Guitarists who play Keyboards

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by Killcrop, Feb 14, 2009.

  1. Killcrop

    Killcrop Supporting Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    I am absolutely fasinated by the tones available in some of the synths out there these days. I want to get a synth of some kind. I have been looking at the Roland Juno G. I want something with lots of sounds but I have no interest in spending all day on how to get them. I'd like to hear from guitar players who have dabbled in keys. Any good resources, other than HC, for keys? Any good values for used boards that don't cost an arm and a leg?
    I would love to be able to take advantage of the rapidly advancing technology to get something that sounds great on the cheap.
  2. stevel

    stevel Member

    Apr 6, 2008
    Hampton Roads, Virginia
    The synth market is so tight that it really has become a "you get what you pay for" market. You want good quality sounds, you're going to have to pay for them.

    I use a Roland Fantom, Yamaha Motif, and have used Korg Tritons. I"m sure you'd be blown away by any of them. Most of what you hear on the radio is one of these monsters (or the originals that these new synths also emulate to a t).

    However, here's something you should really consider - Virtual Synths!

    you can buy a cheap MIDI controller keyboard, such as an Oxygen 61 by M-Audio (note, never, never by anything made by Edirol - everything we've had (MIDI computer music lab) has broken) and then plug this into your computer with a USB cable and play virtual synths all day long.

    Now, there are pros and cons to each - but keyboard synthesisers like the Yamah Motif workstations are in the 1500+ range.

    YOu can get an oxygen 61 for 170 bucks, and then buy Virtual synths "piecemeal" for 50 to thousands of dollars (you get what you pay for).

    There are even FREE downloadable programs at sites like - you can download a plug-in like Crystal or Remedy and get some amazing sounds out of them.

    Likewise, if you buy any software like Cakewalk, Digital Performer, Cubase, or Logic (many of which come free when you buy an interface) you usually get a couple of free plug-ins with them. Cheesy ones, but they're there. And once you have a program like this, you can download plug ins to your heart's content and have more sounds than you ever wanted.

    Even if you don't have that software, they make software "plug-in players" pretty cheap that can play back your sounds as a stand-alone software (i.e. not part of a recording or sequencing package).

    The biggest drawback to Plug-Ins (virtual synths) are:

    1. They're only as good as the programmer/company
    2. Like all software, you've got to fight the upgrade wars.
    3. They're very processor intensive.

    Here's a funny thing - people used to by "sound modules" or "synth modules" - rack-mountable synthesizers - a piece of hardware.

    Now, the hardware has become "virtual" so the sound module is now a piece of software that runs in your computer's "virtual rack" - software.

    But, the virtual synth software is so processor intensive that to really be able to use it, they've come up with HARDWARE players (Muse's Receptor) to play it back! Full circle.

    If you're only using one sound at a time, or 4 tracks, a decent computer will run most virtual synths OK.

    But *ideally* you would run them on a second computer (or something like Receptor) - especially if you're going to try to use them live.

    There used to be 50-100 different keyboard synthesizers and sound modules out there.

    Now there are 3 "mainstream" ones - Roland, Yamaha, and Korg that make keyboard workstations (which are keyboard synthesizer with sequencer built-in) and sound modules. There are still a few specialty makers making vintage or specialized things - Moog is still making things like the Little Phatty, and Dave Smith (who started the whole MIDI thing) makes a line of instruments - all in the higher end market.

    You can probably find some new production models in the used market - especially with the current economy.

    But I think you would be doing yourself a big favor if you educate yourself about virtual instruments versus hardware devices.

    If I need to go out and play gigs, I'd rather have a "all-in-one" solution like a keyboard synthesizer/workstation (Kork Triton or Trinity, Alesis Q series, I think Kawai has revitalized the M series, or a Motif, etc.).

    If I was rich, I'd have 4 or 5 (because 60,000 sound in one synth is not enough! - you think guitar players have GAS!!!!)

    But, if I were going to do more at home work in small spaces, or was laptop centered (which I would be if I could afford a laptop), or do a lot of sequencing work, I'd have a largely virtual synth-based sytem (though I'd still enhance it with some vintage hardware synths).

    If I really had money, I'd buy Receptor and load it up with sounds. Done.

    There's a lot of stuff out there, and you can go hardware, software, or combination of both. What's best for you may depend on your wallet, your fluency with technology, and other factors (like if you have a wife that doesn't appreciate a keyboard as furniture :)

    Do some reasearch (unless you have enough disposable income to dump on the Juno and can afford to re-sell it if you don't like it).

    By the way, I've always been happy with Roland Products, so you typically can't go wrong with them (did I mention not to buy from Edirol though - it's Roland's "desktop/education" division (notice the "Ed" and "rol" in the name).

  3. Devnor

    Devnor Member

    Jul 17, 2006
    I've been really digging my Yamaha Motif ES6. Bought it for $800 on CL. Its easy to tweak sounds, there are plenty of controllers and the sequencer is nice. My main board is a Fantom X8. The yamaha just seems more friendly inspite of the smaller display. People are going to mention software synths...some are very cool but I personally feel many dont sound as good as hardware without a bunch of other things going on in the DAW. With the hardware synth you hit power and start turning knobs. There's a real viceral quality to making music that way.
  4. gixxerrock

    gixxerrock Member

    Apr 25, 2005
    Parksville, B.C.
    +1 on the excellent advice given by stevel.

    I have had a Yamaha Motif for over 5 years and love it. It is my daily practice and recording partner. Any of the big 3 (motif, phantom or Triton) would work great. For primarily computer based recording, it has hard to beat the all-in-one convenience of soft synths and use a the keyboard only as a MIDI controller.

  5. Killcrop

    Killcrop Supporting Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Wow, thanks for all the info guys. I realize I can get lots of options relatively cheap buy going virtual but I'm going to use this with a cover band and I don't want to have to deal with a laptop at a dirty bar. I had a chance to play with the MO6 at GC and that has some great sounds in it. I was a bit intimidated by all the options though. I don't really need a work station. I doubt I'll ever get the manual out to learn how to use it. It would be nice to think one day I would but I know I will never bother. I guess this is what appealed to me about the Juno G being a rather simple vintage layout by design.

    Keep em coming!
  6. sinner

    sinner Member

    Feb 10, 2006
    The Expanse
    Here's my little rig I take out to dirty bars:


    In the bar with low lights and after a few drinks, it does get difficult to get all the wires in the right places:


    Of course, I'm kidding--this analog synth is beautiful enough to live in the living room like fine furniture.
  7. GCDEF

    GCDEF Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2005
    I play guitar and keys in my band. I use a Roland Juno-D for most of the basic sounds. As far as I know, the D and G are similar, but the G has sequencing and arranging functionality that the D lacks.

    The D is a basic entry-level unit, but has all the basic sounds and then some, is very easy to use and sounds pretty decent.

    I'm a big Hammond B3 fan so I have a Roland VK-8M clonewheel module which I control from the Juno just for organ sounds. The Juno has some decent organ patches, but they don't compare to the functionality of being able to yank on the drawbars in real time, and they don't sound as authentic as the VK-8M.

    All that gets plugged into a Traynor K4 amp.

    I'm not an expert on everything that's out there, but that works for me.

    Which way you go will depend on what you want to do. My playing is almost all live, but it probably wouldn't be the best studio rig. The software solution above would be better if you're planning on making music or recording around the house. I wouldn't want to drag a computer to gigs though.

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