1.1 An Introduction to the KeyMusician-Keyboard

In this tutorial, we will quickly introduce the important features of the keyboard, and get you started playing it.

It is assumed that you have already gone through the process of installing the KeyMusician Keyboard, and that a proper device is selected in the “MIDI Output To” drop-box (in the “F1 Help / Setup” panel), so the keyboard will make sounds when you play it.

If for some reason, nothing is selected in this drop-box, click it (open it), and select the Java Sound (Gervill) synthesizer.

A default configuration (for your operating system) will be selected for you, with a QWERTY keyboard layout (you can easily change it to the Dvorak keyboard-layout, if that's what you use).

The MIDI device selected for you by default, is the Java Sound Synthesizer, which has the name “Gervill” in it (except for Mac OS X, using Java 1.6).

Okay, on with the introduction!

Picture of a beautiful grand piano, in a church.

This beautiful grand piano is concert ready, and has among the best sounds in the music world. It's keyboard has 88 keys. Here's a standard piano keyboard:

Diagram of a full 88-key piano keyboard.
Now, take off 2 keys from each end, and you have the melody-keyboard of the KeyMusician Keyboard:

Diagram of a full 88-key piano keyboard, with the lower two keys, and upper two keys highlighted.



Except for certain classical pieces, these are rarely used, anyway. This leaves you with 84 keys.

Think of the KeyMusician keyboard as with an arrangement like this, like a 'W' turned on it's side:

High Notes

Diagram of a full 88-key piano keyboard, folded into typing-keyboard row sized segments.
Low Notes

Or,

Like two 'U's – UU.

Picture of a QWERTY keyboard, with arrows running from the Z-key to the slash-key, to the apostrophe-key, to the A-key, to the Q-key, to the back-slash-key, to the Backspace-key, to the acute-accent or tilde key.
With the KeyMusician Keyboard running, and a performance pane focused (highlighted), you can drag your fingers as shown, and you will get the constant rising notes like dragging your finger over the length of the piano keyboard white keys. This is called a 'glissando' (a music term).

But wait! My computer keyboard does not have 84 keys! I only see 48!

You see here, colored in green, just the 'white keys' on the piano --- they include the letters, the number row, the backspace, the backslash, and the tilde.

Diagram of a QWERTY keyboard, with the Z-key to the slash-key, to the apostrophe-key, to the A-key, to the Q-key, to the back-slash-key, to the Backspace-key, to the acute-accent or tilde key highlighted in green.
Now I'm going to show you the 'black keys', or how to play the flats, and sharps.

Keyboard diagram, with the left shift-key and the Page-Down key highlighted in red.  Also, the right shift-key and the Page-Up key highlighted in green.
See the orange and green 'page up' and the 'page down' keys? As an example, press the 'W' key, and you will hear a note. Now, before you press it again, press and hold the green 'page up' key, or the right 'shift' key, and then when you again press the W, you will hear the sharp of that note.

If you press and hold the orange 'page down' key, or the left 'shift' key, you will get the 'flat' of that note.

This process is very much like when typing, you want an upper-case (capital) letter, you first press (and hold) one of the shift keys. In our case, the same thing is being done to musical notes.

We prefer to use the 'Page Up' and 'Page Down' keys (instead of the shift keys) because you can reach them from the numeric-keypad keys, where your right-hand will be playing chords.

These flats and sharps are usually (but not always) the ' black keys'. This is how you can play a flat or a sharp anytime you want. But because of musical intelligence built into the application, you will rarely have to do these extra key-strokes!

Because there is an easier way! You can set the 'key signature' and the KeyMusician keyboard will automatically do it for you. You can also change the key signature while performing a song, at the touch of a key.

With the chord keys, when we do that later, you will see that any 'accidentals' or black keys included in the chord played, are automatically played as part of the chord, and also are added for you if you play one of those notes in the melody.



On a piano, you see pedals near the floor. One of these is the 'sustain' pedal, which is a way to hold notes you play, to make them keep playing after you have released the keys.

Keyboard diagram with the space-bar highlighted in green.
On the KeyMusician keyboard, you also have a sustain pedal, it is the 'space bar'. Push (and hold) a note-key to hear a note. Then press and release the spacebar (which toggles the sustain-control 'on'), and then release the note-key. The note keeps playing. Push the space-bar again (which toggles it 'off'), and the note stops playing.

The name piano is short for pianoforte, which is Italian for 'softloud'. On a piano, you get a softer note if you push lightly (slowly) on the keys, than if you push the keys harder (faster). This is called 'velocity', referring to how fast your finger is moving when it hits a key.

With a typing-keyboard, it doesn't tell the software how hard you hit the keys, but you can control the velocity used for the note by using the 'Insert' (or the right 'Ctrl' key) for more velocity, and 'Delete' (or the left 'Ctrl' key) for less velocity (colored in green, below).

Each time you press these keys it adds (or takes-away) velocity to be used when the next note-key is pressed. You adjust velocity before you play the next note(s), and you can adjust it while the current note is playing, without affecting it.

Now, notice the arrow keys, at the bottom of the keyboard, colored in red below. These are the 'volume' keys, and work like the volume pedal on an organ. These affect notes while they are playing. The left arrow reduces the volume, the right one makes it louder, as do the 'Alt' keys. Push these more than once for more or less volume.

These keys affect notes that are currently playing (unlike the velocity keys, which only affect the initial loudness of notes played). You can use these keys to 'fade-away' a note at the end of a phrase.

Keyboard diagram, with green highlighting on the left control-key, the right control-key, the Delete-Key, and the Insert-Key.  Also there is red highlighting on the left Alt-Key, the right Alt-Key, the Left-Arrow-Key, and the Right-Arrow-Key.  The Home-Key is highlighted in yellow.
It is now too loud! Help!

Push the 'Home' key (here in yellow) and it goes back to what it was before, or the last saved setting. This also a good way to restore the former volume after fading-out a note.

Next, here is the keyboard's top row, or the 'Function' keys:

Keyboard diagram, with the Escape-Key highlighted in blue, the F1-Key highlighted in yellow, and green highlighting on F2 through F12, as well as the Scroll-Lock Key, the Pause-Break Key, and the Num-Lock Key.  The Windows-Keys, and the Menu-Key are highlighted in red.
The F1 key (in yellow) lets you control settings for the whole application. It also gives you additional help.

Keys F2 through F12, (in green) select individual performance panes used to choose different key-signatures, instruments, and settings.

The F11 key, and also theScroll Lock key (in green), select the Drums performance pane, and the Num Lock key (in green), selects the Chords performance pane. Num Lock also toggles on (or off) numeric lock. You need numeric lock ON to play chords using the numeric keypad.

If you use the Num-Lock key to select the chords pane on Windows or Mac OS X, you'll have to press it again to re-enable numeric-lock.

The Pause/Break key (in green), changes the keypad window to toggle between Chords (which it assumes initially), and Dynamics (volume controls). This is the same as clicking (activating) the "Dynamics" button on the Keypad window. On Mac OS X, use F14 to do the same thing.

On Windows XP, some other operating systems, and older versions of Java, F11 tells Java to full-screen the current window, and you almost never want to do this. If it does, just hit F11 again, and it will return to original size, as it was before you hit F11, and henceforth use the Scroll-Lock key to switch to the Drums pane. On Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 10 (and newer versions of Linux), you can use F11 to select the Drums pane.

On Mac OS X, neither Scroll-Lock, nor Num-Lock are available. So to switch to the Drums pane, use F11 (it doesn't cause full-screen on Mac). To switch to the Chords pane, use F13 on Mac.

The Esc key (blue) is a sort of 'panic button', occasionally useful if you get a note that keeps playing, or won't shut off, or you get bits of graphics on your display that will not go away. Hit the Esc key and it will stop any stuck-notes, and erase any graphics fragments.

The Windows-key, and the menu key on the bottom row (in red), do things that the KeyMusician application has no control over. Avoid using these keys while using the application.

Now, a pleasant surprise!

Keyboard diagram with the numeric keypad Zero-Key highlighted in yellow, and the rest of the numeric keypad keys (except for the Num-Lock Key) highlighted in green.
The numeric keypad lets you play chords.

How many chords? Hundreds. Using only 4 rules (and a few keystrokes), on the keys (in green) here, to select the chord you want, the KeyMusician keyboard lets you play hundreds of chords.

Additionally, the chord does not play until you push the '0' key (in yellow above), usually with your right thumb. This allows you to set up the next chord while you are playing the current chord. It also allows you to play the currently-specified chord repeatedly.

And now, for playing an expressive vibrato (a wailing wah-wah sound similar to that on electric guitars, or with Hawaiian steel guitars), you can use the “Enter” key, or the “Caps-Lock” key, (shown in green in the diagram below):

Keyboard diagram, with the Caps-Lock-Key and the Enter-Key highlighted in green.
Give it a try. While holding out a sustained note (with an instrument sound that doesn't fade away quickly), repeatedly press the Enter-key (or the Caps-Lock key), and see how it affects the sound. You need to experiment with how quickly you repeatedly press it to get the sound just right.

