This template is a product of this Building Your Band blog and podcast after spending an inordinate amount of time considering how much the architecture of a template informs the way sounds are created, and wondering exactly how I would want to inform that process.
First, it’s branded as Intuitive Keys precisely because the beauty of making music is that there is no logic that informs a right or wrong answer. Decisions in music are completely intuitive. So I don’t want the process of playing to be cerebral either. Now I love being cerebral, I’m a spreadsheet guy (shout out to auto filter and pivot tables!) and I love doing my pre-production sound design before I play. But when it comes time to make music, I want to be able to be in the moment. Consequently, I’ve made a lot of decisions ahead of time in this template.
In fact, this template works by making decisions ahead of time. This means it’s not as configurable in real time as templates with multiple faders, but I would argue it’s more playable because every sound is carefully mapped to the mod wheel and aftertouch and it’s ultimately capable of achieving similar (or better) results by moving between different combinations of sounds.
The impetus behind using the mod wheel and after-touch to modulate the sound in real time comes from the firm conviction that only half of the job of playing keyboards is playing notes. The other half is playing your sound, and to that end, the large X-Y pad in the middle of the screen informs you of the range of MIDI value (0-127) that your hardware is transmitting for your mod-wheel in the horizontal (X) direction, and aftertouch in the vertical (Y) direction. Changing these two parameters is how you “play your sound”, and this design actually helps teach synthesis to aspiring modern keyboardists.
Anyone who has been around me knows that arranging is key to how I think about music. So being able to move in and out of the pianos is a critical component of that. The way Intuitive Keys is configured, there is the synthesis engine on top (featuring the large X-Y pad), but then a piano engine on the bottom row that is always available and can layer any of the sounds in the synthesis engine as shown in the menu.
Finally, I’m going to admit that not only do I have no interest in recreating the album, I think it’s counterproductive to what you should be doing in your community. In any community, out of country or local, our job is to contextualize the message. You may think you don’t do that, but I assure you that the way your church worships would be inconceivably shocking to Jesus’ disciples. We all do that. So to do that at the micro-level helps validate that message all the more. Getting off my theological soapbox and returning to music, the current trend is for albums to use many tracks and use bright sounds. An excellent engineer can craft out space for the vocals to fit with bright sounds, but this puts an extraordinary and I would argue, unnecessary, burden on a live sound engineer, regardless of their level. Consequently, I have created very warm sounds largely inspired by analog synthesis. This isn’t to say that there are no high-frequency components, but where there are (particularly in the digital and some of the analog sounds with the mod-wheel cranked) those high frequencies are tempered to facilitate vocals riding on top. This should make mixing your keyboard parts in easier, and may even get you turned up in the mix, whereas a brighter sound reminiscent of the album’s sounds, may get you quickly turned down.
Using this template (with 50 patches and 50 combinations), encourages you to:
- Use a different patch/combination for every song, maybe more than one!
- Modulate that patch/combination with the mod wheel and aftertouch in real time to help tell the story of the song.
- Move in and out of using the acoustic piano to change up the tonality of the keyboards and keep the piano sounding fresh.
- Use warm sounds in order to facilitate a great mix suitable for vocals to sit on top.