New Features In Version 1.23

A number of new features have been put into the KeyMusician Keyboard in April, 2016, in versions 1.22, and finally in version 1.23.

If you have version 1.23 or higher, you have all of these new features, and it is in the documentation.

If you still use the Java Web Start version (using a '.jnlp' file to launch it), please install the new version, because the Java Web Start version does not update the Help-Documentation – only the code. Using the Java Web Start version, you will get an error message if you click on the “Help” button of the Keypad Dynamics window.

About Re-Installing

Installing now (or re-installing) is much easier than it was originally where it used Java Web Start.

The new installed versions co-exist with the Java Web Start versions (you can run either version), and you don't lose any configuration files you've made, and don't need to re-enter the license codes.

All of the installers make use of a code-signing certificate from DigiCert (as does the Java Web Start version).

The updated Help is installed with the software automatically, while the tutorials (except for the exercise files) are being migrated to use the web-site version (which is always up-to-date).

With Windows, there's a custom installer EXE, which installs (along with the application) its own private version of Java (you don't even have to install Java anymore), and it's very much like installing any custom software. The installed version of Java is tested, and with it, the software won't have problems with a new release of Java (as happened once before).

With Mac OS X, you download a zipped-archive, which you expand, and then move to your home folder. Then you drag the application (icon) itself from that (expanded) folder, to your desktop or applications folder, and you're done.

With Linux, the installer is either a Debian package, or an RPM package, both of which you're probably familiar with using. You can create desktop launchers of the installed software, the same way you do with other applications. It works the same way as with other Linux software. The Help files are just one copy (in system files) regardless how many users make use of it on your system, though each user has their own configuration files.

So now, here is detailed information on the new features!

All Performance Panes Now Accessible Via Keyboard Key

There are times during a performance that I have wanted to switch to the “Chords” performance pane, or the “Drums” performance pane. But since these two performance panes cannot be switched-to by a keyboard key, I have to go to the track-pad of the laptop to do it.

This new feature makes it possible to switch to all performance panes using a keyboard key.

Although there are a few keyboard keys not yet used by the application, I didn't want to use the “Caps Lock” or “Tab” keys, because the chances were too high of them being accidentally pressed, having a surprising, bad, effect during a performance.

Fortunately, I was able to come up with a safer set of keys for doing this.

Because of the “Drums” tab's position among the tabbed performance panes, it makes sense to use F11 to access the Drums (percussion) performance pane.

Historically, though, the F11 key has been used to make the application use the entire screen (full-screen), and the F11 key was not even passed to the application, so I have avoided using it.

Most newer systems allow the application to use F11, nowadays, though a few still do not. So here is the rule regarding it.

Use F11 to access the “Drums” performance pane. If, instead, it full-screens the application, press F11 again to restore the application to normal size, and thereafter use the “Scroll-Lock” key to access the “Drums” performance pane. There is no “Scroll-Lock” key on a Mac keyboard, but F11 works fine on a Mac.

On Windows or Linux, use the “Num-Lock” key to access the “Chords” performance pane. On a Mac keyboard (where the “Num-Lock” key is not defined), use F13 to access the “Chords” performance pane.

Important note: On Windows, you'll have to press the “Num-Lock” key again to restore the use of the numeric-keypad keys.

Having all performance panes available via a keyboard key gives us a new advantage.

It is now possible to have all possible key-signatures configured, accessible instantly using a keyboard key.

From a tonal perspective, there are 12 possible key-signatures – one for each tone in the chromatic scale, and we now have 12 performance panes, easily accessible from the keyboard – one for each key-signature.

I have supplied a configuration file for you to do just that. To download it, you can right-click on the following link, choosing “Save Link As” (or something similar your browser presents) in the pop-up menu. After downloading it, copy it to your “KeyMusician-Keyboard” folder.

AllKeySignatures.kmk

This configuration file uses the Gervill (Java Sound) synthesizer, so make sure no ASIO device driver (on Windows), or special application control of sound on Mac is running when you first use it (or the application will hang). You can change the configured synthesizer in the F1 pane to whatever you want, and save it, thereafter avoiding this problem in the future.

Notice that the “Drums” performance pane is no longer a percussion instrument, but a melodic instrument. The General MIDI standard assumes MIDI channel 10 is percussion, but I don't use MIDI channel 10, and have un-checked the “Percussion” check-box. In fact, all of the performance panes in that configuration use MIDI channel 1.

Here is a table showing the major and minor key-signatures in the above configuration, along with the keyboard key to access them.

