Advice for a general purpose newbie?

A forum for discussing the pros & cons of buying a particular synth and for advice on buying synthesizers.
crazybilly
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:12 pm

Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by crazybilly » Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:23 pm

I'm a guitar and banjo player, primarily at church (doing pop/Christian rock stuff). I've been thinking about getting a keyboard (synth?) a teaching myself to play a little bit--I mostly want to be able to cover the sort sweeping pads/strings sounds that the piano players don't seem to want to do.

At the same time, I'd like to pick up at least a vague ability to play piano and organ-y type stuff as well, to be able to cover those sounds if I want. And to be able to cover the bass parts when our bassist gets called into work at 5 am on a Sunday morning.

Because I don't know if this is something I'm really going to throw myself into yet, I hate to spend too much more than $200 at this point in the game, maybe $300 at the very top. I'm not at all opposed to buying used--quite the opposite really, I much prefer to let somebody else pay to drive it off the lot. And cutting edge features, etc, aren't necessary either (although I think MIDI in/out would be a good idea--I don't have any plans to use it, but you just never know).

I really want something that's flexible, covers a lot of ground soundwise, but where I can focus on actually learning to play, rather than turning knobs (not that there's anything wrong with that--it's just not where I want to put my energy YET). I thought about just borrowing the Alesis QS6 they have at church, but it's ginormous and heavy and I don't feel like schlepping it back and forth every week, just so I can have something at home to practice on.

I was looking at the microKorg--it seems like it comes close to fitting the bill (price point, size, flexibility) except I'm not sure that getting something that, by definition, doesn't have any sort piano sound (or percussion?) is a good idea. Other suggestions I should look at?

crazybilly
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:12 pm

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by crazybilly » Mon Jul 31, 2017 11:11 pm

Just watched a bunch of Alesis Micron videos...that looks pretty promising too. But maybe there's another category of thing that I'm not aware of?

commodorejohn
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1564
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:39 am
Real name: John
Gear: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, Oberheim SEM
Location: Sacramento, CA
Contact:

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by commodorejohn » Tue Aug 01, 2017 12:44 am

If you keep an eye out on your local Craigslist, you might be able to score a Yamaha DX7 for $200-300. They're reliable, have an excellent keybed (good for learning to play on,) sound good, and can cover a wide range of sonic territory, including some decent organ and piano sounds, as well as some truly superb basses. Pad/string sounds are also doable, although it's not as good at them as, say, the Roland D-50 or the Korg M1. The main downside is that the on-board voice editing is tedious, but that's unfortunately going to be true of most anything in your budget range - and you at least have zillions of patches available to choose from to start with.

You can also get a Korg X5/X5D off eBay for about that amount - that's a later synth in the Korg AI² series (the successor to the M1) which covers all the sonic bases you discussed pretty nicely - but the downside is that the keybed is pretty cheap and crummy. You could get an 05R/W or X5DR module version and use it with a nicer MIDI controller, but that might push your budget a tad.
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73

crazybilly
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:12 pm

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by crazybilly » Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:20 pm

Right on--that seems like good advice. I'll put the DX7 and the X5 on my list and keep my eyes open for a good deal.

So you think it's a better idea to get a legit (albeit older) workstation-ish keyboard rather than a smaller, more modern synth (like the Micron or the microKorg)?

commodorejohn
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1564
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:39 am
Real name: John
Gear: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, Oberheim SEM
Location: Sacramento, CA
Contact:

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by commodorejohn » Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:12 pm

Yes, if you actually aim to learn to play piano/general keyboard as opposed to just supplementing a bit here and there. Nothing wrong with three-octave keybeds, but that's not enough room to really develop your technique on.
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73

Ashe37
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 3786
Joined: Mon Jan 19, 2009 3:43 pm
Real name: Unpronounceable
Gear: Ensoniq SD-1/32,SQR,VFX,ESQm
Virus Indigo, M3-61 , MS2000BR, Volca Bass
Emu XL-7, Matrix 6r
TG-33, K3m, Blofeld, Micron, Mopho, BS II, JV-1080
Band: Eridani V
Location: Central VA

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by Ashe37 » Tue Aug 01, 2017 4:20 pm

Also, the QS 6.1 and 6.2 aren't as heavy.

