KURZWEIL PC3K MUSIC THEATER PRIMER
Back in 2010 when I worked for Kurzweil R&D full time I was contacted by Andrew Lloyd Webber's team. They were asking for a new keyboard based on the PC3, specifically geared toward musical theater work. Together with Kurzweil's R&D team we came up with the PC3K8, an 88-note workstation with the sounds, programmability and flexible MIDI control required by major MT productions.
While I do use software instruments on my shows, the PC3K is the "brains" of the rig, handling patch changes, pedals and about 50% of the sounds. It's more stable and reliable than software and boots up much more quickly - in about 20 seconds.
Now I work on Broadway and around the world programming the PC3K on productions like Phantom, Evita, School of Rock, Mary Poppins, 42nd Street and Les Miserables. I still contract for Kurzweil R&D part time as a sound programmer and I'm also a dealer for their US sales division.
The following guide is meant to help users get up and running with a basic understanding of how to best use the PC3K in musical theater. Included are essential time-saving tips, FAQs and useful external links. If you have specific questions or would like a PDF version, feel free to contact me and I'll be happy to assist.
The sounds in the PC3K are divided into two types:
1. Programs - These are individual preset sounds.
2. Setups - What other companies call "multis" or "combis", setups allow splitting and layering of multiple sounds. Setups provide up to 16 zones; each can have its own internal program and MIDI channel for triggering external sounds.
Setup Mode was created with work like musical theater specifically in mind. This is where pedals can be assigned for patch changes and volume.
To get started, you'll want to take a look at the first three pages in the setup editor: Channel/Program, Key/Velocity and Pan/Volume. Each can be selected using the soft buttons along the bottom of the display.
Select Setup #128 Default Setup and hit Edit. The first page (Channel/Program) will show which program is being used in this zone (zone 1), MIDI status (Local, MIDI, USB, etc.) and MIDI Channel #. This is where you can select programs and select MIDI channels for triggering external sounds.
With the cursor on the Program name (where it starts by default), you can now use the Bank and Category buttons to select a program. Note - if you hit Edit, you will be taken directly to the Program Editor without having to exit Setup Mode.
Next, using the soft buttons along the bottom of the screen, select the Key/Velocity page. This is where you can transpose and set key range for each zone. Key ranges can be set using Intuitive Entry, a key feature in all Kurzweil boards. Move the cursor onto LoKey, hold Enter and hit the desired key. Do the same for HiKey and your range for this zone is now set. You'll see Intuitive Entry in many other useful places in the PC3K.
Next, select the Pan/Volume page. This is where you can set Entry and Exit values for the volume of each zone. An Entry Value tells the setup where to set the volume once the setup has been selected. The Exit Volume sets the Volume for the same numbered zone on the next setup. If the next setup has an Entry Value, the latter will take precedence. If you set an Entry Value, be sure to set an Exit Value. (I use 110 as a default Exit Value.) I try to only use these settings when necessary - otherwise, I leave them set to "None".
To toggle between zones while editing a setup, use the Chan +/- buttons to the left of the screen. The top right of the display will always tell you which zone you're on. If you'd like to hear *only* the zone you're on, use the button labeled Q Access, which has a secondary function of Zone Solo in Setup Mode. When this button is lit up while editing a setup, it means that you're only hearing this zone and no others. Hit it again to disable Zone Solo (always do this before exiting and saving!). Soling zones is absolutely vital, one of the features I use most frequently.
Note - Toggling between and soloing layers within programs works exactly the same way in the program editor.
SAVING A NEW SETUP
Once you've finished editing Default Setup, hit Exit. The PC3K will prompt you to save the new setup in a new User location, starting at #1025 or above. The Rename function allows you to rename a setup using the numeric keypad. It's best to avoid overwriting factory setups, so starting at #1025 is fine. Important - NEVER overwrite setup #126 Internal Voices. This setup governs how all programs behave in Program Mode.
CREATE A TEMPLATE
Creating a template setup that can be edited and duplicated is my primary time-saving trick for Setup Mode. There are a few essential settings that you'll want in ALL of your setups - set them in the template and base all of your setups on the template.
Your template will have two zones. Start with Zone 1 - assign pedals (see below). Then use <<MORE to page over to the left until you see New Zone. Create the new zone use the Chan +/- buttons to toggle to Zone 2. Set just the volume pedal (see below) but not patch change pedal. Exit, rename "Template" or something similar and save.
