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Which Keyboard on Broadway? - musicals and theater?


Pelle Bo

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Hello. Is there anybody of you guys who has experience in playing theater/musicalshows on Broadway or in London?

 

Or does anyone know which keyboard is best fitted to play that kind of shows?

 

I play that kind of gigs in Denmark, and I trying to figure out which keyboard is the best for the job. Which one do you guys use?

 

I think, I narrowed it down to:

 

Yamaha Motif Xs/Xf

Korg Kronos X

Roland Fantom G8

Kurzweil Forte/ Pc3K

Mainstage (pros/cons) - can you trust it yet?

 

(sorry for my bad english)

 

best regards

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Welcome to the forum. I have not played on Broadway but I have played for and produced tracks for stage musicals. In addition to the fine workstations you have already mentioned let me throw in something a little different: the Yamaha Tyros 5 76-key model. It's an arranger and a workstation and with the right person operating it the Tyros 5 can produce Broadway-quality live accompaniment all by itself. Comes at a higher price than the Motifs but if you're serious about a keyboard that is over the top for Broadway work, the Tyros 5 is worth a look.
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On Broadway, and I imagine the West End is no different, the de facto standard for shows that have an orchestral score, but are not performed by a full orchestra, are the older K2000-series boards, and the new PC3K-series. Many shows are specifically scored for Kurzweil boards, and even include programming instructions and/or a disk of actual soundsets to use if you rent the materials for a production.

 

The PC3K exists today because Andrew Lloyd Webber's production company commissioned Kurzweil to design a replacement board that could load the sounds from the aging K2000s. Most of Webber's popular shows rely heavily on Kurzweil boards and the older models were dying out and becoming difficult to maintain or replace.

 

Dave Weiser, a frequent contributor to this forum, once worked for Kurzweil and now freelances as a programmer for Broadway shows that use Kurz boards. Kurzweil and musical theater have very deep roots.

 

I'm sure the Yamaha Motif-series is also used a lot, since it is almost ubiquitous in pro-music arenas.

Legend '70s Compact, Jupiter-Xm, Mojo Suitcase

 

 

 

 

 

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That's a riot: I use my Kurzweil when accompanying my high school's musicals each year, but it's only because that's what I happen to own! I had no idea my setup had such a pedigree!

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

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I have no experience playing this kind of music whatsoever, though I will add in that on the few occasions when I've been at a show at the Edinburgh Playhouse (one of our versions of London's West End) I've always seen a Kurzweil being used down in the pit. Always.

Nord E4 SW73

Yamaha MODX7

Mainstage 3

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Dave Weiser is working on Phantom of the Opera show in Moscow, and should be back around the 26th.

The Kurzweil PC3K series is being used for the show.

Howard Grand|Hamm SK1-73|Kurz PC2|PC2X|PC3|PC3X|PC361; QSC K10's

HP DAW|Epi Les Paul & LP 5-str bass|iPad mini2

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Jim

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Hello. Is there anybody of you guys who has experience in playing theater/musicalshows on Broadway or in London?

 

Or does anyone know which keyboard is best fitted to play that kind of shows?

 

I play that kind of gigs in Denmark, and I trying to figure out which keyboard is the best for the job. Which one do you guys use?

 

I think, I narrowed it down to:

 

Yamaha Motif Xs/Xf

Korg Kronos X

Roland Fantom G8

Kurzweil Forte/ Pc3K

Mainstage (pros/cons) - can you trust it yet?

 

(sorry for my bad english)

 

best regards

 

I use Mainstage almost exclusively, and have found it to be trustworthy. My controller is a Casio PX3, and I have it set up so that if my laptop goes down, I can switch over to the Casio's main piano sound as a backup.

 

The only times I've seen problems with Mainstage are when it's running on older hardware, or using large sample libraries.

Casio PX-5S, Casio PX-3, Hammond SK1, Roland XP-10, Classic MIDI Works AGO MIDI Pedalboard, Mainstage 3, Hauptwerk, Conn 8D

 

Previously owned: Yamaha DGX 230, Alesis Q88, Novation Impulse 61

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Hello. Is there anybody of you guys who has experience in playing theater/musicalshows on Broadway or in London?

 

Or does anyone know which keyboard is best fitted to play that kind of shows?

