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Looking for a Piano and Lead Sound Synth. Advice?


Dave Pierce

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Hi, I'm returning to gigging after a 12-year hiatus and I'm a little overwhelmed by all the boards out there these days. :/

 

I'm looking for a board that can give me solid sounds for the following, in priority order:

* Acoustic piano

* Rhodes

* Horns

* Synth-type lead sounds

* Strings

 

I don't use pad sounds much, and I don't need organ sounds because I have a Korg CX-3 and a Motion Sound speaker for that (which is very very sweet, BTW).

 

Any advice for me? TIA!!!

 

--Dave

Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.

 

My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/

 

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I assume you just want one keyboard besides the organ. I'll start by asking you a few questions so we can narrow down your choices;

 

1. How much are you willing to spend?

 

2. Do you want weighted keys? (I'm guessing yes, since piano and Rhodes are at the top of your shopping list) Is aftertouch important?

 

3. Do you care about an onboard sequencer, or do you just want something to play live?

 

4. Are you satisfied with good presets, or do you plan to get into sound programming?

 

5. Do you use left-hand controllers? If so, do you prefer wheels, joystick, or lever?

 

The good news; There's lots of good stuff out there for a lot less than you would have had to spend 12 years ago! :)

 

Peace all,

Steve

><>

Steve

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Originally posted by Dave Pierce:

* Acoustic piano

* Rhodes

* Horns

* Synth-type lead sounds

* Strings

I don't use pad sounds much, and I don't need organ sounds because I have a Korg CX-3 and a Motion Sound speaker for that (which is very very sweet, BTW).

--Dave

Is overall carrying weight an issue? How about weighted keybed action? Number of keys?

 

Try out a Kurzweil PC2. They come in 76 (semiwieghted keys) and 88 (weighted keys) versions.

 

Or how about a Triton (61, 76 or 88)? Triton has a new 16MB piano expansion card that sounds pretty good.

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Out of Roland, Yamaha, Korg, Kurzweil and E-mu I think the Korg (Triton) has the worst piano. If piano is your top priority I would stay away from that. Yamaha seems to have the best overall piano and ep of the bunch. I think Roland has better strings and they both have good leads. Korg has the best leads.

 

If you want 88 weighted keys check out the Yamaha S80 or the Kurz. If you want 76 check out Motif 7 or Roland Fantom. 61 keys maybe Motif 6 or even the cheap E-mu Pk6.

 

Robert

This post edited for speling.
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Originally posted by Rabid:

Out of Roland, Yamaha, Korg, Kurzweil and E-mu I think the Korg (Triton) has the worst piano. If piano is your top priority I would stay away from that.

I would agree that piano in the Triton's base ROM is not as good as the piano in the S80 or Motif's base ROM. However, Korg has just released a new expansion card for the Triton which has 16MB devoted to piano samples, which is worth considering, since the Triton has a lot going for it in other ways.

 

Yamaha is pretty srong in the piano and ep department, but I think it's debatable whether Yamaha beats the Kurzweil PC2 in this regard. The Yamaha's do suffer from some pretty bad velocity-switching in their ep's, I think the PC2 suffers less from this problem. Yamaha did a good job of the Rhodes on the P120, but this guy is not looking for a digital piano.

 

****************************************************

** The only good velocity-switch is an inaudible velocity-switch **

****************************************************

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I think these are all good suggestions. Personally, I'd have slightly different criteria in choosing a gigging vs. recording instrument. The way I see it, for gigging, you'd want a keyboard that's a) fun to play and b) makes you sound good, vs. one that might have the best sounding samples. I assume you want people leaving the club saying "man that SOB can play the keys." I think a lot of the nuances of these keyboards are lost anyway given the club's acoustics, amplification quality and crowd noise. Undoubtedly, your CX-3/Motion Sound combo meets a & b above. So should you other keyboard, IMHO. Play them all, then choose the one that compliments your style and is the most fun to play.

 

Busch.

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Originally posted by burningbusch:

I think these are all good suggestions. Personally, I'd have slightly different criteria in choosing a gigging vs. recording instrument. The way I see it, for gigging, you'd want a keyboard that's a) fun to play and b) makes you sound good, vs. one that might have the best sounding samples. I assume you want people leaving the club saying "man that SOB can play the keys." I think a lot of the nuances of these keyboards are lost anyway given the club's acoustics, amplification quality and crowd noise. Undoubtedly, your CX-3/Motion Sound combo meets a & b above. So should you other keyboard, IMHO. Play them all, then choose the one that compliments your style and is the most fun to play.

