Korg Pa50, 61 keys

A KORG keyboard for Beginners!

I know that most of you are just starting to learn to play the piano… I have written a couple of blog posts about keyboards for beginners, a couple of Yamahas and Casios, but, what about other brands?

There are many brands out there doing great quality keyboards, specially to learn with… some brands like Korg and Roland which are often more focused on synthesizers, also have beginner ranges of keyboards.

Korg is one of the best keyboard brands out there usually chosen by professional players, but Korg don’t forget about us beginners who are looking for something not only to learn with, but to perform and get creative with. The good news is that they haven’t forgotten and their PA (professional arranger) series sets out to address our needs.

“…these are your perfect musical partner, serving dual roles as both a songwriting station and as your on-call stage band, all in one comprehensive interactive keyboard” – Korg.com

For years, the Pa50 has been the most popular member of the Korg Pa family for three simple but very important reasons: ease of use, amazing sounds and affordable price point. The Pa50 has been around for many years, more recently got updated to Pa50SD which basically replaces the old-school floppy drive with a fast and reliable SD data card storage – so now it is going to be much easier to share and store data on your computer. With only 61 keys, less than the usual 88, you will still be able to cover all the material in the Rocket Piano courses.

Have you seen or heard about Korg’s TRITON? Well, the TRITON is world famous among many musicians for being a benchmark of keyboard technology; the PA50SD is based on the TRITON synth engine, so the sound quality you get with the Pa50SD is simply the best!

It comes with 660 editable sound programs as well as a set of very expressive solo instruments, sampled with a natural vibrato. It also features 89 different effect types. Four assignable pads, an assignable footswitch, the joystick, sync start, fade in and out, tap tempo, accompaniment reset and other front panel functions are available at your fingertips.

This keyboard is like a computer right? So it comes with an Objective Portable Operating System (OPOS) a Multitasking System with a load while playing feature. Upgradeable Operating System and Solid State Disk (SSD) for ultra fast and quiet storage.

It also comes with the typical styles controls + some extras such as: 4 Variations, 2 Fills, 2 Intros, 2 Endings, Count In/Break, Synchro Start/Stop, Tap Tempo/Reset, Fade In/Out, Bass Inversion, Manual Bass, Tempo Lock, Memory, Accompaniment Volume, Accompaniment Mute, Drum Mapping, Snare & Kick Designation and Single Touch.

And the general controls are: Master volume, ensemble, octave transpose, master transpose, split point, style change, tracks volume, quarter tone function, programmable slider, joystick and dial.

It comes with the common inputs for pedal/switch, MIDI, audio L/R + SD card, which is the update made back in 2010 which replaced the floppy disk unit.

So as you can see, the Pa50SD is a very complete keyboard unit with great sound quality, check out some sound samples from the Pa50 web site.

Overall, this keyboard is ideal for the casual performer or the budget-minded musician, the Pa50SD delivers the most important elements of the Pa Series Style engine, following the performer’s voice leading, chording and timing for instant, on-the-fly arrangements. Featuring Korg’s powerful TRITON-based synthesis, the Pa50SD offers a wide variety of acoustic and electric sounds powered by 2 dual cone speakers (in Bass Reflex Box-Auto Loudness control). It features four stereo multi-effects, assignable pads and a large, easily readable LCD screen.

For more information about where to buy, check out the Official Korg site for online dealers.

Here is also a rare official video about KORG PA 50, from KORG Inc.

Casio CTK-3200 Keyboard

In the last gear review I told you about the Yamaha PSR-E423 being a great choice for beginners. I mentioned that Casio is another good and popular brand which makes good quality keyboards, specially for beginners. However, I said that I prefer Yamaha over Casio and this is my personal choice people. So to make this fair and let you decide what is be the best option for you, I want to talk about a similar keyboard product from Casio, the CTK-3200, another great option for beginners which is also in the portable keyboard series.

Casio has also been in the market for ages, so they do know what they are doing.

The CTK-3200 is the newest addition at a very affordable price. It is a 61 key piano style touch-sensitive keyboard with 400 tones and 150 rhythms + digital effects. Casio also offers a lesson system called “Step-up Lesson System”. The keyboard comes with audio inputs for your MP3 player, USB port and MIDI. So this keyboard is very similar to the Yamaha in that respect and it is very complete and also good looking too.

A new feature on this keyboard is the “Sampling function” which lets you sample a sound from an external audio player and then play the sound on the keyboard. You can use this function to get very creative and compose your own music.

How does this function exactly works? Let’s say that you sample your dogs bark, you can then play all the notes in the keyboard with that sound, cool eh? Of course you can go more musical and sample a “gong” or something else besides animal noises… I was being too creative!

This is a great keyboard for beginners because Casio added one more thing besides the Step Up Lesson which is the “Music Challenge” which basically tests your response to an exercise, much like playing a game. You will get some indications on-screen and it will test your reaction speed for pressing the required keys, this will help you to memorize chords and chord progressions.

The rhythms included in the audio library is quite extensive too, it comes with 150 styles of music from around the world. It provides you access to a large collection of ethnic rhythms with a special emphasis on Latin rhythms such as Bossa nova, Samba, Cumbia and Calypso.

It also has digital effects such as 10 types of Reverb and of course pitch bend which goes from 0 to 12 semitones. Something that I didn’t like, was the Metronome function as it only has 2/4 and 6/4. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, practicing something on 3 or 5 is hard enough for a beginner but I am a time freak, I just love odd time signatures and this metronome wouldn’t help me on that. What is good about the metronome is that it can go from 30 up to 255 BPM so you can practice really fast stuff with it and hear how welll you’re doing through the 2x10cm built-in speakers.

The other thing I do not like about it, besides the metronome time signatures is that you cannot record different layers. I think this is a must have for a beginner for two reasons:

  • so you can listen how bad or good you are
  • so you can play something over and over again, for example, recording some basic chord progressions and start voicing over it – a great way to understand and correlate which notes sound good with which chords, basic harmony.

Overall, the CASIO CTK-3200 is a great keyboard for beginners, specially at its price. Definitely your choice if you’re in the market for a mid-range and slightly more affordable portable keyboard.