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New Keyboard

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New Keyboard

Postby Savannah_Alan » Mon 21 Jan 2008 20:08 GMT

I recently purchased a new keyboard with a view to returning to playing out after a long hiatus.

I must say that these things have come a very long way since I was last involved with selling them.
The main focus of this thing (being an arranger keyboard) is that you hold down chord "shapes" in the left hand and the keyboard produces an accompaniment in the selected style of music. In some ways similar to how a right-handed guitarist would hold down the strings with his left hand to produce the chords. This leaves your right hand to play melody or further accompaniment.

Being a musical purist, I always used to frown on these things - I hated the fact that things were going on that you didn't actually play. That was until some years ago, I head a good friend of mine - who was an excellent keyboard player - playing one. That one listen showed me there was still room to shine and show great musicianship on top of the "auto accompaniment".

Anyway, the point of my post is just how great these things can sound now. Whenever I bought one of these before, I always somehow felt some "buyer's remorse" after a short while because, after the initial impact, they left me feeling a little flat.

I have had this thing for quite a few weeks now and I still haven't explored the limits of what this thing can do - and I'm still extremely impressed with the versatility and the overall sound.
You can play it as an arranger keyboard, you can turn everything off and play it as a straight piano, it has a built-in sequencer (finally with unlimited storage because it can now read/write to memory card, usb drive - or even an external hard drive), you can create your own styles of accompaniment should the excellent quality built-in ones wear on you. This thing even connects to the Internet!

As to the more "silly" stuff, it can display the score of anything you play (proper sheet music), it has (and here's the embarrassing part) karaoke facility that will show the usual bouncing ball over the lyrics. It will even wait until you sing the correct note before it continues playing!

For those of us that have less than outstanding voices (that definitely includes me), it has a microphone input and great digital processing of the voice.
Here is the really amazing part: if you connect a mic to it, you can select from a wide range of vocal harmony. Recently, I played "Lil' Darling", sang into the mic and out came a full big band with the Andrews sisters! It will take the note you sing, gender change if you want and reproduces what you're singing in harmony with yourself. It is really quite convincing. Of course, that's an extreme example, but it really "fattens" up the voice if you just select a second harmony voice (boy or girl).

It actually has come to the point now where I think I'd feel a little embarrassed producing such a big sound from one "bod" and a keyboard.

I'm not really sure what the point of this post is - except to enthuse about how far they have come :lol:. I suppose we have to embrace the new technology. There's still a little nagging feeling of "cheating" - producing such a huge sound with just little ol' me, but I'm trying to get over it :wink:.

Some sound samples
Last edited by Savannah_Alan on Tue 22 Jan 2008 02:11 GMT, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Graeme » Tue 22 Jan 2008 01:24 GMT

Very nice, I had some fun listening to the different tunes, amazing they can produce all that from one instrument.

Graeme :)
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Postby ruggie » Thu 6 Mar 2008 19:01 GMT

It does allow a competent soloist to take on a dance gig at a competitive price and make a decent profit.

I went to a local do here the other day - one competent accordionist, playing a wide variety of music (and sometimes singing). Sometimes he played the keyboard rather than the accordion.

A week later, a more expensive do hired a 3-piece band, which was more exciting because the players were showmen as well as musicians.

- leader was an attractive and lively woman accordionist and singer, who occasionally just played tambourine and egged the others on

- trumpeter also played rhythm guitar

- another guy was an expert player of a multi-voiced accordion (I doubt if the girl could have carried it!) with great skill, and keyboard. He produced the body of the sound, in many different styles.

One question: what makes live music (other than 1950s 'strict tempo' Victir Sylvester stuff) better than basic automated rhythm sections is subtle variations in timing. If you want to create a custom sound of your own, can you make it swing? (You, not me - I drag the beat most of the time :cry: )
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Postby Savannah_Alan » Thu 6 Mar 2008 22:43 GMT

What they do now to create the styles is to record session musicians playing say, eight bar phrases/accompaniment with midi instruments, then turn that into a style. That makes it as live sounding as it can get because there's no quantising going on.
They also record subtly different accompaniment for all the major (no pun intended) chord groups so that as you naturally change from, say, a minor seventh to a dominant seventh, the accompaniment subtly changes.

What is really nice about the newer keyboards is that the chord recognition is getting better. It takes a bit of callisthenics in the left hand, but I can coax this thing to play Minor ninth's, thirteenth's, minor-major seventh flattened fifths etc...
It used to be that you were pretty much stuck with basic Major, Minor and Seventh chords. It helps to be able to create the extended dominants now.

Of course, you can also create your own styles by recording the backing yourself.
Having said all that, there's still no substitute for a bunch of people playing single instruments.

Anyway, better go now. I've got to go and play bass with a band up the road. I haven't played bass in so long, all the callouses have gone from my fingers. I'll be sore tonight :lol:.
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Postby Dave » Mon 10 Mar 2008 17:23 GMT

Savannah_Alan wrote:What they do now to create the styles is to record session musicians playing say, eight bar phrases/accompaniment with midi instruments, then turn that into a style.


