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The Death Of Two Octave Keyboards..... Please?
Old 15th October 2013
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
meh's Avatar
The Death Of Two Octave Keyboards..... Please?

Just a small complaint (not really small) and a question if anyone out there agrees with me. And the pathetic hope that making a little noise might make a difference.

Two octave keyboards are aplenty out there. But what's the point??! I find them to be the most obnoxious and frustrating thing in the world to use. Sure you make a bassline or something, that's nice. Now you want to keep writing. Solo lines, keyboard accompaniments, oh forget it, you're out of luck. Your song and maybe therefore your inspiration stopped at the groove because you couldn't take it where you needed to with only two octaves.

Minikeys are making a comeback and usually come in 3 octaves. I for one love them. Why aren't there more? Besides slimline USB only things, there just aren't many options for minikey boards. Not for a real tweaker. Yet knob encrusted synths and controllers with only two octaves are everywhere. I hear a lot of people say they hate minikeys, but where's the logic? When advertising compact full size key controller the so called logic of manufacturers is that it's better for keyboard players, full size keys feel better.

So they're suggesting keyboard players (PLAYERS) are going to be more happy with only two octaves. Ridiculous in my opinion. The possibilities for composition are exponentially larger with just one more octave, not just 50% larger. Mini-keyboards offer more keys in an even smaller form factor than standard size two octave keyboards. The mini-keyboards out there can fit in a backpack like it's nothing. They weigh next to nothing and if someone would just put enough knobs on them they'd be perfect.

There's no denying this is a bit of a rant, but I'm so frustrated with the fact that you can't find a decent mini-key synth/controller full of knobs. I've been searching and there's nothing that really satisfies...

Microkorg, great, not enough knobs tho, matrix editing, meh.
X station 25, I own it, a tweakers dream, but it's heavy as hell for it's size, really crippled IMO by a two octave keyboard and the weight and girth that comes with it. Barely fits in my backpack, feels too delicate for it's weight.
So i look at the novation mininova, Well since I can't find knobs galore at least I can have a good synth engine....a really damn complex one with a terrible menu system even worse than the microkorg, I want simple! next...
Novation Bassstation 2, simple, analog, lovely......but those damn waste-of-space keys...
Sigh.....Microkontrol and a laptop. Well besides having to bring the laptop to complete "the synth" it only has 16 knobs/sliders, tolerable if it has grouping or lots of memories, but no, 12 memories and no "pages".

Le Sigh..... would someone just make a lightweight mini-synth with lots of knobs?


Am I the odd one out? or am I not alone here in thinking the manufacturers don't have a clue about what really makes sense. Keyboard players don't need 2 octaves of fat clunky keys in a portable synth. Knock-out-a-bassline types don't need fat clunky keys at all. Everyone can benefit from Mini-keys. Are they really that bad? Would all the mini-key haters really rather play on only two octaves and have to buy a special bag to hold it and carry it's extra weight when it really does nothing to satisfy a more advanced composers needs?
Old 15th October 2013
  #2
Lives for gear
 
AnalogGuy's Avatar
I totally agree. It's same thing as this damn "USB-only" trend: there's no logic. I really would have even a real reason getting nanokeys, but yet I can't use them at my setup because there's no midi connector!!! How the heck are we supposed to chain usb-only keyboards??? Nerds with their only laptop???




Companies are cutting away from very basic but important features. Just how much it costs you to have midi connector as well? In same way I could ask, why only 2 octaves? Is there some magical line where it would became too expensive? I require at least 3 and half!

Though, I agree that two octaves are compact in live setting but still... just two octaves???
Old 15th October 2013
  #3
Registered User
Minikeys ... ugh! Toys. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy 2 octave keyboards. I happen to think they look cool and plan to buy one for live applications. The thing about keyboards is that most of them look too nerdy and uncool. There is something about a small keyboard that takes away the pretension and awkwardness of a keyboard on stage. Sure it's a limitation - but limitations are fuel for creativity.

I basically don't need Liberace piano flourishes or any other grand gestures from my keyboards. Small and tasteful suits me fine.

You can work around this limitation anyway - use midi events or DAW automation to transpose the keyboard as needed.

In the studio I quite like 88 keys so I can hear the mapping of a patch and not miss anything, but there is no way I want to take one live. And for a lot of midi programming I quite like having a very small keyboard on the desk, instead of a massive keyboard in between my PC keyboard and video monitor. And for that application USB only is fine.

