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Who covers multiple parts on a single keyboard?

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In reality, I want the freedom to improvise across a wide range of notes, and a split hampers that approach.


No matter how intelligently I set the split point, I always wind up crossing it inadvertently.


Thank you. I thought I was going to be the only one to cop to this.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

-Mark Twain


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I use 2 boards, an Electro 3 on bottom for organ or piano sounds, and a Jupiter 50 on top for everything else and also just piano sometimes, when the organ is used on the bottom.


Since the only split allowed on E3s are organ splits (what a joke, Nord), I split all organ sounds so the mid-range is duplicated at the bottom third or so of the board, to keep from hitting really low notes, interfering with the bass. Also allows me to hold chords with either hand when possible, when thirsty.



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Les Mis is a little crazy, as probably more than half of the patches are various articulations/arrangements of string sections. Marcatto for two bars, tremolo right hand violas and cello and bass (non trem) in the left hand for four bars, sul pont for a measure, then just normal 'strings,' but four measures in every note above the Eb a 10th above middle C gets doubled an octave down . . . etc etc etc.


Needless to say it's a lot of those details that I left out for the sake of space and time.


Yes, a lot of that sort of thing in Shrek. I'm cutting a couple corners here and there, but not many, and only ones that are surely unnoticeable to anyone but the original programmer. I did Bye Bye Birdie a couple years ago and that was probably the closest one I've had to this setup (music was fun, lots of big band and swing). I do like the challenge, but it is a bit painstaking until you get the presets all ironed out. And I'm quite sure the original programmer was getting paid far more than I am :)

If music is soul food, man am I hungry!


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Most of my work is church (acoustic piano and pipe organ) and musical theater. For shows, my preferred rig is a Casio PX3 controlling MainStage 3. I have a Logidy UM13 that serves as a foot switch for patch changes, and also provides an expression input. Because the parts I play are usually fully notated, I don't have to worry about accidentally crossing a split point. Also, with MainStage, it's really easy to set up floating split points, use a different octave, or add a patch to avoid conflicts. I also don't have to worry about drunks knocking over my rig.


Right now, I'm playing Keys 2 on Les Miserables, which has over 300 patch changes, sometimes occurring only a few beats apart. A hardware rig that could handle this show as notated would cost a lot more than I spent on my laptop, and be harder to program.


I've thought about adding a second tier controller, but for most shows it would just complicate things. I actually prefer the weighted action for most sounds, including brass and strings, so I don't miss having an unweighted board most of the time. Also, my rig is light, fits in my Toyota Celica, and only requires one trip for load in and load out.

Casio PX-5S, Casio PX-3, Hammond SK1, Roland XP-10, Classic MIDI Works AGO MIDI Pedalboard, Mainstage 3, Hauptwerk, Conn 8D


Previously owned: Yamaha DGX 230, Alesis Q88, Novation Impulse 61

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I don't like doing it--I try my best to consolidate parts to avoid it, and I wouldn't be in a band that got super-picky about it--but some songs I need to do it, at least if I'm doing a one-keyboard gig. I do use two boards but I program my main board (kurzweil pc361) to be able to handle everything for benefits/short gigs.


When my Motif 61 was my only board, I got a little overboard on a few tunes and had four splits across 61 keys! In one case I had to shift octave to make it work for different parts of the song. Relax was a main offender, there's a zillion sounds in that thing....Rebel Yell also has a few.


If the multiple sounds I need don't happen at the same time, I tend to just switch patches quickly; this still can be tricky and I've thought about a midi foot deal to manage this better...but simple setup and less possibility for problems always are on my mind :)

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My full setup is a Roland A-70 controller on top of a Kurzweil PC3x and a rack which has a Hammond XM-2 running into a Vent and Roland V-Synth as well as my line mixer.


But I often just bring the PC3x and the rack to gigs when the splits aren't as demanding.


The PC3's Setup mode has tons of MIDI programming flexibility. Aside from the 128 standard CC's it also has a bunch of internal ones like Zone Mute, Solo Zone, Transpose, etc. So even when I do need more splits I'm able to use Momentary foot switches or just the mod wheel to mute/unmute zones. It's so powerful that I'm able to call up and entire new batch of splits on the fly just by pressing a foot switch. Let the footswitch go and I'm back to my original split setup.


