The KTabS Notebook
Printing Your Music

KTabS Logo

In this monthly column, I explore the many features of KTabS, the totally wonderful Kalimba Tablature Software. My hope is to share my knowledge of this program with others so that they too can enjoy the creative boost that KTabS affords. But if the KTabS Notebook installments dribble out too slowly for you over the months, you can always go and drink directly from the fire hydrant—check out the extensive tutorial on the actual KTabS site.

Printing Your KTabS Song

When you download a KTabS file, or when you write your own music in KTabS, you can, of course, play that song on your computer using the KTabS program. However, you might want a hard copy of that song too!

Near the top of the KTabS window, the 5th icon is the Print icon - but you can also access "Print," "Print Setup" or "Print Preview" from the file menu. You will find the typical things when the print window comes up: Which printer do you want to use? How many copies? Which pages? This will be old hat to most people.

The first thing you will notice when you print out a KTabS song is that the KTabS program will figure out how many columns of tablature fit on your page and will arange the music going from bottom to top, with the multiple columns going from left to right. Most kalimbas' tablature will get two columns per page. If you are printing tablature for an 8-Note kalimba, you will get three columns per page. If you are printing chromatic tablature, you will get only one strip of tablature per page. Also, if you use the lyrics feature which puts words to the right of each note on the tablature, you may find that the words require extra space and a kalimba such as the Alto or Treble, which usually gets two columns per page, may only be able to fit one column per page.


Controlling the Details

There is another place in the KTabS program that gives you great control over the appearance of your KTabS printout: there are multiple parameters in the configuration window that you can tweak to change the printout.

Do you know the configuration window? The 6th icon in the icon tray near the top of the KTabS application - just to the right of the print icon - is the configuration icon. It looks like a piece of paper with lines and a check mark on it, but if you hover over that icon, it will say "Configuration." Click on that to get the configuration window.

You may remember the configuration window from the KTabS Notebook a few months ago. It is mainly used to define the details of the kalimba for which you are writing tablature. You can specify the number of tines the kalimba has (if you are creating a new KTabS file), which tines are painted, and what notes they are tuned to. You can also specify several aspects of the appearance of your KTabS tablature. At the bottom of the configuration window, there are two boxes that span the width of the window: the upper one says "Edit Music Setup," and the bottom one says "Print Music Setup." The "Edit Music Setup" refers to the appearance of the tablature on your computer screen, and the "Print Music Setup" refers to the appearance of the tablature when printed, i.e., you can't edit music setup for print or for display at the same time - these must be done separately.

The simplest thing to play with is the Scale Factor, which makes the tablature larger of smaller. For example, if I am working with young kids, I might use a scale factor of 2.0 to make the tablature really large. The advantage of this setup is that you can change the way a particular song's tablature prints without changing the way it is displayed on the screen. Tine Width changes the width of the tines (but not the notes that are placed on the tines. I never use anything but the classical Note Style, but you should feel free to play around with it. I prefer variable note spacing. By changing the Note Spacing value, you can make the music scrunched up or more spread out, i.e., so it fills up a page exactly.

KTabS Configuration Window
Screen shot of configuration window in KTabS. Scale factor, tine width,
and note spacing affect the size of the tablature when printed out.

So, to recap - the two main features that you will be using to fine tune the way your printed tabature fits on the pages will be Scale Factor and Note Spacing. Unfortunately, these parameters are global to each song, and you can't change them from one page to another.


Author, Title and Arranger

The author, title, arranger, and copyright for your music can be inserted using the author window. You access the author window by clicking on the "A" icon near the top of KTabS, and then enter the information. You can also protect your work by making it Read Only - but then other people can't print it.

If Print Headers is selected in the configuration window, then the author, title, arranger, and copyright information will be visible when you print out the music.


PrimoPDF, a Free PDF Distiller

PrimoPDF is great free PDF distiller - you can get it at It will appear as one of the possible printers when you go to print a KTabS piece (or when you go to print anything from other Windows programs). I actually found the Acrobat PDF distiller to be a poor match to KTabS, but the PrimoPDF software is reliable and fast with KTabS. Once you have made the PDF of your KTabS song, you can send it to friends who don't have KTabS, put it on your web site, or print it out.

click for PDF
By adjusting scale factor and note spacing, you can make a printout which fills the page nicely. This song, the melody from Ode to Joy, is available in the Classical Treble Book.


Next Month: Kushaura and Kutsinhira Mbira Parts

Next month, we will show you how KTabS can re-enact the ancient African mbira kushaura (leading) and kutsinhira (following) parts. Two players can play the exact same sequence of notes, but one of them starts one note earlier than the other, so it sounds like a single player playing through a digital delay effects processor. Or in an inspired composition, the echoed part fits with the leading part to create something amazing. We'll show you how KTabS can help you create a kalimba melody which can be played as kushaura and kutsinhira parts.

Of course, those ingenious ancient Africans did it without the benefit of digital delay OR KTabS. It is things like this that make me marvel at the brilliance of these Africans who lived 1000 years ago. If we do not see that brilliance now, it is partly a problem with our eyes, and partly a problem of what westernization and modernization have done to Africa.

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