Classical Guitar On The KeyMusician Keyboard

For many people, if you ask them to think of a musical instrument, they first think of a Guitar.

Although in the U.S., we had a vibrant big-band tradition, with the advent of rock-and-roll, and folk music, the guitar took over as the main musical instrument, in the minds of most people.

Given that dominant mindset, can you play a good-sounding guitar on the KeyMusician Keyboard?

For a long time, I would not make that claim, but I will now, and this article explains the musical technique I learned to make that possible.

I wrote an earlier article on playing Guitar on the KeyMusician Keyboard, which got me part-way through the necessary learning, but It still didn't have the sound I was looking for.

The development of the Dynamics Pad usage of the numeric-keypad allowed a degree of expressive strumming (if you strum chord notes on the melody-section of the keyboard), but a good rhythm-guitar player can easily do better.

What finally worked for me, was to focus on playing Classical Guitar, rather than just strumming chords. The KeyMusician Keyboard has big advantages in that realm, as opposed to weakness in the realm of expressive strumming.

The music explained in this article is done entirely on the melody-section of the keyboard, so to try it, you'll need a separate keyboard for each hand, or a gamer's keyboard with anti-ghosting (at least 6-key rollover), which is what I use. My keyboard has 18-key rollover, so I can easily play a note for each finger, all at the same time. But using two keyboards can get you by with much of what is described in this article.

I wrote an earlier article on improvising music entirely on the melody section, and I use a lot of those techniques in this article as well, though they are refined to work with a Guitar sound.

The main difference, is the chords illustrated in that article, to sound like a Guitar, need to be 'strummed'. This means that the notes of the chord are not pressed all at the same time, but one after another, in a quick sequence. When played this way, the chord sounds like running the Guitar-Pick over the strings comprising the chord, on a Guitar.

Usually, you play these notes starting with the lowest note, progressing upward to the highest note.

Playing Chords On The Melody-Section Of The Keyboard

When people learn to play chords on Guitar, they memorize a multitude of different patterns of pressing their fingers on the fret-board, and there are hundreds of chords they have to learn.

This is made easy on the KeyMusician Keyboard because patterns you learn for playing chords in one key-signature, also work in every other key-signature. Changing key-signatures is like moving a capo (a kind of clamp) on the fret-board of the Guitar, and in our case, you can move it in less than a second (by hitting a function-key).

Below are pictures, showing the chord-note keys pressed, using a qwerty (U.S.) keyboard, of the most common layout (the one we call “Z0”). They are named for the key of C-major, but those same patterns are applicable to any key-signature.

The chords shown below correspond to the “Modal” chord system of the numeric-keypad. These chords are made using notes of the scale, which is what you get when pressing keys within the melody section of the keyboard.

There is a key-signature independent way of designating chords. With that method, we specify the note of the scale by its number, expressed as a Roman Numeral. Upper-case Roman numerals are used for major chords, and lower-case Roman numerals are used for minor chords.

The note-letters of the key of C, along with the numbers and Roman numerals corresponding to those notes, are shown in the table below:

Note Letter

C

D

E

F

G

A

B

Note Number

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Roman Numerals

I

i

II

ii

III

iii

IV

iv

V

v

VI

vi

VII

vii

Armed with this knowledge, here are the key-press patterns for most of the chords you will need to be able to play with your left hand on the melody-section of the keyboard. Each chord is identified with both its Key-Of-C name, as well as its Key-Signature-Independent name, both as a decimal number, and as a Roman numeral.

There are a bunch of patterns to learn, but they're not nearly as complex or contorted as many of the fingerings on a Guitar fret-board.

Some of these patterns won't play together on an ordinary (non-gamers) keyboard, but they will play if you 'strum' them (play them separately in quick succession).


C-Major, 1-Major, or I


D-Minor, 2-Minor, or ii


E-Minor, 3-Minor, or iii


F-Major, 4-Major, or IV


G-Major, 5-Major, or V


A-Minor, 6-Minor, or vi


B-Diminished, 7-Dim, or vii


C-Major, 1-Major, or I (starting over, an octave higher)

All of the above chords require just three fingers to play, and it will work in any key-signature.

Seeing the chords this way gives you an easy way of understanding suspended chords (another type of chord, that 'wants' to resolve to either a major or minor chord):


C-Suspended-2nd, 1-Sus2, or I-sus2


C-Suspended-4th, 1-Sus4, or I-sus4 (if you see just “sus” in sheet-music, it means “sus4”)

Notice that to get the suspended chord, you simply moved the middle finger down a note (for the suspended 2nd), or up a note (for the suspended 4th).

