Keyboards? 100% noob

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by gnoll, Mar 7, 2019.

  1. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    I feel artistically limited by guitar. I wanna make more different sounds and play notes that I can't reach on the fretboard of my guitar.

    So I think I wanna start using keyboards in my band. But I don't know anything about keyboards. So maybe you guys can help me out.

    What gear do I need to play keyboards? If say I want a lot of different sounds and be able to experiment a lot with them. Should I hook up a keyboard to the computer and use midi and software sounds or should I get a keyboard that has sounds already in it? How do I amplify it? Can I run keys through a guitar tube amp and use guitar pedals? I've heard guitar speakers can be damaged if you run the wrong frequencies through it.

    I currently have a very cheap Yamaha digital piano with a few different sound like grand piano, electric piano, organ and harpsichord, but I feel like I need a lot more different sounds than that. I wanna be able to make ANY sound basically :)
     
  2. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    You can use a controller (a keyboard with no built in sounds) to control a separate synth module(s) or software synths via MIDI. You could also use a synth with built in sounds. For just computer use, I'd go with a controller, but if I were playing live, I'd go for a synth with built in sounds into either a keyboard amp (not a guitar amp) or plugging straight into the PA. I doubt most keyboard sounds would damage a guitar amp*, but a guitar amp has limited frequency response, so it won't produce the full spectrum of what the keyboard is putting out.


    * I could possibly see a note, especially a loud low note, that is sustained for long periods damaging a speaker, but otherwise I don't see it happening.
     
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  3. Demiurge

    Demiurge Intrepid Jackass

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    If your Yamaha digital piano has MIDI out, you can use that as a controller to start.

    One thing to mention is that if you're leaning towards more synth-y stuff, try to stay away from weighted keys. My wife has one of those big-honking 88-weighted-key monstrosities and it just feels like such a chore playing synth bass & leads on it. Kind of like shredding on a guitar with really high action. And get something with more than 25 keys.
     
  4. noise in my mind

    noise in my mind SS.org Regular

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  5. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    The Yamaha does have midi out, yay!! :D

    I thought about it and so far, these are the kinds of sounds I want to make:

    1) Something really heavy/evil sounding with high gain, like a guitar kind of, but with keys. I thought about taking a suitable relatively clean sound, sculpting it a bit with eq or a tubescreamer or something and running it through a high gain amp or pedal. Seems a bit hard to do that with midi though, I would need for it to go through the computer, out again, and into the gainy stuff/amp? This one seems tricky.

    2) Strings, should be easy.

    3) Something that sounds kinda like the intro to Downfall by Children of Bodom.

    4) Normal piano, should be easy also.

    5) Emulating various other instruments, like flutes, brass, uhm, maybe something else?? I guess that should be easy with midi though.

    I looked around a bit at what's out there and it seems a bit tricky. There are "stage pianos" which have supposedly pretty good sounds but only a few boring "normal" ones. Then there's "home keyboards" which have more sounds but supposedly not very good ones. And then there's the midi option but then I don't know how to get the high gain sound...

    EDIT: Oh, and budget.... hmmm.... as little as possible? I can't spend THAT much on this right now unfortunately..
     
  6. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    So I tried running the Yamaha through an od808 into a Marshall valvestate 8080. In a way it sounded pretty evil, but it was also super noisy and difficult to control. Everything got this long tail of reverb and distortion.

    Maybe this was a bad idea to begin with......
     
  7. Demiurge

    Demiurge Intrepid Jackass

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    Not at all! You're in the experimentation phase.

    Run the MIDI out into your computer (MIDI-to-USB interfaces are cheap) and mess-around with some software synths. They're fairly common as plugins within recording software. Some are free. Some are incredibly cheap.

    Regarding that Sound #1 you wanted, it sounds like you want an analog synth sound. Get some square & sawtooth waves, some detune, and you'll get a big, fat, grindy sound without having to use distortion.
     
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  8. LiveOVErdrive

    LiveOVErdrive CNC hack

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    Hammond Organ sound through distortion also sounds great. That's where deep purple's grindy riffs come from.

    And regarding running the output of your computer through your guitar chain - that's a fine way to do it but you could also download some free amp and cab sims and just do it all digitally.

    Also, running your keyboard straight into the amp - a lot of those Yamaha and Casio boards have built in reverb BUT you can adjust the level of it by holding a function button and pressing the right keys. Look at the controls and see if you can turn the reverb off.



    I used to play keys in a metal fusion band. My setup was a stage piano for piano sounds and an m-audio venom for synth sounds. I ran the venom into a pod xt live for all sorts of funky sounds. Distortion, wah, and Leslie sim mostly.
     
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  9. HungryGuitarStudent

    HungryGuitarStudent SS.org Regular

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    I don't want to pollute this thread, but I have a similar question. I want to record keyboards and I'm looking for the best setup. Should I go with a midi keyboard ? If so, which model do you recommend and which plugins do you recommend ? As you can tell, I'm also a keyboard noob.
     
  10. LiveOVErdrive

    LiveOVErdrive CNC hack

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    For recording you should 100 percent get a midi controller unless you have some piece of acoustic or analog gear you want to record.

    And really any midi controller with velocity will work. If you are picky about feel, try some out at the store first. If you aren't, get a cheap m-audio controller or something. They feel and play just fine and cost basically nothing. And the controller has nothing to do with the sound (other than your ability to play it) so cheap is fine. Just be mindful of how many keys you want.

    Plugins:

    There are really great free piano samples out there. My daw is ableton live which comes with some good ones out of the box. But there are many many others. Paid and non paid.

    If you want Hammond Organ sounds, VB3 is totally worth the fifty bucks. Sounds amazing.