Busch.

Good point. I'd be interested in hearing about what specifics you look for using the "fun to play/makes you sound good" criteria, or to hear some examples of some choices you've made based on those criteria.
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Motif or S80 all the way... You can't beat their pianos and EP's. I know some of you think their organs are not up to snuff, but with some slight tweaking I was able to use several organ patches for recording purposes. Also, I like the S80's lead synth patches, and with the AN expansion board you've got a load of sweet lead patches that you could tweak to your heart's content.

 

I wouldn't touch the Triton, any roland product and even the Kurzweil PC2 for Pianos or EP.

 

My 2 cents

 

Albert

Gear: Yamaha MODX8, Mojo 61, NS2 73, C. Bechstein baby grand.

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If it's just for gigging I'd avoid the Triton, Motif, and other 'workstation' keyboards. (JMO of course.) Stick with the more performance-oriented boards. Within that, parameter, go to a music store and *play* a few of them! The one that sounds and feels best to you within your allotted budget is the one you should get. Happy hunting!

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Wow!!! Thank you all so much, I'm thrilled to get so much good advice.

 

Let me answer Bucktunes questions:

 

1. How much are you willing to spend?
Used gear is fine, and I'd like to spend around US$1000-1200. I could go as high as 2000 if I absolutely had to.

 

2. Do you want weighted keys? (I'm guessing yes, since piano and Rhodes are at the top of your shopping list) Is aftertouch important?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: I don't know what all the terms mean (weighted, semi-weighted, aftertouch, etc.) I do know that I don't want the "light" feel you used to find in pure synths (my main experiences were in the late 70s and 80s). I also don't necessarily want something to perfectly emulate a piano -- while I learned on pianos as a kid, I built my chops on church organs. It's been at least 8 years since I played an acoustic piano for more than 10 minutes. Hmmmm. I think I'll start a new thread about this part, I have lots of questions about today's keybed technology.

 

3. Do you care about an onboard sequencer, or do you just want something to play live?
It's all about playing live for me. With a live drummer.

 

4. Are you satisfied with good presets, or do you plan to get into sound programming?
Presets. I totally agree with burningbusch, to paraphrase: Good enough for clubs is good enough for clubs. ;)

 

5. Do you use left-hand controllers? If so, do you prefer wheels, joystick, or lever?
Yes, and wheels. What I'm used to is the old DX mode: 1 pitch bend wheel and 1 "modulation" wheel. I love the mod for synth leads. (Like I said, 80s. ;) )

 

Thanks again for the responses. What a great community you have here! I've been a netizen since the early 90s, and perhaps I've become jaded by the signal-to-noise ratio in places like slashdot, but I really wasn't expecting you guys to devote much time to a bonehead newbie question. The fact that you did makes me most grateful. I will endeavor to respond by participating here and contributing something. Hopefully I can find a worthwhile contribution.

 

--Dave

Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.

 

My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/

 

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From your reply I would start with an Yamaha S80. 88 keys that feel like a real piano and price new around $1500. Then measure all other keyboards against it. You can always add the piano card later to improve the piano sound even more.

 

Robert

This post edited for speling.
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Here's another vote for the S80 or Motif. I really like the S80 with the Piano card in it. Although organs are not an issue here, I have gotten some pretty good B3 sounds out of the S80 by making presets while sitting in front of a C3-122 combo! Although, as guestuser says, the velocity switching on the S80 is not the best out there, it is still decent and playable IMHO, although I am not as discriminating about velocity switching as Guestuser.

 

-Casey

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I agree about the S80 as a first choice. :thu:

 

Another one to consider would be the Alesis QS 8.1 ( NOT the 8.2!) It also meets your specs, and they're selling for a grand these days. Let your fingers and ears decide between those two. :)

 

Peace all,

Steve

><>

Steve

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Thanks again guys.

 

I just came back from the Yammy store, and the S80 is sweet. LOVE the keybed. Stiffer than I'm used to, but I actually think it will be good for me. Keep me reminded of what I learned on. ;)

 

The acoustic and electric piano patches are awesome. Love that Herbie Rhodes. Horns and strings are decent -- certainly good enough for clubs.

