|Instruction manual - Pizzicato 3.6.2||EN830 - Revision of 2013/05/29|
Composition tools - Virtual keyboards
Watch also the following video:
Virtual keyboards [Professional] [Composition Pro]
The purpose of a virtual keyboard is to expand the playing possibilities of a single musical keyboard and to make it possible to play several instruments with only one keyboard. This principle is common in most synthesizers and is often called a performance. It is a preset of various sounds programmed on the keyboard and that may be used together in a performance.
A virtual keyboard is a musical object that may contain several instruments. It takes its input from a MIDI input port connected to a musical keyboard. If you do not have a musical keyboard connected to your computer, you may still use the virtual keyboard but it will be more limited, mainly because the mouse is not easily handled to play on a keyboard displayed on the screen.
To show how a virtual keyboard is build and used, we will create one as an example.
- Start Pizzicato and open the conductor view. Click on the green document icon (configuration 1) with the right mouse button and select the New virtual keyboard... menu item. The following window appears:
This is the dialog definition of a virtual keyboard. All values are set to their default values. No instrument is defined yet. For our example, we would like to have one octave of acoustic bass instrument. To add it, we will find it in the basic instruments of the left upper tree of the conductor view and drag it on the keyboard.
- Open the Basic instruments folder and then the Bass folder as explained in the previous lesson. Drag the Acoustic bass instrument and drop it in the middle of the above musical keyboard. The upper part of the window becomes:
The instrument specifications of the acoustic bass instrument have been copied into the keyboard. The brown keys are the keys included in the standard bass instrument. You may play on this keyboard by clicking on it or by using your MIDI keyboard. Notice that when you play notes beyond the limits, no sound is played. The colored notes are the notes where the keyboard will answer for this instrument. If you want to drag another instrument but keep the same range, just drag it while holding down the CTRL key.
- As we do not want to have the full range, we will limit it to one octave. To limit it to the left, click on a key with the left button while holding down the CTRL key. To limit to the right, click with the right button while holding down the CTRL key. Try it a few times to understand how it works and then finalize by setting the following range for the bass:
Here is the explanation for the various parts of this dialog.
- The Title text block lets you specify a name for this keyboard setup. Name it My keyboard.
- The MIDI input menu gives you the list of MIDI input ports from which the notes will be sent to this keyboard. By default, it takes the first MIDI input port available in your MIDI setup.
The above two parameters are global for all instruments of the keyboard (here above, there is only one instrument defined, we will add other instruments further).
- The Instrument menu displays the name of the current instrument (the one for which parameters are displayed below this menu). With this menu, you may access one of them by selecting it. The "<" and ">" buttons helps you go from one instrument to the other, without using the menu.
- The New instrument and Delete instrument buttons lets you add/delete one instrument to/from this keyboard.
- The Modify... button gives you access to the current instrument specifications exactly as explained in the lesson on instruments. You may modify it through this button.
The following parameters are specific for each instrument defined in the virtual keyboard. They are displayed for the current instrument (as selected by the Instrument menu).
- The two Transposition menus may be used respectively to add a fixed transposition, in half tones (from -12 to +12 half tones) and an octave transposition (from -6 to +6 octaves).
- The MIDI output menu specifies where the notes of this instrument must be sent. This menu contains the list of MIDI output ports available in your MIDI setup.
- 5 sliders lets you fix the volume, the panoramic, the vibrato, the reverberation and the chorus levels for this instrument.
- Two text boxes lets you specify the limits of note velocities taken into account. If the incoming note is outside this range, the note will not be played. This may be useful if your keyboard transmits velocity. You may define for instance three levels of velocity and define three instruments that are progressively played when the input velocity increases. For instance, you may set the piano to answer to the full range of velocities (from 1 to 127). Then you may add a string instrument to play whenever the velocity comes between 64 and 127. Finally, you may add a brass instrument that will play only if the velocity is greater than 100. All three instruments may occupy the same range on the keyboard. You will then have a keyboard that will automatically add instruments to the orchestra as the velocity of your notes increases.