We call these keys the “Wah-Wah” keys. The Enter key does an 'up' wah-wah, while the Caps-Lock key does a 'down' wah-wah.

Note: The 'down' wah-wah is not supported on Mac, because Caps-Lock triggers on state-change, rather than key-press, which could leave the melody in an out-of-tune state with the chords.

As you do this, watch the performance pane, and you will see the Pitch-Bend slider going a short distance to the right (or left), and going back to the middle when you release it. The Pitch-Bend slider is the 3rd slider from the top, in the screen-shot below.

You can also 'grab' the Pitch-Bend slider with the mouse, dragging it back and forth, for more control. Here's a screen-shot of the Chords Pane, so you can see the PITCH-BEND slider control:




This quick tour showed you around the keyboard, as an introduction. Now let's learn how to play.

1.2 Learning To Play The KeyMusician Keyboard

We will first teach you the way the typing-keyboard keys make musical notes.

Next, we will teach you how to play the black-keys (flats and sharps).

Then, we will teach you how to play chords using the numeric-keypad.

Then we will teach you how to play percussion (drum) sounds on the keyboard.

Finally, we will try-out each of the performance panes, letting you hear the instrument sounds we have initially selected for you, and experience playing chords with the tunes you will come up with (improvise).

So let's get on with it.

1.2.1 Note-Order – Low Notes To High Notes

To make it possible to play tunes entirely with one hand (leaving the other hand free to play chords on the numeric-keypad, manipulate MIDI controls, or to specify flats or sharps), the typing-keyboard keys are connected to musical notes in a zig-zag arrangement.

Picture of a QWERTY keyboard, with arrows running from the Z-key to the slash-key, to the apostrophe-key, to the A-key, to the Q-key, to the back-slash-key, to the Backspace-key, to the acute-accent or tilde key.


This may seem strange at first, but experience has shown that it's much easier to deal with the opposite ascending/descending note-order on successive typing-keyboard rows, than the complicated two-handed end-of-row fingerings that would be necessary if all the rows had the same ascending note-order.

---Of course, you could easily re-map your keyboard any way you want it, but please take advantage of our experience, and give the zig-zag arrangement of keys a try first. ----

Many instruments were made to fill a certain range of sound, in the orchestra. For instance, the trombone, or the french horn were made to have a different range of sound than say, the flute, or tuba. The Keymusician keyboard will sometimes play beyond this range, which might be useful for 'experimental' music, but let your ears tell you if the range you are playing, 'sounds good'.

Be aware that not all instrument sounds will play notes in every possible note in the range the keyboard can play. For example, the “String Ensemble 1” sound (normally used in the Chords pane) will not make any sound for the 5 highest notes of the keyboard (`, 1, 2, 3, 4), even though it goes through the motions of playing the notes, and displays them.

At least, these notes will not sound when using the “FluidR3_GM.sf2” soundfont. When using other soundfonts, they may play, or it might be even more restricted. It depends on the soundfont you are using.

To avoid this difficulty, we will use the “F2” performance pane. Click on its tab in the KeyMusician Keyboard window, or press F2 to select that performance pane. Here it is:

A screen-shot, showing the F2 performance-pane.

A screen-shot of the Num-Keypad Chords window, using the standard-chords system.

For this exercise, the “Instrument” drop-box (in the lower-right corner of the performance pane) should be set to “Bright Acoustic Piano”, which is the way it comes when it's first installed. Also, the “Transpose” button should have a value of “0 (none)”. If you've changed either of them (which you are welcome to do) please change them back for this exercise, and click the “Save” button (or press Shift-Enter) to save it in memory.

Okay, let's learn the order of the keyboard keys, when playing music notes.

But first, a look at the 84 KeyMusician keys as a piano keyboard (this is just to show how it works).

A diagram of a full piano keyboard, with marks in the text below, showing where each keyboard row starts and ends.  This diagram is only applicable for the key of C or A-minor.
In the music many western cultures use, there is a scale of 7 notes (white keys) with black-keys (flats and sharps) between some of (but not all of) the white keys. The black-keys are in groups of 2's, and 3's.

The white keys have note names are a repeating pattern of the letters ABCDEFG, over the length of the piano keyboard.

The '^'s under the 'C's, show the beginning of each major scale that can be played on all white-keys. You can look at any note, and it always is in the same position relative to the pattern of black keys.

The C for instance, is always the key to the left of any group of 2 black keys.

On the KeyMusician keyboard, this is shown vertically on the display of any performance pane. It is shown this way so that it matches-up with the note-display musical staff-lines, showing the correspondence between musical notes, and keyboard keys.

The 'M' marks the 'middle C'. The '|'s show where the different rows begin or end.

Here is another view of it shown vertically (as in the KeyMusician Keyboard display), with individual horizontal sections corresponding to the typing-keyboard rows:

The keyboard diagram from the KeyMusician Keyboard's music graphics pane, with short lines extending left from it, showing where the keyboard rows begin and end.  The piano-keyboard segments for each typing-keyboard row are also shown.


The bottom row of keyboard keys (the row just above the space-bar) has the lowest musical notes. Its order (going from lower notes to higher notes) is left-to-right. Its left-most key (just right of the left shift-key), which is the qwerty “z” key, is the lowest note on the keyboard.

Picture of a QWERTY keyboard, with arrows running from the Z-key to the slash-key, to the apostrophe-key, to the A-key, to the Q-key, to the back-slash-key, to the Backspace-key, to the acute-accent or tilde key.
Press this key, then release it. You should hear a low, growling note, and the bottom key of the keyboard diagram should be marked, along with its corresponding note. Press it a couple of times, if necessary, to hear the note, and see what is displayed.

Then, moving from left-to-right, on the bottom typing-keyboard row, press (and release) each key (hearing the note, and watching what is displayed). Keep going until you press the key just to the left of the right shift-key, which is the qwerty “/” key.

That is the highest musical note on the bottom keyboard row, because we can't use the right shift-key (it has other uses). So to get to the next higher musical note, we move up to the right-most key of the home row (we can't use the “Enter” key because it has other uses), which is the qwerty apostrophe (') key. Press it, and you should hear (and see displayed) the next musical note up.

Picture of a QWERTY keyboard, with arrows running from the Z-key to the slash-key, to the apostrophe-key, to the A-key, to the Q-key, to the back-slash-key, to the Backspace-key, to the acute-accent or tilde key.
Notice in the keyboard display, that we just passed a horizontal line that extends across the note-letter names, between an “E” and an “F”, between the two blue note-played marks:

Part of the music graphic display window, showing an F being played by the apostrophe-key, which is just past the end of a keyboard row, showed by the short-line below the F note.
This is one of the three short horizontal lines that mark the boundary between keyboard rows. It can be handy to know where the end of the keyboard row is when you're playing by feel, looking at the musical-staff display. This is how you can tell.

On the home-row (second from bottom), of the typing-keyboard, the order of notes (going lower-to-higher), is right-to-left, which is the opposite order of the bottom row. So press (and release) each key of the home-row, starting with the apostrophe we just played, moving from right to left, until we press the left-most key of the home-row, just to the right of the “Caps Lock” key (the qwerty “a” key). This is the highest musical note on the home-row.

Again, notice in the keyboard display, that we are up-against another of the short horizontal lines marking the boundary between keyboard rows.

We can't use the “Caps Lock” key for music notes, because it has other uses, and we can't use the “Tab” key for the same reason. So the next note up, is the left-most key of the keyboard row above the home-row, just to the right of the “Tab” key (the qwerty “q” key). This is an important key to remember, since it corresponds to middle-C on the music keyboard.

Note: In the key of C, it's middle C. In the key of G, it's middle G. The fingering of the melody of a tune is the same, regardless which key-signature is used. But it also means that key is not always a C.

Picture of a QWERTY keyboard, with arrows running from the Z-key to the slash-key, to the apostrophe-key, to the A-key, to the Q-key, to the back-slash-key, to the Backspace-key, to the acute-accent or tilde key.
This keyboard row is probably the most useful row for playing melody notes, since it includes the treble-clef staff lines, and starts with middle-C. The order of notes in this row, is ascending, from left-to-right, which is also the most natural for this most-used row.

So play all of the notes in this keyboard row, from low to high (left-to-right), one at a time, listening to the notes, and watching what is displayed.

The last (right-most) usable music key on this row is usually the back-slash (“\”) key.

*[On some keyboards, the right-most key on this row is the qwerty “]key. If your keyboard is one of these, you need to select the QWERTY (or Dvorak) “Z1” (or “Z2”) file in the “Keyboard Map” drop-box, in the “F1 Help/Setup” pane. If you need this, but haven't done it, please select the F1 pane, and on the top right drop-box of the pane, underneathKeyboard Map”, click (or tab-to and open the drop-box) to make that change, then return to the “F2” pane. If you click (activate) the “Help” button of the F1 pane, it will explain how to tell which keyboard-layout file should be selected.]*

A screen-shot of the F1 (Help/Setup) pane.


