really, there's no need to buy too expensive keyboards


New member
If you are playing live, with a band, honestly, buying an expensive keyboard is a waste of your money. The over-hyped, over-priced keyboards in the market have so many thousands of features that you will never get to use them.

The arppeggiator is one. Honestly, if you are a keyboard player and you can't play arppeggios yourself in a LIVE gig and have to depend on a machine to play it for you, then you might as well tell your band members to go home, and sequence everything yourself.

There are many other egs. the D-beam is one. Seriously, how many times do you need to detune your sound in one song? I have seen keyboardists blowing a big hole in their budget, only to use 10% of what the keyboard has to offer.

Look at the top keyboard players in any respectable professional band. Sequencing is used only as a 'backing', never the 'front'. The best keyboardists showcase their live PLAYING talents, not sequencing prowess. Anyone can sequence well, given time and technology. But not everyone can play well.

The staple sounds of a keyboard in a live situation are in this order: pianos, tines, organs. Then pads, strings, horns. You referenced any keyboard sounds with these staple sounds.

So go ahead and invest in a reasonably priced keyboard. And don't be fooled by the sales people in shops who are only too eager to demo the keyboard to you using the preset factory demos. Never buy a keyboard because the demo impressed you. It wasn't you who played the demo. It probably was eric persing who spent 3 weeks on it.

More importantly, invest in yourself, your skills, your talents. That should be where your money is.
The argument is flawed. Just before you do not need certain features, you condemn them as useless.

The arpegiator and the D-beam are useful performance tools too eg for DJs. And the D-beam is not just for detuning sounds. You can route this to control the filter opening and the resonance to great effect or you can use it to slow or speed up a break.

You find the idea of sequencing shameful but to a songwriter/arranger who needs a band in a box to sketch out ideas, it is a very important and useful tool. Moreover, sequencing has also given us performance which we could not enjoy otherwise eg Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode.

The staple sounds that you mention may the ones that you use but to imply that those should be the only sounds that a keyboard have is a little high handed. Synthesizers were invented to give the performer more choices, not take them away.

I do agree that one should never purchase based on the strength of a demo. But strongly disagree that there is no need to buy expensive keyboards. You do pay for quality. Compare the sound of a casiotone and a Korg/Yamaha/Roland top of line keyboard and the difference is obvious.

By taking the your agrument to the logical conclusion, you should buy only software synthesizers/instruments as they are cheaper than the hardware equivalent and does not need unneccesory audio and power cables.

So relax and enjoy the choices that musicians have nowadays. When I started buying synths, $2,000 synths could only play back a single sound at a time and were 6 note polyphonic. The veterans in this forum would probably tell you about their time when a $3000 synth could only play back a single note at a time.
ericlee said:
Anyone can sequence well, given time and technology. But not everyone can play well.
Sorry, but I don't totally agree. Sequencing is as much a skill as playing; I don't think you can downplay (pun unintended) it. One can have all the time and technology and still not sequence well. I have heard people using $10000 setups with cutting-edge technology and the results of their sequencing is a far cry from some who uses a tenth of their setup cost - and done within hours instead of days. Many can sequence, but not everybody can sequence well. The same goes for playing - many can play but not everybody plays well.

By the way, I think those Roland demos can be done within hours by Eric Persing. Some will take weeks, but there's where skill comes in. Hence my point about skills involved in sequencing. I think I can sequence those demos within 3 hours. I believe some in this forum who do sequencing as their livelihood can do it with even less time. And it's not just about speed; it's about cc, modwheels, crossfading, arrangements, counterpoint, theory, reverb, effects, mixdown etc....

More importantly, invest in yourself, your skills, your talents. That should be where your money is.
That, I totally agree. :)
thanks for these replies. I deliberately chose a rather controversial topic for a lively discussion. I must say though I was quoted out of context in a few instances.

I don't condemn expensive keyboards with all the extra bells and whistles. I am saying if you are playing in a LIVE context with a LIVE band, you don't need those extra stuff as much.

Naturally, if you are doing your stuff at home, or you are more or less a one man show, then it's a different context of course. But with a pop/rock band, seriously, you are not going to use 512 sounds with 1000 different permutations for all kinds of effects, envelopes, etc. Your bassist covers the bass, your guitarist covers the guitars, etc. you cover your keyboard parts. That's my point.

My argument is based on a LIVE band context with other folks playing TOGETHER with you on stage. Of course, probably with the exception of certain music genres where sequencing plays a big part, like you rightly mentioned, Dep Mode.

