Casio Privia PX-350 Digital Piano

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Church Use: A leap forward in the acoustic sound and feel of a portable piano.

Casio has a long history of producing electric keyboards. Their Privia line has some new members with both home and stage models. The PX-350 is compact and versatile enough to be both. It represents a significant advance over previous generations with its combination of a new keyboard feel and a more powerful sound engine.

The new Px-350 uses three times the memory of the previous generation and Casio’s “AiR” (Acoustic and intelligent Resonator) delivers the best acoustic piano sounds yet. There’s a hammer response and damper resonance simulator and 250 tones built-in including strings, organs, electric pianos, brass, drums and more.

The PX-350 features a redesigned 88 note, Tri-Sensor scaled action. The keys have a simulated Ebony and Ivory textured feel, while 3 sensors capture all of the dynamics of your performance. A timing nuance even takes into consideration the speed at which different hammers move inside a piano for ultra-realism.

There are 180 drum patterns with full auto-accompaniment and a 17-track recorder. A USB port offers class-compliant connectivity to MAC/PC and a convenient SD card slot lets you record your performances—with every intricacy—as an audio file directly to the card.

List price $1099.99
Street price $799.99

More: Authentic feeling keyboard and acoustic piano sound, a good library of other usable sounds, built-in sequencer, onboard SD card recorder

Less: Not much

casio-usa.com

Peavey AT-200 Auto-Tune Guitar

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By Eddie Vincent

Lets you focus on making music rather than staying in tune

It’s indisputable that being able to tune your instrument is vital to becoming a competent guitarist and no technology should replace ear training. However, there are times when keeping a guitar in tune with itself and with others is a challenge. New strings, temperature variations, personal playing technique and the nature of how guitars are intonated all work against you. The AT-200 addresses these issues seamlessly and adds a number of cool features and sounds that make it worthy of serious consideration.

Peavey have been making innovative guitars since the ‘70s and I’d been looking forward to getting my hands on their latest offering ever since reading about the AT-200 last summer. The one I got for review came well-boxed and set-up to play. The action was low and the neck relief spot-on with no buzzing. Inside the guitar is housed a DSP chip with Auto-Tune for Guitar (ATG) technology from Antares. The system is powered by 4 AA batteries or from an optional breakout box, the AT-200B.

ATG controls pitch by two means. The first is called “String-Tune” and that’s what tunes your guitar. It’s armed by pushing the Tone knob into the down position, strumming the open strings and pressing the Volume knob momentarily. You can hear the strings tune to pitch without any moving parts. If you finger any notes during the process, then alternate tunings are the result. Press the second fret on the sixth string as you strum and you get a drop-D. 

The second component is called “Solid-Tune” and that’s what keeps the guitar in tune up and down the neck, even if the guitar’s intonation is off. Mine was pretty well intonated at the 12th fret, but with ATG activated it was perfect everywhere. I tried playing various sorts of chords all along the fingerboard and each one rang perfectly in tune. Intonation has always been a compromise for the guitarist, but no longer with the AT-200.

Other benefits of this technology include Virtual Capos, Alternate Tunings and Doublings, as well as the capability of emulating acoustic and other electric guitars. All of your settings can be stored as patches that are quickly retrievable, either by fretting a note while pressing the Volume knob or via MIDI. There’s an 8-pin DIN plug on the AT-200 that connects to the AT-200B breakout box or directly to an iPad or MIDI foot controller using a standard 5-pin MIDI cable.

I took the AT-200 to band practice to hear how it sounded live with bass and drums and wasn’t disappointed. We practice in a garage and while the other guitarist was frequently re-tuning his guitar as it adjusted to the ambient temperature, my tuning was locked in. Plus, we’re all tuned down a half step to Eb and it was a snap for me to “capo down” virtually and concentrate on making music.

The AT-200 I received came with all of the expansion packs pre-installed that are now available from Antares. I tested the virtual capos, alternate tunings and different guitar sounds. These include an acoustic 6-string and 12-string, and 8 different pickup types. I particularly appreciated the acoustic guitar sound and the vintage lipstick-tube pickup emulation. Antares is currently offering free demos of the acoustic guitar patch and more.

There’s too much to describe about the AT-200 Auto-Tune guitar and its potential in just one page. I highly recommend that you check out the links below and learn more for yourself. 

