Keyboards for tuned percussion

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by backrowbloke, Apr 5, 2005.

  1. backrowbloke

    backrowbloke Member

    Has anyone experimented with (or used) keyboards in place of tuned percussion?

    Discussing it, there seems to be some sense in using keybaords and amplifier for xylophone / vibraphone parts etc. The discussion arose through the debate over the purchase of a xylophone, and whether the cost could be justified.

    Apart for the cost issue, transportation would be easier - however before all the contesting fans jump at their keyboards I do see a problem when it comes to contests (bleuch!).

    Also, before all the percussionists get up in arms, this was suggested by a percussionist. In an ideal world, my band would have a full set of percussion, however, financial restrictions prevent that.
  2. Adrian Horn

    Adrian Horn Member

    Get a proper xylophone and then you open up more solo opportunities in the band for your percussionists. Also if you have a set of tuned percussion then, if you haven't already got a full compliment of percussionists, it may attract more players to the band.LOL - sorry!, just had an image of your percussionist stood in front of an audience playing Zimba-Zamba on a Casio keyboard;)
  3. jo

    jo Member

    I wouldnt join a band where I was expected to play tuned parts on a keyboard, so you might limit yourself to never attracting new players if you go with this decision.
    Xylophones dont have to be desperately expensive to get a decent instrument, check out any second hand ones for sale to minimise expense. Lots of the bigger dealers can match you up to decent second hand instruments and lets face it... keyboards just dont create the right sound.
    best of luck with any decision you reach but I would consider that taking the cheaper keyboard option now doesnt mean you wont be paying out in then near future for the real thing!
    (as far as transport goes, my 4 1/2 octave xylo collapses to fit in the boot of my corsa, so moving it is no more difficult than shifting a keyboard and amplifiers)
  4. backrowbloke

    backrowbloke Member

    Accept all of the above and the aim is to get tuned percussion - i shoudl clarify. In the short term, we are considering if it is viable to use keyboards instead of tuned percussion.

    It is easy to say 'buy a xylophone' however finances could dictate otherwise and the persussionist who made the suggestion (who is actually a pianist / woodwind player teacher who happens to play percussion for us) already has the keyboard.
  5. Adrian Horn

    Adrian Horn Member

    If its for the short term, I can see no harm in it. If anything, it will at least allow the rest of the band to know what to expect. So long as the actual money being raised for tuned percussion isn't then syphoned off elsewhere when people start thinking the keyboard will do for a bit longer ... and a bit longer ... etc.
  6. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I know a couple of numbers that require steel drums. Doesn't quite sound right on xylophone or vibraphone and to bring a set in (plus player) is a bit awkward for various reasons. On one of the original charts, Maynard Ferguson actually uses a keyboard emulating steel drums. Jaco Pastorius in his big band uses the real McCoy. I don't see any reason for not using a keyboard for this task in brass bands (unless a decent sized stage is available).
  7. backrowbloke

    backrowbloke Member

    Has anyone used keyboards to substitute percussion in the past (or present)?

    (I have to be careful here or I will open the whole 'what instruments should really be allowed to play with a brass band' debate and have the anti-non standard band instrument brigade after my blood ;) )
  8. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    No... and never will...
    If money's an issue simply go on eBay or something... buy 2nd hand.

    You wouldn't see a brass player (lets use a cornet for example) using a keyboard in replacement of their instrument because the band couldn't afford to get one, would you?
    If you want to attract percussionists into your band then get the keyboard idea out of your mind and get on with fundraising to get a real xylophone... I'm sure you can find a 2nd hand Xylo for around £400... maybe less if you're lucky.

    Good luck :biggrin:
  9. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Unless you're playing for a show that has to be down-sized into a smaller theatre :mad:
  10. Aidan Geary

    Aidan Geary Member

  11. tromdude

    tromdude New Member

    Keyboards are problems

    My experience of working in a brass band that used a keyboard/amp for glock was that it sucked big time. It was a decent Wave-based keyboard with touch sensitivity and a large guitar amp - not cheap at all.

    It sounded wierd - timbre, where it came from, slight hum. It's like having an electric piano with the volume turned up massively - it just doesn't sound nice. It's like miking up only the quiet person in your choir - it just sounds odd mixed with the 'real' sounds.

    And it was always too loud or too soft. Even with a sound check you just can't find one level that will work for all the entries.

    The keyboard intruded so badly on the sound of the band that I would have massively preferred not having the part played at all.
  12. Craigsav83

    Craigsav83 Active Member

    I can see implications here, firstly sound. I own a fairly good keyboard, and the percussion sounds are very poor (and thats being kind) - I cant imagine the sound of a brass band and tinny percussion mixing very well at all.

