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Online Guide Controller Keyboards
Control Features

 

Many
Master1) The final version of an audio recording or album that has been prepared for release. 2) The physical medium on which this recording is stored or transferred, such as a glass master CD, CDR or vinyl master from which a production run will be replicated or pressed.
master
keyboards allow the player to do a great deal more than simply play notes.
MIDIMIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a control language that enables electronic instruments to communicate with each other. In days gone by, if you wanted to play a sound from a given synthesiser, you had to physically play that specific synth’s keyboard - this resulted in performers being surrounded by huge arrays of keyboards.
MIDI
connections can also carry a number of different control signals which are used to manipulate sounds in a variety of ways, and also to affect the programming of sound modules and other devices. Let’s take a look at the most important types of controller data along with the keyboard features that are usually associated with them:


Velocity

After pitch, the most important piece of data carried as part of every
MIDIMIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a control language that enables electronic instruments to communicate with each other. In days gone by, if you wanted to play a sound from a given synthesiser, you had to physically play that specific synth’s keyboard - this resulted in performers being surrounded by huge arrays of keyboards.
MIDI
note instruction is its ‘velocity’. This tells the instrument receiving the data how hard each note has been struck. This is vital to the realism of most sampled acoustic sounds such as piano, and to the expressive possibilities of many synth sounds. Where it is not relevant, the instruction is simply ignored – for example, a realistic organ sound does not respond to
VelocityIn MIDI, the speed at which a key is struck, which is usually programmed to affect the volume and often also the timbre of the note produced. Strictly speaking this is 'attack' velocity; its counterpart, 'release' velocity, represents how quickly the key is released, but is not often implemented.
velocity
data. In the past, the cheapest keyboards were not
VelocityIn MIDI, the speed at which a key is struck, which is usually programmed to affect the volume and often also the timbre of the note produced. Strictly speaking this is 'attack' velocity; its counterpart, 'release' velocity, represents how quickly the key is released, but is not often implemented.
velocity
sensitive at all, so
VelocityIn MIDI, the speed at which a key is struck, which is usually programmed to affect the volume and often also the timbre of the note produced. Strictly speaking this is 'attack' velocity; its counterpart, 'release' velocity, represents how quickly the key is released, but is not often implemented.
velocity
SensitivityThe input level (in dB) required by an audio device to drive it to its rated output level.
sensitivity
was advertised as a selling point. Very few keyboards lack
VelocityIn MIDI, the speed at which a key is struck, which is usually programmed to affect the volume and often also the timbre of the note produced. Strictly speaking this is 'attack' velocity; its counterpart, 'release' velocity, represents how quickly the key is released, but is not often implemented.
velocity
today, so the fact is often not even mentioned.

Many
Master1) The final version of an audio recording or album that has been prepared for release. 2) The physical medium on which this recording is stored or transferred, such as a glass master CD, CDR or vinyl master from which a production run will be replicated or pressed.
master
keyboards feature a number of selectable ‘velocity curves’. These affect the relationship between the physical force with which a note is played, and the number used to represent it in data. In simple terms, this makes a sound more or less responsive to physical performance dynamics.

‘Velocity’ refers by
DefaultOften the state a device or parameter is set to when first powered up and one that can be returned to by selecting 'default' either in a menu or the press of a button. A user-edited setting can often be set as the default if required.
default
to ‘note-on’
VelocityIn MIDI, the speed at which a key is struck, which is usually programmed to affect the volume and often also the timbre of the note produced. Strictly speaking this is 'attack' velocity; its counterpart, 'release' velocity, represents how quickly the key is released, but is not often implemented.
velocity
– the force with which a
KeyAn additional input on a dynamics processor such as a compressor or noise gate, enabling the dynamics of one signal to control the level of another. This can be used for many functions, including ducking (compressing a music signal when a DJ or announcer speaks), synchronised gating, and (in conjunction with an equaliser) de-essing.
key
is pressed. Its logical counterpart is ‘note-off’
VelocityIn MIDI, the speed at which a key is struck, which is usually programmed to affect the volume and often also the timbre of the note produced. Strictly speaking this is 'attack' velocity; its counterpart, 'release' velocity, represents how quickly the key is released, but is not often implemented.
velocity
– the speed at which it is released. Not all keyboards implement this instruction, and most sounds do not respond to it.


