Korg has started shipping their newest line of potable USB products nanoSeries controllers. They are designed to be no wider than a standard laptop and fit beautifully into a laptop bag so you can make music anywhere, anytime. Click here for tech specs.
Korg’s nanoSeries controllers
For those of you who just HAVE to make music where ever you go, these babies were made for you. Grab one for around $50 retail, plug it into the USB port and you are ready to go. I plugged the nanoKey right into my iMac G5 and my Macbook Pro and it was instantly playable in GarageBand and Logic Pro. They are what they are; small, lightweight and portable so don’t try to compare these to any full sized keyboard. They have a decent feel and a good spring back to the pad action keys. At first, I thought they would be flimsy given their plastic construction. I wouldn’t want to drop them off a table (more one that later) but it’s a Korg product and Korg has been making fantastic keyboards for many years. I have used it for a few weeks with Logic Pro, GarageBand and Sibelius and just love it! These babies really hold up under use.
I gave one to a student, Kenny, to see how it would hold up. Kenny is a high school senior who’s about 6′ 7″. He composes music at home in Logic Pro like many teens his age play video games. It’s sort of like giving a Tonka truck to a five year old to test it’s durability. Here’s what Kenny had to say:
Korg in the Klassroom
By Kenny Beats (no, that’s not his real name but go ahead and “Google” it and you can hear his music!)
Great LED lights, bright and functional (they tell you with different colors which mode or octave you are in, very useful, my big keyboard doesn’t do that…)
Convenience – I made a beat in my bed with it on my lap and had no problem. The keyboard is very light, but durable and had no detachable or easily breakable parts.
Accessories- I am accustom to USB cables with the long, fiberglass looking wires for my MIDIs, but the small white cable is both functional, attractive, and portable and wasn’t annoying and knotting all around my desk and such.
Functionality- I didn’t have to set up anything, I plugged it in and opened Logic Pro and was working right away. No fuss.
Extras- They give you an online key code to download the Korg virtual synthesizer, I have yet to try it but the reviews online were good, and more sounds is never a drawback.
Price- $50 is a steal for this.
Keys- There isn’t much depth to the keys, obviously they aren’t weighted but they don’t give you much room for velocity (though softer or louder is definitely possible). Also, they keys and buttons themselves are actually quite small, then again I have huge hands so that could just be me. Also, students who haven’t had extensive MIDI experience will not notice either of these things, and the keyboard does its job.
A- : the keyboard is portable, functional, and useful for new MIDI users, definitely a worth while buy. No one is going to be able to break this thing without trying really hard.
Kenny told me he intentionally tried to break it by dropping it a few times and pounding on the keyboard to see if it would break! Fortunately, for him, it didn’t!
Here’s where it gets exciting. Imagine you are a music teacher who wants to incorporate music technology in your general music or music theory classroom and you don’t have funding for a full music lab. Think about this; fifty bucks and portable. Do you have a Library/Media Center Lab? Hand one of the nanoKeys to a kid as they come into the class, plug them into the USB port and, voila!, instant Music Tech Lab. If you’ve got a Mac lab, you already have GarageBand so no other software is needed. For PC labs, you’ll need to get some software. Mixcraft 4.0 is a good entry level software and is about $50 for each station or , when you contact SoundTree to buy your nanoKeys, ask them about bulk pricing for the nanoKeys AND Mixcraft or other software for PC users. Most Media Centers will have headphones but you can buy any variety at prices fro $5 – $100 or more each. (I’ll write a post on how to outfit a Lab on a budget).
Storing and moving around the nanoKeys is easy. They are small enough to fit into any variety of cases. I have a attache-type case I got in the tool box section at Home Depot for $20. The divider comes with the case. You can fit about 19 -20 nano keys, their USB cables and more in this case. When you are done with your class, grab the case and go or lock it in a closet. Your Media Specialist/Librarian won’t even know you were there!
Do not stop! Do not pass “Go”! Run immediately to your administrator or PTA and budget in a set of nanoKeys as soon as possible. Now, there is NO EXCUSE for every school in the country to have a Music Technology Lab. Contact SoundTree, the educational division of Korg, for pricing on the nanoKeys and the best software for your PC lab.