Sounds like a Mellotron with knobs on, only without all the problems of tapes snarling up :wink:

How did your bass session go? Fingers recovered yet? (Of course if they haven't, you maybe won't be able to type an answer... :shock: )
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Postby Savannah_Alan » Mon 10 Mar 2008 20:18 GMT

It was awful Dave. Thanks for asking. It was just a "get together" with a view to working with their band.
I had zero time to prepare, so I just printed out the bass part for a few of their songs and went with them. I sight read the bass on these songs, which went well. They then presented me with a list of some obscure heavy rock songs I'd never heard of.

I said: "no, not heard of any of them, but no problem, if you've got the music, I'll work off that...." No music.
"OK, do you have the chords written down?"
"No"
"OK, don't worry, I'll just busk. What key is this in?"
(Looking confusedly at his guitar:) "... Err, dunno..." :roll:
At this point, the drummer, who I can tell is getting a little huffy now, says: "OK, we were looking for somebody that grew up with sort of stuff and knows the songs, this isn't going to work."
"Agreed", I said, "although I don't have to know the songs - that's why I read."

I then got a keyboard out and played with them for about an hour (by ear), at the end of which they said: "Wow, that's the best we've ever sounded. Wanna play keyboard with us?"

"Nope. See ya..." :lol:.

I'm about ready to give up on finding any musicians or singers of any competence round here. I had a singer come round on Saturday - who had led me to believe she had done lots of work before and knew a lot of the standards. That was embarrassingly awful as well :(. Now I need to find a diplomatic way to get out of that one. She's keen as mustard.

I honestly don't expect everybody to read music - there are some fine musicians out there that don't read a note, it's just that NOBODY seems to have any technical knowledge at all. Increasingly, I'm finding myself feeling like the odd one out and almost apologising for doing things the old-fashioned way.
I've got a pretty good ear, so can busk away by ear if needed, but why memorise some obscure song when I can just write it down?
Isn't that why songs are called "numbers"? The band leader calls out a "number", everybody turns to that page and goes.

I'm thinking I just need to work solo.

Alan.
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Postby Kay » Mon 10 Mar 2008 20:34 GMT

After those experiences you might well be better off working solo, Alan. More money for you too if the gig isn't split so many ways. Once you have a good reputation in the area, the right partner(s) might come along too, if that's what you want. Good luck!
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Postby Dave » Tue 11 Mar 2008 03:28 GMT

Sounds excruciating, Alan. It really does seem as if solo is the way to go for now, at least. Best of luck with it!
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Postby ruggie » Thu 24 Apr 2008 17:35 GMT

Go solo. Once a year (or less) someone may turn up at a gig and ask if they can join in...
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Postby Savannah_Alan » Thu 24 Apr 2008 22:38 GMT

^ I used to hate that when someone came up to perform. Almost invariably, they were awful. Then, when they were messing up they'd make a big show of turning round and giving dirty looks to the band - like it's their fault :roll:.
I even had one person trying to sing say over the mic: "the band can't follow me." :evil:.

Talking of trying to sing :lol:. I've added another song to my MySpace page (song four).
I heard this song for the first time last week and really loved it. Apparently, it's from "The Princess Diaries". Anyway, this one isn't using any of the "automatics" at all. Everything was played the old-fashioned way into a multi-track recorder. Still not happy with the mix, but I do love that song :D.
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Postby ruggie » Thu 8 May 2008 13:56 GMT

Nice song. Like you say, the balance needs tweaking. Also, the voice recording ambience is different from the instrumental stuff - can you ad just a tiny bit of echo/reverberation to the voice to make it sound less like the single mike in a dead room that it feels like to me? 'Your Song' is much better in this respect.
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Postby Savannah_Alan » Thu 8 May 2008 15:55 GMT

Do you mean a tiny bit of echo/reverb as in it needs less than it has, or more?

Actually, I think the biggest problem is that the music has a lot of very subtle characteristics - mostly strings - that sound great here, but seem to get lost in the recording. The strings are a bit too subtle in the recording.
The whole instrumental side of the recording is an exercise in "less is more", but that seems to just come out as "less" in the mix :lol:.

I'm finding that the songs that have a lot going on instrumentally (like Your Song) are easier to record. Songs such as this new one that have a lot more space and subtlety to them seem to require a very high quality recording, or you lose the "class" of them.

I remember now that I used an external computer to multi-track the music. I could go back and adjust the mix there. Mostly getting those strings a bit more prominent. That would mean doing the whole thing over. Maybe when I've got some spare time...

Thanks for the comments Mike.

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Postby ruggie » Fri 9 May 2008 11:27 GMT

For me, both strings and voice are slightly overpowered by the other track(s), although the strings are the section that is most obviously low volume.

But I think it's more than the relative volume of the voice track that makes it sound a bit 'dead'. The voice track is a recording, whereas the others are generated, and I think it's the characteristics of the room in which the voice was recorded that cause what I hear. To use a Gimp/Photoshop analogy, it's a bit like pasting in an image taken at a different colour temperature from the main picture. I'm not a sound technician, so I may be wrong...

Does anyone else get the same impression? My Song sounds like a pro studio recording, but the new song doesn't, and I think the volume of the strings track is not the only problem, although it is the most obvious one.
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