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Midi Keyboard for composers? Keyboard Controllers
Old 16th December 2016
  #1
Gear Head
 

Midi Keyboard for composers?

Hi All!

I have recently learned that my Yamaha P-115 wont be able to achieve max velocity "127" in Kontakt - It's a nice beginners digital piano, but its not that great for using in conjunction with a computer.

So I have decided (after I begged my girlfriend) to get a 88 keys midi keyboard.

So far I have been looking at;

Roland A-88 and Komplete Kontrol S88 or 61?

Follow-up question. Will I ever need 88 keys when composing? (Sadly if I go the Komplete Kontrol way the 61 doesn't have the same weighted keys as the S88).
Old 16th December 2016
  #2
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drBill's Avatar
Yes, IMO you need 88 - especially if you're using Kontakt or other sampler that uses keyswitching on the extreme upper and/or lower ends of the keyboard.
Old 16th December 2016
  #3
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Yes, IMO you need 88 - especially if you're using Kontakt or other sampler that uses keyswitching on the extreme upper and/or lower ends of the keyboard.
Do you have any experience with the two mentioned models?

People have also told me to get a Dopfer LMK4, but thats double my budget.

I can afford around what the A88 or Kontrol S88 costs.
Old 16th December 2016
  #4
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Yes, IMO you need 88 - especially if you're using Kontakt or other sampler that uses keyswitching on the extreme upper and/or lower ends of the keyboard.
Im leaning towards the Roland A88. I dont need all the knobs and flashy stuff.

And I have actually felt both of them, I just need some feedback on how they work in Kontakt :P
Old 17th December 2016
  #5
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drBill's Avatar
Haven't tried either. The NI keyboard intrigues me as it's DESIGNED to work specifically with Kontakt. The only thing that puts me off is the ribbon controllers for PB and Mod. I guess I'll have to give it a try at some point.
Old 17th December 2016
  #6
Gear Addict
 

Whatever you buy, try it first in the store. Preferences for the key action are very individual. It's very possible that a keybed that many here love wouldn't work for you at all. That being said, the A-88 has a good keybed, in your pricerange maybe one of the best. I never understood the craze about Doepfer. The exact same keybed they use can be found in controllers costing only half the price. The only thing you get with the Doepfer is a sturdy case. For example, the Studiologic SL 990 (both the Pro and the XP) and the Studiologic VMK-188 have the exact same keyboard as the LMK4+. No difference in the key action whatsoever. The Doepfer costs 1450€, the SL 990 420$ from here:

Fatar Studiologic SL-990 Pro midi keyboard

So, with the Doepfer you basically pay 1000€ for a sturdy case...
Old 17th December 2016
  #7
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by goodkeys View Post
Whatever you buy, try it first in the store. Preferences for the key action are very individual. It's very possible that a keybed that many here love wouldn't work for you at all. That being said, the A-88 has a good keybed, in your pricerange maybe one of the best. I never understood the craze about Doepfer. The exact same keybed they use can be found in controllers costing only half the price. The only thing you get with the Doepfer is a sturdy case. For example, the Studiologic SL 990 (both the Pro and the XP) and the Studiologic VMK-188 have the exact same keyboard as the LMK4+. No difference in the key action whatsoever. The Doepfer costs 1450€, the SL 990 420$ from here:

Fatar Studiologic SL-990 Pro midi keyboard

So, with the Doepfer you basically pay 1000€ for a sturdy case...
To be fair, that Studio Logic price is a b-stock price. The normal price (according to that website) is 800.

Personally I recently bought a KK S88 and am pretty happy with it. The lights are handy to use with Kontakt and track focus and NKS support is pretty nice too (I'm hoping that more sample library companies make their stuff NKS compatible).
Old 17th December 2016
  #8
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Amber's Avatar
 

I've heard a handful of people in the same circle who have said they'd had problems with their LMK4+. Not good enough considering the price.
Old 17th December 2016
  #9
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
I've heard a handful of people in the same circle who have said they'd had problems with their LMK4+. Not good enough considering the price.
Yeah.

I am going for Roland A88. I have tried it before and the action of the keys is really nice. And it is build for being a midi keyboard.

