Advice for controller keyboard / orchestral music

Hi team
With the recent demise of Cakewalk, I’m now a very happy Cubase Pro 9.5 user.
As I’m looking for a new 88 key controller/digital piano for ORCHESTRAL music composing, I’d like to get advice on whether a controller with a a Modulation wheel is a deal breaker or not?

Is it easy enough to add the modulation/cc midi data after the fact, or would it be best to have a controller with a Mod wheel.

Bob :smiley:

I’m pretty sure you’re going to want that mod wheel. HALion symphony orchestra (which may not be the best package, but is still an amazing value) uses the mod wheel for crescendo/decrescendo, and in that way I understand it’s typical. I haven’t seen a how-to video involving orchestral work that didn’t use the mod wheel to control volume as keys were played. It never mattered what package the person was using. I’ve added it in post, particularly for very gradual volume changes, but it’s a different beast if you don’t have that while playing a line.

That said, I wonder if an expression pedal could be used instead. Some remapping would be in order, but it would free up your left hand.

I use the modwheel to rough in what I want to do with individual tracks, but then I almost always go back and draw in a cleaned up version of the modwheel data in the note editor, since it’s hard to exactly exactly hit the right modwheel changes on the fly. It’s really handy to have those modwheel approximations for since you will be spending a lot of time in the note editor with orchestral arrangements and it’s hard to remember exactly what you had in mind when staring at a bunch or rectangles. Being able to modulate with the modwheel when you’re laying down tracks is also very important to your creative visualization. I have often considered a foot pedal as ColinPark suggested, and will do that…someday. Would appreciate some recommendations.

You should take a look at the Nektar LX88+ keyboard. It’s somewhere between a super-soft synth touch and a full escapement feel. Very well built for the price range. I like mine a lot. It’s nice to have those extra CC knobs for orchestral work since most packages are set up to monitor certain CC inputs right out of the box, like for instance Spitfire, EastWest, and others.

But in general keyboard feel is a very personal thing and opinions vary wildly for any particular model, so try one out before buying. Also be aware that there are many keyboard/DAW issues that may prevent a particular keyboard from working well with a particular DAW, so check the forums before making your decision. There has been a lot of praise on these forums for the Nektar Panorama keyboards, so check those out as well, though unfortunately those top out a 61 keys which is awkward if you like to use keyswitch articulations.

Thanks Colin and Bill for your replies. I ended up finding a Casio PX-5S in pristine second hand condition for a good price. So I have the mod wheel and weighted keys…best of both worlds.
Many thanks for your responses.