A Marching Band With KeyMusician Keyboards

The KeyMusician Keyboard isn’t limited to classroom teaching, or solo/small-group concerts. It can also be used in a marching-band. You can even have a solo KeyMusician Keyboard player that sounds very much like an entire marching band.

This article tells you how to include KeyMusician Keyboard players in a marching band, or even how to have a marching band made up entirely of KeyMusician Keyboard players.

A One-Person KeyMusician Keyboard Band?

Aere, entertaining at a soccer game in the park.
Aere, entertaining at a soccer game, in a local park

Some instruments, such as the accordion, claim to be a one-person band, but they don’t sound like a marching band. The KeyMusician Keyboard actually does!

Listen to this short one-person KMK marching-band performance, by clicking-on (activating) the link below, and see what you think. Use your browser’s back-button to return to this article.

Trompetas Mexicanas

Here is a longer example of a one-person KMK marching band, which makes use of changing instrument sounds. Just click (activate) the link below:

KMK Marching Band Demo

Admittedly, I went a bit overboard on that piece, using string-instrument sounds. You’ve probably never seen a marching orchestra, because the string instruments are very sensitive to the vibrations involved in marching, but with the KeyMusician Keyboard, why not? You could even do ‘marching pianos’ if you wanted...

Another interesting thing in the above demos, is that I’m using a MIDI router to play 5 different instruments in unison, in addition to the ‘chorus’ control, so it sounds more like the many different instruments of a band, playing together.

A KeyMusician Keyboard Marching Band?

Obviously, a bunch of KMK players using their laptop speakers would be a total flop. The key to making this work, is connecting multiple computers to good, high volume, mobile amplifiers & speakers. But such sound systems are bulky and heavy.

Also, having something to safely carry the laptops, and using wireless keyboards carried in harnesses, is very important.

Though cable-connected keyboards can possibly be used, big problems could result if someone stepped on a cable while marching, or got tangled in a cord.

You might think of using Bluetooth keyboards, but Bluetooth adds significant latency (delay between pressing a note-key, and hearing the note). Such latency makes playing together in-time very difficult, so it should be avoided, if at all possible.

Wireless keyboards have about a 30 foot range, so the players are free to do fancy footwork (except for the person towing the amplifier/computer cart).

The Laptop & Amplifier Cart

I’m sure there are many ways of doing the same thing. In this article, we’re detailing what worked for us, after a significant amount of experimentation.

The cart we used is a “Gorilla Carts” brand. It has a good size base, and good size wheels for using it on grass fields. It has a handle for towing, that we connected to a person’s belt in a parade we took-part in. The sides of the cart aren’t solid, so they don’t block the sound from the speakers.

Picture showing the
Cart for holding the amplifier/speakers, with table in it for holding the laptops

There is a table sitting in the cart, which provides a platform for the laptop computers. You can hang signs on it for announcing your band.

Under the table legs, are ¼ inch thick closed-cell foam pads, for absorbing any sharp shocks that might damage spinning disk drives in the laptops. The table surface has room for four, and possibly six laptops.

A ‘Y-cable’ will connect two laptops to the amplifier, but for 3 or more computers, you need a battery (or USB) powered mixer box.

The amplifier/speakers are in the bottom section. We use two of them, so we can project the sound to both sides of the street. For a large area, in open air, you need a pretty powerful amplifier/speaker. We use the Roland Cube Street for one of them, and a battery-powered boom-box for its paired-speaker.

The cart needs a sun-shade (possibly doubling as a rain shelter) over the top of it. You could destroy your laptops if you use them while the sun is beating on them, on a hot day. We didn’t use a sun-shade at the event shown above, because it was mid-morning on a cool day.

The Keyboard Harnesses

The harnesses are made from ¼ inch thick, malleable steel rod. A single 6-foot length rod will make one harness. You can bend them in a metal-working vise.

Picture of the keyboard by itself, hanging from a belt on the performer.
The harness for the keyboard, by itself

The harness top slides under, and hooks over a 2-inch wide web belt, as shown in the picture. Notice the belt position (far above the waist). It might slide down on thinner persons, and require suspenders to keep it in-place.

Picture of the harness with the keyboard, held firm by a wingnut and washer.
The harness, with the keyboard, held firm by a wingnut and washer

You put the belt on first, making sure it is tight, then slide the hook(s) of the harness under the belt, so it hangs onto the top of the belt.

Limitations

What we did here works for up to six performers. For a larger band, you need more carts. From what I’ve read, you can most likely use a wireless keyboard for every band member of a good sized band.

The Drum-Line

With a large band, you can use individual players for the various percussion instruments. All percussion players can use the same laptop, since the different percussion instruments are just different notes, and you can connect multiple keyboards wirelessly to the same computer.

For a smaller band (or a one-person band), it makes sense to just use a pre-recorded rhythm track, in a MIDI file, played by the MIDI Player.

The rhythm track plays for the duration of the parade. All the music I play with it, I have adapted its rhythm to work with the percussion track. That may seem like something that wouldn’t work, but I performed the following pieces with the same rhythm track:

Ode To Joy (Beethoven), Bali’Hai (South Pacific), Scarborough Fair, Nights In White Satin (Moody Blues), Nessun Dorma (Puccini), Trumpet Voluntary (Aere), Trompetas Mexicanas (Aere), and I’m pretty sure many of the pieces in the KeyMusician Songbook can be modified to work with the rhythm track. I also improvised a lot of music of my own along with that rhythm track.

I am supplying two rhythm-track MIDI files you can use with your band. The first one I actually came up with and played it on the KeyMusician Keyboard. The second one is a more traditional marching band rhythm section.

Both of the rhythm tracks I supply, I generated using a scoring tool, so they are perfectly accurate.

To download them, right-click (or option-select) each of the two following links, and select ‘Save Link As’ (or whatever similar choice your browser gives you) from the pop-up menu.

MarchingPattern-1

MarchingPattern-2

Music To Get You Started

There is a marching-band piece in the KeyMusician Songbook. It’s a short version of Washington Post march, by John Phillip Sousa, arranged for the KeyMusician Keyboard, as a solo piece. It takes a bit of practice to play it well, but it is pretty impressive.

To play this piece, use French Horns as the chords-pane instrument. You also need to set the F5 performance pane’s instrument to Trumpet, and the F4 performance pane’s instrument to Clarinet.

Click (activate) the link below to display the PDF file of the written music, and you can print it out if you want:

Washington Post March, for KMK

You can hear what it sounds like, as a solo piece on the KeyMusician Keyboard (without any MIDI magic using MIDI routers), by clicking (activating) the link below:

Washington Post March Audio File

If you have the written-music parts for various marches, arranged for marching band, you can use those parts for the KeyMusician Keyboard. Just remember to set the instrument type (in the transpose dialeg) to the type of instrument (B-flat, F, or E-flat) the music is written for, and it will play harmoniously with all the other instruments.

If band-members play from music rather than memorizing, you’ll need to come up with a way of holding the music in front each such player.

Conclusions

The KeyMusician Keyboard is not limited to classroom settings or even concert venues. You can use it in parades, and other marching-band settings. It just requires a little ‘thinking outside the box’, and some extra equipment.

If you found this article on a search, and don't already have the KeyMusician Keyboard, find out more about the instrument, and obtain it, by clicking (activating) the following link:

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