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Arranger keyboard recommendations?


dzed

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Hi

 

I'm a songwriter, and I want to improve my work rate in terms of getting songs recorded for demo (I'm far too slow with my present gear). So I'm thinking about one of these "arranger" keyboards that you can actually record on, and with the facility of being able to "drop in" to fix miss-played parts (my first instrument is guitar, not keyboard, though I do have quite a good feel for piano).

 

I'd need to have decent drums, bass, piano, organ and string sounds (I'm "old school", so I don't need fancy synth sounds, etc). If it was really necessary, I'd be prepared to go up to around the £3,000 mark -- but hopefully I wouldn't have to go that high for my purpose, which is to quickly produce some professional and musical backing tracks.

 

Finally, I do really like the feel of a weighted, piano-like action -- so ideally I'm looking for at least a semi-weighted action.

 

Any advice/recommendations greatly appreciated!

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even though it does not have a weighted keybed you can't beat the Tyros line from Yamaha.

 

Yeah you can :D , with the Korg PA series - there is also the Roland BK series and the Ketron Audya.

 

It is WELL known that the Yamahas suffer from very poor and insipid drums - they sound more CD liek and far less live and inspiring than the other brands. Further if you strip away the multitude of effects that Yamaha plaster over their styles on the Tyros and PSR series boards the result is quite poor.

 

The Yamaha styles also have shorter loops - 8 bars, although most are 4 or less, whereas the Korg will allow up to 16 bars in one loop.

 

If you want bland CD sounding cheesy and naff styles, then jump right into the Yamahas, if you want live and in your face drums and basses then any of the other brands will do this. Guitars on all of them are about them same. Pianos/Eps on the Yamahas are also weak.

 

As always, JMO, and YMMV

 

Good luck! Now wait for the Yamaha fanboys to come jumping out of the woodwork!

 

By the way for questions on arrangers I strongly recommend you visit http://www.synthzone.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/forums/37/1/General_Arranger_Keyboard_Forum

 

Cheers

There is no luck - luck is simply the confluence of circumstance and co-incidence...

 

Time is the final arbiter for all things

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Right now I have a Korg PA3X Pro with 76 semi-weighed keys; in the past I have had also a Tyros 1 and 2 and I have to agree with Dennis (Miden): the drums are the weak point of all the Tyros models.

Next Thursday Yamaha will unveil the successor to the Tyros 4 and it should come both in 61 and 76 keys, so my advice would be to wait and see. If I had to recommend one of the present arranger keyboards, it would definitely be the Korg PA3X: it comes really close to the concept of having a backing band at your disposal at the press of a button and it's especially strong in the Contemporary, Fusion and Latin departments.

The Tyros, on the other hand, is very good for Soundtracks and Classic music, due to his excellent orchestral sounds.

Korg PA3X Pro 76 and Kronos 61, Roland G-70, Integra 7 and BK7-m, Casio PX-5S, Fender Stratocaster with Fralin pickups, Fender Stratocaster with Kinman pickups, 1965 Gibson SG Standard
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Dzed, What style of music are doing?

 

 

Good question! I kind of have two styles. On guitar, I work in a bluegrass style, and I write alternating bass-line, boom-ching songs, accompanied by foot-drums -- so it's a kind of one-man-band thing, and it's very sparse: one vocal, one guitar, and drums. It's in this style that I presently write, record and perform my songs (think Johnny Cash meets Doc Watson).

 

However, many years ago I used to write a lot of songs on piano, some of which might suit other performers more than me. I used to love playing the piano and would like to get back to it, and also to make the most of my songwriting skills. So I want to get a keyboard that will enable me to get back into this line of work with the minimum of fuss.

 

 

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Right now I have a Korg PA3X Pro with 76 semi-weighed keys; in the past I have had also a Tyros 1 and 2 and I have to agree with Dennis (Miden): the drums are the weak point of all the Tyros models.

Next Thursday Yamaha will unveil the successor to the Tyros 4 and it should come both in 61 and 76 keys, so my advice would be to wait and see. If I had to recommend one of the present arranger keyboards, it would definitely be the Korg PA3X: it comes really close to the concept of having a backing band at your disposal at the press of a button and it's especially strong in the Contemporary, Fusion and Latin departments.

