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Old April 11th, 2007, 01:24 PM   #1
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Good midi keyboard for orchestra scoring

Anyone has any good recommendation on a midi keyboard? looking to score some documentaries and shorts with orchestra sound.

How many keys minimum for the above requirement ? Do i really need "Velocity" and "aftertouch" ? I felt those are important in an "orchestra score".

Most catalog lists the M audio series. I dont mind spending a bit more for a good quality keyboard. Since the selection is limited for "midi keyboard" should i even look at the pricier synths ?

Thanks again guys
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Old April 11th, 2007, 01:43 PM   #2
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Hi Jason,

I have the m series 88 key pro. When it comes to orchestra, you def want velocity and hammer action as well as full range control. there are more pricier controllers, however, m audio has the best bang for your buck. I have virtual instrument for my orchestra kit, which allows me more control on the sound.

hope this helps
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Old April 11th, 2007, 03:36 PM   #3
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I'm taking a professional orchestration class over at the http://vi-control.net forum. One of the first things we did was test how responsive our keyboards were. The clear winner was the Yamaha S90/S90ES http://yamaha.com/yamahavgn/CDA/Cont...206500,00.html

I don't own one (I have a Kurzweil PC88 with Fatar guts), so I can't comment from personal experience, but a number of composers whom I highly respect have given the S90 top marks in head to head to head tests. The S90 is said to have great feel, a fast response, nice consistency and linear control.

You DEFINITELY need good velocity control. Some keyboards don't cover the full range or skip values. It's good to be able to control sensitivity as well - sometimes a piece is played pp and at other times ff, so setting sensitivity can make those phrases more comfortable to play.

Expression is really the key to a good orchestral performance. Your controller should have inputs for an expression pedal, a good mod-wheel and some faders.

Aftertouch isn't all that important. I've read polls at composer's sites, such as Northern Sounds, and I would guess that less than 20% like using aftertouch. I don't. It's not controllable enough, and few libraries implement it. Also aftertouch is implemented per channel, rather than per key in virtually every keyboard available today.

88-keys isn't absolutely required - if you can switch octaves - but I recommend it. Some libraries always code their keyswitches around C0. This can be a problem for small keyboards if you expect to trigger keyswitches while playing the piccolo.

So... which libraries and which sampler do you plan to use?
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Old April 11th, 2007, 04:00 PM   #4
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Jon,

I am building my system from scratch this summer. I am shopping for audio interface, a mackie control surface, condensor mic, preamp ..... the whole shebang.

RIght now i am researching on midi keyboards but i do not see yamaha, roland or korg offering them anymore. The reputable guys above seems to offer synths which can be more than what i want to spend (over $2000).

I plan to just do some scoring for documentaries and some film shorts. While doing my research I am currently looking at the HaLion Symphonic Orchestra software.
http://www.steinberg.net/687_1.html

and since i am looking at MOTU audio interface, i might be using their MachFive Sampler but i am not sure yet as nothing is being finalized. I kinda wanna wait and see what NAB has to offer before spending the cash.

Jon, any good synths or midi keyboard under $1000 that you know of ??
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Old April 11th, 2007, 07:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Strongfield View Post
While doing my research I am currently looking at the HaLion Symphonic Orchestra software.
Halion is a solid sampler, but doesn't have the features that some others have. I don't know much about MachFive.

Here are some *really* quick reviews:

Tascam's GigaStudio3 (GS3) - I use GS3. Giga was the first big software sampler. There are lots of libs for it. It's PC only, and is picky (runs in kernel mode, like a driver), so many people run it on its own machine.

Tascam's GVI - This runs all of the GS3 libs, is simpler and runs in application mode. It's solid. A Mac version is planned. Tascam's NAB booth is usually not far from Apple's.

Native Instruments' Kontakt 2 (K2) - Many recent libs are written for K2. The main claim to fame is MIDI scripting that provides enhanced playability. PC & Mac.

E-MU's X2 - I got a copy very recently, but have yet to install it. I'll know more soon. PC only.

There are also many orchestral packages that come with their own players.

Vienna Symphonic Library (VSL) - Top quality, top price. They have a stripped down version in the hundreds. A full setup is thousands. Recorded dry, so you need a good reverb and mixing skills.

EWQL's Symphonic Orchestra - Just introduced their PLAY sample player. Recorded wet, which has pros and cons. Very "Hollywood". Not cheap.

Garritan's GPO - Inexpensive. Some love it, others don't. Lightweight, but expressive. More of a classical than a Hollywood sound. Uses the Kontakt player. A Garritan player is under development.

You can also roll your own with a sampler, such as GS3/GVI. Project SAM has great brass & percussion. Westgate Studios has great woodwinds. I have VSL's Appassionata Strings as well as EWQL's Voices of the Apocalypse and BelaDMedia's Giovani Children's Choir.

Quote:
Jon, any good synths or midi keyboard under $1000 that you know of ??
I've had my PC88 for at least twelve years, and haven't gone ivory shopping since. I wonder what they fetch on eBay?

