Performing With The KeyMusician Keyboard

Though I have a high-end synthesizer and play it well, the synthesizer (and its stand) are big and bulky, and would present a big hassle to transport and set up.

The KeyMusician Keyboard, on the other hand, requires only my laptop and a typing keyboard. Usually all I need to do is connect to the house sound-system, and I'm ready to perform – easy! But I also have a modern boom-box (with a 1/8” audio plug), which runs on battery-power for outdoor venues.

I recently played around the campfire along with guitarists & singers long into the night. It was great fun. I have a little HP NetBook that lasts over 5 hours on a charge, and the boom-box with batteries (doing only audio) lasts a very long time – I haven't yet needed to replace the batteries.

Coming from my pianist/keyboardist background, I am happy to perform sitting in a chair, with the keyboard on my knees, and the laptop to the side on a table (or a laptop pedestal). That way, though I often watch what my fingers are doing, the angle is better for making eye-contact with the audience.

But it's harder for the audience to see what my fingers are doing, and doing it on a typing-keyboard, it's good to let them see fingers-on-keys, and amaze them with the music that can be performed this way. It's also good (however you perform) to be able to keep your wrists straight. It's not only more comfortable, but it prevents repetitive stress injuries.

To better let your audience see fingers-on-keys, there are ways of playing the keyboard while standing.

Malcolm likes to play totally by feel, standing, with the keyboard in a harness, swaying like Elvis. This works fine, but take care not to get carried away gyrating, and yank the laptop off its table/pedestal!

Here are two different harnesses we've made for holding the keyboard while standing:

Our first harness, made from stained & varnished wood

Playing the keyboard standing, using our first harness design

Our 2nd harness design, made by bending 1/4" malleable bar-stock (steel rod) - the strap not yet attached

We finger-painted black silicone-seal on the areas contacting the keyboard, and later added a strap with a hook to hold the keyboard securely in-place. The adjustable strap that goes over your shoulders attaches to the top of the inverted-V of each end.

Playing the keyboard in our 2nd harness design

I like to use a laptop pedestal (manufactured by the Roland company) for the laptop, since the height is adjustable, and it has rubberized clamps to hold onto the laptop itself.

So, armed with this equipment (backed-up by much practice getting the pieces ready for the show), we're ready to perform!

Malcolm, swaying like Elvis – note the laptop on its pedestal to the left

In my experience, playing standing with the keyboard in a harness works fine when one hand is on the numeric keypad (playing chords), and the other hand is on the melody section of the keyboard.

But when you play with both hands on the melody section of the keyboard, it is for me, less than optimal. The keys are smaller than piano keys, and the slight swaying motion can lead to wrong keys hit, if you're not careful.

We've come up with another way of performing standing up that works well for me, even with both hands on the melody portion of the keyboard.

The solution was to place the keyboard on a sturdy music stand (one that holds its angle well). Just adjust the height depending on how tall you are, and tilt the music stand (with the keyboard on it) so the audience can see your fingers in action:

Aere, performing standing, with the keyboard in a sturdy music stand, laptop on a pedestal to the left

For the performance above, the laptop was connected to the house sound-system.

Although you can change the volume-levels from the keyboard itself, it's good to have the laptop handy for changing setup, and loading other configuration files. I personally like to use a gamers-keyboard, so I never have to worry about multiple key-presses that won't play together.

If you would like to see part of the above performance, click on the link below:

Aere – Performance at First Unitarian Arts Festival, String Orchestra Improvisation

Hopefully this article will give you some useful ideas. Get out there and perform!

We would love to see videos (or listen to audios) of such performances.

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