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Some notes on piano keys, and how pianists play without looking

A piano keyboard, or MIDI keyboard as is often the case, is broken up into two sets of keys:

C-E: Distinguished by two black keys. Contains C, C#, D, D#, and E.F-B: Distinguished by three black keys. Contains F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, and B. The obvious question is: "What the hell?"
It's simple: imagine how these keys were meant to be used. A pianist would have a sheet of music in front of them, and they would sight read it as they played. This would be very difficult if they couldn't find the keys without looking at them!
Plus, you'd need almost twice the length for the same number of keys, and there's no way even a pianist with ridiculously-long arms would be able to reach them all.
This is not all that different from the keyboard on your laptop. I wrote this whole thing without even glancing at the keyboard because the keys are arranged a certain way. Most newer keyboards have eschewed gaps between function keys (the Fs with numbers up top). As someone who uses …

Cobalt Synthesizer Review: So good. And free!

Cobalt is a free synth from Sanford Sound Design. It used to be $35, and as I've often found with formerly-paid synths, it's got a good sound to it. It comes with several preset packs in the download.

It's very easy to get good sound out of it! It's going into my favorites folder right next to Helm. I could write an extensive review, but a video of me tinkering with it is a lot more illustrative. :)

Helm Synthesizer Review: Good, free, open source. What's not to love?

Helm is a free, open source, and cross-platform polyphonic synthesizer that comes in VST, AU, AAX, and LV2 plugin formats. You can get it precompiled in 32-bit or 64-bit formats, or compile it yourself.

The first thing that stands out: it's loud. Very, very, very loud. When I first started using it, I had to put a limiter on to keep from triggering automute.

But...it's also good. I seem to come up with some new and interesting sound every time I tinker with the knobs and buttons.

Pros:
Open source. Check out the plugin's GitHub page. I haven't tried building it, but the instructions are straightforward. No dependency hell you usually see on open source stuff.Straightforward. VST interfaces tend to be a mystery unless you want to read every one of their 50 page manuals. As a fiddler, I like to figure stuff out by touch, and Helm makes this easy.
Cons:
LOUD. Depends more on presets. The pesets that come with it are mostly okay, but the presets you can find vary a lot. Loud…

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