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Is "Keyboard" really "Keyboard Sounds"?


Hugo H

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Originally posted by Ernie Rideout:

Thanks for the specific reference, Sven. That's very helpful. Speaking for myself, and delicately for Ken (he'll chime in soon himself on this, I'm out of the office so he and I aren't conferring before posting), I think we felt that the reference to the other M-Audio board did the trick. In hindsight, I think we could've done with a little more objective description.

 

Good thing I didn't offer to change *my* style of underpants. It's hard to get these Spiderman things in my size.

I'm hoping Ken doesn't take this as a personal attack, frankly... it was merely the issue I had at hand when I wrote this, and it was the only keyboard instrument reviewed that month. :(

 

Thanks for taking it in stride. As someone else posted, if we didn't care, we wouldn't kvetch... ;)

 

Cheers,

SG (in wool-lined Underoos ;) )

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Originally posted by gangsu:

You think you feel sheepish, wait til you read this: I'm feeling a little odd that Stephen Fortner isn't talking to me. I'm talking to him. So, what's up? Is there bad history between Keyboard Mag and Generalmusic?

Maybe it's your breath? :rolleyes:
"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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I did in fact think the reference to the other M-Audio board did the trick. Lots of people here and elsewhere had played that board and had strong opinions about it.

 

I'm trying to get a bead on what y'all want here, becasue no one's really nailed it down: Do you want a paragraph? A standard sidebar? A sentence? What's adequate? What would do it right?

 

It does make sense to start being even more intentional about action descriptions. I liked "feels like a Rhodes in need of attention." To a rank newbie (the audience segment we're trying to grow), that'll be Greek, but we can find equally descriptive, useful, and entertaining ways to express our impressions of keyboards. I still see no value in our presuming to pass judgement on any action as good or bad, though - my stance that action preference is personal has actually been borne out on these forums time and again, and again in this very thread. You guys debate the merits of the keys over and over, and I've never seen anyone convince anyone else to abandon their original opinion.

 

So, uh, Ern? Since you're the captain of this here ship, I hereby nominate thee to be the one that breaks it to the manufacturers whose products are in the next issue that we're starting this new thing with them. (Forumites: MFR's almost always object to being made into "test cases" for some new criteria or area of focus we introduce. They complain and occasionally even make war noises or make veiled threats to pull their ads, and then they see the value in it, get over it, and we all move on.) Natch, I'm kidding. If we're agreed, I'll start the phone calls now.

 

:D:D:D

Technical Editor

Keyboard Magazine

 

More people pay for Keyboard than any other music-tech magazine. Period.

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I think a lot of this extends back to the M-Audio 88-key USB controller, the one that got the Key Buy award last year. It got glowing reviews, especially for its touch, but then our own Broadway Rick (Rick, where are you?) did his own more-or-less scientific review, and pointed out serious flaws in the consistency of the velocity response, unevenness of the keys, etc. - IOW, the keys may have felt nice, but that sort of lulled you into a false confidence about the responsiveness and predictability of the board.

 

Rick ultimately returned his board for a refund, he was so unhappy with it. A lot of fur flying around here then, but I know I came out of it concerned that the depth of investigation that happens at KM might not be what it could be.

 

I'll see if I can dig up a link to the thread - Rick described his process in some detail. BTW, he doesn't go by Broadway Rick here, that's how I know him on a mail list we both belong to.

 

Best,

 

Daf

I played in an 8 piece horn band. We would often get bored. So...three words:

"Tower of Polka." - Calumet

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This is a followup to my earlier post:

 

I just returned my Keystation 88 to Sam Ash...

 

Reasons: (which may not apply to your situation)

 

a) The keyboard has a bit of a bouncy/spongy feel. This actually interferes when playing 16th notes on same key situation. (I do MIDI sequencing of full ork stuff, this situation does come up..)

 

b) The keyboard is NOT for aggressive players.

 

While the keystation has 9 velocity curves, even the least sensitive hits Vel127 too easily.

