Keyboards

By Marlyn Ntsele, inspired by "De Muzikantengids by Jan van der Plas and Tijs Vastesaeger
With a little help from Lindz Ngonelo & Vulane Mthembu.

On the soul front there is "Talking Book" who recorded with ARP's and Kraftwerk is another big name that worked lots with Synthesizers in their electro. ON the hall of fame is the Yamaha dx7, ARP 2600 and Moog. The Rhode weights as an important electronic instrument, that changes character depending on player. Amongst famous players are the likes of Donald Fagen, Herbie Hancock, Ramsey Lewis and James Poyser.
No idea what we are talking about? Read this article and find out all there is to know about keyboards.

Synthesizers and Samplers
Instruments with keys have been around since the Middle Ages, however keyboards like we know them from popular music, only originated in the 90’s with thanks to Robert Moog who developed the synthesizer. To put into context, the synthesizer basically creates sounds by use of electronics. Initially you could only use one key at the time (monophonic), but at the end of the 70’s the first polyphonic synth was sold.

In the 80’s the big change from analogue to digital sound became popular, this made it possible to record small sound bytes (sampling) and to edit the samples. Another important development around that time was the introduction of the standard language MIDI, this made it possible to only use one keyboard or computer that would regulate various machines and you would be able to program a full arrangement in advance. The so-called SMPTE-interface made it possible to connect keyboards to a multi-track record and this made the fully automatic studio fact.

Keyboards come in different sizes and models. An important distinction can be made between one you would use professionally and the one you would use at home for personal practice.  The cheaper, smaller keyboard one would use in the comfort of ones home has, in most cases, preset rhythms. They are easy to recognize, if it has beat/rhythm bank with Slow Rock, Bossa Nova, Disco and many others listed on it, this is usually a "home" keyboard.  Prices range from R2,000 to R40,000 depending on what you need and prefer.

Keyboards for professional use have a possibility to edit sounds and rhythms. Well-known producers of these keyboards are: Access, Akai, Alesis, Clavia, EMU, Korg, Kurzweil, Moog, Novation, Roland, Waldorf and Yamaha. The cheaper keyboards starting from about R5,000, usually have a built-in sound module that you are able to edit. More expensive models also have a built-in sampler that can record and edit sounds. For this you can also buy sample CD’s in which short sound bytes are recorded, so that if you are looking for a forest sound, you do not have to go into the forest with a microphone to capture it. Most of these keyboards have a buitd-in sequencer,  which makes it possible to preprogram full arrangements.

The well-known sound modules and samplers are also sold as software for the computer ( soft synths and soft samplers). This makes it possible to build up a full set that is regulated by the MIDI-keyboard. The software edition is mostly cheaper than the hardware. Soft synth programs such as Propellerhead Reason, Steinberg, Halion, Native Instruments Absynth, Tascam Gigastudio and Spectrasonics Stylus have sounds of many different synthesizers and this makes a good basic set to have. You can buy this from about R2,500. Besides the synth software, there are also lots of software programs with drum kits and rhythm tracks, such as Steinberg Groove Agent, M-Audio Drum & Bass Rigg and Native Instruments Battery. As separate packages you can also get specifically imitated instruments (analogue synths, electric piano’s, orchestra instruments, Hammond organs etc.). It pays off to research properly what the different packages have to offer for the sound you are looking for. More expensive packages are often cheaper in the long run. Working with hacked software seems a great idea, but this software is often unreliable to seriously work with in the long run.

You can find MIDI-keyboards in all sizes and models, from about R1,500. Make sure when you buy a MIDI keyboard that the keys are semi-weighted.

Piano & Organ
Musicians that only use the sound of the piano can also buy a separate digital piano. There is also a digital version of the Hammond organ, including the drawbars. For performing keyboard players is it often not needed to buy an amplifier. At home they can play with headphones and during rehearsals or at performances they are amplified through the PA and/or monitor.

The digital technology is developing very fast, this means that you can get an enormous range of keyboards and gadgets second-hand. Just like with guitars and amps there is a vintage trend, especially in analogue synthesizers from the 70’s and the first drum computers. Of these instruments you can also get cheap, digital imitations.

 

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