Do I want a Stage Piano, Keyboard Workstation, Arranger Keyboard, or Synth?

Discussion in 'Keyboards' started by Grayson73, Feb 23, 2017.


  1. Grayson73

    Grayson73 Member

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    I'm looking for a keyboard for church praise and worship. We play a lot of Hillsong and Chris Tomlin.

    We need simplicity, so we'd want to avoid the use of MIDI and computers and any other equipment. The most important to us are a good piano sound and a good pad sound for ethereal effect. That seems to be what I hear the most in recordings.

    I think it would sound good to have piano and pads at the same time sometimes. I also think I'd want 76 or 88 keys and full size, weighted.

    Is it correct that I'd want a Stage Piano vs. a Keyboard workstation, Arranger keyboard, and Synthesizer?

    Here are some options for used keyboards currently:

    Casio PX-5S 725.00
    Korg SV-1 73 999.99
    Korg SV-1 88 1,100.00
    Korg Triton Pro 88 800.00
    Roland FP-50 719.20
    Roland FP-80 899.99
    Roland FP-90 1,115.99
    Roland RD-300NX 700.00
    Roland RD-700GX 999.99
    Roland RD-700NX 1,227.60
    Roland RD-800 1,455.00
    Yamaha CP33 490.00
    Yamaha CP4 1,239.99
    Yamaha CP40 1,025.00
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
  2. BSHARP

    BSHARP Member

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    The keyboard player at our church plays a Korg Triton. Sounds great and you should be able to find one for well under your budget.
     
  3. Grayson73

    Grayson73 Member

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    Would that be the Pro, Studio, or Extreme?
     
  4. BSHARP

    BSHARP Member

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    Korg Triton Pro
     
  5. rsm

    rsm Member

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  6. Grayson73

    Grayson73 Member

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    We need simplicity, so we'd want to avoid the use of MIDI and computers and any other equipment.

    The most important to us are a good piano sound and a good pad sound for ethereal effect. That seems to be what I hear the most in recordings. Am I on the right track?
     
  7. rsm

    rsm Member

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    Yes, you're on the right track. Do you want to do both piano and pads at the same time? If so, you need something that has multiple parts. How many keys (49, 61, 88) do you need? Do they need to be full size, weighted, etc.?

    I have a Roland JD-Xi that can do 4 parts (2 digital, 1 analog, 1 drum). 2:22 in this video has an upright piano sound, and it can do much more (grands, Rhodes, etc.); the pads, strings, brass, etc. are very good. Most of what you need is on the surface, little menu diving except for advanced parameters, so it's very straightforward.

     
  8. rsm

    rsm Member

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  9. Grayson73

    Grayson73 Member

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    I think it would sound good to have piano and pads at the same time sometimes.

    I also think I'd want 76 or 88 keys and full size, weighted.
     
  10. tjontheroad

    tjontheroad Supporting Member

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    Under a grand, 76 key piano action, multi split and layer, simple UI = SP4-7 Kurzweil.

     
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  11. rsm

    rsm Member

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    full size, weighted keys with multiple parts is going to drive the price up...may need to look at something used/older?

    For new, something like Roland FA-08 88-Key Workstation or Korg Krome 88 Keyboard Workstation?
     
  12. stevel

    stevel Member

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    OK @Grayson73 , here are the basic distinctions:

    A "Stage Piano" tends to be an instrument primarily designed to be an electronic version of a "real" piano and substitute for it, thus they typically ha 88 keys that are weighted with ideally, as close an action to a real piano as possible. Likewise, they are going to have a Piano sound that sounds as much like a real piano (or at least one that's been mic'd up for live performance) as possible.


    They will also typically have additional sounds, especially more Piano, Electric Piano and Organ sounds. They may also include other Keyboard instruments like Harpsichord, Clavichord, Celeste, etc. but then also may have additional sounds like Strings, Choirs, and even other synthesizer sounds.

    A "Synthesizer" is generally an instrument that fulfills a similar role, but often focuses on "synthetic" sounds (i.e. sounds that are not made by traditional acoustic instruments). Synthesizers may be designed to do "all around" work, meaning they cover synthesized sounds as well as acoustic sounds (Piano, Strings, Brass, Digeridoo, Jaw Harp, Thigh Slap, Skin Flute, whatever). But they may also be designed to focus on a specific type of sound (Strings) or use a specific type of synthesis that lends itself well to a particular type of sound (for example, FM synthesis tends to do "metallic" sounds very well, hence the popularity of the DX7 Electric Piano sound).