On stage - I have drawn some conclusions about what an audience likes to see on stage. I think the image of keyboard players being surrounded by walls of keys and knobbage is a relic from the past that was borne out of necessity that no longer exists.

One of the coolest keyboards i've seen recently is a 2 octave vintage Rheem Kee Bass (from around 1967). There is a New Zealand duo called Swamp Thing that has rocketed to public attention and the drummer uses a Rheem Kee Bass for a big fat swampy sound.
Old 15th October 2013
  #4
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shponglefan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by meh View Post
Everyone can benefit from Mini-keys.
Except for people with normal sized fingers.

IMHO, two-octave keyboards and mini-keys are pointless. Although the latter might be good for kids and/or adults with small fingers.

But in most cases, I'd rather they just make a sound module rather than tack on a pointless keybed.
Old 15th October 2013
  #5
Eventually someone will
Design a (sub. $4000) folding/modular controller.

I think even 49 keys is a bit limiting as your only keyboard, but it's perfect for live.

Miss my Nord Lead 3...
Old 15th October 2013
  #6
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Alex Aliferis's Avatar
 

I have a few two-octave keyboards for portability purposes. They can be super useful when traveling provided one masters the dark art of using the octave shift keys in a realtime, performance mode. They're also great for playing in parts while seated, such as in an office chair, on a couch, etc.

As for mini-keys, the only one I've found which was truly playable for me is the Korg NanoKey. Still prefer a full size two octave keyboard over them.
Old 15th October 2013
  #7
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enossified's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by meh View Post
And the pathetic hope that making a little noise might make a difference.
This is the wrong place to make noise. E-mail every mfr and tell them you will not buy any of their products until they offer something with a better keyboard (whatever better is to use, more keys, minikeys, better action, aftertouch, etc.).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
There is something about a small keyboard that takes away the pretension and awkwardness of a keyboard on stage.
...and replaces it with awkwardness of playing a small keyboard I really dig seeing them duct-taped to another keyboard so it will stay put when you play it. They do work great controlling synths with chord memory and multi-octave arpeggiators

Akai's "Antichrist" controller, minkeys but too few of them OK, it will fit into your coat pocket...but is that a good thing?



I remember some years ago someone doing an April's Fool Photoshop of a MIDI controller with one white key, one knob and one wheel...
Old 15th October 2013
  #8
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AnalogGuy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by enossified View Post
Akai's "Antichrist" controller, minkeys but too few of them OK, it will fit into your coat pocket...but is that a good thing?
I really would like to have one of these because these would be great to be used with midi tools like arpeggiators and transposing sequences in live without need to "sacrifice" bigger keyboard, but for the f*ck sake, why on earth they didn't include simple midi connector!!!
Old 15th October 2013
  #9
Gear Addict
 

Gotta say, that as primarily a drummer who uses a bit of synth during performance, I really appreciate a small keyboard that I can incorporate into my rig. Currently, my set-up is a MicroKorg and a Nord Electro Rack, which fit nicely together on my percussion table and still leave me room for my shakers and bits. I had a 49 key keyboard at first, but I hated having to completely turn away from the audience to play it.

Yeah, it's probably a small market of people who appreciate the small footprint of these small synths for live performance, but it is there, and I'm very grateful that manufacturers have products that fit the niche.

I also like my Akai MPK Mini that fits in my computer bag. The small keyboard controllers that don't actually fit in a computer bag don't make a lot of sense, except for another small niche of producers who use them as part of a desk.
Old 15th October 2013
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnalogGuy View Post
I really would like to have one of these because these would be great to be used with midi tools like arpeggiators and transposing sequences in live without need to "sacrifice" bigger keyboard, but for the f*ck sake, why on earth they didn't include simple midi connector!!!
That's exactly what I use this for-

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/elect...ler-score.html

I had a micro korg when they first came out, hated the mini keys but loved the portability. Didn't know enough about synths yet to hate the interface or the sound yet lol.

The Casio Cz-101 had the mini keys too, eventually I got a 1000 for the bigger keys.

Now I have the Juno-106 and an ms-20 mini. The keys on the mini are small but not as small as micro korg keys. My "sausage fingers" fit ok enough for me to play. No din-midi out though, again with the USB.