Again (after returning to the F2 pane, if you had to change the keyboard map file), notice that the last note you played is just below the short horizontal line marking a boundary between keyboard rows.

From here, we move up to the top row of the keyboard, and the key for the next note up is the “Backspace” key (which is perhaps the only key that has other uses that we can use for a music key). The order of keyboard keys for ascending (going up) notes, on this top row, is right-to-left.

So press (and release) each of these keyboard keys, starting with the “Backspace” key, moving to the left-most key on the top row of the keyboard. Listen to the notes it plays, and watch the notes displayed.

So there you have played the entire range of white-key notes available on the typing-keyboard.

To solidify this order of notes in your mind, repeat the following exercise three times.

Press each of the typing-keyboard keys that make musical notes, starting with the left-most key of the bottom row (qwerty “z”). Press the keys, one at a time, moving to the right-most key of the bottom row (the qwerty “/”). Move up to the right-most key of the home-row (the qwerty apostrophe ('), moving from right to left, one key at at time, to the left-most key of the home-row (the qwerty “a”). Move up to the most-used row (just above the home-row), its left-most key (the qwerty “q”). Press each key, one at a time, moving from left-to-right, to the right-most key of this row above the home-row. Move up to the top row of the keyboard, its right-most key (the “Backspace”), pressing each key, moving from right to left, to the left-most key of the top row.

You should now be familiar with the order of playing the entire range of white-key notes available on the typing-keyboard, and have heard the entire range of white-key notes.

1.2 Black-Keys And White-Keys

You just played all of the white-keys, but how do you play the black-keys?

It's easy, but it takes an extra keystroke, and there are two ways of doing it.

Press the keyboard key that corresponds to the note middle-C, the 'Q' (you should remember it from the above exercise). It's the left-most key of the row above the home-row, the key just to the right of the “Tab” key (the qwerty “q”).

Now, press the next key to the right of that (the qwerty “w”). Leave your finger set to press this key multiple times, because we're going to make this note flat, and then sharp, which in each case would be a black-key, on a piano, and on the keyboard display.

Using this key, we're going to play (over-and-over again) the sequence D-flat, D, D-sharp, D. To play this sequence, do the following steps, noticing on the piano keyboard display, u,when a black key is marked in the keyboard diagram, and when a white key is marked:

This is really a lot easier than it looks - These steps are for learning.

  1. A keyboard diagram, with the left Shift-Key and the Page-Down Key highlighted in orange, and the right Shift-Key and the Page-Up Key highlighted in green.
    Press (and hold-down) the “Page Down” key (not the one in the numeric-keypad – use the one above the regular arrow keys). They are marked green (for a sharp, and orange (for a flat) above.

  2. Press and hold-down the qwerty “w”. Notice the black-key below the D key is marked, and there's a flat-sign to the left of the note displayed.

  3. Release the “Page Down” key, noticing that the black-key note is still marked.

  4. Release the qwerty “w”. Notice that the black-key is now unmarked.

  5. Press the qwerty “w”. Notice that this time, a white key is used for it, and there is no flat-sign to the left of its note.

  6. Release the qwerty “w”. Notice the white key is unmarked.

  7. Press (and hold-down) the “Page Up” key (not the one in the numeric-keypad – use the one above the regular arrow keys).

  8. Press and hold-down the qwerty “w”. Notice that the black-key above the D note is marked, and that there is a sharp-sign (#) to the left of the note.

  9. Release the “Page Up” key. Notice the D-sharp keyboard key and note is still marked.

  10. Release the qwerty “w”. Notice the D-sharp keyboard key is unmarked.

  11. Press the qwerty “w”. Notice that this time, a white key is used for it, and there is no flat-sign to the left of its note.

  12. Release the qwerty “w”. Notice the white key is unmarked.

Repeat the above steps over-and-over again, until you can play the “D-flat, D, D-sharp, D” sequence of notes fairly quickly.

To play, here are simple rules to remember in playing sharps, or flats:

  1. To play a sharp (#), first press (and hold) the “Page Up” key, then press the regular key for the note. You can immediately release the “Page Up” key – the sharp-note will keep on playing.

  2. To play a flat (b), first press (and hold) the “Page Down” key, then press the regular key for the note. You can immediately release the “Page Down” key – the flat-note will keep on playing.

Here's a simple rule for remembering what a sharp (#) is (a half-step up), or a flat (b) is (a half-step down):

If you sit on something sharp, you jump up. If a tire on a car goes flat, it sinks down.

There's one other thing about flats and sharps that is important to remember: A flat, or a sharp, is not always a black-key.

The following exercise will illustrate this fact. Follow the following steps, watching (as you play the notes) which notes are black-keys, and which notes are white-keys:

  1. Press (and hold-down) the “Page Up” key, so each note you play will be a sharp.

  2. Press (and then release), each key of the row above the home-row, moving from left-to-right. Notice which marked keys are white, and which are black.

  3. Release the “Page Up” key.

  4. Press (and hold-down) the “Page Down” key, so each note you play will be a flat.

  5. Press (and then release), each key of the row above the home-row, moving from left-to-right. Notice which marked keys are white, and which are black.

  6. Release the “Page Down” key.

Notice that a C-flat is a B (white key), and that an F-flat is an E (also a white key). Likewise, notice that a B-sharp is a C (white key), and an E-sharp is an F (white key).

In the above examples, we used the “Page Up” key for sharps, and the “Page Down” key for flats. This is the easiest way to do it, because you tend to play the melody notes with your left hand, and the “Page Up” and “Page Down” keys are in easy reach of your right hand.

You could also do it by pressing the right-shift key for sharps, and the left-shift key for flats. Using the left-shift key, in particular, can be more of a reach, because you have to reach-over your left arm with your right hand.

Finally, there's one last thing to learn about playing a flat or a sharp. And that is, that you usually don't have to do it – good news!

The reason for this, is that if you set the key-signature to match the piece you're playing, the music-intelligence built into the keyboard will automatically play the black-keys required by the key-signature – you don't have to worry about it if you set up the key-signature correctly.

Since the key-signature can change within a piece of music (sometimes several times), you won't have time to change it using the “Transpose” button. The way we get around this problem, is to set up a performance pane for each of the key-signatures we need to play in the piece, then (when playing the piece) hit the appropriate function-key to switch to the new key-signature you need.

The other way that the keyboard can help you with playing flats or sharps, is that when a chord (played on the numeric-keypad) requires a flat or a sharp that isn't already in the key-signature, that flat or sharp is automatically introduced into the melody-notes, so you don't have to do it manually.

1.3 Playing Chords Manually In The Performance Pane

In many cases, you can simply play the notes of a chord by pressing the appropriate keyboard keys down together, and holding them down. Similar to how you would do it on a piano.

As an example of this, press (starting at the left end of the row above the home-row) the left-most key, then skip a key – playing the next key, again skip a key, playing the next key. In the qwerty keyboard layout, that means to press the “q”, the “e”, and “t” keys, all together, holding them down. This is a C-major chord, played in the treble-clef (the upper group of 5 lines). You can see these 3 notes played together on the display.

Using those same fingers, move your hand successively one key at a time to the right. That means the next chord uses the qwerty “w”, “r”, and “y” keys.

In this manner, play the complete sequence of chords, up to where the lowest note is a B. To the next chord where the lowest note is a C (an octave above the one we started with), you press the three keys, not all of the 3 notes will play. This is a case where on most keyboards, the hardware won't act-on certain keys you press together at the same time (Keyboards made especially for gaming do not have this problem).

On that last chord, you will find that you can press any two of the three notes of the chord, and they will play, but if you press all three notes, all 3 notes will not play.

Using the numeric-keypad for playing chords lets you work-around this hardware limitation with the typing-keyboard.

1.4 Playing Chords Using The Numeric-Keypad

There are two kinds of chords supported by the KeyMusician Keyboard.

'Standard', which are most useful when playing from sheet music, and

'Modal' which is most useful when playing along with what you hear, composing, or improvising.

It's easy. Learn them both.

1.4.1 Playing Standard Chords

For this part of the tutorial to work properly, we need to use the “Standard” chord system.

Press the F1 key (or click on the “F1 (Help/Setup)” tab of the main KeyMusician Keyboard window). It looks like this:

A screen-shot of the F1 (Help/Setup) pane.
Then click on (or tab-to and select) the “Standard” radio-button of the “CHORDS” options, as shown near the bottom, just above the words,* * * Help Panes* * * in the screenshot above. It may already be selected, in which case you don't have to do anything with it.


After doing/checking that, select the Chords pane by clicking on its tab (or pressing the Num-Lock key twice). We do this to see the notes played when we specify chords using the numeric-keypad.

Now we're ready to start.

