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Hi was hoping I could find some good tips or advice here. My son is 14 and is a multi-instrumentalist. His main instrument being piano, but he also plays sax, bass, and some guitar. I set a recording studio up for him with a MacBook and Garageband - he's been using it quite a bit. He's currently using an old Casio electric piano I had as a midi-controller in that setup.

He may have an opportunity to get into doing cocktail hour music for wedding etc. The electric piano we have is not portable and wouldn't really cut it for that. I'm trying to figure out what would be a good investment to make for him, for this purpose. It would be nice if I could get something that could also replace the electric piano as his midi-controller for doing studio stuff, but that he could also use as a portable keyboard for gigs.

I was thinking about an arranger keyboard,s like a PA600, etc. My wife is Turkish and I think he would also be interested in experimenting with some of the middle eastern sounds, etc that those have, and I guess it would also be good as a gigging keyboard?

Would an arranger keyboard be appropriate for this? Or should I look into something else for him?

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Just about any current DP or keyboard with touch-sensitive keys, has a USB MIDI jack. They will work with any computer as a "MIDI controller". If you want to control other MIDI gear, without a computer, you'll want "5-pin DIN MIDI" jacks.

At your price point (roughly $1000 for a PA300) many keyboards have 5-pin MIDI, but the PA300 doesn't.

Last edited by Charles Cohen; 04/05/21 09:56 PM.

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For piano/electric piano cocktail hour gigs, he'd probably want more than 61 keys, and a piano-like hammer action. Unless the gigs aren't "solo piano" in sound but rather live playing of assorted sounds to arranged backing tracks, in which case, yes, an arranger would be a good way to go. I've seen cocktail-type stuff done both ways, and I think the first decision is which of those performance approaches is the goal. Another big variable is whether the audience will be hearing him out of speakers built into the keyboard, or if he will be bring separate amplification. If the former, the quality/volume of the internal speakers will be important. Lots of boards have speakers that sound pretty nice in your living room, but would get totally lost playing in a larger room with 50 or 100 people milling around.

For a portable piano with beefy speakers, in the PA600 price range, I'd look at the Kawai ES520. For the arranger approach, since you're talking about Turkish music, I wonder if you're talking about the PA600QT (as opposed to the "regular" PA600)? If so, I'd also look at the Yamaha PSR-A3000 which is a bit pricier than the PA600 but is similarly "world" oriented and, at least on paper, seems to have better speakers, and is quite a bit newer (2016 introduction vs. 2012 introduction). Though I have no personal experience with these, or how big/crowded a room their speakers could handle, even for just solo performance. Korg and Yamaha both have more updated boards than these (e.g. PA700 Oriental, PSRA5000) but they are pricier. But none of these are boards I'm very familiar with personally.

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Unless you want to experience all of the joys of buying, maintaining, and carrying a PA system, I would recommend a piano with decent speakers. The Kawai ES 520 is adequate for cocktail hours, without having to lug amplifiers, cables, and speakers along.


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If it's going to be carried around often, weight is a big issue.

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I sort of like your user name :-)

You will not go wrong with the flagships of portable lines of the usual suspects, if the budget is not a constraint.


A man must love a thing very much if he practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practice it without any hope of doing it well. Such a man must love the toils of the work more than any other man can love the rewards of it.
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Thanks everyone. I was just sort of assuming that some sort of external amplification would be necessary, so I wasn't even taking into account the onboard speakers or amps. Especially nowadays, where I'm guessing weddings will be outside as much as possible, I would be surprised if any keyboards would be loud enough without external amplification? I do have several amps already, big and small, as well as a small PA system, but would like to keep the setup as compact as possible.

For the arrangers, yes I was looking at the QT version. I sort of got on that path because someone local on Facebook was selling the PA600QT and I started researching it. I was always intrigued by these arrangers. I suppose though that he would probably be best off with a full size keyboard.

So, assuming amplification isn't an issue, and forgetting about arrangers for a moment, what would be a good portable, full size keyboard for this purpose, in the $1000-$1500 range?

Thanks again!

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88 hammer action keys and "world instruments" and auto-accompaniment and a portable form factor isn't completely impossible.