Key To Access

F2

F3

F4

F5

F6

F7

F8

F9

F10

F11 or

Scroll-lock

F12

Num-Lock

or F13

Major Key

C

D-flat

D

E-flat

E

F

G-flat

G

A-flat

A

B-flat

B

Minor Key

A

B-flat

B

C

C-sharp

C

E-flat

E

F

F-sharp

G

G-sharp

Notice that the key-signatures go up a half-step at a time (one step on the chromatic scale), starting with C-major (and A-minor).

Are there more than 12 key-signatures?

Technically, yes, but in practice, not more than 13.

You could have a key-signature (C-sharp major) having seven sharps, but tonally it is the same as the key of D-flat major, which has only 5 flats. So why would you want to use seven sharps?

Similarly, you could have a key-signature (C-flat major) having seven flats, but tonally it is the same as the key of B major, which has only 5 sharps. So why would you want to use seven flats?

For these reasons, the KeyMusician keyboard does not give you a way of changing (using the transpose button) to the key of C-sharp major, or C-flat major.

There is one other case which is actually valid, and the application allows it.

The transpose button allows you to change to either the key of F-sharp major (6 sharps), or G-flat major (6 flats). Tonally they are the same, and you can choose either one. The configuration file I supplied above uses G-flat major, but you can change it to F-sharp major, if you prefer.

Knowing that, here is a table of all possible key-signatures (major, and natural-minor)

Major Key

Minor Key

# of flats or sharps

Transposition

Same As

Available

C major

A minor

0

0

B-sharp major

yes

D-flat major

B-flat minor

5 flats

1 up, or 11 down

C-sharp major

A-sharp minor

yes

D major

B minor

2 sharps

2 up, or 10 down

C-flat minor

yes

E-flat major

C minor

3 flats

3 up, or 9 down

B-sharp minor

yes

E major

C-sharp minor

4 sharps

4 up, or 8 down

F-flat major

yes

F major

D minor

1 flat

5 up, or 7 down

E-sharp major

yes

F-sharp major

D-sharp minor

6 sharps

6 up

G-flat major

E-flat minor

yes

G-flat major

E-flat minor

6 flats

6 down

F-sharp major

D-sharp minor

yes

G major

E minor

1 sharp

5 down, or 7 up

F-flat minor

yes

A-flat major

F minor

4 flats

4 down, or 8 up

G-sharp major

F-sharp minor

yes

A major

F-sharp minor

3 sharps

3 down, or 9 up


yes

B-flat major

G minor

2 flats

2 down, or 10 up

A-sharp major

G-sharp minor

yes

B major

G-sharp minor

5 sharps

1 down, or 11 up

C-flat major

A-flat minor

yes

C-flat major

A-flat minor

7 flats

1 down

B major

G-sharp minor

no

C-sharp major

A-sharp minor

7 sharps

1 up

D-flat major

B-flat minor

no

Transpose Button Can Now Affect All Performance Panes

There have been times in performing, having an interesting set of instruments in each performance pane, I wished I could change all of them to a new key-signature.

This is now possible with this new feature.

The window called up by clicking on the “Transpose” button of any performance pane, now looks like this:


The difference from how it was before, is the line just above the “OK” and “Cancel” buttons, indicating what performance panes are to be affected.

It assumes only the current pane (which is how it worked before).

But if you click the “All” radio-button, all performance panes (except for percussion panes) will be affected.

Percussion panes are not affected because the transpose value on such panes is to position it so the maximum number of percussion instruments (at least, those defined for the General MIDI standard) are visible. You can change the transpose for a specific percussion pane, if you need to.

Volume-Control (Dynamics)

The KeyMusician Keyboard provides the essential elements of volume control, even though typing keyboards provide no information about how hard a key is pressed. It does this primarily by way of the Velocity and Volume sliders in each performance pane:


The Velocity and Volume sliders in a performance pane

The Velocity slider is controlled by pressing the “Insert” key (to increase it), or the “Delete” key (to decrease it). Hitting the right “Ctrl” key will also increase it, and hitting the left “Ctrl” key will also decrease it.

The Volume slider is controlled by pressing the right-arrow (➡) to increase it, or the left-arrow (⬅) to decrease it. Hitting the right “Alt” key will also increase it, and hitting the left “Alt” key will also decrease it.

You can reach the Insert/Delete keys, as well as the left/right arrow keys, with your right hand (while playing chords on the numeric keypad) with a little stretching.

Changes to both of these sliders are transmitted as part of the MIDI performance data in a MIDI recording.

The Velocity slider affects the loudness of notes subsequently played. It does not affect the loudness of any note currently playing. This is useful if you don't want it to sound like someone turned-up (or down) the volume on a music player. The volume change takes place cleanly, on the next note played.

The Volume slider affects the loudness of the notes currently playing, as well as future notes played, like turning up (or down) the volume on a player.

