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I'd like to buy a keyboard instrument with a piano touch, 88 keys, and a midi output, and otherwise extremely minimal features (no built-in speakers or sound synthesis, etc.).

I'm hoping this will allow me to experiment with different sounds over the lifetime of the keyboard rather than being locked in with the sounds that are normally built in to a digital piano. By moving the sound production out of the keyboard, I expect it would also be lighter and easier to transport (several smaller components instead of one large keyboard).

Are there keyboards like this available? How would I go about finding a keyboard with these features? Are there any good resources relevant to midi and keyboards to help me learn more?

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marked as duplicate by American Luke, Wheat Williams, Jason W, Anthony, luser droog Nov 5 '13 at 18:34

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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The answer is the same as the one you asked before. You need to go to a music store and test out the keyboards and see what you like and what options are available. Then if you really want you can try to find the one with all the features you desire online, but it may not be what you want. –  Dom Nov 4 '13 at 21:49
    
I feel that this question is different because that question asked if such a keyboard is a good idea, whereas this question asks if such a keyboard is available and how to go about finding such a keyboard. –  David Winiecki Nov 5 '13 at 6:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It is possible that you are making a couple of incorrect assumptions. Let's check it out.

First, you said "I'm hoping this will allow me to experiment with different sounds over the lifetime of the keyboard rather than being locked in with the sounds that are normally built in to a digital piano."

Having built-in sounds will not restrict you. Most stage pianos can work with either internal sounds or with external sounds using MIDI. The external sounds can be a hardware synthesizer module or a soft synth running on a computer.

In that regard a keyboard with internal sounds is more flexible than a keyboard without sounds.

You said that "By moving the sound production out of the keyboard, I expect it would also be lighter and easier to transport (several smaller components instead of one large keyboard)."

The heavy part of the keyboard is the piano action. A true 88 key hammer action may weigh 40 -60 lbs. That is heavy.

The built-in sounds are just a circuit board that adds no weight. But if you carry a separate sound module or a laptop you are adding both weight and several cables to the mix.

In many cases you will be better off with a keyboard that has sounds in it. When you are in your studio, you can use a computer for the sounds but when you are transporting the keyboard you can use the internal sounds and save a lot of hassle.

As far as speakers are concerned, you also have the opportunity to bypass them in the studio and use them on the road. I have a keyboard which has speakers in it. They are fine for a small room and casual use. When I am playing in other venues I hook up external speakers as I do in my studio.

Decent speakers can be quite heavy. In the studio I use near field monitors. When I am gigging I use a heavy duty amp and speakers that in sum add about 100 lbs.

However, when I play at a friends house or informally, I use a keyboard with built-in speakers. At first I didn't want them but now I am glad that I have them.I can just pop the keyboard into the trunk and go. Much easier.

If you are not a very experienced pianist and don't require the nuances of a fully-weighted piano action, there have recently been a number of excellent keyboards that have excellent touch without a fully-weighted action. These keyboards weight around 20 lbs so are really portable. Casio and Yamaha make keyboards like this and they are worth a look. Check out the reviews in Electronic Musician and Keyboard magazines.

Wheat Williams suggests you need a "a three-pedal foot controller with half-pedal action." This is nice to have but you may be fine with a single damper pedal. That's a lot lighter and unless you use the other two pedals (I rarely do) it's just fine. You will find there are some nice ones that look and function like acoustic piano pedals and others that are just foot switches. I strongly recommend the former. Make certain that the pedal matches the keyboard you select. Yamaha uses different polarity from other keyboard manufacturers so look at the specs carefully. Some pedals have switchable polarity.

So think about how you will use the keyboard. If you never take it with you, you don't need internal sounds or integral speakers. But if you do, you many want to consider them. Keyboards and MIDI are flexible and you can use or ignore internal sounds and speakers as the situation dictates.

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You want a MIDI controller keyboard, interfaced to a computer, and running virtual instrument software on the computer.

First you need a MIDI controller keyboard with 88 keys and piano-weighted action, and a three-pedal foot controller with half-pedal action.

There are many on the market, by many manufacturers. Here is a list of some models for sale at Sweetwater.com in the US.

Then you need several other components:

  • A suitably fast computer
  • A fast external hard drive
  • An external audio interface
  • High-quality stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers and possibly a subwoofer
  • Suitable virtual instrument piano software
  • Suitable virtual instrument software for making other kinds of instrument sounds, such as those of other acoustic instruments and of synthesizer sounds

See this answer:

Recommendation for a computer-based virtual instrument for an acoustic piano sound

Since, by going this route, you will need to purchase several components, you must visit local music stores and learn about what they sell.

On this site, we are not equipped to give you numerous recommendations on so many different components, such as the vast array of virtual instrument software, hardware audio interfaces, hard drives, speakers and amplifiers, etc. This site, as its title suggests, is for questions about learning to play instruments, and learning about making music. If you need extensive recommendations for numerous components of a digital music-making system, you should look to other sites.

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I will try to stay more focused on the intended topic of this site from now on. –  David Winiecki Nov 5 '13 at 6:24

The same question was pondering me for almost 6 months until I have made my final purchase decision.

At the end it came down to deciding between the three models:

  • Roland A-88
  • Kawai VPC-1
  • Akai MPK-88

My requirements were as follows:

  • Should not be as minimal as possible, but wanted pitch/bend and at least a knob/slider for volume control.
  • Budget considerations (< 1k Euro).
  • Good build quality.

At the end, I have bought the Roland A-88. Why? The Kawai was too minimalistic and above 1000 Euro. The Akai was too overloaded with controls for my taste. I know myself ... I would not practice my piano routines but rather playing around with all those pads, sliders and knobs.

That would have been enough to decide basically, but the most important is to get a feel for the key action before you buy anything. I could only test the Roland in a shop and loved it the very first moment. This is very subjective no one can give you a recommendation for.

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