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Electronic keyboard

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An electronic keyboard instrument
An electronic keyboard instrument

An electronic keyboard is a type of keyboard instrument that its sound is generated by some sort of electronic devices.

Professional electronic musical instruments which are traditionally equipped with a keyboard include electric pianos, synthesizers, samplers, electronic organs, digital pianos, and arranger keyboards. However, musicians generally refer to these instruments by name or simply as keyboards, reserving the term electronic keyboard for keyboard instruments marketed to amateur musicians and children. Such instruments are typically inexpensive, smaller, and lack many features offered by professional instruments. They can generally be purchased in electronics stores side by side with stereos, video games, cell phones, etc., or even in toy stores.

Internal architecture

To facilitate the engineering processes of design and development of electronic keyboards, keyboards are internally divided into some major components which can be connected together by the means of industry standards. These parts include:

  • Musical keyboard: An electro-mechanical component which is used for playing.
  • User interface software: A program (usually embedded in a chip) which handles user interaction with control keys and menus.
  • Rhythm & chord generator: This part which is again in the form of software program produces rhythms and chords by the mean of MIDI commands.
  • Sound generator: A sound module which is capable of accepting MIDI commands and producing sounds accordingly.

Functions and features

  • Auto accompaniment
  • Effects
  • Demonstration
  • MIDI: Many electronic keyboard instruments are outfitted with a MIDI interface for the purpose of controlling (or being controlled) by another device with a MIDI interface. There are also keyboards which are not instruments at all, but are merely MIDI controllers which are used to control other MIDI instruments, which may or may not have a human interface of their own. (see sound module)

Concepts and definitions

  • Touch response (aka Touch Sensitivity) : A technology used for simulating the process of sound generation in chordophones which are sensitive to the velocity of key press. For implementation two sensors are installed for each key: a sensor detects whenever a key is beginning to be pressed and the other fired when the key is pressed completely. By a time reference a device can estimate the velocity of pressure. As the key mass is constant this velocity can also be considered as the strength of key press. Based on this value, the sound generator produces the proper sound.
  • After touch : A feature brought in in the late 1980s, whereby dynamics are added after the key is hit, allowing the sound to fade away, or return, based upon the amount of pressure applied to the keyboard. Very few if any keyboards still have after-touch support. After-touch is most prevalent in music of the mid to late 1980s, such as the opening string-pad on Cock Robin's "When Your Heart Is Weak", which is only possible with the use of after-touch (or one hand on the volume control).
  • Polyphony: In digital music and electronic keyboard terminology, polyphony refers to the number of notes that can be played concurrently.
  • Multi-timbre: The ability to play more than one kind of instrument at the same time. Such as with the Roland MT-32's ability to play up to 8 different instruments at once.
  • Tempo: A parameter that determines the speed of rhythms, chords and other auto-generated content on electronic keyboards. The unit of this parameter is beats per second.
  • Split point: The point where a keyboard is split to allow two instruments to be played at once. In the late 1980s it was common to use a MIDI controller to control more than one keyboard from a single device. The MIDI controller had no sound of its own, but was designed for the sole purpose of allowing access to more sound controls for performance purposes. Midi controllers allowed one to split the keyboard into two or more sections and assign each section to a midi channel, to send note data to an external keyboard. Many consumer keyboards offer at least one split to separate bass or auto-accompaniment chording instruments from the melody instrument.
  • Style
  • Synchronization
  • Auto harmony: A feature of some keyboards that automatically adds secondary tones to a note based upon chording given by the accompaniment system, made to make harmony easier for those who lack the ability to make complex chording changes with their right hand.
  • Wheels and knobs: Used in performances to add qualities to a sound that are not present by default, such as vibrato, panning, tremolo, pitch changes, and so on.
  • Keyboard response: Weighted or spring loaded keys. "Weighted response" refers to keys with weights and springs in them, which give a "hammer action" response similar to a piano. Most electronic keyboards use "spring-loaded" keys that make some kinds of playing techniques, such as backhanded sweeps, impossible but also make the keyboards lighter and easier to transport. Pianists who are accustomed to standard weighted piano keys may find non-weighted spring-action keyboards uncomfortable and difficult to play effectively. Conversely, keyboard players who are used to the non-weighted action may encounter difficulty and discomfort playing on a piano or electronic piano with weighted keys.

Parts and controls

  • Foot pedal/switch
  • Modulation wheel
  • Pads
  • Pitch bend: This control is usually in the form of a wheel located on the left side of the keyboard that is used to shift the frequency of the note being played up or down. The amount of this frequency change is adjustable in some keyboards but is usually between one and two semitones up or down. The origin of this control is not from keyboard instruments, but from string instruments like the guitar in which the player can increase the frequency by pushing the string aside.

List of manufacturers

  • Alesis
  • Casio
  • Ensoniq
  • GEM
  • Kawai
  • Korg
  • Kurzweil Music Systems
  • Roland
  • Yamaha

See also

  • Synthesizer
  • Keyboard instruments
  • Keyboard Magazine

External links

  • Introduction to Professional Keyboards and Home Keyboards
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