Many people get confused between a keyboard and a synthesizer as they almost serve the same purposes of accompanying solo entertainers, singer-songwriters, and music composers, as well as doing wonders in concerts. But they are completely two different types of electronic devices with distinctly different components.
Almost all musicians who are experts in using keyboards or synthesizers are masters in the musical components of this device and for them, this is a wonderful musical instrument. On the other hand, the science and technology behind this musical instrument are hidden and unknown to many because it has nothing to do with music and art. However, you need to essentially have the technical knowledge to buy the right device for your purpose.
Below are a keyboard synthesizer’s basic technical ideas and functions to help you understand various technical components and pick the right device for your purpose.
Table of Contents
- What to Consider While Buying a Keyboard Synthesizer?
- What Should A Beginner Look For In A Synthesizer Keyboard In Detail?
- Is a Keyboard and a Synthesizer Different than Each Other?
- Best Synth For Most People – Arturia Microfreak
- Learning about Keyboard Workstation & Arranger Keyboard.
- Check whether it meets the common synthesizer keyboard features.
- Decide whether you want a new or second-hand product.
- Define some tips to consider while choosing a synthesizer keyboard.
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- Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the technology used in a keyboard synthesizer?
- What is the basic difference between a Keyboard and a Synthesizer?
- Are the Numbers of Keys in a Keyboard Synthesizer Important?
- How Do Synthesizers Work?
- What Are The Different Types Of Synthesizers?
- What Are The Benefits Of Using A Synthesizer?
- How Much Does A Synthesizer Cost?
- Can I Use A Synthesizer With Other Musical Instruments?
What to Consider While Buying a Keyboard Synthesizer?
In the case of online getting the device, the risks even grow unless and until you know the device and have already experienced its features and components. However, consider the following things before buying a keyboard synthesizer that would serve your exact purposes.
#1. Built-in Tone Capacity
The first thing to consider in a keyboard or synthesizer is its capacity for generating different tones. The more versatile the device the more built-in tones it will have. The feature of built-in tones is essential and important because it is for you to switch from one tone to another with just a wink by touching a button.
However, most contemporary keyboard synthesizers come with the feature of recreating new ones. You can use this feature and generate new ones to serve your purpose. But creating new ones is a time-consuming process and involves a lot of technical know-how. Therefore, built-in tones and the number of tones are important to consider while buying your keyboard synthesizer.
#2. Number of Keys in the Keyboard Synthesizer
Count the keys in the keyboard synthesizer and you will find a different number of keys on different devices. Some keyboard synthesizers contain 61 rids whereas some come with 73 or 76 or 88 etc. The reason behind these differences in the number of keys is the ease of use of the device.
Learners or new users may find it difficult to perform with too many keys in a keyboard synthesizer. On the other hand, experienced and expert musicians need several octaves to perform musical events. So, a 61-keys keyboard is the best device for you if you are new to a keyboard synthesizer. However, you can find many other designs of keyboard synthesizers if you still need fewer keys than 61 in your device.
#3. Visibility and Clarity
Choosing the right button at a right time is the common obstacle faced by most musicians. There are several buttons on the board of the device to press and operate for different tones, rhythms, features, etc. When you are performing in a show you can never wait or spend time searching for buttons to change the tone or rhythm or to use a specific feature.
Other musicians will not wait for you to search for the button because the basic rhythm of the concert will be hampered and the music show will be a flop event. Therefore, make sure that every button and its numbers are visible and large enough to read and identify easily and quickly.
#4. Weight and Size
Remember, almost all musicians perform in a group with other artists who play various instruments and that is how concerts and musical shows take place. So, it is important to consider the size of your keyboard synthesizer.
You may create awkward situations if your keyboard occupies plenty of place on a small stage obstructing other instruments to accommodate. Even if you are a solo performer the weight and size of your keyboard synthesizer may create portability issues. Therefore, consider the size and weight of your device and buy a compact and lightweight one with the required features and components.
#5. Cost and Affordability
Keyboard synthesizers are expensive devices, especially those that have more features and components and typical technological machinery. However, often you can never compromise with the cost if you are a high-level performer and essentially need specific features.
Eventually, you may take it for granted and consider it worth paying for a typical and expensive keyboard synthesizer. On the other hand, you can consider the lower-priced and affordable devices if you are a learner or a new performer.
Check out: The Best Synths Under $1000 Rated by Experts
What Should A Beginner Look For In A Synthesizer Keyboard In Detail?
