New Features For May, 2020

This past month, we’ve been looking at ways to make it easier to teach music remotely, using the KeyMusician Keyboard.

We noticed that using a video camera, even when focused-in tightly on fingers on the keyboard, it’s hard to tell which keys are pressed, not only because fingers are obscuring the key faces of the keys pressed, but also because there’s very little difference visually between a finger hovering above (or laying on) a key, and a finger pressing the key.

To get around this problem, we created the Keyboard Monitor window, which looks similar to this:

Picture of a U.S. 101 QWERTY keyboard, with the Q, E, T, U, and Period keys selected (darkened).
The Keyboard Monitor window, showing the Q, E, T, U, and Period keys selected (pressed)

The keyboard keys are represented by toggle-buttons, which are selected when their corresponding keyboard is pressed, for as long as that key is pressed.

Using this new window, it’s easy to show your student which keys you’re pressing, and all you need to teach remotely (useful during the pandemic) is to share your screen. You don’t have the hassle of having a video camera focused on both screen and keyboard.

So this feature is quite useful as is. But we went a step beyond that, which makes it even easier to learn to play music.

From the first release of the KMK, we’ve had the capability of learning to play music from a MIDI file, played on the KMK MIDI Player/Recorder. There are even a number of MIDI files included with the tutorials, that are designed for this very purpose.

With the MIDI Channel of the current performance pane set to a MIDI channel the MIDI file uses, all notes played on that channel are shown in the music display staff-lines, with their note-heads (the round part of the note) shown in red.

When you play a note on the KMK, its note-head is shown (again, in the music display) in blue, but if you play the same note(s) as the note(s) played by the player, it changes them to green, and the Learning Metrics window keeps track of how well you’re doing in matching the notes.

With the new Keyboard Monitor window, we’ve gone a step further, and show you the typing-keyboard key(s) to play the note(s) currently shown in red (in the music display staff-lines). The notes to play are shown as depressed (selected) keys in the Keyboard Monitor window, and they stay selected when you press one of those indicated keyboard keys.

If the note is an accidental (flat, sharp, or natural not in the key-signature), it will also show you the proper Page-Up or Page-Down key to press, to play that accidental.

The MIDI Player/Recorder has easy ways of slowing the music down to where it’s easier to keep up, and you can even set it (in the Learning Metrics window) so that it waits for you to press the indicated note (or key).

So now this method of learning to play music (explained in the second tutorial), got even easier!

This feature is in version 1.45 of the KeyMusician Keyboard, published on April 24, 2020. If you have an earlier version, browse to the KMK Member Pages, and download and install the latest version.

But wait – there’s more!

We’ve added a new piece of music to the KeyMusician Songbook.

It’s (humorously) titled, “Classical Gasp”, and is a collection of themes from six different pieces of classical music, by Mozart, Satie, Ravel, Beethoven, Brahms, and Puccini, all together in one piece of music, suitable for playing in a recital.

Better yet, you may have already learned each of those individual themes (already in the KMK Songbook), so if you did, it’s a snap to play all of them, one after the other, hitting a function key to change instrument-sounds for each part of the piece.

Audiences may not be accustomed to performers changing instruments in the middle of a piece, but KeyMusician Keyboard players do it all the time.

So sign-in to the KMK Member Pages using your Internet browser, click the “KeyMusician Songbook” link, and check it out.

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