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#3174012 11/29/21 02:19 PM
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Hi! I am a 57 year old guitar player (40+ years), songwriter, home recording-type guy. I have a cheap MIDI keyboard controller (Roland PC-180), and I am considering getting a better keyboard and trying to learn to increase my keyboard skills rather than just plunking about.

As a musician and gearhead I can figure out most of the features I want/need, but in there is one characteristic that I don’t know how to decide: what kind of key action.

Every piece of advice I have found online says learn on weighted (hammer?) action, and better yet graded action, because otherwise you won’t be able to play a real piano. There is also a suggestion that weighted action will cause you to develop better finger strength.

But here’s the thing: The odds of me ever wanting (much less needing) to play a real piano are very, very small. I don’t care if I can play a real piano. There is a good chance that whatever keyboard I buy will be the only keyboard I will play, unless miraculously it somehow turns out that I am a natural pianist and never should have picked up the stupid guitar. eek

Given my goals, what would you say the pros and cons of different kinds of keyboard action would be? What kind of action is likely to be most useful to me in improving my keyboard skills with the least effort and frustration? Will semi-weighted be pretty much the same as my cheap midi controller? Also, which is most versatile? Is it “better” to try to play organs and synths with a weighted keyboard, or “better” to try to play piano sounds with a semi-weighted keyboard?

And, if the answer is to get a weighted keyboard, is there any reason to want a graded action (remembering that I am unlikely to play a real piano, ever)? Would I be correct in believing I would want a lighter action?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me!

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Originally Posted by PDXguy
I am considering getting a better keyboard...

Better in what sense?

What limitations of the PC-180 are bothering you?

Originally Posted by PDXguy
...and trying to learn to increase my keyboard skills rather than just plunking about.

Do you have an idea what kind fof playing styles you'd like to explore?

Originally Posted by PDXguy
I don’t care if I can play a real piano.

I don't have an answer but one interesting question is -- assuming complete self-learning -- is it easier to hurt yourself with bad technique on a weighted keyboard.

Probably a lighter action is better for organ and synth style playing.

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FWIW (this is a contentious topic) --

i grew up with a baby grand, and quit playing (or owning a keyboard) for decades.

I picked up a used Korg X5D (low-priced cousin of the M1, with synth-action keys), and started playing on it. I realized that I needed to get back some dynamic control, and started to concentrate on playing evenly,

. . . and realized that, if I practiced consistently on that keyboard, I would destroy my memory of the feel of the baby grand.

So I got my PX-350, with weighted keys. I found that dynamic control -- evenness of touch, and control of pp/p/f/ff -- was considerably easier on the PX-350, than on the Korg X5D.

. . .I can't give you any good reasons for using weighted keys, except for that.

A salesman mentioned that some people found the PX-x50 keyboard slow. I said that might be true, but it was faster than my fingers. I think that's true of any decent keyboard, synth-action or weighted.

There is an experienced teacher here -- Morodiene -- who once wrote that her students who had synth-action keyboards tended to quit lessons, those with weighted keys tended to continue studying. That might be another reason to go with weighted keys.


. Charles
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Quote
Better in what sense?

LOL I'm a guitarist - I was hoping y'all could tell me!

Quote
What limitations of the PC-180 are bothering you?

Most importantly: It is a controller only, so there is no way to listen to what I am playing except via the computer, and latency can be a problem in some scenarios. 49 keys - it feels a little cramped. Keys feel very plastic-y and toy-like.

Quote
Do you have an idea what kind fof playing styles you'd like to explore?

Pop/rock, funk, maybe some ballad-y stuff.

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Just go to a big store and try different ones. I think hammer actions just feel better mostly, though they're not perfect for organ and synth stuff. Mind both hammer and synth actions are far from all the same. "Weighted" may sometimes mean weights in keys without hammers.
Cheapo short keys are too light at tips but quite heavy at the fallboard.

Lighter (literally) actions are more convenient for carrying around, synth actions start at 4 kg but hammer actions at 10kg (the better slabs 17-35 kg).

