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I've been playing guitar for years but have recently been getting interested more in the audio engineering and sound design space. As part of this I want to learn some basic piano skills and pick up a keyboard to set up a rudimentary workstation. This context in mind, the gist of my question is: what separates a stage piano keyboard from a workstation keyboard, and what makes a workstation keyboard useful? To expand:

There are a ton of great stage pianos that have crossed my view, ex. Nord Stage 3, Nord Electro 6, Roland RD2000, Yamaha CP88. These all seem like excellent gear with their pros and cons, but they're all branded as 'stage pianos' and everything I hear is that they're geared more for gigging and practice than recording on and working into a more static producing workstation.

For this reason, I've shied away from these since it seems like a lot of the bang for your buck goes into nice onboard sounds, portability, immediacy of effects; these don't seem like a real priority for a static keyboard hooked up to a DAW with near infinite sounds and effects at your fingertips. So I started looking at workstation keyboards, ex Korg Kronos, but even these machines are overflowing with these kinds of features. The Kronos looks like it's running a fully fledged version of Linux.

If a keyboard is going to live in front of a computer with a DAW brimming with any imaginable and customizable sound or effect, why have it's own sounds and effects? Why not just use a bare bones 88 key midi controller with a tonewheel and pitch stick? I understand the appeal of a stage piano for gigging, but in the more abstract sense I'm curious why one would go for the fleshed out workstation over the bare bones controller (not trying to be flippant here; honestly curious since I don't get it but clearly there are legitimate reasons). And for my own situation I'm also curious if there are strong reasons to go either way or even still spring for the stage piano after all.

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This is more a musical instrument question, but does apply to sound design in that they are often key components of a sound design setup.

The main design difference is the keyboard action. A standard piano has what is called a "weighted action" meaning that the keys you push with your fingers have a known mass and are therefore subject to a level of inertia and reaction when pressed. Sprung keyboards do not have the same mass and so consequently do not react in the same way to being pressed.

For basic keyboard use a poorly weighted or sprung keyboard will not have much effect, however for more complex music and a more refined piano technique, this will have a very detrimental effect on playability and technique.

Weighted keyboards are much more preferable than sprung keyboards if you are an advanced player. Ideally you want to get as close as possible to the type of action you see in a standard (analog) piano.

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  • Thanks for the response Mark! In the course of my testing I've had the chance to try out a number of unweighted, semi-weighted, and fully weighted / hammer action keybeds. I should have mentioned that in my original post. To bad to hear this might only straddle the the line of relevancy to the Sound Design stack exchange. As a musical instrument question, is there a different Stack Exchange site you think this would be more appropriate in? – fedora Mar 26 at 3:38
  • probably music.stackexchange.com would be an option - its a bit of a straddler I agree - was that helpful as an answer? – Mark Mar 26 at 5:22

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