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Topic: Recommended Midi Controller

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  1. #1

    Question Recommended Midi Controller

    Hi,

    We just bought Cubase and Personal Orchestra. Now I'm looking into getting a midi controller.

    I have a keyboard, a casio wk-1630, but my research on the world wide web tells me I ought to get a midi controller, and one that includes:

    - velocity control
    - sensitivity
    - expression pedal
    - mod-wheel
    - faders

    I'm interested in composing orchestral music for film. Right now, I have my eyes on the Akai MPK 88 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...rformance.html)

    However, it has weighted keys. For creating orchestra music do I want semi-weighted keys? (It seems like folks lean toward that.)

    Also, I was looking at saving some money by getting a midi controller with 61 keys, but I found an old thread on another forum where someone raised a concern about that:

    "if you're sequencing orchestral sounds, including strings, it is easy to run off the ends of a 61-key keyboard. After I bought a used 76-key keyboard, I stopped running into those issues. I could play those wide string orchestra intervals and have them sound much better."

    What midi controller do you like to use in creating orchestral music with Personal Orchestra? Any recommendations for one under (or even a little over) $500?

    Thanks for your time! I'm excited about branching out in my creative endeavors!

    - gracenote

  2. #2

    Re: Recommended Midi Controller

    Hi gracenote,
    and welcome to the Garritan family!

    I would recommend a semi-weighted keyboard for playing sampled sounds.

    It really depends on how hard you want to hit the keys, but I can tell you,, I used to have a full weighted keyboard (Yamaha KX88) and after a few phrases of timpani rolls, I had to wipe the blood off the keys... no not really

    If you think about it logically, really the only thing,... and I mean the ONLY thing that would be nice about a weighted keyboard, is when you play a real piano sound. That's when you want the best feel of a real piano... if you know what a real piano feels like. If you are not a pianist but only use a midi keyboard for playing all your notes, I highly recommend that you stay away from full-weighted keyboards. A semi-weighted keyboard will be so much more pleasurable and easy to play, especially for ALL the other instruments.

    Dan

  3. #3

    Re: Recommended Midi Controller

    Hi, Gracenote - I'll insert replies into your message:


    Quote Originally Posted by gracenote View Post
    Hi,

    We just bought Cubase and Personal Orchestra. Now I'm looking into getting a midi controller.

    I have a keyboard, a casio wk-1630, but my research on the world wide web tells me I ought to get a midi controller, and one that includes:

    - velocity control
    - sensitivity
    - expression pedal
    - mod-wheel
    - faders
    The keyboard you have really isn't to be sneezed at, even though it's a "home keyboard" unit with things you don't need, like the built-in speakers, built-in sounds, and sequencer.

    It has some of the things on your list. The WK-1630 has velocity sensitive keys. That's actually the first two items you listed - "velocity control" and "sensitivity." It also has the Mod Wheel and a Pitch Bend wheel (something not on your list but which you need).

    It doesn't have Expression pedal jack, which isn't all that critical, and it's not a full fledged "controller," so doesn't have the faders which are on your list.

    Something else it has which a lot of MIDI keyboards don't--76 keys. That's great, and they're also full sized piano keys.
    Quote Originally Posted by gracenote View Post
    I'm interested in composing orchestral music for film. Right now, I have my eyes on the Akai MPK 88 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...rformance.html)

    However, it has weighted keys. For creating orchestra music do I want semi-weighted keys? (It seems like folks lean toward that.)
    Yes, you want semi-weighted or "synth action" keys. A lot of people have trouble using weighted keys. Pianists love it of course, because it makes the keyboard feel more like an acoustic piano. But the action is too "loose" feeling to control layered synth instruments very well.
    Quote Originally Posted by gracenote View Post
    Also, I was looking at saving some money by getting a midi controller with 61 keys, but I found an old thread on another forum where someone raised a concern about that:

    "if you're sequencing orchestral sounds, including strings, it is easy to run off the ends of a 61-key keyboard. After I bought a used 76-key keyboard, I stopped running into those issues. I could play those wide string orchestra intervals and have them sound much better."
    I don't take that advice at all seriously. You're not limited with a 61 note keyboard--you don't "run off the ends." They all have octave switches conveniently located so you can instantly jump to whatever octave you want. Many people use MIDI keyboards with just 49 keys, and they're doing full orchestral pieces with them. That advice you found isn't very helpful, I don't think.
    Quote Originally Posted by gracenote View Post
    What midi controller do you like to use in creating orchestral music with Personal Orchestra? Any recommendations for one under (or even a little over) $500?
    For a year now I've been using the Roland A-800 Pro, and I love it. It's a complete controller, with everything on your list above, plus a lot more. It's usually sold for around $400. I'll add that there really are many keyboards which are very similar.