 

Examples: A Baldwin grand piano takes 10-12 foot pounds of pressure for a "full volume" hit. A Steinway takes 14-16#. The Keystation 88 "bottoms out" at about 7-8# of pressure. This means YOU may be applying pressure for what you think is a medium strike, but the keyboard is outputting Vel127 to your modules.

 

NOTE: Correction from manual - The manual shows the velocity curves listed C0-C8, when in reality on the keyboard, they are C1-C9. There are also three fixed settings under the Velocity Curve setting of F1 - F2 and F3.

 

c) The keyboard is not consistent.

 

If you attempt to hit an even series of notes, say 8 eighth notes in a row, your velocity readings will be something like 84 89 76 127 88 92 103 112 (in my experience playing on it 8-10 hours a day for two weeks).

 

.. That 127 kinds blows up the sequence, causing you to go back and reset the velocity for that note. This can get tedious over long studio sessions.

 

d) The Keystation 88 has only one MIDI out.

 

This is a "playing out" limitation. If it had two MIDI outs, there would be enough horsepower to work with a rack of equipment. One MIDI OUT only is ok for studio/controller use, but not for performance purposes (in my opinion and experience). If I were to contact the m-Audio people, I'd recommend convert the MIDI IN to an independent 2nd MIDI OUT. On a controller keyboard, there's very little use for a MIDI IN.

 

e) The Keystation 88 tends to "go to sleep" if there is inactivity for a time (several hours). In my studio situation, everything is powered up 24/7, and when I'm in project mode (like I am at the moment), I'm in there 12-16 of those 24 hours.

 

Occasionally, the Keystation 88 will "go to sleep," and be non-responsive to playing for 20-30 seconds. In other words, nothing comes out while you bang away for 20-30 seconds waiting to get some MIDI output from the Keystation 88. This happened at least 5-6 times in the two weeks I had it in my studio.

 

The manual DOES say to turn it off when not in use, but I find that a non-useful requirement in the active studio environment.

 

THE RECAP:

 

Sooo, there you have it. I have a Fatar SL990, 90, and Elka MK88II here, all MIDI controllers.

 

The Keystation 88 falls btw the SL990 (worst) and Fatar 90 (good keyboard controller) in my opinion.

 

My solution?

 

I require a keyboard with 88 keys, MOD and PB wheels, nothing else. I have been unable to find a pure controller that is sensitive enough for the articulation and nuance that I require. Unfortunately, the new Fatar's are less sensitive (takes little muscle to bottom out the velocity even on the least sensitive velocity curve compared to earlier models), so I picked up a Yamaha S08 synth.

 

It has a great physical keyboard, great velocity sensitivity, and the price wasn't outrageous ($900 at Sam Ash). Unfortunately for me, I have no use for the synth, I have ONLY a MIDI cable and sustain pedal plugged into it, nothing in the audio section at all, since I have a wall full of modules. But it has a great feel, and allows dynamic work competently.

 

CONCLUSIONS:

 

The Keystation 88 is actually a very versatile keyboard, it just didn't work for my situation. If it had 2 independent MIDI outs, I could see using it for live work. The physical design of the keys themselves make is unsuitable for my "hammer hands" in the studio.

 

If you have "synth hands" and are used to a light touch, this is a very competent keyboard. If you're a hack like me, with 20+ years playing live on the road (I do theatre, pit orchestra stuff, technique went to hell about 1980), it may not prove to be able to articulate as well as you might like.

 

If you have a set of 88 keys that you like, at the price (I think I paid $480 for it at Sam Ash local store), it might even be worth it for the dials and sliders in the MIDI stream, ignore the 88 keys (except maybe to trigger sample loops or the like).

 

PLEASE NOTE: I did NOT test ANY of the sliders, knobs or the like. Being unable to get past the 88 key keyboard faults, I didn't pursue further features.

