. I didn't like the action at all, and the velocity curves also felt weird.

I realised I definitely need a hammer action keyboard.

So I've decided to ask a specialist to manufacture my own custom MIDI controller by cutting a Fatar TP/40GH keybed.
It can be up to 68 keys long, resulting in a total length of 98 cm.
My question is now, which 68 (consecutive) keys should I choose? I will be playing mostly classical music.
Mozart's own piano had 5 octaves and ranged from F1 to F6. Most 5 octaves pianos tend to be preset to C2 to C7.
So I feel that F1 to C7 might be a sensible choice. Besides, this was the standard range in 1800, before 6-octaves pianos became common.
Any thoughts? Thanks!
Posted By: AnotherScott

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 06/12/19 11:18 AM

I can't speak to the classical repertoire, but even as a modern keys guy, your F-to-C sounds good to me. It encompasses the typical 61-key range long associated with organ manuals and so many modern keyboards, the full 64-key range of a Wurlitzer EP, and the full range of a clavinet (only 60 keys, but F-to-F).
Posted By: drawback

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 06/12/19 01:02 PM

I don't see the Dexibell Vivo S1 in your list (I think it would be perfect) but it has semi-weighted action which you're not into.

However, you might consider the key range for your TP/40GH chop.
Posted By: Randelph

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 06/12/19 04:17 PM

Wow, that's quite a board and a price to match, $1,499. It's a little long for the OP at 43", and the lowest note goes down to an A. The sounds are stunning though, and at 18 pounds its very portable.

Given the overall quality, I would wager the SW action is pretty decent, even for piano.
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 06/12/19 05:57 PM

Thanks for suggesting the Dexibell S1, but it's too long (39.5" is a hard limit; I already have a Yamaha P-121 which is 43" and does not fit into my car) and semi-weighted is a compromise I cannot live with.

But I'll consider the A1-E7 range.
(there are so many note names: in this notation middle C is C4).

So now the question is: what keys are more important?
1) F1 and G1 (Contra octave); or
2) D7 and E7 (4-Line octave)
Posted By: rickp

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 06/12/19 10:21 PM

Cheaper than a bigger car or a new weighted keyboard - take along your P121.
Posted By: stoken6

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 06/16/19 04:21 PM

@OP Can I ask: who have you found to custom-chop your controller?

Cheers, Mike.
Posted By: gg22

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 06/16/19 05:54 PM

Originally Posted by mezzopiano
Thanks for suggesting the Dexibell S1, but it's too long (39.5" is a hard limit; I already have a Yamaha P-121 which is 43" and does not fit into my car) and semi-weighted is a compromise I cannot live with.

But I'll consider the A1-E7 range.
(there are so many note names: in this notation middle C is C4).

So now the question is: what keys are more important?
1) F1 and G1 (Contra octave); or
2) D7 and E7 (4-Line octave)


I would go with the A1-E7 range.
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 06/16/19 10:11 PM

Originally Posted by rickp

Yes, that's what I'm doing now (see my previous posts).
However, this costs me about $200 in extra fuel per year, so I'm not sure it's cheaper in the long run.
Besides, a car with a roof box screams "tourist", and there's places where I'd prefer the car to go unnoticed.
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 06/16/19 10:16 PM

Originally Posted by stoken6
@OP Can I ask: who have you found to custom-chop your controller?
Cheers, Mike.

Mike,
it's www.keyboardmanufaktur.de
They don't chop _my_ controller, but you can order a controller with a custom-chopped Fatar keybed.
Let me know by PM in case you need more info (the site is mostly in German).
Posted By: mezzopiano

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 06/16/19 10:46 PM

Originally Posted by gg22

I would go with the A1-E7 range.

Just personal preference or any particular reasons?

Besides, I've downloaded some MIDI collections of classical piano pieces and ran some stats on it, to see which notes are more frequently used.
Overall (over 2200 pieces and 9 million notes), the lower range F1-G#1 is used more frequently than the higher range C#7-E7 by about 2-3 times, depending on the collection.
It then also depends on the composer. A few examples:
- Mozart, whose piano had the F1-F6 range, obviously only used the F1-G#1 notes (about 30 times out of 135000)
- Beethoven and Chopin also used the lower range more than the higher.
- Albeniz and Czerny used the higher range more.
Posted By: gg22

Re: Travel piano: best action under 1m (39.5")? - 06/17/19 02:44 AM

Originally Posted by mezzopiano
Originally Posted by gg22

I would go with the A1-E7 range.

Just personal preference or any particular reasons?



Just a personal preference. I had the Roland RD-64 and liked that it had low "A". Actually the ideal range for me would be C1-E7 (77 keys?) but it would be too big for your purposes.
Seriously though, short of finding a used VMK-161, I'd just find a way to fit Yamaha P121/Studiologic 73 in the car - like putting it vertically on the floor, folding seats, etc.
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