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Keyboards

Midi, Synth, Workstations, Freestanding inc non electronic.

Connecting a keyboard to your home studio setup or simply to enable you to input music to your software and similar is a decision that can be made without breaking the bank.

HOWEVER! the type of keyboard may not be such an easy decision.
It all depends on what you want from the unit when it is used with the computer et OR for other uses away from the computer?

I’m purposely NOT going to go into depth on this. It could run into pages and pages on types, number of keys, connections, cost, features and and!

What I will do is show you how you can pick up some bargains BUT it’s is as with all gear you acquire, only a bargain IF it does what you NEED it to do and maybe anything extra is a bonus? Don’t go spending hundreds of pounds if not thousands on something you seldom use or are likely to use when you can spend that money on other gear you WILL use.
NOTE my warning at the end of this page re buying secondhand gear that may appear a bargain but!!

The first consideration is how much SPACE you have to accomodate a keyboard. If you only have room for a small size keyboard then pick one that will meet that criteria. If you have room for a full size 61 keys unit then I would suggest that as an ideal option.

The 2nd consideration is what you want from that keyboard.
Midi? Then it has to have MIDI capability. i.e The MIDI sockets IN, OUT and I like the THRU socket but not essential. What the keyboard has to offer with other features and one important aspect here is the difference between POLYPHONIC and LIVE sounds not going into i.e XMG and so on. Polyphonic is just that, a computer created sound. LIVE sounds are those recorded from LIVE instruments and sound as close to how the real sound would.
Most mid range to expensive keyboards have LIVE sounds capabiliities. Cheaper are usually POLYPHONIC or a mix of both. Why is it important? If you are wanting your recorded work to sound as real as you can get to LIVE instruments then the choice is obvious. HOWEVER! There are LIVE instrument PLUG INS that provide the same features and any keyboard you use is simply an interface for your fingers to configure the notes that access the live sounds from the plug ins.

NOW!  A word of warning!! IF you buy a secondhand keyboard with MIDI ideally you need the MANUAL that came with the keyboard! Why? Some use a unique setup to activate the MIDI sends signals to i.e your computer. Without the information on how to do this you can sometimes end up with a keyboard that you can’t use for MIDI without some frustrating research that can often end in failure. Some manufacturers provide useful info online for their products, I like Yamaha who are brilliant for this. You can often download the manual and setup sheet from them.

Others like Technics? The original company went bust and were bought out by Panasonic. Try and find a manual for some of their keyboards is a nightmare and yes they too have a unique way of setting up the MIDI sequencer et ALSO do bear in mind the after sales for repairs and et can be a major headache should anything go wrong!

The 3rd consideration  I often look at is DO I want to COMPOSE / RECORD on the keyboard and save the data on it rather than use the computer? Yes there are quite a few keyboards that have inbuilt 8 track recording on them. A lot of them are called WORKSTATIONS. Yes you can use them standalone or connected to a computer.

The 4th consideration. When you are not using the keyboard will anyone else in the family be using it. I know parents who want to encourage their kids to learn to play. Kids can expand their interest obviously by including computer recording within their learning keys.

AVOID like the plague buying an OLD 2 tier electronic organ simply cos you like the look of it and or the furniture appeal. OLD electric organThe electrics are based on old transistor circuits with relays and and A NIGHTMARE to repair IF repairable! You will probably end up with an instrument that does not work properly, does not work at all! 
NO! NO! NO! unless you are a COLLECTOR et or in it for the NOSTALGIA! Some including those of the Technics brand have midi outputs BUT you have NO guarantees of tech support or repair options ! Also remember the bulk of these in particular are POLYPHONIC sounds. Artificially produced!

OK couple of electronic keyboard options that I feel are good value for money ALL are brand NEW items -Gear4Music Yamaha E353 Bundle offer

The first of my choices is the Yamaha PSR E353 (pic shown)  for just (Current at time of first publication of this web page) 159.00 LINK
As they say, it pays to shop around !!

Premium value for money package and a good way to encourage those wanting to learn to play a keyboard. Here’s just a few examples of what this superb 61 keys keyboard offers.

573 different voices including pianos, strings, guitars and synths. The grand piano voices utilise stereo-sampled sounds with a superb feeling of presence. Players can enjoy reverb effects for the feeling of performing in a concert hall, and choruses that add extra breadth and resonance to the sound.

