Let's pretend I know nothing about keyboards....but want a keyboard

Basically, id like to start adding some keys to my songs and also just using keys for some basic writing ideas.

That being said, I do have Ez Keys and numerous expansion packs etc.

So, what are the basic options?

  1. a basic controller to use with my EZ Keys? What all is involved with this?

  2. An actual decent keyboard. What kind of money and what model suggestions to get something with decent sound quality??

Thanks, JJ

Hi JJ. I’m using a Yamaha KX-8 controller. I mounted it just under my desk. It’s out of the way until I need it and then I only have to pull it out far enough to expose the keys. Perfect. About a grand by today’s prices.IMG_2153 It’s much less expensive than a key board equiped with sound.
I’m quite happy with it.:sunglasses:


Eh man! Long time no see! :smiley: Hope those monitors are working good for ya!!

Ok…here’s my take on these. The first question is if you need weighted action. I’ll wait for your response, then throw some ideas your way, because its a really a whole different discussion if you do.

And then the second question is what you need the non-key controller side (as in screens, buttons, knobs, and switches) to do. How flexible does this part of the keyboard have to be?

Also, what is your DAW? And what are your primary plugin libraries? This can make or break weather the Native Instruments S-series is a fit for you or not.

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As far as software, basically I have toontrack EZ Keys with several expansion packs etc

I am generally just talking some really basic keyboard padding type sounds. I wouldnt think they kboard would HAVE to be weighted

The few keyboard parts I have done so far have actually been entered just by painstakingly clicking with the mouse on the keyboard roll thingy…which of course is very limiting

I am not looking to go thru a NASA course on midi just for a few keyboard pads and simple parts

So id like to have a basic controller type keyboard to use with my EZ Keys software. One consideration is that I use a focusrite 2i4 interface. I am not seeing a usb in on the interface. How is a controller type deal going to work? If I have my focusrite in a usb jack with all my audio going thru it etc, is a keyboard controller in a usb jack also going to work at the same time? (dumb Q I know lol)

The other possible path is just to get a full keyboard with all of the sounds already in it etc. That way I can simply hook it up and start making music no different than with guitar

Here is an idea of some of the simple stuff id like to do:

I have totally forgotten how to upload an mp3…what did I do wrong?

Thanks, JJ

USB from controller to computer should be fine. The old method was to run a MIDI cable/jack through the interface (most has MIDI in/out jacks), but when they went to MIDI over USB it just talks to the computer and routing is usually automatic. The computer recognizes a MIDI input device (by electronic signature or driver or whatever) and makes it available. In some cases you can choose the available MIDI device in your DAW, or usually just receiving “All MIDI” will work just fine.

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@bozmillar, you use Reaper and a NI keyboard? Don’t you? @m24p, if you see this thread, you run this setup too…right? You had one in the last picture of your studio.

Does it basically do everything its supposed to even though Reaper is not officially supported? I can vouch for it running smoothly in ProTools, Logic, and Digital Performer, even though DP and Reaper aren’t officially supported yet.

@Jon-Jon, you may want to look at that Native Instruments keyboard because of the sheer versatility and build quality. It would be a good keyboard to grow into. Its really in a whole different league than the Arturia, M-Audio, Alesis and Akai. I’m talking the quality of the parts, the feel of the keybed, the smoothness of the encoders, and the software interface (which is very important). I would highly advise you to stay away from either of those 4 if you can afford to.

The Nektar Panorama, Novation SL MK2, and Native Instruments S series are hands down superior (again in software design and quality of physical hardware parts). I try to be subjective on these, but there’s no contest as to which controllers are built better. But just because a keyboard has better software and higher quality rotors doesn’t mean its necessarily better for you. If the Akai, Alesis, Maudio, or Arturia are a better fit for some reason, then by all means, buy one.

Not a stupid question at all! The keyboard does not plug into the 2i4. The keyboard plugs directly into your computer. You don’t unhook the 2i4 when you plug the keyboard in. You leave both hooked up at the same time. The 2i4 is an audio interface, so you configure it under audio preferences. The keyboard is both a control surface (knobs, buttons, sliders, pads) and a midi device (keys). So you would configure the keyboard under control surface and midi devices.

Don’t try it. First, you’ll no longer be able to use your midi editor if you do it like this. Second, the proper way to move audio from a keyboard to a DAW is to keep it digital. You either want to send it over USB/thunderbolt/firewire/cat5, or else Optical/SPdif. If you must go this route, I can help walk you through the process for reconfiguring your system to do this, but trust me, its better to use your virtual instruments.


