I'm the sound engineer for our 150-ish person congregation. Our praise team consists of a piano, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and 3-6 singers.
But, almost every week, there is at least one person in the band that is missing. Usually it's the keyboardist, followed closely behind by the drummer and bassist.
I'm looking for a keyboard that can do different sounds like strings, organ, piano and possibly drums that I can have back in the booth with me. Ideally it would be smaller (3 octaves or so) so that I can mount it above or below the sound board so I can use it to fill in for whoever is missing.
Does anyone have any recommendations or advice for the kind of setup I'm looking for?
No answers, so I throw in my two cents worth. Most church today snub their noses at arranger keyboards, but that is the best low learning curve for what you want. Usually a Yamaha 'board with 61 keys is great like say a PSR -E463 would be more that do the trick for you. If you connect it through the PA it will sound awesome; and the cost is reasonable. You get 764 odd instruments and heaps of drum rhythms to boot; you don't need to play the styles.
The other way to do things is to get a midi controller ( almost any one with either 49 or 61 keys $150ish) and connect it to a Macbook or similar with a USB cable plus with Mainstage ( cost is minimal less than $50) you can up to date sounds and any instrument. Plus people wanting to play it for you.
You probably already know this, but be careful about the time delay between the stage and the sound booth... if you're trying to play drums (or whatever) along with sound from the stage that's coming from 100 feet away, you're going to be audibly "behind the beat," and if that's coming back at the band, they're going to slow down to try to sync up with you. So you'll need headphones (connected to at least one mic on stage) to play along, and that kinda defeats the purpose of having a person at the soundboard.
We have a similar size congregation / room, and I've come to terms with... if the drummer doesn't show up, we just play without drums. Sometimes that means it's just me and my acoustic guitar, and sometimes I think about how that makes our music sound kinda wimpy, but it's really important to have all the sounds happening in sync. I have my guitar amp pointed right at the drummer & bass (away from the congregation) so they're not playing with the echo off the far wall of the room. Actually, this past Sunday, the drummer walked in just as the service was starting, hadn't warmed up with us, and that brought its own set of problems...
Also, I feel like it's important enough that the sound person pay attention to the sound that I don't even want the sound person also running the MediaShout (lyric slides), even if that means recruiting somebody from the congregation before we play our first song.
Since you originally posted this last September, how 'bout following up and letting us know what you ended up doing and how it worked out?