suggestions on a new keyboard


I’m thinking of maybe getting a new keyboard. The one I have now is older and seems to be short of keys when it comes to using Halion (Symphonic orchestra, etc) to get to the trigger keys (the lower octaves that changes the way its played, the name of those escapes me).

I’m mainly a guitar player but I came across my last one at an estate sale, it had midi plugs so I plugged it in and started learning how to platy it. now I have bunch of midi instruments and think I might want to get something that is more fitting and easier to use so I don’t have to rewrite scripts, and stuff. I had to do that on the Native Instruments ones in Kontakt due to the above “not enough keys” scenario and see me heading that way with the symphonic orchestra in Halion (that post to follow soon, haha)

Does anyone have any suggestions for keyboards or even functions I should be looking for (how many keys, etc)? It would be for recording mostly (not playing out live) and I’m a bit out of my element so any advice would be appreciated.


If you want to be able to access the keyswitches in the lower octave whilst you’re playing something in a higher register, such as violins in the Halion Symphonic Orchestra set, then an 88 key controller keyboard is the simplest thing layout-wise.

Of course if you’re not too worried about putting in the articulations as you play, you could use a shorter keyboard, press the octave down button, and record the keyswitches in a separate pass, or even paint them in in the key editor. A 61 key board means you don’t have to jig about too much.

The HSO sounds, and many others, use the Mod wheel to control internal note dynamics with sounds such as strings, brass and winds so often you find yourself needing 4 hands, or recording articulations and dynamics in separate passes.

Something with a few knobs and sliders will also allow you to easily access the quick controls of the HalionSonic SE and other VSTi s. Useful for instance if you’re doing an organ part and you want to alter the stops/drawbars/ rotary speaker settings sort of stuff as you play, to do swells and such. Or Moog type sounds where you want to crank the filter as you play.

A set of transport controls on the keyboard can be useful and means that you don’t have to continually turn to the computer keyboard to navigate around the project whilst you’re trying to play.

Think about what key action you want too. Springy synth action is fine for basic sounds and inputing drum parts or whatever but a semi weighted action feels more natural, and if you’re doing a lot of piano playing then a piano type hammer action is worth looking at.

One thing that has caught me out in the past with some budget keyboard controllers is the velocity curve response. You find yourself having to hit the keys really hard to get louder notes, making you have to go back and edit the velocities in the key editor. I’d look for something that has the ability to choose or alter a velocity response curve to suit your playing style.

Hope that helps. Maybe a real keyboard player (i’m primarily a guitarist too) would say something different of course!

I agree with Ian s’s reply above.
I’ve been using an M-Audio Keystation 88es for a few years and it does the job well. Useful for things that you’ve mentioned (I use Garritan Personal Orchestra with keyswitching).

I also agree with Ian about the problem of “bashing the keys” for velocity reasons, but recently found a great freebie that acts like a velocity slider once you get it set up right:
Have a look at Veloscaler. Great for auditioning velocity timbres.


Thanks Ian and Neil! That helps. yeah Keyswitches was they work that was escaping me. I dint think about drawing them in but I do like the idea of the larger keyboard do its easier to access and try stuff while you are playing so you know ho wit will sound ahead of time.

the keyboard I have now is weighted which I wanted initially when I was learning to play ( so it felt real) but I have a Hammond (Native instruments) and when I do the cliché slides up to a note and stuff like that its lie a battle to get there, I I was thinking maybe something without he weighed keys and I can keep the other one for when I want more of a piano feel. I’ll have to try a few out and se what they feel like overall.

So are you saying the velocity works better with the weighted or non weighted ones? I hadn’t considered that being an issue.

Also the Mod wheels would be nice too. another detail that kind of escaped me but I’m sure I’d be thinking I should have gotten one later down the line.

on a side note do you have an simple explanation/screen print of this - you could use a shorter keyboard, press the octave down button,

in Kontakt I had to rewrite scripts (I believe this what the term was). If Halion has a button for that that would be sweet as I’m working on a project now that I think I’ll be running in to that before I get a new set of keys. I’ve been just choosing the instruments (staccato violin, etc) because I wasn’t able to access the key switches but I haven’t ben doing anything as complex as I’m looking to.

Thanks again!

If you use a bunch of NI VSTi’s you might take a look at their Komplete Kontrol keyboards. It does some pretty cool things like colored coded lighting to show which keys are keyswitches. I’m on the verge of buying the 61 key version since they are on extended-black-friday sale now. Was considering 88, but it wouldn’t really fit my available space (and is more pricey).