The Tyros, on the other hand, is very good for Soundtracks and Classic music, due to his excellent orchestral sounds.

 

Thanks -- yes, I have been listening to some clips of the PA3's piano sounds, and to my ears they sound great. Is the feel of the keyboard good?

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Thanks -- yes, I have been listening to some clips of the PA3's piano sounds, and to my ears they sound great. Is the feel of the keyboard good?

 

Yes, it is; before the PA3X-76 I owned a PA2X-76 and was led to think that they shared the same keybed, but fortunately this is not the case: the PA3X-76 has a much smoother feel and it's a real joy to play, while I never felt really at ease with the PA2X.

Together with the Roland G-70, the PA3X-76 (to me at least) has the best feeling keybed among all the arrangers: it's not a weighed action (like in a digital piano) but it's the perfect compromise to play both piano and organ parts (for example).

Korg PA3X Pro 76 and Kronos 61, Roland G-70, Integra 7 and BK7-m, Casio PX-5S, Fender Stratocaster with Fralin pickups, Fender Stratocaster with Kinman pickups, 1965 Gibson SG Standard
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I have the older Korg Pa1XPro and love it. I don't talk much about it here because this isn't an arranger forum. Having both the new Pa3XPro AND a G70? You've got two of the baddest arrangers around and a nice budget for them too.

 

Dzed, I wouldn't run out and spend this kind of cash just yet. You say you're not really a keyboard player. If that's the case you're going to waste two thirds or more of these high end arrangers capabilities. The $300-500 Casios and Yamaha PSR's are really pretty good. They're called consumer keyboards as opposed to pro keyboards but don't be fooled. I showed a neighbor of mine how to work her Casio WK3300 a few years ago and was really impressed by how good it was. The new model is the WK7500 and sells for about $500. Check those first before spending ten times that for a PA or G70.

 

Bob

Hammond SK1, Mojo 61, Kurzweil PC3, Korg Pa3x, Roland FA06, Band in a Box, Real Band, Studio One, too much stuff...
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I'm with the posters who say don't run out and spend a lot of cash. Yes, the more expensive arrangers, like Tyros4 and PA3X have a more firm semi-weighted action, compared to the less pricey models like Korg's PA-800 and PA-900, Roland's BK-9, and Yamaha's PSR-S series. All these cheaper models have less than satisfactory actions, IMO, especially if you desire something close to piano touch.

 

I solved the wimpy action problem by buying a leftover (but new) Yamaha PSR-S910 (which has both midi and audio recording) and a Yamaha P-95 Digital piano for use as a controller; I like to compose first on the piano (hence the P-95's weighted 88 keys).

 

I bought this setup for use in a small apartment studio. The S910's midi sequencer is simpler (less editing power) than the Korg but it's perfect for my needs, and I'm more drawn to the polished Yamaha sound .

 

You could do the same with any other brand mid to low range arranger and a midi equipped digital piano or dedicated controller.

 

I went with the PSR due to the veritable cornucopia of free third party and factory styles (accompaniments) available, plus I like the sound (highly personal and subjective), which is more compressed than Korg and Roland, but can be "opened up" quite a bit by prudent use of the very extensive on-board EQ and filtering options (which include the style parts). Most importantly; I like what I hear, and find the arranger's Super-articulated and mega voices very realistic and inspiring.

 

If at all possible, try before you buy, and check out all brands available and hopefully you'll find that perfect instrument for your needs.

 

Snazzy

Semper Gumby: Always flexible \:^)
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Another question: I believe there are keyboards that kind of create a backing track for you based just on the chords you play. Do these sound any good -- or are they a bit naff/cheesy?

 

All arranger KBs can follow your chords you play. As far as the cheesy factor, an arranger will sound quite convincing if its played by a good keyboardist...

 

For your style of music and budget, you have a lot of good options. Ketron, Korg PA, upper end Yamaha psr or Tyros, and Roland's would work well for you. IMO, the Ketron Audya styles sound the most like a live band.