With clever programming it's essentially like having 2 keyboards.

Ian Benhamou



[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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I really hate splits, cause i feel trapped. I will do it only occasionally, and only if the gig absolutely asks (and pays!) for this. Otherwise i try to keep with one sound on my Electro 3 - either piano, ep, organ or the occasional synth. I wonder why we keyboardists put ourselves in the condition to be man-orchestra? If they need strings, let them get an orchestra OR we play the lines accordingly our aesthetics. These days i play more and more with my Electro 3 the instruments i love, not cheesy brass and strings. After all the audience could not care less if the lines are played with a string or a hammond sound. My two cents..l
Be grateful for what you've got - a Nord, a laptop and two hands
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I also much prefer to add a keyboard than to do a split, using two stacks of two when I have my druthers. But sometimes (spl)it's a necessary evil.


My record was a three-way split on an Ensoniq SQ-32. The bottom two zones were the same electric guitar, offset by two octaves, so I could simulate 16th note double strumming (a la "Edge"); the top zone was a nice analogue-ish brass for the outro.


Recently, on my first outing with my new/old K2500R, I used a two-way split to facilitate 16th note sawing on a fiddle.


And yes, I lost track once and went down the scale and landed on a B two octaves up.

-Tom Williams

{First Name} {at} AirNetworking {dot} com

PC4-7, PX-5S, AX-Edge, PC361


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  • 4 weeks later...

I can go the "one board" route with either my Kronos 88 or my CP300 / Motif ES rack combination - however, I much prefer the "two board" route.


I find it's easier to work with layers than with splits. A patch created using splits usually means it's a "one song" special - that never gets used for anything else. Trying to use a "one board" split patch for another song usually just ends up reminding me that my memory is going since I seem to always forget exactly where the split point is and end up trying a lick or run that unwittingly crosses it with disastrous results.


I can make a "one board" patch work with splits ... but happily schlepp a 2nd board to avoid having to go that route.

The SpaceNorman :freak:
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I could never get comfortable with splits, either... and prefer bringing 2 keyboards - normally a Nord C1 and an Electro 2 73. The Electro also controls modules.


We only do a few songs/parts that require piano, so when there's no space I'll have the C1 lower manual control a piano module - and can play organ from the upper manual simultaneously. It works surprisingly well.


I will ALWAYS bring a second board, though. My main board died mid-show once, and fortunately I had the Electro standing by offstage and swapped it in quickly. (I now always bring a spare amp or powered speaker - just in case.)


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I usually gig with two keyboards on a dual stand: a Hammond XK1c below for just that sound, and a Kurzweil SP4-7 above for other sounds, using different groups of setups for different bands.


For a soul/jazz/chill band, I have a group of setups on the Kurzweil all with a split at middle Bb for left-hand bass, and mostly layers on the right (mostly acoustic or electric piano, strings, brass/wind, and pads, in various combinations), although I have a handful of special setups for particular songs, some using multiple right-hand splits; e.g., for a cover of "Lily Was Here", I have a double split for the alternating acoustic guitar and sax parts, and for a cover of Delerium's "Silence", I have a double split for choir and piano parts.


For a blues band, I have a group of setups all with the split for left-hand bass and just a few patches on the right, mainly acoustic piano.


For another blues band where I don't do left-hand bass but do more soloing, I have a similar group of setups with no splits, just acoustic and electric piano patches.


Having the two keyboards also provides backup; i.e., if the Kurzweil failed, I could get by with a left-hand bass split on the Hammond, or if the Hammond failed, I could get by with an organ patch on the Kurzweil, but so far neither has ever failed (fingers crossed).

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The PC3's Setup mode has tons of MIDI programming flexibility. Aside from the 128 standard CC's it also has a bunch of internal ones like Zone Mute, Solo Zone, Transpose, etc. So even when I do need more splits I'm able to use Momentary foot switches or just the mod wheel to mute/unmute zones. It's so powerful that I'm able to call up and entire new batch of splits on the fly just by pressing a foot switch. Let the footswitch go and I'm back to my original split setup.