LMK hype is because Hans Zimmer uses it :P
Old 17th December 2016
  #10
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drBill's Avatar
I can't hang with the Roland "mod wheel" stick vs. standard mod wheel for a master controller.
Old 17th December 2016
  #11
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

Careful before buying the A-88, since the Roland pitch+mod lever is absolutely a problem if you're using orchestral libraries which use mod wheel for dynamic expression, as most do. Since it's spring-loaded to always return to the zero position, you can't "park" the mod wheel at a desired position, making it basically impossible to use it effectively with "mod wheel > dynamics" libraries. A shame, as the size and form factor are attractive.

The NI keyboard looks good and plays nicely, and the key lights are a nice feature when using Kontakt libraries, but that darn touch strip thing for pitch and mod is a bummer. At one point I heard a rumor that NI would offer a version with conventional pitch and mod wheels, but this has not surfaced yet.

Plus, having all of the control knobs and displays right in the center is a problem for those of us who like to mount the computer keyboard and mouse / trackball ABOVE the music keyboard - the knobs and display are right where the computer keyboard needs to be. I've been considering doing a frankenstein job with the NI 88 key unit, disassembling it and permanently mounting the components into the desk surface, with the display and knobs to the left of the center position, and discarding the touch strip thingie and replacing it with a conventional pitch + mod wheel from another keyboard - but that's a project for another day.

But, yeah... I'd advise against the Roland A-88 if you're using lots of the popular orchestral libraries.
Old 17th December 2016
  #12
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by charlieclouser View Post
Careful before buying the A-88, since the Roland pitch+mod lever is absolutely a problem if you're using orchestral libraries which use mod wheel for dynamic expression, as most do. Since it's spring-loaded to always return to the zero position, you can't "park" the mod wheel at a desired position, making it basically impossible to use it effectively with "mod wheel > dynamics" libraries. A shame, as the size and form factor are attractive.

The NI keyboard looks good and plays nicely, and the key lights are a nice feature when using Kontakt libraries, but that darn touch strip thing for pitch and mod is a bummer. At one point I heard a rumor that NI would offer a version with conventional pitch and mod wheels, but this has not surfaced yet.

Plus, having all of the control knobs and displays right in the center is a problem for those of us who like to mount the computer keyboard and mouse / trackball ABOVE the music keyboard - the knobs and display are right where the computer keyboard needs to be. I've been considering doing a frankenstein job with the NI 88 key unit, disassembling it and permanently mounting the components into the desk surface, with the display and knobs to the left of the center position, and discarding the touch strip thingie and replacing it with a conventional pitch + mod wheel from another keyboard - but that's a project for another day.

But, yeah... I'd advise against the Roland A-88 if you're using lots of the popular orchestral libraries.
Also if I use a breath/bite controller for dynamics etc? And I have a small nano korg also.
Old 17th December 2016
  #13
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

Well, the thing about the Roland pitch+mod lever is that it always wants to return to zero, and on some Roland keyboards I've owned, just playing forcefully on the keyboard is enough to cause the mod lever to move an imperceptible amount, just enough for it to send a value of "1" and then a value of "0" - and this will reset any mod wheel action you might be doing with an alternate controller. This will not be a problem if you use the facilities in your DAW software or Kontakt to re-map the incoming MIDI control numbers so that mod wheel is ignored completely and breath controller is replacing it, or if the A-88 allows you to re-assign the mod lever to a different MIDI control number (not sure if this is possible on the unit itself). It's not an insurmountable problem, but it is a bit more of a hassle than it would be if using a different keyboard. Just something to bear in mind. I do love the feel and sturdiness of Roland keyboards but that lever can be a hassle to deal with.

In Kontakt you can usually re-map the mod>dynamics controller so that it responds to breath control instead of mod wheel, but you may run across some instruments that don't provide this capability to be accessed easily from the front panel, and require you to go digging "under the hood" of the instrument to remap this. In some of these cases it can be a BIG hassle if the instrument has dozens (hundreds?) of groups and each group has the assignments made inside it, and of course the instrument must then be re-saved with the new assignments in place. Not impossible, but easily a big pain in the arse.

Alternatively, in most DAW software like Logic or Cubase you can create incoming re-maps that will just swap the controller numbers around on input so that mod wheel is ignored and breath controller replaces mod wheel, but again, although this is a relatively minor hassle it IS something that has to be set up just right or else things won't work as expected. Not a huge issue, but just one more duck to get in a row.