If you are a newbie seeking to buy a synthesizer keyboard, there are a number of important features and elements you should take into account. These are some specific things to keep an eye out for:
- The term “polyphony” describes how many voices or notes a synthesizer can produce at once. To enable more complicated playing, a beginner should aim for a synthesizer keyboard with at least 16 notes of polyphony.
- Sound quality: A synthesizer keyboard’s sound quality is crucial. A novice should seek out a keyboard with top-notch samples or a sound engine that generates distinct tones.
- Keyboard action: How the keys feel when they are pressed depends on the keyboard action. Weighted, semi-weighted, and unweighted keyboard movements are the most common on synthesizer keyboards. A novice should choose a keyboard that seems natural to their playing style.
- Key kinds and quantity: 61, 76, or 88 keys are frequently seen on synthesizer keyboards. A novice should select a keyboard with the appropriate number of keys for their needs. In addition, some keyboards contain touch-sensitive keys that respond to how forcefully or softly you press them, resulting in a variety of dynamics.
- Connectivity: This is an important issue to take into account. For connecting to a computer, digital audio workstation (DAW), or other external devices, a beginner should search for a keyboard that at the very least has a USB connector and MIDI connectivity.
- Built-in effects: Built-in effects can improve a synthesizer keyboard’s overall sound quality and adaptability. Beginners should think about keyboards with the built-in chorus, delay, reverb, and distortion effects.
- User interface: A synthesizer keyboard’s settings can be more easily found and changed with a user-friendly interface. Beginners should seek out keyboards with user interfaces that are simple to grasp and use.
- Price: As synthesizer keyboards come in a broad range of prices, beginners should take their budget into account while choosing a keyboard. A beginner should opt for a keyboard that delivers the necessary functionality without breaking the budget, even though more expensive keyboards may offer more features.
A beginner can choose a synthesizer keyboard that suits their needs and enables them to explore the world of music creation by taking these considerations into account.
Is a Keyboard and a Synthesizer Different than Each Other?
Technically and practically, a keyboard and a synthesizer refer to different types of devices. It is essential to understand what technologies make the two devices different from buying the right device for your purpose.
In a simple understanding, the Analog synthesizers in the 1970s originated the concept of sound waves through an “additive process” that was typically used in the keyboards and later when the same was used through a digital “subtractive process” is called a synthesizer. You manipulate the soundwaves of a specific musical instrument or instruments in an Analog keyboard whereas manipulate and create various types and shapes of soundwaves of a specific musical instrument through a digital synthesizer.
However, though it looks that digital synthesizers are more versatile than analog keyboards in recent times both were combined to produce MIDI or Musical Instrument Digital Interface and modular synthesizers. Eventually, these devices are more versatile and popular.
You can watch this video to get more clarity on the basics of Synths (really helpful for beginners).
Check out this comparison: Digital Piano vs. Keyboard vs. Synthesizer
Best Synth For Most People – Arturia Microfreak
A versatile and reasonably priced synthesizer, the Arturia MicroFreak has swiftly gained popularity among musicians and producers. Here are some of the reasons why it might be the greatest synth for most people:
Wavetable, digital, and analog oscillators are combined with a sound engine that is unique to MicroFreak. This permits a variety of sounds, from traditional analog tones to cutting-edge digital textures. The oscillator section also contains a “plucked” mode that emulates the sound of a physical modeling synth, which is great for creating percussive and plucked sounds.
The MicroFreak’s touch plate keyboard replaces the regular keyboard’s keys. Playing may be expressive and lively thanks to this design’s unusual features, which include the ability to glide between notes and apply pressure for aftertouch. It also has polyphonic aftertouch, allowing you to add expression to chords and other complicated sounds.
The MicroFreak has a built-in 64-step sequencer and arpeggiator that may be used to make intricate rhythmic patterns and melodies. In addition, the sequencer has a “spice” feature that adds arbitrary modifications to the pattern, making it simple to produce intriguing and original sequences.
Small and Portable Design: The MicroFreak’s small size and light weight make it convenient to carry around or use in small studio settings. MIDI and CV/Gate are only a couple of the many capabilities and connectivity possibilities it offers despite its little size.
