<- Kalimba Tutorial, part 1

in part 1, we discussed macro structure, topical inspiration, and pitch notation. in part 2, we'll talk about some of the proprietary notations that need to be involved in association with the Launch Control MIDI controller. it'll be very easy and fun. 


section 1

a quick word about note stems:
notated here is Rob's suggestion of stems-down for left thumb, stems-up for right thumb. do you like the look of this?

while i don't dislike this solution, it tends to break beams so often that i went with an entirely un-beamed notation here. unless this is too confusing for you to look at, i'm in favor of stems-up/stems-down. the other suggestion was to use an accidental for one hand and a natural for the other, but this made the score way too cluttered and it was stressful to look at. my original solution was to add L or R below each note, enabling conventional beaming (though if i was playing trumpet and a composer wrote in all my fingerings, i'd be a little irritated). in short, i will defer to you, The Players.

squares in the score

a box with an 8.


these things correspond to each other. when you see a box with an 8 in the score, it means the button by the 8 on the controller should be pressed.

the button by the 8

in this case, the number 8 button is MIDI-mapped to the "play scene" button in Ableton that starts the piece. as such, the square at the beginning of the score starts the back beat. 4 buttons in all will control transport through the piece, and the other 4 will "focus" on the effect racks of each kalimba (more on the focus function later).

circles in the score

what are the circles?

these circles are a diagram that corresponds to the four knobs affecting the processing applied to the kalimba in question (k3 in this case). like a harp diagram, this tells you where to set your knobs before you play the notated figure.

each kalimba gets its own quadrant of fx knobs.

what are the numbers above the circles?

the numbers above the circles are MIDI values for where each knob should be set before the figure is played. when the knob is all the way to the left it's sending a value of 0. all the way to the right is 127. these values can be seen on screen, or you may decide you prefer to approximate these values and go by the location of the notch on the diagram.

who turns the knobs?

turning knobs results in sweet sound rips through redux and glitch effects. it's an opportunity to add further expression to your bandmate's notes. if you're "resting" in a given phrase, you are encouraged to turn the knobs affecting a kalimba that is not resting.

in rehearsal 2, two kalimbas playing and two resting. k1 and k4 could respectively affect the knob sets of k2 and k3, creating a duo x duo scenario. click below for an example.

in rehearsal 3, k1, k2, and k3 are all playing, and k4 is resting. so, k4 gets to go wild on 12 knobs. or, you may find you want to leave the timbre of the call (k3) constant, and only turn k1 and k2's knobs. knob expression is free by design.


with all of this knob improv, it's inevitable that we'll get off from the pictured diagrams pretty quickly. this is expected and encouraged - until you see a new diagram. when you see a new diagram on the horizon, it's the responsibility of a resting player to 'reset' the knobs before the ensemble moves on. in the figure above, i've assigned k4 to reset k2's knobs. once they're reset, k2 can cue the ensemble on to the next section.

regarding instrument names in the score:

each kalimba has its own set of effects which are different from the others. all the fx racks are based in the same sound world - bit redux, gated distortion, resonators - but each is EQ'd differently to fill out the spectrum. 

a quick word about section repeats:

every section is two measures. the first measure is the "call" and the second is the "response", as outlined in part 1. how many times do you repeat each section? i'm not sure. i think there is potential for each section to be a long time - maybe 30 seconds, maybe a minute, maybe a few minutes. what's notated here is only the first of three major sections, and is the shortest section. there's lots of room for flexibility. 

i'm almost ready to send over an Ableton set for you to plug into and riff on. have you got everything in terms of tech? contact microphones and a 4-input interface? i hope this all makes sense so far. after all the items here are clarified i'll send over a practice set you can plug into and test out the controller and soundcheck the gain levels.