The KeyMusician keyboard allows you to play chords along with a melody, specifying them with as little as one finger. Chords are selected using the numeric keypad, and the Num-Lock toggle-key should be selected in order to use them. Otherwise, the keypad keys would perform the functions of left-arrow, right-arrow, up-arrow, down-arrow, etc, which are not things which designate chords to be played.

Chords are specified using the various numeric-keypad keys, and (once specified), played with your thumb using the wide “0” keypad key. Once specified, a chord can be played repeatedly, and you can specify the next chord while the current chord is still playing.

The keyboard supports two systems of designating chords: Standard, and Modal.

Standard chords are best if you are playing chords from sheet music. Though the notes names specified for use in chords change depending on what key-signature you are using, the fingerings are the same, regardless the key-signature.

Since there are a lot of chords to play, and not so many keys on the numeric-keypad to play them, some of the keys (buttons) have multiple uses. For example, the “aug” (augmented) button also has a “-5” (flatted-5th) button face. Alternate button-faces are accessed by double-clicking (double-pressing the key within a half-second), and stay selected (visible) until you change them.

The “aug”, “9”, “6”, and “sus” buttons (see the picture below) have alternate button-faces.

Here is a picture of the chord pad when using standard chords:

Screen-shot of the Chords window, using standard chords, in the key of C.  The 4-key (F-note), the Enter-Key (minor chord-type), and the 9-key (seventh chord-attribute) are selected.  The 0-key (Play-button) is not selected, but has "Play F-minor-seventh" on its button-face.
The Chords Dialog, While Playing An F Minor 7th Chord

To play a chord, you first specify the chord you want to play, then press the numeric-keypad “0” (Play) key to play it, holding it down as long as you want it to sound.

You can repeatedly play the same chord by repeatedly pressing the Play key. The chord being played is shown in the Play key, and in the title-bar.

One really handy thing about the KeyMusician Keyboard, is that while you are playing a chord, you can be specifying the notes of the next chord, which won't sound until you release, and re-press the Play key. This goes a long way to avoid any uncomfortable pauses while you change fingerings for the next chord.

In the numeric-keypad, keys “1” through “7” specify the 7 notes of the current key-signature's scale. The button-faces of these keys show the actual names of those notes. These note-letter names may end with a “b” (meaning “flat”), or a “#” (meaning “sharp”).

You can specify two notes for each chord.

The first note you press, specifies the root-note of the chord. All of the other notes of the chord are based on this note.

The 2nd note you press, specifies an additional note to be played below the other notes of the chord. This second note is only needed to play a “slash-chord”, which has a chord name, a slash (/), followed by a note name. This second note you specify is the note that comes after the slash. Some sheet music, instead of using the slash, indicates it something like “(C bass)”, where the “C” in this example is the slash-chord note.

The other keys of the numeric-keypad specify the type of chord to be played, and remain selected until you start specifying a new chord (after playing the current chord at least once, specifying a new root note of a chord). Some types of chords are mutually-exclusive of eachother, so if you select such an attribute, it will clear any attributes that can't co-exist with it.

You can also turn off all selected chord notes and attributes, by clicking on the “Clear” button, which is also activated by pressing the “End” key. This button (or key) also restores any alternate button-face keys to their original values.

The steps in playing a chord are as follows:

  1. specify the root-note of the chord

  2. specify the attributes, or type of chord to play

  3. specify any note to be added below the chord notes (if it's a slash-chord)

  4. press (and hold) the Play button

Steps 1 through 3 can be performed while still playing a chord. It won't take-effect until the next time you press the Play button.

For more information on the numeric-keypad display and alternate button faces, click (follow) the standard chords link, and use your browser's “back” button to return to here.

Modal Chords are easiest to use when you're making up your own music (or improvising with the music of others), because they all work well in whatever key-signature is currently being used for the melody, without introducing accidentals (notes not in the key-signature). When you change key-signatures, the modal chords change accordingly.

With modal chords, the root-note of the chord dictates the type of chord to be used (major, minor, or diminished), so you have less attributes to specify. You can change the attributes if you want to, but the attribute is initially specified for you, simply by selecting the root note of the chord.

They are called modal chords, because they are built on the modal scales, namely, the scales you get, using only white keys, starting on each of the seven tones of the scale. The more notable of the modal scales, are the Dorian mode (starting on D), the Lydian mode (starting on F), and the Phrygian mode (starting on E).

Like the modal scales, the modal chords (with no transposition in effect), are the chords you can form by using only white keys, based on each distinct white key note.

When transposing, the chords (along with their names on the chord pad) change to fit the key-signature of the transposition currently being used.

Here is a picture of the chord pad, when using modal chords, with no transposition (using the key of C major / A minor):

Screen-shot of the Chords window, using modal chords, in the key of C.  The 4-key (F-note), the Plus-Key (major chord-type), and the 9-key (seventh chord-attribute) are selected.  The 0-key (Play-button) is not selected, but has "Play F-major-seventh" on its button-face.
The (Modal) Chords Dialog, While Playing An F Major 7th Chord

In the chord notes designated in the diagram, If there is only the letter-name of the note, it is a major chord. If there is the letter-name of the chord, followed by a lower-case “m”, it is a minor chord. The one chord that differs from all of the others, is the chord formed starting on the 7th note of the scale (a “B” in the screenshot above). This one is a diminished chord, so it ends with the letters “dim”.

For more information, click (follow) the modal chords link, and use your browser's “back” button to return to here.

Important Notes

Though it's easier and faster to play chords using the numeric-keypad keys, it is also possible to play chords by clicking on the buttons of the chords dialog using the mouse.

If you use the mouse, and click on any key in the chords dialog, focus is immediately returned to the main dialog box, so no keystrokes are lost in playing melody notes. Similarly, when you click the Play button, the Play button is selected, and you hear the chord start playing, and focus shifts back to the main dialog.

To stop the chord from playing (using the mouse), simply click the Play button again, which deselects it (and silences the chord).

With an typical (non-gamer) keyboard, if you are playing a melody note on the home-row (between Caps-Lock and Enter), on the same keyboard as you are using for the chords, you will not be able to select note 2 (the 2-key), and in some cases note 5 (the 5-key) while the chord is still playing (the 0-key depressed). In these cases you need to make the change between chords (with the 0-key released).

The 'Clear' and 'Help' Buttons

These two buttons at the bottom of the dialog box (Clear and Help) don't correspond to numeric-keypad keys.

When you click-on the Help button, you get the information you are reading now. You can't tab-to and activate the button, because keyboard focus is immediately returned to the main KMK window. But this information is available from the index accessed by the “Read Manual” button of the F1 (Help / Setup) pane.

The Clear button (activated by the End-Key) clears any chord-type buttons currently selected, as well as any root-note (or slash-chord notes) that are currently selected. This allows you to start specifying a chord from scratch, rather than having to individually de-select a number of chord modifiers and notes.

The Clear button also selects the original (default) button-face for keys having alternate button-faces.

The 'Dynamics' Button

To change to affecting loudness (dynamics) using the numeric-keypad, simply press the Pause/Break key (F14 on Mac), which will select (toggle) this button. You could do the same thing by clicking on it using the mouse (or track-pad). The dialog will switch to its “Dynamics” version. You can learn about that version by clicking on the prior link.

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