There are other types of chords that are useful to learn, such as 7ths. These chords just add an additional note to the chord. A chord triad (major or minor) has 3 notes in it, and if you number the first note of the chord as 1, and count the skipped notes, they will use 1, 3, and 5. The 7th chords just add the 7th note up (skipping 6), as in the following chords:


C-Major-7th, 1-Maj7, or I-7


D-Minor-7th, 2-Min7, or ii-7


E-Minor-7th, 3-Min7, or iii-7


F-Major-7th, 4-Maj7, or IV-7


G-7, 5-7, or V-7

Notice that this isn't a major or minor 7thit's just the 7th, which is also called a Dominant 7th. Here's an alternate fingering for this chord, not so high as the chord shown above:


G-7, 5-7, or V-7


A-Minor-7th, 6-Min7, or vi-7


B-Diminished-7th, 7-Dim7, or vii-7

Here's an alternate fingering for the above chord (lower down):


B-Diminished-7th, 7-Dim7, or vii-7

That probably seems like a lot of patterns to remember, but notice the predictable pattern of your fingers on the keyboard, which helps you remember each chord.

The chords above (with names converted to each other key-signature) are most of the chords you will need, and it's certainly enough to give you a good start playing a lot of pieces.

There is also another type of chords called inversions, as is shown in the following chord:


E-Minor, 3-Minor, or iii-minor

This chord has the same notes as the E-minor chord shown earlier, but they come in a different order. Here, the low note (rather than the highest note) is the B, followed by the E and the G.

The reason this is useful to know, is that the notes of the chord can come in any order, and it is still that same type of chord. This can give you easier alternative fingerings of the same chord.

Transposing For Easy Fingering, Still In The Guitar Range

The Guitar doesn't have as much range as a Piano, and many of the patterns for chords shown above would by quite high for a guitar. Fortunately, there's an easy fix for this.

One way, is to click the Base Octave spin-control down by one (where the mouse-cursor is), as shown in the following screen-shot (pardon my custom colors):


This will put what you play in the natural range of the Guitar sound.

Another way to do this, is to choose a key-signature that transposes a fair number of half-steps down (negative numbers), as shown in the following screen-shot:


In this case, we're choosing E Major, which would normally be done as a transpose of “+4”, but instead, we choose the “-8” version of the same key-signature, which transposes it down to a better range. All of the “-4” through “-11” key-signatures would work well for Guitar, with the fingerings shown in this article.

Integrating Melody Notes and Bass Notes With The Chords

While playing chords (using the patterns shown above) with my left hand, I improvise melody notes and bass notes with my right hand.

I use my right-hand thumb to play bass notes, in the range shown below (don't press all of them at once – it's only meant to show the range of keys to be used):


I use the other fingers of my right hand to improvise melody notes, in the following range:


In playing the bass, chord, and melody notes, I try to play (in a quick, strummed sequence) the bass-note first, then the chord notes (low to high), then the melody note(s).

A Video Example Of This Technique

In the video below, I'm using using the DimensionPro synthesizer (on Windows), which has a really good sound. I'm using a layered voice (Guitar, with a soft string-ensemble in the background).

You can watch by clicking the link below, and you will see all of the things described earlier, in action.

When you click that link, taking you to Vimeo, click the full-screen control (at the lower right), so you can see the details better, then click the “Play” button.

But before you click, here are the techniques I use in the video, in the following order:

  1. I start out in a key-signature having 6 flats, and switch to a key-signature having 4 sharps

  2. I use ascending triads (major and minor chords), along with a bass-note and melody note

  3. I use ascending quads (major, minor, and dominant 7th chords) - notes played as one-at-a-time, in a repeating pattern (1, 3, 5, 7, 5, 3, -repeat), along with a bass and melody note

  4. I use ascending triads, played 1, 3-5 1, 3-5, with melody and bass (a kind of “boom, click, click, boom, click click” pattern)

  5. I use ascending quads (7ths), strummed as 6-note chords (including the bass and melody notes)

You may need to watch it carefully several times to notice all the details.

Here is the link to the video:

Classical Guitar Demo Video

Thanks for reading and watching. I hope this provides you with yet another tool in your musical journey – particularly if you like the sound of a Guitar.

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