What (musical) keyboard should I buy?
September 25, 2005 9:43 PM   Subscribe

I've played guitar for 10+ years - I want to learn piano, for writing, performing, and to widen my musical understanding. A real piano doesn't jive with my life, what should I buy?

I've been writing songs for 10+ years, I have a good ear, and good hands. I'd like to buy a keyboard, and know that I'll be pretty satisfied with it (sound and feel) for a good while.

The undisputed top factors are action and sound. Like I said, I have good ears, but I'm not a pianophile, I'm not going to buy the Vienna Orchestra software or anything. I'm open to a controller with an outboard sample bank. I'm primarily interested in straight piano sounds, but organ/rhodes tones wouldn't hurt.

Portability would be great, but not critical. I'd like to pay $400-$1000, I could spend beyond that, but there should be a compelling argument to shell out anything beyond $1,000. Used is fine, I don't care about scuffs, scratches, or spray paint.
posted by Jack Karaoke to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, 88 keys would be grand (bad-dum), but I'd settle for less if there's something out there that's a good deal.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 9:50 PM on September 25, 2005

I've never bought a keyboard myself (and my piano skills are abysmal), but I've been very impressed with the quality of Yamaha's Clavinova line of digital pianos in build, action, and realism. They're very common in university music departments... they fit well in professors' studios, and we just got some in the piano lab this year. Some of them can be hideously expensive, but others are likely to be in your price range, especially used. It seems like they're built for pretty much your exact specifications: good action and good sound, especially on the plain ol' piano performance.

That's a direction you can explore, anyway. Hopefully somebody more qualified to answer your question will chime in.
posted by musicinmybrain at 9:57 PM on September 25, 2005

Have you even walked into a music store yet?
posted by mischief at 10:16 PM on September 25, 2005

If you're willing to use a computer you don't need anything but a controller, since Ivory blows everything away (emulating sympathetic vibration, etc.)
posted by abcde at 10:40 PM on September 25, 2005

I had a Yamaha P120 for two years, and I consistently recommend it to anyone in your situation. It's just over $1000, has one of the highest regarded piano synths in its range, and the action is absolutely realistic (albeit a tad heavy).
posted by knave at 11:31 PM on September 25, 2005

Best answer: I second the Yamaha suggestion - the P90 is a great entry-level machine these days and the 120 is lovely. The S90 is a synth rather than a Stage Piano, but it has a couple of things that mean you might want to consider it today: 1) Yamaha have just released the S90SE which means some retailers might dump the S90 (now three/four years old) at reduced prices; and 2) it contains a multi-layer sample of Yamaha's 700-series Concert Grand which none of their Stage Pianos do - 48Mb of samples over 8Mb gives you a much more expressive piano.

I paid (translated) over $2,000 for mine, but with the S90SE out there now and the age of the S90 itself, you might find a bargain, at which point you've got (one of the best) Piano Samples in a standalone keyboard and most of the synthesiser capabilities of the Yamaha Motif range too...
posted by benzo8 at 1:04 AM on September 26, 2005

I gigged for a while with a Yamaha S80 (full monty synth, weighted keys, freaking heavy) and a Clavia Nord Electro 2 (piano/Rhodes/organ/clav sounds, light action). I LOVED playing the Electro. Clavia now has a Stage model that is an upgraded Electro 2 on a full weighted keyboard.

I've never actually playted the Stage, and I have read that its piano sounds are a little fussy (sensitive to EQ and issues with mono vs. stereo), but if you ever gig with the thing you will love having great Rhodes and organ sounds at your fingertips.

The other advice provided in this thread re: piano controllers is excellent, if Rhodes and organ are not your thing. A Yamaha or Roland controller and software will do the job. Heavier is better, as you want to be able to lay into the thing and not have it move around on you.
posted by ldenneau at 1:40 AM on September 26, 2005

The other option is to buy a cheap piano. Craig's list often has pianos that are being given away for cheap or free for the hauling away.
posted by Philbo at 2:02 AM on September 26, 2005

(Philbo - of course, reading the question again would have told you that Jack thinks "a real piano doesn't jive with [his] life"...)
posted by benzo8 at 4:18 AM on September 26, 2005

I have a Yamaha P80 in my office, it's great. Also see this discussion.
posted by Wet Spot at 5:05 AM on September 26, 2005

Just FYI, the expression is "doesn't jibe", not "doesn't jive". Common mistake.
posted by Miko at 8:58 AM on September 26, 2005

Best answer: I was looking for exactly what you were.

I purchased a Fatar StudioLogic SL-1100 on scratch and dent from American Musical Supply. (The SL-990 is the replacement version) It has 88 keys and they aren't just weighted and spring loaded but have an actual hammer mechanism inside for real piano action. I then purchased a Kurzweil KME-1 which has a wonderful triple sampled grand piano sound among other great piano, organ and other sounds.

I think I spent right around $1000 total (with the above it's about $800) and it sounds great and feels great. I'd highly recommend both.
posted by aaronh at 9:44 AM on September 26, 2005

Best answer: Nth-ing the Yamaha stage piano suggestions. If you've got a decent full-range amp or studio setup, a secondhand P80 will be perfect for you. (In fact, I'd recommend getting a P80 and an amp over a P120 anyhow; the built-in speakers are handy but they're built-in speakers.)
posted by mendel at 11:17 AM on September 26, 2005

Response by poster: Ok, thanks peoples.. perfect. I have about 3 paths to check out, the Yamahas, Fatar, and Nord. Yer all lovely.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 2:06 PM on September 26, 2005

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