Casio has the CDP-S350 and PX-S3000 which both tick those boxes to some extent at least. The PX-3000 (from the "Privia" product family) is supposed to be the better "piano" as in piano emulation. The key actions are pretty much the same, but the sounds vary though the CDP-350 seems to have decent piano sounds too. It just lacks the resonances and stuff like that for added realism. Both are way below $1500.

Opinions on the key action vary here. Some are okay with it. Some can't stand it. (Which is the usual story.)

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Originally Posted by clothearednincompo
88 hammer action keys and "world instruments" and auto-accompaniment and a portable form factor isn't completely impossible.
What's unusual about the particular "world" arrangers mentioned is their ability to deal with the microtunings that are used in a lot of non-western music (and presuably accompaniment styles that make use of them). It's interesting, they have little "mini keyboard" button layouts on the left panel, to play these manipulations. I'd like to try one some day!

Originally Posted by hominamad
So, assuming amplification isn't an issue, and forgetting about arrangers for a moment, what would be a good portable, full size keyboard for this purpose, in the $1000-$1500 range?
There are lots of options that will work. The big variables are the travel weight, the feel of the action, and the quality of the piano sounds. (There are lots of other differences, in the other available sounds and capabilities a board may have, but strictly for doing cocktail piano gigs, those three things are probably what you care about.) For connecting into external amplification, it is best (but not absolutely required) to have something that has stereo quarter inch outputs, which would be a knock against the low-priced Casios that have been mentioned, but that won't be an issue in your price range, or even in some of the other models in a lower price range.

Although you don't need the internal speakers, that Kawai ES520 would still be among the strongest choices, if piano sound is the priority. ES920 probably even better (largely for the action), if you can deal with its slightly out of budget price and higher travel weight. And you might find the internal speakers handy/sufficient for some uses. Caveat: I haven't yet had a chance to play these two models myself.

But yes, if you'd just as soon keep the price and/or travel weight down, cocktail piano is perfectly do-able with a lower priced Casio (including the ones mentioned by clothearednincompo), Kawai ES110, assorted Yamahas and Rolands too. Lightest weight with 1/4" outputs is probably the Casio PX-5S, and it has a pretty nice action. It can be a bit noisy/bouncy, but still feels better than lots of other lower cost actions. I wasn't so enamored with the playability of the pianos out of the box, but there are freely downloadable variations on the Casio forum which significantly improve it, IMO. Really nice electric piano sounds, too... probably the best I've heard in under-$1k boards. (Again, there are some nice freely downloadable variations available, too.)

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p.s. -- getting back to the idea of having the cocktail hour board double as a Mac/Garageband MIDI controller, which hasn't really been dealt with at all in this thread so far, the Casio PX-5S would be an especially strong choice there. It has pitch and modulation wheels, and built-in MIDI zoning, with 6 assignable sliders and 4 knobs.

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Solo entertainer gigs are the domain of arranger keyboards, usually with up to 76 semi-weighted keys. Yamaha Genos or Korg PA-4X76 are pretty lightweight examples. They need external amplification (which you need anyway when you sing along). Though for the Yamaha there is a GNS-MS01 Speaker System available.

Traditional stage pianos are meant for a full band setup. Their sound selection is focused on pianos, organs and synths and accompaniment features are limited to non-existent.


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Originally Posted by JoeT
Solo entertainer gigs are the domain of arranger keyboards...Traditional stage pianos are meant for a full band setup.
It depends on what you're trying to do. Solo cocktail hour is often nothing but a piano sound, no backing arrangement. Geography may make a difference... e.g. I think in general, professional arranger use may be more common in Europe than in the U.S.

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Indeed, depending on the betrothed it's either a pianist playing an acoustic grand on location, a full band gig or a "band-in-a-box" guy with a professional arranger or a DAW setup.


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Originally Posted by hominamad
Thanks everyone. I was just sort of assuming that some sort of external amplification would be necessary, so I wasn't even taking into account the onboard speakers or amps. Especially nowadays, where I'm guessing weddings will be outside as much as possible, I would be surprised if any keyboards would be loud enough without external amplification? I do have several amps already, big and small, as well as a small PA system, but would like to keep the setup as compact as possible.

