Rather than respond and reveal that my knowledge of electronic keyboards dried up somewhere in the mid-90s, I immediately forward the request to my good friend, Roger Hooper. Roger used to head up the keyboard department at Washington Music Center, and now does freelance arranging, scoring, playing, and tech blogging. He’s a brilliant keyboardist and synth player, and writes some great music as well. If you have a chance, check out his latest film soundtrack, The Road We Know (also available on iTunes and Amazon)
Roger always responds to questions with care and thoroughness. Here’s a recent email he sent to someone who wanted recommendations on a piano to buy:
Bob asked me to give you some info on a keyboard. I used to sell keyboards at a large music store in the area from 1985 till 2001; I was keyboard manager/buyer from 96 till “the end”. I’m assuming you probably want to use the keyboard to lead, so a good piano/electric piano would be a strong point.
Korg SV-1 $1699. This one has an excellent Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric piano, maybe the best on any keyboard. The acoustic piano is very good. Its a little bright for me when I first played it, but it has onboard EQ that is set up with big, vintage-looking knobs (all the controls look like 70s era gear, which is pretty cool, aesthetically), and you can dial back some of that brightness. You may like it, anyway, because it cuts through a big, guitar-driven band sound very well. All in all, a very satisfying keyboard to play. Plus, you can get this in red; that model looks like something George Jetson would have played; really cool!
Yamaha S90XS $2399; don’t sweat the price yet, this is the online price. You can always get it down on the phone. Piano sounds great, the action is very firm, and the other sounds (over 1,000) are stellar.
Yamaha MOX8 $1699 Similar piano to the S90, will cut through a band mix very well. Lighter keyboard than the S90, but still feels really great.
Roland Rd700NX $2699. There are models of this in existence that came before this one, and you may be able to find it for under $2000. I’ll give you a name and number for a salesman who will help you. I put this one on the list because I’ve had many people end up with and RD700 model over Yamaha or anything else because of the keyboard feel (Ivory-type key surface, and a very firm action) and excellent acoustic piano sound.
Kawai MP10 $2499 Beautiful piano sound, realistic action.
Kawai MP6 $1499 a lighter-weight keyboard, similar piano sound.
Kurzweil: The Kurzweil piano sound is very realistic sounding; classical players love them. They make an 88 key model I recommended for a church. When they bought it, I think it was well over $2000, but it may have dropped below that figure since. Washington Music Center gets really great deals on Kurzweil. Here’s Sweetwater’s info on the keyboard. The Kurzweil PC3 has great synth/orchestra sounds, also.
A hard case for an 88 key instrument will probably be around $299. A bag would be much less, but you have to be careful with them. If you have a large crew, different groups of people handling the instrument, a bag might get abused.
I have a bag for my Korg Kronos (45lb 73-key instrument), made by Gator Cases. The best bag I’ve ever had, or sold.
I’m sure Roger would be happy to give you some direction if you have a question. You can contact him from his website.