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Wanted: engineer to make 49/61-key weighted action keyboard


Peter G. Moll

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I travel (fly) a lot for my work and need to take a keyboard with me for practise when I stay in hotels in African cities where there are no pianos. I have a Yamaha P-80 which is about 60" x 13" x 5", which fits in a custom-built case by FlyteCase in Canada. The P80 weighs 16.4 kg (about 40 pounds); with the case it's 27 kg (59 pounds). The tactile impression is good (the best approximation to the grand action) and the sound, with headphones, is accurate and bearable, if not pleasurable. The problem is that not all airlines allow a case this large or heavy, it attracts undue attention from rent-seeking customs officials, and doesn't fit into the average taxi.

 

So I'd like a 49- or 61-key (4-5 octave) weighted action keyboard which would weigh less, take less space and permit me to fly anywhere. At least I'd be able to play Bach that way, and practise scales. But on the market I find that the only weighted action keyboards are 88-key. The 49- and 61-key keyboards are at best pressure-sensitive or velocity-sensitive (viz. do gradations of volume) but, even when they claim to be “semi-weighted” or “synth action”, do not have a hammer action at all. The tactile impression is so far from the grand action that besides being unpleasant it would, I suspect, also waste time in that once back home I'd have to "unlearn" the motions acquired and "relearn" them on my acoustic piano. I have written to all the big manufacturers (Baldwin, Bohemia, Casio, Clavia, FATAR, Generalmusic (GEM), Korg, Kawai, Kurzweil, Samick, Suzuki, Roland, Technics, Viscount and WERSI) and spoken with some, but have had only negative responses.

 

It is clear that there are many people out there with the same problem – see the following indications on this and other sites:

http://www.musicplayer.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=18;t=010259

http://www.musicplayer.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=18;t=008677

http://www.musicplayer.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=18;t=007920

http://www.musicplayer.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=18;t=009104

http://www.musicplayer.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=18;t=007453

 

http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/6/226.html#000004

 

http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?/topic/1/4221.html

 

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=inst;action=display;num=1084276337

 

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=inst;action=displa y;num=1079199900;start=0

 

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=inst;action=displa y;num=1060003862;start=0

 

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=inst;action=display;num=1080218682

 

So I'm now searching for an engineer who would be interested in taking apart an instrument with weighted action (e.g. Yamaha P80) and converting it into a 49-key (or possibly 61-key) instrument. This might entail using one of the smaller synths on the market (e.g. Fatar's) and installing Yamaha's keys. Obviously the warranties would be voided but that's not a problem to me. Or maybe there's an engineer out there who has another innovative solution? Or can anyone suggest to me the name of an engineer who might be interested in trying this?

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Do you want the final unit to have internal sounds (with an audio output and/or headphone jack), or can it be just a controller? I realize a controller would require you to have a laptop/computer/soft-synth or a small module.

 

Is the Yamaha action your only choice?

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Originally posted by Prague:

Do you want the final unit to have internal sounds (with an audio output and/or headphone jack), or can it be just a controller? I realize a controller would require you to have a laptop/computer/soft-synth or a small module.

 

Is the Yamaha action your only choice?

Thanks, Prague, for your interest. I'm open to all possibilities: onboard sound or sound via laptop; make of hammer-action keys (Yamaha or Roland or other). I'm looking for the smallest and lightest instrument which conveys the "feel" of a grand piano. I don't need all the bells and whistles, just the basic piano sound. Of course it should have the sustain pedal. And because I travel, it should have the transformer permitting use in 110-volt and 220-volt countries (which Yamaha does; I'm not sure if the other manufacturers do).
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Well, it's good to be in such big company...

 

Peter, though my needs differ a little (I need a master keyboard, not a practice keyboard, so 73 keys is the bare minimum for me), let me give you a word of advice:

I used to travel with a practice keyboard, 61-key synth style, with springs with adjustable heaviness (nothing special, really). 61 keys weren't even enough for simple two-hand arpeggios; in many cases, I was forced to practice one hand at a time. Of course, there's the matter of size...

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Also: I, too, had tought of buying a second-hand P80 and chopping it to reduce its size to 73 or 76 keys. I gave up for a couple of reasons:

 

1) In case it won't work, I would have wasted quite a bit of money;

 

2) The P80 doesn't have wheels, aftertouch or master functions anyway.

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There was a little german company once that made special versions of Doepfer masterkeyboards, like shorter versions and foldable versions!

 

Since the doepfers are made directly in a case, no extra case is needed, thus rather light all-in-all; about 20kg.

 

I ordered a foldable one, but the company got problems and had to close before they could send me one! So my dream of the smallest, most practical 88-hammer-action-keyboard you can get fanished there for ever.

 

So, logically, I then bought the biggest, least practical and heaviest keyboard you can get: the Kawai MP9500. If it has to be big, then at least have the best keys money can buy.

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Thanks everyone for your answers. The most hopeful solution so far is the Doepfer PK88 or SK2000. Specs, including case:

 

20 kgs, 134.2 cm x 26.5 cm x 10.5 cm or:

44 lbs, 52.8 in x 10.4 in x 4.1 in.

 

Whereas my present setup, a Yamaha P80 with a custom-built case by FlyteCase, has:

 

16.4 + 13.1 = 29.5 kg, 139 cm x 33 cm x 16.5 cm or:

36 + 29 = 65lbs, 54.8 in x 13 in x 6.5 in. The Doepner has an advantage over the P90 in that it has both a sustain and a soft pedal. The PK88 has no sound but the SK2000 (same dimensions) has a headphone jack. I wish I'd known of this solution earlier.

 

The M-Audio 88 is a full 50 lbs (Yamaha P90: 36 lbs) so would be less suitable for travel.

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