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10 Things You Might Not Know About the Electric Keyboard

1. Some of you may think of someone playing the electronic keyboard as a “pianist”. Well you’d be wrong. They would actually be referred to (by someone who knows what they are talking about) as a “keyboardist”. Sounds clumsy, but it’s true.
2. The term “electronic keyboard” is used to mainly describe the cheap end portable home sequencing keyboards, but is also commonly used to include many variants such as the digital piano, the synthesizer, the electric organ and the arranger keyboard.
3. Many electronic keyboards commonly use MIDI signals to send and receive musical data. MIDI is essentially a sequence of instructions that identify the sound used, the note pressed, the duration of that press, although the complexity of the MIDI system will vary with each keyboard. Some cheaper end models of electric keyboard (such as keyboard toys) simply will not output that data.
4. Many keyboards have the ability to add a “foot switch” or “sustain pedal” as it is commonly referred to. The application of the foot switch enables a pressed note to “ring” for longer and better replicate the sounds of many keyboard based instruments including the organ and the piano.
5. Electronic keyboards across the world have been commonly built by instrument manufacturers such as Alesis, Casio, Ensoniq, E-mu, Kawai, Ketron, Korg, Kurzweil Music Systems, M-Audio, Moog Music, Ne-Ko, Roland, Technics, Yamaha and Sonic to name but a few!
6. Features that keyboardists would be interested in when choosing a keyboard include touch response, after touch, polyphony (the number of notes that can be played at the same time), multi-timbre (playing more than one instrument at the same time), tempo, split point (the ability to split the playing area into different instruments), style, synchronisation, auto harmony, wheels and knobs (to control and vary different features on the keyboard) and response (weighted or spring loaded).
7. Synthesizers are actually slightly different from the standard electronic keyboard in that they can produce a variety of sounds by generating, combining and distorting signals of different frequencies. Unlike the keyboard, the synthesizer produces an electric signal (rather than an acoustic signal) which can then be played through an amplifier of some kind. Synthesizers are most commonly controlled by a keyboard device, although this is often integrated into the machinery.
8. Perhaps the most infamous synthesizer is the Moog Synthesizer, famous for its role in many 1970s and 1980s pop hits and popularly used by artists such as Jean Michelle Jarre and Duran Duran.
9. The earliest incarnations of the non-electric keyboard are the pipe organ, the hurdy gurdy and the harpsichord. The organ is the oldest of these from perhaps as early as the third century AD.
10. The first keyboard to be powered by electricity is said to be the “Ondes Martenot” which appeared in the early 20th century (approx. 1928). It is actually still played today in some French conservatoires thanks to some compositions written specifically for the Ondes Martenot. It produces eerie wavering notes and was produced by “varying the frequency of oscillation in thermionic valves”. Whatever than means…

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