Should I buy a stage piano or a controller keyboard with an iPad for gigging with?
Many of us now rely totally on software to create our sounds when we’re in the studio, but some people still tend to get rather nervous about the prospect of using a computer- or tablet-based setup on stage. However, an iPad tied to a decent MIDI controller keyboard (probably one with weighted keys and definitely one with decent build quality) can be a great option for the gigging musician. It’s certainly a pretty cost-effective one; even if you’re buying from scratch and add up the cost of an iPad, a controller and some suitable apps (Korg’s Module is a good place to start if you want a good selection of stock keyboard sounds), you’ll still probably end up paying less than you would for a decent stage piano, and you’ll have a more flexible and more portable setup as well.
And yet, there is something appealing about the idea of having a bomb-proof, built-for-purpose, self-contained instrument that you know will Just Work. There’s a reason why you see so many bright red Nord keyboards on stages around the world – they play great, and they’re reliable. We certainly wouldn’t say categorically that it’s no longer worth buying a stage piano, and if you buy well, you should be able to get a decent price back for it if you ever decide to sell it on.
One final note if you do decide to go down the iPad route: make sure you get an interface that enables you to charge your tablet while you have your MIDI keyboard plugged in. Running out of battery power in the middle of a gig is not a good look.