What's a better investment?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by TheIndieKid, Jun 12, 2020.

  1. I have a cheap Bontempi keyboard from the early 90s I think. Pretty whack, to be honest. 61 keys, no hammer action or velocity sensitivity.

    I want to learn it so I can write songs. It's easier to see how harmony lays out on a keyboard, and you can execute bass/chords and melody at the same time.

    I just want to get to a point where I can accurately execute ideas in my head for the bass/chords and melody in my left and right hand respectively. This would mean learning different rhythms in both hands.

    However, here's the kicker for me. Should I invest in an 88 key instrument, with graded hammer action, so it feels like a real acoustic piano, and learn from YouTube for free? Or stick with my current instrument and take one-to-one lessons?
    JRA and alanloomis1980 like this.
  2. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    I feel the benefit of weighted keys is training your hands to play on acoustic pianos. It’s like a training exercise, keeping you in shape for the real thing. Not necessary for song writing and theory study.

    Touch sensitive for sure. Cause that’s just annoying. it will allow you to be more dynamic/expressive.

    88 keys is nice if you’re playing full-range piano arrangements. You’ll probably be fine with 61 for your purposes. 76 would give you another octave, might be fun, but probably not necessary.

    Frankly if you take one on one lessons, your teacher will probably insist you get the full 9 yards (88 weighted, touch sensitive keys.)

    Whatever you choose, you’re on the right track. Piano study was the single greatest investment in my musicianship. Good luck!
  3. Thank you for the reply. Do you reckon it's possible to learn what I need to from YouTube or other free resources?
    alanloomis1980 likes this.
  4. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    It depends, I suppose- how are you with online learning? Can you watch YouTube bass lessons and get something out of it, making progress?

    If your goal is not performing, then I’d wager a guess you’ll be ok online. For me the hardest part of piano was reading the sheet music, and synching up the two hands. Teachers help with that, and fingerings too. You can also get a theory-only teacher, who would probably care less about your keyboard.

    And if you get something Midi-capable you can:
    A) drive sounds with your computer, skipping the cheapo “Casio” sounds and;
    B) multi-track record you projects, bypassing the challenge of playing both hands at once.
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  5. My goal might be performing eventually. I can learn from online lessons. I bought the course from Ari's Bass Blog ages ago.

    I know quite a bit about theory. Concepts about harmony and stuff are down for me. I know the qualities of the diatonic triads, and what intervals make up all chords. I can explain concepts such as tritone sub, augmented sixths, neopolitan sixths, etc.

    Where I struggle is on the side of application and note names. I struggle with the notes of chords/scales in sharp and flat keys. I also can't name the correct enharmonics quickly.
    alanloomis1980 likes this.
  6. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Unless you are playing solo concert piano, you won't be using 88 keys. Stick with what you have for now and learn how to play.

    Lessons are great, but you can learn a lot on your own. When I was a teen, all I had were my sister's piano lesson books and my albums/CDs, and I learned how to play well enough for top 40 bands. Depends on how much you want to practice.
    jamro217, TheIndieKid and nbsipics like this.
  7. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    If you see yourself on stage eventually, a nice keyboard with weighted touch sensitive keys sounds like a good investment. Number of keys is debatable, but if you’re just playing rock/pop/blues, you could adapt anything to a 61-key keyboard. Though weighted keys is not essential, there’s something special about playing one that is weighted....

    your theory goals sound easily remedied with some online study and a little old fashioned “pencil and paper” homework ;)
  8. The keyboard I have is lacking touch sensitivity, which I know is important. I think it might be worth investing in a new keyboard for that. Are there any other features that are important in a keyboard? I know that I don't need 88 keys now, but do I need weighted keys? Or hammer action?
  9. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    How about option #3. Get a relatively cheap keyboard with velocity sensitive keys and take lessons. IMHO you don't need 88 keys or weighted action at this point.

    When I was a music major, I was required to take Class Piano. The classes were taught on electronic keyboards, but they did not have 88 keys...way too much real estate for a class room setting. Practice rooms were equipped with acoustic pianos. Mostly uprights, but there were also a few nice grands.

    I was also a touring pro for a couple of decades and most of the keyboard players I worked with did not use 88 keys. Most had both synth action and weighted keyboards, but some did not even bother with weighted keyboards.
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  10. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    It depends on what you want to do. I played keys back in the 1980s - some keyboards were touch sensitive, some weren't. A Hammond organ isn't touch sensitive.

