I once received an email message from someone who wanted to know which 88-note weighted keyboard to buy, and included a list of several potential keyboards (none of which I had used). As I play guitar more often than keyboards, and when I do play keys it’s on synths with unweighted or semi-weighted keyboards (and it’s tough finding room in my studio for 88 keys!), this isn’t a subject about which I have a lot of expertise. But I try to respond to people whenever possible, so I suggested he also try a couple keyboards I had used and liked that weren’t on his list, and that he post his question in the Keys, Synths & Samplers forum so he could get opinions from others with more experience.
In return, he sent a quite nasty and sarcastic follow-up that basically said “thanks for nothing” because I hadn’t told the guy, right then and there, which keyboard to buy. He expected me to drop everything, check out all the 88-note keyboards currently available, and give him not just my opinion, but an iron-clad choice sure to please him. He was really upset that he might actually have to go and think for himself, and maybe even do some (shudder!) research.
But wouldn’t he be happier in the long run if he dropped everything, checked out all the 88-note keyboards currently available, drew on the considerable expertise of our forums, and formed his own opinion as to what would be best for him?\
After all, people’s needs are very different. For me, one test of a “good” synth is whether it includes sample RAM, external inputs for processing audio, and editing software; these features might be inappropriate for some people, but they’re important to me.
To think there is a single “this-keyboard-is-best” answer is naive. If there was one supremely magnificent keyboard, everyone would buy one, and the rest of the keyboard companies would pack up and go home. But it doesn’t work that way.
I’d guess the guy who emailed me probably subscribes to the “manuals suck” school of thought as well. Granted, some manuals do suck, but truthfully, most of them are pretty good at defining an instrument’s features and describing what they do. The problem is that people expect that somehow, the manual will transfer all the knowledge of how to play an instrument in a magical manner that requires no work. It doesn’t work that way.
Imagine that a wanna-be guitarist walks into GC. He buys a guitar and a method book so he can learn how to play. A week later, he still isn’t playing very well. So he draws the conclusion that the method book “manual" sucks.
Or ponder this: Suppose a digital multieffects has five hundred variable parameters. If it takes you an average of five minutes to read about and check out each parameter in the processor, that’s over 40 continuous hours of reading and learning.
The point of all this is quite simple: People have to take responsibility for their own education, whether it’s reading a manual or finding out about what product will best suit their needs. Music stores present seminars; check them out. Holes in your knowledge? There are a lot of great books out there. Pose questions in the forums. It’s unfortunate we sometimes have to go through a significant learning curve before we can use our tools effectively . . . but isn’t that true of pretty much everything?
by Phil O'Keefe
Chorus pedal with extensive control and sound-sculpting capabilities
by Craig Anderton
Make your layered vocals sound cleaner and tighter with these techniques
by Craig Anderton
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