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Barry Baker Using Octave Shift for Greater Variety

In a previous blog, I referred to Kawai's user-friendliness in its button panel design. This includes often-used features that are given their own buttons--in other words, buttons devoted to certain features that are easily accessed because they're right at your fingertips, at all times.

Compare this philosophy to the alternative: Useful features that are buried deep within an instrument's navigation, requiring the player to sift through multiple menu screens in order to locate the desired feature.

One such useful feature that's simple to use on Kawai's CP series of instruments (the ensemble pianos) is "octave shifting." While "O.S." (as I like to call it when attempting to be a "hip pianist") is not unique to Kawai, the truly simple manner of using it is fantastic.

Firstly, let's discuss what "octave shifting" is by using an example: When you play "middle C" on the piano, you'll hear a middle C. However, if you use "octave shift" then play "middle C," you'll be hearing another "C"--like "tenor C" (the "C" below middle C), the "C" above middle C, or other Cs on the keyboard, instead of the "C" that you're actually playing.

Why would you want to do this? Several reasons:

1. Maybe you're creating a layer of two simultaneous sounds--piano and strings. You'd like the piano to play at its normal octave, while the strings play one octave higher. You may "octave shift" the strings one octave higher, while maintaining the normal octave for the piano. It's a really cool multi-textural color.

2. Organ: Full classical (church) organ sounds are enhanced by combining pitches across the range of the keyboard. When these pitches play simultaneously, the effect is a fuller, brighter, and/or deeper sound.

3. Maybe you're playing with an accompaniment style, where the split point is normally determined just below middle C. Thus, you're playing left hand chords for the style in the tenor range (and lower), while the right hand melody is playing from around "middle C" on up. While this is a normal configuration for style playing, it can be limiting for exploring the full scale range of the right hand melody sound, particularly if that sound is a piano. Because the left hand is monopolizing the entire left portion of the keyboard, the right hand piano sound is unavailable down there--so it would appear that you're limited to a certain range while playing with a style. Well, not so with octave shifting. You can sound the tenor range of the right hand piano while physically playing the middle range.

4. Likewise, you might want to optimize a sound you have assigned to your left hand. It might be an alto saxophone that doesn't sound so "alto" because your left hand is playing it so low on the keyboard. Shifting the alto sax up one octave puts it in its proper alto range, although your left hand continues playing the same lower keys.

5. Maybe you want to play a joke on someone (!). Think about it. It's only too easy.

Now, let's touch on the simple know-how of using Kawai's octave shift. On the right side of the CP button panel, below the rotary dial, are two buttons clearly labeled, "Octave Shift." The left button shifts a sound down one octave each time it's pressed, for a total of four octaves. Likewise, the right button shifts a sound up one octave each time it's pressed, totaling four octaves.

Now, these two buttons will affect only the Part (Right 1, Right 2, Solo, or Left) that's currently highlighted in the display screen (highlight one of the Parts by using the corresponding buttons to the side of the display screen). Once highlighted, these two octave shift buttons will affect only that sound individually (leaving the other sounds unaffected, unless you'd want to make changes to them as well).

This type of feature can be handy for off-the-cuff, "live" playing. Consequently, I really dig this function not being buried in some obscure sub-menu that would be difficult to access while playing.

Let me supply you with a point-for-point example you can immediately try out. Turn on your CP piano, press the "Latin & Island" style category button and select the "Bossa Nova" style. Now, press two more buttons in the Style section before playing: The "Acc On" button and, just below that button, the "Sync" button.

Now, enjoy playing the piano in the right hand while your left hand activates chords for the "Bossa" style.

A completely different piano personality emerges if you highlight the "Concert Grand" sound in the display screen (by using the corresponding button to the right of the screen), then press the left "Octave Shift" button once. If you're playing the piano around the "middle C" range, you're now hearing its tenor range. And, depending on your melodic line, you could still have a pleasant and contrasting sound by shifting the octave down yet again, for a total of two octaves. Just press the left "Octave Shift" button again, and try it!

You'll notice that each time you press an Octave Shift button there is a corresponding arrow in the screen, next to the affected sound. One arrow in the screen means the sound is shifted one octave, two arrows is two octaves, etc. And the direction of the arrow is significant, because it shows which direction the octave is being shifted--left or right.

Finally, to return the affected sound to its normal octave, just press both octave buttons simultaneously (after making sure that the sound you want to change is highlighted in the screen). You'll see the arrow(s) next to the sound name in the screen disappear, and the sound will return to its normal range.

There're lots of possibilities with this feature...have fun experimenting!
— Barry Baker

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