Music Keyboards and controllers.

This week we take a quick look at keyboards.

Photo by Pixabay on

A real piano has many qualities some of which can be simulated with an electronic version.

The most expensive keyboards will have weighted keys, some of these even have the weights arranged across the keyboard with proportional weighting so bass LH keys are heavy in action and the treble or topmost keys are lighter in action. Yamaha call this a Graded Hammer Effect (GHE) It may well depend on your intended use for the keyboard – some users actually prefer the lack of weight in the keys. I prefer weighted now that I have got used to them.

Some keys use finishes that simulate piano keys which used to be made from ebony and ivory for the black and white keys. They may have speakers and built in sounds or Voices. The stage piano below P255 has several types of Piano, acoustic emulation and electric. It also has organ, strings, choir, bass, harpsichord etc. it also has 4 levels of reverb and can record LH and RH parts to onboard memory or usb stick. It has a metronome, and several variable speed (bpm) drum patterns and built in speakers or 2 headphone sockets for evening playing when you wish to play silently from the rest of the household. It will take an mini stereo jack plug to play from smart devices too. The sound is great with the quality that Yamaha are renowned for. It will accept foot pedals for sustain, soft and sostenuto. It also has a three fader eq, and The middle sostenuto pedal allows those notes that are being played to remain sustained while other notes played after will be unaffected. A lot of people will just used the sustain pedal supplied with the Piano as I do.

Yamaha P255 Stage Piano

Keyboards with Control surfaces

Novation produce several sizes of keyboard in the Launchkey range here are two.

Novation Launchkey Mini

The mini may be perfect for users short of desk space where the small footprint will be ideal. Also for laptop users on the move it can fit in your rucksack. It usually comes bundled with Ableton Lite and a selection of other sample libraries and utilities. Check the current bundles as these may change depending when you read this blog. It has 25 mini keys and 16 launchpads which are used for launching clips or playing drums, with midi it is possible to connect the DAW to the keyboard allowing many parameters to be controlled giving a unique organic arrangement that you can call your own.

Novation Launchkey 49

This is the keyboard I favour for DAW work when working with Ableton, 49 full size keys, 9 faders, 8 pan pots, 16 square multicoloured launchpads, and who doesn’t like lights?

Novation launchkey MkII

below is the new layout of the Mk 3

Novation Launchkey 49 Mk III

App for playing from notation

Flowkey This app (supplied when I bought my P255 with 6months free access) is great at fulfilling that thirst for playing some “graded” pieces when you have done you usual piano practise. The app displays a plan view of a pianist hands to help with correct fingering technique, it has a searchable database of songs that are graded by a traffic light system. The sheet music is displayed in a scrolling format which is easy to follow and the app will follow your LH or RH playing. I use the bluetooth connection which is faultless. I use this to augment my usual practise. Great for playing tunes that are arranged by ability. Seeing fingering is a great way to ensure that my fingers are correctly placed until I become better at judging my own fingering.
Although I have used keyboards for years in my DAW work and I do use lots of chords in a style which I was taught at the Yamaha music school in the eighties. I now wish to learn to play classical piano rather than my busking style, not as easy a transition as one might have hoped for.
Naturally the left hand independence is a challenge as is the bass clef reading. I am a good treble clef reader (saxophone) and can play pieces on sight which is a necessity when playing with big bands or concert bands.

Yamaha MDBT201 Blue tooth midid Adapter

Blue Tooth connection.

The P255 piano comes with a downloadable app for iOS. It allows voice selection, recording, tuning to non standard tunings such as equal temperament to 440Hz plus or minus about 27Htz, which may be needed to tune to another acoustic piano that has gone slightly out of tune. There are also Pure Major, Pure Minor, Pythagorean, Meantone, Werkmeister and Kimberger. I use a blue tooth midi from my Yamaha P255 which works perfectly. I believe the Yamaha P515 which replaces the P255 now has Bluetooth built in as standard. The app also allows you to record to both the onboard and a usb memory stick so that you can transfer your latest audio and midi to use elsewhere. This is great when inspiration takes you somewhere and you just know that come the morning you will have forgotten the piece. This a beautiful instrument although quite heavy with its built in speakers.

Yamaha P125 portable piano

This P125 is a more affordable version which may suit those with a smaller budget.

Yamaha P125 Portable Piano

AKAI Professional LPK25 keys (mini keys)

This little keyboard gets the most use for creating midi recordings whether creating chords harmony or melody. It stows under my desk, and takes very little desk space.

Published by fretsnreeds

Professional Musician working in the community with people of all ages educating and inspiring us all to make music.

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