Priced reasonably compared to other synths in its class, the MicroFreak is available to a broad spectrum of musicians and producers. This makes it a fantastic option for both novices or those on a tight budget and more seasoned artists looking for a flexible and portable synth for their setup. All things considered, the Arturia MicroFreak is a flexible and distinctive synth that provides a wealth of features and capabilities at a reasonable cost. Most musicians and producers will find it the perfect blend of a distinctive sound engine, touch plate keyboard, built-in sequencer and arpeggiator, and small design.
Learning about Keyboard Workstation & Arranger Keyboard.
An electronic musical instrument called a keyboard workstation combines a keyboard synthesizer and computer-based music production system characteristics. A keyboard, sound module, sequencer, and other digital effects and processing tools are frequently included. With the help of a single instrument called a keyboard workstation, musicians can write, arrange, record, and mix music without the need for any other hardware or software.
A particular kind of keyboard called an arranger keyboard is made for live performances and music production. It often has a broad variety of pre-installed sounds, rhythms, and accompaniments, enabling players to quickly construct intricate arrangements. In music genres including pop, jazz, and world music, where intricate arrangements and improvisation are essential to the performance, arranger keyboards are frequently employed. They are perfect for soloists or small ensembles since they frequently have features like programmable chord progressions and automatic accompaniment.
Check whether it meets the common synthesizer keyboard features.
The Arturia MicroFreak includes many of the common synthesizer keyboard features, such as:
- Oscillators: The MicroFreak features two digital oscillators and a wavetable oscillator, with a range of different waveforms available. This allows for a wide range of sounds, from classic analog tones to modern digital textures.
- Filters: The MicroFreak includes a 12dB/octave analog filter, as well as a digital state-variable filter. These filters can be used to shape the sound and create different tonal qualities.
- Modulation: The MicroFreak includes a variety of modulation sources, including an LFO, an envelope generator, and a modulation matrix. This allows for complex modulation of the sound, with the ability to assign modulation sources to various parameters.
- Effects: The MicroFreak includes a range of digital effects, including delay, chorus, and reverb. These effects can be used to add depth and character to the sound.
- Keyboard: The MicroFreak uses a touch plate keyboard instead of traditional keys. While this is not a common feature, it still allows for expressive and dynamic playing, with the ability to slide between notes and apply pressure for aftertouch. It also features polyphonic aftertouch, allowing you to add expression to chords and other complex sounds.
- Sequencer and Arpeggiator: The MicroFreak includes a built-in 64-step sequencer and arpeggiator, which can be used to create complex rhythmic patterns and melodies. This is a common feature on many modern synthesizers.
- Connectivity: The MicroFreak includes MIDI and USB connectivity, as well as CV/Gate inputs and outputs. This allows for integration with other synthesizers and modular systems.
Overall, while the Arturia MicroFreak may not include all of the common synthesizer keyboard features, it still offers a wide range of capabilities and features that make it a versatile and unique instrument. Its combination of unique sound engine, touch plate keyboard, built-in sequencer and arpeggiator, and connectivity options make it a powerful tool for music production and performance.
Decide whether you want a new or second-hand product.
Whether to buy a new or second-hand synth depends on several factors, including your budget, preferences, and the availability of the specific model you’re interested in. Here are some considerations to help you decide:
- Budget: If you have a limited budget, a second-hand synth may be a more affordable option than a new one. Second-hand products are often priced lower than their new counterparts, which may allow you to get a higher-end synth for the same price as a lower-end new one.
- Availability: If the synth you’re interested in is no longer in production, a second-hand product may be your only option. In this case, buying a second-hand synth may be the best way to get the sound and features you’re looking for.
- Condition: When buying a second-hand synth, it’s important to consider its condition. If it’s in good condition and has been well-maintained, it may be a great deal. However, if it has been heavily used or has not been maintained properly, it may have issues or require repairs.
- Warranty: When buying a new synth, you typically get a manufacturer’s warranty that covers any defects or issues with the product. With a second-hand product, you may not get the same level of protection. However, some sellers may offer a warranty or return policy, so be sure to check before making a purchase.
- Personal preferences: Ultimately, whether to buy a new or second-hand synth comes down to personal preferences. Some people prefer the peace of mind that comes with buying a new product, while others enjoy the thrill of finding a great deal on a second-hand item. Consider your own preferences and priorities when making your decision.
In conclusion, both new and second-hand synths have their advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice depends on your individual circumstances. Be sure to consider factors such as budget, availability, condition, warranty, and personal preferences before making your decision
Define some tips to consider while choosing a synthesizer keyboard.
