Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Before me, my new midi keyboard is flashing and showing off. Yes, I have a new keyboard, because when you’re suffering from severe depression, you spend money, right? Well, unfortunately, I do.
Having just retired from teaching permanently, I figure I’ll have a lot of time on my hands, at least until I find a job to fill my days out. As such, I reached out to a friend of mine and asked if she could teach me how to write songs.
Don’t worry, I won’t subject you to them.
She tells me I paid for 15 art lessons from her and have only used five, so she is going to let me use the remaining 10 for music. Here’s an odd thing; I think I have a hang-up about using supplies. I buy great supplies for drawing, but I don’t want to run them out so, I end up not using them at all. I asked her for her recommendation, and then tried to overreach. The keyboard I ordered was apparently way too much, so with her recommendation, I scaled back to a more reasonable one. Fortunately, it hadn’t shipped yet, and as such they let me trade it out and will refund the difference.
So this is a midi keyboard. The keys are not weighted, but they are velocity sensitive. I love music, and I have an artists soul, but no talent whatsoever in art or music. But, I have a few needs to get me through for a while. I need something to learn, and she will help me learn the keyboard and music. I need something to occupy my time, and this will certainly accomplish that goal. I need a limitless artistic resource so I won’t worry about using it up which is this. And I need something to help me get my emotions out in a non-destructive way.
A “midi” keyboard is not like a typical keyboard. Although some do, this one does not come with built-in speakers. It’s not meant to turn on and play, but rather, it “talks” to the computer. It’s kind of like a traditional keyboard but with musical notes, and it interfaces with “music studio” software. With this studio, you can play the keyboard through the computer speakers, but more than that, you can create and record music. Because it’s synthesizer music, you have basically every instrument available, and you can layer tracks to create an entire orchestral piece if you should so desire. This software, as it turns out, doesn’t need a midi input. You can actually use it to write your own music without the midi using a mouse, but with a midi, you can also play, record, and actually modify or correct the tracks in the software as well. I’m still learning, but so far it’s pretty cool. My musical sensei (and I hope my Asian readers do not mind my borrowing this term, and I apologize if it is offensive but I mean it as the spiritual as well as teaching aspect) has given me a couple of assignments so far. My newest is to add the percussion track to a musical piece she has in progress. No, this isn’t (I don’t believe) a piece she is wanting to produce, but it’s just an assignment to teach me the software, principles, and I suspect so she gets a sense of my musical tastes. She actually said that when I finish the lessons, she would like to collaborate on a project with me. I’m incredibly honored by this suggestion. I guess she hasn’t worked with me long enough to decide she really doesn’t like me yet.
I already learned one very important lesson. This keyboard plugs into the USB port of the computer, which seems easy enough, so I plugged it in, the keyboard lit up and it goes through this flashing light show when it’s not in use. So, it works, right? Wrong. For the life of me, and despite all of the videos showing just how simple it is, I simply could not get it to be recognized or to work with the software, be it the freeware package my sensei likes or the packages that came with it. I fought with it for hours on two different system. As it turns out, I’m kind of an idiot. The next day, I tried again, and failed again. So I unplugged the cable from the back, and plugged it back in. As it turns out, it kind of “snaps” into the port in the back, which I didn’t do before. I apparently had it plugged in enough to power up the keyboard, but not enough for it to talk to the computers. Now it’s fine, and my lesson for the day is PLUG THE DAMNED THING IN!!! I did send an email to the company support page, and they sent me a long and detailed answer. I didn’t have the heart to tell them it was just my own stupidity, so I sent a thank you reply and complimented them on sending me the instructions that fixed it. Of course, they didn’t say “try plugging it in”, so I kind of fibbed.