Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic music?

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Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic music?

Postby mitya33 » Sat Sep 01, 2018 11:48 am

Hi all

First-time poster, total noob, go easy...

I'm a classical pianist with a strong love for electronic music. With this in mind I'm considering upgrading my 20 year-old electric piano.

In my local music tech store I came across the Yamaha Montage 8. It's an amazing thing, and I barely scratched the surface in the hour or so I had with it. I later found out, though, that this is basically the bees' knees (one review said it might be the best synth ever made.)

With this in mind, is it too advanced for someone just starting out in electronic music production?

I like it because it's a synth-piano combi, by which I mean it has a full piano keyboard with weighted keys. That's key for me - I'm not after a synth with non-piano-style keys. I'm a pianist first and foremost.

Or would I be better just getting a piano and doing the electronic stuff on my PC rather than on musical hardware?

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby Ashe37 » Sat Sep 01, 2018 8:33 pm

Well, the Montage has FM synthesis and sample+ synthesis, but doesn't really have analog-style synthesis. You should also look at the Korg Kronos, which has all three.
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby madtheory » Sat Sep 01, 2018 8:44 pm

Does your electric piano have MIDI ports? Because if it does, you can get a USB-MIDI interface for your PC, and start with that.

It's nice to learn with a synth that has a dial for each parameter. So you should look at adding (again using MIDI) something like a Behringer Model D. It's a desktop module, so would sit on your piano, or your desk :) It's a great sounding synth but more importantly for you, it will allow you to learn synthesis.

I use a weighted MIDI controller keyboard too. Can't really get on with anything else. I mainly use the computer for sounds, but I also have some desktop synths.
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby mitya33 » Sun Sep 02, 2018 10:29 am

Hi guys

Thanks for the replies.

Re: using the computer and just having a piano as a midi, I should have pointed out that I'm a web developer by day so I'm actually rather turned off by the idea of making my music solely at the computer. I rather prefer the idea of leaving the PC at the end of the working day and going to my synth to do music, rather than just staying at the PC and using a different program from my day job.

I will look at the Kronos, thanks. I don't even know what the difference is between analog and, er, non-analog synths are. So I've got a lot of learning to do here.

Are there any other 88-key, weighted key synths I should be considering, perhaps somewhat cheaper than the Kronos/Montage 8 range? :-)

Continued thanks.
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby madtheory » Sun Sep 02, 2018 6:30 pm

OK forget the PC, get a Behringer Model D and MIDI it up to a weighted controller. Great starter synth although it's monophonic. For polyphonic, you can't go wrong with one of the polyphonic Roland Boutique boxes. These are recently discontinued so are very good value right now.

So your own electric piano does not have MIDI?

Here's my view on current weighted keyboards. Akai MPK-88 is superb IMO. Both Roland and Korg have been competing for the last few years on weighted keyboards. With Korg you'll get the "Natural Weighted Hammer Action" (I think that's what they call it) in all of their cheaper synths that have weighted action. Similar thing with Roland. Both are gorgeous to play.
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby mitya33 » Mon Sep 03, 2018 6:19 pm

My current electric piano does have MIDI, but it's 20 years old and is just a piano, whereas I want to get into creating electronic music.

Hence a workstation like the Montage 8 (edit - after research I am now aware that the Montage could be considered not to be a workstation) or Kronos.

Something that is both a brilliant electric piano and something I can compose music on.

The idea of a one-stop-shop device is definitely attractive to me, at least at this stage. I can then buy more gear further down the line but right now I'm definitely tending towards a workstation.

I will look into the devices you mention, though. Many thanks.
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby madtheory » Tue Sep 04, 2018 9:44 am

You're welcome I hope you get what you need! Just so we are clear, you do understand that your piano can be used to play the notes on a desktop synth module? And you can then use the dials on the synth to synthesize?
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby mitya33 » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:01 am

Yes I do understand that - it's just I'm trying to avoid the screens. I work all day as a web developer so I'd rather take my hobby away from the screen if possible.

Hence something like the Kronos is super attractive as, from what I understand, it's all things to all men and can act as a DAW without a computer.

I also want to use the sounds of the workstation, not just use it to midi control sounds on a computer. Otherwise I could buy a really cheap keyboard.

Again, all of this is based on my limited but growing understanding so forgive me if I'm off!
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby madtheory » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:20 am

I am not talking about MIDI into a computer. I'm talking about MIDI into a synth module or keyboard.