    Here's the Roland site with info on my keyboard:

    http://www.rolandus.com/products/pro...ProductId=1096

    Randy

  4. #4

    Re: Recommended Midi Controller

    I was going to comment about the key ranges too. That comment about having more key's isn't accurate. It is a little more convenient not to switch octaves too much - but hardly necessary. I have a 49 key controller I use for the samples and I do full range orchestral work.

    I also have a roland digital piano - but I generally only use that for the piano pieces.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member fastlane's Avatar
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    Re: Recommended Midi Controller

    It looks to me like the 61 key is the standard for a controller. More than that and they have the fully weighted board.

    If you want a controller with faders you better make sure they are going to do the job. My CME UF6 has eight faders and a master fader, knobs for eight functions and record, pause, FF. rewind buttons but only one fader and one pan knob actually works with one armed midi instrument at a time. It doesn't do anything in an audio mix. The record buttons don't work.


    Phil

  6. #6

    Re: Recommended Midi Controller

    Quote Originally Posted by fastlane View Post
    ...If you want a controller with faders you better make sure they are going to do the job. My CME UF6 has eight faders and a master fader, knobs for eight functions and record, pause, FF. rewind buttons but only one fader and one pan knob actually works with one armed midi instrument at a time. It doesn't do anything in an audio mix. The record buttons don't work. Phil
    Hey now there, hold on, Phil - Something's definitely wrong here.

    For a controller to work on one armed MIDI track at a time is normal since you usually want to be recording on just one track at a time. But your keyboard, the CME UF60, is able to have all 9 faders and the other controls working during a mix. The record buttons should work, and you should be able to do as much as you want during a pass through in a project.

    You do have to program these controller keyboards to function with your software - you can't just plug them in and have everything immediately functioning. I bought the Roland A-Pro keyboard mentioned on this thread (at least $100 less than the CME, by the way) because I use Roland's Sonar and wanted a product I felt sure would function with my software, and it does. But I still had to spend a chunk of time to get it working the way I wanted.

    There have to be things you're missing in your keyboard's literature, Phil - What you describe is not the way a controller functions. I looked the specs up on the CME- you have a fine keyboard--Something is wrong or incomplete in your set up.

    Randy

  7. #7

    Re: Recommended Midi Controller

    Quote Originally Posted by gracenote View Post
    Hi,
    We just bought Cubase and Personal Orchestra. Now I'm looking into getting a midi controller.
    Welcome to the wonderful world of GPO, and to the forum, as another relative necomer to GPO.

    I have a keyboard, a casio wk-1630, but my research on the world wide web tells me I ought to get a midi controller, and one that includes:
    It does help if you have some keyboard skills. If not it's a way of acquiring some!

    - velocity control
    Most reasonable keyboards send velocity at "note on", it's only the really cheap ones that send a fixed velocity. It's useful too, but not essential, if the keyboard features a number of velocity curves.

    - sensitivity
    This is usually referred to as aftertouch sensitivity, or just aftertouch. Not all units have this. Useful certainly, but not essential unless you are playing it live. Then it can be a great asset.

    - expression pedal
    The socket to input an expression pedal is good. You can get by without it but it is very useful.

    - mod-wheel
    Yes, a mod WHEEL, not a joystick IMHO. The joysticks on all keyboards I've tried keep returning to zero. MOST unhelpful with GPO. I've had to modify mine to remove the spring, but I wish now I'd bought one with a proper wheel.

    - faders
    Very useful sometimes, more for live use (I'd say).

    I'm interested in composing orchestral music for film. Right now, I have my eyes on the Akai MPK 88 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...rformance.html)
    An immensely heavy beast at around 34 kilos I think. Too heavy for me to even lift.