    For synths, again I use the builtin ableton ones, but I'm sure there are good free ones out there.
     
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  11. HungryGuitarStudent

    HungryGuitarStudent SS.org Regular

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    Thanks a lot for the suggestion. I'm going for 80s scifi/cyber sounds. I tried my uncle's Roland System 8 and it sounds simply awesome. I'm looking for plugins with similar sounds.

    As for the number of keys, I have no clue. I guess 49 should be ok for me to be able to use EZDrummer as well as record keyboard lines for metal or for 80s-ish stuff.
     
  12. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoil Enthusiast

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    The synth world is a bit like the guitar world, in that most synths are really just variations and updates of a few really old ones. If you like Roland, look for plugin emulations of the Roland Jupiter-8 and Juno-6/Juno-106. The Roland chorus (the same one used in the Jazz Chorus amp) is a VERY classic 80's sound. TAL makes a free plugin of just that chorus which I can recommend :) A few other classic synths for the 80's sci-fi thing are the Yamaha DX7 and CS-80, Prophet 5, Oberheim OB-X, and of course the good old Minimoog.

    It's also worth noting that a big part of that sound came from digital reverbs and lots of chorus though.

    These are good watches:

     
  13. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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    As a beta tester for Arturia, I can't boast about them enough. Love to work with their stuff, love to work with them.
    Just starting out though, I would advise a simple small controller like the Mini Lab & use it to experiment with some of the free soft synths out there, or the ones inside of Garage band.

    This will get you started with the basic learning of how to incorporate synths into your arrangements, and allow you to do sound design without changing the performance while your performance is still in MIDI prior to printing audio.
     
  14. HungryGuitarStudent

    HungryGuitarStudent SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for the suggestions !! It's much appreciated.

    Right now I'm leaning towards the Nektar Panorama P4 because of its integration with Logic. Is it a good choice ?

    For plugins, I have no clue, Absynth, Omnisphere, Sculpture, Kontakt, Massive, there are so many options. Do you guys have any preferred plugins ?
     
  15. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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  16. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoil Enthusiast

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    It depends on your budget, really. For sheer sound quality and "analog" vibe, I think u-he Diva is the champion, and Omnisphere is a monster of a plugin too. In guitar terms, think of these as the Axe-Fx/Kemper tier, they're a bit more expensive than the others but there's a reason for that. If you want 80's sci-fi, Diva excels at that but it's not as versatile as Omnisphere, which to be fair is just about as good as Diva anyway. Btw, u-he have free demos of all their synths so you can download them and try them for as long as you like, they just make a little noise once in a while in demo mode.

    If you buy a Native Instruments keyboard, they'll give you Massive, some Kontakt libraries and a few Reaktor synths (like Monark which is an excellent Minimoog emulation) included in the price. Native Instruments can be a bit cash-grabby as a company, but they don't make anything that doesn't sound fantastic on the other hand. Massive is a classic, it has a bit of a learning curve but it also has thousands of presets and even more thousands available online and endless tutorials on youtube, it's been one of the most popular synth plugins for over a decade so there's lots of good info out there. Can't say the same for Absynth anymore, which I think has been pretty much abandoned by NI at this point.

    Arturia is like Line6. In my opinion they're the best value for money, their keyboards are really great and they integrate really well with the Arturia plugins which come bundled with the keyboard. However, they're not the best sounding plugins in my opinion. They just sound a little thin and sterile compared to the other stuff I mentioned. But like I said, you get a LOT of value for the money, and their keyboards are really well designed.

    - Edit - Oh, also keep in mind that synths and effects are two different things. Some plugins will come with big FX sections (like Omnisphere) using delays, reverbs etc. to make these huge sounding presets that for example Diva or Monark can't do on their own. But remember you can get reverbs and delays from somewhere else, so focus on getting a synth that has a good "core" sound, I'd say. Don't be fooled by effects :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
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  17. HungryGuitarStudent

    HungryGuitarStudent SS.org Regular

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    @JohnIce : Thanks a lot for writing this comprehensive post. I appreciate the hell out of the fact you took time to write this. There's a lot to chew, but at the moment I'm leaning towards Omni or Massive.
     
  18. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoil Enthusiast

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    No problem at all, happy to help :) Both of those are great choices!
     
  19. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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    I wouldn't say that Arturia is thin sounding in and of itself. You have to get to know the filters & adjust them accordingly. Depending on the genre of music, sometimes I have to eq out some low end in order to prioritize making space for my bass player as a primary instrument knowing out own sound design for our band "tone". If I were playing EDM, then I have thousands of stock presets to build upon & make my own after some tweaks.
     
  20. HungryGuitarStudent

    HungryGuitarStudent SS.org Regular

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    Finally, I'm not sure I'll go with the Nektar P4 since I've read bad reviews on the key sensitivity for that model.

    I'm therefore back to square one and looking for any suggestions for midi keyboards.

    My needs: I want to use it to record (DAW: Logic, Interface: Focusrite Clarett 2Pre, Other gear: AFX 2, Drums: EZDrummer 2, for now). I want to layer my tracks with synth lines (e.g. Paul Wardingham, Scar Symmetry, Plini, etc.) and also use the keyboard to compose midi drums.

    I'm looking for a quick learning curve, but I don't want to sacrifice features and have to buy a new keyboard in a year.

    Budget: not a problem (within reasonable limits, i.e. I don't want a keyboard made of gold).

    Number of keys: I've been suggested 49, but I have no clear rationale for more or less keys.

    Action: I guess I should go with synth action since I won't be limited to piano playing.

    Pads: the only reason I think I need them is for the drums. Am I right ?

    Thanks in advance for your suggestions...
     
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