You are also right to mention casio, etc. can't compare with yamaha, korg, etc. Now if only yamaha, korg, etc. can have stripped down versions of their keyboards besides the full-blown versions they have. Just give some of us the staple stuff, and leave the bells and whistles to a minimum, then the price will go down, then more people will be willing to's a win win for everyone in a way.
Depends on what kind of live band you're talking about. Certainly live doesn't just connote a pop rock band. Guys like kriedler, when they came to singapore had a sampler/drum/mac/kurzweil setup. sequencing does have it's place. check out this band as well - woven. They're a rock band with samplers.

I agree with not purchasing something without an informed decision, but some of these gimmicks are actually quite useful. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of the KP2 and the airfx. The interface is what makes it all fun, which is why softsynths are also a viable alternative to hardware.

I wouldn't knock some of the old casio synths as well though the recent machines are really just for kids.
ericlee said:
Now if only yamaha, korg, etc. can have stripped down versions of their keyboards besides the full-blown versions they have. Just give some of us the staple stuff, and leave the bells and whistles to a minimum, then the price will go down, then more people will be willing to's a win win for everyone in a way.

Roland does have the "barebone" versions like the RD 170 and RD 700. There's also the VR760 with all the nice "bread and butter" keyboard sounds with the draw-bars etc. It's hard to find something less than $1000. But can't compare with Casio in term of price - we're paying also for the quality of sound and the keyboard action, not just features.
agreed.. they should have more stripped down versions! Check out some of the Technics range as well... They do have some good staples, minus the 'extras' and they cost slightly less. They weigh less as well, which means it's easier to move them around.

Definitely would check out some of the bands you have mentioned.
yeah i wish they had stripped down versions of synths! or have popular hardware synths put into soft synth format.. :D would make life so much better for keyboardists who don't drive.

anyway, one point to add to the above discussion though, while many features from these expensive keyboards are not used, i believe it's these more expensive keyboards that *usually* come with better and more usable sound samples compared to lower end ones. i don't know about others, but personally i prefer to play sounds which sound as realistic as possible, eg hammond/rhodes/piano sounds, or big fat juicy analogs. to me, a nice sound never fails to inspire better and make playing generally more enjoyable not just for the keyboardist but for the rest in the band too. besides, guitar and bass players are always so fussy about their sound. keyboardists can be too! :p

well, just my 2 cents.. :wink: btw, i used to own a triton and now a karma(great midi contoller), but VSTis are now an indispensable part of my rig.
iansoh said:
or have popular hardware synths put into soft synth format.. :D would make life so much better for keyboardists who don't drive.

Aren't the SCI Prophet 5, Yamaha CS-80, Minimoog, Moog Modular, OSCar, Arp Oddyssey, Korg Poly 61, Korg MS-20 and Korg Wavestation available in the softsynth format just to name a few?

Hybrid hardware-softsynth are also available for the
1) Jupiter 8 - On the Roland VariOS
2) TB 303 - On the Roland VariOS
3) Virus - On the PowerCore
4) Juno 106 - On the Pulsar
5) Minimoog - On the Pulsar
6) SCI Prophet V - Pulsar
7) SCI Pro-1, SCI Prophet 5 - Pulsar

Or if you are into ROMplers, there are the
1) Luxonix Ravity
2) Sampletank
3) HALion
4) Kontakt

among many others.

Therefore, I'm quite surprised at your statement.

yes you're right to be i guess.. perhaps i should have added, in the context of the discussion about the above-mentioned synthesizers with built-in appregiators/sequencers/d-beam controllers/what-have-you that i was thinking more along the lines of a software triton/trinity, fantom, electro, various nord leads etc.. in general, the more modern synths that would possess these built-in frills.

strange, u may think.. why i would still want these when i have at my disposal kontakt/absynth/reason etc.. it's a personal preference kind of thing, i guess. i still have the triton and roland rd form the main frame of my rig every time i play.

don't worry, i have not forgotten about the prophet or korgs or moogs.. i have several of them in my computers thanks to a generous friend. fm7 is one of my favourite, at that. thanks for pointing this out.

hey man, this is an interesting thread;
i have so many gear but the main one
i use is still the Korg SP300 digital piano,
because i enjoy playing more than sequencing...


Hv you sold your EX5? I saw your ad in Luthermusic site.
And you are a game developer? Good music you make!