    On the other hand, how mand bands do you know who own a xylo, vibraphone and a set of tubular bells? Those 3 items are several thousand pounds worth of kit. A second hand xylo is a good idea, theres not too much can go wrong with them, I'd see it more as an investment for the band. If you are really stuck for a concert or contest, you could always borrow one from a local band or school?
  13. drummerboy

    drummerboy Member

    As a matter of principle I wouldn't, not for a band/orchestral concert.
    However, as Peter says, sometimes you need to. I did West Side Story on percussion (as opposed to the basically kit part) a few years ago, and had to use a keyboard for the vibes part, due to lack of room.
    If I could have afforded second hand vibes I would have bought them, but fitting them in would have been another matter. So I wouldn't rule out playing tuned perc on a keyboard altogether otherwise you might find yourself turning down work!
  14. Aidan Geary

    Aidan Geary Member

    I'm sorry - but that seriously winds me up - surely the organisers of a show should look at the scoring and know that the score for WSS requires a certain amount of gear! That to me is like playing the Firebird Suite on a kit Bass Drum!
  15. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    How about electronic percussion?
    Seeing West Side Story mentioned, I did this a few years ago and the percussionist had an electronic percussion keyboard-looking instrument, I think it was called MalletKat or something, that had all the sounds programmed in, yet was hit with the mallets as per normal. It sounded excellent and definitely saved on space.

    Just found a website with them on - my memory didn't fail me, they are MalletKats

    Yes, they are expensive, but they are an alternative to carrying around lots of different bits of equipment.
  16. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member


    We're percussionists, we wanna play percussion instruments, not keyboards.... you have ya brass stuff.... we have our percussion stuff...... I didn't buy 40 pairs of sticks to play a keyboard!

  17. Kernow

    Kernow Member

    Back in the late 70's early 80's I seem to recall electronic keyboards and electric drum kits being used by some bands at entertainments contests. This produced a flurry of complaints from bands that used traditional percussion, so the organizers of these contests banned them.
    I have used keyboards for vibe parts etc. in concerts and they have worked well.
    I accept the points raised regarding cheap secondhand instruments and agree with those points, but if you are a small 4th section band with no sponsorship and struggling to make ends meet, a keyboard is a very good alternative and used in the correct way can sound very effective.
    As for using them at contests....well that is a different argument all together. We have had Brass Bands using Trumpets and French Horns etc., and percussion parts are in general becoming more intricate and calling on the use of more and more unusual percussion instruments.
    Not only are the sets for test pieces getting more expensive but with some pieces the percussion needed is adding to the costs, more often than not some percussion instruments that have to be bought will only be used for that particular piece, and then are left in a cupboard to gather dust.
    I would not surprise me if contest organizers do not get requests from bands over the coming years asking to use a keyboard as a percussive instrument....we will have to wait and see on that one.
    By the way, I don't have anything against percussionists as I play and teach percussion as well as brass.
  18. jo

    jo Member

    this is where all contest organisers need to use the services of Ray Payne and other wonderful folk like him...he is providing practically everything for masquerade at the shield, including the more unusual (flexitone and so forth) meaning that even if we never get hold of one for rehersing there will still be one on stage (been practising my "air-flexitone" playing alot!). while this doesnt solve the problem for the more intricate tuned parts, it does relieve the pressure of a band having to have multiple tuned instruments as all parts could, for the sake of practise, be hammered out on one instrument and transferred to the real thing on the day.
    keep up the good work Ray!
  19. backrowbloke

    backrowbloke Member

    However, playing devils advocate, surely you would want to practise on the actuall instrument before a contest, and not have to walk onstage and then play it for the very first time - I would have thought playing tubular bells is very different from a xylophone :) (BTW - what is a it like a stylophone????? lol)

    Seriously - thanks to all for the feedback so far. As I said before, ideal is to have 'proper' precussion, however, finances have to be prioritised (guess could sack the MD and spend his fees on instruments ;) )
  20. Kernow

    Kernow Member

    It would be an ideal world if we had people like Ray Payne dotted all over the country, but unfortunately we don't.
    Maybe percussion parts is something that contest organizers can look at when choosing a test piece, and if your area does not have access to services from people such as Ray then they pick another piece so that it is not costing bands a small fortune.
    Or (and this could be taking a chance), composers do what I did when I wrote a test piece especially for the 4th section, and that is to think of the bands that they are writing for and what access they may or may not have to certain percussion instruments.
    I feel that we are somewhat getting away from the original question.
    If all else fails and there is no other way then I do not see anything wrong with using modern technology, as long as it is used in the correct manner.

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