Pitch Bend

Pitch Bend

This controller allows notes to be bent up or down in pitch as they sound, and is usually controlled by a pitch wheel placed directly to the left of the keyboard, as pitch bend is generally only appropriate to
MonophonicInstrument or synthesizer sound consisting of (and usually only capable of) one note at a time. Wind and brass instruments are by definition monophonic, as is the voice (unless you are a particularly skilled performer!), whereas keyboard instruments are polyphonic.
monophonic
lines. The wheel usually springs back to its centre position (no bend) when released. The actual pitch range depends on the sound in use (often +/- one semitone, one tone or one octave).


Modulation

The
ModulationThe varying of some property of a waveform, usually in response to another signal. For example, in amplitude modulation (AM), one signal is used to vary the amplitude of another; in frequency modulation (FM), one signal varies the frequency of the other.
modulation
or ‘mod’ wheel is usually found next to the pitch wheel and is commonly physically identical, except that it generally retains its position when released. ‘Modulation’ is a somewhat vague term in this context - the mod wheel usually adds some form of
ModulationThe varying of some property of a waveform, usually in response to another signal. For example, in amplitude modulation (AM), one signal is used to vary the amplitude of another; in frequency modulation (FM), one signal varies the frequency of the other.
modulation
effect such as vibrato or
Tremolo1) An effect caused by periodic fluctuations in the volume of a note or chord, produced naturally by some singers but more commonly encountered as a guitar effect. 2) A common synonym for the guitar vibrato arm (whammy bar), in almost universal use even though it is technically incorrect: vibrato is the correct term as the arm produces variations in pitch, not volume.
tremolo
, but can also be used to control other parameters such as
FilterA circuit used to remove or accentuate frequencies in a sound source. Common types are found on mixing consoles equalisation, synthesizers and dedicated processors such as graphic equalisers.
filter
cut-off frequency and the balance between discrete components within a sound.


AftertouchA function on many electronic keyboards that generates additional sounds or effects when a key is pressed harder. For example, if a key is producing a brass sound, pressing harder may add vibrato, or a wah-wah effect to simulate the use of a mute.
Aftertouch
(Pressure)

This controller allows the player to affect some aspect of the note while they
KeyAn additional input on a dynamics processor such as a compressor or noise gate, enabling the dynamics of one signal to control the level of another. This can be used for many functions, including ducking (compressing a music signal when a DJ or announcer speaks), synchronised gating, and (in conjunction with an equaliser) de-essing.
key
is pressed, usually vibrato or
Tremolo1) An effect caused by periodic fluctuations in the volume of a note or chord, produced naturally by some singers but more commonly encountered as a guitar effect. 2) A common synonym for the guitar vibrato arm (whammy bar), in almost universal use even though it is technically incorrect: vibrato is the correct term as the arm produces variations in pitch, not volume.
tremolo
, allowing the player much freer control of these techniques than by using the mod wheel. By continuously varying finger pressure, expression is literally ‘squeezed’ from the note in a manner similar to that used when playing a stringed instrument with vibrato.

Unless otherwise stated, this is almost always
MonophonicInstrument or synthesizer sound consisting of (and usually only capable of) one note at a time. Wind and brass instruments are by definition monophonic, as is the voice (unless you are a particularly skilled performer!), whereas keyboard instruments are polyphonic.
monophonic
AftertouchA function on many electronic keyboards that generates additional sounds or effects when a key is pressed harder. For example, if a key is producing a brass sound, pressing harder may add vibrato, or a wah-wah effect to simulate the use of a mute.
aftertouch
- pressure applied to any
KeyAn additional input on a dynamics processor such as a compressor or noise gate, enabling the dynamics of one signal to control the level of another. This can be used for many functions, including ducking (compressing a music signal when a DJ or announcer speaks), synchronised gating, and (in conjunction with an equaliser) de-essing.
key
affects all notes being played.
Polyphonic1) An instrument capable of playing more than one note at once. 2) Music comprising several parts or layers with some degree of rhythmic independence.
Polyphonic
AftertouchA function on many electronic keyboards that generates additional sounds or effects when a key is pressed harder. For example, if a key is producing a brass sound, pressing harder may add vibrato, or a wah-wah effect to simulate the use of a mute.
aftertouch
is relatively rare and is often used as a yardstick by which the most advanced keyboards are marketed.
Polyphonic1) An instrument capable of playing more than one note at once. 2) Music comprising several parts or layers with some degree of rhythmic independence.
Polyphonic
AftertouchA function on many electronic keyboards that generates additional sounds or effects when a key is pressed harder. For example, if a key is producing a brass sound, pressing harder may add vibrato, or a wah-wah effect to simulate the use of a mute.
aftertouch
allows individual
KeyAn additional input on a dynamics processor such as a compressor or noise gate, enabling the dynamics of one signal to control the level of another. This can be used for many functions, including ducking (compressing a music signal when a DJ or announcer speaks), synchronised gating, and (in conjunction with an equaliser) de-essing.
keys
to send their own independent
AftertouchA function on many electronic keyboards that generates additional sounds or effects when a key is pressed harder. For example, if a key is producing a brass sound, pressing harder may add vibrato, or a wah-wah effect to simulate the use of a mute.
aftertouch
data, however this is ignored by most
MIDIMIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a control language that enables electronic instruments to communicate with each other. In days gone by, if you wanted to play a sound from a given synthesiser, you had to physically play that specific synth’s keyboard - this resulted in performers being surrounded by huge arrays of keyboards.
MIDI
instruments.


