What MIDI keyboard should I get, given that I will need something with a soundbank?
November 18, 2008 12:45 PM   Subscribe

What MIDI keyboard should I get, given that I will need something with a soundbank?

Hi All,

I'm looking to expand my music creation abilities on my laptop. Currently I have one semi decent condensor mic and I record my own guitar stylings using Audacity. I have experience with MIDI, Cubase, Logic etc in the past so I'm looking to get a MIDI keyboard... but given the laptop I have has a very poor MIDI soundbank, I'm also looking for a good soundbank device. I'd prefer them combined in the one device, but would consider two seperate devices if required.

It would also be good if it came with a copy of Cubase, Logic or equivalent software.

Also if you think I've made false assumptions or jumped to the wrong conclusion about what I need, feel free to let me know.

Thanks for your help!

posted by Admira to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by troy at 12:54 PM on November 18, 2008

How much money are you willing to spend?
What kind of music do you plan to make?
Are you looking for analog? FM? Samples?
New or used?
Modern or vintage?
How picky are you?
posted by lekvar at 1:01 PM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: Good point... ummmm I'm pretty flexible there, but lets say under $500 AUD (currently about $325 USD, 217 pounds)
posted by Admira at 1:03 PM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: Oops should have previewed!

How much money are you willing to spend? $500 AUD (currently about $325 USD, 217 pounds)

What kind of music do you plan to make? I'm not wanting to limit myself too much, but doing anything from laid back guitar pop to orchestral arrangements

Are you looking for analog? FM? Samples? I'm not looking for a sampler... but a MIDI keyboard and a decent MIDI soundbank ... I hope that answers that question?
New or used? Prefer new but I'd go used if required.
Modern or vintage? Prefer modern but could go vintage.
How picky are you? Not very :) Would like the keyboard to be able to detect velocity and maybe have a knob or two, and would like the sounds in the soundbank to be somewhat convincing.

Basically what I'm looking to do - I have people asking me to arrange music or to compose short sections of original music for them. Up to know I've done this just on the guitar and produced scores via Rosegarden. But people are asking me for arrangements for 4 string quartet. Or for pop band. I've been doing these by hand into rosegarden and listening to the results with my crappy MIDI interface but I'd like to input via MIDI and have a good interface.

I run WinXP (rosegarden via a Linux VM).

Sorry I should have included that above.
posted by Admira at 1:08 PM on November 18, 2008

Why a soundbank? How about VSTs?

Personally I would get a MIDI only keyboard and let my laptop do all the DSP.
posted by ian1977 at 1:14 PM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: Yep VST's (after googling the term to see what it is) look fine too.
posted by Admira at 1:20 PM on November 18, 2008

Have you spent any time on vintagesynth? When I started trying to build my studio I had no idea what I was looking for or what I needed; the synth finder really helped me understand what it was I wanted, how much it cost, and what it was capable of.

Something to ask yourself is what kind of polyphony/# of oscillators you're looking for. At the price point you're looking at you'll be able to get a really nice, brand new analogue modeling synth like the MicroKorg, but you'll be limited to fewer simultaneous voices.
posted by lekvar at 1:24 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well now i am leaning towards having VST's and just a MIDI only keyboard - I assume the good ones have to be purchased? Any recommendations for a good all purpose VST or collection thereof?

And still looking for a good MIDI keyboard recommendation - prefer 4 octave or more.
posted by Admira at 3:08 PM on November 18, 2008

This is such a broad question. Do yo want analog or digital? Analog modeling like Nord or straight digital like FM Synthesis?

Your best bet is to really go to a music store like Musicians Friend where they have lots of used keyboards and just keep trying stuff. Just from personal experience I think the Alesis Ion is awful, and the Novation K Station is great for mini synths. The Nord Lead is also very well regarded.

Something to think of also is you want to think less of "sound banks" and presets and get into how the keyboards generate sound, so you can create your own. A lot of the enjoyment of synths comes form this processor.

But, for sheer out-of-the-box presets like "whispering rain forest" or something you can't go wrong with a Korg Trinity - its a mid-90s synth and you can get them for less than $500.
posted by plexi at 3:15 PM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: I'm pretty happy with my M-Audio Axiom 61. Sure, there's better keyboards out there, but the semi-weighted keys have decent action, and I like the drumpad rig built into it. For US$250, it's a pretty good deal (mine came bundled w/ Ableton Live 7 LE.

KVR Audio has a good VST search (there's lots of great free ones available, too).
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 3:16 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

VSTs have already been mentioned, but it bears repeating, especially if you're just getting started and don't yet know what you want from a synthesizer. There are a ton of free VSTs that you can play around with until you feel like you know where you want to go with your sound. Spend your money on a controller and rock out then, when you're ready to engage in some serious gear lust, you can buy rackmount modules and keep using your controller.

One thing to bear in mind about VSTs, though, is they can be pretty resource-intensive. I switched to hardware because my (old, crusty) computer was having issues handling so many processes. But if your system can handle the load, you can have a great time for almost no cash.
posted by lekvar at 3:25 PM on November 18, 2008

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