They are useful for changing the volume level within a piece, and (in the case of the Volume slider) for fading out a note at the end of the piece or the end of a phrase. You can restore the former volume (and velocity) level by hitting the “Home” key. This means you can gradually increase (or decrease) the volume as you play, then instantly restore it to its former setting.

The former setting is what it was when you switched to the performance pane, or what it was the last time you clicked the performance pane's “Save” button.

For overall volume control (when you are setting up at the beginning of the performance), you can use the volume control on the task-bar, or the volume control on your typing keyboard, which many keyboards have, as in the picture below:


Typing keyboard with volume control (the knob in the silver area)

On most keyboards that control volume, there is a key to increase volume, and a key to decrease volume. Each of these keys can be pressed repeatedly for more volume change.

These volume changes are not sent as part of the MIDI data, and are best used for setting up the overall volume level of your instrument. You can use them during a performance, but they won't be included as part of a MIDI recording.

Beware: These keyboards also have a “Mute Sound” key. Be careful that you don't accidentally press that, leaving you wondering why the sound suddenly went silent!

If you are not playing chords (using the numeric keypad) as part of your performance, there is another level of volume control effects available to you. You can use the numeric keypad for controlling the volume (dynamics) of your performance on the melody keys.

The Numeric Keypad window for controlling volume looks something like the following screen-shot:


The “Dynamics” version of the numeric keypad window

This version of the keypad window is activated by clicking the “Dynamics” button (at the lower left) to select it. If you click it again (deselecting it), the window changes back to the Chords version.

You can also select or deselect the Dynamics window by pressing the “Pause/Break” key (or F14 on a Mac keyboard).

When the Dynamics window is initially displayed (or when a new performance pane is selected with the window active), the loudness button corresponding to the performance pane's current velocity slider value is initially selected.

Although an expert pianist/keyboardist (with their years of prior learning), would prefer the per-note volume control of a velocity-sensitive keyboard, if you are still learning to play music, the Dynamics window greatly simplifies the task of playing consistent volume levels.

If you use a velocity-sensitive MIDI keyboard (which you can do with the KeyMusician Keyboard), a lot of learning effort goes into hitting all of the notes you play with just the right force to play at a given volume level. There is also a lot of practice involved in avoiding your strong fingers playing too loud, and your weaker fingers playing too soft.

Using the Dynamics window, you can set the volume level to what it says in the music, simply by pressing a single key.

The Meanings Of The Keys

In music notation, the Italian word “forte” (pronounced for-tay) means loud, and the Italian word “piano” (pronounced like the name of the musical instrument) means soft. The various loudness settings make use of these two Italian words. There are eight different loudness markings.

The table below shows each loudness marking name (what you would see in the sheet music), along with its meaning. The loudest setting is at the top, and the softest (most quiet) setting is at the bottom:

Marking

Its Meaning

fff

(Fortissimo) – as loud as possible – triple forte

ff

Very loud – double forte

f

Loud - forte

mf

Moderately loud – mezzo forte (which means “half loud”)

mp

Moderately soft – mezzo piano (which means “half soft”)

p

Soft - piano

pp

Very soft – double piano

ppp

(Pianissimo) – as soft as possible – triple piano

So when you see a loudness marking (also referred to as dynamics) in the music you are playing, you simply press the numeric-keypad key corresponding to the loudness marking you see in the music. Only one such setting can be effective at a time, so any prior setting is deselected for you.

Sometimes in printed music, the loudness is specified in English (or another local language), but where you know the meanings above, you can select the right button.

On the right side of the window, are three buttons also specifying loudness. The following table explains these other terms, and their meanings:

Marking

Its Meaning

sfz

Sforzando – suddenly with force – a note played suddenly loud, but fading back somewhat in volume.

<

Crescendo – getting gradually louder

>

Diminuendo (or decrescendo) – getting gradually softer

In music notation, the “<” and “>” shapes are extended horizontally to indicate the area in the music which is to be increasing (or decreasing) loudness, as shown in Aere's sheet-music fragment below:


Notice the elongated < and > markings above, showing where the volume-change takes place

In music notation, there is also an accent symbol below (or above) a note, that looks like “^”, or alternatively, a short ">" symbol, which means that individual note is to be “accented” (played louder). Though there is no button for this, it can be done using the “louder” button, or by specifying a higher loudness marking, and then (after playing it) the original marking.

So now that we've explained what the markings mean, let's explain the individual buttons on the Dynamics dialog.

When the “louderbutton is selected, the note (and subsequent notes) are played at a louder volume. When it is deselected, the volume goes back to what was used before.

The “softerbutton works the same way, only the notes (when selected) are played softer.