I just thought I'd warn you about the possible issues with the Roland mod-lever and the majority of Kontakt orchestral libraries so you didn't discover the hard way!
Old 17th December 2016
  #14
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by charlieclouser View Post
Well, the thing about the Roland pitch+mod lever is that it always wants to return to zero, and on some Roland keyboards I've owned, just playing forcefully on the keyboard is enough to cause the mod lever to move an imperceptible amount, just enough for it to send a value of "1" and then a value of "0" - and this will reset any mod wheel action you might be doing with an alternate controller. This will not be a problem if you use the facilities in your DAW software or Kontakt to re-map the incoming MIDI control numbers so that mod wheel is ignored completely and breath controller is replacing it, or if the A-88 allows you to re-assign the mod lever to a different MIDI control number (not sure if this is possible on the unit itself). It's not an insurmountable problem, but it is a bit more of a hassle than it would be if using a different keyboard. Just something to bear in mind. I do love the feel and sturdiness of Roland keyboards but that lever can be a hassle to deal with.

In Kontakt you can usually re-map the mod>dynamics controller so that it responds to breath control instead of mod wheel, but you may run across some instruments that don't provide this capability to be accessed easily from the front panel, and require you to go digging "under the hood" of the instrument to remap this. In some of these cases it can be a BIG hassle if the instrument has dozens (hundreds?) of groups and each group has the assignments made inside it, and of course the instrument must then be re-saved with the new assignments in place. Not impossible, but easily a big pain in the arse.

Alternatively, in most DAW software like Logic or Cubase you can create incoming re-maps that will just swap the controller numbers around on input so that mod wheel is ignored and breath controller replaces mod wheel, but again, although this is a relatively minor hassle it IS something that has to be set up just right or else things won't work as expected. Not a huge issue, but just one more duck to get in a row.

I just thought I'd warn you about the possible issues with the Roland mod-lever and the majority of Kontakt orchestral libraries so you didn't discover the hard way!
Well. I cant really find any midi keyboards in that price range that has the same quality action as the A88.

What do you use?

Couldn't I just have the A88, breath controler and then a little nano korg like controller with knobs?
Old 17th December 2016
  #15
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

Sure, the setup you described (A-88, NanoKontrol, breath controller) would definitely work - and the issues I brought up may or may not affect your work flow. I used to have a Roland V-Synth keyboard set up and even though it wasn't my primary controller, whenever someone would breathe loudly next to it the mod lever would send a value of "1" immediately followed by a value of "0" and this would get recorded into my MIDI stream into the DAW. Easily remedied but still potentially an issue in some setups.

I use a cheap M-Audio Keystation 88es - which is the same as an Alesis Q-88. It's a non-weighted, "synth action" keyboard that is very slim, very low profile, and has no knobs or other controls cluttering up the center portion of the panel, so it mounts quite nicely into my desk. I bought a few of them since they are so cheap and I'll always have a spare. I actually use the guts of the M-Audio Keystation 88es mk2 and put the top panel of the housing from the Alesis Q-88 onto it because the M-Audio has some buttons and stuff in the center of the top panel that I don't want - so the hybrid of the two units works well for me, despite the horrible and huge Alesis logo!

I actually don't like a heavier, weighted, "piano action" controller as I find it difficult to play fast drum and synth parts. I also find that the piano action keyboards are usually much "thicker" from top to bottom and this makes it more uncomfortable for me to mount my computer keyboard above the music keyboard and type for long hours without discomfort. Typical piano-action controllers are 5 - 6 inches high, but the M-Audio is only 3 inches high, and it is VERY shallow front-to-back. The A-88 is also very shallow, which I like, but it IS thick and the mod lever issue has kept me away for now. I may give it another look however, as I do love the build quality of Roland keyboards.

I've attached a picture of my work station so you can see what I mean about mounting the computer keyboard in the center. Note that I've also cut a hole to recess the back edge of my trackball so that it sits more flat, with less of an angle than if it were sitting flat on a desk surface - this helps reduce strain on my wrist when working long hours.
Attached Thumbnails
Midi Keyboard for composers?-cc-workstation.jpg  
Old 17th December 2016
  #16
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by charlieclouser View Post
Sure, the setup you described (A-88, NanoKontrol, breath controller) would definitely work - and the issues I brought up may or may not affect your work flow. I used to have a Roland V-Synth keyboard set up and even though it wasn't my primary controller, whenever someone would breathe loudly next to it the mod lever would send a value of "1" immediately followed by a value of "0" and this would get recorded into my MIDI stream into the DAW. Easily remedied but still potentially an issue in some setups.

