One of the first things I do with any new equipment, is get a practical sense of what it can and can't do. Occasionally there is a pleasant surprise, often well...
Discovering the limitations of the Casio WK-7500 (and/or trying to find work-around's) has taken more than a month of additional online research, tinkering, trial and error and even emails to Casio Australia. I wouldn't say it's been a total waste of time, since research invariably leads to knowledge and ideas, but certainly much of that time could have been better spent actually recording some music ... which after all, is the point of the exercise.
Had I known in advance what the Casio WK-7500 cannot do, it's fair to say, I would have purchased a different keyboard. Which basically just reinforces that old lesson about not making assumptions.
It's also fair to say that the publicity or media hype about the Casio WK-7500 is essentially misleading, in that it deliberately leaves out what I would consider to be important information as to the Casio WK-7500's capabilities.
So ... if you are looking for a Workstation Keyboard, check out the Table of Casio WK-7500 (WK-7600) Capabilities (and/or lack thereof) before you part with your money.
In the time since this article was originally written (December 2012), Casio have released the WK-7600. Most reviewers have tagged the WK-7600 as little more than an upgrade. If you are considering purchasing either one of these keyboards, I would strongly recommend you look at the side by side specification comparison for the WK-7500 and WK-7600 before making a decision.
Working With A Keyboard
You might be wondering at this stage, why a guitarist would go out and buy a Workstation Keyboard. Well, the logic was actually quite simple ... though as it turned out, perhaps slightly flawed.
I needed a drum machine. After looking at the drum machine hardware currently available (and the outrageous prices), I concluded that an alternative option would be to find a MIDI keyboard that I could use to do the same job (create MIDI rhythm patterns) ... and then at least also have the facility to record some keyboard and/or synth tracks for my songs.
It all sounds quite reasonable ... at least in theory.
After considerable research over several months, the standout 'value for money' keyboard to serve my needs appeared to be the 76 key Casio WK-7500. Having owned a high-end Casio 88 key digital piano in the past, I already knew they make truly awesome keyboards. So this seemed like a workable solution for the task at hand.
After reading through the specifications (several times) and spending hours trying to make sense of the piece of crap that Casio call a product manual (which comes shipped in 5 or 6 languages), I resorted to watching the demos and 'How To' videos for the WK-7500 on YouTube. It certainly 'appeared' to be capable of doing exactly what I needed and then some.
After purchasing the WK-7500, the reality however is somewhat different from the movies.
The WK-7500 does have an extensive capability for the editing of existing rhythms and the creation of new User Rhythm Patterns (from scratch if you want).
Unfortunately, once you get away from the default (recording a single 4/4 bar/measure), the process is insanely cumbersome, convoluted and completely unintuitive. Yes, it will do the job ... however, be warned, you may die of old age before you complete your first CD.
At this point my dream of not having to involve a PC or Laptop in my home recording process was starting to fade.
With further research I was able to find some MIDI drum software (TabTrax v3.0) which lets you write/compose complete (and quite complex) drum patterns. Unfortunately TabTrax has quite a few bugs, but at least it does do a comprehensive job of allowing musicians to create sophisticated drum patterns complete with notation.
Should you decide to give TabTrax a try ... just remember to make a habit of hitting Ctrl+S (Save) on a regular basis. I now have a shortcut to the Windows Task Manager on the Taskbar, so that I can close TabTrax down whenever the program hangs.
This is where I encountered my next little glitch.
I wanted to play the drum patterns created in TabTrax through the WK-7500 (let's face it, the Windows MIDI Wavetable Synth on a laptop is worse than awful).
Saving my song (drum track) from TabTrax to a MIDI file and loading that into the WK-7500 via the SD card to play it remotely on the WK-7500 worked just fine. However, what I wanted was to play directly from TabTrax on my Laptop via MIDI through the WK-7500. Sadly, that was a no-go!
This is not specifically Casio's problem, but I suspect they could have made the effort to provide some support here, like a small application or widget that would have helped or even avoided this problem.
It turns out that Microsoft (in their infinite wisdom) decided from Windows Vista onwards, that the world no longer required control over MIDI outputs via their operating systems. So Windows 7 (of any flavour) no longer has any provision for setting the default MIDI output device ... unless ... you are prepared to hack the registry ... or purchase some third party software (DAW program, MIDI Guitar or similar) that accesses or gets around the registry setting.
[If you have a similar Windows 7 MIDI problem try the solution posted on the Microsoft Community web site (scroll to the last post on the linked second page). If you read the entire thread, you will probably come away thinking, as I did, that Microsoft really does not care.]
So I hacked the registry and now I can play my drum tracks through the WK-7500 ... and importantly ... hear what they will sound like when I eventually record them to the DP24. And of course, you also can plug an electric guitar into the WK-7500 and jam along to fine tune the drum track as you go.
Not quite what I originally had in mind ... but it does work quite well.
Sadly, Casio (and apparently many other keyboard manufacturers), have concluded that the standard (DIN) MIDI ports are no longer necessary. So the WK-7500 has only USB MIDI. This means that to connect to other MIDI devices you either need a PC/Laptop or something like the iConnect MIDI Manager.
I don't honestly know what idiocy led to this change, given that a pair of standard MIDI in/out ports would surely cost less to include than the 5 complete user manuals in multiple languages, which are shipped with each Casio keyboard.
Advertising Spin is all about convincing you that what a device can do is more important that what it can't do ... I strongly disagree! So here are some WK-7500 can't do's that, quite frankly, caught me by surprise.
The Casio WK-7500 is advertised as MIDI compliant device, and it can Transmit and Receive MIDI data. Sadly however, what you can do with incoming MIDI data is severely limited.
The Capabilities of the CASIO WK-7500 / WK-7600 Workstation Keyboard
Specification Comparison between the CASIO WK-7500 & WK-7600 Workstation Keyboards
Incept Date: Wizard - 121220
Last Updated: 131010