Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing?

Posted by: Inceptic

Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 01:11 AM

Hi!

New forum member here.

I've been researching digital pianos and controllers for a few weeks now, and I'm undecided.

First, some background:

1. I currently compose music using Sibelius and have a modest set of sample libraries.

2. I've never owned a piano myself, but when I've had access to one, it has proven to be of immense help for composing. (Even if it wasn't connected to the computer.)

3. I currently own a 25 key MIDI controller and I use it for checking harmonies/counterpoint, inputting notes, and recording pitch-bends into Sibelius.

4. I'm into classical music and prog metal.

5. I do not consider myself a pianist, although I've taken lessons in the past, and would love to become proficient (not a priority though).

Right now, the 25 keys limit me when I'm checking melodic lines against each other, and I find myself transposing to the nearest note available. It's also not effective with sample libraries that have key-switching in lower octaves.

The other thing that is troubling me is that I need a new studio desk (custom-made), and I am not sure if I should integrate everything in one (e.g. have the mix console, the keyboard/mouse, and the music keyboard all in one desk).

So I don't know what to get. I see huge price differences between getting a 49 key controller (like the new Roland A-49) and a full 88 key digital piano (like the Kawai MP6). Those are the two extremes that I am considering.

At first I was leaning for a nice stage piano, but I see that companies are still innovating with the hardware/keybeds. (Software is innovating too, but it's easier to upgrade.) So maybe I should just get a controller for composing (easier to fit on a desk) and then in some remote future, consider a proper digital piano for practice/orchestration/capturing spontaneous ideas...

Any thoughts and advice is greatly appreciated!
Posted by: EO3

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 02:21 AM

Roland FP7-F - I have it myself, 88 keys, sound is good for practice playing, and it hasthe newest weightest key technology (as I understand, almost or even the same as in V-Piano)...And price can be managable, especially if You get some discount.
Posted by: RafaPolit

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 02:49 AM

Welcome Inceptic,

Having myself the same Roland suggested by EO3, I am not sure its the ideal fit for your needs. While it makes for a fantastic DP, it lacks to very important specs that, I believe, will be invaluable to you: the Pitch Bend wheel and the Mod Wheel.

Many of today's Sample Libraries use the Mod Wheel to change a variety of aspects of the samples... many string libraries use it for the dynamics, or you can program it to smoothly change from one sample to the other (for instance, short samples on one end and long samples on the other). So, while Key Switches are more easily achieved by expressions (I use Finale but I assume that its very similar with Sibelius) to program a C0 or D#1 key ON event, the more 'organic' and subtle Mod Wheel changes are much harder to emulate, and any workaround would take away from the creative process.

Also, the pitch bend is ideal for certain brasses and electric guitar performances, and you would be missing that as well.

So, I really think that while the FP line is great as stage piano and DP, one of the other options would be a better 'composer' tool. Perhaps the RD-300NX?

If you are willing to split it, perhaps you could get away with a cheaper controller like the m-audio keyboard controllers for the non-piano interpretations and a nice DP to provide the better key-bed?

I'm sure others will have much better diversity of options,

Welcome again,
Rafa.
Posted by: Inceptic

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 02:08 PM

Thank you for the replies!

Yeah, the FP-7F doesn't look like a good fit.

The RD-300NX seems comparable to the Kawai MP6, but it seems that the DPs at this price point are kind of a compromise. Like if they have to sacrifice a bit on the quality of the keybed in order to include all the MIDI stuff?

Which brings me to another question: how fast are DPs evolving/innovating hardware-wise? Because when I think about spending over $1K, I'd like to consider the item a keeper. But if keybeds are still being improved as fast as iPads, then I'll probably hold-off on the DP, and go with a controller first.
Posted by: EO3

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 02:55 PM

Well, in my book FP7F is better than 300NX , because I work with solo piano and for that it's more important to have better keyboard. And FP7F has PHA III Ivory Feel-S. So between these options, it's really a compromise between better extras or better keys.

However, DP envolves very slowly , because it's not mass market... Of course, there are some extra-pricey models that are up for the job, but it's nowhere near mass market affordability of any kind and it doesn't look like it will be in the near future and that's a shame really, because as many have pointed out, it costs near to nothing to put in-built gigabytes of Hardware into piano so that it would have the best possible sound...
Posted by: RafaPolit

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 02:57 PM

Well, it heavily depends on what you mean by 'evolving'... if you mean there are new products out of the door, yeah, almost one per model per year per manufacturer. But, as with the iPad you mention, where the 'improvements' are moderate and could be achieved by software but the company hinders the older so you can buy a new one and the original iPad is still great, the Yamaha P-155, for example, has been around since Jan 2009 and is still regarded by most as a great instrument and versatile all around smile .

So, if you need to have the latest model each year, be sure there will be minor (or big) improvements in future models, but you will always have what you purchased! So, if the keybed fells good, the piano sound is pleasing (and you can always 'update' that with software later on), that will remain true as long as the instrument work. So, I'd advice to find one that you really love and not worry much about new models.

For what is worth, any of the top of the line key actions now a days are very lifelike and robust: Kawai, Yamaha and Roland all have achieved a very nice development moment in time.

Good luck,
Rafa.
Posted by: voxpops

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 03:21 PM

I would suggest something like the Yamaha CP33. A good, weighted action, plus basic controller features, and a decent piano sample. A used MP5 or MP6 would also work for about the same circa $1k cost.

