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What should you look for when buying a Midi Keyboard?


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If you just want something to play piano on, maybe you should just go into Best Buy, Circuit City, etc and buy one of those Casios or Yamahas. They're cheap and do the job.


What types of sounds do you want to play? Do you want a sample-based synth or one to create unique sounds on (a "true"(?) synthesizer for lack of a better word)?


If you want to play piano, organs, guitars and other almost-exact copies of electric/acoustic instruments, then you probably want a sample-based synth. These were mainly manufactured in the very late 80s onward. The sounds in these synths were based actual samples of acoustic instruments. Some popular ones are the Korg M-series&O-series, Roland U-series&SC-series and the Yamaha SY-series. These usually go for $400 and up.


If you want to program unique electronic sounds and don't care about samples of electric/acoustic instruments, then you might go for some of the earlier digital synthesizers that were based on analog technology. Some popular ones include the Yamaha DX-series, Casio CZ-series, Korg DW-series and the Roland JX-series&D-series. These were mainly made around the mid 80s. These usually go for $200 and up.


The prices are just estimates from used instrument consignment shops around my area. These shops should give you a feel about what is out there. I'm sure your area must have some of these type of shops. Check your yellow pages under Music and call around.


I hope that helps...or confused you.


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I have a Casio CZ series that I picked up at a Goodwill, with a stand and instruction,everything, for $20 bucks. Look at swapmeets, thrifts, fleamarkets, etc for cheap keyboards that are very good, just like 15 or so years old. I have mine setup with TONS of ST midi software, most of which has been released into the publicdomain or as freeware at this point, and there are digitizers available for the ST which, in conjunction with the ST and the keyboard, they can allow the keyboard to play much more realistic sound samples than they were originally made to do. My Casio lets you record new sounds into it's sound bank, so you can prettymuch hook a microphone up to the digitizer (that's hooked to the ST with software) and record any instrument, sound or voice that you want (or even download them from the net) and together, this equipment seems to me anyway, to work just a good as a mocern keyboard, just a few more steps to take is all. I have a new picture of my setup I'm posting in another thread here in the ST section...

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I didn't mean to be so glib, but after these two excellent responses I thought I'd throw three cents in.


IMHO, I would steer clear of vintage keyboards unless you're fairly good with electronics and have another one for parts. They tend to be road-worn and the solid-state stuff is prone to failure after 15 years or so. Moreover, there's a growing collector market for these things and I just don't think you're getting bang for the buck. I've personally ripped through an M1 and a JV-90 just through gigging around and heavy studio pounding. I wouldn't even think about buying an 80's keyboard without seriously putting it through it's paces, including hooking it up to a MIDI computer-based workstation and seeing if everything works.


That's why I mentioned the Nord. If you want to be VERY cool, get yourself one of these newer retro-synths with a bunch of MIDI-able sliders and you can do just about everything you'd ever want.


If you have the money for one, one of the cooler early 90's boards was the Korg Wavestation. I'd really try to avoid "workstation" keyboards. I suppose the Yamaha DX-7 and the Roland D-50 are the two seminal 80's synths that kind of defined 80's pop, but if I were you, I'd go look for an Emu Emax 3 (if you like sampling) or a Kurzweil K-1000 - an outstanding MIDI controller with weighted action. Korg KB's from the 80's in my opinion were cheap plastic things that weren't durable and sound like a nest of bees.


[i hate Korg's in general.]


Unlike Gunstar, I would tell you to steer way clear of Casio's. They are junk along the lines of the Yamaha consumer-electronics stuff that was sold at Target and Best Buy. Aside from the Emu lines, I'd stay away from sampling keyboards from that time also. In fact, aside from the KX-88 I once had, I think most Yamaha KB's are useless junk too.


Don't get too nostalgaic, either.. MIDI was not exactly a "standard" until the mid-80's. A lot of the first-generation MIDI boards are buggy at best and don't have full (modern) MIDI support. I've had the misfortune of trying to hook up an old Seil and Oberheim to a PC and had nothing but frustration to show for it.