 

All my best,

 

Rick

www.bway2.com/tracks

 

PS: If you do have the Keystation 88 and like it, one thing I found useful was to remove the three front "bumpers" off of the bottom of the keyboard, tilting the keys in very slightly toward the player, which I find a plus in long orchestral sequencing (one orch part at a time) work. NOTE: Keep in mind, I'm using a solid surface to hold the keyboard, not a "keyboard stand" that doesn't have 100% coverage to support the keyboard. I contacted tech support at m-audio first, and they said that there is no prob doing that. The bumpers are not interconnected with anything on the main chassis.

I played in an 8 piece horn band. We would often get bored. So...three words:

"Tower of Polka." - Calumet

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I respectfully request that content that old (the Keystation review) not be brought into this or any other discussion of Keyboard's faults. That really isn't fair. Let's focus on Keyboard in its current incarnation and the future, shall we?

Technical Editor

Keyboard Magazine

 

More people pay for Keyboard than any other music-tech magazine. Period.

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Just pointing out some of the steps Rick took in his "review", and hoping that maybe some of them get adopted. Absolutely not meant as an attack. Sorry if it sounded like that.

 

And that's hardly "old" content...

I played in an 8 piece horn band. We would often get bored. So...three words:

"Tower of Polka." - Calumet

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Ok, I'm going to renew :)

 

But in the meantime, I have a followup to Ernie's request for an example. The following is my take on a recent article. It's a highly detailed article, but only in terms of capabilities of the equipment, not playability.

 

Let's look at the Oct 2005 issue, page 60+, the Korg OASYS review. There's not much in the way of key feel or control layout noted, but there are mentions. My problem is that there's not much real information, particularly about the keyboard. Here's my analysis:

 

In the opening graphic, smack dab in the middle of the page: "Synth-action keys on our tester were a pleasure to play. Jordan Rudess loves the 88-key piano-touch on his OASYS, too." Good overview, we know it felt good. I can't complain; this is a summary.

 

Turn the page to 62 and in the lower left, main-text column we are told "The sound is sublime... a blast to play. A little less so on the 88-weighted key version, I'd imagine." The reference is to organ sounds. Ok, maybe a reader doesn't know pianos and organs don't feel the same. Not really something here about the touch, however, just a repeat of fairly common knowledge. I'm just mentioning it because it grazed slightly on the subject at hand.

 

Next page, 63. In the center of the left column we have two mentions of difficulties with the GUI's layout. Good points to hit. Specifics about usability, as opposed to capability. "There are times when it's easier to operate the screen's vitual buttons with a PDA stylus rather than a finger." and "It didn't bother me that much, but the need to flip back and forth between the MIDI track screen and the audio track screen might drive you crazy." Comments of a similar nature for the keyboard are what I'd like to see. As suggested, something like "feels like a Rhodes in need of attention."

 

Then on the same page at the bottom left, there is the paragraph about the playability. "The experience of playing the sounds is also important, and I was pleased by how musical the OASYS is. It feels like an instrument, not a pile of circuits and sheetmetal. As I got familar with the presets I found myself burning long stretches of time quite often. They beg you to play."

 

What bothers me here? Well, I suppose I'm not quite certain of the reviewer's frame of reference. It does, indeed, sound like a nice instrument to play. Am I supposed to understand that by all this he means the key action is responsive and expressive to the touch with just the right sensitivity, in his opinion? I know I'm supposed to understand that the layout of the controls feels good. That seems clear, but only because of the implication that it'd be a pain to play for a long time if they weren't well placed. Maybe a more definitive descriptive summary would clear things up. Like "I was incredibly impressed with the action's touch; it's worthy of a cathedral." Or somesuch. The other replies in this thread have many good ideas for this.

 

Anyway, the next mention we have is on the final page, 64. At the bottom of the main-text left column we have "I've only had one problem, a bug in the pitch-bend, which Korg fixed." This isn't really an action-related item, but a control was mentioned so I might as well point out that it would've been nice to know how long it took to get it fixed. Totally off-topic, but what the heck.

 

Alright, the last item near the very end of the article: "A fabulous keyboard instrument and a very complete..." Ok, a summary, repeated from the article's start; that's okay by me.

