Be Your Own Orchestra

With just 11 people playing KeyMusician Keyboards, you can perform the Symphonic Tone-Poem included in this article. That orchestra can also include players of the physical instruments. Think of it as a ‘garage orchestra’.

You can also (as an individual) have the experience of playing an instrument as part of a symphony orchestra, by playing along with the audio or MIDI file.

We are supplying the musical score, and all of the instrument music parts for this piece, in addition to an audio file. A MIDI file is included which you can play on the MIDI Player/Recorder, and you can even learn the parts from the MIDI file. We also supply a configuration file, so you can select what instrument of the orchestra you play, at the touch of a function-key.

You can watch a video of the piece being performed by MuseScore, as you follow along in the musical score, by clicking (following) the link below:

Symphonic Poem #1, by Aere - Video

Yes, your garage orchestra can sound as good as that, if not better, and it only takes 11 players.

Intrigued? Read on.

Download What You Need

First, you’ll need the musical score, and all of the instrument parts. In your PDF-viewer, you can download a copy. You can also print out the orchestra-score, and each of the parts (which come after the score). You can print more copies of a particular part, by printing its page-range.

You can access (view) that, by clicking on (following) the link below:

Music for Symphonic Poem #1

Since the viola uses the viola-clef, which is not currently supported by the KeyMusician Keyboard, you can access (and print) a version of the viola part which has been converted to use the treble clef. You can access it (and download and/or print it) by clicking on (following) the link below:

Symphonic Poem #1 Viola Part (treble clef)

Next, it will be very helpful if you use the KMK configuration file we supply. You can download it by right-clicking on the link below, and choosing “Save Link As” (or whatever similar thing your browser offers) in the pop-up menu. You can save it in your Downloads folder, but you’ll later have to copy (or move) it to your “KeyMusician-Keyboard” sub-folder of your home folder.


An audio file of the music will also be useful for you to play-along with, or practice with. You can download it by right-clicking on the link below, and choosing “Save Link As”, or whatever similar thing your browser offers.


A MIDI file of the music will also be useful for you to play-along with, practice with, or even use to learn the parts. You can download it by right-clicking on the link below, and choosing “Save Link As”, or whatever similar thing your browser offers.


With the above files downloaded, we’re ready to get started. The “Orchestra.kmk” file must be in your “KeyMusician-Keyboard” folder.

Using the Configuration File

Fire up the KeyMusician Keyboard application (if it’s not already running). In the F1 (Help/Setup) pane, click-on (or tab-to and open) the “Configuration File” drop box. Select its “Orchestra.kmk” entry.

With this configuration, function keys F2 through F12 select the instruments used in the “Tone-Poem-1.mid” MIDI file, as shown in the following screen-shot:

Track Summary for Tone-Poem-1.mid

In the left column, “the Track #” tells you the function-key number used to access each of the instruments used in the music. The “Channels” column tells you the MIDI channel that performance-pane uses, and the “Name” column tells you the name of the instrument sound used by the performance pane. So if you want to play, or monitor the French Horn instrument, press the F6 function key.

The F9, F10, F11, and F12 performance panes, all use the “48-Strings” (String Ensemble 1) sound, because they need to sound like an entire string section (with multiple players) rather than a string soloist sound (such as “40-Violin”, “41-Viola”, “42-Cello”, and “43-Contrabass”. Which instrument it sounds like depends on the pitch (range) of the notes played.

Though the piece is in the key of A-minor (no flats or sharps), some of the performance panes use different key-signatures, or specify a type of instrument (other than “C instrument”), as detailed below.

The F2 pane (Flute) actually plays an octave higher than what is written in the music, so “1 octave higher sound” is specified in the “Music Played Is For” drop-box:

F2 Pane’s Transpose / Key-Signature Dialog

The F4 pane (Clarinet) is a B-flat instrument, so it has 2 sharps in the key-signature (B-minor), and specifies “Bb Instrument” in the “Music Played Is For” drop-box of the “Set Transpose-Interval / Key-Signature” window shown below at the lower right:

The F4 Pane’s Main Window and Transpone / Key-Signature Dialog

The F6 Pane’s (French Horns) Transpose – Key-Signature dialog specifies a key-signature of 1-sharp (E-minor), and specifies “F Instrument” in the “Music Played Is For” drop-box:

F6 Pane’s Transpose / Key-Signature Dialog

The F12 pane (Contrabass) actually plays an octave lower than what is written in the music, so “1 octave lower sound” is specified in the “Music Played Is For” drop-box:

F12 Pane’s Transpose / Key-Signature Dialog

The Chords Pane’s instrument is “45-Pizzicato Section”, and it’s Bass Octave spin-control (pointed-to by the cursor in the picture) is set to1, to cause it to play 1 octave lower than the same note keys would otherwise play. This is done because we can’t use the “Music Played Is For” drop-box on the Chords Pane:

The Main Window of the Chords Pane With Bass Octave Set To 1 (for playing Contrabass Pizzicato)

You can switch to the Chords Pane by pressing the Num-Lock key, or the F13 key on a Mac.

The problem with using the “Bass Octave” spin-control to do this, is that the notes shown will be an octave lower than is shown in the music (which is what the contrabass instrument actually plays).

What is pizzicato, and arco, or even tremolo?

