Notes by Bob Sellon
I've had one of these for a while now and just love it. It's an inexpensive keyboard (less than $300) but has some features that I really like.
Cheesy as it seems, I really like the lighted keys. They basically light as you play them but also light when playing back built in and user loaded MIDI Files. This is excellent for learning tunes for learning tunes since you can adjust the tempo in real time. The built in tunes are beyond cheesy but a USB interface is provided which allows you to upload your own sequences in. Trying to learn a tune? Check our MIDI file library for teh song and upload it to the keyboard. Great stuff.
Another feature that was very important to me was the built in speakers. I was really just looking for a keyboard to keep in my office to practice on while waiting for software to compile or other time consuming computer tasks. Though I have an excellent sound system in my office, the built in ones are closer to the keyboard and allow me to quickly set up the keyboard in the living room or back yard if I have friends over for an impromptu jam.
I don't do much karaoke but the karaoke input also also allows me to use the keyboard as a mini-amp/PA in a pinch. We recently used it to play a reference track on a recent video shoot. I just plugged my iPod into it with an adapter cable and we were good to go.
It seems like a minor thing but I really like having a metronome one button press away. I even use it when practicing guitar. Like the sequencer, you can adjust the tempo.
The display on the keyboard shows you the notes that you are playing on the staff as you are playing them. I'm trying to improve my sight reading so this has been a big help.
In addition to allowing you to upload MIDI sequences to the keyboard, the USB interface also makes the keyboard show up as a standard MIDI input and output device on your PC. I do a lot of projects that are hybrid MIDI and audio so I can use the keyboard to add MIDI tracks. Though the keys are not weighted, they do provide velocity so you can get very natural sounding MIDI tracks.
I haven't used them yet but the keyboard also has a whole section dedicated to teaching you to play. For people who are interested in learning to play the piano but don't have the time/money for lessons, this can take you a long way.
Though I currently don't have a lot of use for it, the keyboard also has a composite video output that you can plug into your TV like a video game which is used with both the Karaoke and Lesson systems. It shows the list of built in tones as well as tunes but literally implements the whole Karaoke thing as well. It occasionally shows the staff as well but switches to the lists whenever I play anything which is kind of a bummer since I could really use it to help my sight reading. Its still kind of a neat and surprising feature.
Though it is cheesy, the keyboard also has little pictures of the sounds that get made when in the drum/percussion tones that I like. It also supports an SD memory card (one is included) that you can use to extend the memory on the keyboard and to transfer files between the computer and keyboard.
As expected, there are some things I don't like about the keyboard. Though it doesn't affect me, several reviewers on the Amazon site for this keyboard report that Mac drivers are not available. The may be a way to defeat it but the keyboard also times out after a period of inactivity and switches the default keyboard sound to that of the first song, some kind of synth sound. I prefer just a piano sound. Lately, I've been selecting the "Piano Bank" setting and it seems to get rid of this.
- We used the lighted keyboard recently on a video project to show a MIDI keyboard track. When you connect it to a PC, it shows up as a new MIDI input and output port. I opened up the app I use to record on my pc (Sonar) and selected the Casio keyboard as the output for the keyboard track. As the song plays, the MIDI for the keyboard part gets sent the the Casio playing it in real time. Not only do the keys light up but keyboard actually plays the part. Looked very cool with the lights down low. Also made it easy to pick up incorrect/messy notes. I'll post an example here when the video gets far enough along.
Background image by Pauline Moss. at http://paulinemoss.deviantart.com/art/Stars-307119758