How to Make Music With a Qwerty Keyboard

Written by chris anzalone
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How to Make Music With a Qwerty Keyboard
Use your QWERTY keyboard to emulate different instruments. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

A computer keyboard can do more than just type. With the proper configuration and software, you can turn your QWERTY keyboard into a musical instrument, capable of emulating the sounds of multiple live instruments. Whether you just want to explore digital music production without spending a lot of money or wish to record music on the road with portability, you can benefit from learning how to program music with your PC keyboard.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Digital recording software

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  1. 1

    Install a digital recording program. You can choose from among many programs ranging from free applications to high-end production software. You must, however, choose a program that enables local MIDI control. Some programs refer to it as musical typing, and some refer to is as musical keys. Compatible programs include Logic, GarageBand, Linux Multimedia Studio (LMMS) and FL Studio.

  2. 2

    Open your software and create a MIDI track. In musical terms, a track is a space onto which you can record music. Tracks allow you to layer your music because you can record, for example, a melody on Track 1, a bass line on Track 2 and vocals on Track 3. Search your menu bar and find the option that reads "New Track" or "Create Track." When prompted to choose the type of track you wish to create, select "MIDI Track" or "Software Track."

  3. 3

    Pick your musical typing feature. In Logic Express and Logic Pro, click "CAPS" on your keyboard. In FL Studio, select "FL Keys" on your menu bar. In GarageBand, click (Window > Musical Typing) on the menu bar. In LMMS, select an instrument from your "Song Editor" window.

  4. 4

    Select a virtual instrument. This can include any pre-configured sound like a digital bass guitar, a trumpet or a kick drum. You can find presets under the "Instruments" or "Software Synthesizers" menu, sometimes listed among your MIDI options.

  5. 5

    Open the "Options" for your selected instrument. In many programs, the options will appear automatically as soon as you select your preset. Sometimes, though, (as with GarageBand, for instance), you will need to select an "Options" panel separately. This should appear directly beside or below your instrument setting.

  6. 6

    Adjust the parameters on the "Options" window to manipulate your notes and learn how electronic synthesis works. For example, raise the "Attack" bar to create bolder sounds, or raise the "Sustain" bar to hold notes for longer periods. Switch between the four oscillator options (saw, sine, triangle and square) to learn how oscillators impact sound in electronic synthesis. Adjust each parameter until you begin to understand the role each one plays in manipulating music.

  7. 7

    Play your keyboard. Now that you have selected your instrument and accessed your options, you can begin making actual music. Play the keys on your computer keyboard to trigger the notes (most programs use the centre keys, beginning with "ASDF," for white keys, and the keys directly above to trigger sharps and flats).

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