 

Not so crazy about the lead sounds though. In fact, I didn't really find what I'd call a synth lead sound, all the synth presets were pads. But I guess I can plug in a card. Or I can continue hauling three boards around. :rolleyes:

 

Anyway, this is a great starting point, and I really appreciate the help. I'm a couple months away from actually having the cash in hand, so I've got plenty of time to check out the Alesis and anything else I run across. At least I've got a comparison straw man now.

 

--Dave

Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.

 

My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/

 

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I am pretty sure you can get some excellent sample based leads in the stock S80. Also, the PLG-AN card has the guts of the analog modelled AN1X (which I have). I can vouch that it has some powerful sounds. So there is an add-on path with truly strong leads. As strong or stronger than leads from any other workstation.

 

I understand that the PLG cards have a learning curve and have an intricate (i.e. weird) relationship with the S80....i.e. they aren't easy to use.

 

But it's a nice option to have if you want expand in that direction later.

 

Cheers,

 

Jerry

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Yes, because the PLG cards are meant to be used in a number of different Yamaha synths with different OS's the editing from the front panel sucks sucks sucks if you can even do it at all. On the other hand they all have really good computer editors. Not easy to make changes on the fly though. IMHO the piano card is the only one that you can really work with without a computer.

 

-Casey

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Originally posted by cg1155:

another mark in favor of the S80 is that you can load in any of the CS6X lead sounds or synth bass sounds since these two synths have exactly the same OS and mostly the same wave-set. The CS6X voices can be found at YamahaS80.com .

 

-Casey

Once you download the sound banks onto the Computer, how do you get them stored on the smart media card. What connection do I need from my s80 to my G4? I know this is simple, I just don't know how to do it...

 

TIA

 

Albert

Gear: Yamaha MODX8, Mojo 61, NS2 73, C. Bechstein baby grand.

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Another vote for the S80. I've owned one for 2 years, and still haven't seen anything new that I would replace it with. I only wish it was the size and weight of the P80! Still it is more portable than the Motif 8.If you get one and you move your own equipment, get the Yamaha soft case. It has wheels.

"It is a danger to create something and risk rejection. It is a greater danger to create nothing and allow mediocrity to rule."

"You owe it to us all to get on with what you're good at." W.H. Auden

 

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To get the sound libraries onto the S80's Smart Media Card you will either need a smart media card reader for your PC/MAC or a simple midi connection to the S80 plus the Yamaha Cardfiler software for Win 95/98/ME. If you use Cardfiler you will need to have both the midi in and out connections of the S80 connected to a midi interface. Cardfiler allows you to access the Smart Media card and move files to/from it.

 

-Casey

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Originally posted by cg1155:

To get the sound libraries onto the S80's Smart Media Card you will either need a smart media card reader for your PC/MAC or a simple midi connection to the S80 plus the Yamaha Cardfiler software for Win 95/98/ME. If you use Cardfiler you will need to have both the midi in and out connections of the S80 connected to a midi interface. Cardfiler allows you to access the Smart Media card and move files to/from it.

 

-Casey

Thank you...

 

Albert

Gear: Yamaha MODX8, Mojo 61, NS2 73, C. Bechstein baby grand.

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OK, so today I finally found an Alesis to play, so I've now played both the Yamaha S80 and the Alesis QS8.1.

 

Results? Well, I think I like the Yamaha quite a bit better. While the keybed is a bit stiff, it feels much more like a "piano" than the Alesis did. And the acoustic piano patches were far superior. I did like some of the EPs on the Alesis, but the Yamaha EPs were good too. The Alesis had much better synth lead patches. But the horn patches sucked.

 

I think I've already resigned myself to eventually buying and carrying yet another board for the leads anyway. I want synth action for the leads. So that will mean a three-board kit. Which means I either need to jerry-rig my two-board stand, or come up with a better one. (There will be two new threads on that eventually -- a lead synth, and a stand) :cool:

 

I wish I could find a single store that has both boards in stock so I could try them side by side. But maybe I'm too hung up on the default patches anyway. I'm still getting used to the idea that I can buy a card with other patches and drop it in. I guess I should just get the board with the nicest keybed, which IMNSHO is clearly the Yamaha.

 

BTW, did I mention that technology is awesome?!? The last time I was seriously in the market for a synth was like 1985. Amazing how much things have progressed since then. :D

 

Thanks again to everyone who gave good advice. Now I've just got to wait [im]patiently until I've got enough cash! :rolleyes: (Couple more months, looks like.)

 

--Dave

Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.