- The MIDI input channels... button is used to specify on which MIDI channel the notes will be listen to. By default, all 16 channels are used. Sometimes, multiple keyboards devices sent the notes on different channels to specify the original keyboard where the note was hit. This dialog may then be used to determine on which keyboard the notes will be taken into account.
- The velocity curve is a little bit more technical. When you play on a sensitive keyboard (a keyboard that sends the velocity information in MIDI), the harder your hit the key, the higher the velocity level. You may want to adjust this progressive curve by moving the two sliders at both sides of the velocity curve. By default, the curve is standard: velocities are transmitted as received. Here are two additional examples:
- No influence of the incoming velocity: all notes are set for instance to a velocity value of 100. You may hit the keyboard very hard or very lightly, the resulting force of the note will be the same:
- The full range of incoming velocities are adapted in a small range from 80 to 110. It will attenuate the range of velocities you play:
- The velocity / pitch curve is an additional factor that will influence the velocity of notes depending on their position on the keyboard. By default, the two sliders are set to 100 (%), which means that the input velocity will be transmitted at 100% of its value, as well to the left than to the right of the keyboard. If you increase the right slider to 200, for the same incoming velocity the notes will become stronger when going from the left to the right of the keyboard. The higher notes will be played at 200 % of their incoming velocity level.
- Two check boxes enable/disable the incoming pedal and pitch bend MIDI messages. It may be useful to enable the pedal action on one of the instruments and not on another one. Same for the pitch bend wheel present on some MIDI keyboards.
- The Playing mode menu is by default on Normal. It means that notes will be played as they come in from the MIDI keyboard. If you set it on Hold, you may play a chord and release the keyboard and the chord will still be hold. Whenever you play another chord, the last one disappears and the new one is hold. This is used to play background chords or notes so that you may play it and then use your hands on another part of the keyboard while those notes are still playing. It is a sort of local pedal that is released whenever you play a new note on this keyboard range.
- The Polyphony menu is set by default on No limit. All notes will be played. You may set the polyphony limit from 1 to 8 notes. Set on 1, Pizzicato will only play one note at a time. If a second note comes in, Pizzicato will first release the current note and then start the new note.
Let us continue with our example. We now have a bass playing on the first octave of the keyboard. We will add on the same range a vibes note that will be played 3 octaves higher than the bass note.
- Click on the New instrument button. In the Basic instruments folder, open the Percussion folder and then the Chromatic folder. Drag the Vibes instrument and drop it on the keyboard. The upper part of the window becomes:
- Set the range on the same octave and add a +3 octaves transposition. Play some notes in the colored area. They are accompanied by the vibes.
- Add another instrument with the same button. Open the Strings folder, then the Ensemble folder and drag the Strings (Ensemble) instrument on the keyboard. Set the range to have:
- Set the Playing mode menu to Hold. Play a note or a chord inside the blue area and then release it. The note continues to play. An important remark must be made here: when using the Hold playing mode, the last note of the range (here the B3 note) is used to stop any playing note and is not used as a note itself. So if you now play the last note, the previous playing notes will stop. Without this, you would never been able to stop this part of the keyboard.
- We will now add 2 percussion instruments: the bass drum and the cymbal. We will assign them to the next two notes just to the right of the strings. Add an new instrument. Open the Percussions folder, then the Individual instruments folder and drag the Bass drum instrument on the keyboard. Set its range to be one note: the C4 key, just to the right of the string range:
- Add a new instrument and drag the Ride cymb 1 instrument on the keyboard. Adjust the range to have:
- We will now add a last instrument to cover the upper part of the keyboard. Add a new instrument. Open the Blown folder and drag the Harmonica instrument on the keyboard. Adjust the range to:
Our example is now complete. You may click on the "-" button just below the keyboard, on the left. This button switches between the edit mode (where you can modify and add instruments as we did here) and the playing mode (in which you see all instrument ranges and can play with it). The virtual keyboard becomes:
Notice that you can open and use several virtual keyboards at the same time. The virtual keyboard is active as soon as it is open. When you close it, it does not play anymore. You can active it again with a double click on its icon, in this case inside your document.
You may now play with it and compose music!