    Synthesizers don't necessarily have 88 weighted keys, but may, but generally tend to be 61 or smaller (76 is getting a bit less common nowadays and is being supplanted by smaller than 49 sizes for the "home producer" types or those that just need to play one-handed things or trigger loops, etc. live).

    A "Workstation" is generally a Synthesizer that also includes an onboard Sequencer and the ability to play back MIDI Sequences and now, audio files as well. They are usually designed for either live performance or recording, where the ability to split and layer the keyboard with multiple sounds, trigger sample playback, play backing tracks via sequence or audio file, or use to do scratch recordings or record backing tracks at home, etc. etc. etc.

    Most workstations up until very recently have sort of combined all of the qualities of the Stage Piano with the Synthesizer, then added a Sequencer and other things to it - something you can "do it all" with. More recently, they've targeted the home producer market and gotten a bit away from the live player market (much to the annoyance of many live players) and while big workstations are still available, more features for integrating with DAWs are being included, including more "controller-like" operation, acting as an audio interface etc.

    There are also products that are like "feature-rich synths" or "feature-lessened workstations" that are kind of bridging the middle ground now.

    An "Arranger Keyboard" is traditionally one that has rhythm patterns and/or "one finger harmony" or things like that so one can use a very rudimentary left hand technique to play a single note (or maybe two) to play chords and a full accompaniment with pre-designed rhythm section that one can then play a melody to with the right hand. Sort of "accompany yourself while you play the melody" type keyboards that evolved from the old home organs like that.

    They usually have internal speakers, unlike most "pro" keyboards (though that line is getting blurred now.

    They also may be used like a "synthesizer" as well, and in most cases, the more you pay, the more it moves from being more like a Stage Piano with limited sounds, to a synth, with many sounds, to a workstation with additional features like a sequencer.

    For the sake of "Completeness" I should also mention "Digital Pianos" which are much like a Stage Piano but often have a rudimentary stand built on all the way up to a full "furniture" style cabinet. Some are even designed to like a Spinet or even a Baby Grand piano! They are basically stage piano architecture in a cabinet housing with speakers built in. The cheapest ones will be little more than a stage piano with its own speakers, but they go up to having very powerful speakers in really nice walnut cabinets with additional "Arranger Keyboard" type features or even "Workstation" Features. The top of the line Roland Digital Piano had basically the same features as their flagship workstation just in a different format. It's rare to find these under 88 keys though 76 is not horribly rare. 61 or smaller and they become "Arranger Keyboards" again. Usually they have 88 keys and they're weighted, though the hammer action improves drastically as you move up in price.

    These were targeted to the home user as a viable (and less expensive) option to buying a real piano when little Johnny was going to take piano lessons and the piano teacher insisted the parents buy a Steinway for the house. They were sold in "piano stores" instead of in "music stores" (Yamaha had their Clavinovas, which did get sold at Mall music stores and were basically the competition for the similar Roland models). You used to not find these kinds of instruments for sale at Sweetwater or GC - now you do see some of the models though.

    Now, what you need, and what will work, and how much you can spend are all different things.

    Everything I've mentioned, with the exception of any synths that do a particular type of synthesis, will give you a piano sound.

    How good that piano sound is is a different issue.

    How well the keybed allows you to express that piano sound is another issue.

    Generally speaking, the more you spend, the better it's going to get.

    As for the "pad", well again, most of them are going to have additional sounds. Some more than others. Again the more you pay, the more sounds you typically get. One advantage to having more sounds is that you have more options of finding a sound that will work in your situation.

    Here's a great example - some instruments have hyper-realistic sounding Piano sounds. But when you get on stage with a band and a loud mix, that piano sound will disappear. So instruments with 4 or 5 or more piano sounds will give you more options for selecting a sound that no one will know is not a real piano in the mix, but played solo might not sound that much like an actual piano. There are people who use one sound for the full band, and another sound for when they're just accompanying a vocalist.

    Now, even a stage piano should have a fair number of sounds. All but the cheapest arrangers and digital pianos have at least 8 or 16 sounds.

    There's always going to be a trade off in number of keys and action, with number and quality of sounds, and then other features.