The string instruments, though normally played using a bow, can also be played be plucking the strings. They can also be played with a wavering sound using the bow, called tremolo.

The music will indicate what way the string instrument play is to play the instrument, as shown in the music below:

In the music above, “pizz” (pizzicato) indicates to start playing the notes by plucking, and “arco” indicates to play the notes by bowing. At the start of the piece, if not indicated otherwise, bowing (arco) is assumed.

The best strategy in using the configuration file we supply for playing the Contrabass by both bowing, and plucking, is to learn it all by playing it as bowed (arco). Then (when you already know the fingering), where it says “pizz” (pizzicato) in the music, switch to the Chords pane (by pressing Num-Lock or F13), and play using those same fingerings you used learning it in the F12 pane.

Important: In our orchestra, we won’t be playing chords, but instead will use the numeric keypad for controlling dynamics (volume). So be sure to switch the Chords Window to become the Dynamics Window, by pressing the Pause/Break” key, or F14 on a Mac. When you do this, the Dynamics Window will appear, looking something like this:

The Dynamics Window, where you can instantly set the volume to what is in the music

In all of the performance panes, the VOLUME slider is set just right of center so that they will work well with the Dynamics Window. To compensate for the lower VOLUME setting, the “11-Expression” ASSIGNABLE control (another way of controlling volume) has been set as high as possible.

Note: The Viola part in music, usually uses the Viola (Alto) clef, which is different from the Treble Clef, or Bass Clef, used in the KMK’s music display, as shown below:

In the Viola clef, middle C is the middle line of the 5 staff-lines. Since the KeyMusician Keyboard doesn’t currently support clefs other than the Treble or Bass clefs, a special music part for the Viola has been supplied, which uses the Treble clef.

Also in the music shown above, there are two multi-measure rests shown (each, in this case, 4 measures long). You would count these rests out, while not playing, as: 1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 3, 4, 4, 2, 3, 4. Think of the bold numbers as accented, indicating which measure is being counted. After the designated number of measures are counted-over, you start playing.

Playing The MIDI or Audio Files

You can play the MIDI file you downloaded, using the MIDI Player/Recorder window, by connecting to any General-MIDI compatible synthesizer you have access to. You connect the player to that synthesizer, by specifying it in the Playback Device drop-box at the top of the Player/Recorder window. You can certainly use the Java Sound (Gervill) Synthesizer, as shown in the screen-shot below:

The MIDI Player/Recorder Window, set to play the TonePoem-1 MIDI file, using the Java Sound Synthesizer

You’ll need to browse to where you put the downloaded MIDI file, by clicking on (activating) the “Browse” button of the Player/Recorder window. When you load the MIDI file into the player, the Track Summary window will appear.

The Track Summary Window

After doing that, you can click on (activate) the Player/Recorder window’s “Play” button, and it should start playing, in addition to transfering keyboard-focus to the main KMK window.

While playing it, try pressing the function keys corresponding to the “Track #” column of the Track Summary window, to see the notes being played in the main KMK window, and the keyboard keys used, in the Keyboard Monitor window.

Be aware that not all instruments are playing all the time, and if no notes are currently being played on that track, no notes will be displayed. You can even learn to play (and memorize) those notes coming from the MIDI player, from what is displayed. You can also control the playback speed of the MIDI player, using its Speed % slider, to make it easier to keep up with the music.

You can play the audio file you downloaded above, using your favorite audio player on your computer, or even on a smartphone, provided it’s connected to a good sound-system with similar volume to what you’ll be playing. But it won’t show you the notes being played – that only works when playing the MIDI file.

The music of the instrument parts (as well as the MIDI and audio files) can be distributed to the members of your garage orchestra, and they can learn to play the parts, along with the music. When you all are good at playing the parts, you are ready to get together, and play the parts together.

Playing The Parts Together

Basically, in playing with the 11 members of your orchestra together, you are expanding on what is shown in the picture below:

A Duo, Performing with KeyMusician Keyboards

The easiest way, is to have each player have their own amplifier behind them, so they can easily hear what they are playing, separate from what the others are playing.

The amplifier is behind the players, so they can easily hear what they are playing, which wouldn’t be the case if the amplifier were in front.

There’s no problem with getting a feedback-sound, where no microphones are used.

You could connect all the laptops to a single mixer-box, connected to a single amplifier. But in that case, it may be hard to distinguishing what you are playing, from what the others are playing – particularly for the string instruments, which all use the String Ensemble sound, and the instruments are distinguished only by the pitch of the notes played.

Make sure to do a sound-check before you start, so that everyone is playing at a similar volume level, using the volume control in the task-bar of their computer. During the performance, each player sets the volume using the Dynamics Window and the dynamics markings in the music.

You can also have players of actual instruments participating, using the music parts you printed. Make sure that the volume levels of the KMK players is compatible with the volume level of the actual instruments.

You’ll need music stands, if you’re playing from the music. This particular piece is short enough, that it’s reasonable to memorize it.

With only 11 players, you don’t really need a conductor. One of you can give a verbal count-in, and then the ones playing at the beginning of the piece, start playing.

So give it a try. At least, you can experience what it feels like to perform in a symphony orchestra – even if you just play along with the audio or MIDI file.

Who knows? Maybe garage symphony orchestras will spring up all over the world...

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