Four-Hands Performances

What is a four-hands performance?

A four-hands performance (typically on piano), is where two performers sit on the same piano bench, and the left player plays the notes of the left side of the keyboard, and the right player plays the notes of the right side of the keyboard.

Typically, a four-hands piece is arranged for two players, with separate music for the left player and the right player.

Why would this be useful for the KeyMusician Keyboard?

Lately our band (duo) has been playing at open-mic events.

Though we normally perform duets, using two laptops (with a mixer-box allowing either of us to play any synthesizer on either laptop), this level of setup would reduce the time available for our performance at open-mic events, due to extra setup time. Yet we still want to play duets.

For an open-mic, we have one laptop, already booted and ready to perform, which we carry up front on its pedestal, plug in the audio cable to their amplifier, plug in to the laptop our keyboards (already worn on our waists), and start playing.

The solution to wanting to play duets on the one laptop, with this quick and simple setup, is a four-hands performance.

There's no way you could play four-hands on the same typing keyboard. Fortunately, if you plug-in an additional keyboard (for the other player), the keystrokes of both keyboards are simultaneously sent to the application having keyboard-focus, in this case, the KeyMusician Keyboard.

The drawback to this sort of performance, is that both players are playing the same instrument, using agreed-upon areas of the keyboard, rather than using different instruments, with no keyboard-area limitations, as we would do in a duet.

First, watch a video of our performance (by clicking on the picture), and then I'll explain how we did it.

Click on the picture above to watch the video, clicking the Play-button of the video. Return here by using your browser's back-button.

This performance, as with many of our performances, is improvisational. When we improvise this way, one of us improvises a harmonic framework, and the other person improvises a solo instrument part along with it.

We do the same thing with a four-hands performance, except the harmonic framework is supplied by playing chords on the numeric keypad, and in addition, playing notes in the lower range of the instrument sound. For melody notes, we stick to the lower two rows of the keyboard (for the person supplying the harmonic framework, and the upper-two rows of the keyboard for the person improvising the solo part.

Playing chords with the numeric keypad allows you to use a separate instrument sound for the chords, and if you use arpeggios rather than sustained chords, it's practically like a two-handed piano part.

In this performance (except for the Cello introduction, we used a 12-note arpeggio, set up using the “ASSIGNABLE” drop-box of each performance-pane used, which allows you to control the speed of the arpeggio using the Up and Down Arrow keys. It also lets us switch between sustained, strummed, or arpeggio chords, depending on what is set for each performance-pane.

The “ASSIGNABLE” slider, set for a 12-note arpeggio, of a moderate speed

In this performance, we're using the Cantabile VST-host, with the DimensionPro VST instrument, as well as the BS-16 sound-font player VST instrument, using the FluidR3_GM.sf2 sound-font, and also the timgm6mb.sf2 sound-font.

We improvised our way through the Cello, Oboe, Wordless-Choir, Flute, Distortion-Guitar, and Trumpet solo instrument performance-panes.

For the Flute part of the piece, in order to give me (the lower-rows player) some useful Flute notes to play, we set the key-signature to “+9 = A Major”.

For the distortion-guitar, we used the “Metal-Dream” instrument sound (of DimensionPro, as shown in the screen-shot below), which uses the bottom two keyboard rows (below middle-C) for percussion, and the upper-two keyboard rows for distortion-guitar.

So in this segment, I (the lower-rows player) played percussion, in addition to the chords. For the chords in this segment, I switched between G-major-7th, and G-minor-7th, each of which requires a different accidental (flat or sharp) in the melody. But since accidentals used by the chords are also introduced into the melody, that made them be used automatically in the melody. Also notice in this segment, where Malcolm uses the “Wah-Wah” key to control the distortion-guitar sound.

In the Trumpet segment, the lower-row notes I played (below the range of the Trumpet) sounded either like Trombone, or Tuba, and low Tuba notes made for a good ending. Also in this segment, I made a 'detour' into an unexpected harmony (A-major-7th from A-minor-7th), but since the application introduces the necessary accidentals for the chords into the melody section, it didn't turn out to be a problem.

Hopefully this article will give you some useful ideas in performing.

You can click the link below to view the entire index of newsletter articles.

Index Of All Newsletter Articles