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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
FWIW (this is a contentious topic) --

i grew up with a baby grand, and quit playing (or owning a keyboard) for decades.

I picked up a used Korg X5D (low-priced cousin of the M1, with synth-action keys), and started playing on it. I realized that I needed to get back some dynamic control, and started to concentrate on playing evenly,

. . . and realized that, if I practiced consistently on that keyboard, I would destroy my memory of the feel of the baby grand.

So I got my PX-350, with weighted keys. I found that dynamic control -- evenness of touch, and control of pp/p/f/ff -- was considerably easier on the PX-350, than on the Korg X5D.

. . .I can't give you any good reasons for using weighted keys, except for that.

A salesman mentioned that some people found the PX-x50 keyboard slow. I said that might be true, but it was faster than my fingers. I think that's true of any decent keyboard, synth-action or weighted.

There is an experienced teacher here -- Morodiene -- who once wrote that her students who had synth-action keyboards tended to quit lessons, those with weighted keys tended to continue studying. That might be another reason to go with weighted keys.

Thanks. I wouldn't have known or guessed about the dynamic touch thing. Also interesting that students with synth-action keyboards tend to quit. Cause/effect? or not? I do know that I don't like the toy-like feel of the controller I have.

So if the feel of the keyboard is important to, let's say, bonding with the instrument - which makes sense - I wonder if that is something I would feel myself at this point, or if my lack of education and experience means that whatever feels good now wouldn't feel good when I had more experience.

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FWIW --

I think the minimum desirable keyboard size, for two-handed playing, is 61 keys. 73 is better, probably adequate for most pop/jazz stuff. 88 is standard acoustic piano.

One other consideration -- there's a thread running here, started by someone who wanted a weighted, less-than-88-keys keyboard. The selection is limited.


Not all synth-action keyboards are created equal. My Roland Gaia has 37 synth-action keys, and they're full-size, solidly built IMHO. I don't know what actions are used in what controllers, and I don't know if the makers specify it in their product descriptions.


. Charles
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Piano plays best from a hammer action, organ plays best from a non-hammer action.

It is possible to play organ on a hammer action, but it is more difficult (and depending on the particular action, arguably impossible) to play organ well on a non-hammer action, beyond relatively simple parts.

It is possible to play piano on a non-hammer action, but it is more difficult (and depending on the particular action, arguably impossible) to play piano well on a non-hammer action.

Since you're coming at this from guitar, this may be the best analogy: What would you tell a budding guitarist who asks you whether s/he should get an acoustic guitar or an electric? The hammer action is more like the acoustic, the non-hammer action is more like the electric. And similarly, one can conceivably play acoustic parts on the electric or vice versa, but once you get beyond simple stuff, you'll really wish you had the right kind of instrument for the task at hand.

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Just get yourself midi keyboard and plugin it to PC. Using VST's gibes you a lot of possibilities in question of genres.

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You forgot to mention:

a) budget?
b) will it be stationary use only? or do you need to move it to a stage or training room?
c) do you mind fiddling with PC/software? (answered above)
d) do you want a multitude of sounds? (answered above)
e) how about accompaniment?
f) heavy interest in classical pieces? (apparently no)

The hammer action is necessary because it gives you tactile feedback and more control, I'd say. And it just doesn't feel as cheap. Because you aren't focused on classical stuff, you can live with pretty much any hammer action I guess, and the graded weighting is probably overkill for you. A cheap but decent keyboard with sounds would be Yamaha P-45. Roland RD2000 is probably better in terms of sounds. I heard many good things about Kawai MP7SE. If you need accompaniment, maybe go with an entertainer keyboard. If you care about a really good but still affordable hammer action, buy mine (MP11SE). But stick with the big makes. Otherwise you might end up not getting your stuff repaired after a few years down the road.

Last edited by Marc345; 11/30/21 07:17 AM.

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I agree, with the post above, graded is not important.

And also--too late to edit--hopefully this was clear from context, but this part...

Originally Posted by anotherscott
It is possible to play organ on a hammer action, but it is more difficult (and depending on the particular action, arguably impossible) to play organ well on a non-hammer action, beyond relatively simple parts.

was supposed to say...