If korg made something with those medium-sized keys and din-midi out they would have something there I think...at least for the OP lol.
Old 15th October 2013
  #11
heh quite the opposite opinion
I really dislike mini sized keys
2 octave keyboards are fine if you're playing with one hand, use the octave switch?
Old 15th October 2013
  #12
Lives for gear
 

2-octave keyboards fill a real need (that the OP clearly doesn't have) - that's why so many manufacturers make them.

That being said, there seems not to be a perfect solution for everyone, and a lot of capable sound engines don't exist in "the right format" for a lot of people. I think there is room for some good design work to be done here.
Old 15th October 2013
  #13
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Praxisaxis's Avatar
 

For me, I actually get a lot of benefit out of using small keyboards for live performance.

I often use a few at once. This means I can think kinda "multidimensionally" with one keyboard doing this job, and another doing that job, even though I can tweak everything. It's a bit like range-splitting a big master keyboard, except even better, because it's easier to navigate. For leads I use a little phatty, which has the perfect range for soloing (if you ask me), then bass I often have a minibrute - 1 hand to each thing. Then if I feel like it I chuck in a microkorg for poly duties, on the rare occasion when I want chords.

Honestly, I think it's just a different style of playing, not necessarily better or worse. I for one think there's oodles of room to grow and develop skills in a format like that - I've never felt restricted by it (and I can play a real piano reasonably well).
Old 15th October 2013
  #14
Gear Guru
The irony for me is that 2-octave keyboards are completely useless to me for basslines.

I'll take mini-keys any day.. but I prefer 49 keys.. with the pitch/mod wheels up top.
Old 15th October 2013
  #15
Gear Addict
 

At first, I strongly disapproved 2-octave keyboards but now I've realised it is more than that. The whole synthesizer business has lost a lot of its appeal to me because of the immediate and widespread association with a laptop musician (nothing wrong with them, it's just not my cup of tea).

Still, I will likely buy one new Moog mono and one Yamaha FM polysynth. It doesn't matter which one, as long as it is new and has a real keyboard. I have an idea in my head how to use that combo and I'll stick to it.

In the meantime, I'm going to learn how to play the electric guitar so the synth companies can take their time and design something that is geared towards playing with actual hands instead of control signals, like Arp Pro Soloist or Korg 700s.
Old 15th October 2013
  #16
guess its up to personal taste like everything, with that in mind i agree 100% with the original post.
i have not problem with mini keys, but less then 3 octaves is very anoying.
the minilab would be my perfect controller IF ONLY it would have 3 octaves, a proper midi in/out and worked as a usb midi interface. i'm willing to pay the extra cost all the way =(
Old 15th October 2013
  #17
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Rogue Ai's Avatar
As long as it sounds good, I don't care how many keys it has as long as I can control it with a larger keyboard. Also, the microKORG was three octaves not two (it has 37 keys)
Old 15th October 2013
  #18
Gear Addict
 
Pilotwings's Avatar
IMO the need for small portable controllers would be for someone with a laptop or ipad that needs something to fit in a backpack, etc. For my taste, 61 keys (5 octaves) is acceptable, but I prefer a 76 note semi-weighted keyboard . The problem I see in the controller keyboard area is a lack of QUALITY! Many manufacturers seem to be making cheap plastic toy-like instruments that could be sold to kids a Toys R Us at Christmas time.
Old 15th October 2013
  #19
Gear Addict
 

There aren't enough 3-octave keyboards, IMO. Nearly everyone jumps from 25 keys to 49 keys, skipping the very useful 37-key size (room to move an octave up or down, but still portable). The non-SE MoPho Keys and the now-discontinued Little Phatty are among the few exceptions.
Old 15th October 2013
  #20
Lives for gear
 

I have a xio 25 - 2 octave full keys- and a microsampler- 3 octave minikeys. I can tell you what I REALLY want- a 3 octave full key- big enough to play melody lead and chords without killing my giant fingers- but small enough to play on a chair.

I am totally with whoever said that USB only sucks. I love my xio sounds, god I wish I had a MIDI in port on my Xio instead of only a MIDI out (what on earth were they thinking of? Did it save that much money to cut out ONE port!)

