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Korg Pa4X - Anyone using it for solo gigs?


GlennGalen
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I have a Korg Pa4X arranger keyboard. I am truly impressed by this instrument. It is light years beyond the simple "retirement home waltzes and ballroom dance standards" that we in America tend to associate with arranger keyboards. I understand that in Europe arrangers are huge for live solo acts.

 

The accompaniment is professional and not "cheesy". It is in 4 variations on 8 tracks and with sliders so each style can be adjusted to as simple or as complex as you like. If you want the focus to be on you and your singing and playing, you can do that. There is a built-in TC Helicon harmonizer and compressor/effects unit whose settings can be saved with your customized songs.

 

There is also two built-in MIDI player and MP3 players.

 

The audio out runs through an adjustable Waves-brand processor that really makes it sound great.

 

Anyone here using it successfully for solo gigs? Tell me about it.

 

I am really wanting to work out something original and entertaining with this keyboard / MP3 / Midi player setup.

 

 

Myself on the PA4x straight out of the keyboard to the recorder, doing my take on the Beach Boys song "Til I Die":

 

 

Finally, here's a song where the Pa4X provided the essential bed and rhythm tracks, and I sweetened it up with some pads from a soft synth in the studio:

 

Edited by GlennGalen
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Wasn't familiar with that one, so I looked it up.... holy crap.... $3k? That's a lot of money for what basically amounts to "tracks". With all the options available for such, I am doubting most folks use these for live applications. Road life is hard on expensive gear.... just saying. I suspect this Korg is mostly used for composing. Once composed, it would be far, far cheaper and easier to just download your "track" to your iPhone and playback from there. A lot less to go wrong.

 

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They are commonly used for solo acts in Europe and the Middle East. It's very satisfying to improvise and change chord progressions, tempos, add breaks and fills on the fly, live. You really feel like you are leading the band, rather than playing over a track.

Edited by GlennGalen
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Except that while the arranger is close, its not quite right. Especially when changing chords, I watched your videos and when changing chords there isn't a smooth transition. Especially when the arranger starts to play a fill and then mid fill you change chords. Humans anticipate the chord changes, computers don't.

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Except that while the arranger is close' date=' its not quite right. Especially when changing chords, I watched your videos and when changing chords there isn't a smooth transition. Especially when the arranger starts to play a fill and then mid fill you change chords. Humans anticipate the chord changes, computers don't.[/quote']

 

 

 

Sounded pretty good to me. :) We all can hear things differently based on taste and expectations, I suspect. The fill sounds slightly slower than normal because I think I ran the tempo a little slower that the standard for the backing style.

 

That all said, experts tell me that when you get good on an arranger you learn to play the chord just a fraction "pushed" ahead of the beat to give the computer an edge in triggering in to perfection. I think I am getting better at that now over when I made this live video recording.

Edited by GlennGalen
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I hear tempo/beat oddities as well, not that your average civilian could. I personally wouldn't want to adapt my playing to fit a machine. Especially considering the problem of changing back when you play with a band. I guess my thing is, I consider myself a guitar player that does solo stuff - not a solo artist. Last night, I was fortunate enough to gig with some of the best jazz/soul players in the city. My solo work to tracks helped me, in that I was in shape, and very aware of tempo. Again, I can't imagine if I had learned to push each chord a little, and then tried to make music with others.

 

But to each his/her own. The Korg looks interesting and I hope it works out well, but it's not my cup of tea.

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I was considering getting an arranger keyboard long ago. There was a solo guy on the boards about 20 years ago that used a Yamaha Tyros and he was working regularly in nice restaurants.

 

Anyway, I ended up getting a Kurzweil K2VX and doing the work of recording or editing midi files to my liking.

 

No matter how good arranger keyboards sound, they still sound too automated to me. I would hope that an audience wants to see me really playing my instrument rather than controlling a machine that plays itself.

 

Some of the sounds are cheesy IMO but that's common with many synths.

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I can't support any device that makes me dumb down how I play. I found that the "arpeggios" on my Yamaha S70XS would follow my left hand, assuming that it always played the root of the chord. Way too restricting!

 

I've used some of the more specialized voices like vibraphone and accordion in a band setting, but somehow in a solo setting, they seem cheesier. I like being able to switch off between Fender Precision and upright bass to accompany a one hand or two hand piano, Wurlitzer, Rhodes, and/or various B3 presets, but that's about it.

 

I'd be curious to know what you all think of Jacob Collier's use of harmonizer technology. Pretty sophisticated arrangements, but I don't think I'd want to listen to a whole show.

 

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Bottom line here: How enjoyable is your "sound" for the audience? Is it primarily about your technical skill? Or is it about their enjoyment?

 

My non-musician wife, she says that she cannot tell during a live show if what a musician is doing is hard to play or not. She cannot tell how "skilled" they are, only how it all "sounds" to her.

 

A state of the art arranger today has backing tracks made by pro studio musicians and arrangement people. The only "cheesy" backing tracks are the old legacy backing styles they always include for compatibility with much older models. I never use those.

 

In my experience, an arranger is a truly unique instrument. It is like a backing track you and "play" and conduct in real time. I bit like a looper as well, but much more sophisticated. The possibilities are limited only by your skill and imagination. You can go SO FAR beyond simple arrangements, if you have the ability and the vision.

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I would hope that an audience wants to see me really playing my instrument rather than controlling a machine that plays itself.

 

 

Very true. The audience has to see YOU doing the "main thing" live. Backing tracks create a wonderful sonic experience *if they are not the center of attention*.

