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Two Keyboards is like Four Keyboards

peavey dpm3

peavey dpm3

I remember in college when I bought my first two-tier keyboard stand. It was great. I was so excited. Now all I needed was the second keyboard. Of course being a penniless, starving student didn’t allow for the extravagance of purchasing excess gear. So I went for what seemed like a really long time with just one keyboard.

At the time I had a Peavey DPM3, which was actually way more keyboard than I knew what to do with. I was completely overwhelmed by the thought of oscillators and envelopes and filters and modulators. But one thing I did know was that I had 16 MIDI channels to work with and only one set of keys. And this was a limitation that I was determined to overcome.

Although I only owned one keyboard, I knew that if I could get my hands on another one I could “MIDI them together” to access way more sounds (using different MIDI channels) than I could play with just the one keyboard. For example, in performance mode I could layer 5 sounds using MIDI Channels 1-5 and play those all with the main keyboard. Then using a second keyboard as a controller I could access another bank of 5 sounds on channels 6-10 without ever needing to change patches. So even though I was playing the two sets of keys, I would only trigger the sounds from the main keyboard.

It gets better. Using this logic, I determined that I could also do the same for the second keyboard, and at the same time. I could make my ‘main’ keyboard access the ‘secondary’ keyboard’s sounds as well.

Kawai k1

Kawai k1

So, with much begging, threatening, and bribing, I convinced my brother to loan me his Kawai K1 for the weekend and I tried it.

Not only did my experiment work…. I looked SO COOL doing it! In fact, I think my wife married me because of this. (Ahhh… But that’s a story for another day)

By hooking the two keyboards together with MIDI, I was essentially using two sets of sounds from one and two sets of sounds from the other, at the same time. That’s why having two keyboards is actually like four keyboards.

SIDE NOTE: Using this logic… Three keyboards would be like having nine. I have yet to try that one.

What do you think? Do you have any interesting ‘MIDI Chaining” stories to tell?

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