If you've already been trying to play chords, press the End-Key (or click the “Clear” button at the bottom of the chords window). The End-Key is in the middle section of keys to the left of the numeric keypad). This will clear any keys you may already have set, so we start in a clean state. Also, make sure the Num-Lock indicator is lit, since we need to use the numeric keys. You may have to press the “Num Lock” key to light it.

As you do this, see the 'Num-Keypad - Chord' dialog box.

Those of you who have piano lessons in your background, know that you can play chords by playing multiple keys at the same time. You also know of the seemingly endless practicing of scales that this requires. And it changes with every key signature. The Keymusician Keyboard makes this a lot easier.

Keyboard diagram with the numeric keypad Zero-Key highlighted in yellow, and the rest of the numeric keypad keys (except for the Num-Lock Key) highlighted in green.
Like on a piano, you can play chords by holding multiple notes down (in any performance pane), but playing chords using the numeric-keypad (here colored green and yellow) is a lot easier, and lets you concentrate on more impressive melody parts.

In this section, we will learn all about playing chords using the numeric-keypad. This can be as easy as One, two, three, and four!.

We will use the “Chords” performance pane, which shows the notes played by each chord, to help explain what we're doing.

Select the “Chords” performance pane in the main dialog, (see the top row) by pressing the Num-Lock key twice, or clicking on its tab. It will look like this:

Screen-shot of the KMK main window, showing the Chords pane.

Screen-shot of the Num-Keypad Chords window, using standard chords.

You do not need the chords panel to be visible to play chords, but it's useful in learning to play chords. When performing and playing chords, one of the function-key performance panes is normally visible – not the Chords pane.

The Chords performance pane looks like the other performance panes, except for two main differences. First, the “MIDI Channel” spin-control is set to 2. You can change this channel, but you will usually want it to be different from what is used in the other performance panes, so that the chord-notes don't collide (interfere-with) the melody-notes you play in the other performance panes.

The second difference is that the loudness or volume was set lower, to keep the chord notes from drowning out the melody notes. The loudness controls are the VELOCITY, and VOLUME.

Chords are played by using the numbered keys of the numeric keypad. In order to type numbers on the numeric keypad, the “Num Lock” keyboard indicator needs to be lit. If it isn't, press the “Num Lock” key, and it should light-up.

You can play chords using the mouse, and there may be times when you want to do it, but doing so requires you to constantly watch the mouse-pointer, and you can't do it by feel. So please (for your own benefit) learn to play chords using the numeric-keypad keys.

Also, before we start, make sure the “Transpose” button (toward the top right of the window) has a value of “0 (none)” in it. The software comes with it set that way, but you could have changed it. Also, the “Instrument” drop-box (at the bottom right of the pane) should be set to “48-Strings”, (or “48-String Ensemble 1”). If you have to change something to make it that way, press Shift-Enter (or click the “Save” button (after changing it), which will save the new setting in memory (but not yet on disk).

Picture of the numeric keypad on an actual keyboard.

Screen-shot of the Num-Keypad Chords window, showing how it compares in layout to the actual keyboard numeric keypad.

Notice the difference in markings on the physical keyboard, and the graphic display. You need only to look at the display on your screen. Your fingers will quickly learn to 'find' the right keys. Note the 'page up', and 'page down' and the 'end' key, in the group of keys left of the chord pad, as they are used on the chords.

Before you get excited and learn things a less-effective way, let's take a moment to learn which fingers are used to press what keys on the numeric keypad. Take a moment to examine the following diagram – it will make it easier for you to play chords:

Drawing of a hand below a numeric keypad, showing which fingers are used to press which keys.


On lead sheets and popular music, you will see music like this:

A line of printed music, showing where the chords are specified, in relation to the notes of the melody.
Where CMaj7 stands for 'CMajor7', this may also be shown as CM7, or if the M is a lower-case (m), it means 'minor'.

So, to play an CM7 chord, you will look at the keypad on the screen, Make sure that the 'num lock' key is lit.

Screen-shot of the chords window, with the 1-Key (C-chord), 9-Key (seventh chord-attribute), and Plus-Key (major chord-type) selected.  The 0-Key (play key) is also selected, with "Play C-major-seventh" displayed on the key-face, telling you what chord is being played.

Here we will play an CMajor7 chord-- Think One, Two, Three, – and Four!

1 Press the key to highlight the 'C'.

2 Press the key to highlight the 'major' and the key to highlight the '7', (they're both chord attributes).

3 Nothing for this step, as there is no 'slash chord' note.

4 Press the 'play' key to hear the chord. This 4th step is always the same, for any chord.

Notice that on the '0' or 'play' key, it shows the name of the chord, you typed, after you play it.

You are simply typing-in the name of the chord as you see it on the music, into the chord screen display.

To play a CMaj7 chord, simply type the 'C', the 'major' and the '7' and then the 'play'.

If you mess up, press the 'end key' (to the left of the chord pad), and it will clear everything, so you can start over.

If you press the 'page up' key before you set the chord note (C in this case), when you play it, the entire chord, will move up a half step, (be a 'sharp'). Similarly, the 'page down' key will move it a half step down (a 'flat').


Chords window screen-shot, with the 4-Key (F note), the 9-Key (seventh chord-attribute), the Plus-Key (major chord-type), and the 2-Key (D-note) selected.  The 0-Key (Play F-major-seventh-slash-D) is also selected, with its key-face telling the name of the chord being played.

Now, let's play an Fmaj7/D chord.

1 Press the F key (this is the root note of the chord)

2 Press 'major', and '7' (these are the chord 'attributes')

3 Since this is a 'slash chord', press the 'D' (perhaps 10% of chords are slash-chords)

4 Press the '0' (Play) key to actually play the chord.

You can play any chord more than once by simply pressing the 'Play' key multiple times.

Since the chord will not play until you press the 'Play' key, you can set up the next chord while you are still playing the current chord.

The “F-major-7th / D” chord would take all 5 fingers of your left hand to play it on a piano, and it would be a difficult, awkward reach.

With the KeyMusician Keyboard, it's easy.

Your performance pane should look like this when the above chord is playing.

A screen-shot of the Chords pane, showing the actual notes of an F-major-seventh-slash-D chord.
When you release the Play button, notice that the chord stops playing, and the notes disappear in the performance pane, but the specified chord's name is still shown in the Num-Keypad - Chord dialog, ready to be played again if you press the Play button.

Let's change the chord to an F-minor-7th.

So to accomplish step 1 (specify the root-note), press the “4” key of the numeric-keypad (the “F” button). Notice that the “F” button gets highlighted, and highlighting is removed from the “D” button. The slash-chord note has been removed. Notice also that highlighting has been removed from both the “7” button, and the “major” button.

With standard chords, when you start specifying a new chord, all chord notes and attributes formerly specified are cleared.

For step 2 (specify the type of chord), press the Enter (minor chord) key, and the “7” (7th chord) button, of the numeric-keypad. As a result of this, the highlighting is set for the “7” button, and also the “minor” button.

We skip step 3 because this is not a slash-chord.

So we proceed to step 4, and press the Play button.

Notice that a different chord plays, and its name “Fmin7” appears both in the Play button, and the dialog title-bar.

When it plays, notice (in the Chords performance pane) that there are 4 notes used, and two of them (the A and the E) have flat-signs in front of them.

All of those changes we could have done while the former chord was still playing. To convince yourself of that, try this simple exercise.

While the Fmin7 chord is still playing, we will change it to an Fmaj7 chord, and play that.

To do this, press (and hold-down) the Play button, which causes the already-specified F-major-7th chord to play.

While that chord is still playing (keep the “Play” button held down), briefly press the “4” key (labeled “F”), the “+” key (labeled “major”), and the “9” key (labeled “7”) of the numeric-keypad. This should highlight the “F” button, highlight the “major” button, and highlight the “7” button – all while the Fmin7 chord keeps playing without any change in sound.

Briefly let-up on the Play button (the “0” key of the numeric-keypad), and immediately press (and hold) it again.

Notice that a different-sounding chord plays, and the chord name (in the Play button and the title-bar) changes to “Fmaj7”. Notice that the flat-signs in the performance pane have disappeared.

For our next example, we will play a (rare) “C13” chord.

As you examine the “Num-Keypad - Chord” dialog, you won't find a “13” button, but it's there, hiding under the “6” button.

The “6” (6th chord) button has multiple functions. You can also use it to specify an 11th chord, and to specify a 13th chord.

Examine the following diagram to learn about other chord buttons having multiple functions.

A screenshot of the standard chords window, with annotation text pointing to the keys having multiple uses.
We start with step 1 (specify the root-note of the chord) by pressing the “1” (C) key of the numeric-keypad. When you do this, all highlighting is removed, and the “C” button is highlighted.

We proceed to step 2 (specify the type of chord).

We first need to specify a 13th chord, so we need to make it's button-face visible. To do this, double-select the “6” button. You could do this by double-clicking the “6” button, but a better way is to press the “8” key of the numeric-keypad twice in quick succession (within a half-second).

