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Re: Does the Hammer Action keybed respond fast enough?

Postby shmuelyosef » 13 Feb 2018, 03:48

Back to the OP comments...about playing fast staccato.
Background:
I am mainly a piano player for 60 years; classically trained in the 60s. Also very mechanically inclined so I do all my own mods, repair, etc. Played uprights in bars and restaurants through the 70s, R&B, Rock, Funk...bought a Fender Rhodes in 1976 (still have it, a Stage 73 with every possible trick and mod that is imaginable, I even built a custom case for it that is lighter and has a keyboard cover built in so setup is a breeze...just plop it on a stand and open the key cover...flat top...but I digress). In the 80s, I experimented with Yamaha DX7...had a lot of fun playing disco and acid rock, sorry that I sold it. Gigged with the Rhodes mostly in the 90s, but also had a series of Roland RD- pianos...very nice keyboards but the keybed mechanics broke a lot under heavy use. In 2001, I bought one of the first Nord Electro pianos. Had some electronic problems with it but it saved my back...left the Rhodes at home in the studio. Bought an Electro 2 a few years later, and had that until the Electro 3HP came out in ~2011 and still have that one (wish that I had waited one more year and bought the 4HP, but c'est la vie). I also have had a series of synth/controllers (current is a Novation SL mkii with the Fatar TP/9S keybed, but seriously considering buying an analog synth to double as studio MIDI keybed and cool sounds...e.g. a Prophet or an Oberheim, maybe the DSI OB-6). Along the way about 25 years back I acquired a 100-year-old Mason & Hamlin Model A in dire need of work, but it is now completely restored and much of the weight in the keybed has been drilled out, with a new set of Renner whippens and hammer heads. I worked with a technician to get this set up well and it is very fast, light and expressive.

I list this for two reasons: 1) to set a perspective that lots of different designs can serve varying purpose...eg the DX7 action was notoriously cheap, but very fast and light and spawned a style of it's own and 2) the variety is a good thing. I currently use four keyboards regularly...the Rhodes in the studio for recording and practice, the Nord on the road, the Novation for playing sounds in the computer into recordings, and the Mason & Hamlin for pure sensual enjoyment and after-dinner entertainment. All of them are similarly capable of playing very fast staccato, but different technique is required. The Rhodes is probably the slowest, but by installing an aftermarket backcheck mechanism is respectable...the speed is limited by the nature of the tone bar tines for 'restriking'. The Nord and the M&H are pretty similar...the M&H is probably a little faster return, but both are faster than I can play. Similarly the Novation is fast enough to follow my fingers back up...the limitation is the travel, not the speed of return or depression. If I want really fast 2-4 note chords, I have been known to do the passages in parts and use a drum input with high-end pads (e.g. an MPD-18 Akai with the "MPCstuff.com upgraded elastomer kit". That keeps up with ultralight drum sticks, as does the Roland e-kit (degressing again).

For me, the bigger difference is playing with emotion...the expressive ability to play a well-designed velocity curve and get the dynamics you feel. The Nord really shines here and is almost as good as the Renner action on my M&H...it's really quite good. The Novation really shines for electronic sounds where exaggerated dynamics are de rigeur...the velocity curve designs are very steep (even the SOFT settings). Hard to play a set of Rhodes or piano samples with subtlety, however, on this keyboard, although one can learn.

Bottom line, if you keep an open mind and don't buy really cheap, crappy keyboards (as are found on synths costing less than ~$250 at the 49-key level) you can learn to play fast, sensitive, punchy, etc...on the keybed you've got and will be a better keyboard player having done so. The keybed will not magically make your fingers/hands stronger, nor your ear/hand coordination more precise.

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Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Electro 2
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Re: Does the Hammer Action keybed respond fast enough?


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