A Krome 61, also at $1k, would be a lightweight smaller board that would give you a lot of onboard features and a great piano, and would also allow full external MIDI control with a smaller footprint.

In 49-key controllers, you might also want to consider the M-Audio Axiom.
Posted by: PianoManChuck

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 06:10 PM

For your purposes (not really a pianist or piano player), you would not need a stage piano. A controller would be fine for you. And since you're coming from a 25-key unweighted board, even the cheapest full 88-key controller board would be like a massive improvement for you. I'd suggest something like one of the M-Audio 88-key controllers. You'll be in heaven!
Posted by: Inceptic

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 06:19 PM

Originally Posted By: EO3
Well, in my book FP7F is better than 300NX , because I work with solo piano and for that it's more important to have better keyboard. And FP7F has PHA III Ivory Feel-S. So between these options, it's really a compromise between better extras or better keys.


Yes I agree.

Originally Posted By: RafaPolit

So, if you need to have the latest model each year, be sure there will be minor (or big) improvements in future models, but you will always have what you purchased!


I don't need the latest model. If we look at electric guitars, I know that if I spend more than $1K, it's gonna be a nice guitar, and will last a lifetime with proper maintenance. There are no major innovations in regards to fretboards/necks. New pickups come out, but those are relatively easy to swap out. (I guess new tremolos too, but I'm not really into that).

Could we say the same for stage pianos, but maybe at a different price minimum? I was considering a max budget of $1.5K, but will that get me a keybed that isn't going to feel dated in five years?


Originally Posted By: voxpops
I would suggest something like the Yamaha CP33. ...


The keybed on this only has 2 sensors right? Like the MP6. And it seems that three-sensor keybeds are on a different price range, unless I go for Casio...
Posted by: Inceptic

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 06:27 PM

Originally Posted By: PianoManChuck
For your purposes (not really a pianist or piano player), you would not need a stage piano. A controller would be fine for you. And since you're coming from a 25-key unweighted board, even the cheapest full 88-key controller board would be like a massive improvement for you. I'd suggest something like one of the M-Audio 88-key controllers. You'll be in heaven!


How's the quality on M-Audio? Are they reliable?

Seems like there aren't many choices when it comes to 88-key controllers... frown
Posted by: RafaPolit

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 06:46 PM

I have tried the M-Audio 88 key controller... its not really nice, but it does the job. I mean, its not a true weighted action like those on other keybeds, but its not really awful. Feels synthetic though, that is for sure.

The innovation in Digital Pianos is certainly a bit faster than guitars, but not much so either... the innovations come mostly in sound engines rather than actual hardware, but the 100 step sensitivity in Roland keyboards vs. the previous 5 or so that were present in older keys is certainly interesting. I'm unsure how others are in that aspect, but the big houses surely have this sorted out by now smile .

I believe that your target 1.5K is a kind of a sweetspot... I believe there are several choices that others will surely suggest that fit your bill. My main concern was the Mod and Pitch Bend wheels, but if you can live without them, then your choices expand considerably! Perhaps even the P155 I mentioned earlier, which is a very nice equipment at 1K exactly! That and a 49 controller could actually be a good combo?

Rafa.
Posted by: ando

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 07:52 PM

Originally Posted By: RafaPolit

The innovation in Digital Pianos is certainly a bit faster than guitars, but not much so either...


This comment is ridiculous. Digital pianos have an objective to try to get closer to the experience of playing an acoustic piano, which takes time, development, investment, marketing strategies etc, etc. They innovate because DPs are still not fully satisfactory as instruments compared to their acoustic cousins.

Guitars are already an acoustic instrument - even the ones with electronic gear in them. They are as developed as they need to be. There are no people complaining that they think their guitar isn't quite a real guitar, because all guitars are real guitars. The only variable is quality and design preference. There are plenty of hardware developments to enhance the performance of guitars.

In short, comparing guitars and pianos in terms of technological development makes no sense.
Posted by: Inceptic

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 08:51 PM

Originally Posted By: RafaPolit

My main concern was the Mod and Pitch Bend wheels, but if you can live without them, then your choices expand considerably!
Rafa.


Actually, no, I cannot live without them! You stated most of the reasons in your first post as to why they are useful.

The option of having two keyboards is valid though. Something like the Roland A-49 and a Kawai ES7 combo. I can't afford the ES7 right now, but I could get the job done with the controller while I save up for the ES7.
Posted by: RafaPolit

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 11:40 PM

Originally Posted By: ando
This comment is ridiculous...

By all means feel free to state your opinion, please do not categorize mine!

The OP was talking about electric guitars and I mentioned that the innovation is faster (which I assumed everyone would understand as a joke!), but I stand behind the idea that a good piano now would be good in 5 years time. I still play the Kurzweil PS2 with joy and think that a huge Kurzweil 'sound module' only that must date from 1990 still has a pleasant sounding piano.

So, no, it is not ridiculous, you just disagree with my perception of 'real' innovation.

Rafa.
Posted by: RafaPolit

Re: Stage Piano or Controller for Composing/Producing? - 10/11/12 11:42 PM

Originally Posted By: Inceptic
...The option of having two keyboards is valid though. Something like the Roland A-49 and a Kawai ES7 combo. I can't afford the ES7 right now, but I could get the job done with the controller while I save up for the ES7.

I think this would be a great approach! I was sorry to not have Kawai options anywhere near to make my final purchase decision, but given the sound samples posted everywhere and the incredible feedback they get here, I'm sure you cannot go wrong with them!

Best of lucks,
Rafa.