When you do this, the “6” button will change to an “11” button, which will be highlighted. But this isn't the type of chord we need. Notice that when the “11” button got highlighted, highlighting was removed from the “7” button, because an 11th chord is not a 7th chord.

Double-select it (the “11” button) again by double-pressing the “8” key of the numeric-keypad. By doing this, the “11” button becomes a “13” button, which is what we need, and is selected.

Now (proceeding to step 4), press the Play button. The chord should play, and the name of the chord (in the Play button and the title-bar) should become “C13”. Notice (in the Chords performance pane) there is a single note (the B) with a flat-sign in front of it.

While still playing the C13 chord, press the “C” key, the “major” key, and the “13” key.

Briefly release, then press (and hold) the Play button.

Notice that the chord name changes to Cmaj13, and that the flat-sign in front of the B note has disappeared, illustrating that C13 and Cmaj13 are indeed not the same chord.

Notice that the notes in the chords dialog (C, D, E, F, G, A, and B) have no flats or sharps, because those are the notes of the scale with no flats or sharps.

What if we need a chord with a root-note (or slash-chord note) that wasn't in the key-signature?

To illustrate that, let's play a C#maj13.

To do that , we start with step 1. You can do all this while playing the Cmaj13 chord, if you wish.

To specify C# as the root-note of the chord, first press and hold the Page-Up key (you can reach it from the numeric-keypad), and while holding it down, press the “1” key of the numeric-keypad. Holding the Page-Up key while pressing the “1” numeric-keypad key is awkward, but it can be done. You then release both the Page-Up key and the “1” key.

Then press the “major” key, and the “13”key.

Although the “C” button doesn't change to “C#”, when you press the Play button again, the chord name will change to “C#maj13”.

The chord sounds a bit higher, and sharps appear (in the Chords performance pane) to the left of 3 of the notes played.

But what if the key-signature has a lot of flats or sharps in it? It would be awkward to have to press the Page-Up (or Page-Down) key so often in specifying a chord, and it could affect notes played in the melody.

Fortunately, this is not a problem, due to the musical intelligence built into the application. To illustrate this, let's change the key-signature.

In the Chords performance pane, click on (or tab-to and activate) the Transpose button. In the dialog that appears, open its top drop-box, and choose “3-Up”, and click (tab-to and activate) the dialog's “OK” button. The key-signature will now have 3 flats in it.

Notice that the Num-Keypad - Chords dialog's button corresponding to the numeric-keypad “1” key (which specifies the 1st note of the scale, and used to have a “C” in it), now has a “Eb” (E-flat) in it. When you change key-signatures, the notes of the new scale appear in the chords dialog, and those new notes (this time with flats) will be used.

But notice that the chord name in the Play button and the title-bar are still what we last played (C#maj13). If you hit the Play button, that same chord will play, but different names of those same notes will be shown in the chords performance pane because of the new key-signature.

Let's play a new chord, using the new key-signature's notes.

Press the “Eb” key (the “1” key) of the numeric-keypad to specify the root note of the chord. Then press the “major” button and the “13” button (specifying C-major-13). Then press the “Play” button.

The new name of the chord (displayed in the Play button and the title-bar) becomes “Ebmaj13”, and you didn't have to use the Page-Down key to get the flat.

There's one final thing to learn before we start playing chords and tunes together.

To illustrate this, change the “Ebmaj13” chord to an “Ebmin7” (E-flat minor 7th). Try to do it on your own, but if you get stuck, follow the steps below.

In step 1, press the “Eb” (1) key.

In step 2, press the “minor” (Enter) key.

In step 3, we don't need to do anything because this isn't a slash-chord.

In step 4, we play the chord (by pressing and holding the numeric-keypad's “0” key). The new name of the chord (displayed in the Play button and the title-bar) should be “Ebmin7”. If it isn't, try specifying it again.

While you play the chord, notice (in the Chords performance pane) that two of the four notes of the chord have flats in front of them.

Now play that E-flat minor 7th chord by pressing and holding (with the thumb of your right hand) the numeric-keypad's “0” key (the Play button).

While the chord keeps playing, press (with your left hand), one at a time, all of the keys to the right of the Tab-key, all the way to the end of that row of the keyboard. Notice (in the chords performance pane) as you play these melody-notes, that the flats required by the chord are also added to the melody-notes you play, so you don't have to add them manually (using Page-Up/Page-Down).

This is a very handy thing that the software does for you, in its role as an “intelligent keyboard”. When you change the chord while you are playing melody-notes, it automatically adds any required accidentals (notes not in the key-signature) to your melody, to make it match the chord.

A Handy Trick

There's a trick you can easily do in playing chords that produces a more powerful sound, explained in the box below:

If the chord to be played is not a slash-chord, simply hit the key specifying the root-note of the chord twice. When you do that, the root-note of the chord is also played an octave lower in addition to the rest of the chord, which is like adding an additional instrument lower in the bass, playing along with your chord.

1.4.2 Playing Modal Chords

Modal chords are built entirely from the notes of the current key-signature's scale. Because of this, it's easy to improvise melodies against them, because no accidentals (notes not in the key-signature's scale) need to be introduced into the melody.

When a chord introduces accidentals into the melody, the underlying scale changes in not always predictable ways.

So if you're improvising music with other musicians, modal chords can be very useful.

In a way, they're also easier, because when you select the root-note of a chord, it also implies the type of chord to be used, so you can usually skip step 2 of playing a chord. Also, any other chord attributes from the prior chord (such as 7th) remain selected. So you clear attributes you don't want, and set attributes you do want.

Keep in mind that you can always choose to perform step 2 (specifying the attributes (type) of the chord, overriding what it selected for you), but if you do so, you may introduce accidentals into your melody, which may not be expected by the other musicians playing with you.

For this part of the tutorial to work properly, we need to use the “Modal” chord system.

Press the F1 key (or click on the “F1 (Help/Setup)” tab of the main KeyMusician Keyboard window, then click on (tab-to, and select) the “Modal” radio-button of the “CHORDS” options, as in the screenshot below. As before, it's near the bottom, just above the * * * Help Panes * * *.

A screen-shot of the F1 (Help/Setup) pane.
Click on (select) the “Modal” radio-button to change it to look like this:

A screen-shot of the section of the F1 pane where the chord system (standard or modal) is selected.  Here, modal is selected.
After doing so, re-select the Chords pane by pressing the Num-Lock key twice (or clicking on the “Chords” tab.

In the Chords performance pane, click on (or tab-to and activate) the Transpose button, and (in the dialog that appears) choose “0 (none)” from its top drop-box, and click (or tab-to and activate) the “OK” button.

Now we're ready to start.

First, in the “Num-Keypad - Chord” dialog, you can click its “Clear” button, using the mouse, at the bottom of the numeric keypad display. Pressing the keyboard “End” key (above the arrow-keys), will do the same thing.

The two windows should now look like it appears below. Notice that the “Num-Keypad – Chord” dialog is marked differently than before with standard chords. Can you see the difference?

A screen-shot of the Chords performance pane.

A screen-shot of the Chords window, with modal chords selected.

The “B” key is now “Bdim”, and the “D”, “E”, and “A” keys have changed to “Dm”, “Em”, and “Am”.

The difference comes from the fact that the root-note of the chord implies the type of chord to be played.

If the note-letter appears by itself (as in C, F, and G above), it implies a major chord.

If the note-letter has a lower-case “m” after it, it implies a minor chord, as it does with the “Dm”, “Em”, and “Am” buttons above.

If the note-letter has “dim” after it (as with the “Bdim” button above), it implies a diminished chord.

Slash-chord notes can be used (specified), but they do not imply anything about the type of the chord. To be a truly modal chord, any slash-chord note should be one of the notes of the current key-signature's scale.

To show you how easy modal chords can be, try this exercise:

You will alternate pressing (on the numeric-keypad), a numbered key from 1 through 7, followed by the 0 key (the Play button). Use your right hand, with your thumb over the Play button (0).

Play the following sequence, all with your right hand, using the numeric keypad:

Press1, then press the play key, then 2, then play, 3, play, 4, play, 5, play, 6, play, 7, play, 6, play, 5, play, 4, play, 3, play, 2, play, 1, play

Repeat the above exercise, watching the notes in the performance pane. Notice that there are never any flats or sharps required.

Press the “9” key of the numeric-keypad (to make the chords 7ths). Then press the “Play” button. Notice that it plays the prior chord, with the “7th” attribute added.

Notice that unlike standard chords, everything is NOT cleared when you specify a new chord. In the above case, we just added a 7th, and it kept everything else.

The only thing that is cleared (or set) when you start a new chord, is that the type of chord is initially set depending on the root-chord note selected, and you can override that selection, if you wish.

Now, repeat the 1, play, 2, play … exercise above. Watch the notes used in the performance pane. See how fast you can do it without messing up. Notice how quick and easy it can be without having to specify the type of chord.