For the arrangers, yes I was looking at the QT version. I sort of got on that path because someone local on Facebook was selling the PA600QT and I started researching it. I was always intrigued by these arrangers. I suppose though that he would probably be best off with a full size keyboard.

So, assuming amplification isn't an issue, and forgetting about arrangers for a moment, what would be a good portable, full size keyboard for this purpose, in the $1000-$1500 range?

Thanks again!

PA600QT and PA600, both have super bouncy and light keybed. You can buy the PA700QT which is the newer version that has some of the better sample sets of PA4X.

They are also pretty old at the moment.

That said, PA1000 and PA700(QT) are for home-usage. PA4X has substantial build quality and keybed. Just like PSR-SX series and Genos.

Yamaha recently introduced the PSR-A5000, the oriental version of the PS-X series.

One thing to keep in mind: Yamaha's PSX series has a better build quality but has less flexible software (capabilities) than Korg. Korg PA series has lower build quality but better software capabilities.

You can load samples in all of them. If you're into oriental music, the QT series has some samples in its ROM, so you won't waste the memory to load the oriental samples.

PA4X also comes in an oriental version.

A used PA3X is probably what you should buy if you're looking for a used keyboard.


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Thanks everyone...very helpful demystifying the arrangers. What is the best way for one to learn how to use these things? They seem quite complicated. Is it the kind of thing you can just figure out?

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Just as there are piano lessons for grand piano, there are teachers who teach arranger keyboards.


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Originally Posted by hominamad
Thanks everyone...very helpful demystifying the arrangers. What is the best way for one to learn how to use these things? They seem quite complicated. Is it the kind of thing you can just figure out?

Arrangers are quite simple to use. They have 3 sections:
1- Rhythm (or style)
2- Voice
3- Song

You mainly work with 1 and 2 and you can see the buttons for presets on the control surface. With mid-range and flagship arrangers, you can load sample sets too. That's pretty much it.

I haven't seen many musicians who use arrangers know much about sound design or rhythm creation. They mostly rely on the readily available rhythm or voice packs. Like this for Yamaha:

https://ca.yamaha.com/en/products/m.../arranger_workstations/psr-s970/vse.html


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If the wedding gig is cocktail piano, I am guessing that this means solo piano in cocktail style. I am planning on doing gigs like this soon, and I am sure my Casio Privia PXS-1000 will do the job nicely. I use this DP for trio and quartet gigs currently, or, at least as much as I can considering limited opportunities. The speakers are rather loud as well. There are also several other electric piano and organ sounds that are fine. It is about the lightest, slimmest DP imaginable and I like the sound, especially through my Electro-Voice powered speaker. I tried an arranger at one point in time, but I did not like the feel of the keys and it seemed to have a rather high learning curve, but decided it was not for me.

The Casio Privia is 88 keys and fully weighted and, to me, has a great touch.

Last edited by gracegren; 04/07/21 02:22 PM.

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Originally Posted by JoeT
Indeed, depending on the betrothed it's either a pianist playing an acoustic grand on location, a full band gig or a "band-in-a-box" guy with a professional arranger or a DAW setup.
I wonder if, in Europe, more venues actually have an acoustic grand (and a well maintained one). I've done lots of wedding gigs in the New York area... sometimes there is a grand, but often I need to provide the keyboard... and that doesn't mean that the bride and groom aren't looking for a similar effect as if there were a grand, i.e. solo piano playing. Just because there's no piano at the venue doesn't mean they don't want solo piano cocktail music. I've done lots of cocktail hours, and most of the time, it's on the DP I bring. I may mix it up and do a few songs with a Rhodes sound, or bring some strings in under the piano, but mostly, I just leave it on the one piano sound. (Also, ceremony and cocktail hours are often outdoors here, and then even if the venue has a piano somewhere, it's not available for cocktail hour.) After cocktail hour, I move to the reception area and do the full band thing. And our "competition" so to speak is not band-in-a-box guys, but rather DJs. So maybe this kind of stuff is regional to some extent...?

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Originally Posted by anotherscott
After cocktail hour, I move to the reception area and do the full band thing. And our "competition" so to speak is not band-in-a-box guys, but rather DJs. So maybe this kind of stuff is regional to some extent...?

I think it largely depends on age and social-cultural background. You are right that canned music is also a big contender.


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