The KTabS Notebook
Change the Look, Write a Song...

KTabS Logo

This year, we are doing a series of articles that will explore the many features of KTabS, the totally wonderful Kalimba Tablature Software. This program allows me to be creative and efficient when I write down new or old kalimba songs for myself to remember or to instruct other folks, and my mission is to share my knowledge of this program with other folks so they can also enjoy the kind of creative boost that comes from using KTabS. If my tips about KTabS dribble out over the months a bit too slowly for you, you can always go and drink directly from the fire hydrant—check out the extensive tutorial on the KTabS site.

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Changing the Appearance of KTabS Tablature

There are a number of details that you can edit to customize the look and feel of your tablature in KTabS.

MIDI menu

Open up KTabS, and in the top right corner, to the right of the "play" and "rewind" and "MIDI" icons, you will see five icons which relate to the appearance of your tablature. One says "ACE", referring to the notes of each tine. The next says "123", referring to the bar numbers. Just what do these buttons do? Try them and find out!

MIDI menu

There is one more icon, on the top left of KTabS, which is even more useful in controlling the way your KTabS looks. Between the printer icon and the "A" icon (which permits you to include author, arranger, title, and copyright information in your KTabS file and on your tablature printouts) is the configuration icon. Click on this and you will get the configuration window. There is a lot going on here - how many tines, tine color, a piano keyboard, and a number of parameters, which relate to the spacing of the notes and tines. "Edit Music Setup" refers to how KTabS appears on your computer screen, while "Print Music Setup" refers to the finished PDF or printed tablature.

MIDI menu

I won't explain most of the feautures in the configuration window at this time, but let's just take a look at "Tine Shading Color."

When I write out KTabS tablature that will appear in a black and white book, I like the painted tines to be gray and the unpainted tines to be white. In KTabS, the unpainted tines are gray or silver and the painted tines are whatever color you choose them to be. In the configuration window, right-clicking the tine will toggle between "painted" and "unpainted". To get tines white or red or blue or whatever, select your color in "Tine Shading Color."

By the way, once you have a configuration set up just the way you like it (including the other appearance icons such as the "V" shape, "ABC", "123", "center line", etc.), you should "Save Template." You will then be able to get all of this information about the way you like your tablature set up just by selecting "Load Template" next time you want to create some new tablature.

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KTabS Templates for Your Kalimba

When KTabS starts up, the default kalimba is the 17-Note Treble, but you can set up KTabS to work as any sort of kalimba.

What sort of kalimba do you have? Chances are, we've already got a template for it! Download the free zip file of over 80 KTabS templates. Save these in your KTabS\templates folder, and just "Load Template" to be up and running on your kalimba without having to do the tedious work of setting up the right configuration from scratch.

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Writing Your Own Song in KTabS

If you can't find the right template for your kalimba, you can create your own. Start by going into the FILE menu and click NEW - this will bring up the configuration window. Next, set the number of tines, then left-click on each tine in the diagram - it will play its note. It is also labelled with the name and octave of the note (middle C is C4). If your note is not correct (most likely it isn't), find the note on the piano keyboard and left click - keep going until you find the right note! Then left click the next tine on the tablature diagram and continue. This is very important, because if you do it incorrectly, the music won't play correctly! It will be like playing on a kalimba in a different tuning.

When you have completed the configuration setup, or after you haved loaded a template, accept the configuration with "OK", and a new stretch of tablature will appear for your kalimba. At first, there are four blank measures. The time signature is not stated, but it is 4/4. The starting bar (it is usually implicit, so it won't be visible) is selected (highlighted in blue-green). You can right-click on the selected bar to get the Action Menu, and from there you can set the Time Signature or the Tempo. BUT the real fun starts when you start clicking on the tines in the tablature.

By default, KTabS fills its space with slots for quarter notes. Those quarter note spaces are almost invisible, but you can tell they are there because the gray of the tines is a bit lighter. Imagine there is room for four quarter notes in the first measure, and left-click where you think the first one should be - if you did it right, the first space is selected (highlighted in blue-green). If you left-click on a tine within that selected region, DING - your computer sings the tine that you just clicked on. If you want a chord, left-click on another tine in that selected space, and you will hear that second tine. Do you want to hear them both? First deselect that space by left-clicking on something else - the bar line for example. Then left-click on the notes and BRRRRING! You hear them all play. One last detail here: if you want to remove a note, first select that space by left clicking, and then left-click on the note you don't want, and it goes away. This is fast and easy, and it gives you the immedate feedback about which note you are getting. I love it!

Now, fill in all the remaining space with notes - either by design or willy-nilly - just get those notes into KTabS. You have filled up all 16 beats - four beats in each of four measures... but you aren't done yet! If you want more space for more notes, you need to insert it. Right-click on the top (last) note, and up comes the Action Menu - one of the actions is "Insert 16 Above" - that's the one I usually use! And BAM, you have more space for more notes. It is easy to remove this space if you put in too much.

You probably realize that most music does not consist of just quarter notes! So, to get some practice making other notes, select one of your quarter note and turn it into an eighth note by clicking the eighth note icon in the Note Bar. If you turned just one quarter note into an eighth note, that measure doesn't make sense anymore timewise - it is trying to put 4.5 beats into a 4 beat measure, and the notes will be highlighted with pink to say "Fix Me!" So, select a second quarter note and turn it into an eighth note, and the pink goes away.

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Using the Fixed Barline in KTabS

An important detail to be aware of is the "fixed barline" - one of the Action Items in the Action Menu you get when you right click. If you want to start your piece with a pickup, select the first note beyond the pickup notes, and right click to get the Action Menu, and select "Fixed Barline" - and just below the selected note, a green barline will appear. Try to avoid using the fixed barline - basically, it turns off KTabS' counting and won't complain if you have the wrong number of notes in a measure.

However, here is one great use of the fixed barline. Lets say you have dozens of measures completed in your song, and many of those measures have eighth or sixteenth notes, and you have connected many of these notes with the connecting flags (this is helpful in suggesting phrasing sometimes, and makes the music more readable). If you made a mistake in measure number three and you need to convert a quarter note into two eighth notes, you will have to go into that spot and "insert 1 above" (or below) - and when you do that, it will push all the notes up the tablature, and some of the eighth and sixteenth notes that shared connecting flags will be pushed into the next measure, which will break the connectors. To prevent this from happening, go to the bar just beyond the place where you need to add a note, and make a "fixed barline" right at that bar. Then, when you add a note, KTabS won't shift the notes above that point. Add the needed note and change the old quarter and the new quarter notes into eighth notes - maybe select them both and add a connecting flag, and it you want, you can even clean up by deleting the green "fixed barline" - but you don't have to, because the green bar won't print when you export to a PDF. And, while KTabS is a robust program and seldom crashes, you WILL want to save often, just in case!

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What Are Your KTabS Questions?

Next month, we will look at transposing music into a different key, copying or transposing from one kalimba to another, and how to retune your kalimba in KTabS to see what it will sound like before you actually retune any tines.

I am just guessing about what people would find interesting or useful about KTabS. While I have a list of dozens of topics for the coming months of KTabS Forums, my list might not include your ideas. You can help steer this ship by sending me your ideas and suggestions about what you would like to learn about KTabS. Similarly, you might have a great use for KTabS that Sharon and I haven't figured out yet! Hope to hear from you.

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