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Yamaha PSR-S710 owner here. I think I posted this elsewhere in this forum, but I selected the Yamaha mostly based on the free and commercial support and styles.

 

The sound is, in my opinion, a bit overdressed and pristine, but not to the point of being offensive. There is a lot of adjustment power under the covers to help reduce some of the drenching reverb, etc. The sound of any of these is really subjective, so don't go by my word.

 

Yes, the keyboard is soft, but it is playable with a gentle hand. I actually don't play the instrument all that much, as it serves primarily as a sound module for Band In A Box and Cubase. I do load it with sequences and use the drum patterns to play along with when practicing.

 

I'm pretty sure the S910 has the same keyboard, and would speculate the new S750 and S950 do as well since they are direct replacements.

 

If you want to compose on your arranger, you should download the user manuals and read the recorder/sequencer sections, and get some demos if you can. Sounds like you'll spend a lot of time there, so you need to be comfortable with the workflow, ease of use, features, capacity, storage, etc. There are things that are easy to do on the Yamaha, some things that are not intuitive, and some things that are not possible.

 

One other thing to consider is using a basic software DAW in conjunction with the arrangers. I use Cubase Elements, which works great with the Yamaha and was very affordable. The Cubase sequencer has a workflow and interface that makes sense to me, and I can export the finished product to a MIDI file that can easily load into the PSR. You can also have Cubase "record" the MIDI events directly from the PSR if you want to do a live recording, even with a style running.

 

Overall, though, it's a great scratchpad and practice tool for me.

 

.

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Often overlooked by people with your needs and who are not skilled keyboard players is Band-in-a-box, a software program that will do most of what an arranger keyboard will do (and a lot cheaper). In fact, there is probably much more control over the finished product than with the arranger plus the learning curve is probably a lot less. Just something else to consider if you're on a budget.

 

chas

Legend Exp,NC2x,Crumar Seven,KeyB Duo MK111,Nord C1,Nord C2D,Triton Classic,Fantom G7,Motif ES,SonicCell,BK7m,PA1x pro,VP770,TC Helicon,Leslie 3300,MS Pro145,EV SXA250(2),Traynor K4,PK7a,A70,DM10 Pro.
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Thanks again for all the replies.

 

How about the Korg PA-588?

 

PA 588 has the weighted action and built in speakers but its internals arent as advanced as the PA2/3x or PA800/900. Personally in your position I would go for the Korg PA600. Its has all the sounds and styles of the PA3X and is a third of the price. All youd be giving up is a weighted action, but as another poster mentioned, if that really bothered you you could pick up a weighted 88 note and MIDI em up. But for your purpose (creating backing tracks and composing) I actually dont see a need for a fully weighted action. These Korgs sound great in the flesh, I owned the PA3x. Funnily, its piano sound isnt as brilliant as I had hoped, but the styles... amazing. Very "live" sounding and convincing. Guitar parts are stellar. The PA600 is the baby, baby brother and is UNBELIEVABLE value for money. You can get one for around $1000, which is just too cheap considering your getting 95% of a PA3X ($3000 plus).

 

The one thing I liked about the PA3x that you wont get with the 600 is the vocal processor by TC Helicon, but frankly you can pick up VoiceLives all over the place for a few hundred.

 

Couple the PA600 with a simply harddisk recorder like the BOSS BR800 and you will be popping out killer demos before the night is through. Simple and effective!

We are all slave's to our brain chemistry!

 

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Chas, yes Biab is very good but it doesn't follow your playing live like an arranger keyboard can. It has no chord detection abilities for that. It does have pretty good chord detection from a midi file but that's for providing the chords so you can create a song. You load a midi file into Biab and it can populate the chord grid. That has nothing to do with what we're talking about here.

 

Biab's big thing is since you have to load in the chords first, the intelligent software knows what the chords are and the complete layout of the song and can then create a better arrangement than an arranger keyboard can because the keyboard is only following what you play in real time. There's some truth to that.

 

Bob

Hammond SK1, Mojo 61, Kurzweil PC3, Korg Pa3x, Roland FA06, Band in a Box, Real Band, Studio One, too much stuff...
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