 

I play that kind of gigs in Denmark, and I trying to figure out which keyboard is the best for the job. Which one do you guys use?

 

I think, I narrowed it down to:

 

Yamaha Motif Xs/Xf

Korg Kronos X

Roland Fantom G8

Kurzweil Forte/ Pc3K

Mainstage (pros/cons) - can you trust it yet?

 

(sorry for my bad english)

 

best regards

 

Ah I see some friends of mine have already posted...

 

My UK partner and I do the keys programming for all the Webber shows, plus Les Mis, Miss Saigon, Mary Poppins and others.

 

On all of our shows, on Broadway, West End and all over the world the keys rigs are the same:

Kurz PC3K8

MOTU Mach5

MacBook i7 with SSD

RME Fireface 800 or 802 interface

Boss FV500L volume pedal

Boss FS-5U switch pedal (for patch changes)

Kenton MIDI volume meter

http://www.kentonuk.com/products/items/utilities/ld2-pro.shtml

 

We use the Kurz because of the extensive MID control, 16 zones in setup mode, huge number of user ID slots (thousands) and deep programming. Also, if the Kurz gets powered off by accident, it boots back up with samples intact in about 15 seconds.

 

We use Mach 5 because it is very stable. On the rare occasion that there's a glitch or problem, it recovers quickly and gracefully.

 

I strongly recommend the RME interfaces. They sound incredible and are very stable, like the rock of Gibraltar.

 

Counting all of our shows around the world, we probably have at least 100 of these rigs running in pits.

 

Feel free to send a message if you have any questions.

 

 

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Thanks for all the great answers. I do have some questions:)

 

First of all, my own typical rig is:

 

Macbook Air i7 SSD

RME Fireface 400UC

Volume pedal

FS-5U switch pedal

Mainstage

And one of my keyboards (weighted keys) as a midi keyboard.

Sometimes also the Yamaha Motif XS. Then I do a mix between keyboard and mainstage.

 

The Kenton MIDI volume meter? - last year I played Webbers Cats, and in the score the volume always had a number. like: "now play with volume 17". It was from 0-20. Do you use the Kenton to tell what volume you are actually playing? Because we had to do it buy ear like piano, forte, mf, ff... - the old way.

 

AND on Cats we were told to use RMS Keyboards programming:

 

http://www.rms.biz/products/keyboards/download/music-theatre-international/

 

Do you know RMS? - and Dave Weiser, do you think RMS is the future?

- It never broke down during the show and was very easy to use.

 

Boss FV500L volume pedal? - Don't you think it's a bit noisy? - I mostly use a volume pedal directly into the keyboard, not between the jack-cables.

 

Maybe I should start using the Mach 5, because I really don't trust Mainstage anymore. I tried too many times it broke down or acted weird.

 

Right now I'm playing "The Little Mermaid" on a Kurz PC3X. It's alright, but the woods and reeds are a bit outdated. And the keyboards has some bugs, - like if you change the sound holding down the sustain pedal, the new and old sound crash into each other on max volume. Then you have to hit the Midi Panic button.

 

Is it better on the new PC3K8? - what about the Kurz Forte?

 

Again, thanks for the answers :)

 

 

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Thanks for all the great answers. I do have some questions:)

 

First of all, my own typical rig is:

 

Macbook Air i7 SSD

RME Fireface 400UC

Volume pedal

FS-5U switch pedal

Mainstage

And one of my keyboards (weighted keys) as a midi keyboard.

Sometimes also the Yamaha Motif XS. Then I do a mix between keyboard and mainstage.

 

The Kenton MIDI volume meter? - last year I played Webbers Cats, and in the score the volume always had a number. like: "now play with volume 17". It was from 0-20. Do you use the Kenton to tell what volume you are actually playing? Because we had to do it buy ear like piano, forte, mf, ff... - the old way.

 

AND on Cats we were told to use RMS Keyboards programming:

 

http://www.rms.biz/products/keyboards/download/music-theatre-international/

 

Do you know RMS? - and Dave Weiser, do you think RMS is the future?

- It never broke down during the show and was very easy to use.

 

Boss FV500L volume pedal? - Don't you think it's a bit noisy? - I mostly use a volume pedal directly into the keyboard, not between the jack-cables.

 

Maybe I should start using the Mach 5, because I really don't trust Mainstage anymore. I tried too many times it broke down or acted weird.

