The Best In-Ear Monitors for Keyboardists

May 25, 2018

441K’s universal IEM recommendations for keyboard players.

The Shure SE215, Westone UM Pro 20, and Shure SE846 are our universal in-ear monitor recommendations for keyboard players. In modern musical settings, keyboardists often have to play a variety of sounds, so it’s important to have in-ear monitors that can reproduce the full frequency spectrum.

Shure SE215

The Shure SE215 is a great budget IEM for keyboardists. Despite only having one microdriver, the SE215 is capable of reproducing a full frequency range from 22Hz-17.5kHz. The Shure SE215 ships with detachable and durable Kevlar-reinforced cables. If you’re looking for an entry level model, the Shure SE215 in-ear monitors are the ones to get.

Key Features

  • Single microdriver featuring detailed sound and enhanced bass.
  • Over-the-ear configuration keeps cables out of the way.
  • Detachable and durable Kevlar™ reinforced cables with formable wire ensure secure placement.
  • Comfortable Sound Isolating sleeves block up to 37 dB of ambient noise, whether onstage or on-the-go.

MSRP: $99
Buy on

Westone UM Pro 20

The Westone UM Pro 20 IEMs feature two balanced armature drivers giving you an amazingly clear and detailed sound. The UM Pro 20 IEMs ship with sound-isolating Star and True-Fit tips for a comfortable and customizable fit. Westone’s EPIC replaceable cable reduces microphonics and keeps the IEMs securely in place when moving around.

Key Features

  • Dual-driver in-ear monitors with passive crossover design.
  • Superior performance in a compact, lightweight package.
  • Balanced-armature drivers are smaller and more efficient than traditional dynamic drivers.
  • Sound-isolating Star and True-Fit tips in multiple sizes ensure a comfortable, personalized fit.
  • EPIC replaceable cable with up and over routing helps prevent microphonics and keeps ‘phones secure.

MSRP: $299
Buy on

Shure SE846

Shure’s SE846 is an incredible high end in-ear monitor for keyboardists. The flagship IEM features four high definition balanced armature microdrivers with a three-way crossover design. The SE846 has unparalleled sonic performance with a true subwoofer and an adjustable low pass filter design.

The SE846 features a rugged sweat-resistant housing and high quality removable Kevlar-reinforced cables. The SE846 offers 37dB of sound isolation, making it a great option for live keyboardists.

Key Features

  • Four custom-engineered, balanced armature drivers for extended high-end clarity and unparalleled low-end performance.
  • Adjustable sound signatures via changeable nozzle inserts and removable metal nozzle (balanced, warm, and bright options included).
  • Lightweight, low-profile shape with optimized nozzle angle designed to rest comfortably in the ear.
  • Over-the-ear configuration keeps cables out of the way.
  • Detachable and durable Kevlar™ reinforced cables with formable wire ensure secure placement.
  • Comfortable Sound Isolating sleeves block up to 37 dB of ambient noise, whether onstage or on-the-go.
  • Two included cable lengths (46″ and 64″) for flexible wearing options.

MSRP: $999
Buy on

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Boss FS-5L vs. FS-5U Foot Switches

April 25, 2018

The Boss FS-5L and FS-5U are two popular foot switches for guitarists, keyboardists, and more. The FS-5L is a latching foot switch, while the FS-5U is an unlatching one. In this comparison post, you’ll learn about the differences between these two foot switches and which one to get for your setup.

Boss FS-5L

The Boss FS-5L is a latching foot switch. This means the foot switch will turn on when it’s pressed, and will stay on until it’s pressed again. The FS-5L has a red indicator light that illuminates when the foot switch is in the on position.

When to Use the FS-5L

  • Switching channels on an audio switcher like the Radial SW8.
  • Switching channels on a guitar amp.
  • Activating long term effects.

Boss FS-5U

The Boss FS-5U is an unlatching or momentary foot switch. This means the foot switch will stay on only when it’s pressed. Since the FS-5U is always off when it’s not pressed, it does not have an indicator light like the FS-5L.