 

Now all this has been a lot to follow, but if you're still with me allow me to summarize:

1) We have an opening and closing "pleasure/fabulous".

2) We are mentions about some GUI difficulties. But that's not the keyboard.

3) We are told "it feels like an instrument".

 

That's it. That's the total knowledge we are given about the playbility of an instrument that is supposed to be the start of an era. And this is why I started this thread.

 

Thank you for listening to all the replies from people far better able to describe what's needed than I am. I'm truly impressed that you'll be covering this subject in more detail in the future.

 

Thanks!

Kawai GS-40 grand & other keys
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This is great. Thanks to Ernie and Ken for responding at length.

 

I had not been able to lay my hands on an M-Audio board until early this week. I don't think it's a good reference. For weighted keys it's probably fair to say that those of us interested in such beasts have played real pianos. I suspect Kawai Grands, Yamaha full-size uprights etc. are good references. I mentioned rhodes because it's something that will be familiar to many (I've played a few but never owned one). If your review said "plays like a Wurli" I'd also know exactly what you were meaning. But I guess many younger folk have never laid their hands on a Rhodes or a 200A. So maybe statments comparing the action to that of other manufacturers and perhaps even better to previous models by the same manufacturer may help. Those of us who would look around if someone shouted "hey, gearslut" will get along just fine with such info.

 

But I'd like to push for information in terms of playing certain things (piano, clav, hammond etc.). How is a keybed for Hammond palmswipes? For funk clav? The key-up thing I mentioned for trills and such ornamentation? Machinegun Hammond? And the black keys-white keys thing - cause there are a ton of keyboards out there that do not play as evenly as they might. A few standard tests might be useful: Can you play a piece with a piano patch and have the midi recording show even velocity? Can you play a section of a baroque keyboard piece and cleanly execute all the ornamnentation? Can you machine gun a Hammond patch?

Thanks again for listening.

Keys: Hammond SK2, Hammond SK1, Hammond SKpro, Korg Vox Continental, Waldorf STVC

Amplification: Line6 L3T, Yamaha DBR-10, Presonus Air 10, Leslie 122V

 

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You know, another point about all this is that this attention might actually bring some improvements from the manufacturers. Right now it seems like they're sliding by, just giving us "adequate" in playability while concentrating on the audio side. Maybe its time to ask for a re-balancing of priorities.
Kawai GS-40 grand & other keys
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Kawai seem to be the guys pushing the envelope in this regard. It's their sounds that aren't quite keeping up.

 

I'd be very interested to know who makes the Casio Privia actions. Yamaha? Fatar? Chinese dollar a day factory workers?

Keys: Hammond SK2, Hammond SK1, Hammond SKpro, Korg Vox Continental, Waldorf STVC

Amplification: Line6 L3T, Yamaha DBR-10, Presonus Air 10, Leslie 122V

 

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Originally posted by Ken Hughes:

I'm trying to get a bead on what y'all want here, becasue no one's really nailed it down: Do you want a paragraph? A standard sidebar? A sentence? What's adequate? What would do it right?

I need to get the above question answered before I can begin to implement your feedback. . . . Should I post a poll or will y'all just chime in here?

 

You gents and ladies understand that there is no way to personalize this magazine for each of you. The above choices are the choices:

 

A sidebar is a piece of text set apart from the rest of the text.

A standard paragraph is like Overview or Conclusions. It's just in the text in every review where it applies.

A sentence would be where we start Overview or In Use with a few sentences describing key feel in comparative, musical terms that will mean something to newbies and old salts alike.

 

I want to respond to your feedback swiftly, possibly even in the December issue (now in production), rather than encourage an endless debate that comes to nothing. Let's motor, people!

 

And I'm compelled to take this opportunity to ask the rhetorical questions, "Where else but Keyboard Magazine?" and "Who loves ya, baby?" ;):D

Technical Editor

Keyboard Magazine

 

More people pay for Keyboard than any other music-tech magazine. Period.

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Originally posted by Ken Hughes:

Be heard now or don't bitch later. . . .