 

Right now I'm playing "The Little Mermaid" on a Kurz PC3X. It's alright, but the woods and reeds are a bit outdated. And the keyboards has some bugs, - like if you change the sound holding down the sustain pedal, the new and old sound crash into each other on max volume. Then you have to hit the Midi Panic button.

 

Is it better on the new PC3K8? - what about the Kurz Forte?

 

Again, thanks for the answers :)

 

 

The volume pedal has an "expression" jack - we use it as a MIDI CC pedal into the CC2 jack of the Kurzweil.

 

We don't use RMS, don't like it.

 

On the Kurz, we don't do patch changes while holding the sus pedal - mostly because other things controlled by MIDI get confused. We often do patch changes with players holding down keys but never sus pedal. We work with the orchestrators to coordinate this. It's never a problem.

 

For sounds, we don't really use many of the Kurz on board sounds, except for some EPs and Clavs. Otherwise our Kurz and Mach 5 sounds are custom, recorded at Abbey Road.

 

The Kenton volume meter can do 0-127 or 0-20. We use 0-20. The orchestrations always include volume pedal markings in addition to patch changes. It's a very handy little gadget.

 

Let me know if you have any other questions.

 

 

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"Otherwise our Kurz and Mach 5 sounds are custom, recorded at Abbey Road."

- is that sounds you get made specifically for the show? - It is not sounds that a available in the Kurz PC3K8 or Mach 5 libraries?

 

What about strings? - do you use Mach 5 sounds? - or 3rd parties plug ins? - like Native Complete or Vienna VSL?

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By "custom" I mean: We create the sounds and samples ourselves. This is part of our job. My partner has recorded many sample sessions at Abbey Road over the years. We create Kurz and Mach 5 keymaps and programs with the samples.

 

I am sorry to say that these sounds are not available - they are how we earn our living.

 

We do not use any Mach 5 libraries.

Honestly the Kurzweil on board orchestral sounds are quite good, especially the string sections. Once in while in an "emergency" I'll use the Kurzweil orchestral stuff and it always sounds fine.

 

I'm sure that Vienna strings would be good for most shows.

 

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"I am sorry to say that these sounds are not available - they are how we earn our living." - that is fair enough. I am also asking more on interrest than trying too buy it :)

 

So if you have to take it one step down and not start sampling sounds yourself. Only use stuff you can buy :)

- You would still go for the Kurz PC3K8? ... or maybe:

 

Yamaha Motif Xs/Xf

Korg Kronos X

Roland Fantom G8

Kurzweil Forte

 

And then have the Mach 5 running too with great plug ins. ????

 

Have you ever tried Mainstage?

 

 

 

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I would still use the Kurz for theater work, no matter what.

Nothing else on the market provides the combination of what we need - 16 zones, remapping of all controllers, 32 layer programs, thousands of user objects (programs, keymaps, setups, etc) etc.

 

The other boards you mention are very nice and could work for some shows, but would not be suitable for our own specific programming needs.

 

I love the Forte (and created its EPs and Clavs). If I were gigging or recording with a rock/funk/jazz/blues type of band, I would use my Forte.

 

Lots of big shows use Mainstage. I'm not a huge fan. But I'm sure you could make it work, lots of people do.

 

I'm sure you could get a lot of mileage out of Vienna plus some kind of brass/wind library.

 

There are tons of good sounds out there in hardware and software... the sounds should not be a problem. But the practical stuff - dealing with volume pedals, MIDI control, patch switching, boot up times, user ID slots, and stability - those would be my priorities.

 

Good luck!

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And last question :)

 

Which one would you choose to theater music:

 

Kurzweil Forte (newest from 2014, PC3 sounds, KORE64, Software editor) But only 4 Zones?

 

Or

 

Kurzweil PC3K8 (older 2011) but 16 Zones, and have more sounds?

 

 

Again thanks for the help. If you ever come to Denmark, first one is on me :)

 

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But I really like reading these "inside the club" type things. I did a lot of Vegas shows back in the day but that was way before all the midi stuff. What you had in front of you like a B3, a Rhodes and a grand was it.

 

I for one want you guys to keep it coming.

 

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 can confirm what Dave (and others) have been saying when I went to see a road show of "Lion King" in Portland a few years ago. The orchestra pit was all Kurzweil.

