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Prodikeys DM

12/10/06

  12:37:13 am, by Nimble   , 1120 words  
Categories: Reviews, Toys

Prodikeys DM

Link: http://www.prodikeys.com/products/prodikeys_DM/

I couldn't resist the ProdiKeys. Part typing keyboard, part musical keyboard. I had to have one. When my birthday/Xmas cheque from grandma arrived, it was just the perfect excuse.

Actually, ProdiKeys are much harder to find than I was expecting. There aren't any in the stores around here, and the ones online seem perennially sold out.

What was I to do?

The latest thing to come out was the ProdiKeys PC-MIDI. I thought of getting that - it's pretty cheap, to boot - but I did not like the idea of demoting my home PC to using a laptop-style keyboard. I like my keycaps chunky.

The ProdiKeys DM, however, seemed just the right thing to fit the bill.

The one spot I finally managed to track one of these down, and in black, nonetheless, was on ComTec. Once the order was completed, it actually shipped over here pretty quickly, via Purolator.

Purolator's quick, but I must say that, as I've found out in past, Purolator's shipping offices seem perenially confused (lots of drivers still not back in, workers wondering aloud where parcels went after they placed them on a pile, someone yelling "there's a woman back here trying to get in the door"). I had waited a day after getting the delivery slip, though, so I had no troubles :)

Now, onto this interesting chimera of a keyboard.

It's exactly as advertised, and quite solidly-built. The musical keyboard comes with a snap-on lid that you pop off to play. The keyboard has a fairly good touch to it, though for me being used to quite clacky keyboards, it's unnervingly silent :)

You need to turn off the machine, plug in the keyboard, and turn it on.

SIDE NOTE: I'm noticing some hardware these days coming with odd instructions as to what to do first time. Our replacement Konica-Minolta printer (working very nicely, thank you!) almost bunged up because I had put some paper in the tray before turning it on for the first time. The paper fed in and immediately jammed - I wasn't apparently supposed to have put paper there. After unjamming it and starting the process again, the first-time sequence managed to complete, and I haven't had any worries since!

There is a giant round button to the left of the keyboard with the universal symbol for music, the eighth-note pair: musical button. Click that to bring up Creative's ProdiKeys software.

There are a few different choices of play mode:

PentaTunes

In this mode, the black keys are not their respective notes. They have functions: rhythm, effect and instrument fill-in. Since you cannot use the black keys as their normal note values, you have the option to change the scale to Jazz, Diatonic, etc. You can change the style from Hip Hop to Funk, Rock, etc. You can download more; there's already a significant number of PentaTunes available there.

FunTunes

These are even more removed from normal piano keyboard playing. The piano keys do not play their corresponding notes. Instead, certain piano keys get assigned to drum, bass, accompaniment, phrases and/or effects, totally dependent on which FunTune it is. You can download more.

Intelligent(Tunes?)

This mode is a little quirky. You can use most of the typing keyboard to change instruments, styles, tempo of the background, etc. As you play, it will attempt to use the chords you are playing to figure out an appropriate accompaniment. It gets it right a lot of the time, but I found it switched a little too fast sometimes, totally cutting off the previous sound. There's a "happy", "sad" and "neutral" setting for the accompaniment, which affects the major/minor/etc. chords it chooses. You can also mix two sounds together by choosing an Instrument 1 and Instrument 2.

FixedChord

This mode will play the accompaniment in the background according to the style you pick. So for world music, you get a C-F-G7-C (each for a measure) in the background. It seems neat, but it would be really, really nice if these sequences were editable.

Learn

This mode will help you learn songs. It does not judge you on your playing - it merely enables you to try things out by playing the music along, showing a score sheet (in Western staves, or Chinese Jianpu, an oddly easy-to-understand numbered musical notation I remember seeing when visiting China), and also showing on the screen the notes you are playing (they will be black, and the note you're supposed to be playing will be red). Hit SPACE to start the lesson (most automated play, whether the learning song or starting the accompaniment, happens with the space bar). The songs are not difficult (not even the difficult songs, strangely), but this can help learners practice.

Perform

This is the "cleanest" of the modes. All keys on the music keyboard have their normal function, and you can choose your instruments and accompaniment. The alphanumeric keyboard can be used for instruments and styles, and you can also change the accompaniment chord directly with the function keys. Interestingly also, you can load in a MIDI or SEQ file to be played in the background with any accompaniment.


I liked playing around with the Perform mode in particular, but I'm one of those folks who hardly touches the "demo-like" features of musical keyboards (FunTunes: fun but just silly, to me :) )

The keyboard is velocity-sensitive, which is nice. It's a little stiff, though, I find, and it does not seem as though a definitive thwack on a key actually gives full volume.

There is a "Touch Configuration" program, which lets you set the key sensitivity, like this:

touch configuration screen

Touch Configuration is a pretty facile program, though. You have to twiddle each dot separately - no shortcuts. From inside ProdiKeys, you can choose your touch profile you made, but you do have to save it, and I have not yet figured out how to tell ProdiKeys to use my settings instead of 01_General every time.

I also do not think there's a way of splitting the keyboard - that is to say, having part of the music keyboard be one instrument, and the remaining part be the other.

The music keyboard is listed as a MIDI device, though, so if you have other software that takes MIDI input, I believe you can use the music keys with it just fine, though I did only limited testing.


All in all, a fun toy and it will certainly help settle my cravings for plinking out tunes that I've heard.

For the sake of my wife's sanity, however, I may need to get some good headphones.

(Thanks to Dena for the compliment on how well I can figure out how to play songs that I've heard :) If only I now had... playing ability!)

1 comment

Comment from: manigordo [Visitor]  
manigordo

I recently bought a refurb(/used) original PK (the white one) for around $50 (inc s&h); yes I know, kind of expensive, but I could not resist it’s charm. And like you mentioned, they’re hard to come by (harder by the minute). The only significant dif to the DM seems to be touch sensitivity; as a matter of fact, I think they use the same software (except TS, of course). Maybe later on I’ll be getting a more recent model, like the MIDI (USB). In fact those were the only two things that bothered me; a little; lack of pressure sensitivity and not being PnP (PS/2 only). Vista(/Win7) driver support is currently not of my concern; but eventually will become a problem, since there doesn’t seem to be any driver support. The bundled software was great; although a little bloated; worked fine and was easy to use. The only caveat was the site’s OL support for optional downloads; I can’t seem to dl any of the advertised Fun Tunes, Penta Tunes, Rhythms or Learnable Songs. There’s a perennial “Service unavailable” err message. Tried the main Asia site (directly from Creative); but either can’t seem to find anything, or redirects me back to www.prodikeys.com. That is, unless someone is kind enough to mirror them (pretty plz:) I know it’s no big loss either; but I would’ve liked to try them out. Anyhow (and finally); my brother thinks is heavy, clunky, odd looking, made of cheap plastic, and toyish; but I think it’s sturdy, convenient, neat, has good quality, and works flawlessly. And at the very least it’s a million times better that my cheap old crappy keyboard, and does a lot more…

PS: BTW, there’s a small sliding panel to the front right; with space barely to fit a small card; can’t figure out what’s for; any ideas?

03/24/11 @ 11:13
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