A piano or keyboard is always a very special Christmas present. Every year around Christmas cheap keyboards, costing between 70 and 100 Euros are sold in discount stores. This alleged all-rounder can do everything, everything except reproduce the sound of a real instrument that is. Sorely disappointing if you’re looking to add some pizzazz and depth to your music. No matter how hard you press the keys the volume stays the same. If you want to play piano properly with touch-sensitive keys and authentic sound then I would recommend something else; instead connect a USB keyboard to your PC and control a virtual piano in the music software. It might sound complicated but is actually really easy to set up when you have the all-round package which includes Music Maker Control, the software and a MIDI keyboard. Although normally priced at around 160 Euros, there are some going for great prices. I will explain in my article how you connect the piano to the PC and get started.
1. Connecting the hardware
This is very straightforward with Music Maker Control: just connect the USB keyboard to the PC. You can connect the headphone output to hear yourself when practicing. My tip: Instead just connect the computer to the stereo system using a mini-jack RCA adapter to hear the sound. Just one more tip about seating height before we get started. The hands and forearms should be in a rough line, forming a right angle with the upper arm. This allows the fingers free movement when playing which is helpful when practicing for long periods. And one more point regarding the hardware. The MIDI keyboard also has a connection point for a pedal – allowing you to change the sound just like on a real piano. You should install the drivers in advance if you use another keyboard. Load Music Maker before a single sound comes out of the PC.
2. Tweaks and adjustments
We haven’t yet heard any sounds but that’s all about to change. Depending on your computer’s power you may have to fine tune the latency, i.e. the amount of time between pressing a key and hearing it. The higher the latency, the longer the delay. You can adjust the program settings by clicking “P”. Open the “Audio/MIDI” tab and take a look at the slider for “Synthesizer Latency”. In case you can’t hear anything after step 3: check whether the correct input device (your keyboard) and output device (the computer’s soundcard) were set. As a rule nothing need be configured, the settings should already be fine. But now we want to finally hear some music.
3. Virtual instrument selection
In the next step we will choose a suitable instrument we want to play. To do this switch off the “Easy mode” (top left) and go to the lower window, not to the “Object” but to the “Track synthesizer””. It might sound technical but there are, among other things, amazing analog-sounding instruments. „Century Guitars“ and „Electric Bass“ sound as good as you’d imagine. There are amazing pianos and more hiding behind „Vita“. So I drag this virtual synthesizer into my track using the mouse. A really pretty piano is already preset. If I go to the “Instrument Editor” using the right mouse button I can choose from a range of pianos e.g. “Studio”, “Pro”, “Bar” or “Salsa” by clicking on the arrow in the yellow window.
4. Discover the diversity of the instruments
You needn’t limit yourself to just pianos because of my article. You’ll discover lots more if you just try clicking on different instruments e.g. violins and guitars in the Instrument Editor. My tip: the “Acoustic Guitar” has to be tried – it sounds especially authentic when played with a little force as you can actually hear the strings being plucked.
5. Learning the piano stays exciting
The conventional piano is only a solo instrument but in MAGIX Music Maker you have the advantage of being able to add a suitable accompaniment too. Rhythm instruments such as percussion and drums as well as bass and a second voice can be played in other tracks during practice. Of course, there is a metronome too. To use it just press the icon and red record button. You decide whether the result should actually be saved or edited in the MIDI Editor (also accessed by right-clicking the instrument’s track). But MIDI recording is a whole other chapter; fortunately there are lots of videos tutorials regarding the numerous options. If you don’t know what to play: the chords and chord charts for most songs online. Just search “Chords” and “Chord tables”, being sure to include the song title too. Instead of having hour-long sessions every couple of weeks it is much better to practice for a few minutes regularly, every day if possible.