Here I am with my first-ever and newly acquired keyboard (M Audio Keystation 88es), and… my shattered hopes…
It’s not that I expected the keyboard to be as playable as my acoustic piano, but I was looking forward to be able to at least express myself musically and record that.
No way! There’s so much tweaking to do on the recorded track that I don’t see the point of doing it in the first place…
Am I by any chance mistaken?
Is there a workaround or tricks of the trade?
Do I need to get accustomed to the keyboard?
Does the keyboard need to get accustomed to me?
Will the keyboard in time be more playable?
"Notes locations, their length and velocities need working on, and the tempo changes as well. "
Misplaced notes are down to you I'm afraid no keyboard is going to play in time if you don't, and the same applies to length of notes and velocity. The main problem here is that your equipment is recording what you play. It's quite common (especially in dance music) to try a get in front of the beat slightly; this pushes the music on and gives it urgency, whereas more laid back music will lag behind the beat.
Saying that, if you use a sequencer like Cubase to record your playing as a midi file than there are options for quantising as you play which helps to place the notes on beat, and you can definitely set the lengths of all the notes and record at a fixed velocity.
I'm not sure what you mean by tempo changes, don't you have to tell your DAW the tempo. If you suddenly start playing faster how do you expect a machine to know thats what you intend rather than the same speed with shorter length notes.
It could be hardware problem, or indeed software problem. If you are convinced you are playing right, but its not recording right then clearly something is going wrong. You don't say what application you are using to record - but eg Cubase/is VST under XP using multi-threading can have awful timing problems with certain soundcards (Creative, M-Audio, EMU).
When you press a key, do you hear sound immediately or is there some time between pressing the key and hearing a sound? That's the only thing I can think of that would be common to individual note timing and tempo changes.
Before you got this keyboard, how did you record your music?
I think there are several issues at hand here you should investigate, some already mentioned above.
One of the things that makes a keyboard midi controller "expressive" and gives a sense of "feel" to the player is the way it deals with velocity sensitivity. I know that the higher end of M-Audio controllers (Keystation Pro, the Axiom line) have a "velocity curve" feature, which allows the user to set the senstivity level of the keyboard with several presets (the Axiom has 3).
The Keystation 88es does not have this velocity curve feature. Unfortunately, you're going to have to get used to the one standard velocity curve built into it. I think there's a good possibility this is one of the issues you're dealing with.
It would probably help a lot if you could provide info on what software you're using to record as already mentioned.
Be patient, though. Playing through a midi controller effectively does take practice. And remember, its intent is what its names says it does -- it's not really an "instrument" per se: you input and control midi data with it. From there -- to truly create an effective "performance" out of your composition (especially for piano morons like me!) -- you have to roll up your sleeves and dive into that midi data and tweak away until you're happy with the result. After some practice, it goes fairly quickly.
Have you got an audible metronome in your sequencer ? Practise playing in time with it - and eventually record yourself. With a bit of luck (and practice !) you won't need to tweak because you'll be playing more or less on the beat. If you quantize too much, or shift your MIDI notes around too much after you've recorded them, it'll sound like it.
Don't despair ! If it isn't a software or latency problem, it's just a matter of getting used to it.
Marginally related, I was considering the 88es as an upgrade to an 88 key MIDI device. I mostly (if not exclusively) use my keyboard for entering music into Finale. Can anybody speak to how decent the "semi-weighted" keys respond or anything else of important significance concerning this controller? Again, I'm not really looking for crazy top-of-the-line performance ready devices, but I'm not looking for cheap, plastic garbage either.