The Letter Keys "Piano"

We think Songworks, when it appeared in 1992, must have been the first software ever to use the letter keys of the computer as a piano. The computer's keys are not perfectly adapted for piano use - they don't know if you're playing loud or soft, and there are certain combinations of keys that can't both sound at the same time, but they are very convenient for note entry or just playing around.

Songworks has two options for the letter keys piano that you can choose in the Keyboard Options menu. The first one is most like a traditional piano in that the same keys always play the same notes: the middle row is the white keys starting on C, and the upper row provides black keys. The < and > keys lower or raise the pitch by an octave:

The second piano is in some ways more useful for basic song writing. This one plays only the notes of the current key, with the each row of keys beginning with sol over a range of three octaves. Most popular songs use only the notes of a single major or minor scale, so this can work very well both for note entry and improvising:

The Chord Keys

The usual purpose of the number keys in Songworks is as a shortcut to change from one note or rest value to another. If you have a note tool chosen you can switch to whole notes by pressing 1, half notes with 2, quarter notes with 3, and so on. Option switches to rests; shift adds a dot. But if you don't have a note or rest tool chosen then the number keys play any of the seven chords chosen in the chord tools above the screen piano. These chords by default are the seven chords natural to the current key: the ones built on the 1st through 7th notes of the scale. But you can change them to whatever you want, and you can assign any accompaniment pattern to each or all of them too. When you press "1" you'll hear the first chord in the list start playing, pressing "4" will change to the 4th chord, and so on. What's fun is that you can play notes on the letter keys at the same time the chords are sounding, so that you're playing with accompaniment. You can even record what you play, and when you stop you'll see Songworks notate what you did - complete with the chord symbols for the chords you used!

Even better, you can ask Songworks to convert those chord symbols into piano accompaniment like that you were hearing as you improvised:

You can alter that music, add lyrics, save it, print it, or export it as a MIDI file to send to friends. You can even convert the file to an MP3 file using Apple's Garageband for the Macintosh, or various programs available on the Windows platform.