You could buy one of the cheaper MOTIF keyboards with non-weighted keyboard, and MIDI your piano into that.
You could buy a Roland Boutique poly synth, or a Sequential poly synth, and MIDI into that.

Or all three at once.
Last edited by madtheory on Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby mitya33 » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:21 am

Oh... then no, this is probably where my knowledge will top out.

What would I use to pull the whole composition together i.e. a Cubase but not on a PC?
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby madtheory » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:27 am

Well the Motif has a sequencer, as do comparable "workstatation" keyboards from Roland and Korg. It might just save you some money, to use your existing keyboard.

Check out:
Roland Juno DS-61. Has an 8 track sequencer and you can mix down to a WAV file on USB if you want to release stuff on, say, Sound Cloud or whatever. Most "workstation" keyboards have the same functionality.
And this:
https://www.pmtonline.co.uk/blog/2017/0 ... kstations/
Last edited by madtheory on Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby mitya33 » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:34 am

My existing keyboard has some issues. Some of the keys are a little chipped after 20 years, plus they stick a lot. (Although perhaps these issues can be resolved with a service of some kind). There's also an issue whereby the sustain pedal gets stuck on sustain - and from what I can see this appears to be a problem with the board not the pedal, as it persists after the pedal is removed.

Yes I've been looking at the Motif. I have also been looking at Roland's FA-08, which for the price seems fantastic (same applies to Mox F8.) That, too, seems to have a sequencer.

BTW am I right in thinking sequencers and DAWs are essentially two terms for the same thing re: pulling a track together, its various parts etc?
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby madtheory » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:38 am

OK new information. If you don't mind the chipping, it sounds like your keyboard has dust and lubrication issues. Easy to solve but there would be a lot of dismantling involved which takes time. Time=money. Could you DIY? Or- could you let go of this instrument? :)

The Motif is nice. I'm not fond of Roland's user interfaces but the sounds are top notch. The Korg Kronos is my personal favourite. It's as capable as the Motif, but somehow more attractive.

Yes you're right about sequencer and DAW. As with any jargon, there's a history behind the words :)

Check pricing online, to make sure that shop has up to date stock and reasonable prices.
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby clubbedtodeath » Tue Sep 04, 2018 3:26 pm

Historically speaking, sequencers recorded/played back MIDI or CV/gate. (ie. notes, controller messages). There are many sequencers out there that don't record audio at all. (eg. MMT-8, Beatstep, Korg SQ-1)

With a DAW however, it must be able to record multiple audio tracks as well do sequencing; most of them do audio processing on those tracks too.

The distinction still gets blurred, though, as some modern kit billed as a sequencer also has additional audio recording capabilities too. (Does that make them DAWs, even if they're not desktop?)

But I digress. Gentlemen - we must be careful! Any pedantic discussion of musical terminology risks drawing the attention of a certain individual whose handle begins with 'Automatic'...

:shock: :lol:
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Re: Advice for a pianist interested in making electronic mus

Postby ninja6485 » Tue Sep 04, 2018 3:32 pm

I agree with Madtheory here. I would get a decent controller, or fix the one you have, and then fill a nice rack with a variety of quality rack synths, or other pieces you can control, like the mini-clone.

I don't want to neccesarily steer you away from workstations if that's what you're excited about and that's what you really want to get, but just know that they generally tend to be jack of all trades master of none situations that are built for a purpose, like for instance as something for live performances, especially those that need classic sounds for covers like your basic organs, strings, etc.

I'm a little bit careful about calling them synths in the first place: they're more of a keyboard, if that makes sense. I've also never really heard one that impressed me with its tone and character. They seem to always just be "good enough." As something to have at home and play if you don't want to get heavy into synths but you want something that branches away from your piano, a workstation might be really nice. Especially if you're a Justin (Jason? ...Jordan...?) Rudess kind if guy.

As for synths, they're kind of like movies in a way. If you can only watch one movie, do you really want to try to find the movie that's attempting to be a comedy, a crime drama, a summer action Sci fi block buster, and a chick flic all at the same time? It's probably better to just pick one movie that's a little more focused, but good. Approach synths the same way. Instead of looking for something that tries to be everything at the same time, look for something that focuses on one or two things and does what it does really well.
This looks like a psychotropic reaction. No wonder it's so popular...
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