I use a cheap M-Audio Keystation 88es - which is the same as an Alesis Q-88. It's a non-weighted, "synth action" keyboard that is very slim, very low profile, and has no knobs or other controls cluttering up the center portion of the panel, so it mounts quite nicely into my desk. I bought a few of them since they are so cheap and I'll always have a spare. I actually use the guts of the M-Audio Keystation 88es mk2 and put the top panel of the housing from the Alesis Q-88 onto it because the M-Audio has some buttons and stuff in the center of the top panel that I don't want - so the hybrid of the two units works well for me, despite the horrible and huge Alesis logo!

I actually don't like a heavier, weighted, "piano action" controller as I find it difficult to play fast drum and synth parts. I also find that the piano action keyboards are usually much "thicker" from top to bottom and this makes it more uncomfortable for me to mount my computer keyboard above the music keyboard and type for long hours without discomfort. Typical piano-action controllers are 5 - 6 inches high, but the M-Audio is only 3 inches high, and it is VERY shallow front-to-back. The A-88 is also very shallow, which I like, but it IS thick and the mod lever issue has kept me away for now. I may give it another look however, as I do love the build quality of Roland keyboards.

I've attached a picture of my work station so you can see what I mean about mounting the computer keyboard in the center. Note that I've also cut a hole to recess the back edge of my trackball so that it sits more flat, with less of an angle than if it were sitting flat on a desk surface - this helps reduce strain on my wrist when working long hours.
I currently use my Yamaha digital piano, but. Sadly I cant reach a "127" velocity in Kontakt/Cubase no matter HOW hard I hit.

So I need a 2nd keyboard for orchestral stuff - Which is my main thing. I dont really play with drumkits for electronic music etc, I mostly use Orchestral Percussions.

If I ever had to do drum kits I can just use my Maschine.

I am a piano player, so I need close to real key action.
Old 20th December 2016
  #17
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catfishmusic's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
I've heard a handful of people in the same circle who have said they'd had problems with their LMK4+. Not good enough considering the price.
If I may ask, what problems specifically? I just bought one and am very happy with it. In fact, the action is the most "piano like" of anything I've tried, it's been a real joy to play on.
Old 20th December 2016
  #18
Gear Addict
 

Don't buy a Doepfer for the key action. You can have the exact same action for half the price with the Studiologic controllers. They use the exact same keybed as the Doepfers. In fact, Fatar - which is linked with Studiologic - produces the keybeds and sells them to Doepfer.
Old 20th December 2016
  #19
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Dale Turner's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by goodkeys View Post
Don't buy a Doepfer for the key action. You can have the exact same action for half the price with the Studiologic controllers. They use the exact same keybed as the Doepfers. In fact, Fatar - which is linked with Studiologic - produces the keybeds and sells them to Doepfer.
Totally! I have a STUDIOLOGIC VMK-161 PLUS, which has that same keybed (I think?). I got it new for $600, in 2014, though it's an older keyboard. 64 keys. Wish I had space for the 88, but oh well... Pretty nice weighted action.
Old 20th December 2016
  #20
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Amber's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by catfishmusic View Post
If I may ask, what problems specifically? I just bought one and am very happy with it. In fact, the action is the most "piano like" of anything I've tried, it's been a real joy to play on.
Problems with it just not working. Not sending midi data, randomly turning off. Having to unplug and replug it in to get it working. Just very annoying things that aren't good enough considering the price, especially since this is just from a small handful of people.

I use an M-Audio 88 like Charlie, which I'm 99% sure is at least Semi-weighted... it's certainly not synth like action. I like the form factor and have similar spacing to Charlie for my keyboard/mouse and find it very comfortable. I couldn't go back to having my keyboard above my Apple Keyboard or dealing with knobs/sliders getting in the way. I do often find myself browsing the net and hearing an ominous sound and realise my forearms are playing some odd chord on Sable's Harmonic Longs...

I keep meaning to getting a little midi controller with synth action keys (and mini keys) and maybe some knobs/faders to go to the left of my Apple keyboard. I've got an Akai MPD218 to input drums and even other things like 808 bass, short strings and even melodies as the 16 pads are a fresh way to play.
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