Nine-Step Lesson Function
The lesson function offers a total of nine stages - three for the left hand, three for the right hand, and three for both hands, helping new players to practise the songs stored in the instrument. There's a scoring function that makes it fun to develop your skills and a 'waiting' function that adjusts the tempo to suit the person playing, pausing the backing track until the correct note is played.

You can use a USB connector cable to connect this keyboard to your computer and the unit has MIDI support via this link. iPad and a host of other connectivity features, take a look at the Yamaha PDF manual download here LINK

Connect To Your iPad/iPhone
By connecting your iPad/iPhone/iPod touch to the instrument with an optional cable, it's easy to make practising and performing music an even more enjoyable experience. There are several exciting Yamaha applications available for download from the App Store

Yamaha  I’m a fan of Yamaha BUT there are also other brands I’ve used that I also love using such as Korg - Roland et Don’t forget your extra connecting cables!

OK 2nd Choice of keyboard - this is a little more expensive but offers as per the price more bang as they say for your buck!

Yamaha PSR-S670 Portable Workstation

The Yamaha PSR-S670 Portable Workstation ensures that you have control control over voices, styles, effects and other functions during live performance with two assignable live controllers, a modulation wheel and two assignable footswitch inputs. Perfect for the more advanced keyboard player, the PSR-S670 offers many sounds and rhythm accompaniment styles, has a large screen with score and lyrics display and an improved speaker system. With enough traditional features to satisfy the more conventional keyboard player, this portable workstation also has a new DJ functionality, making it a great choice for those interested in creating electronic music.
Gear4music Yamaha PSR S670

Coming up : I will do a page on the subject of buying secondhand! Plus a few tips and hints on how you can secure a bargain AND get a few months warranty thrown in. HOWEVER! Buying a new product has its advantages re support and service. Bear that in mind when buying a keyboard.

OK ! What IF you don’t want a full size or simply a keyboard to key your work as part of a DAW setup (Digital Analogue workstation) interface?

Here are TWO examples price wise and of course features wise = HOWEVER! There is a vast choice of these interface keyboards available. Talk to the sales team at Gear4Music LINK who will be more than happy to advise you on what meets your requirements for getting the best out of your interests.MAudioLogo


The M-Audio Oxygen V4-25 USB controller is created for musicians and producers, featuring a host of controls, an intuitive layout, and a cutting-edge software suite for making music. Streamlined control for use with your favourite DAW or the included Ableton Live Lite.

  • 25 Full Size Velocity Sensitive Keys
  • 8 Trigger Pads, 8 Knobs, MAster Fader
  • Transport Controls
  • Auto Maps to Popular DAWS
  • LCD Screen


M-Audio CTRL-49 MIDI Controller.

The M-Audio CTRL-49 MIDI Controller is a innovative, high-performance MIDI controller with added support for virtual instruments and plug-ins.The CTRL-49 is designed primarily for use with VSTi plug-ins, with added support and controls. This 49-key MIDI controller features a semi-weighted keybed and is powered by the integrated Virtual Instrument Player (VIP) software. The VIP software auto-maps the CTRL-49's controls to your selected plugin, displaying the parameters on the full-colour display for a seamless user experience.

MAudioKeys1The M-Audio CTRL-49 MIDI Controller also comes complete with a range of virtual instruments and a copy of Ableton Live Lite to utilise the instruments. This bundle of free software allows you to unlock the full potential of the CTRL-49,

M Audio website link on this product with video and manual downloads et. LINK

www.m-audio.com/ctrl49

Lastly - Buying secondhand units like these but much OLDER models
Often you will find similar units available at somewhat silly prices ? BE WARNED!! If you not running Windows 98 Windows Vista Windows XP some of those units will NOT work fully or not at all;  with your computer / software i.e Windows 7 - Windows 8, 8.1 or especially Windows 10!!

LATENCY - older gear can have serious lagging re response times ! Newer gear has updated and vastly improved response times - often the difference in price for old gear and new may seem a bargain but your frustration and tearing hair out when it lags re latency ?

You have been warned!!

 Check that you CAN get the drivers for the gear before you part with your hard earned money- us musicians have history littered with stuff that appears a bargain but seldom is - someone else has passed you a dud knowing they’ve had no choice but to buy new. 30 may not seem much but deducted from that 70 new? You’ll end up wishing you had bought NEW and saved that 30 instead of having to cash out 100!!

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