More: Ideal for sharing with volunteers, perfect tuning every song, ability to store alternate tunings and capo positions for different singers, upgradable with more sounds and features, works as a normal electric guitar too

Less: MIDI interface and computer required for updates and add-on packs

List price $999.99
Street $499.99

www.peavey.com/products/at200
www.autotuneforguitar.com

 

Novation Launchpad S Review

LaunchPad_S
Function: MIDI Controller for Ableton Live
Price: $169.99
What’s New: It’s safe to say that when Novation released the original Launchpad in 2009, it completely revolutionized the way electronic musicians used Ableton Live.  Now in 2013, the Launchpad S is a fresh, revamped MIDI controller that includes all the features of the old design plus some brand new goodies.  Designed in conjunction with the folk at Ableton, the Launchpad S is an 64 button, pad-based MIDI controller designed specifically to work perfectly with Live
The beauty of the device is its simplicity.  Completely bus-powered, Launchpad S sports big, bright, multi-colored pads (upgraded brightness from the original) that let you control your entire session without ever looking at the computer.  The updated plug-and-play drivers work perfectly with Mac OS X and Windows 7 and 8, plus the Launchpad S is now MIDI class-compliant, which allows the Launchpad S to work seamlessly with any MIDI application.  Just plug in the hardware via an extremely thick, heavy-duty USB cable, (we were quite impressed with this cable!) open up Live and the Automap software does the work for you. 
Upon opening a Live session, the controller displays the first 8 scenes and clips as lights on the grid.  Just touch a pad that you want to play or trigger the whole scene with the button on the right.  Up, down, left, and right arrows make easy navigation for big sessions, and a dedicated mixer mode lets you control volume, pan, FX sends, solo, and track arming without even looking at the computer.  Two user modes allows for customization and can turn the Launchpad S into a drum machine or synthesizer at the touch of a button. 
As a controller, the Launchpad S is sturdy and well built; the pads feel great, the lights are even brighter than before, and the exterior is a hard plastic with non-slip bottom feet.  Included with the hardware is a free download of Ableton Live Launchpad edition, a loop library from Loopmasters, and a software plugin version of Novation’s Bass Station.  One note: the included software is only available via free download, there are no CD’s included in the Launchpad S packaging, so if you’re counting on using these when you open the box, be sure you have an internet connection. The Launchpad S has a dedicated iPad app that hosts its own sounds and effects and works with the hardware through a simple adapter sold separately.
If you’ve ever been intimidated by Ableton Live, the Launchpad S is the answer.  There’s no assigning, MIDI mapping, or trouble-shooting, just plug in the controller and press play.  Launchpad S is a perfect compliment to Live to trigger loops and click seamlessly between songs and throughout the entire set.  Launchpad S’s ease of use, great price, and flawless integration with Ableton makes it our number one pick as a MIDI controller for Live. 
 
Visit novationmusic.com for more information about the Launchpad S and other products by Novation. 
-Andy Toy
Tech Editor
Worship Leader Magazine
 

Praise and Worship Drumming Videos Review

pwd_largeFunction: Drum Instructional Videos
Price: $24.99
What’s New: New to drums but eager to learn?  Praise and Worship Drumming: An Inspirational Guide to Drum Instruction may be just right for you.  A two-volume set, Volume 1 of Praise and Worship Drumming covers all the basics of drumming, including stick grip, rudiments, time signatures, dynamics and fills.  Volume 2 focuses primarily on playing the basics of different musical styles, such as rock, jazz, country, and shuffles.  Both volumes provide clear examples of drumming technique specific to a worship context, providing original worship songs as examples on the DVD (available with and without drum tracks as a free download with purchase of the DVD).  Drum artist and instructor Jeffrey Jones gives great examples of drumming technique and form and tastefully demonstrates how to play drums in a worship context.  Where Praise and Worship Drumming really shines is in teaching the basics.  Many drum instructional videos spend a lot of time on fills, double bass patterns, and speed techniques, and the attention to rudimentary detail in Praise and Worship Drumming is refreshing and essential.  Praise and Worship Drumming is a great resource and perfect for beginners and aspiring drummers.  Visit drumsandstuff.com for more information about Praise and Worship Drumming and other products.  

Roland BT-1 Review

Roland BT1
Roland BT-1
Function: Drum pad
Price: $99
What’s New: The BT-1 bar trigger pad is a low-profile drum pad designed to work with V-drum or other electronic drum machines.  Lightweight and easy to mount, the BT-1 is designed to work together with any drum kit, acoustic or electric.  Internal design eliminates false triggering by hitting drums close to the BT-1, and the small, curved design makes it perfect for mounting just outside the rim of a snare or tom.  In addition to being a standard drum trigger, the BT-1 can be used to start/stop click track, trigger backing tracks, tap tempo, and more.  The BT-1 is the perfect drum trigger to add to acoustic drums, or as an accessory to an electronic drum kit.