    88 keys with good action is expensive. Many people playing in bands also cover organ, horn, strings, etc. parts. So they're cool with 61 keys (I know I am). But a "real" pianist may want really good action, and is willing to sink their money into that aspect and be happy with fewer sounds and other features.

    But it's like anything - you get what you pay for. The market just gives you a dizzying array of features to make it seem like theirs is better because it has more bells and whistles - but if you don't need those bells and whistles....

    For what you described, I say you need a Stage Piano.

    The problem is, you have money to worry about. While you could find a good used stage piano for a grand, you might also find plenty of other gear that would do the job just as adequately for the same price, and give you more features. You may not use them, or need them, or might not know you can use them now and will learn later, but they could still be completely viable for the price.

    There is one thing that concerns me Grayson - you said "an ethereal effect which seems to be most of what I hear" (or words to that effect). No offense but that kind of tells me you don't know anything about this (which you're probably willing to freely admit :) so it might be a good idea to try to find a keyboard player someone knows who can guide you with respect to those sounds - which are probably a bit more involved that what you're guessing (kind of like saying that all the guitar you hear on records is simply an electric guitar when we all know there are many types of electrics, amps, and effects, and so on, and while you can "make do" with just a Gibby and Marshall, maybe you might want or need more diversity).

    You're going to be able to find sounds that will likely cover "ambient" type effects (though more modern instruments will do it more like what you hear because there's a better chance they use the same kind of architecture to make sounds as what the band uses, and there tend to be trends in how synth sounds are made depending on popular music at the time).

    So again, I'd err on the "more sounds" side because it will give you more useful options.

    All that said, the Kork Triton would do it, as would a used Motif (Yamaha) or Fantom (Roland).

    I have the Fantom FA-06 mentioned above and it would certainly work, although there is an 88 key version and for the serious player I would go there (there are some nagging annoyances about the 06 that I have).

    The Juno DS is a "step down" from the FA, and it too comes in both the 61 and 88 key versions.
     
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  13. BSHARP

    BSHARP Member

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    Here is a you tube demo of the Korg Triton. Many videos there.

     
  14. stevel

    stevel Member

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    I should add that Layering sounds is pretty common on all but the most basic keyboards (or again, synths that are designed to fulfill a specific role).

    A bit more edification:

    A Monophonic Synth lets play only one note at a time, like all the old synths (like the old Moogs).

    A Polyphonic Synth lets play more than one note at time so you can play chords.

    Aside from those specifically emulating or paying an homage to Monophonic synths, most modern instruments have Polyphonic capabilities and can still do Monophonic as well, and some sounds will in fact be set to Monophonic (like an old style synth sound) and other to Polyphonic (Piano, Organ, Strings, etc.)

    The next level if you like a "Multi-Timbral" which means it's not only Polyphonic, but can actually play more than one SOUND at a time. So you can play a Piano sound AND a Strings sound simultaneously.

    Again, there may be Polyphonic synths that aren't multi-timbral to emulate an older synth of for other reasons (and all this is true of virtual synths as well BTW).

    But most things are Multi-Timbral. Unfortunately, it's a word that if you ask someone you're buying a used synth from, or in many cases, even a salesperson, they're not going to be familiar with the term.

    MT synths will let you play in two ways - "Split" or "Layer" (in addition to just playing a single sound of course).

    Split lets you pick a note, and then anything from that note down will be one sound, and anything above that note will be another sound. So you can play Bass with your LH and Vibes with your RH.

    Some keyboards, such as the Tritons I've played would let you assign up to 4 splits - so you can have 4 different sounds up at once on different sections of the keyboard (better with 88 keys!).

    A 2 sound split is typical (and has been around since the 80s) and 4 sound is newer and may be reserved to only certain things (like Workstations) but my FA 06 will let you do SIXTEEN splits!!!!! Of course, that uses up most of your keyboard per sound (I only have 61 keys) but it's possible.

    What's also possible with a Split is that the one on the lower half of the keyboard does not have to be in that octave - it could be the same range as the upper notes (so you could layer the two together with two hands).

    Layer mode lets you assign 2 (or more) sounds across the range of the entire keyboard. Thus you can have Piano AND Strings on every key you press.

    You can adjust the volumes and ranges again.

    One thing those new Roland Juno DS keyboards have that is really cool is two volume sliders right there on top of the keyboard for adjusting the volume of each split or layer - so in theory you could layer Piano and Strings, and have either or both just by bringing the two sliders up or down like a little mini-mixer.

