A Band With KeyMusician Keyboards

The KeyMusician Keyboard is very versatile, and can play the sound of any musical instrument. You could have an entire band of people playing KeyMusician Keyboards, for any instrument sound you want, except perhaps, for the drums, which are hard to play expressively on the KeyMusician Keyboard.

If you do 'piano four-hands' type performances, or if you also make use of a MIDI keyboard, only a single laptop is required.

For a 'piano four-hands' performance, connect two keyboards to the laptop, and each player plays the same instrument (using a single KMK application, having keyboard-focus). To avoid 'tripping over' each other's notes, you mutually agree to stick to your own area of the keyboard.

Since only one KeyMusician Keyboard application can have keyboard-focus at any given time, you would normally have a laptop for each performer.

If you have someone playing a MIDI keyboard, you can get around this limitation, because MIDI keyboards don't require keyboard focus, and can be connected to any synthesizer running on whichever laptop.

Multiple laptops can be connected to the same amplifier using a mixer-box, or in the case of a duet, a simple Y-cable.

Two of us formed a band, performing as a duo, called The KeyMusicians, as shown in the picture below:

Here, we have two laptops, connected to a single amplifier with a simple Y-cable. Here, we used music stands, tilted-forward, so the audience can see fingers-on-keys. Custom belts for holding the keyboard can also be used, giving you more opportunity to move with the music.

Generally when we perform this way, one of us supplies the harmonic framework, and the other improvises a solo instrument sound over that harmonic framework.

When we do cover songs, one of us will play the written music, and the other will improvise with it, using one or more different instrument sounds.

You can see the above performance by clicking on the following link. Use your browser's back-button to return to this article.

The KeyMusicians, Improvising Music Together

The cables used in connecting both computers to the single amplifier in that performance, are shown in the picture below, labeled as C, E, F, & G:

Audio cables and plugs (left to right, A to H)

A. Microphone, with 1/8” (3 mm) mono plug (male) – microphones can also have 1/4” (male) plugs, or XLR plugs

B. 1/8” (3 mm) stereo (male) plug, to dual XLR connectors, for connecting to house/hall/church sound system

C. 1/8” (3 mm) stereo (male) plug, to 1/8” (3 mm) stereo (female) plug-in

D. 1/8” (3 mm) stereo (male) plug, to dual RCA plugs (male), for connecting to a home stereo system

E. 1/8” (3 mm) stereo (male) plug to 1/8” (3 mm) stereo (male) plug, the most commonly used cable

F. Dual 1/8” (3 mm) stereo (male) plugs to single 1/8” (3 mm) stereo (female) plug Y-cable

G. 1/8” (3 mm) stereo (female) plug-in, to 1/4” mono adapter plug, used for plugging into a guitar amplifier (silver color)

H. 1/8” (3 mm) stereo (female) plug-in, to 1/4” stereo adapter plug (gold color)

Also, in performing, I have found the use of a mixer box, together with a MIDI interface, to give the two of us tremendous flexibility, where we can at-will play each others' synthesizers, with one or more different synthesizers on each laptop. This lets us use combinations of our favorite synthesizers on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

And here is another adapter cable we use, as well as a USB MIDI interface:

(Audio Cable “I”, and MIDI Interface “J”)

I. 1/8” (3 mm) stereo (male) to dual 1/4” mono (male) adapter cable

J. USB to dual MIDI plugs MIDI Interface

Mixer-boxes Used In Performing

When we started out performing, we used a simple “Y” cable (item “F” in the first picture above) to connect the audio plugs of our two laptops to our amplifier.

To do this, one of the Y-cable's 1/8” (3 MM) male plugs was plugged directly into the first laptop, and cable “C” was used to connect the other laptop to the other 1/8” male stereo plug of the Y-cable. We used cable “E” to connect the female plug of the Y-cable to our amplifier's “AUX IN” plug (on the right), or to its “INPUT” plug (on the left - using adapter plug “G”), of the amplifier's panel shown below:

The Plug-In & Control Panel Of Our Amplifier

We now use different synthesizers on our two laptops – one running Windows, and the other Linux, and are able to play any of the synthesizers on either OS, depending on the KMK configuration files we select.

To allow us this flexibility, we make use of the following mixer box:

Alesis iO2 Mixer Box and Audio & MIDI Interface

This mixer is also a high-quality audio interface, connected via a USB cable, and it has a MIDI interface. Another nice thing about this mixer-box is that it is powered by the USB cable, and thus doesn't need a separate power-supply.

One of our laptops is connected to this interface via a USB cable, and the other laptop's audio output plug is connected to the mixer box using adapter cable “I”, connecting to the left and right “Line Input” plugs-ins.

The interface is connected to our amplifier using the “PHONES” plug (at the lower left of the picture above). To do this, we use adapter plug “H”, and audio cable “E” (see the adapter cables picture earlier in the article).

To allow us to play each others' synthesizers, we use the MIDI interface included in the mixer-box (accessed via USB on the first laptop), and another USB MIDI interface (“J”, in the second picture of interface cables), connected to the mixer-box and the other laptop via its USB cable.

The “MIDI-In” (white) plug of the second laptop's MIDI interface is connected to the “MIDI-Out” plug of the mixer-box, and the “MIDI-Out” plug of the other laptop's MIDI interface is connected to the “MIDI-In” plug of the mixer-box.

Here is a picture of us performing in a bookstore, using the mixer-box above. We are both playing the Dimension-Pro synthesizer, in Windows, with Cantabile as the VST host, running on one of the two laptops.

You can watch a video of the performance by clicking the link below:

The KeyMusicians – Performing at a bookstore

Mixer-Box Used For More Players

For connecting up to 6 players to the same amplifier, you can use a mixer-box like the one we use in our home studio:

Alto ZMX52 Mixer-Box Used In Our Home Studio

Unlike the mixer-boxes described earlier, this one is not USB powered. It has a separate power-supply plugged into the top of it.

There are also mixer-boxes for connecting many more audio sources than the one shown above.

Sometimes, if the venue has a good-quality piano, we will use that as part of the performance, as in the picture below:

You can watch a video of that performance by clicking the link below:

The KeyMusicians - Cello & Piano performance

Sometimes, the pianos at some venues are non-existent, or of poor quality. In such cases, we bring our own MIDI keyboard, connecting it to a synthesizer running in one of the laptops.

I hope this article gives you a lot of new possibilities and flexibility in performing, adding new sounds to a band or even forming your own band!

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