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Good cost-effective keyboard for gigging band?

jerryfan6

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,388
In my classic rock cover band, we have many songs where keys could really add something...songs like Rock and Roll is King or Love Her Madly.

There are three of us that can play keys, at varying levels, and I'd like to get a simple setup that we could rotate using.

What do you recommend for a keyboard for this purpose, and anything else we need to know about running it directly to the PA?
 

jerryfan6

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,388
I should add that budget is less important to me. I'm mostly concerned about versatility, portability and simplicity.
 

stevel

Member
Messages
15,165
Any other suggestions?
This will sound cheesy, but it's certainly a viable alternative:

Yamaha PSR keyboards, which are "arranger keyboards" actually have sounds in them that are quite good, often using the same sample set as the Motif set (which is what the MX49 has in it).

It's not a "pro" keyboard in that it has built-in speakers, sometimes they only have a stereo-miniplug output jack (but some still have 1/4") and it also does all the "accompaniment" things - but all you really need are the keybed and access to the soundsets, and it has that.

They're maybe not as sturdy as a "real" synth, but on the other hand, most of the "real" synths under $1000 aren't really being made all that well anymore anyway.

To get to PA, ideally you'd use 1/4" out of the keyboard into a Direct Box, and then XLR on to the PA. That easy. Running them in Mono is fine - most keyboards, when using the left output only, sum the stereo signal to mono out that jack.


With the 3.5 mm outputs, you may have to figure a way to run that into 2 channels or a stereo channel, so that's a little less desirable.

Honestly, I think you need at least 61 keys, and the Yamaha MX61 would be your best bet in a "real" synth there. The Roland Juno 61 could be an alternative depending on your needs - they're right at $700.00.

Keyboard players are probably even worse than TGP members about thinking that what they have is worth more than it is... so the used market can be tough and discounts aren't that great - not enough to offset a new board with full warranty unless you're really at a strict price point.

Another option would be to get a Controller on the cheap and either a decent used sound module or use virtual instruments in a computer (if someone's willing to risk a laptop at gigs). Home producers are selling off controllers because they didn't become the next Kanye, and old MIDI modules still make great sounds as long as you can power them up and plug them in. A lot of people don't know what they have in those so they let them go cheap.

But "hassle free" - consider the PSR style Yamahas, or go for the MX series, or used versions thereof. Otherwise you'll have to see what's out there used and just research whatever someone's selling.
 

jzero

Member
Messages
601
Both of your example songs use piano sounds. The doors song sounds like an out of tune upright. THe ELO sounds like a standard upright piano. I recommend the Casio CGP700. I bought one used for $650 a couple of months ago. It is not a synthesizer, it's a stage piano... so it's all preset sounds but they are great and it has a ton of them. It only weighs 22 pounds or something and has the full 88 weighted keys. It has decent speakers in the included stand. If your band plays loud, just hook it to a keyboard amp or the pa with the line out.
 
Messages
489
Would the Nord Electro 2 73 get the job done?
The Nord Electros are good all-rounders for rock sounds - electric piano and organ both excellent across the range, and the later models have limited sample ability. IIRC the NE2 only has electric pianos in as standard, but you can load other sounds in via USB. The NE2 doesn't have hammer action options, but does have the waterfall keys for organ and it's easy enough to get used to playing piano on S/W action. If you can stretch your budget to swing a used Electro 3 you will have more options regarding samples and pianos; there's a reason for them still being fairly universally popular even after two newer model releases.
 

jerryfan6

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,388
The Nord Electros are good all-rounders for rock sounds - electric piano and organ both excellent across the range, and the later models have limited sample ability. IIRC the NE2 only has electric pianos in as standard, but you can load other sounds in via USB. The NE2 doesn't have hammer action options, but does have the waterfall keys for organ and it's easy enough to get used to playing piano on S/W action. If you can stretch your budget to swing a used Electro 3 you will have more options regarding samples and pianos; there's a reason for them still being fairly universally popular even after two newer model releases.
I'm really not looking for anything complex. Just something where we could have a passable preset for Piano, Electric Piano, Organ, Synth(the least important). This is something that our female vocalist will play on songs where it is needed, but will not be a big part of our setlist. Is there something cheaper than the Nord that does this?
 

fetchzee

Member
Messages
252
I picked up a used Alesis QS6 for about $175 at a local Music Go Round. Built like a tank, has good sounding piano, Electric piano, organ (hammond and vox) presets, etc. It's not the newest or the prettiest thing out there, but the mid-2000s hardware synths are going for pennies on the dollar right now. I've seen comparable synths from the other usual suspects (Roland, Yamaha, Korg, etc.) for sale in the $250-350 range as well.
 

scienceguy

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,197
I'm really not looking for anything complex. Just something where we could have a passable preset for Piano, Electric Piano, Organ, Synth(the least important). This is something that our female vocalist will play on songs where it is needed, but will not be a big part of our setlist. Is there something cheaper than the Nord that does this?
If you're not really interested in the Sample playback feature or synthesizers, a Nord 2 will do you fine. B3, Farfisa, Vox Contintental, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, grand piano, CP70 and Clavinet did well for me when I bought my first Nord.

I moved up to the Nord 3 for the samples and then to the Stage for layers and synth stuff. If you can get a Nord 2 for a decent price, it'll fit your bill.
 

Bradmeister

Member
Messages
1,009
I bought a used Roland Juno-DI. You can get them for less than $500. There are tons of great presets in there, and the sound engine is really versatile if you're into programming. I thought it was perfect for what I was after, since there are great, usable presets and I'm not a keyboardist/synth guy, so it would take too long to build my own.
 
Messages
489
I'm really not looking for anything complex. Just something where we could have a passable preset for Piano, Electric Piano, Organ, Synth(the least important). This is something that our female vocalist will play on songs where it is needed, but will not be a big part of our setlist. Is there something cheaper than the Nord that does this?
Secondhand Roland Juno or VR-09 are the meat and potatoes gigboards I see most. I've been using a VR-09 for about a year now and it's very basic but great; decent selection of sounds to cover everything you need, all sorted into nice accessible categories, useable FX section without having to fiddle with menus, cheap as a cheap thing, and most importantly weighs next to nothing. If you're a dedicated player you'll probably hate the action, but if you just want something reliable that makes cool noises when you hit it then it's perfect.

There's a fully featured digital synth inside if you have an IOS device too, but I've usually been able to modify patches to my satisfaction with just the controls on the board.

Juno's are basically the same with a few more bells and whistles. If you can find a secondhand one then I'd probably recommend that over the VR-09, but don't write it off just because it's the cheapest model in the range.
 






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