Edit your setup (which should still just be a single zone setup at this point). Use the MORE>> soft button to page over to the right. On the Foot Switch 1 page, you'll see that the pedal is assigned to Sustain. On the Foot Switch 2 page, you'll want to assign Setup Increment - each time the pedal is hit, the next setup in order will be selected. For On Control, type in 139 and hit Enter. Set Off Control to "Off" - hit 0 and Enter. IMPORTANT - You only need Setup Increment assigned on one zone! It will send another increment message for each additional zone where it's assigned. It's best to have Setup Increment assigned on Zone 1.
Use the MORE>> button to page over to the Continuous Pedals page. For CPed1, hit 11 and Enter - this assigns "Expression" to the pedal for this zone. Do this for zones 1 and 2.
From here on out if you need to create a new setup, edit THIS setup. If you need more zones, use Duplicate Zone to duplicate Zone 2. DO NOT DUPLICATE ZONE 1 (as you don't want to duplicate that Setup Increment setting).
NOTE ON DUPLICATING ZONES
When you duplicate a Zone, if you need the new zone to have the same MIDI channel # as the zone you've copied, you'll need to manually set it on the Channel/Program page. When duplicating zones, the PC3K will always assign a new MIDI channel # by default, be on the lookout for this, check it often.
The reason for using the PC3K's Setup Mode as the hub of an MT rig is stability. The trade-off: organizing and moving setups in the PC3K is not as easy or straightforward as moving presets in a software instrument. But a bit of foresight and preparation can prevent most headaches in this department.
Leave spaces between setups (at least one) and between songs (at least ten). If you're working on a new show or new orchestration it might be wise to leave three or four empty slots between setups and twenty between songs. This will give you plenty of room to insert setups when the composer shows up and decides to add extra bars of music hours before opening night.
HOW TO CREATE MAPPED CHORDS?
There are several ways to do this on the PC3K. The easiest and most common method is to create multiple one-note zones in a setup.
Edit your setup, go to the zone where you'll assign the first note of the chord. Go to Key/Velocity page and use Intuitive Entry (see Setup Basics) to set the Hi and Lo note, both should be the same, just one note. Use Transpose on the right side of the page to set the correct pitch. Now use <<MORE and page over to the left until you see Duplicate Layer. Duplicate the layer and repeat the above process. I usually assign all zones making up a chord to the same MIDI channel (on the Channel/Program page).
The PC3K will try to efficiently use its 16 "units" provided for Insert (single instrument) and Aux (reverb for the mix) effects. By default a setup will use the Aux effect of whichever program is on Zone 1. Insert effects priority will be given to lowest numbered zone. So if you've got an effects-heavy sound like Rhodes or guitar, put it on Zone 1 or 2. On the FX page in Setup Mode, the series of Y, N and (Y) reflect the status of each zone's insert effect. Y = enabled, N = disabled, (Y) = wants to enable but has run out of resources.
You can override the Aux reverb - edit the setup, go to AUXFX1 page, select "Yes" for override and select a reverb chain (#907 and 908 work well). The lower portion of the screen shows send levels for each zone. Start out with setting 0 (as in 0 dB send) for each zone and boost or cut as necessary. "P" stands for the Aux send level as originally set in the program.
It's a good idea to set Aux override and assign a useful Aux reverb on your Template Setup.
OTHER KURZWEIL BOARDS
While the steps above apply specifically to the PC3K, the same steps should apply (with slight variations in terminology) to all current Kurzweil boards. For the older PC3, everything above applies perfectly. For the Artis and Forte stage pianos, the menus for pedals will be found in a list of controllers, and the pages with transpose and key range will look different… but all the parameters are there.
Here are a few pieces of gear that I use in conjunction with the PC3K on all of my shows.
Boss FV500L (Requires balanced 1/4" TRS cable.)
Switch Pedal (for Setup Increment):
Boss FS-5U (Requires unbalanced 1/4" cable.)
Kenton MIDI Volume Meter - Connect this to the PC3K's MIDI Thru port (with the port set to "Out"). The meter will now reflect the position of the volume pedal on a scale of 0-20 or 0-127. I use 0-20 as all of my shows' parts contain 0-20 markings for volumes along with markings for patch changes.
PC3K Knowledge Base - Info and FAQs from Kurzweil support covering PC3K basics.
KSetList - A forum where Kurzweil users can share sounds found in popular songs. Lots of free sounds available here for download.
Kurzweil Operational Support - For help with troubleshooting and general usage.
NEED MORE ASSISTANCE?
Anyone with questions, feel free to send a message via the contact button below. For those in need of more assistance, I'm available for consulting (keyboards and orchestration/reduction) and custom programming work. I can do on-site installs and programming work if needed. I also sell pre-made custom sound sets designed for MT use. And I've got the best prices and customer support on all new Kurzweil keyboards in the US.