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Buying Guide: Professional Keyboards and Workstations

What is a professional keyboard workstation?

A professional keyboard is a tool that is ideal for both composition and live performance due to its ability to simulate playing with multiple musicians. There are two types of professional keyboard - arrangers and workstations. Arrangers typically produce standard musical sounds, or voices - such as pianos and brass - and are regularly used to create fills, introductions and variations. Workstations have some of the same 'bread and butter' voices as arrangers, but are focused more on creating synthesizer-type sounds. Musicians can use MIDI files in conjunction with workstations or programme lots of different parts in advance to play sequences live.

The differences between workstations and arrangers

Both workstations and arrangers are capable of allowing a musician to create an original, finished piece of music. Workstations build tracks up in a linear way using a sequencer and so do some arrangers, but they also use intros, fills, variations and endings to build the piece in different parts. Workstations feature onboard arpeggios and loops, while arrangers have onboard styles. The latter type of pro keyboard is preferred by many musicians for playing live, but this does not necessarily mean it is always the best option.

Workstations are often viewed as being the best for original music performance, with a larger palette for creating sounds, easy programming and the ability to use commercial MIDI files for covering songs. Pre-prepared MIDI files can also enable musicians to create a full band effect when playing.

Meanwhile, arrangers are looked on as highly professional instruments, with some people considering them to be the equivalent of a band in a box. The style function assists those struggling with time constraints to get results quickly, while the instruments are designed to sound as if they are being played in the live environment. Arrangers can also act as learning tools, exposing and giving insight into different genres of music.

Professional keyboards available on the market

There are a large number of features that consumers should take into consideration before purchasing a pro keyboard, from size and weighting through to sound quality, upgrade potential and effects.

The Roland E09 Arranger Keyboard is available for £359. A large instrument, it boasts more than 800 tones and 70 drum kits, as well as 64-voice polyphony, 47 multiple effects plus reverb and chorus and a 16-track recorder.

The Roland GW-8 Workstation costs £679 and is designed to suit individuals wishing to perform as a 'one-man band'. It comes with a USB memory player, 16-track sequencer, 128-voice sound engine and a number of different styles and sounds from around the world.

Towards the higher end of professional keyboards and workstations is the Korg M3-88 Music Workstation for £2,499. It has 88 keys with RH3 Real Weighted Hammer Action and has a large number of expansion possibilities.

Other things to consider when buying a workstation

Those looking to purchase arranger or workstation keyboards may also be interested in some popular add-ons. The Roland KSC-44 Stand for FP4 and FP7 is available from £129, while the Korg EXB Radias Expansion Board for M3 can be bought for £226.95. Customers should also probably consider whether they will need any leads to connect their keyboards and whether the keyboard comes with speakers or needs an amp.

Posted on 13 May 2009 11:35 to category : Tips and advice

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