How to Edit Your Keyboard Song by Personalizing the Touch Response of a Sound
A common issue among owners of keyboards is liking a sound though it still doesn’t “feel” right to them. It gets loud too easily or is too hard to control when playing quietly. Playing harder and softer does switch between waveforms, but getting the hardest velocity layer to sound consistently is difficult.
There are a few easy edits to make to correct this problem. These types of edits are easy to do and can often be the most satisfying fix to make.
Customizing a sound’s dynamics
Dynamics refer to how loudly or softly you play a note and are usually controlled by your touch on the key. All keyboards offer a touch curve or touch setting that affects dynamics. This parameter translates your playing force into instructions for how a sound will respond.
If a sound isn’t feeling quite right, go to the touch curve or velocity curve parameter first. You most often find it in the global or settings mode of a keyboard.
You can also manipulate how your touch affects the dynamics by routing velocity to the amp output. Increasing this amount of modulation makes your soft touch produce an even quieter sound, so you’ll need more force to get the sound louder. Often velocity will be routed to modulate the amp envelope amount so you need to locate that parameter and increase its value as well.
If your sound gets too quiet and then too easily gets way loud, you need to reduce the amount of velocity modulation of the amp or amp envelope output. Your sound will get louder overall, so you’ll need to lower the amp output to compensate. Be sure to check whether any velocity is routed to filter modulation; if so, you want to lessen that as well.
Not all keyboards allow you to do this level of editing. Certainly, synths and workstations, advanced arrangers, and perhaps a more advanced stage piano do, but otherwise, you may be limited to the touch curve method.
Another cool way to make a sound seem more dynamic is to add or increase the amount of velocity controlling the filter cutoff. When you do so, your soft touch causes the filter to be darker, which makes a sound seem quieter.
If you’re first adding this amount, you need to lower the filter cutoff to give the velocity some room to move. Try starting with the filter cutoff all the way down to 00 and then adjusting the velocity modulation amount and the cutoff until it feels right.
This change should be subtle; you’re looking to get a sense of volume change, not a drastic filter sweep. If a sound is already using velocity to modulate the amount of filter envelope control, increase this modulation amount and work with it and the filter cutoff value until it feels right. If you find that your sound gets too bright with more forceful playing, you’re modulating it too much.
Matching velocity switch points to your touch
Sample-playback keyboards often use different multisamples of a keyboard, recorded at softer and harder touches, to make a sound more realistic and expressive. All the better sampled acoustic and electric piano sounds do, for sure. Although this method is a great approach to re-creating these sounds, the programmed velocity values for when to switch to the next multisample may not match your touch.
Basically, what you perceive as a touch to dynamics or brightness problem may actually be a problem with when the keyboard switches to a different multisample. If you have a synth, workstation, or more advanced stage piano or arranger, you may be able to access the multisample switching to see whether it’s the issue before you go to the amp and filter parameters. Here’s how:
Go into sound/program edit mode.
Find the oscillator page(s) and look to see whether multiple waveforms or multisamples are arranged to be switched by velocity values.
On some instruments, this info is all presented on one oscillator page, but on others it’s another part, tone, or layer that is a complete sound element set to be triggered by a certain velocity range.
Check the velocity values.
Look at the velocity values used for each multisample or part. MIDI velocity ranges from 001 to 127, so you’ll encounter several subranges for an oscillator or multisample — maybe 001 to 32, 033 to 070, 071 to 100, and 101 to 127. Notice that the numbers all run consecutively, with no range overlapping.
Adjust the value of the appropriate layer(s).
If the top layer is coming in too easily for you or producing too bright a sound, you want to move its start value to a higher velocity number, making it take even more force to trigger it. Set the range to 112 to 127 and see whether that feels better. Remember, though, that you can’t leave a hole between two layers.
With your change, nothing is sounding from 100 to 111, so you have to go back to layer three and raise the top threshold so that the range covers 071 to 111. Now the full range of values will produce sound.
To make a sound more dynamic and softer at low velocity levels, increase the range of values that the lower layers occupy, only bringing in the upper layers at the highest values. To make a sound brighter and more aggressive, increase the range that the upper layers use, spreading them across the majority of the range and only using the lower layers for the lowest numbers.
If you want to get to hear the character of each multisample, you can go to an initialized sound location in your keyboard (if it has one) and assign this multi-sample to that “raw” sound. It won’t sound perfect, but you can hear the true character of the recording and can better judge what each waveform sounds like.