Playing Trills With The Wah-Wah Keys

We put in a new feature in version 1.48 (published July 24th, 2020), allowing you to easily play half-step trills, whole-step trills, as well as expressive wah-wah. We also defined the use of the F16-Key (on Mac keyboards) for playing the ‘down’ wah-wah or trill (where the Caps-Lock can’t be used for this on Mac OS X).

A trill, is the rapid alternation of a note with the note above it. It is a musical ornamentation, indicated by a “trabove the note to be trilled. A trill is with the note above the written note, but we can also trill with the note below it, using the ‘down’ wah-wah key.

Normally, you can play trills just fine on the KMK using the keyboard keys. It’s only when one of the trilled notes is an accidental where that can be a problem.

This new feature solves that problem, where it is very difficult (or impossible) to play a trill where one of the trilled notes is an accidental, and the accidental is not given-you from playing a chord using that accidental.

It also gives you more expressive possibilities than were provided by the Wah-Wah keys, as they were before.

You can watch a quick screen-capture video (best viewed in full-screen mode), showing this feature in action, by clicking the link below (then using your browser’s back-button to return to this article):

Half-Step Trills, Whole-Step Trills, and Wah-Wah

Configuring Trills and Wah-Wah

Trills (both half, and whole step), as well as expressive wah-wah, are easily configured on each performance pane, and are saved in your configuration file, as shown in the screen-shot below: A screen-shot of the F6 performance pane, with the Wah-Wah Type drop-box opened, and Half-Step Trill selected.

Simply click on (or tab-to and open) the Wah-Wah Type drop-box (in the lower right of the screen-shot above), and select either an ‘Expressive’ wah-wah (which is the way it has always worked before, and is the default), a ‘Half-Step Trill’, or a ‘Whole-Step Trill’.

You don’t need to use the “Save” button to save the setting in-memory. It is saved automatically.

This works on all of the performance panes – including the Drums pane, where you can do a trill or wah-wah on even a bell sound, or a cymbal crash.

Although the Wah-Wah Type can be selected in the Chords pane, it only affects the chords (as well any other notes played) when the Chords pane is selected.

The Wah-Wah keys affect every note currently being played in the performance pane selected. This makes it easy to trill multiple notes simultaneously.

A Long-Standing Problem Solved

Years ago, I bought a book of oboe solos, and was excited to play Vocalise, by Rachmaninoff. A short excerpt of the music is shown below. Notice the spot highlighted in yellow:

Picture of the first page of the music of Rachmaninoffs Vocalise piece, with a B-sharp to C-sharp trill highlighted.

I could not play that trill. I have written the notes making up the trill below, to explain why:

Picture of the problem area, with the trill expanded to actual notes, in a blue box.

The notes in the blue box above, are the actual notes of the trill, the last two of which are the indicated ending of the trill.

I would have to press and hold the Page-Up Key to play each B-sharp in the trill, then release it for the next note up (C sharp). If I left the Page-Up Key pressed, the note above it would be played as a C double-sharp, instead of the C sharp indicated by the key-signature, which differs from the written music. The precise pressing and releasing of the Page-Up key in conjunction with the note key, at high speed, is too hard.

With the new feature, however, all I have to do, is have it set for half-step trills in the configuration, then play the B-sharp quarter note, while I ‘massage’ the Enter-Key (the ‘up’ wah-wah key), ending the trill with the A-sharp and B-sharp keys, so I can leave the Page-Up key pressed while I play the whole thing.

It avoids playing a C double-sharp for the top note of the trill, because a half-step trill was specified, and the trill is done using pitch-bend control, which modifies the pitch (and no notes are involved).

If in a piece, I needed a whole-step trill in some places, and a half-step trill in other places, I could use two performance panes for the same instrument and key-signature, but with the two different trill settings.

Problem solved!

Did You Know? Playing flats & sharps as a shift-process, is what gives the KMK its 84-key range. And the software does everything it can (such as playing in-key-signature, and giving the melody section of the keyboard any accidentals used by the current chord), to avoid having to do that 2-keystroke process of playing an accidental. If I had played the chord made up of the piano notes for the area of the trill, it would have given me the accidental I needed.

So give this a try – it adds a lot of capability to what you can play on the KeyMusician Keyboard, with a minimal amount of setup, allowing you to do it.

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