Making Beats On Keyboard Workstations

A Yamaha Motif XS6! Ahhhhh, how I so remember the excitement I could hardly contain after I paid my first large payment on my first major investment to my music production aspirations. Well, a close friend at the time put in some money too which was great! $2499 that amazing keyboard cost me at the time. And workstation keyboards still costs around the same now as they did before to be honest. Their abilities to reproduce sounds so elegantly in a form factor that live musicians crave is what usually keeps those prices high. Software has started to dominate the music production world as its affordability and expand-abilities have shown to be a force to be reckoned with.

Don’t get it twisted though, keyboard workstations are still amazing devices to have in your beat making arsenal. They just set you back more money then buying 2 MacBook Pros! But the inspiration, sound reproduction, on board tools, and more make them still some of the top sought after products for producers.

Making Beats Will Frustrate You At First On Workstations

Pages, pages, and freaking more pages! What am I talking about? The users manual for these behemoths! When you first arrive at a local guitar center and start salivating over the multicolored lights on one of these things, you will no doubt notice the play, record, and stop buttons. This makes it seem like its super easy to just start making beats. But then you will soon find out that that is not the case.

Some are touch screens, all have tons of buttons and knobs, different brands use different terminologies, menu diving to find simple things like a metronome, quantization specified in crazy measurements, and so much more will make you want to stop everything and go right back to clicking away in Fruity Loops. Trust me, I know and completely get it. I remember spending hours at a guitar center and barely could get a beat made. By the time I did, it sounded like straight donkey!

That does not mean that these board should be overlooked though. I knew it was difficult and still bought that Motif. After some studying and practice over some time, I was making beats like it was nothing. Eventually, I got to the point where I knew the buttons and menu structure so good that I could make beats in minutes and was tapping away fast at the controls like a court room stenographer! And this will happen with everyone that takes the time to learn one of these machines. Frustration is followed up by lots and lots of inspirational fun.

Beat Making Inspiration

Just walking in the door after a long day of work and seeing a workstation with its keys just waiting to be tapped sitting in my room was more then what I needed to gain a little inspirational thrill that would entice me to flip the power switch on and see what happens. The look of these keyboards alone are just inspiring. Its the thought that you invested into yourself for your craft, and the tangible icon of that is this amazing looking piece of musical engineering. For a beat maker, this really inspires you to play away until you formulate your next hit.

This is a feeling you cannot get with software in my opinion. To be honest, I have never salivated over the graphical user interface of a virtual instrument. I have however salivated over the sounds that came out of them! But in order to get to the point of being inspired by the sounds, you have to be inspired to open up that rusty old macbook pro and open up the software while trying not to get distracted by Youtube or social media. Then, once its opened, you can start clicking through the tons of sounds that sounds like straight a** until you finally come upon a sound that really moves and motivates you. See, thats cool and all, but completely different from the inspiration given to you by a physical workstation. It could be the kid in us that just loves the thought of still banging away at our toys, but as we all know, we are our most creative in our childlike state!

Why Do I Feel That Workstations Are Overkill For Music Producers

Price and functionality. Okay, yes we love workstations. I have personally had a Roland Fantom X6, Yamaha Motif XS6, Korg M50, and a Roland Juno D. That alone is about $7500 in gear! Seems like I would have an arsenal on my hands right? Well, somewhat, but all of them were very limited. Each of these carried around 1000-2000 or so on board preset sounds. The amount of sounds you can get in software like Omnisphere for example that costs around $479 and has 14,000 sounds! And they are high quality sounds at that! You can also get Native Instruments Komplete package at $599 and it comes with freaking 25,000 sounds! So quickly you can see why I am saying that the price is just not great for the modern producer.

Also, you cannot record vocals on most if not all of these. And pretty much still need a computer to get the songs you made out of it. Many allow you to transfer it to a USB or other things, but thats still old school. If you want to make a professional track with vocals and more, you still need to buy a DAW or use the lite version of a DAW that usually comes free with any of these workstations. And in that case, you could have just got the main DAW software, got some VSTs, and saved that money for a freaking vacation or something. You still have all of the same abilities of tweaking sounds, and more on the VSTs. So you are not missing out on anything with not going the route of hardware. But one thing I guess I could say you are missing out on, is the fun factor.

Once You Know How To Use A Workstation, You Will Love It

I know I just bashed workstations for a bit, but I also started off talking about its fun and inspirational factors. These are just something that are hard to reproduce. Native Instruments does a great job though of integrating fun controller hardware with software. It is my favorite company today. They really keep the fun factor in midi controllers that looked like plasticky Casio kid keyboards at times. They make it fun again to be able to control everything from the hardware, while the computer is just there as a screen to look at, only if you want to. Most of their hardware has its own screens as well. They truly brought back the fun and inspirational factors to todays beat making process. But, I can still see myself owning a workstation or two. This article really didn’t tell you about HOW to make a beat on these things, because you really will have to read the guides and watch several videos for that. They are all too different and too complicated to explain in a quick read article. But they are nonetheless, some of the greatest pieces of inspirational machinery for beat making.


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