The “resetbutton (activated by the “5” numeric-keypad key) resets the volume and velocity sliders to what they were when the Dynamics window was activated, or or when the performance pane was switched-to with the Dynamics window active, or when the "Save" button was last clicked.

The “slow” and “fastbuttons control how fast the volume changes using the “<” and “>” buttons. When “slow” is selected (as it is initially), the volume change extends over about 4 seconds. When “fast is selected, the change extends over about 2 seconds.

Some buttons on the Dynamics dialog affect the Velocity slider, while others affect the Volume slider.


The Velocity and Volume sliders in a performance pane

These two sliders affect loudness in two different ways.

The Velocity slider affects the loudness of notes subsequently played. It does not affect the loudness of any note currently playing. This is useful if you don't want it to sound like someone turned-up (or down) the volume on a music player. The volume change takes place cleanly, on the next note played.

The Volume slider affects the loudness of the notes currently playing, as well as future notes played, like turning up (or down) the volume on a player. You need to use this slider to fade-out (or fade-in) a note.

The following screen-shot shows which buttons affect the Velocity slider, and which affect the Volume slider:


Dynamics Keys Affecting the Velocity Slider

The numeric-keypad keys 1, 2, 3, and 4, 5, 6, and 7, 8, 9 (labeled above as ppp, pp, p, and mp, reset, mf, and f, ff, fff), select the loudness using the Velocity slider. All notes played after using one of these keys will use the new Velocity setting. The Velocity slider does not affect the volume of any note currently playing.

The reset key is special, in that it specifies both the velocity and volume sliders, based on the default (or initial) values from the performance pane Velocity and Volume sliders.

Dynamics Keys Affecting the Volume Slider

The remaining keys (not-yet described) of the numeric-keypad affect the Volume slider.

The loudness control done by the Volume slider works in conjunction with the loudness controlled by the Velocity slider. They both work together.

Beware that some instrument sounds, or some synthesizers may not respond to the MIDI signal sent by adjusting the Volume slider. The ZynAddSubFX synthesizer is an example of this. Some percussion (drum) sounds will only respond to the Velocity slider.

The “sfz” loudness can only be done with the Volume slider, because it must affect the volume while a note is playing. It initially goes loud, then decreases in loudness.

It is important to take note of the initial (or default) position of the Volume slider before using these buttons.

If the slider is already most of the way to the right, it can't go much louder, because the maximum value of a MIDI control is 127, and it can't go lower than the “ppp” setting, because anything lower than the “ppp” setting is so soft you can't tell the difference.

In the configuration files provided with the KeyMusician Keyboard, the volume slider tends to be set too high for using the Dynamics window, as shown in the screen-shot below:


Notice that the Volume slider is the same as the Velocity slider, which is already at the f (forte, = loud) setting, which doesn't give much room for using the “sfz”, “<”, or “louder” buttons.

A better setting of the Volume slider is shown below:


One tick-mark above the middle (under the “T” of “VELOCITY”) is a good Volume-slider setting for using the Dynamics window.

Buttons making use of the Volume slider work best when the Volume slider is near the middle of its range.

The loudness changes made by the “<” and “>” buttons take place over a period of time, and when they get to the end of their range, the button is automatically deselected. The “sfz” button works this way as well.

If you want the volume-change to stop before reaching the end of the range, simply press the key affecting the button (or click the button), which will deselect the button, and stop the change at that point. This works with the “sfz” button as well, but is less useful in that case.

The “louder” and “softer” buttons are activated by pressing the key affecting them, or clicking them. They are deactivated by a subsequent key-press or click. These buttons are useful when a sequence of notes (or single note) is to be played noticeably louder (or softer), then the former volume level is to resume.

If you plan on switching to other performance panes, then switching back to the current pane, remember to click the “Save” button (of the performance pane) so the desired settings are preserved when you switch back to the performance pane.

The 'Clear' and 'Help' Buttons

These two buttons at the bottom of the dialog box (Clear and Help) don't correspond to numeric-keypad keys.

When you click-on the Help button, you get information similar to what you are reading now.

The Clear button clears the dynamics buttons currently selected, and then re-sets them to the state they were when the dynamics dialog was activated (or when a new performance pane was entered with the dynamics dialog active), or when the performance pane's “Save” button was last clicked.

The Clear button can be activated from the keyboard by pressing the “End” key.

The 'Dynamics' Button

To return to playing chords using the numeric-keypad, simply press the Pause/Break key (or F14 on a Mac keyboard), which will de-select this button. You could do the same thing by clicking on it using the mouse (or track-pad).

So now you know how to do loudness (dynamics) effects in your music played on the KeyMusician Keyboard. Give it a try!

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