Originally Posted by anotherscott
It is possible to play organ on a hammer action, but it is more difficult (and depending on the particular action, arguably impossible) to play organ well on a hammer action, beyond relatively simple parts.

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was supposed to say...

Originally Posted by anotherscott
It is possible to play organ on a hammer action, but it is more difficult (and depending on the particular action, arguably impossible) to play organ well on a hammer action, beyond relatively simple parts.
[/quote]

We all figured that... wink


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Originally Posted by anotherscott
Since you're coming at this from guitar, this may be the best analogy: What would you tell a budding guitarist who asks you whether s/he should get an acoustic guitar or an electric? The hammer action is more like the acoustic, the non-hammer action is more like the electric. And similarly, one can conceivably play acoustic parts on the electric or vice versa, but once you get beyond simple stuff, you'll really wish you had the right kind of instrument for the task at hand.

You know, I have been thinking about this, and the advice I am looking for is comparable to what I would give to a keyboard player wanting to pick up guitar. And what I would tell them is, if they eventually want to be able to play both acoustic and electric I would start with electric because it is physically easier to play and therefore will be less frustrating to get started on.

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Originally Posted by PDXguy
Originally Posted by anotherscott
Since you're coming at this from guitar, this may be the best analogy: What would you tell a budding guitarist who asks you whether s/he should get an acoustic guitar or an electric? The hammer action is more like the acoustic, the non-hammer action is more like the electric. And similarly, one can conceivably play acoustic parts on the electric or vice versa, but once you get beyond simple stuff, you'll really wish you had the right kind of instrument for the task at hand.

You know, I have been thinking about this, and the advice I am looking for is comparable to what I would give to a keyboard player wanting to pick up guitar. And what I would tell them is, if they eventually want to be able to play both acoustic and electric I would start with electric because it is physically easier to play and therefore will be less frustrating to get started on.

+1


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I don’t see how the acoustic electric guitar applies to hammer action versus semi weighted keyboards.

Either is easy to play.

The hammer action is easier to control the dynamics of the sound and I would prefer for playing piano or electric piano.

The semi weighted keys are easier to play fast so i would prefer for organ or synth,

There is usually a difference in piano keys have a lip and the semi weighted are normally waterfall keys, without that lip. There are apparently some techniques that involve using the palm against the edge of the key on organs and the like.

There are some hammer action or weighted keyboards that are not high on the list of piano realism which are more jack of all trades.

Personally I would get the best hammer action keyboard you can afford and like.

Later if you want to play synths or organs and get serious, add another keyboard.

Good luck!


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Originally Posted by Purdy
I don’t see how the acoustic electric guitar applies to hammer action versus semi weighted keyboards.

Either is easy to play.
You wouldn't be the first to misunderstand one of my attempts at analogies. ;-) But I think we are making a similar point. Acoustic vs. electric guitar, hammer vs. non-hammer action, neither is about one being inherently easier to play than the other. Rather, the question of which is "better" depends on what it is you're trying to do. Either can be easier or harder than the other, depending on the goal. Similarly...

Originally Posted by PDXguy
what I would tell them is, if they eventually want to be able to play both acoustic and electric I would start with electric because it is physically easier to play
And yet, there are people who can play acoustic guitar well, but play electric guitar badly! Which again get back to neither one being easier to play, but each being better suited for certain purposes. The electric may be, as you put it, physically easier to play (i.e. requiring less finger strength), but for some kinds of things, it can still be harder to get a musically satisying performance out of. Similarly, a non-hammer board may require less finger strength than a hammer action board, but that doesn't make it easier to play "piano" on. The non-hammer boards are harder for this purpose because of more difficult dynamic control (and also because it can be easier to make bad notes sound just by brushing by them on the way to the right notes). Certainly some non-hammer boards are better for piano than others, but it's always a compromise when it comes to piano.

This doesn't mean I'm suggesting that the OP should definitely get a hammer action board, because his piano goals may be relatively small and/or may not be the priority compared to the other things he wants to use the keyboard for.


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