Well one month after saying that I don't do splits these days ... :blush:


I am ready to give it another shot. This time with the smallest weighted key instrument on the market: a Roland RD-64. :D


Yes, I know what you are saying: Fully-featured midi controller is to RD-64 as Superbowl is to Tampa Bay Buccaneers. :laugh:


But my vocalist loves ear candy and pads and brass and ...


... essentially she is a Diana Krall type crooner, so the heads are as tight as any cover band, but our solos go outside quite a bit and we become a different band.


The RD-64 is a dumb controller, but Mainstage is ... smart.


So, the solos are all piano ... but the heads ... I am doing something similar to you, Ian. Previously, when setting up multi-timbral things I would set up multiple performances/livesets for each song, and step linearly through them. Now I am setting up one Mainstage patch per song and toggling/crossfading several textures using a UMI3 and a Novation Nocturn(knobs and buttons only). There can be as many as 6-8 sound sources in a single Mainstage patch, but some of them are silent for sections of a song. I am the only comping instrument, so I've designated the UMI3 as the primary texture-switcher, so that both hands can stay at the keys. One tap of the foot and the textures are reset in different configurations within the patch. For every song there are at least three texture sets (A section/B section, intro etc.) In this rig, one EV-5 does swells. You can send different messages and notes for knob down and knob up on the UMI3's three footswitches, so there are lots of possibilities for mute/activate/trigger within each multi-timbral Mainstage patch. Being a control-freak, I don't use wandering split-points in Mainstage: each split-point is customized for the song's particular voicings. It's the smallest rig I've ever done multiple parts on.

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My motif XS8 with a electro3 on top is a mighty combination.


At a minimum, I can have 4 splits on motif, and organ sound on top tier... or both top and bottom keys split into 4 zones for a total 8 if the top nord is used as controller.


If I cant get the job done with this combination, I would be shocked




Motif XS8, MOXF8, Hammond XK1c, Vent

Rhodes Mark II 88 suitcase, Yamaha P255

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My gig rig is a Crumar Mojo on bottom and a Kronos K61 on top.. and this is perfect for the mid 60's to mid 70's classic rock that my 11STEPS band performs.. HOWEVER, I do play the odd gig using just my Kronos K61 OR my VR-09 (if I'm really lazy because it's only 12 pounds).. but when I go with a single keyboard, the number of splits necessary to handle some of our more complicated tunes becomes a logistical nightmare to manage. Songs like Blinded By The Light, which we perform at almost every gig, requires electric piano, organ, vox (ahs), synth lead (for the sweep) and acoustic piano for the chopsticks part, and I usually spread this out over the two keyboards of my Mojo. However, to program all of this on just one keyboard is possible but it takes too much thought on my part to keep track of everything, so we just don't do it. So I always have the option of a single keyboard, but when I do we tend to skip the tunes that require more than 2 sounds and we play easier material that requires less parts for me to cover. Perhaps if I was using an 88 note weighted action keyboard, having 3-4 splits would be less of an issue but given my rig that's not an option.


Incidentally, like Shadowman, I generally play my AP/EP and other Kronos sounds on the lower manual of my Crumar Mojo. It works great and I've come to prefer this over playing them on my top keyboard (Kronos) which can be a bit tiring. I'm a sit down player mostly with very bad knees, and I save actually playing the Kronos for when I feel like standing up.



Craig MacDonald

Hammond BV, Franken-B (A100 in a BV cabinet), Leslies 122/147/44W, Crumar Mojo, HX3 module, Korg Kronos, VR-09, Roland GAIA, Burn, Ventilator

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  • 1 month later...

Dont really like splitting and layering... but in the end I do it all the time.

Nowadays I do mostly covers, and it's a forced choice when you have to do more or less simultaneously piano-EP-organ-brass-strings-synth-sound fx... while all the others do their own damn thing, and give it for granted that the keyboardist takes care of everything else! ;)


Also, I'm done bringing multiple keyboards, I really can't be bothered anymore to move around all that stuff multiple times a week. And my back is thankful, too.