All the best...
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Old April 11th, 2007, 09:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
I've had my PC88 for at least twelve years, and haven't gone ivory shopping since.
Would you believe I still have my Yamaha DX7IIFD? A few years ago, I modernized with a Yamaha Motif ES7. I prefer the non-weighted keys so the ES8 was out.

The Motif ES was the flagship for the past few years, but Yamaha intro'd a new model at Winter NAMM. Still, the onboard effects processing, even for the audio in, allowed me to perform live with my guitar running through it. That saves on what precious little on stage space there is in most clubs.

The Motif ES has a performance (up to four grouped voices) called Dynasty that is a killer orchestra ensemble. Different instruments brought in by keyboard split and key velocity.

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Old April 12th, 2007, 12:01 AM   #7
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Hey, the DX7 is a classic! I would have kept my Roland Juno 60, except it didn't include MIDI. Both are '80s classics!
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Old April 12th, 2007, 12:20 AM   #8
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guys what the minimum keys that you would look for in an "orchestra keyboard" ? If i an get away from not needing 88 keys, i would prefer to get a smaller keyboard.
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Old April 12th, 2007, 12:41 AM   #9
 
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In my studio, while I have everything from a KX88 to an old Prophet, they all sit in a closet or wired but hidden in a cooling room once used for HDD arrays.
I mostly use a Radiance. Cheap, small, but not weighted. I travel with an Oxygen8 and love it to death. that's too small to do any real work, but great for carrying in a backpack.
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Old April 12th, 2007, 01:47 AM   #10
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For my work, I think 49 would be the bare minimum. A lot of instruments cover more than three octaves, and you want extra keys for keyswitches and to allow for transpositions. I'm glad I have 88 though. I've got harps and percussion instruments that use way more than three octaves of keys, not to mention the 88-key piano patch.

So, I guess 49 would be my minimum. By the time you get over 60, you might as well get all 88, unless it doesn't fit in the room. For travel you could get something smaller, but I'd get that in addition to the studio controller, if you spend time on the road.
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Old April 12th, 2007, 06:10 AM   #11
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As Jon alluded to, for orchestral scoring you need to consider that you may need an octave or two dedicated to keyswitches in order to change articulations on the fly.

Personally, I use a Korg Triton Studio (61 keys/5 octaves) for performance, with an Oxygen 8 dedicated to controller and keyswitch functions. I've always been a fan of Korg keyboards - not only the sounds which are very solid but the feel of their semi-weighted keyboards is very good compared to most. For a lot of things (drums, percussion and lightning fast runs etc.) fully weighted/piano style keys aren't that great to program/perform with.

If I was buying an orchestral instrument right now I wouldn't hesitate to go for the new Special Edition Vienna Instrument from VSL. I purchased the full library about eight months ago and now they have released all the key articulations from even more instruments for a ridiculous price - suddenly I don't feel too well!

As far as samplers go, Kontakt 2 is one of the most versatile and well-catered for in terms of sound libraries. But it may depend very much on your hardware and main music software as to what you go with - don't even think about running Halion on a Mac within Logic - I've been there having switched from Cubase a couple of years ago. I've now had to convert my whole Halion library as, despite the fact that Steinberg released an AU version, it just won't play ball with Logic - even within other wrappers etc.

Happy shopping!

Colin
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Old April 12th, 2007, 06:33 AM   #12
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I'm still using a Roland A90EX as my main keys. It's got all the controls I need. For orchestral arrangements I use Symphonic Orchestra from East/West. You'd be wise to dedicate a computer to this though, 'cause it takes a lot of CPU power. But as far as a midi controller for orchestral work, the least I'd use would be a 76-key keyboard.
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Old April 13th, 2007, 09:32 AM   #13
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What do you guys think of this Yamaha S08 keyboard ??

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/S08/

thanks again
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Old April 13th, 2007, 01:07 PM   #14
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The S08 looks like it might be a good value. My only concerns would be these:

* The action. I'd compare it to the S90 as a reference. Ideally, it would have a similar action, if not the same mechanism. At worst, they went as cheap as possible. The reality is probably somewhere in between.

* No faders. It has a pitch bend and mod wheel, but lately I've been using one or two additional fader controls.

* Only one jack for an expression foot controller. Two would be better, if you ever want to add a wind controller or something to make up for the lack of faders.

* No aftertouch. I don't tend to use it, but if you ever want a library programmed for aftertouch, you might have to do some programming.

Of course, you could get a sidecar that offers more faders and controls, but that ruins the value proposition.

Personally, I'm disappointed that they skipped these few features. It coulda been great.

You might consider ebay or craigslist. I recently had my Kurzweil PC88 refurbished with a brand new mechanism and battery for just over a couple hundred bucks. (One of the weights had broken, and many keys were squeeking.) It was like a brand new keyboard after the fix.
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Old April 13th, 2007, 03:28 PM   #15
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Since i have a Mac Pro, and i heard motu is great with the Mac, i am going with the motu 828 mkii interface.

Would you guys prefer Digital Performer 5 or Logi Pro 7 ?? MY editing suite is Final Cut Studio. Also i plan to use the Mackie Control Pro audio interface.
And i plan to have the video on screen while composing the orchestra score.
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