Pedals

Most controller keyboards have a
SustainA general term with various specific meanings in music/audio production: 1) In general terms, how well an instrument's sound persists once played. 2) The third part of the ADSR envelope used by many synthesisers, Sustain ('S') determines to what volume a note decays after it is triggered, but before the key is released. (Decay 'D' controls how fast this happens) 3) The piano pedal which removes the dampers from the strings, so that notes will continue to sound even after the keys have been released. This is implemented in MIDI as a specific message with 2 possible values: 127 (pedal down) and 1 (pedal up).
sustain
pedal connection. Pressing the pedal results in a
MIDIMIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a control language that enables electronic instruments to communicate with each other. In days gone by, if you wanted to play a sound from a given synthesiser, you had to physically play that specific synth’s keyboard - this resulted in performers being surrounded by huge arrays of keyboards.
MIDI
SustainA general term with various specific meanings in music/audio production: 1) In general terms, how well an instrument's sound persists once played. 2) The third part of the ADSR envelope used by many synthesisers, Sustain ('S') determines to what volume a note decays after it is triggered, but before the key is released. (Decay 'D' controls how fast this happens) 3) The piano pedal which removes the dampers from the strings, so that notes will continue to sound even after the keys have been released. This is implemented in MIDI as a specific message with 2 possible values: 127 (pedal down) and 1 (pedal up).
sustain
message, causing notes to
SustainA general term with various specific meanings in music/audio production: 1) In general terms, how well an instrument's sound persists once played. 2) The third part of the ADSR envelope used by many synthesisers, Sustain ('S') determines to what volume a note decays after it is triggered, but before the key is released. (Decay 'D' controls how fast this happens) 3) The piano pedal which removes the dampers from the strings, so that notes will continue to sound even after the keys have been released. This is implemented in MIDI as a specific message with 2 possible values: 127 (pedal down) and 1 (pedal up).
sustain
after
KeyAn additional input on a dynamics processor such as a compressor or noise gate, enabling the dynamics of one signal to control the level of another. This can be used for many functions, including ducking (compressing a music signal when a DJ or announcer speaks), synchronised gating, and (in conjunction with an equaliser) de-essing.
keys
have been released. This is important for realistic piano sounds, but may also be used to create crescendo
EffectsGeneral term applied to audio processors for dynamics, time, ambience and equalisation whether in the form of 19" rack units, guitar floor pedals, or software plug-ins.
effects
as the number of sounding voices increases.

Pedals

More advanced
Master1) The final version of an audio recording or album that has been prepared for release. 2) The physical medium on which this recording is stored or transferred, such as a glass master CD, CDR or vinyl master from which a production run will be replicated or pressed.
master
keyboards usually incorporate a number of other pedal connections including the other two grand piano pedals (una corda/damper and sostenuto), as well as
Volume1) In audio and music, the loudness or amplitude of a signal. 2) In computing, a fixed amount of storage space, addressed as a single entity ('C:', 'D:' etc). A physical drive may contain more than one volume, but a single volume may also span more than one drive!
volume
pedals and switch pedals which may be used for various functions including patch/program change (see below).