 

While leaning over I got to chat with one of the keyboardists, He said that all he had to do was play the score. All setups, program changes, etc. were taken care of automatically.

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I play community and children's theater shows every now and then and love to read the inside scoop on what the big boys use so keep the thread going! Also I see a fair number of touring company shows in San Francisco and the pits almost always use Kurweil's or occasionally Yamahs S90 series keyboards.
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Dude, send me an email and we can spare these poor souls from having read more of my opinions on theater keyboards.

 

No sir. This is awesome and very informative.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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That's a riot: I use my Kurzweil when accompanying my high school's musicals each year, but it's only because that's what I happen to own! I had no idea my setup had such a pedigree!

 

Yes, it's very cool. The project actually began with Webber's sequel to "Phantom" -- "Love Never Dies":

 

Kurzweil Plays Starring Role in "Phantom" Sequel

 

As Dave says in the article, "when Mr. Webber calls, you listen. :o

Legend '70s Compact, Jupiter-Xm, Mojo Suitcase

 

 

 

 

 

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Ok fair enough.

 

My private reply was something along the lines of, "The PC3K8 has more editing, 16 zones, more users slots, etc while the Forte has only 4 zones, but vastly improved keyboard sounds (pianos, EPs, Clavs, harpsi)".

 

Both have great orchestral sounds. The Kore 64 is optional for the PC3K, while a Kore 64 "Greatest hits" is included in the Forte. (The Forte can load PC3K factory sounds if there are some from the PC3k that aren't included in the Forte. I'd be happy to assist anyone trying to port PC3K sounds into a Forte.)

 

Depending on your needs you'd have to make the call. I'm in a unique position - the shows pay for the keyboard rigs, and we use them for a very specific purpose, with a custom library that would be hard to otherwise replicate. Also, I have both a Forte and a PC3K. I use the PC3K for my theater work and the Forte for recording my own stuff or for gigging (if only I had time to gig these days).

 

Were I spending my own money and the keyboard had to cover *all* of my needs as a gigging player, it would really depend on the nature of my shows and gigs.

 

In the end my advice would be: if you can get by with 4 zones AND you play a lot of rock-heavy type of shows and/or also plan on rock/jazz gigging with the board in question (meaning you'd primarily be using EPs, clavs and pianos), then the Forte is the way to go. If on the other hand you do mostly traditional theater work with dense orchestral arrangements and the work calls for more than 4 simultaneous sounds (zones) then the PC3K is the better option.

 

So the Forte has incredible keyboard type sounds (best I've ever played), while the PC3k has more theater-centric heavy lifting capabilities.

 

An added layer of complexity for me here is I helped create the PC3K and I worked as a contract sound designer on the Forte, so it's like asking me to pick a favorite child.

 

Off topic - Just got back to my hotel after dinner and a walk around Red Square. Breathtaking and surreal. I do enjoy popping by the forum and chatting with you guys, helps me feel a little less homesick when I'm on these extended trips. :)

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I do enjoy popping by the forum and chatting with you guys, helps me feel a little less homesick when I'm on these extended trips. :)

 

How long are you out there?

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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Thank you very much for these replies, Dave! I really appreciate it, as I have absolutely zero experience playing keyboard parts in a pit, and will be expected to play multiple in only a few months.

 

Hope your enjoying your trip - by the looks of your photos on Facebook it looks like you're having a blast!

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I do enjoy popping by the forum and chatting with you guys, helps me feel a little less homesick when I'm on these extended trips. :)

 

How long are you out there?

 

Three weeks total. Flying home on Friday.

Was here 25 years ago when I was 17, 6 months before the USSR unraveled. Hard to believe it's the same place. In a past life before music school I was a Russian major (briefly). It's been an amazing adventure. Just pure coincidence that this gig popped up and I was the one (between my partner and I) to take it.

 

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I always wanted to go to Moscow. Moscow has 8 great orchestras.

 

If your beliefs would allow it Christ the Savior Cathedral's Moscow Patriarch's Choir should be a fantastic choir. However the Russian's don't have pews so you would have to stand for the entire Liturgy.

 

I always thought a set of choir voices based on The Mount Lebanon Choir of Byzantine Music from Beruit would be really cool. Eastern choirs have a different vibe.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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