What Kind of Piano Keyboards Work With Live GarageBand?

by Andy Klaus
Programs such as GarageBand provide a means to use almost any keyboard for live recording.

Programs such as GarageBand provide a means to use almost any keyboard for live recording.

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Gone are the days that a garage band would have to save their cash for months to afford a rushed recording session of a few hours at a professional studio. Products such as GarageBand on the Apple platform have transformed the face of garage music. Bands can now contain members from around the globe using digital or live instruments. For keyboard players, the choices are many.

Direct or Mic Recording

Before you make a selection on a keyboard, the first decision you will need to make is whether you want to record directly (through a midi or digital interface) or via a microphone. This decision is one that requires careful consideration of what you want from your final sound. Direct recordings are naturally cleaner than those from a microphone, but lack some of the dynamics and presence that a microphone recording can bring. Using a microphone for recording brings a level of raw "authenticity" that direct recording lacks, but also complicates recordings because of the need for sound baffling from external noises such as passing traffic. If your keyboard is needed for both types of recording, then that fact will also play a role in which keyboard you select.

Choices for Direct Input Recording

Direct input recording with GarageBand utilizes the keyboard as a "controller" for effects and sounds. While just about any midi-output compatible keyboard will work, the choices vary depending upon your budget or needs. The low-end Audio Oxygen 8 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller provides a minimalist keyboard interface across a 3-octave span and requires minimal space and a low cost. The Edirol PCRM30 32-Note USB MIDI Keyboard Controller is a popular mid-range choice that offers a 32-key span, 27 assignable midi controllers, high-end velocity control features, and pedals for expression and volume. The Korg Triton Studio 88-Key Workstation/Sampler is a professional level keyboard that is a sampling powerhouse, and the top of the line in terms of performance and output quality, however, its price point puts it out of the reach of many.

Choices for Microphone Recording

Microphone recording with GarageBand relies on a quality microphone and recording space in addition to a top tier piano keyboard. With microphone recording, however, the investment in your piano keyboard is more important for a polished result than with direct recording. Steinway pianos are a favorite for a reason; they produce a quality of sound that is unparalleled in the industry. Several Japanese-built keyboards such as Yamaha or Kawai or European ones such as Bechstein or Schimmel have a finer touch and better control, but lack some of the rich sound of the Steinway. The price tag on these keyboards places them clearly in professional territory, so many bands opt for used or lower tier pianos. Lesser quality keyboards can function adequately with microphone recording, but you should temper your expectations.

Dual Recording Choices

Many bands prefer the ability to shift from direct to microphone recording as need arises. For those needs, the keyboard should have solid performance as a stand-up device, as well as a quality digital interface. The Casio WK110 76 Key Portable MIDI Keyboard provides an inexpensive keyboard for midi or microphone use with a broad keyboard span and multiple controller features and audio effects. The Yamaha S90 and P250 are ideal professional performers with full 88-key interfaces and quality output as well as digital interfaces aplenty. However, the price tag on these keyboards place them clearly out of the reach of the common band.

About the Author

Andy Klaus started his writing career contributing science and fiction articles to Dickinson High School's newsletters back in 1984. Since then, he has authored novels and written technical books for health-care companies such as VersaSuite. He has covered topics varying from aerospace to zoology and received an associate degree in science from College of the Mainland.

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