When to Use the FS-5U

  • Advancing patches on a keyboard or keyboard rig.
  • Triggering a sound effect on a sampler.
  • Using a foot switch for tap tempo.
  • Sustain pedal for a keyboard.
  • Activating momentary effects.

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The Best MIDI Foot Controllers for MainStage

April 24, 2018

If you’re using MainStage in a live performance setting, chances are you’re interested in assigning hardware MIDI foot controllers to control various functions inside MainStage. There are many foot controller models on the market, so we’ve done the work and compiled the best ones for you. Below are our recommendations for the best MIDI foot controllers for MainStage.

MIDI Foot Switches

The Boss FS-5U and FS-5L are the most popular MIDI foot switches on the market. The U and L designations refer to unlatching (momentary) and latching models respectively.

Boss FS-5U

The Boss FS-5U is an unlatching momentary foot switch. This means it only stays on when the foot switch is pressed. The FS-5U can be used for momentary applications such as patch changes in MainStage.

Boss FS-5L

The Boss FS-5L is a latching foot switch that turns on when it’s pressed down. Afterward, it says turned on until it’s pressed again. The FS-5L can be used for turning effects on and off in MainStage.

MIDI Foot Pedals

The Yamaha FC7 is the most popular MIDI foot pedal on the market. It offers great build quality and durability at a great price.

If you’re using a Roland or Kurzweil keyboard, it’s still possible to use the Yamaha FC7 with the help of a custom polarity inverter. If you’re not a fan of using adapters, the Roland EV-5 is also a good option.

Multipurpose MIDI Foot Controllers

Multipurpose MIDI foot controllers offer a combination of programmable single and continuous value controllers. While they are often too clunky for simple MainStage setups, they are useful for more complex programming situations that require multiple dedicated MIDI hardware controllers.

For example, let’s say you want to do the following in MainStage 3…

  • Trigger play/stop in the Playback plugin with a foot switch.
  • Control master volume with a continuous controller.
  • Trigger a patch change with a foot switch.
  • Control an instrument’s reverb send with a continuous controller.

While it’s technically possible to link up a bunch of individual MIDI foot switches and foot controllers, it’s often more trouble than it’s worth. In most instances, using a multipurpose MIDI foot controller is much more economical and convenient.

Yamaha MFC10

The Yamaha MFC10 is a multipurpose MIDI foot controller that features twelve programmable foot switches and one control pedal. The MFC10’s foot switches can be programmed to send control change data, and its control pedal supports after touch and pitch bend in addition to control changes.

Yamaha MFC10 MIDI Foot Controller

In addition to MIDI I/O, the back of the unit also features four 1/4″ pedal inputs which can be used to add additional foot switches and pedals to the MFC10. In total, the MFC10 gives you up to 17 controllers to work with.

If you need a flexible multipurpose MIDI foot controller for a more complex MainStage setup, the Yamaha MFC10 is the best option on the market.

Creating You Own Multipurpose MIDI Foot Controller

If you don’t like how the Yamaha MFC10 feels, it’s possible to create your own multipurpose MIDI foot controller by linking together a bunch of Boss foot switches and Yamaha foot pedals. To do this, you’ll need to chain together multiple MIDI Solutions Footswitch Controllers and Pedal Controllers. While flexible, creating your own multipurpose foot controller can be prohibitively expensive. In other words, it’s probably more trouble that it’s worth.

Introduction to MainStage Keyboard Programming

December 26, 2017

Keyboard programming is definitely on the top ten list of the world’s most misunderstood trades. Most theatergoers have no clue it even exists, yet it’s one of the most important aspects of modern musical theatre productions.

Over the years, keyboard programming has evolved from primitive hardware synthesizers to complex software counterparts with infinite routing capabilities. Recently, Apple MainStage has become the most popular software solution for keyboard programming.

In this series, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at all the possibilities that MainStage offers, and how to integrate these concepts into your own keyboard programming.

Continue Reading →

How to Use Reverb in MainStage

November 16, 2017

Using reverb is a great way to add ambience and atmosphere to your patches, and in most cases you’ll want to use what’s called a global reverb. This just means instead of having an individual reverb instance for each of your channel strips, you can set up one concert-wide reverb that you can send all your sounds to.

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