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Weighted or non weighted keys for orchestral kontakt libraries?

Transients

New Member
I want to get a new midi controller for kontakt and/or other vsti.
I understand that for a piano vst its obviuos that weighted keys are preferable.
But for the general orchestral kontakt libraries is there any reasons i should have a weighted keys controller? I am looking at komplete kontrol s61/88.
 

muk

Senior Member
Are you a trained pianist? If so, chances are that you won't be happy with a semiweighted or nonweighted controller no matter the sounds you control with it. I have many years of classical piano training. I started with a semiweighted keyboard, and hated it. Now I am using a fully weighted keyboard for everything. I can play much more subtly and nuanced than I ever could with the semi weighted keys. And that's not only true for piano sounds, but strings, woodwinds, brass... Anything really.

Problem is, this is highly subjective and varies from person to person. The only way to find out what works for you, unfortunately, is by trying.
 

Ninth Lion

New Member
I'm in a similar boat, wondering. It's a bit tricky because I love improvising on piano, but I also love composing orchestral music. My current keyboard is getting quite old and the touch sensitivity on some of the keys is starting to fail. So I'll need to get an upgrade soon, but I'm not sure whether its more practical to go fully weighted or semi weighted for all-around purposes. Or maybe even one of each, hah!
 

Wolfie2112

Senior Member
I have both, it all depends on personal preference. I still have two other controllers that are permanently hooked up that I use for synth parts, percussion, etc.

@Transients I have been using my S88 for about a month now, I absolutely love it (got a great deal and took a chance). See if you can test one first, you might not like the weighted Fatar keys...but I find them wonderful. Keep in mind that the S88 is still stuck in the first generation, it still has the touch strips. I can't stand them, but I created my own "MOD Wheel" with TouchOSC for my iPhone which sits nicely on top of the controller.
 
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Divico

Senior Member
I play on a Roland FP80. Love the keys for anything veolcity responsive.
But I am not sure if I wouldnt prefer non weihted keys for anything synth or string related.
 

Piano Pete

Active Member
Gotta double Muk's comment. As someone who is trained to hammer away at the keys, not having the tactile response and resistance that is ingrained in my muscles really messes me up.

For me, I think it is even more of an issue when playing fast and light. Until I first played on an unweighted synth, I did not realize how much I utilized the action of the keyboard to effectively navigate the instrument. I tried playing some Liszt and Mendelssohn on unweighted keys; the fire from the crash and burn was spectacular. The same thing with pedaling. I dream of the day when digital pedals can imitate partial and flutter pedaling.

For those on the fence about it: try it before you buy it! Sweetwater and plenty of other outlets will let you try stuff for a bit before you fully commit (sorry for the rhymes). Just because something says it is fully weighted does not mean it truly is or feels close to the real thing. I would say for orchestral mockups, it is less of a deal breaker. I personally use an alesis q-88 because it is cheap, and I have access to 88 keys should I need it. The alesis, a rebranded m-audio 88, does not have fully weighted keys nor action. Should you go the fully weighted 88key route, expect to pay out more for those luxuries. There is already a thorough post on this forum about fully weighted 88key midi controllers.
 

Light and Sound

Developer
One of the benefits of being on a weighted keyboard (I personally use a digital piano) with orchestral libraries is that it forces you to be in the FF/FFF range very, very rarely. Which is a good, much more like the real thing.
 

Piano Pete

Active Member
That is something to think about, the nicer keyboards will have better velocity curves/sensitivity, but since we are working with recorded midi, we can go in an adjust that after we play it in. With the logical editor in Cubase and comparable Logic utilities, this can be fixed relatively quickly.
 

halfwalk

Active Member
I think it's a matter of personal preference. Mike Verta, in his VI videos, appears to be using an M-Audio Keystation, which is very much on the "low end" of keyboards. And he's a professional composer and trained pianist.

I find fully weighted keys to be quite a nuisance when doing percussion/drum parts; the feel and response just seems better and quicker on a semi-weighted controller for that. But I'm a drummer, and have been recording MIDI finger-drums in real time for many years.

I'm not trained on piano in any way, so your mileage may vary.
 

nas

Active Member
For piano only, nothing really beats a weighted hammer action style keyboard, but for everything else I find it too cumbersome and not as quick & responsive as synth action. So if the majority of instruments you're sequencing are not pianos, then I would go for synth action or semi-weighted.
 

Polkasound

Senior Member
If I use a fully-weighted keyboard for everything intricate from accordion arpeggios to staccato woodwinds or brass, it won't take long for my hands to cramp up. What works best for me is a fully-weighted keyboard for pianos only, and a semi-weighted or synth-action keyboard for all other instruments. For anyone with experience playing drums, I strongly recommend using a drum pad for recording drum parts. (Not a finger pad, but the kind you play with sticks.)
 

halfwalk

Active Member
For anyone with experience playing drums, I strongly recommend using a drum pad for recording drum parts. (Not a finger pad, but the kind you play with sticks.)
What's great about finger drumming is that you can use 4 fingers as "limbs" like a drummer would, instead of limiting yourself to just using the two "hands" as you do with a drum pad. I think it's a whole different instrument, really, as there are certainly benefits to drum pads that you wouldn't get from a keyboard (hitting things with a stick will definitely help you think more like a drummer :grin:). It's also easier to press and hold a "roll" key than it is to perform a roll on your drum pad and cross your fingers that it picked up each note and velocity properly.
But I digress; that's another conversation entirely :geek:

To return myself to the topic at hand, I've played shows finger drumming, and my hands wouldn't have survived if it had been a weighted controller. It's something for us to keep in mind, as repetitive stress injuries abound already when using a computer for long periods of time.
 