As far as why anyone would buy these things, here is what I use them for:

playing in the car as a passenger on road trips

playing to myself in a rocking chair in my son's bedroom as he fall asleep (he still needs someone to be there)

playing on a bed when I am too tired to sit at my bench or chair at the bigger keyboards

playing with a little board on a bigger board for multiple sounds/arps

playing them just because they have sounds and can do things unique to them

playing them outside on my lawn chair

playing them while watching the kids at the community pool in the summer

playing them while on phone hold at a desk



BTW- is there any way to rig my xio so it can be controlled by a larger keyboard which would send MIDI in? The xio also has USB- can I make that incoming?
Old 15th October 2013
  #21
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enossified's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnalogGuy View Post
why on earth they didn't include simple midi connector!!!
You'll start seeing more controllers with 1/8" TRS to MIDI cable adapters, Akai's recent MPX8 sampler does this...with poly aftertouch pads! The LPK25 is already a dinosaur, been out for 5 years now? Expect a replacement soon...

With TRS/MIDI cabling mfrs can provide standard DIN interfacing with a tiny enclosure.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lune View Post
BTW- is there any way to rig my xio so it can be controlled by a larger keyboard which would send MIDI in? The xio also has USB- can I make that incoming?
If the xio is class compliant this might work but it's $140:

Old 15th October 2013
  #22
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robot gigante's Avatar
Not that it seems realistic that any manufacturer would do it at the moment, but I'd prefer mini but not too mini pads or a touch interface to two octaves of keys or minikeys. I like a smaller form factor, but I don't know if keys are the best for it.
Old 15th October 2013
  #23
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Spectral Climax's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by robot gigante View Post
Not that it seems realistic that any manufacturer would do it at the moment, but I'd prefer mini but not too mini pads or a touch interface to two octaves of keys or minikeys. I like a smaller form factor, but I don't know if keys are the best for it.
I think you want a Keith McMillen QuNeo or a QuNexus...
Old 15th October 2013
  #24
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shponglefan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by NewsFromTheSky View Post
There aren't enough 3-octave keyboards, IMO. Nearly everyone jumps from 25 keys to 49 keys, skipping the very useful 37-key size (room to move an octave up or down, but still portable). The non-SE MoPho Keys and the now-discontinued Little Phatty are among the few exceptions.
Odd, I always thought 37 keys was more common than 49. Only 49 key synth I can think of off the top of my head is the Blofeld and the Yamaha something-or-other. And the Mopho 4x is close...
Old 16th October 2013
  #25
Here for the gear
 

for portability they're pretty useful, and as they tend to lend themselves more to electronic oriented music, they can still serve a purpose.

Just pre-set your DAW with a chord generator on whatever VSTs, and have at er', Minor 9s with one key! I couldn't personally live with a 2 octave, and mini-keys are a pain ( I had to use a microkorg exclusively for a few months and it was tough) - but I can understand what type of application they exist for.
Old 16th October 2013
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enossified View Post

If the xio is class compliant this might work but it's $140:

What will they think of next! Thanks- (xio is CC)
Old 16th October 2013
  #27
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robot gigante's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectral Climax View Post
I think you want a Keith McMillen QuNeo or a QuNexus...
Yep. Been putting off getting a QuNeo but will pick up one soon I think. An interface like those would be a lot more appealing on any desktop synth than two octaves of keys or minikeys... would look cooler/more futuristic too.
Old 16th October 2013
  #28
Gear Addict
One good thing about a 25 key keyboard is it can help you avoid a muddy mix. On my 49 and 61 key controllers, I'll tend to get my left hand involved out of habit. But it does frustrate me on my Moog Sub Phatty in particular to be so limited.

Then again, I am one of those home studio only guys...so performance limitations are less of a concern.
Old 16th October 2013
  #29
165099
Guest
I don't agree.

I find minikeys incredibly irritating and the two octave keyboard on my Nord Modular is rather useful.

personally I don't at all understand the point of this as we're talking about MIDI enabled gear.. just as with a sound module, if I need more keys to play a part on my Nord, I just play it with a different keyboard. otherwise, the compact size is great!

sure, three octaves is more useful and perfect for a soloing instrument like Korg's Prophecy and for most polysynths four+ octaves is generally preferable or five+ for anything beyond eight voices.

I feel a more legitimate complaint would be synths which have keyboards but lack aftertouch as I find that exclusion far more annoying on my Nord Modular than only two octaves of keys. if you're going to put keys on a synth, then velocity and aftertouch should probably be standard.
Old 16th October 2013
  #30
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Rogue Ai's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by enossified View Post

If the xio is class compliant this might work but it's $140:

The Xio needs the Novation midi driver. So I doubt it is.
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