Regarding using less than 88 keys, I’ve never found it a problem since I rarely play things that go beyond a 2-3 octave range. So I just use the transpose control on my keyboard to shift up or down to cover the keys I need - the 5 octaves I have now is always enough. If you wanted to have both the Keyswitches available along with the highest end of the keyboard you could use the Input Transformer to split the keyboard so notes below the split-point go through normally (e.g. to the keyswitches) while notes above the split are raised by an octave or more to play in the desired range.

its funny I got that e-mail from NI on the sale they were having and that’s what got me thinking it might be time for a change. haha. The keyboard I have now doesn’t have any octave switch (that I know of). its an old Yamaha, I’m not even sure of the model. But that’s a good point if I can reassign them I might not need so many keys.

I’ll have to check out the NI keyboard a little more in depth as well. 50% off is definitely a nice feature. ha!


Wow, I just checked out the video on the NI keyboard. That ting is a beast. Nice they throw in a handful of VSTI’s with it. It does seem kind of pricey but seems to be it’s own command center as well

Same here.

If your current keyboard can’t transpose on it’s own, you can use the Input Transformer to get the same results.

Its an old Yamaha Clavinova (I think that’s the model). I’m at work now but thinking about it, it might have a button for Midi Transpose but I’ve never hit it. I always thought it was like a midi “reset” type button in case I lost the signal. Ha! (it becomes more obvious as this post goes on that I’m mainly a guitar player)

Is the input Transformer in Halion/Cubase? I guess I can always ad the notes in the midi editor for the key switches as an option too

Do you see any downsides to the NI keyboard (technical or otherwise)? I’m thinking it would work just as well with Halion, without the fancy lights and control features it has from kontakt. that’s pretty cool with the scale lights too. Being less than seasoned on piano that is a nice addition just to even learn positions while you are working on stuff

If your transpose button works like mine (which is a common design) I hold it and then hit the key I want to be assigned to the middle C. This scheme lets you do stuff like putting an A note on the C Key and then the white keys will play the A Major scale. From reviews it seems the NI keyboard can only adjust up & down in octaves. But if you want to transpose by half-steps the Input Transformer will do that.

The Input Transformer is available on the Track not in Halion. It got a funny looking squiggle on it that looks a bit like a ladle with an arrow pointing right from the lip. You might need to configure your buttons to make it visible.

The only real complaints I’ve read about the NI keyboards is that they have built-in functions to auto generate chords and arpeggios, but if you try to record those in a DAW you won’t get the chords or arpeggios you’ll just get the note that triggered them (although I’m puzzled how it can play a chord without the sending all the needed notes). Of course you can do chords and arpeggios inside Cubase.

I don’t mind playing my own chords and arpeggios. so if that’s the worst complaint about it I don’t see it being too major for me at least.

I’ll have to check that out on the transpose button. I think I’ve hit it just by itself in the past and when nothing I happened chalked it up to it being useless. That’s actually kind of cool if you aren’t sure of a scale. I might have to check that out just for the hell of it.

I’ll have to check that transformer out too. There’s a lot of stuff in Cubase that I haven’t even scratched the surface of

Thanks again, I really appreciate the feed back and insight!

Yeah, and that never really goes away.

Hi Raino,

I think I’m going to go ahead and get the NI keyboard (probably the 88 key) but wanted to see if you got one like you mentioned you might and if so what you thought.

my one concern from looking through the NI Forums was that it seems there was some issues with the sustain pedals. I think if I get one with a reversible polarity switch (not sure if that’s the right name for it) that that siolved the issue people were having.

I wanted to see though if you did get one if you (or anyone else reading this has one for that matter) had any feedback before Santa drops a sack of cash on one


When I decided to get one they were in stock. But I dilly dallied a bit and by the time I bought it they were back ordered. But then it shipped and I’m literally waiting for it to be delivered as I type. :smiley:

Nice! Merry Christmas!!

Did you order from NI directly? I wasn’t sure if it is better or the sane than say musicians friend, etc. I need to order a stand an sustain pedal too so I was thinking one stop shop but didn’t know if there was a benefit one way or the other.

I got it from Sweetwater, which is where I get a lot of stuff. Mostly because a lot of items you can pay with no interest over 36 or 48 months, But NI isn’t a brand they do that with. Still the account is all set up so purchase was super quick & easy. No price difference on NI stuff, but some brands are cheaper than buying direct.

Cool. Did it come with the handful of instruments too? That might be easier to order everything I need from one place.

Still waiting on delivery, come on FedEx, :frowning: but it’s supposed to come with the software bundle - although I already have many of those titles (but not all). I did a quick look on the Sweetwater site and there are a bunch of pedals & stands that qualify for 0% interest payments, but you do need to get their credit card for that.

Thanks. I’ll check it out in there too. Did you research the sustain pedal to know which would be most compatible or do you have one already. That seems to be one of the biggest issues ive noticed people posting