    The Tritons I played would let you do any combination of split AND layer of up to 4 sounds. Again, my FA will let me do up to 16 sounds layered!

    Way overkill, but I could have 16 sounds with each sound covering only 6 notes such that as I went up the scale the sound would change from Piano/Strings/French Horn/Kazoo to Stirngs/French Horn/Kazoo/Sitar to French Horn/Kazoo/Sitar/Dingleberry, etc. - it would "morph" as you go across the keyboard. Cute, but not always real practical (good for experimental music though).

    So most instruments are going to be multi-timbral or at least let you layer 2 sounds.

    Furthermore, even if they don't many synths will come with a sound that is 2 layered sounds together - a "Piano/Strings" sound, or a "Piano/Choir" sound, etc.

    Maybe some of the low end 88 Key Casio Previas might not have some of these features, but it's pretty common. Just make sure before you buy!
     
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  15. Grayson73

    Grayson73 Member

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    Thanks so much, SteveL! This certainly clarified a lot. I know what I hear, but I don't know the best type of keyboard for the job. Right now, we only use a Casio PX130, but it doesn't have ambient sounds and the piano quality is only so/so in my opinion. I have a baby grand at home for comparison :)

    I am the acoustic, electric, or bass guitarist in the band so I don't know how many keys the keyboardist uses. Perhaps 61 would be enough.

    The other congregation is traditional and only uses piano, so I know the piano sound quality is most important for them.

    I'll take a look at your recommendations.
     
  16. Gillespie1983

    Gillespie1983 Member

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    I played keys for 10 years in an 800 seat church. 61 keys worked fine in a full band setting, though 73 would have been a plus I never missed them. The Roland Fantom G6 is my goto: layered sounds, split keyboard for sounds in different regions, tap tempo for delay, plenty of memory for saving and organizing favorites. But most top-of-the-line keyboards will give you those features.
     
  17. Grayson73

    Grayson73 Member

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    Stevel,

    So you recommend that I get a Stage Piano, but due to the money concern, you recommend that I get a Workstation (Triton, Motif, Fantom) instead? If I increased my budget to $1500 used, would you recommend a stage piano over the workstations?

    Here are some that I see currently:

    Casio PX-5S 725.00
    Korg SV-1 73 999.99
    Korg SV-1 88 1,100.00
    Korg Triton Pro 88 800.00
    Roland FP-50 719.20
    Roland FP-80 899.99
    Roland FP-90 1,115.99
    Roland RD-300NX 700.00
    Roland RD-700GX 999.99
    Roland RD-700NX 1,227.60
    Roland RD-800 1,455.00
    Yamaha CP33 490.00
    Yamaha CP4 1,239.99
    Yamaha CP40 1,025.00
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
  18. RustyAxe

    RustyAxe Member

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    Give a look at the Yamaha MX-61. Nothing you don't need, and great MOTIF patches. Easy splits, very flexible. And inexpensive.
     
  19. stevel

    stevel Member

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    What I was saying was, it sounds like you want a Stage Piano style instrument, but if you can't swing that price, then I'd go for a Synthesizer with 88 weighted keys (Like a Roland DS88). A "workstation" adds a lot of features you may not want or need - but if you can get one at a good price they're excellent to have.

    If keeping it "simple" is important, yes, a Stage Piano is going to usually have a lot fewer things to confuse players!

    A Roland RD 800 for example, while pricey, are awesome. It's made for live playing - you get to the sounds right there on the front panel - has the latest gen Supernatural Sounds. Organs might not be as good as a Nord, but there you go. Yamaha CPs are great instruments too - depends on features you want (like for example, a surface mixer of some time to bring sounds up and down and blend them in various ways).

    But you've got a Triton Pro 88 on the list as well - and it's significantly cheaper - and honestly that's at the high end of an asking price on that.

    So all I'm saying is, you could find some workstations that would fit the bill, used, for a really good price. But if you don't need all those features, if you can dump that money into a Stage Piano, you might be able to get a nicer/newer, or more practical instrument for your needs.
     
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  20. Devnor

    Devnor Member

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    For a church, playing piano, string and pads, a synthesizer workstation will be overkill and probably too complicated for the people using it. That Casio PX-5S can do all those kinds of sounds in the OP.
     

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