Play the following sequence (which is a modal chord progression):

7, play, 6, play, 2, play, 1, play

Notice its pleasing progression of sounds. Do it several times until it begins to become easy.

Now, let's make up a tune while playing that sequence of chords.

With your right hand on the numeric-keypad, start playing the above progression, by first pressing 7, play (leave the play button pressed).

While that chord plays, with your left hand somewhere in the right-half of the row above the home row, press a key, and then another and another, lingering on notes that sound good with the chord playing.

Play (with your right hand) the next chord of the progression: 6, play (leaving the play key held down).

With your left hand the same place, press random notes, lingering on sounds that sound good with this new chord.

Play (with your right hand) the next chord of the progression: 2, play (leaving the play key held down).

Again, with your left hand – you can even have left your last left-hand note playing, play random notes, lingering on the notes that sound good with the chord. Try to choose notes that are above the notes of the chord to avoid colliding with the chord notes.

Finally, play (with your right hand) the final chord of the progression: 1, play (leaving the play key held down).

Play random notes with your left hand, lingering on notes that sound good, searching for that perfect note to end the tune on. When you find it, linger on it, then release both that note and the play button at the same time.

Congratulations! You just composed a tune.

If you enjoyed that, repeat the exercise, experimenting with it. See if you can come up with a tune you really like. Remember how to play it so you can play it for other people.

There is one other thing to know about modal chords.

With the “7” button (accessed by the “9” key of the numeric keypad) still selected, press the “7” key of the numeric-keypad (the Bdim button), then press and hold the play key. Notice the name of the chord that plays (in the Play button and in the dialog title-bar). It is “Bmindim7”, which means, a B minor 7th chord with a flatted-5th (internally, a combination of minor and diminished 7th). In other words, it isn't a 'typical' 7th chord.

There is another case where a modal 7th chord isn't a major or minor 7th chord.

Press the “5” key of the numeric-keypad, then press and hold the play key. Notice the name of the chord. It is “G7”, which means it is a G dominant 7th chord, which is not the same as a major-7th (or a minor 7th).

A Handy Trick

There's a trick you can easily do in playing chords that produces a more powerful sound, explained in the box below:

If the chord to be played is not a slash-chord, simply hit the key specifying the root-note of the chord twice. When you do that, the root-note of the chord is also played an octave lower in addition to the rest of the chord, which is like adding an additional instrument lower in the bass, playing along with your chord.

1.4.2.1 Chord Transitions

As you experiment with moving from one chord to another, you will notice that some transitions between chords have a more pleasing sound than others. Though your own tastes are the final judgment on what chord transitions you want to use, it would probably be useful to try the chord transitions indicated by the arrows in the screen-shot below:

Screen-shot of the Chords window with arrows showing transitions between the 1-key and the 4-key, the 2-key and the 5-key, the 3-key and the 6-key, the 4-key and the 5-key, the 5-key and the 1-key, the 4-key and the 6-key, and the 7-key and the 5-key.
Chords Dialog, with Arrows Showing Good Chord Transitions

Note: Although the key of C is shown in the chords dialog above, the transitions indicated by the arrows always work – regardless the key-signature being used. The fingerings are the same.

Of course, the above diagram doesn't rule-out other chord transitions. It only suggests the above as chord transitions that will probably sound good.

Similar transitions can be used with standard chords, and may well sound okay. But the recommendations above specifically apply to modal chords (where the note used selects major, minor, or diminished). If you over-ride the modal chord selected, the transitions between chords may not be as pleasing.

1.5 Playing Percussion (Drum) Instrument Notes/Sounds

Before doing this exercise, in the “F1 Help / Setup” panel, set the CHORDS radio-button to “Standard”.

To play percussion/drum sounds, switch to the “Drums” performance pane by pressing the F11 (or Scroll-Lock key), or by clicking on its tab. The percussion pane also has it's own keypad dialog. The two dialogs look like this:

Screen-shot of the Drums performance pane.

Screen-shot of the chords window when the Drums pane is selected.  You can play chords along with percussion for a neat effect.

This performance pane looks different from the other performance panes, though it has the same MIDI controls. In those controls, there are two main differences. First, the “MIDI Channel” spin-control is set to 10. In the General MIDI (GM) standard, channel 10 is assumed to be a percussion (drums) track.

The other differences in MIDI controls, is the the “Base Octave” spin-control is set to 3, and the “Transpose” button is set to “1-Down”. This is done to position the keyboard notes to cover the usual range of percussion instrument key-settings, using only white-keys. Black-keys are not used here because with the typing-keyboard, it takes extra key-strokes, which you don't usually have time to do.

The percussion instrument names at the left of the keyboard display correspond to the keyboard notes, and use standard key-setting names. The names only serve as a reminder. You can use a soundfont with different settings. You only have to remember what sound you want is which note.

In the diagram (showing instrument names), the number to the left of each instrument name is the MIDI note-number corresponding to that particular instrument. MIDI note-numbers range from 0 through 127.

The “Bank” drop-box will be “Bank128”, or “1:0”. The “Instrument” drop-box lets you select different kinds of drum-kit sounds. Notice that setting it to “Electronic” will yield significantly different sounds than setting it to “Orchestra Kit”.

Depending on the soundfont you use, some unmarked instrument positions may actually play a sound, and sometimes an instrument listed won't make a sound. But usually, the instruments listed will work, and will be the instrument it says it is.

So let's give it a try.

Start by pressing the lowest-note keyboard key, on the typing part of the keyboard, (the key to the right of the left-shift key, or qwerty “z”). Then press each key, going from low note to higher note (in the zig-zag fashion you learned earlier).

If the sound you get when you press a particular key interests you, press it several times.

Do all of the possible notes, from low to high. Try pressing multiple keys together. Notice that there are some combinations of keys that will not play together. This is a hardware limitation the software can do nothing about. To gett around this limitation, you can use a gamers keyboard, or use a MIDI (piano) keyboard, playing it through the KeyMusician Keyboard application.

Another way of getting around it is to play a note that won't play together with another keyboard note using the mouse. Of course, the mouse will only get you a single extra note, and there are limits to how fast you can repeatedly click the mouse button.

With a quality typing-keyboard, there is a trick you can do to play a single instrument sound in fast, repeated notes. The trick is to have your index-finger of each hand poised to hit the key of the instrument sound you want. Then you repeatedly strike the same key, alternating your two hands. There are, unfortunately, limits to how fast you can strike the same key to get separate notes.

1.6 Improvising Your Own Tunes With Chords Played On The Numeric-Keypad

For this part of the tutorial to work properly, it is easiest to use the “Modal” chord system.

Press the F1 key (or click on the “F1 (Help/Setup)” tab of the main KeyMusician Keyboard window), then click on (or tab-to and select) the “Modal” radio-button of the “CHORDS” options, as in the screenshot below.

The portion of the F1 pane where the chord system is selected.  Here, modal chords are selected.
After doing that, select the F2 pane by pressing F2 (or clicking on its tab).

In this exercise, for practical reasons, we will limit the melody-notes we choose, to the notes played by the row above the home-row, which is the row of keys just to the right of the “Tab” key. You can play notes from other rows if you want, but try to limit your choices (for the most part) to keys in this row.

The other thing to remember before we start, is to (for the most part), press and hold the Play button, using whatever numeric-keypad chord you chose, while you play a number of melody-notes with your left hand, while the chord continues to play.

That way, you learn the notes that work best with that particular chord. After awhile, choose another chord, and continue improvising melody-notes with that new chord. Try to pick the chords in random order, or choose a progression of chords you like.

After you've tried improvising melody notes with all of the chords, repeat the exercise using the next performance pane. You need to do the exercise with the following performance panes: F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, F7, F8, F9, F10, and F12.

So let's get started.

Refer to the following sub-sections for notes specific to using each of the performance panes:

1.6.1 F2 Pane

The “Instrument” drop-box for this one should be set to “1-Bright Yamaha Grand”. If you've changed it, please change it back for this exercise.

This is the classic grand-piano sound, a bit brighter in tone than the instrument sound (index 0) above it in the “Instrument” drop box.

1.6.2 F3 Pane

The “Instrument” drop-box for this one should be set to “5-Legend EP 2”. If you've changed it, please change it back for this exercise. This electric piano sound has the percussive attack of the piano note, but doesn't fade-away as fast as an acoustic piano, or as much.

1.6.3 F4 Pane

The “Instrument” drop-box for this one should be set to “25-Steel String Guitar”. If you've changed it, please change it back for this exercise. The guitar sound has a very percussive attack (as the note starts out), but fades away quickly. Try hitting the space bar with the thumb of your left hand to turn-on the Sustain pedal/control. That will give the notes a more full, resonant sound.

Also, try (for this instrument) notes in the home-row of the keyboard. These notes tend to be more in the typical range of a guitar.

Another thing to try with this instrument, is (in the row above the home-row) playing two notes together, separated by a single key between them. Move your hand to the right, playing similar pairs of notes (called parallel thirds). Try it again, striking the left key of the pair first, followed quickly by the right key of the pair. This will simulate the sound of strumming the two notes.