Polkasound

Senior Member
Some people are very adept at finger drumming. For over twenty years I recorded drum parts on keyboards and finger pads, but even then, I preferred focusing on and recording only one or two drums at a time. So the transition to using a multi-pad worked like a charm for me. I can now get very natural dynamics and timing on the fly with grace notes, flams, open rolls, etc... all stuff I used to have to program in and then edit for realism.

And I totally agree about drumming on a weighted keyboard. Unless one's hand is modified with bionics, it's going to give out at some point. I grew up playing accordion, so my hands are not going to be as strong as a pianist's. Using a semi-weighted or synth-action keyboard makes long recording sessions bearable.
 

jfino

Member
Like mentioned already weighted feel great until you try to play drums!
Sequencing everything else is fine.
Switched to weighted a couple years ago and everyday use strengthened my fingers, which is great if you play on real pianos too.

So its best to go to a music shop and tryout many keyboards.
 

niteflier5

New Member
I've been very happy so far with my Nektar Panorama P6. It's semi-weighted and has drum pads. And it's inexpensive. Tbh, I haven't really used the drum pads, yet.
 

PaulieDC

1967 Bizzarini GT 5300 Strada
Long time piano player here but mainly doing string/brass/wind runs, and I've landed on the M-Audio CODE 61 and so far I'm liking the feel. They claim it's such a great keybed but every manufacturer says that. I like it, others may hate its very existence on this planet. I say ditch the internet decision and get to a store to try them if that's possible. For MY big klunky hands the CODE series works best so far, but it's not best for straight piano work. I'm not composing that so I'm Ok in that area. I have full access to the Yamaha C5 in our church and I own two C414's so that's my piano sound when I record piano and there's nothing like it. But HOW you play and your physics really determine what will work. We also have a Roland RD-800 in our church and that keybed was supposed to be THE grand piano feel... thing feels like a row of 88 diving boards with a loose mounting bolt to me, lol. Others may love it. I did play on the 1st Gen Kontrol S49 for one session and I did like that feel. I'm curious how the S88 feels... I'd try that one first if it was me. Just my $.02. ;)
 
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Transients

Transients

New Member
Thanks for all feedback on this thread.

Since im not a "real" piano player ive decided that a 61 note keyboard is perhaps the best option. Also when comparing the two NI keyboards it seems that the S88 has less knobs (than the S61) to tweak parameters etc which is one of the reasons im gonna buy a controller. I have always thought that a full weighted keybed gives better dynamics and velocity response than a regular semi weighted, maybe thats not the case?

The vst i use the most are arturia v collection and kontakt. So now im considering Arturia Keylab 61 or NI Komplete Kontrol 61. So id like to ask considering the hardware/software integration. Which of them would be the best choice to control both arturia and kontakt software?
 

DANIELE

Active Member
I have two keyboard: Yamaha P-250 Piano, NI S88. Both of them with full weighted keys and I think it helps so much in an orchestral enviroment, especially to play soft passages.
 

gpax

Senior Member
Thanks for all feedback on this thread.

Since im not a "real" piano player ive decided that a 61 note keyboard is perhaps the best option. Also when comparing the two NI keyboards it seems that the S88 has less knobs (than the S61) to tweak parameters etc which is one of the reasons im gonna buy a controller. I have always thought that a full weighted keybed gives better dynamics and velocity response than a regular semi weighted, maybe thats not the case?

The vst i use the most are arturia v collection and kontakt. So now im considering Arturia Keylab 61 or NI Komplete Kontrol 61. So id like to ask considering the hardware/software integration. Which of them would be the best choice to control both arturia and kontakt software?
Sounds like you’ve already decide, but FWIW...

Virtual instruments have changed how I approach keyboards.

I now use different weighted keyboards (and pads) for different nuances. I don’t know if this is either good or bad, as it simply has evolved through the years to where I prefer the more agile feel of synth or semi weighted keys for things like solo winds and nimble strings.

It’s a symbiotic thing for me, where, at some point, springing back against my fingers registered as more intuitive with some virtual orchestral libraries as opposed to using a piano.

Even as I’ll still compose some main ideas with my weighted keyboard, my chops have clearly decreased from a dependency on the lighter keys at my desktop. And, I will use pads also for percussive elements (not just percussion) when I don’t feel like “striking” a weighted key.

But, if it’s to be a piano composition, I absolutely have to use the weighted keys. My brain now compartmentalizes all these things as different tools, whereas I only had a weighted keyboard for years.

So I personally don’t see these things as an either/or proposition, except where budgets are limiting for some, or where what one already knows (piano weight vs. synth) is going to be most familiar, at least at first.
 
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