Choosing a synthesizer keyboard can be a daunting task, especially if you’re new to the world of synthesizers. Here are some tips to help you choose the right synthesizer keyboard for your needs:
- Know your budget: Synthesizer keyboards can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. It’s important to know your budget upfront to help narrow down your options.
- Determine your needs: Consider what you want to do with the synthesizer keyboard. Do you want to create specific sounds or emulate classic synth sounds? Do you want to use it for live performances or studio recordings? Understanding your needs can help you choose a synthesizer keyboard that has the features and capabilities you require.
- Check the keyboard: Consider the keyboard’s size, weight, and feel. Synthesizer keyboards come in a range of sizes, from small and portable to large and heavy. The feel of the keyboard is also important – some people prefer weighted keys for a more piano-like feel, while others prefer synth-style keys for the easier playing of complex chords and melodies.
- Look at the sound engine: Consider the type of sound engine the synthesizer keyboard uses. There are various types of sound engines, including analog, digital, and hybrid. Each has its own characteristics and sound quality.
- Look at the connectivity: Consider the connectivity options the synthesizer keyboard has. This includes MIDI and USB connectivity, as well as CV/Gate inputs and outputs. This will determine how the keyboard integrates with other instruments and gear.
- Check for built-in effects: Consider if the synthesizer keyboard has built-in effects such as delay, reverb, chorus, and distortion. This can help you shape the sound and create unique textures.
- Research reviews and demos: Look for reviews and demos of the synthesizer keyboard you are interested in. This can give you an idea of how the keyboard sounds and performs, as well as any issues or limitations.
Overall, choosing a synthesizer keyboard requires careful consideration of your needs, budget, and preferences. By following these tips and doing your research, you can find the perfect synthesizer keyboard for your musical goals.
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Knowing the basics of the technology used in a keyboard synthesizer is essential to fulfilling your expectations in terms of your musical performances. However, when it comes to buying a keyboard synthesizer it becomes tricky and embarrassing to choose the right device. It may not be easier for buyers or music lovers to understand several technical terminologies like Analog and digital synthesizers, VCO, VCA, VCF, virtual Analog or VA synthesizers, modular synthesizers, soft synthesizers, MIDI, etc. Therefore, know the basic technology, features, and components of a device and buy the best keyboard synthesizer that perfectly serves your purposes.
With new technology and developments being produced constantly, synthesizers continue to evolve. So, it is possible for musicians to continuously generate cutting-edge sounds and textures. Also, there is a lengthy history of invention in synthesizers, with the first Moog synthesizer appearing in the 1960s and continuing through the most recent digital synthesizers, each generation bringing with it fresh opportunities and improvements. Synthesizers are crucial to the creation of contemporary music. They are employed in a wide range of musical genres, including rock, pop, hip-hop, rock, and electronic. They have developed into a necessary instrument for musicians and music producers, and they will probably continue to be significant in the development of music.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the technology used in a keyboard synthesizer?
A keyboard synthesizer uses “sound energy” technology of both “potential energy” and “kinetic energy”.
What is the basic difference between a Keyboard and a Synthesizer?
A keyboard has in-built tones and rhythms whereas a synthesizer can create different tones and rhythms.
Are the Numbers of Keys in a Keyboard Synthesizer Important?
It differs depending on the needs of the users but it is important. If you are a learner you may need fewer keywords but the highest numbers of keys are preferred by experienced users.
How Do Synthesizers Work?
Synthesizers work by generating sound waves and shaping them using various signal-processing techniques, filters, and envelopes. They typically consist of a keyboard for playing notes and a set of controls for manipulating sound parameters.
What Are The Different Types Of Synthesizers?
There are several types of synthesizers, including analog, digital, modular, software, and hybrid synthesizers. Each type has its own unique characteristics and sound capabilities.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Synthesizer?
Using a synthesizer allows musicians to create unique sounds and textures that cannot be replicated with acoustic instruments. They offer a high level of versatility, creativity, and flexibility in terms of sound design and use.
How Much Does A Synthesizer Cost?
The cost of a synthesizer can vary widely depending on the type, brand, and features. Entry-level models can cost around $200, while high-end models can cost several thousand dollars.
Can I Use A Synthesizer With Other Musical Instruments?
Yes, synthesizers can be used in conjunction with other instruments and gear, such as guitars, basses, drum machines, and effects processors.