Those are really nice keyboards. The KX88 was my very first real keyboard! Quite outdated now. But I played a KX8 (which is the upgrade) about 8-9 years ago. It was great.

Ps… @Jon-Jon, you know you can buy a cheap casio keyboard of craigslist…right? Anything with a USB will talk to Reaper.


If you can play piano then you want something with piano action. Casio Privia is a good bet here - and while it has on-board sounds, you never use them unless you play the keyboard by itself for some reason.
Getting sound from a keyboard straight into the computer can be done, but it is not easy. We normally use VST instruments in da computer to generate the sound…
If you don’t need piano action, a good start might be M-Audio. They come in a wide range and are of decent quality. I would stay away from Edirol.

Cheers, Sven

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Here’s a Casio Privia I played for years. I got sick and fucking tired of explain to every damn hater why I was playing a casio (because it has good action, its very easy to move around, and you’re not even using the built in sounds).

One reason might be you just don’t feel like booting up your entire DAW to run scales for 5 minutes.

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Yes, the Casio Privia has better action than Yamaha keyboards of similar cost. Allegedly…

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I second that. For $300-$400 you will get complete shit from Yamaha. Yamaha is the best of the best on their high end keyboard and pianos, but Casio has them beat on their super budget stuff.

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as usual, its all overwhelming lol

Thinking of just going for something really simple to get me going just on basic keyboard pad parts etc

some of the novation stuff looks nice but it seems like they have some software nightmares…especially in reaper. I havent seen a thread yet (on reaper forum) stating that automap works smoothly in reaper.

Which of the 25 key stuff has a decent key feel?

one of these would actually seem ideal if I can also use it as a controller for my EZKeys stuff…but even if I couldnt, it seems i could use one of these and start making music without a ton of headaches

Cant speak of the ones on the video. If its really super basic stuff, and you only need the surface control side to control basic stuff, then it might not really matter. At that point I’d just grab the cheapest working thing you can find.

Automap has a lot of problems, but once you get it set up, that Novation works like nothing else on the market. Even though Novation has neglected it pretty bad, its still far more advanced than anything Nektar or NI has offered. Both the NI and the Novation are gonna require some work to get the hang of. I used automat for years until it became incompatible with Waves. But its still the only software out there besides Eucon where you can customize extensive amounts of controls in complex synth programs like Omnisphere and Arturia.

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my thought process is to get something smallish so i can lay in bed and goof with it lol…but also just get my feet wet and then have in mind to move onto a full size controller when I get ready

The only thing I would suggest is going to a music store and trying some out and make sure that each key has consistent velocity. Some of the lower cost midi controllers are pretty wacked out in the velocity department. Some notes will hit hard, some won’t, you play the same note 3 times with the same force and it puts out wildly different velocities. It’s super annoying. But you can also find low cost controllers that work perfectly fine.

the only way I’ve found to be safe in this department is to go to guitar center (or whatever) and hook it up to their computer, play every note multiple times, find one that works and buy that exact unit.

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Like how on older Fatar boards, the white keys were louder than the black ones?

That’s so racist :frowning:


Just a heads up. The last time I attempted this at guitar center, there were not power outlets available, the computer did not have access to the internet (so you couldn’t download drivers), they did not have a license key to a single DAW available.

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I am with you wanting to have keys at my disposal. I read all of this and do not understand it. ha ha I don’t use any midi. It would be nice for someone just to say you need this small keyboard. But alas there would be more curves. Ahhhhh



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Paul, if you’re talking about adding simple stuff to your recordings, you can get a keyboard for about $100 that will plug directly into your computer’s USB input, and your DAW will pick it up as a controller. Most DAWs have one or two virtual instrument synths, so you pick the keyboard as the controller, then select a preset for the synth that will be voicing it. It’s not much different than how you’re using EZ Drummer. There’s also a lot of freeware available, so if you’re looking for a growling Hammond B3, it’s easy to find. True keyboard players need the keys to bounce and resist like a piano does to add touch to the performance, and find cheap controllers feel too fake, because they are generally just plastic with cheap springs for rebound. I have a cheap one to put strings on some of my stuff, and it works fine for me.

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wow, SB, that’s sounds like something I could pull off. Now I am excited again about that option. I don’t like songs that are dominated by keys. I would use them for some background and transition. I am using studio one professional and like it. I will go and see if those virtual instruments synths you speak of.
Thanks much. Might be another leap forward?



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Novation SL Mk2 49 key incoming lol