30 January 2016
BUILD IT YOURSELF
Rock It with a
By Dan Levin
The Rock Band 3 keyboard (keytar) can
currently be found online for little more
than $20. Although primarily designed as
a game controller for the Rock Band
video game, it also doubles as a MIDI
controller. This makes it one of the least
expensive options available for a MIDI
keyboard to musicians. At first glance, the
MIDI options seem rudimentary at best,
and I ignored buying one when they first
came out. However, there are quite a few
options available that aren’t readily
apparent, and even a couple hidden
controller features that I’ve chosen to
exploit. The end result is a very
inexpensive — yet very capable — MIDI
controller that can be used both in the
music studio and for a little fun on a live
Rock Band Keyboard
The stock Rock Band keyboard is shown in
Figure 1. Let’s take a look at the features
available right out of the box:
• Velocity-sensitive two octave keyboard with
octave selection up and down.
• Modulation (vibrato) ribbon controller with
a button-selectable pitch bend function.
• MIDI program up and down selection.
• MIDI sequencer controls: Stop, Continue,
and Start to run your DAW (Digital Audio
• MIDI panic command (all notes off) for
those annoying stuck notes.
• MIDI Drum mode where you can play
drum sounds on an external module on MIDI
channel 10 (normally, it only outputs notes on
MIDI channel 1).