 

My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/

 

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Hey man - I really think you ought to get your hands (and ears) on a Kurzweil PC2X. Based on your background/needs, I think you'd be VERY pleased with what that board has to offer.

 

It has a simple patch-retrieval setup that is GREAT for gigging. You, like me, probably don't have need for anything too complex. In my opinion, Kurzweil really puts their focus on how the thing sounds as opposed to bells & whistles, touch screens, etc.

 

To my ear, the basic Yamaha piano sample sounds too thin and pop-y. The Kurzweil (again, to my ear) is a more authentic base sample for piano - but also gives you a ton of more 'pop' or 'rock' alternatives. Also, the Rhodes & Wurly samples on this board are outstanding.

 

As for leads, there are a couple on the PC2X but I think your idea about a third option is a good one. Ever consider a rack-mount option? There are numerous modules out there. While I'm on that thought, you could just buy a 88-key piano-action Fatar controller (+ a 61-note synth action) plus rackmount stuff and get EXACTLY what you want!!!

 

My $0.02 - it's always fun to help someone spend their money!!!

 

Good luck.

Weasels ripped my flesh. Rzzzzzzz.
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Another vote for the Kurzweil - I've had a PC88 as a controller for years and bought the PC2 rack version for (you guessed it) Piano, Rhodes and Strings when it came out. It has some sweet syth leads (love the "Alazawi") and the 4 programmable sliders are nice for some live sound tweaking. Don't buy anything before you at least listen to the PC2X... ;)
"You'll never be as good as you could have been, but you can always be better than you are." - MoKen
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Originally posted by Dave Pierce:

OK, so today I finally found an Alesis to play, so I've now played both the Yamaha S80 and the Alesis QS8.1.

 

Results? Well, I think I like the Yamaha quite a bit better. While the keybed is a bit stiff, it feels much more like a "piano" than the Alesis did. And the acoustic piano patches were far superior. I did like some of the EPs on the Alesis, but the Yamaha EPs were good too. The Alesis had much better synth lead patches. But the horn patches sucked.

 

Its interesting how different boards sound to different people. I play a QS8 (not .1) and have spent some time with the S80 because I like the action best of all the modern units I have tried. But I really think the stock piano sounds are quite poor. When you play sustained comping chords they sort of slither down the back of the instrument and go splat on the floor. Certainly worse than the QS8. On the other hand, I think the EPs are better on the Yamaha.

 

I think the Roland 5080 and 5050 pianos are much nicer and the Kurzweil PC2 pianos are my favorites. There is a PC2R module so you can get the sounds without the Kurzwel action, which for me is too light.

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Hey man - I really think you ought to get your hands (and ears) on a Kurzweil PC2X. Based on your background/needs, I think you'd be VERY pleased with what that board has to offer.

 

It has a simple patch-retrieval setup that is GREAT for gigging. You, like me, probably don't have need for anything too complex. In my opinion, Kurzweil really puts their focus on how the thing sounds as opposed to bells & whistles, touch screens, etc.

 

To my ear, the basic Yamaha piano sample sounds too thin and pop-y. The Kurzweil (again, to my ear) is a more authentic base sample for piano - but also gives you a ton of more 'pop' or 'rock' alternatives. Also, the Rhodes & Wurly samples on this board are outstanding.

 

As for leads, there are a couple on the PC2X but I think your idea about a third option is a good one. Ever consider a rack-mount option? There are numerous modules out there. While I'm on that thought, you could just buy a 88-key piano-action Fatar controller (+ a 61-note synth action) plus rackmount stuff and get EXACTLY what you want!!!

 

My $0.02 - it's always fun to help someone spend their money!!!

 

Good luck.

Well, two others agreed with ELP71's vote for the Kurzweil. Guess I'll have to try that now. I wonder if it fits my <$2k budget? We'll see.

 

I am scared of trying any of this rackmount stuff. I'm not afraid of technology, far from it -- I make my living in cutting-edge tech. But when a gig is flowing and the dance floor is full, there's no time to f*@% around with tech. I want to push a button and go.

 

Frankly, that was something on the negative side of both the Yamaha and the Alesis I tried. Neither seemed to have a simple, user-definable set of "one touch" buttons to get the patches you're looking for in a hurry. If the Kurzweil does, that's a big plus in it's favor.

 

Well, this is why I started looking now, months before I had the money. Once I do buy, I want to know that I got what I really wanted. Thanks again to all the tipsters.

 

--Dave

Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.

 

My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/

 

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