Here are my list of gear:
Ensoniq VFX
Korg Poly800
Yamaha DX11
Fatar StudioLogic 1100
Korg 03RW
Yamaha VL70m
Akai SGv01
Yamaha Cs1x
Korg X5DR
Yamaha AN1x
Yamaha SU10
Yamaha MX12/4

So what are you using then?
Looks like you are looking for a MOTIF?
Get the MOFIT ES, check out the website!

Music plaza is running a year-end sale, go
get it! MOTIF rack at only $1600 !!!

hey john, wow!! that's quite a load of gear.. i've only just started building up, but here's what i got so far:

korg karma + sustain, switch, 2 exp pedals (haha.. kiasu)
yamaha ex5
m-audio radium61
electribe em-1
mackie 1204 vlz
m-audio midisport 2x2
alesis active mk2
laptop and pc loaded up with some analog synth software and some samples

i'm moving away from hardware.. right now the karma is my main controller.. but i'm hoping to get the m-audio keystation pro88, then i won't really need all those knobs on the karma. i really love the flexibility of korg workstations as controllers.. but the sounds and arps are starting to feel a little jaded, and the new models are not improving either! i felt rather disappointed with the triton extreme.. i LOVE the motif ES though, but they're pricey..

i'm no electronic musician or game developer. (if u're wondering abt, it's my friend's company) i play blues and jazz in a coupla bands although in the past i've had aspirations to write some acid jazz/trip hop stuff. but heh.. never found the time and discipline to get down to it. i play occasional gigs and also produce backing tracks for the poetry slams by WordForward.

yeah, the ex5 is still for sale. i got some ridiculous $900 offer, gah. the ex7 is goign for $1,4++ at musiciansfriend. but hey, the motif rack sounds really tempting..

i'm currently reshaping my rig.. at a loss at what to do, actually.
Dear Gear


Your email address gave me the idea that you are
related to, so I thought you
could be one of the sound designer in the game
developer company.

Yeah I may own these gear but as I've said half the time
I'm playing on the Korg SP300 than fully utilizing the rest
of the gear features. Most rack modules are meant for gigging,
I bring them to the practice studio and hook up to any of
the midi synth. If there's any show, I'll bring two light-weight
controllers and a module, so this solve the issue of portability.

I think you should keep the EX5, it is designed for fat acid jazz
sounds, which right now in the market there isn't any to replace it.
Yamaha through the years has produced very good classic synths,
Korg did well in some but I just feel the sounds get dated very fast.
I'm not very sure about Roland either, you can hear the demos from
their website. V-synths and Fantom are their current flagship synths.

The MOTIF ES is a good choice, besides its basic sounds you can add
plug-in expansion cards to it. TRITON/TRINITY was popular for the past
few years but there isn't much leap in the TRITON EXTREME.

At the end of the day, it's still what you create that's important, sounds
play a part but without creativty nothing outstanding can be achieved.

maybe for synth players, you don't really need an expensive keyboard.... for keyboardists in bands who require lush piano sounds and harmonizing with vocals, touch and expression in a keyboard is very vital. such keyboards are not cheap. an entry level P series yamaha costs around 2 thousand dollars, for a simple piano sound, and 88 keys graded hammer effect. the flagship, P250 costs 3.8k, and features the CFIIIs yamaha converatory grand.... keyboards ARE expensive. you pay for quality, touch, and sound...

worst still, if u need synth sounds to boot as well. a rack unit of the motif costs 1700 dollars.. all in all, if u really want good sounds and excellent expression and control, you need to invest good money.
well said


well said bro!

I ever made a comment to three guitarists
that keyboardist spent the most money on
gear; the immediate reaction is boiling face,
they responded that a good furished guitar
like the Fender classics cost as much as a
top-notch synth workstation.

any comments, keyboardist?

well..... i'm not going to say much, just a couple of words to the guitarists out there. respect ur keyboardist man.... the keyboadist often has the hardest job to do, with gear he's unfamiliar with cause he can't possibly lug his own keys everywhere...

whether or not guitarists agree, keyboards ARE the most expensive setup in the rig..... even if u compare a vintage model or some rare expensive guitar, pit that against any flagship model of any brand of keyboards, and i believe u have your answer...
i've had guitarists saying they spend just a little money, get an average instrument, and sound good(tone-wise) , and wonder why keyboardists can't do the same.

oh yes! go get an inexpensive tone module
and bring it to the jam studio. Plug it via
MIDI and use the studio keyboards as controller.
This way you save money and keep your expensive
gear at home for better valued activity.