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Keybed Technology

Dave Pierce

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OK, you guys were so nice to me with my first question, here's another one:


What's the difference between weighted and semi-weighted keys? What is aftertouch? And, perhaps most importantly, what technologies are being used today for "touch-sensitivity" or "velocity-sensitivity", and what is the difference, if any, between those two terms. I've played a lot of keyboards that use some or all of these terms, and they all seem unique to me.


Note: In my limited experience, which is mostly with the keyboards of 15 plus years ago, I never found a "touch-sensitivity" that was appropriate for live rock & roll. Why? Volume control.


An acoustic piano gives me a well-understood, predictable level of control over the volume that will come out. But I never found that in any synth. And while I do use a volume pedal, for fast piano solos, I can't afford the attention span to adjust volume mid-solo.


What are your experiences?



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An acoustic piano is hammer action. Some other keyboards and controllers use the same action so they will feel like a piano.


Weighted action is a simulation of hammer action.


Progressive hammer action attempts to mimic the action of a grand by having lighter action at the top and heaver action at the bottom of the range.


Synth action feels like an organ.


Waterfall keys are the keys that curve down smoothly on an organ, making it easy to do slides without damage.


Velocity - hitting the key harder makes the sound louder like a piano, or can be used for other effects like opening the filter.


After touch - Pressing down of the keys after you play them can change the sound.


Release velocity - The quicker you release the key the more it alters a sound. This is sometimes used to alter the cut-off time and make notes muffle quicker when you release quickly.




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This post edited for speling.

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I'll just add that for the 'synth' keys, there are the semiweighted and unweighted. The semiweighted feel a little better to play, I think.


The thing to remember is that keybeds are not created equal. I hate the weighted one in the alesis qs8.1. The one in the motif though, I loved.


As far as the responsivity, most can be adjusted. My pc88mx, for instance, has a few levels (normal, harder, hardest), offset, total range, so you can really adjust it to your liking.

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Dave, here's one you will find on this forum too: velocity switch.

You can address samples to different values of velocity in one patch. The "switch" is the difference you'll hear between those samples, e.g. when you have a Rhodes emulation with a bad (much) velocity switch, playing from soft to loud: dooo, dooo, dooo, daaaaah! (all the same note) Or something like that.



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