Understanding Keyboard Terminology

Understanding Keyboard Terminology

New to the world of electronic keyboards? Manuals and guides use all sorts of abbreviations and terms you might not be familiar with. Here are some of the more common abbreviations and terms you may encounter.Understanding Keyboard Terminology

Action – the mechanical design of the keys. This is used when describing the touch or feel of the keyboard.

Aftertouch – the ability to control the volume or other effect on the keyboard by applying pressure to the keys once they are played.

Amplifiers – the power available to the speakers, which will determine the overall volume of sound.

Arpeggiator – a function that generates repeated note patterns from a held note or chord.

Assignable controller – a wheel, knob or slider that allows you to specify the parameter it controls.

Cutoff – the frequency point at which a synthesizer’s filter begins to pass or block an audio signal.

Damper pedal – a pedal that, when pressed, keeps a note sustaining until it is released.

Drawbar – a slider that controls the level of specific overtones within the sound being produced.

Effects – the enhancement of a sound, such as reverb, chorus, delay, and so on.

Filter – a function that alters the tone or timbre of a sound by removing or emphasizing specific frequencies.

Fine tuning – the ability to change the pitch of a sound by small amounts. Used when a sound is only slightly out of tune.

Glide – the smooth sliding of pitch between notes.

Half pedal – the ability to press a damper pedal with graduated or varying depth and response.

Layer – the ability to play different sounds at the same time from the same keys.

MIDI – Musical Instrument Digital Interface. This is the protocol that allows musical instruments, computer software, and other digital devices to communicate.

Modulation – the ability to modify a parameter via a control source.

Multitimbral – an instrument that can play multiple sounds at the same time.

Oscillator – a synthesizer’s sound source.

Pan – a sound’s position from left or right in the stereo field.

Polyphony – the maximum number of voices that can be sounded simultaneously.

Recording channels – the number of tracks that can be recorded.

Rhythms – drumbeats and grooves that are built into the keyboard.

Sampling – the ability for the keyboard to capture any sound recorded via an internal or external microphone or file loaded through a USB port. The sound then becomes playable on the keyboard.

Sequencer – hardware or software used to record, edit and play back MIDI performance data.

Split – a function that allows you to divide the keyboard range into different sections and assign a different sound to each one.

Sustain – the level at which the note remains until you let go of the key.

Timbre – a sound’s tonal quality that differentiates it from those with similar pitch and volume.

Transpose – the ability for the keyboard to be transposed into any other key.

Tuning – the function that changes the pitch of the keyboard.

Velocity – the force with which you play the notes on the keyboard.

Vibrato – the wavering up and down in pitch.

Weighted action – the key mechanism designed with mass or heavy resistance to mimic the touch of an acoustic piano.