Keyboard Workstations: All-In-One Production
(There are two main types of "keyboards": keyboard workstations and arranger keyboards. This overview focuses specifically on keyboard workstations)
"Workstations" were born out of the late 1970s, when synthesizers and sequencers were combined into a single instrument for the first time. While workstations don't necessarily require a keyboard component, most workstations feature one as the main control device. The development of workstations was historically connected to developments in personal computing; advances in microprocessors, software, memory storage, etc. paved the way to more powerful keyboard workstations. Early models like the Korg M1 (used by Vangelis, Madonna, The Cure, and more) paved the way for today's impressive array of keyboard workstations.
Keyboard workstations combine a keyboard, a music sequencer, and a sound module. They're "all-in-one" machines that allow users to compose and produce electronic music. Think of a workstation, then, as a powerful music-making computer built into a keyboard. Some musicians will connect workstations to other computers via either MIDI or USB, but workstations are perfectly capable as stand-alone machines. Today's workstations house a huge number of built-in sounds and samples, which can be customized with onboard processing, modulation, and layering. Advanced workstations even allow users to build entirely new sounds, or "patches."
Workstations are also powerful sequencers (many have 16-track sequencers). Onboard editing software even allows mixing and polishing directly from the keyboard's display screen. If connected to an outside computer, workstations can double as DAW plugins. oscillators, arpeggiators, filters, pitch modulation wheels, and myriad effects come standard, and many workstations allow for digital sampling. For obvious reasons, workstations are frequently used by recording studios, producers, film composers, and touring musicians. Endless sounds to choose from, as well as powerful sequencing, make workstations especially versatile onstage.
Like any keyboards, workstations come in a range of sizes, capabilities, and price points. Some have 88 keys, while others have 79, 61, or 49 keys - some have weighted "piano action" keys, while others have semi-weighted keys. Often, manufacturers release workstations in "series:" the Kurzweil PC3 series, for example. Each model has the same programs, but the PCEK8 has 88 keys, the PC3K7 has 76 keys, and the PC3K6 has 61 keys. The PC3 series boasts over 850 sound patches, Kurzweil's V.A.S.T. synthesis engine, a USB host port, and more than 300 on-board effects (delay, compression, etc.) Nine real-time drawbar controllers on the front panel give the KB3 Organ Mode a familiar intuitive interface for organists.
The Korg Kronos is a legendary keyboard workstation series, played by Keith Emerson, Chick Corea, Derek Sherinian, and others. The Kronos has nine total sound engines and an 8" touch-screen display; players can supplement its 16-track sequencer with up to 16 audio tracks, allowing music production of up to 32 tracks. (The Kronos can also run 16 different effects simultaneously). Yamaha's MX49 is a more affordable option, with more than 1,000 sounds, Virtual Circuit Modeling effects, and easy DAW connectivity. Sweetwater carries all of these models and more, so if you're in the market for a keyboard workstation - big or small - don't hesitate to call one of our Sales Engineers for knowledgeable advice. Learn More
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