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Sparky’s Magic Piano

You might know the very famous oldie audio album for children entitled Sparky’s Magic Piano, or maybe the movie that was based on it. It is a pleasant way to get acquainted with one aspect of the karaKB software possibilities.

karaKB will turn your computer and MIDI keyboard into a "magic piano", very similar to our friend Sparky’s, except that:

karaKB is an entirely original MIDI software which allows anybody to play virtually any music!

Hard to believe?
The idea is simple though, if one thinks of it...
Let’s consider an instrumental performance, say one with a single keyboard instrument to keep things simple; it can be split into 2 parts:

The acquisition of the both complex and synchronous movements required by the mechanical task has so far been mandatory to enter the creative world and express oneself on a complete instrument like the piano. Everybody knows how steep this barrier is, with few immediate rewards, and so many cases of discouragement and early giving up.

Taking advantage of the immense yet still vastly unexploited possibilities allowed by the MIDI standard, karaKB implements a bunch of algorithms and heuristics to neatly split the mechanical and creative part mentioned above.

The mechanical part can be entirely left over to the computer, while only the creative part is ensured by the user.

This grossly means that you don’t necessarily have to worry about hitting the right key, not even hitting as many keys than there are notes in your score (i.e. the track(s) you decided to manage). In its basic mode, karaKB plays the appropriate notes, be it a complex chord or a tremolo, upon a single keystroke from you. You are free and idle to concentrate on expressiveness, rythm and special effects. The software knows how to spot what will be felt as an expressive unit by the listener, much like the concept of phoneme used by linguists. The four strokes of fate which introduce Beethoven’s fifth are made up of tenths of notes played on different instruments. For a listener though, as well as for karaKB, there are four expression units or musical phonemes or clusters. All you have to do is hit four times wherever on the keyboard, only strength and duration of your strokes will be taken into account, plus the pitchbend or any special effect you apply.

In this mode, karaKB is the orchestra and you are the conductor.

Yet the tasks don’t have to be divided that way. You might as well, for instance, leave strength and/or duration to the software. Only the instant when you hit the notes will always be taken into account in real time.

On the other hand, if one wishes to practice the fingering of the instrument, karaKB will comply by assigning more and more of the mechanical work to the student as (s)he gets more confident and acquainted with the work.

If you want to practice the mechanical part, karaKB won’t leave you alone, but will provide you with any hint you need to "hit the right keys at the right time".

Conversely, more of the performance’s character can be selectively taken from the MIDI file being used (which you might have previously created yourself with karaKB or any other sequencing software), and thus ensured by the computer. You can also change the settings on the fly, while you are playing. In the case of a complex work or orchestration, for instance, you can record tracks or sections one by one in a constructive process, until you reach your dream interpretation.

To sum up, you can drive the software in real time, in such a way that you take over exactly what you please at the moment.

The karaKB software may be used for different purposes, including:

Did your youngest son prove reluctant to a single piano lesson?

Now look at him as he instantly comes up with a personal interpretation of Maple Leaf Rag!

Unless he first has a personal... score to settle with the Turkish March...

...or whatever MIDI file you can find on the internet or on CD/DVD!

Chances are he’ll want to record his best performances, which undisputably will be his own interpretations. But don’t blame on us if you get the CD on Mother’s Day! 🌝

all this is done without tedious mouse editing, without fiddling with filters or complex procedures only understood by experts.

karaKB gives the piano student an extraordinary glimpse of how it feels to play music without tension nor constant fear of hitting the wrong key.

karaKB may help to trigger a strong and lasting motivation!

karaKB is currently distributed in the form of a top brand USB 3.1 memory stick (USB-A connector), with 32 Gigabytes capacity.

Using this thumbdrive you’ll be able to:

A glance at karaKB for Linux

Video demo karaKB

HTML manual for karaKB

PDF manual for karaKB

Download karaKB demo
100% fonctional except external files opening, instructions in README file

Works on Linux, Windows 10 (recent) and Windows 11

Demo karaKB 0.52 - zipped executable

karaKB 0.52 demo - Debian/Ubuntu package

Configuration file with predefined commands

Where can I purchase the karaKEY?

Getting started with the karaKEY

I still have questions about the karaKEY

Please send me the karaKEY

Sparky’s Magic Piano

All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time.
      -- Johann Sebastian Bach