 

How do you do that? It's not just about volume. It's about complexity of the backing when there is only a single person on stage. It becomes incongruent when they see one woman or guy performing and hear a 15-piece band.

 

Interestingly, you can get away with it for a BIG song now and then. But mostly, a solo person should stick with a small rhythm section, with a non-intrusive pad. You can do a LOT with that.

 

Also, with guitar players they can see your hands. Keyboard players should sit sideways so they can see you playing. Maybe even have a camera and a TV monitor where that can see "over your shoulder".

 

You have to be energetically "making music" before their eyes if you want a great "live show".

 

But I am a big believer in backing tracks, well used.

Edited by GlennGalen
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yeah Glen, I've been using background tracks for nearly 30 years now. It seemed back then that using a drum machine and bass pedals was common. I recorded tracks to a 4 track cassette that included a drum machine, bass guitar and a patch on my synth and there were some duos doing the same thing. Some people frowned on the use of BT (and some still do) because it seems like cheating!

 

When I went out to do my first few gigs I found that there were a lot of acoustic guitarist/singers around that were getting work. They had smaller speakers and less equipment to carry around but they were primarily really good singers.

 

So throughout the years I've done both kinds of gigs; those with background tracks and those without. Some clients preferred acoustic while others wanted full backing tracks.

 

And I've had some BT with lots of instrumentation or vocal harmony added (no machine, just me singing several tracks). At a certain point I wanted to make my guitar playing the main attraction so I made my BT with just bass, drums and maybe one keyboard part (mostly organ, piano, or strings). I also do a few songs with just guitar and vocal just to let the audience know that it isn't all memorex they're hearing.

 

I keep away from saxophone sounds because it's not possible to get a realistic sax sound from a synth. I like patches that emulate analog synthesizers too. Sample playback synths are pretty good at that.

 

From what I heard on your videos were some nice patches. So I commend you for keeping away from those that don't sound as good. Good luck and consider doing a few songs without tracks too.

 

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y

From what I heard on your videos were some nice patches. So I commend you for keeping away from those that don't sound as good. Good luck

 

and consider doing a few songs without tracks too.

 

Thanks, Bob. And that is excellent advice about throwing in some non-backing track numbers to show off what you as a performer can do all alone

Edited by GlennGalen
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And' date=' just in the nick of time: http://www.harmonycentral.com/articl...s-are-you-nuts

 

 

Thanks pogo97,

 

I could not have said it better myself than Anderton did. The Korg Pa4X can do all that. It can also import a standard MIDI file and make a style from it. All your sequenced stuff inside the Korg can be saved as a MIDI file.

 

There is a USB connection from the Pa4X that makes its internal drive appear as a drive to the PC. I effortlessly move things between the Korg sequencer and the DAW (Sonar).

 

I like to add soft synth pads, leads, and motion things on the DAW with Omnisphere 2. The sky is the limit in studio use of a Korg arranger (since that is the brand I am familiar with).

Edited by GlennGalen
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  • 4 years later...
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Hi Glenn. I've been using an arranger for solo gigs and even recording for close to thirty years. I started with a Bachmann WS2 workstation then graduated to a PA80 then a pa2xpro and now (yesterday!) the PA4x! If you work on using the styles correctly and also arranging midi sequences you can certainly avaid the "cheese factor" of playing with tracks. So far the 4x is living up to its claims....love it!

www.garystricklandmusic.com 

 

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I went with a workstation keyboard that allows me to sequence full songs and separate the sections to I can arrange the songs on the fly. I tried a Tyros 5. It's a little too automated for my needs. I suppose I could use an arranger to create my own tracks, but there is so much auto arrangements installed, you would eventually get lazy and use those ready made fills to get by, falling into a same sound as others trap. I wanted my arrangements to sound unique. The workstation was the way to go for stage solo gigs.

I use the arranger section for typical 3-4 chord songs (usually oldies because they are so short) I make an intro, a verse, a chorus, bridge, ending. There are 6 parts that can be saved to each arrangement. Then i can arrange the song on the fly, but it is still my sequence from start to finish.

I use a Yamaha MOXF6 and have well over 1000 songs stored and ready to play from a thumb drive. 34 years of sequencing for my solo act and recording studios have made me pretty good at making tracks.

I am mainly a guitarist that likes to play lead, but all the years I've spent making my own tracks, I've became a decent keyboard player too. I play guitar about 85% of the time on the gig. I throw in piano tunes when I want to change it up.

Typically, I use drums, bass, piano, strings/organ and the sax/horns if needed. I usually use 4-5 tracks tops.

My main reason I decided to go with a workstation over an arranger is because of the sequenced song can be split up into parts so I can arrange any song I make on it. If I don't touch a button, it plays the song as originally sequenced. If I want to change the arrangement on stage, I can do that on the fly. Very useful when the crowd gets into a song and is up dancing. I can decided to lengthen the song to keep it going just like a band.

I do use a digitech vocalist pro harmonizer rack that does my harmony, but i dont have it follow chords to decide the harmony. I play the notes that i want it harmony to sing. If I dont play a note, it doesnt harmonize. That means, I dont have to turn it off and on all the time. Once you put the notes on the track, the harmonizer follows those notes. Perfect harmony. set it...forget it. Really great when playing difficult harmonies that dont follow the chord structure.

There is also no loading time between songs, so no pauses between songs, which keeps the party going.

As a backup, I have an ipad 6 that I've recorded 500+ of my keyboard songs on. Just in case....but i cant edit those songs or use the harmonizer. It will do if my keyboard takes a dump on stage. nice to be prepared just in case...

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