Music keyboard

Discussion in 'General Mac Discussion' started by Smallville, Dec 2, 2004.

  1. Smallville macrumors regular

    Nov 1, 2004
    I just got an iMac G5, which of course, comes with Garage Band.

    My wife can play piano well, but we have no keyboard or piano. When we drove to the closest Mac store to buy the computer (4 hours round-trip), they had compatible keyboards and she was very interested in hooking up a keyboard to the computer to play music and record music.

    So, what keyboards are compatible? Can I only use the keyboard brands carried in the Mac store or will any $100 Wal-Mart keyboard work?
  2. asif786 macrumors 65816


    Jun 17, 2004
    London, UK.
  3. logicat2001 macrumors regular

    Apr 16, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    Hi smallville,

    You need two things: a USB MIDI interface and a MIDI keyboard. Nowadays, you can pick up a keyboard that has a USB/MIDI interface built in. Your choices are definitely not limited to just what the Apple Store has on display, and there are actually many different ways to pursue this.

    I can help narrow the choices down for you if you wish; but first some questions.

    1- How many keys?
    2- How important is piano action to your wife?
    3- What's your budget?
    4- How much physical space (desk/keyboard stand) is available for the keyboard?
    5- Do you only care to trigger Garageband plugins with this keyboard or should it also generate sound when the computer is off?

    Start with answers for those questions, and I'll continue.

  4. Smallville thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 1, 2004
    Thanks, here's some answers.

    1. Minimum of 40-odd keys, would prefer 60 or so.
    2. Wants it to feel as close to piano as possible.
    3. Budget - $200 max
    4. Not a problem. Big desk or we could just get a cheap stand.
    5. I want one that we can play without the computer, but be able to record music via GarageBand, so a bit of both.
  5. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    > 2. Wants it to feel as close to piano as possible.
    > 3. Budget - $200 max

    Mutually exclusive goals there, mate.

    A weighted action keyboard that feels like a piano is usually 76 or 88 keys and upwards of $500.
    61 keys &/or under $200 are almost always unweighted "organ" style or at best "semi-weighted" keys.

    Check out M-Audio
    Keystation Pro 88 - the feline's sleepware but lists at US$599
    Keystation 88es - semi-weighted and list US$299
    Keystation 61es semi-weighted as above but 61 keys list US$199

    Other brands: Roland, Studiologic, Fatar

    Go to a music store (not a computer store) and see if you can try before ordering. As a pianist, you wife will probably say "Eeew" when she tries an unweighted keyboard. Much of a piano's expression relies on the subtle variation of finger attack the pianist can control when the key "pushes back" in the right way.

    Another issue is latency. When you play a MIDI keyboard into a computer, it takes between 3 and 30 thousanths of a second for the computer to get the message, activate the sound synthesis or sample engine, translate it from digital to analog, and push the audio out to the speakers. The faster the computer, the better (or simpler) the software, and the better the D/A interface, the lower the latency. At higher latency values, the player definitely feels that their fingers are "disconnected" from the sound - "I hit the key but the sound doesn't come out 'til later".

    If this is a problem for the player, the solution might be to get a keyboard with built-in sounds for faster live response while playing, plus the MIDI &/or USB connection for working with Garageband etc. More money, of course. You might be able to get a used MIDI electronic piano; but these will almost certainly lack the USB connection, so you'd need to spend extra for a USB-MIDI interface.

    Last bit: unless you use decent headphones, the piano sound is going to suck. Badly. The dynamic range and the frequency range of a piano is far beyond the capability of computer speakers and inexpensive Hi-Fi speakers. Be prepared for another trip to town on the next weekend for better speakers...

  6. logicat2001 macrumors regular

    Apr 16, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    Hi Smallville,

    Right off the bat: nothing new is going to even get close to giving you nice action, 40 or more keys, and built-in sounds at $200. Even used would be a stretch, but definitely start looking around.

    Why not rank the four items in order of importance? I think we'll be able to narrow it down for you.


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