Wait. Gangsu, Dave Horne, and I reserve our rights to bitch any ol' time we wanna.

 

Ummmm, is dat OK?

 

Oh yeah... I also am NOT going to use those funky graemlins over there on the left anymore.

 

They smell ummmm.... RIPE.

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Here's a different one for you, my gassy friend:

http://www.click-smilies.de/sammlung0304/spezial/Fool/daz.gif

 

And, yes, there's GAS in the car. Careful what you carry.

I played in an 8 piece horn band. We would often get bored. So...three words:

"Tower of Polka." - Calumet

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Originally posted by DafDuc:

Here's a different one for you, my gassy friend:

http://www.click-smilies.de/sammlung0304/spezial/Fool/daz.gif

 

And, yes, there's GAS in the car. Careful what you carry.

Thanks Daf.

 

Ummmm, a smilie would go right here __ . But... well... YOU KNOW.

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Originally posted by gangsu:

Gangsu's been told to wash her mouth with Pine So. You think it'll help?

That figures. (The little guy rolling his eyeballs would have had this spot. But it's reserved for advertising.)
"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Originally posted by Ken Hughes:

I need to get the above question answered before I can begin to implement your feedback. . . . Should I post a poll or will y'all just chime in here?

Any form is fine; what I'd like to see is this being a consistently addressed piece of each review, perhaps in the form of asking the same people around the office water cooler to chime in on the action (not familiar with the Keyboard office's setup, or whether you have a water cooler ;) but you get the idea). Where it appears is less important than the fact that it does appear. :)

 

And I'm compelled to take this opportunity to ask the rhetorical questions, "Where else but Keyboard Magazine?" and "Who loves ya, baby?" ;):D
Ummmm... do you really want an answer to that? ;):D

 

There's this little mag based in the UK... :wave:

 

Cheers,

SG

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Originally posted by gangsu:

well, see you guys later. I'm gonna go find the real action.

 

 

Smile. Wink. Wave.

Sven, if there's a knocking on your door later this afternoon, just ignore it.
"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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It doesn't matter to me where the negative comments are placed regarding the keyboard's action as long as they get mentioned.

 

You could mention it twice, once in the main body of the review and then again in the concluding paragraph, hell mention it three times in the Pros \ Cons section.

 

I would buy a Yamaha keyboard without first playing on it and the same feeling would also apply for a Roland. It's those third world keyboards that need the extra verbal attention.

 

[enter Sue, stage left]

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Ken,

 

I'd opt for a paragraph. I suspect it'd make layout a bit easier, given that at times the paragraph might run long, other times short. On the other hand, if going for a sidebar means we'd get a longer take every time, hey, count me in :)

 

Thanks again for adding this. I haven't had the opportunity to try numerous keyboards at length. When I'm considering new keys, it'll be great to have a bit of guidance on what feel to expect.

Kawai GS-40 grand & other keys
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I'm leaning towards the sidebar approach myself. Its inclusion will be easier to phase in and enforce from the beginning if we do it that way. Plus it makes it easy to find for those to whom it's very important, and easy to skip for those to whom it's less important.

 

And Dave Horne, we'll make sure we include negative comments every time, just for you. :D

Technical Editor

Keyboard Magazine

 

More people pay for Keyboard than any other music-tech magazine. Period.

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Originally posted by Ken Hughes:

And Dave Horne, we'll make sure we include negative comments every time, just for you. :D

Thanks! I appreciate the sentiment.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Originally posted by ksoper:

While I've gotten used to the Voyager's action and find it quite playable, I believe it's a little lighter and a little shallower than the original Minimoog. Maybe someone who owns both can verify this. It may just be my ever-fading memory.

Your memory is fine. I've got an original Minimoog with a new set of bushings, and the action is noticably heavier than the Voyager's action. I haven't played them side-by-side, but I noticed in the store that the Voyager's action was much lighter. The Pratt-Reed keyboard feels great to play, and I think it's one of the best synth actions there is; it's too bad they're no longer in business. For a semiweighted board, I love the Virus/Supernova action.
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