Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity

By Scott Watson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
CREATIVITY WITH KEYBOARDS

ALL ABOUT KEYBOARDS

KEYBOARDS HAVE BECOME the electronic musical instrument most identified with music education technology and can be used in a host of wonderful learning and artistic scenarios in school music programs.


Easily Produced, Attractive Sounds

Keyboards allow students to initiate sounds easily, with the press of a key. In a stand-alone setup, students can work with hundreds of built-in sounds; as part of a MIDI workstation,1 students can trigger even more software sounds. Some of these sounds approximate acoustic instruments such as piano, trumpet, or violin; others imitate electronic instruments such as electric guitar, fretless bass, or rock organ; still others produce synthesizer lead and pad2 sounds, as well as other novel sounds (such as sound effects). One set or bank of sounds that is advantageous to have on a keyboard is the General MIDI (GM) sound set. This set of 128 sounds allows students to reliably call up certain instrument sounds (manually or by software message) by standardized “patch” or program numbers (#1 is always a grand piano, #33 is always an acoustic bass, #76 is always a pan flute, etc.). Fig. 12.1, also available as a PDF download on the companion

website (Web Ex. 12.1), shows the General MIDI sound set. An instrument’s own proprietary (that is, unique to the manufacturer) sounds are usually higher quality and more intriguing than GM sounds but do not have equivalents on other keyboards or for use by music software. Keyboards, which allow kids to explore and initiate compelling sounds of all kinds with the touch of a key, bring the timbral aspect of musical creativity within reach for students with little or no instrumental experience.

1. A basic MIDI workstation consists of a computer, a keyboard (synth or controller) for inputting musical data, and some means of monitoring sound (headphones, speakers, etc.). See Appendix 1 for a detailed description and configuration information.

2. A synth lead sound usually plays a melodic role in a music production, similar to a lead electric guitar. A synth pad usually plays a warm, atmospheric background role.

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