1.6.4 F5 Pane

The “Instrument” drop-box for this one should be set to “60-French Horns”. If you've changed it, please change it back for this exercise. The notes improvised for this instrument will sound the most real if they come from the left half of the row to the right of the “Tab” key, and the left half of the home-row of the keyboard.

1.6.5 F6 Pane

The “Instrument” drop-box for this one should be set to “68-Oboe”. If you've changed it, please change it back for this exercise. You probably guessed this is my favorite instrument sound. Perhaps it comes from having learned to play the physical Oboe.

1.6.6 F7 Pane

The “Instrument” drop-box for this one could be set to “54-Synth Voice”, or “52-Ahh Choir”. I like this sound best of the various synthesized human-voice 'instruments', when using the “FluidR3_GM” soundfont. Again, it depends on which soundfont is used.

To get the tenor and bass choir parts, play the notes in the left half of the home-row of the keyboard as well.

Another thing to try with this sound, is (in the row above the home-row) playing two notes together, separated by a single key between them. Move your hand to the right, playing similar pairs of notes (called parallel thirds).

1.6.7 F8 Pane

The “Instrument” drop-box for this one should be set to “73-Flute”. If you've changed it, please change it back for this exercise.

For this instrument, choose your notes from the right-half of the keyboard row above the home-row, and from the right-half of the top keyboard row. These notes will sound the most like an actual Flute, though you can use other notes with this sound.

1.6.8 F9 Pane

The “Instrument” drop-box for this one could be set to “88-Fantasia”, or “90-Polysynth”.

This is an Electric Piano type sound, perhaps one of the best.

1.6.9 F10 Pane

The “Instrument” drop-box for this one could be set to “54-Synth Voice”, or “91-Space Voice”, or “88-Fantasia”. It's different in the default configuration for Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux.

With the “FluidR3_GM.sf2” soundfont, this has a wonderful sound – one of my favorites. With other soundfonts, it is not as good. Give it a try.

1.6.10 F12 Pane

The “Instrument” drop-box for this one could be set to “99-Atmosphere”, or “102-Echo Drops”.

This is yet another Electric Piano sound. With this one, the notes fade away more slowly, letting you play it without needing to use the sustain pedal/control as much.

1.7 Improvising A Melody With A Chord-Sequence

A chord-sequence is a progression of specific chords that naturally seem to move from one to the other, and end with the first chord. They are also referred to as cycles of chords. A commonly-used chord-sequence is C major, followed by F major, followed by G major, and ending with C major.

Actually, it works in any key-signature. You play the chord based on the “1” key, then the chord based on the “4” key, then the chord based on the “5” key, and finally the chord based on the “1” key. Notice that the chord fingerings are the same, regardless which key signature you are using.

For this exercise, we will do a simple one, by simply doing first F major 7th, followed by C major 7th. repeating those two chords over and over again while improvising melody-notes along with it. End on the C major 7th chord. Two of the demo-pieces are built on this chord sequence.

If you haven't developed a fondness for any of the instrument-sounds associated with the performance panes in the prior exercise, try either F6, or F7 for this exercise. Or better yet, while leaving a chord playing, having used F6 for awhile, press the F7function-key to switch to the F7 performance pane, right in the middle of what you're playing.

Start by playing two chords, over and over.

First, select the 7th-chord attribute (the “7” button), by pressing the “9” key of the numeric-keypad. This attribute should remain selected for the entire exercise. Use modal chords for this exercise. With the Modal chords, “major” will be selected for you by playing either the F, or the C.

First, to play the F major 7th, press the “4” key of the numeric-keypad, then press (and hold) the Play button (the “0” key of the numeric-keypad).

Second, play the C major 7th, by pressing the “1” key of the numeric-keypad, then press (and hold) the Play button (the “0” key of the numeric-keypad).

Repeat the steps in the prior two paragraphs over and over again, finally ending on the C major 7th.

When you can play these two chords, one after the other, without having to watch your fingers, start improvising melody-notes with your left hand along with the chords played by your right hand.

1.8 Playing 'Strummed' Chords, Or Arpeggios With The Numeric-Keypad

Strummed chords can sound really good, and are a useful tool to have. Although they function with any instrument sound in the chords pane, instruments with a 'soft' attack (attack is the start-of-note sound) make it hard to even notice the strumming.

For the strummed chords feature to work, it's best to choose an instrument in the chords pane with a 'hard (percussive) attack', like a guitar, piano, or harpsichord.

In everything we've done so far, we've used instruments in the chords pane that hold a sustained sound (like “48-Strings”). By using a sustained sound, you just hold down the chord key(s) as long as you want the chord to play.

With the chords pane instrument having a percussive attack. It also fades away fairly quickly, so you have to play the chord over and over again (by repeatedly pressing the “Play” key.) This is reasonable, since you notice when a guitar player plays a chord, it is strummed over and over again.

A compromise between the hard-attack voices, and the sustained-note voices, are the following bank 0 voice numbers: 4, 5, 17, 30, 39, 45, 62, 63, 76, 80, 83, 84, 88, 90, 92, 96, and 99.

Since you are probably most accustomed to hearing strummed notes played by a guitar, we have initially selected “25-Steel String Guitar” in what comes with the instrument, in the “StrummedChords.kmk” configuration file.

So click on the “F1 (Help/Setup)” pane's tab (or hit F1), open the “Configuration File” drop-box, and choose “StrummedChords.kmk”.

With KMK versions prior to 1.32 the “MIDI Output To” drop-box should be set to the “Gervill=Software MIDI Synthesizer” device. If it isn't, select that MIDI output device, because it is the only synthesizer that allows you to specify future notes to be played.

With KMK version 1.32 and above, the strummed-chords and arpeggio feature is supported on all synthesizers and MIDI interfaces (that connect to other synthesizers). This was done by special code in the KeyMusician Keyboard to support it.

Press the Num-Lock key twice (or click on the “Chords” pane tab).

There's one other thing you need to understand about strummed-chords before we experiment with using them.

Notice in the “ASSIGNABLE” slider control, the drop-box is set to “200-Strummed Chord Note Delay”. If it isn't, please select that value.

In KMK version 1.32 and above, you also have choice of strumming the chord down (rather than up), or choosing an arpeggio, which sounds like a finger-picked guitar chord.

Since MIDI control identifier numbers only go up to 127, this is not something that is sent out on the MIDI channel. Instead, it is used to internally control the KeyMusician Keyboard. The value specified by this slider is multiplied by two (four for arpeggios), yielding the number of milliseconds (1/1000 of a second) the synthesizer should delay before playing the successive notes of a chord. This delay produces the strumming sound.

If you set it to 0, there is no strumming sound (which is the best way to turn it off). If you set it to the maximum value (127), it takes about a second to play a 3-note chord. For my taste, I like a value of 32 (4 tick-marks to the right of the left-most tick-mark), which is the way this configuration file is initially set. If it isn't set that way, please set it to 32, at least while we start out using it.

Okay, let's try it out.

On the numeric-keypad (with the Num Lock light lit), first play an F-major-7th chord (pressing & holding the “Play” key), then play a C-major-7th chord (pressing and holding the “Play” key). Listen to the sound as you do that. Repeat that chord-sequence a few times, and see how you like the sound.

Another neat thing, is you can make a sound like a Balaliaka (a Russian folk stringed musical instrument, often played with continual strumming). To do this, with a chord already set to be played, press the Play-button (“0” on the numeric-keypad) over-and-over, somewhat quickly. Adjust the speed you press the key to where you get a constant strumming sound.

Click on (or press the function-key for) one of the other performance panes (F2 through F10, or F12), and try playing strummed-chords while you improvise melody-notes along with the strummed chords. Remember that you need to re-press the chord Play-button to make it play again and again. Otherwise, the chord fades away, and it's like there is no chord.

Playing Arpeggios

Arpeggios are the notes of a chord, played individually, with their sound sustained (such as by using the sustain-control).

A pianist would play the chord notes in a sequence, starting low in the bass, and skipping up to higher notes of the chord, while pressing the sustain pedal.

The KeyMusician Keyboard lets you do this, simply by playing chords, and selecting the type of arpeggio you want to play. The notes of the chord are used to build the arpeggio, but its range (low-to-high) is in many cases larger, to make it sound better.

The arpeggios we've supplied aren't simply the notes of the chord, but have been hand-generated to be something we would actually play on a piano, and sound quite good.

As with strummed-chords, it is good to choose an instrument in the chords pane with a 'hard (percussive) attack', like a guitar, piano, or harpsichord. You are the judge of what sounds good. You can even choose a string-section pizzicato sound.

Click on (or tab-to and open) the ASSIGNABLE slider's drop-box (covered by the expanded drop-box) to select the type of arpeggio you want, as shown in the screen-shot below:

Screen-shot of the chords pane, selecting a 12-note arpeggio's note-delay for the assignable-control drop-box.
The “205-Arpeggio 12 Note Delay” is a good choice to start with, for experimenting with.

