The design blends perfectly with the Ableton Live interface and does not take up much space in your device view when minimized. Nevertheless, the Basic View with its small display already offers the most important information about the key switches at a glance.
You can see the note and the name of the currently selected key switch and its defined parameters.
If the player of your VST library offers you to xy-fade between articulations (e.g AB Switch for Runs Up or Down, Crescendo or Diminuendo / Crossfade from Sustain to Tremolo or Non Vibrato to Vibrato etc.), you can show the assigned velocity or CC values for a better overview as well. The yellow lines indicate 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4. The black lines 1/3 and 2/3.
However, the most important element in the Basic View is for sure the menu. Here you can select a key switch manually with the computer mouse or automate the key switches using automation envelopes in the Arrangement View.
Once you have given a key switch a name, you can define parameters for it. Visually, these parameters are then highlighted while the rest remains greyed out in the background.
You can also combine several parameters, e.g. to adjust multi-layered sound banks of a keyboard or to control matrices or different dimensions in your VST plug-in.
The settings of the unit are divided into four tabs.
The first lets you select the amount of your key switches and helps you to define parameters quickly for all key switches at once with the Auto Fill Option. Thereby, the MIDI notes are distributed upwards in semitone steps to all key switches on the basis of a root key (C, C#, D, D#). The same applies to the chain values, CC value and Program Changes (0, 1, 2, 3). Whereas the values of the bank, sub bank and CC number are only copied to all key switches (4, 4, 4, 4).
Directly below the parameters you can find the button for saving your key switches. As soon as you modify a key switch, the button will turn red and indicates that you still have to save your changes. Please note that you have to give a name to your key switch to be able to save it!
If you want to delete all your key switches to start over, press the Clear button.
Finally, you will find a few more buttons, which has to be explained in more detail.
Main Key of KS
As default the device will send the MIDI notes of the key switches for example to your VST instrument to control remotely provided articulation patches. But there might be a situation where you want to filter them out of the signal to avoid unwished sounds (e.g. Oscillator or Synthesizer without restricted pitch range). In this case, only switch the button to mute. Please note that this setting has no impact to the additional keys. They will be always transmitted.
Additional Key for VST KS
Here you can define an additional key (+Key) for your key switches. This might be practical if you want to assign easily other keys for your key switches than the VST uses for provided articulation patches. The main key is then for your piano and the additional one to switch the articulation patch in the VST player.
Or you use it for VST libraries which work with combinations of multiple keys to switch the parent and child slots of matrices or dimensions.
With the “Map” button, you can connect the device to the chain selector (e.g. Macro 1) of an Ableton Live Rack to control its chain. Please check the chapter about the set-up to find out in detail how to do this.
Show your XY-Faders in the display
Above, I mentioned already the XY-Faders which are located in the display. Here you can assign a MIDI control number or velocity for the Y and X-Fade (e.g. CC1 for Modulation or CC11 for Expressions)
Additionally, you have the possibility to change the shape of the XY-Faders and choose between a filled rectangle or a discreet line.
Finally, there is the Up/Down-button which allows you to invert the values of the Y-Fader to show the fader’s indicator accordingly to the layout of articulation slots in your VST-plug-in to avoid confusion.
In case that you only control the key switches manually on your piano or MIDI controller, normally, you do not need to define any delays.
However, when using automation envelopes, it is important to set delay times so that the MIDI note of the melody is sent out only after your VST plug-in, external instrument or Ableton Live Rack has had enough time to receive the sent parameters and to set the correct instrument or articulation.
This is particulary important because otherwise you will not be able to use the option Chase MIDI Notes, which since Ableton 10 allows you to always play your song directly with the automation envelope settings, even if playback starts after the MIDI note’s start time. Only then it is possible to hear your composition always with the correct articulation, instrument or effect when you skip through the timeline of the Arrangement View.
Especially with hardware (e.g. a keyboard with banks and sub banks) it can be important in which sequence the parameters are sent. The usual order is set as default. If necessary, this can be unlocked and changed to suit your individual needs.
The defined delays will cause a latency. Don’t worry! This can be compensated in Ableton either automatically with the option Delay Compensation or manually in the Track Delay Section.
The subject of delays and their compensation is explained again and in detail in the chapter Automation Envelopes.
In the third tab of the settings you can configure some behaviors of the KeySwitch & Expression Map regarding the automation envelopes of your key switches.
Automation Key re-enables KS or entire project
In the virtual piano’s user interface, you can set an additional key switch to re-enable the automation. Select here whether the Automation Key should re-enable the automation envelopes of the entire project or only those of the key switches.
Ignore incoming MIDI note for KS, if already set
When you record articulations or effects with your piano, the corresponding MIDI notes of the key switches are also captured in the MIDI clip. During playback, these “ghost notes” cause the automation envelope of the key switch to be deactivated, as they trigger the already set articulation a second time. To prevent this and to avoid that you have to manually delete the notes for the articulation after recording, you can activate this button.
Autotrigger the currently selected KS when recording starts and track is armed
You can let the device trigger the currently selected key switch as soon as you start a recording. In this way, you can conveniently set an articulation before recording, even if the automation of the envelope for the key switch gets deactivated by the manual switching beforehand. If you are used to work with the MIDI Arrangement Overdub it might bother you. Leave it switched off then.
Protect automation of KS when playing on your piano
In case that you play live, but you toggle in the songs between instruments, articulations or effects automatically, you can protect the automation against accidental key switching by activating this button in the settings.
From version 4.0 on, a fourth tab now lets you export your KeySwitch & Expression Map settings. This allows you to save easily your key switches as a backup, to quickly clone them to other instruments or to share them with other users.
In addition, of course, it also makes it possible to download and import presets. The idea is that this way not everyone has to start from scratch – especially when it comes to the default or factory articulation patches of popular sound libraries. In the next few months I will be looking for a way to create a small exchange platform on the website.
If you feel like sharing yours as well, I and other users would be super grateful!!! Please write me an email.
With the virtual piano, you can see and play all your key switches. For a clear overview, all names are written in a list with their pitch or number on the piano and the zone of a full-sized piano with 88 keys is visually highlighted. It also shows you the defined parameters of the currently selected key switch. With the green keys you can display the pitch range of your instrument.
In complement to the keys for the key switches, you can assign a further one to easily switch between automation and manual mode by re-enabling the automation envelope – globally for the entire project or only for the key switch automation. This Automation Key allows you for example to control articulations manually during a band rehearsal and to come back easily to automation as soon you stop your improvisation. The default of it is C7 which is easy to access and rarely played. If you do not need it, simply set it down to “-”.
If needed, you can also draw and write (double-click) on the surface of the piano. However, it is only a very limited gadget (no backspace, eraser or save), but perhaps it could be for example useful to briefly mark a series of articulations for a recording on the surface of the piano.
Here you will find more information on how to control your key switches with the piano, where to position them best and so on.
Either in addition to the virtual piano or displayed alone, the MIDI Control section offers you the possibility to record or edit MIDI controls directly in the Arrangement View. The most common MIDI CCs are listed by their names for a good overview. Additionally, you can define up to six custom CC numbers.
The MIDI controls are organized in four banks for instant mapping which allows you to control dynamically always the selected instance of the KeySwitch & Expression Map with your MIDI controller. For a quick workflow, you can customise the first bank to group your most frequently used MIDI controls into eight device controls, as you know them from other devices in Ableton.
The first dial lets you control additionally your key switches.
If you like, you can rename the labels from their default “Control 1-8” to a more meaningful name so that you can easily remember what they control. (e.g. Dynamics, Vibrato, Legato Blur etc.)