    However, it has weighted keys. For creating orchestra music do I want semi-weighted keys? (It seems like folks lean toward that.)
    As others have said, good if you want to play piano, but semi-weighted will give you more flexibility (IMHO).

    Also, I was looking at saving some money by getting a midi controller with 61 keys, but I found an old thread on another forum where someone raised a concern about that:

    "if you're sequencing orchestral sounds, including strings, it is easy to run off the ends of a 61-key keyboard. After I bought a used 76-key keyboard, I stopped running into those issues. I could play those wide string orchestra intervals and have them sound much better."

    What midi controller do you like to use in creating orchestral music with Personal Orchestra? Any recommendations for one under (or even a little over) $500?

    Thanks for your time! I'm excited about branching out in my creative endeavors!

    - gracenote
    At 88 keys, the CME UF80 has all the features, but it's hammer action. Something like the CME UF70 ticks all the boxes with 76 keys, and the CME UF60 with 61, but I haven't tried any of them. There's the Studiologic VMK 161 Organ (not the regular one), and the Akai MPK 61. There's a whole host to choose from at 49 keys.

    I'm trying to make a similar choice myself. I plan a visit to the Music Store in Cologne to try some of these out in the near future.

    Good luck with your search.
    SXJohn.

  8. #8

    Re: Recommended Midi Controller

    If it were me, I would go with what Randy suggested, the Roland A-Pro. It seems to be a lot of bang for the buck.
    I wish I would have known that back when I bought my son a "slightly used" M-Audio Axiom 61 and a new one for myself (about the same price or more as the Roland A-Pro).
    The one my son has had the D flat and G keys quit working (after reading up on this it seems they are notorious for this flaw) and my B flat 3 occasionally plays full velocity regardless of how soft I play it.
    I would suggest you go to your sequencer software's forum and ask them the same question.
    I would also suggest you take your time in your decision making, this is a good/fun kind of problem to have...hmmm, which controller should I buy?
    Have fun,
    GRB

  9. #9

    Re: Recommended Midi Controller

    There's no doubt that Roland make some great products ... but why that stupid joystick?

    And why call it a joystick?

    It may make sense for game playing, but for controlling MIDI ... about as much use as a clockwork orange.
    No joy at all.
    That, on its own, completely rules it out for me. I don't care how good the other features are.
    A mod wheel and pitch bend wheel are essentials (for me).

    Just my 2d. worth.
    SXJohn.

  10. #10

    Re: Recommended Midi Controller

    Quote Originally Posted by SysExJohn View Post
    There's no doubt that Roland make some great products ... but why that stupid joystick?

    And why call it a joystick?

    It may make sense for game playing, but for controlling MIDI ... about as much use as a clockwork orange.
    No joy at all.
    That, on its own, completely rules it out for me. I don't care how good the other features are.
    A mod wheel and pitch bend wheel are essentials (for me).

    Just my 2d. worth.
    SXJohn.
    Hi, John - Thanks for pointing out on your other post that "sensitivity" in Gracenote's list was referring to AfterTouch. I didn't get that.

    Before I bought the A-Pro, I didn't like the idea of a single stick controlling pitch bend and modulation. By the way, I don't they refer to it as a "joystick"--on the product info page they refer to it as "Sure-grip Pitch Bend/Modulation Stick."

    BUT - Since I wanted to have an Expression pedal, I knew I wouldn't be using CC1 for volume control, but for modulation and whatever else I wanted to program it for.

    And now - I am totally happy with the way this is built. Mod wheel and pitch bend are indeed absolutely essential, and this stick control works perfectly for both of those functions. For me, it's worked out to be a better system than the old two-wheel set up. The way the stick snaps back to the zero position works great for recording modulation, but of course it wouldn't work for controlling the volume of Garritan instruments. No problem, since there's the Expression jack - and I'm using a pedal.

    I think you've said before that you don't use CC1 for volume, since it controls modulation in most soft synths - you use Expression - That's exactly what you'd be doing with the A-Pro.

    One of my control maps is especially for ARIA, and in that I have the up movement of the stick (defaults to modulation) programmed for AfterTouch. I can get much more control recording AT that way.

    Randy

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