In short: Go EMAX if sampling, go ROLAND JV- or D series if synthing, go K-1000 if you want a professional KB controller. BTW.. IMO, JV-90's are an OUTSTANDING KB, you can get them used for $350-$400 and they ROCK.



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YOu must understand that I'm talking about the "cheap" way, if your just getting into MIDI for kicks and don't know how serious you'll become, if you do become serious, then you can invest big bucks in the stuff, but you might as well get a modern computer to work with at that point too. There's no sense in buying some $500++++ keyboard if your using an old 80's ST computer and free software! I payed $20 for my entire ST setup and $20 bucks for the keyboard and $10 bucks for the MIDI cables. the software was free=$50 bucks for a perfectly good, great working condition MIDI setup that also plays classic vids, I use it for wordprocessing, database and circuit drawing programs...and Jaguar development. Oh, and about solid state electronics tending to go bad after about 15 years or so...what do you do to them? Shoot them with Tazers?!? My stuff all still works as good as the day it came out of the factory, no problems at all. Most of my stuff (can be seen in the "Midi on the ST" thread) is AT LEAST 15 years old and some as old as 20-25 years! It works PERFECTLY. I do know how to repair them and keep them in good condition if I had too, but I haven't had too! My Oscilliscope is from 1972, solid state, and it works GREAT! But if you want to spend hundreds or thousands on modern equipment to "mess around with" be my guest...if your doing "serious" stuff on an old ST with a modern keyboard then, uhmm...your argument is just a bit "off." If your using ALL modern equipment, seriously and/or professionally, then why are you commenting in a "vintage" ST section where those of us who are having fun and being nostalgic about the old equipment are hanging? :?

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I think you were lucky to find a $20 keyboard. I've never seen one that cheap. Maybe I'm not reading your message right, but I see no problem in spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a keyboard to be used on the Atari ST. You don't have to spend $$$, but you could, and can get perfectly good results that are as good or better than a Mac or Wintel machine. The ST is perfectly capable of being used in a professional environment as has been shown many times in the past.


I never was hot about Korg stuff either. While they have some really cool sounds and synthesis technology, what bogs it down is the user interface. I always found their display/button interfaces confusing. The most annoying things about Korgs is that they use sound banks of 10 instead of 16 (which pretty much every other manufacturer uses). So when I use a Korg to access the sounds of a module past #100, I'm stuck. I have to go to the module and continue flipping through sounds #100 and above. Really annoying! :(

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Gunstar, you have excellent points, and I didn't mean to offend. When I get nostalgaic about keyboards (and I started playing 'em when the Atari ST came out), I think of pro boards. There's just never been anything in the consumer electronics line that even sounds remotely GOOD to me.. even now I think I'd batty having to listen to a Yamaha or a Casio for more than 10 minutes.


And I agree with Atarian that you were EXTREMELY lucky to find your Casio KB at Goodwill.. I wouldn't count on picking up anythingthere, especially for $20. ($199.99 would be more like it lately - the Goodwills here in Milwaukee have turned into boutiques lately.) In a year of fairly regular thrifting for video games, the best I've turned up in the music department were a couple of genuine Yamaha pro volume & sustain switches for $5 each. [i'm not complaining, I think these are the most rugged KB switches ever made :)] No keyboards, though.. the dirtballs with the backroom connections snatch those before they even get out of the donor's hands.


I also agree with Atarian that $200-$400 isn't an unreasonable outlay for older boards, especially since they've depreciated (like computers) and will hold their value if you decide you want to unload them.


I'm really not kidding about the degrading of the solid state technology, though.. I don't know the physics behind it, but when it comes to oscillators, I actually recently screwed around with an older analog synth that was slightly OUT OF TUNE because the electronics had degraded.


The "damage" I was referring to were fried switches, output channels, dead keys, etc. You're not going to have a good time with a stereo keyboard that only transmits the ittermittent "pop" on the left channel.


There used to be and still are smaller "dummy" MIDI controller keyboards that may only have about a three octave range, but are extremely useful if you're looking for an input device.



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