    Unless your goal is to become a piano player, I would stick with what you have until your skills are more developed. Then you will have a better idea of what you want.
  11. TheIndieKid likes this.
  12. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    IMHO you do not need weighted action at this point. It is nice to have because it is sort of allows you to interact a bit more organically with the instrument. But if you are more interested in learning theory than becoming a skilled pianist it's not necessary. There have been many very high-end synthesizers that did not have weighted action. Many of them even had piano patches and it was possible to play them just fine. Someone who has trained on a piano will of course prefer weighted keys, but some prefer synth action.

    The decision you are about to make really comes to personal priorities and opportunity cost. You have a finite amount of money, so spending too much money on one thing will prevent you from spending it on something else. Is it more important to have the nicest keyboard you can afford at this point, or the best learning opportunity? IMHO that is the way you should look at it.
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  13. brother21


    Dec 26, 2008
    You can learn on cheap pianos BTW, some of the worlds finest music was written playing cheap instruments. They are great for inspiration.
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  14. Do both YouTube lessons AND get a few private lessons ASAP. You’ll know very soon which option suits you best.

    Keyboard:- what you have is sufficient for now.

    Touch sensitive is a must have for me personally (4 years piano lessons).

    Hammer action is overkill.

    Sustain pedal option is absolutely essential.

    Weighted action is nice but it’ll weigh a tonne to move it. Used ones come up cheap as people get sick of lugging them around. Get one with in-built speakers AND headphone (silent practise) AND line outs (to an amp, DI, etc).

    Only get 88 keys for home-use-only keyboards IME - in a road case they are super long, super heavy, and super hard to fit in cars. you’ll just leave it at home in preference for smaller lighter keyboards 98% of the time.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2020
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  15. JW56789

    JW56789 Guest

    Feb 18, 2017
    Digitally sampled electronic pianos have become so good that for a home on most folks' budget, a really good Yamaha, Roland, or Kawai would be a far better investment than gramma's old upright. Never needs tuning (the rub here is finding a GOOD piano tuner), most have headphone outs (Marriage Saver ! ! ! ), and a lot have onboard recorders and/or metronomes. 88 keys are fine, 72 is OK, and 61's are for synths only.

    Steer clear of the wonder keyboards with automatic chords, styles, all that stuff, it'll just get in your way. Good ones have several pianos, Wulitzer, Rhodes, a string patch or two, and usually some sort of harpsichord and/or clavinet preset, occasionally steel drums.

    You can find these usually with pretty decent action and a small footprint and all three pedals for less than a grand USD, if the budget is higher, there you go.

    That Bontempi is better than nothing, depending on what your definition of nothing is.

    Keyboards are great as you can see the entire chart in a way: Bass in the bottom, chords in the middle, melody on top in a simple form. It's so very hard to imagine what a four over a five sounds like when you can only play one note at a time, or hear a diminished or augmented chord, or most anything. With keys you can spell out entire harmonies.

    I'd HIGHLY recommend a good teacher or 6 months to a year to get you started. As with everything else, there is good and mighty bad online.
    murph7489 and TheIndieKid like this.
  16. I think I might look for a keyboard with touch sensitivity. However, I find my current one quite annoying to play, as you have to fully depress the key to make a sound. Is that something that is solved with weighted keys or hammer action?

    I'm sorry for the repetitive mention of these two terms. I don't understand the real difference between the two. I played a stage piano once and upon pressing the keys, they seemed to depress with your fingers. It felt almost effortless. I didn't need to use all the force in my fingers to get a sound out of the instrument. I'm just wondering what that mechanism is.
  17. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    Difference Between Hammer Action And Weighted Keys - Joshua Ross
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  18. diegom

    diegom Supporting Member

    Carl Hillman and TheIndieKid like this.
  19. For songwriting, having a variety of quality sounds at easy access will inspire song ideas. Hard to find patches with billions of hidden features realistically means you’ll rarely use them.

    Built in speaker(s) will make it as convenient as quickly grabbing an acoustic guitar for that idea that just popped into your head.

    Don’t dismiss battery/wall wart powered keyboards. Convenience means you can play it anytime anywhere.
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  20. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Lessons, lessons, lessons. Viewing a video online is NOT a lesson. You don't know what you don't know and a good teacher can provide feedback on what you are doing right and wrong as well as create a lesson plan based on YOUR goals.
    TheIndieKid and Groove Doctor like this.