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#1992583 - 11/29/12 08:18 PM What do I need? Composition/Scoring Major?
InfiniteClouds Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/11
Posts: 11

I've recently decided to turn my attention and focus from performance to composition and scoring. I realize I need get a keyboard - primarily as a controller to hook up to my PC. I knew that I wanted 88 keys and as close of an action as I could get to my grand piano but beyond that I found myself completely overwhelmed. I've seen digital pianos, workstations, synthesizers, arranger workstations... and I can't remember what else!

I suppose anything would work if I were to just use it as a controller for software like Finale or Sibelius? Or would I be better served with something more? What is the difference between an Arranger Workstation and Workstation? A Synthesizer?

I've tried to do a little research on Google but it is somewhat confusing.

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#1992589 - 11/29/12 08:31 PM Re: What do I need? Composition/Scoring Major? [Re: InfiniteClouds]
RafaPolit Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/20/11
Posts: 263
Loc: Quito, Ecuador
I started using stand-alone sequencers as long as 20 years ago. I cannot speak from anyone else but me, but I think that a computer with Finale and a DAW is all you need to compose / arrange, and a good 88 key 'controller' is a desirable addition, but not even a must! (I'll elaborate later). So, a good 88 key action / weight DP with a mod-wheel and pitch-bend should do it. No need for anything else!

Now, this approach has one downside: you need to build up your computer sounds and it can get expensive really soon. The advantage of the workstations is that they usually carry sounds (some much better than others!), but the versatility you have with a computer is considerably better, and you can expand indefinitely. Perhaps the only time you could need such a DP is for live specialty things, but even then a computer alongside the player would do the job just fine!

For arrangement and composition I use Finale, but I usually output to a DAW in order to finesse a bit and mix down and master the audio file. My computer cannot load, for instance, a full orchestra in East West Symphonic Orchestra, so I 'fracture' the individual parts into smaller sound files and mix them in Sonar.

Others, I'm sure, will have other approaches, best regards,
Roland FP-7F

#1992600 - 11/29/12 09:18 PM Re: What do I need? Composition/Scoring Major? [Re: InfiniteClouds]
InfiniteClouds Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/11
Posts: 11
Thank you for your input and I appreciate anyone else offering up their advice/experience as well. I am very unfamiliar with DAWs and have really only ever used Finale.

So a workstation is different in that in carries more sounds than a DP but what is the difference between a workstation and an 'arranger workstation/keyboard' ... and a synthesizer?

#1992609 - 11/29/12 10:11 PM Re: What do I need? Composition/Scoring Major? [Re: InfiniteClouds]
EPW Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 07/09/12
Posts: 94
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
DAW Digital Audio Workstation.
I use Cakewalk Sonar. If you get the producer addition, it comes with a ton of sounds.
There is a demo at www.cakewalk.com if you want to try it out. My only gripe with the program is that the notation / staff view has not got any attention in years frown
But I like the work-flow of the program and the non-obtrusive serial number activation to use the software. There are simpler version of the software and other vendors making DAW software. If you go to http://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=7&sid=bc07dc254cd72543fd3b492c9f1c5018 for active views on DAW's

Edited by EPW (11/29/12 10:12 PM)
Edit Reason: Typo

#1992636 - 11/30/12 12:02 AM Re: What do I need? Composition/Scoring Major? [Re: InfiniteClouds]
RafaPolit Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/20/11
Posts: 263
Loc: Quito, Ecuador

Sorry if I was unclear about the differences on the different options.

Different houses use different names for their type of instruments, and some instruments have a 'mixed' use regarding these categories you are inquiring about.


- A Digital Piano (in the purist sense of the word) is an instrument intended to be played as an acoustic piano, and, while you have other sounds, the main emphasis is on the Piano sounds and, more often than not, on the keybed and action, while the non-keyboard sounds (that is, excluding EPs and Organs) tend to be relatively weaker and, in some cases, not an option. For instance, a few years ago several DPs will not include any form of solo instruments like Violin, Flute, Oboe, Saxophone, etc. Now a days, this has changed a bit.

- A Synthesizer would usually refer to an instrument with emphasis on more overall sounds and sound categories (perhaps even including special effects like thunders, gun shots, waves, etc.) and, in the case of the more advanced options (or tone generators), even include tone generation modules that allow you to create your own sounds via sampling or synth wave generation. They didn't use to have such strong piano sounds as the more dedicated DPs.

- A Workstation, again, in their conception, were machines that allowed you to record mostly midi tracks, drum patterns or loops, and sequence them (quantize the results, etc.) on an onboard device. More 'advanced' or modern Workstations can include Audio tracks as well, making them an 'onboard' DAW system. The amount and quality of sounds varied, but, usually featured the approach taken by Synthesizers: large sound options without emphasis on a particular instrument.

Now, the thing is that today, this purist type of machines are not really that 'specialized' but may be a combination of two or all three of this forms. For instance, most DPs now a days include a lot of extra sounds, they are not only pianos plus organs and strings... they have the full set of voices at least those included in the GM and GM2 specifications. They also include rudimentary track recording features. Conversely, most Workstations now offer different keybeds and actions, so while the 61 key Workstations tend to have the usual plastic keyboard, those with 88 keys have really nice actions and weighted keys.

So, how you would use it depends on your workflow, the amount of editing you are planing to do, the type of sounds you want, etc.

From that perspective, a particular workstation will have a preset of sounds (which could be expanded or not, depending on models), and a 'fixed' type of interface for sequencing, editing, etc. Editing is not as intuitive as using a computer, and upgrading the sounds in time will be difficult or not possible.

So, my approach is to leave all that to a computer: you can chose the program that suits your needs or even use several programs for different types of arrangements. For instance, if I'm doing an orchestral or ensemble arrangement, I use Finale. The notation system is the best (IMHO) in the market, and it allows for fairly advanced playback options. If, on the other hand, I'm doing more of a 'arrange on the go' type of arrangement, I connect a guitar via audio to Sonar and record midi from my piano and edit in there.

With this approach, having a very nice keybed, action, weight, and controller options, is all you need to control your computer, and, as time goes by, you can refine the software you use, or the sounds you play, which would be very hard on a dedicated workstation.

The advantage I see of such workstations is live play: you could load your projects directly in the workstation, and control them from the keyboard, avoiding the use of an external computer, which could cause problems and require more space or operators. But you pay in versatility and ease of use.

I don't know if I am being a bit clearer on the distinctions between the different types of systems out there, but they are more blurred now than ever. For instance, the Kronos features some great pianos and are fully featured workstations, most high-end Kruzweils have DP keybeds but also the range of sounds and versatility of Synthesizers. Almost all DPs have a wide arrange of sounds, some better regarded than others, of course.

Hope this helps a bit more,

Edited by RafaPolit (11/30/12 12:05 AM)
Roland FP-7F


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