When you've selected it, adjust the slider to control the amount of delay between notes of the arpeggio. The middle of the slider's range is a good place to start. With a delay of 0, all chord notes are played at the same time (not an arpeggio), so don't choose that, except to turn it off.

It's best to do this in the “Chords” pane, but you can do it in any performance pane, in which case, switching performance panes can even change the type of arpeggio, and its note-delay (speed).

When you've done that, specify a chord on the numeric keypad, and press and hold the “Play” button (0-key). Listen as it plays the individual notes of the chord as an arpeggio. If you count the notes (of Arpeggio 12) to where it repeats, you will realize there are 12 of them.

The Arpeggio number (Arpeggio 6, Arpeggio 8, Arpeggio 9, and Arpeggio 12) specify the number of notes in the arpeggio.

With Arpeggio 8, the notes of the arpeggio are played in groups of four, which is better for rhythms using duplets (multiples of 2). All the others (6, 9, and 12) are good for triplet rhythms (multiples of 3), and make it easy to play 3-against-2 poly-rhythms with it.

As you hold down the “Play” key (of the numeric-keypad), the arpeggio plays, and will continue to play until all the notes of the arpeggio have been played, after which the notes of the arpeggio will be repeated for as long as you hold-down the Play-Key.

As with playing chords, you can specify a new chord while the current arpeggio (chord) is playing, and the next time you press the “Play” key, the new arpeggio that plays, will use the notes of the new chord.

If you release the “Play” key before the arpeggio finishes, no more notes of the arpeggio will be played (terminating it early), and you can restart it again immediately, or play a new chord/arpeggio. This can be useful for a single-measure rhythm change, or if you get behind with your melody.

If you press the “Play” key very briefly, it will play just the first note of the arpeggio, which is a possible way of ending a sequence of arpeggios. If the melody instrument is similar, you could play the appropriate melody note to end the arpeggio properly.

If the “Chords” pane is displayed, the notes that make up the arpeggio will be shown in the music display, all together, even though they are played individually.

Give it a try! It now works with all synthesizers & MIDI interfaces, and you can now record it (which you couldn't do in earlier KMK versions).

Note: If you accidentally specify an arpeggio delay of zero, and you're on Windows, using the LoopBe1 software MIDI interface, it will disable itself because it detects a MIDI feed-back loop. If this happens, you'll have to click on the LoopBe icon in the task-bar, and re-enable (un-mute) it.

1.9 Key-Signatures and Transposition

The title of this section may seem technical, but please read-on, because it will let you avoid hours of practicing boring scales in all the different key-signatures.

The KeyMusician Keyboard can do amazing things musically speaking, with only a typing keyboard. But it can do these things only because it is aware of the key-signature being used.

It is aware of which key-signature is being used because you tell it which one to use.

You know which key-signature to tell it to use because you see it in the sheet-music. The key-signature in the KeyMusician Keyboard must match the key-signature in the sheet-music, or what you play will not sound right. It may sound just a little-bit wrong (if you're off by only one flat (or sharp)), or terribly wrong if you're off by several flats or sharps.

Needless to say, it's important for you to specify the correct key-signature.

In sheet-music, the key-signature is shown at the beginning of each line (or set of lines) of music. In the example below, it is (as you would see in piano music) a pair of staff-lines (5 horizontal lines each), with the treble clef on top, and the bass clef below. Sheet music might also have a set of three staff-lines – one for the solo part, and two for the piano accompaniment.

Key-signatures tell you which notes need to be flat (a symbol like a stylized “b”), or sharp (the “#” symbol).

Picture of the grand-staff for the key of F-major (or D-minor).
A key-signature, as it might appear in sheet-music – each staff having one flat in it

The key-signature in the example above can be described four different ways, all of which mean the same thing. The usual way to describe it is as follows:

That same key-signature can also be described in the following ways, when it's useful to do so:

If you were playing sheet-music whose lines started the same as what you see above, you would click on (or tab-to and activate)the “Transpose” button near the upper right corner of the performance pane. Initially, it will specify no transposition, as you see below:

Screen-shot fragment of the part of a performance pane where the transpose button is.  Here no transpose is selected, so the button-face says "0 (none)".
When you click (activate) the Transpose button, a dialog box will appear, as in the screen-shot below. In that screen-shot, we have already set it to specify the key-signature shown in the musical staff lines of example 1 above.

Screen-shot of the "Set Transpose-Interval / Key-Signature" dialog box.
In the example above, I clicked on (opened) the “Number Flats/Sharps” drop-box (the 2nd one from the top), and selected “+5 = 1-flat”.

When I did that, it adjusted the other three drop-boxes to specify the same thing – each in its own way.

I then clicked (activated) the “OK” button of the above dialog, and it changed the key-signature as per what I specified. The key-signature name that now appears on the Transpose button reflects the way I chose the key-signature:

Screen-shot fragment of the part of a performance pane where the transpose button is.  Here a transpose of plus-5 is selected, and the button-face says "plus 5 equals one flat".
After doing this, the key-signature shown in the musical staff lines of the performance pane, now matches what we saw in the music:

Picture of the grand staff lines for the key of F-major (or D-minor), with one flat in the key-signature.
Usually, you specify the key-signature as the number of flats or sharps (the second drop-box from the top). That's the easiest – just count how many flats (or sharps) in any individual staff of music, and select the corresponding value in the “Number Flats-Sharps” drop-box.

But a singer might say something like, “That's too high for me to sing. Can you please transpose it down a few notes?” In this case, you smile, and say “Sure – no problem. How many notes (2 half-steps per note) do you want it transposed down?”. After they tell you how many notes to transpose it, you would use the “Semi-Tones Up/Down” drop-box to transpose it down.

Or you might want to improvise music along with someone playing the famous Palchelbel “Canon In D”. If a key-signature name is just the letter-name of its root-note, it means major, so that means D-Major. You would use the “Major Key-Name” drop-box to specify “D Major”.

The positive (+) or negative (-) number that appears with it, tells you the number of half-steps it is transposed from C, which is sometimes useful to know. Think of the key of “C” as 0 degrees on a thermometer, and the negative or positive number like the number of degrees above, or below 0.

Or you might want to play-along with the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, playing on a CD. Since you remember (or see on the CD cover) that its key is C-Minor, you use the “Minor Key-Name” drop-box, and select “C Minor”.

Very often, pieces of music are entirely in just one key-signature, so to play such pieces, all you have to do is set the performance pane(s) you plan to use, to that key-signature before playing the piece, then start playing.

But a piece of music can (and often will) change key-signatures right in the middle of the piece (in the middle of a set of staff-lines of music), with no pause before the change. In such cases, you obviously don't have time to set the key-signature as explained above.

In such cases, before playing the piece, you set up a separate performance pane for each key-signature used, and switch between key-signatures by simply hitting the function-key associated with the key-signature you set up for it beforehand.

If you're playing several such pieces, you can set it up beforehand, and save a separate configuration (.kmk) file for each such piece, possibly named for the individual piece, or perhaps named for the particular performance, with a sequence number (1, 2, 3, …) of the order you play them in the performance.

Here are some key-signatures you might see in sheet-music, followed by the “Set Transpose Interval / Key-Signature” dialog box settings to specify those key-signatures.

Grand staff lines for the key of B-major (or G-sharp minor), with 5 sharps in the key-signature.

The Transpose-Interval / Key-Signature window for five sharps.

A piece of music can also change to (or specify) “no flats or sharps”, as follows:

The grand staff lines for the key of C-major (or A-minor), having no flats or sharp, and no transposition.

Transpose-Interval / Key-Signature window for the key of C-major (A-minor), with no flats or sharps, and no transposition.

Notice that just above the "OK" and "Cancel" buttons, are two radio buttons controlling what panes are affected by the key-signature (transpose) change. You can change just the current performance pane, or all of the non-percussion performance panes.

Another useful trick to know about this, is when you change key-signatures, the chords dialog tells you both the major key name, and the minor key name.

The major key name is the note name that appears in the numeric-keypad “1” key. Likewise, the minor key name is the note name that appears in the numeric-keypad “6” key.

For example, if the following “Num-Keypad – Chord” dialog is visible:

Screen-shot of the chords window, showing a D-flat-major-seventh-slash-D-flat chord being played, in the key-signature of D-flat major.
The major key name is D-flat Major (from the “1” key name), and the minor key name is B-flat Minor (from the “6” key name).

The fifth drop-box, you will probably not need to use. The KeyMusician Keyboard, like the piano, is a “C instrument” (non-transposing, concert pitch).

By using this drop-box, you can change the KMK to be, for example, a B-flat instrument, or an F instrument. This is useful if you are playing music written for other types of instruments.



Well, we're finally done.

Thank you for your time studying this tutorial. I'm sure it seemed quite long, but now you should understand what you need to know about playing the instrument, and I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I have.

- Aere

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