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Keyboard controller recommendations
Last post Mon, Sep 21 2020 by Macker, 2 replies.
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Posted on Mon, Sep 21 2020 10:27
by daerp
Joined on Thu, Jan 18 2007, Toronto, ON CANADA, Posts 153

I have been using a ‘legacy’ Yamaha S90 and want to update to the best controller I can afford that works with my hardware and software. I use VSL extensively with a significant number of 3rd part librairies, but always using Vienna Ensemble Pro 7 to keep things organized.

I use the most recent releases of Finale (Mac) v 26 and Digital Performer 10. 

The S90 was fine for note entry, but very limited in almost every other way. So I bought (2 days ago) a Komplete Kontakt S88 MK2. So far some things work well, but it really feels like the wrong keyboard. Right away,,you realize that there is an expectation that you will fully embrace the Northern Sounds, Native Instrument instruments and library. Some are fine, But there are just too many things I don’t think I will every use.

I’m asking for recommendations for a musician like me who uses VSL libraries (more than others) but also plenty of other 3rd party libraries as well. What is the controller you would recommend. I have a few weeks to take the Komplete Kontrol back, but during that time I’d like to research other, perhaps most suitable controllers for my circumstances.

I want to be able to enter notes, of course, and then be able to shape them with some assignable (learnable) knobs and sliders. I don’t think I need a lot. But advice on that account will be appreciated as well. I do have a very good breath controller that works well. 

And, of course USB hook up.

I thank you for reading the post and writing a short reply. Just tell me what is working really well for you. THANK YOU.....

Paul R

MAC OS X 10.15.2
Finale 26.1
Digital Performer 10.11
VEP7
Many VSL libraries, MIR Pro and Vienna Suite Pro
VIP, Synchron Player, Synchron Pianos
Posted on Mon, Sep 21 2020 15:09
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 139

Short answer: there isn't one - unless I haven't yet spotted the very latest and greatest be-all and end-all master keyboard that really can do what we require.

It appears orchestral library users mostly treat note entry and MIDI control as each requiring a separate hardware unit:- (1) an 88 note keyboard chosen for the price and feel you prefer, also providing many if not all keyswitches; and (2) a stand-alone MIDI control surface for all the other stuff. For the latter, user videos indicate there's a wide variety in use, ranging from the cheap and minimalist Korg Nano, all the way up to expensive, large-format programmable touch-screens. (In fact the NI KK S88 master keyboard, when configured to allow its built-in MIDI control surface to be set up and used in the ordinary way, can do barely more than a Korg Nano!)

I have a Novation 61 SL Mk II master keyboard stacked very closely above a Yamaha P-45 (whose own sounds I never use). The first thing I did with the Novation (now a discontinued product) is uninstall the AutoMap facility; because, somewhat like you've found with your S88, the damned thing is far too presumptuous and just tended to get in the way of everything all the time. The Novation keyboard itself does however incorporate a large, useful and flexible MIDI control surface which can be programmed without resorting to the dreaded AutoMap app - albeit with difficulty. Alas there's no 'total recall' or automatic context-matching without AutoMap, but I make do without. The Mk III is now available but it seems even more burdened with assumptions made for and about the user - hence I'm not tempted.

I'm still not where I need to be though. I'm currently looking at buying a Stream Deck XL (a box of 32 buttons), to help with controlling the nested-dimensions aspect of VSL's Sy Player.

I think the Novation 61 SL Mk II probably marks the end of the era in which users were able fully and freely to take charge of a fairly large and comprehensive traditional MIDI control surface incorporated in a master keyboard. Now it seems we're largely regarded as mere bots who should be using and doing what master-keyboard manufacturers expect or want us to be using and doing; I'd say they're heading down a Darwinian blind alley.

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