I *really* liked the sound of the QS series, but programming them was like painting the mona lisa through a keyhole.

crazybilly
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:12 pm

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by crazybilly » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:57 pm

Turns out a buddy has a Ensoniq EPS (or maybe an EPS+16? He needs to confirm) for $150, although the floppy disks are all long gone. Good idea or bad idea?

commodorejohn
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1564
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:39 am
Real name: John
Gear: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, Oberheim SEM
Location: Sacramento, CA
Contact:

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by commodorejohn » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:23 pm

If you can confirm that it's working, that's a pretty good deal - might take some doing to get it up and running (if everything works but the floppy drive, it's probably a gooey belt - you can get replacements and get it fixed with just a couple hours' work,) but that leaves a lot of nice options open.
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73

Ashe37
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 3786
Joined: Mon Jan 19, 2009 3:43 pm
Real name: Unpronounceable
Gear: Ensoniq SD-1/32,SQR,VFX,ESQm
Virus Indigo, M3-61 , MS2000BR, Volca Bass
Emu XL-7, Matrix 6r
TG-33, K3m, Blofeld, Micron, Mopho, BS II, JV-1080
Band: Eridani V
Location: Central VA

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by Ashe37 » Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:14 am

but they aren't light either

gcoudert
Expert Member
Expert Member
Posts: 1198
Joined: Sat Dec 29, 2007 1:24 pm
Real name: Gilles
Gear: Roland Fantom X7 with Ultimate Keys expansion, Yamaha TX802, Roland JP-8080, Tascam DP-24SD.
Location: SE England

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by gcoudert » Wed Aug 02, 2017 6:53 am

Korg Wavestation keyboards are pretty cheap at the moment, here in Europe at least. They sound lush and would be ideal for strings / pads.
GC

Angstwulf
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 112
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:33 pm

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by Angstwulf » Wed Aug 02, 2017 11:37 pm

Take a look at the lower end of the Casio range.

Their Privia/PX series are pretty decent in the low end (PX130, 140 etc). Full sized keybeds so you can learn how to play a much better piano later on. Most have the standard pad noises: strings, organs, something that sounds close to "Jump". There are a couple that retail in your range and their mid-rangey 400-500 dollar ones may get within your budget on the used market.

I have some church band friends who use them for outings and such. Definitely useable quality until you get better/more serious.

commodorejohn
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1564
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:39 am
Real name: John
Gear: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, Oberheim SEM
Location: Sacramento, CA
Contact:

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by commodorejohn » Thu Aug 03, 2017 12:38 am

Unless I'm mistaken, though, you can't program those, can you? It's just a box of preset sounds.
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73

Angstwulf
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 112
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:33 pm

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by Angstwulf » Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:19 am

You're right. But with Crazybilly's budget and desire to support a band it may be better to go for a full sized keyboard with a range of keyboard/pad/synth sounds than a smaller programable synth.

Just an alternative solution.

Mildly off topic: I've suggested to friends looking for first synths for their kids to start off with software and iPad apps. You can get a pretty good idea of whether you like synth programming as well as what type of synthesis suits you before making a serious financial commitment. Got a couple of them hooked.

User avatar
jim777
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 82
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2006 9:58 pm
Real name: Jim
Gear: COWBELL!
(Motif6, ION. V-Synth, Fusion 8HD)
Location: South Jersey, USA
Contact:

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by jim777 » Tue Aug 15, 2017 6:21 pm

If you can find an Alesis Fusion6, those will do an awful lot of stuff for the money.
even Siberia goes through the motions....

crazybilly
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:12 pm

Re: Advice for a general purpose newbie?

Post by crazybilly » Tue Aug 15, 2017 6:43 pm

Well, as it turned out, somebody in the next town over had an Alesis Micron for $150. So I bought that. Overall, I really like it--I've spent WAY too much time already putting setups and whatnot together, tweaking sounds, etc.

Proper synth programming is still a bit over my head--I'm hoping once my usb-to-midi cable comes in, I'll be able to actually see things and tweak them in a way that makes more sense than scrolling through a million options.

That said, I'm really glad I got something with a sequencer and drum parts (and something smaller than a full-size 88 key thing). I'm a little bummed that I don't (yet?) have a decent piano sound (and I need to tweak the organ sounds a bit, I think), but I'm a lot more interested in playing weirdo synth stuff than I am in traditional piano parts, so I think I'm on the right track.

Post Reply