So I'm perfectly satisfied with my Stage2, even with its limited split capabilities I don't really need more.

I do a specific program for every song, so I always have the sounds and the octaves I need. Bit of a drag to do all the programming, but then it's really quick and easy to play.


And the led indicating the split points are GREAT (otherwise it would be impossible to rememember where the splits are, among over 100 diffferent programs!).



For jazz gigs, however, it's a joy to be able to play just one sound, and not bother with keyboard zones and splits.

One in a while, it's really refreshing!!!


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The most splits I ever did was for one song.


At the time I had a 2 board setup - Korg M1 on the bottom, and Hammond XB-2 on top.


We did the BB King/Bonnie Raitt version of "Right Place Wrong Time" that required me to have several things set up.


I had a split on the M1 where I had Clavinet on the bottom, and Voices on the top. Then I had the Sax Section set up to play from the Hammond board,


During the intro, I would play the clav, with some horn work in there as well. I would then kill the MIDI feed on the Hammond, and use it as organ throughout the verse. The little bridge sections would be clav, with voice punches.


Throughout the song I would need to bring in the sax with the Hammond


I relied on splits and layers in that band for a while, until the battery in the M1 needed replacement and I lost all my programming


Since then about the only splits I'll do is if I have to play left hand bass.


"In the beginning, Adam had the blues, 'cause he was lonesome.

So God helped him and created woman.


Now everybody's got the blues."


Willie Dixon






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I recall having to do "Gypsy" by FM on a single ROMpler. Top two octaves were split to a vocal "ah" for both the solo background voice in the verse and the full vocal chords in the chorus, middle three octaves to the bizarre little arpeggio string synth in the bridge, and the rest a straight EP so I could LH chord to support.


That sucked, I don't mind saying.

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I do splits quite often, even with two controllers. With Cantabile on the laptop/tablet the logistics (zone range, transpose, channel mapping, etc) are fairly easy.


I think the busiest setup I do is Melt With You by Modern English. I have the MOXF split doing the Strat lick on the left (we only have one guitar player) and the right side has the echo piano thingy for the bridge. The Juno-Stage has the melow synth pad on the left and the solo synth on the right.


~ vonnor


Hardware: Kurzweil Forte7, Korg Kronos 2, Novation Summit

Software: Cantabile 3, Halion Sonic 3 and assorted VST plug-ins.

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Though I prefer a multiple keyboard setup but I am practicing with a single keyboard and doing splits. I've never been comfortable with splits but the Roland Jupiter-80 makes it easier. I like the visual feedback of the split points and notes being played. It lets me know when I am getting close to a split.
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I did Nights in White Satin including the intro and everything on a single board with multiple splits and layers and a couple program changes. That was with a Vintage Keys.


That was one of those songs I played exactly the same, night after night ( pun intended :) )

I got a bunch of stuff, none of it the really cool stuff though. I am working on it; I want really cool stuff.
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I've downscaled to 61 keys with splits for the last month during a 6 nights residency gig in Abu Dhabi, due to catastrophic and complete failure of my bottom board, a Nord Stage. I'm using MainStage.


It's actually been doable and quite enjoyable. For some examples, on Valerie I'm playing the bass part, (it's a 4 piece, with tracks and occasional stuff where I'm the bass player) rhodes and horns, on some reggae stuff I've got organ, rhodes, and horns. Something I didn't do, since it wasn't necessary, but did think of was recording some chords with the right sound and sampling the single keys so I could get more keys available for other parts.


If it wasn't for the crapness of the keys on my midi controller, and the lack of a back up plan for computer failure (happened about 3 times amongst 8 months of playing 6 nights a week) I'd do it like this forever. It's a lot of work, but I can see the splits on the laptop screen, and it actually makes it very easy to remember parts. I also feel far more calm only changing patches in one place, and I feel I have much more control, to play more ambitiously with both my arms on the same (and the correct!) level.


The only things thats bothersome is soloing on some songs, but it was easily solved by putting a second patch for soloing in if I think I might need more keys.

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