Control Knobs

Control Knobs

Many sound modules and software instruments respond to a range of
MIDIMIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a control language that enables electronic instruments to communicate with each other. In days gone by, if you wanted to play a sound from a given synthesiser, you had to physically play that specific synth’s keyboard - this resulted in performers being surrounded by huge arrays of keyboards.
MIDI
controllers beyond simple pitch bend and
ModulationThe varying of some property of a waveform, usually in response to another signal. For example, in amplitude modulation (AM), one signal is used to vary the amplitude of another; in frequency modulation (FM), one signal varies the frequency of the other.
modulation
. These controllers include
FilterA circuit used to remove or accentuate frequencies in a sound source. Common types are found on mixing consoles equalisation, synthesizers and dedicated processors such as graphic equalisers.
filter
and
ReleaseThe final stage of an envelope, that in synthesizers determines how long a sound will continue to play after the key has been released. In a compressor, release is the parameter that defines how long compression will continue once the input signal has fallen back below the threshold level.
envelope
parameters,
OscillatorIn analogue circuitry an oscillator is an AC generator whose output voltage is used to produce a signal of variable frequency usually from 20Hz up to 15kHz. The raw oscillator sound usually has one of a number of basic waveform shapes or timbres (sine, square or sawtooth) and is used as the basic sound source for many analogue synthesizers.
oscillator
frequencies, balance between components within a sound, and just about anything else you can think of. Dedicated controller hardware does exist, but many
Master1) The final version of an audio recording or album that has been prepared for release. 2) The physical medium on which this recording is stored or transferred, such as a glass master CD, CDR or vinyl master from which a production run will be replicated or pressed.
master
keyboards also include a dozen or more knobs and sliders for this purpose.


Program/Bank Change/Presets

Most
MIDIMIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a control language that enables electronic instruments to communicate with each other. In days gone by, if you wanted to play a sound from a given synthesiser, you had to physically play that specific synth’s keyboard - this resulted in performers being surrounded by huge arrays of keyboards.
MIDI
sound sources respond to program/bank change messages. This allows sounds to be changed remotely, either directly by number or via up/down messages. More advanced implementations of this idea allow the controller to store
PresetA program or patch forming part of a synthesizer of other device's factory-shipped state. Presets usually can't be overwritten, but they may usually be edited and the result stored to a user program.
presets
so that the sounds required for a particular gig can be easily accessed in order, even though they may not have adjacent program numbers on the sound module, or indeed come from completely separate modules.


Split/Zone Functions

Most controller keyboards have a simple split function, allowing the top and bottom halves of the keyboard to send their data on separate
MIDIMIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a control language that enables electronic instruments to communicate with each other. In days gone by, if you wanted to play a sound from a given synthesiser, you had to physically play that specific synth’s keyboard - this resulted in performers being surrounded by huge arrays of keyboards.
MIDI
channels, for example to allow playing strings with the right hand and piano with the left. ‘Zones’ offer a more sophisticated version of this idea - typically all zones may be defined independently. For example,
ZoneIn music technology, a range of notes on a MIDI keyboard. Zones may be overlapping or discrete, for example so that the entire keyboard triggers a piano sound, but the upper part of the range adds strings (overlapping zones), or so that the right hand may play piano while the left hand plays double bass (discrete zones).
Zone
1 may be made to cover the entire keyboard sending on Channel 1, while
ZoneIn music technology, a range of notes on a MIDI keyboard. Zones may be overlapping or discrete, for example so that the entire keyboard triggers a piano sound, but the upper part of the range adds strings (overlapping zones), or so that the right hand may play piano while the left hand plays double bass (discrete zones).
Zone
2 adds strings above middle C on Channel 2, and
ZoneIn music technology, a range of notes on a MIDI keyboard. Zones may be overlapping or discrete, for example so that the entire keyboard triggers a piano sound, but the upper part of the range adds strings (overlapping zones), or so that the right hand may play piano while the left hand plays double bass (discrete zones).
Zone
3 is assigned to only one note and triggers a gong sound on Channel 3 – intoxicating power!


Octave/Transpose

The
Transpose1) The act of moving a piece or passage of music up or down in pitch to suit the range of a singer or instrument, or for other musical effect. 2) A function present on many MIDI keyboards allowing played notes to be transposed by a given number of semitones automatically.
transpose
function allows the player to
Transpose1) The act of moving a piece or passage of music up or down in pitch to suit the range of a singer or instrument, or for other musical effect. 2) A function present on many MIDI keyboards allowing played notes to be transposed by a given number of semitones automatically.
transpose
the note data sent by a given number of semitones (very useful when a singer asks you to ‘take it up a third’). Octave buttons simply
Transpose1) The act of moving a piece or passage of music up or down in pitch to suit the range of a singer or instrument, or for other musical effect. 2) A function present on many MIDI keyboards allowing played notes to be transposed by a given number of semitones automatically.
transpose
the range in steps of one octave. This permits access to notes beyond the keyboard’s physical range, and is particularly useful on smaller keyboards.

 

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