Funk Keyboards and Gear

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Every musician loves to check out, talk about, play, buy, sell, and trade gear. What is “gear”? It really refers to anything that becomes part of your essential setup. Here at JazzEdge, we use lots of different gear, both in our online video lessons, behind the scenes, and even out on the gig. Students are often asking us what kind of gear we use, so we thought we’d shed some light on the funk keyboards and gear that we really dig.


In all of our videos, you’ll see us using Yamaha keyboards, specifically the Yamaha Motif ES6 synth for funk lessons, and the Yamaha DGX 640 in our jazz and classical lessons. The DGX is an 88-key weighted keyboard with some nice acoustic piano patches, as well as some other traditional sounds such as electric pianos, organs, strings, pads, brass, and synths. We really like the Yamaha brand, largely because Yamaha has done a great job of capturing the weight, responsiveness, and hammer-action of a real piano (that “real piano feel”).  The Motif is a 61-key waterfall-style synth (meaning it is not full-size and has non-weighted keys). It has a multitude of very authentic sounds and a lot of “tweak-ability,” so you can quickly add various effects and can easily layer and split sounds. It’s a powerful piece of funk keyboard gear that gets a lot of action out on the gig as well since it’s a keyboard of choice for many professional gigging musicians. The next time you’re watching a show featuring a live band, check out the name brand of the keyboards being used. Quite often, there’s a Motif on stage.

We also have lessons which feature the Hammond SK2, an excellent portable-version clone of the famous Hammond B3 organ. This little keyboard is infinitely more portable than the Hammond B3, making it a desirable alternative to lugging a real organ from gig to gig. Put it through a Leslie (the speaker that famously accompanies the B3) and it sounds so much like the real Hammond B3 that most people can’t tell the difference. And a few of our videos feature the Nord Electro, which many musicians refer to as “those red keyboards” (because they are entirely bright red). In my opinion, yeah… the Nord series is awesome. They’re portable, stylish, and offer tremendous amounts of controllable options and effects. But perhaps Nord is most proud (and deservedly so) of the quality of their sounds and samples. The pianos, organs, clavs, and electric pianos sound incredibly similar to the real instruments. My personal setup for live gigs consists of a Nord Stage 2 and a Yamaha Motif ES6. Both are very easy to program and fairly intuitive.


We write a lot of music (a LOT of music), and as I mentioned above we use a music notation program called Sibelius, which makes all of our writing nice, neat, and easy to read. Sibelius is a popular program in the music-writing world, as is another program called Finale. They’re both equally great, although my own experience tends to indicate that more people are using Sibelius. We also use iMacs in the office and do a lot of work in GarageBand and Logic, which are digital audio workstations (or DAWs, as they’re called).


As mentioned above we use, and very much enjoy, Apple products. But there are some other pieces of hardware that we also use regularly. Our studios are equipped with Allen & Heath multi-channel mixers. We also use various controller keyboards in our offices, such as the M-Audio Keystation. Controllers are simply empty keyboards (no guts) that produce no sound until you plug them into a piece of hardware or software. We use them primarily for creating sheet music and jam tracks on programs like Sibelius and GarageBand.

So let us know what you own, what you’d like to own, what you’ve owned previously, and what you’ll never own again!


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Jazzedge Teachers

Welcome Paul Buono

Paul Buono has returned to the JazzEdge family as an instructor.  His professional piano/keyboard experience includes national and international touring, university professor, musical director, pit

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  1. Thanks for the gear rundown! Nice to know what’s going on beneath the video lessons. I have a Nord Electro 5D with SW keys and a Roland RD700SX keyboard. I love both!

    The first set of Funk videos helped me hear more in the sounds available on my keyboards. That’s one of the reasons I wanted the Funk course as I learn the possibilities of the sound palette. My main interest, of course, is to get my hands working with the rhythms.


  2. I play in a funk band Off The Hook and I play a 73 key Hammond SK1 and I also have a 73 key keyboard Korg SV1 vintage stage piano which does a great job of reproducing all the vintage key board sounds. I like the leslie sound so well on the Hammond that I have stopped using a my Neo Instruments Ventilator(Leslie 122 simulator …

    I highly recommend both instruments and I found a great keyboard stand that goes up pretty fast but is a little pricey Ultimate Support APEX Series stand.

    I have two Roland amps I mostly use a KC150 for a monitor and run my sound through our sound system. I also have a Roland KC 880 which is pretty heavy to pack around but has a lot of power if needed.

  3. and how about recording equipment Willie? I’m sure you have high end stuff, but any poor-man recommendations (in the few hundred dollar range); it’s easy to get an MP3 recorder with a line-in jack thing, or a camera with line-in, but how do you record such good quality from the piano and your voice (when you talk, haven’t heard you sing :-)? is it just one really good microphone you have on set?


    1. I have a Sony lavalier mike. Cost about $200. I can get you the make if you’re interested. I also like Allen and Heath mixing boards and use them on set.