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What Is Keyboard Aftertouch? | Complete Guide

aftertouch keyboard

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In this post, we’ll answer the question, “what is keyboard aftertouch” and let you know if it’s worth having.

Aftertouch MIDI controllers respond to additional pressure you apply to its keys as you play. 

You can apply aftertouch to different parameters like pitch, modulation, etc., to add more depth and movement to your performances.

An aftertouch MIDI controller is nice but can be difficult to use if you’re inexperienced. 

Let’s go into more detail on aftertouch to help you decide if it’s a good fit.

What is Keyboard Aftertouch?

Keyboard aftertouch is a feature that lets you manipulate the original sound of a note by applying additional pressure to its key.

You can set up aftertouch on a MIDI controller to where pressure you apply to a key cab control modulation, pitch, volume, etc.

Ultimately, adding movement to your notes as you play will make your performance sound more interesting.

Aftertouch MIDI Controllers

In a MIDI keyboard, aftertouch represents MIDI data.

Your MIDI keyboard sends signals to the selected parameter in your DAW when you apply pressure to a key to initiate aftertouch.

From there, you can control effects and manipulate sounds directly through the keys on your controller.

[Here’s a list of the 6 best aftertouch MIDI controllers]

How Does Aftertouch Work?

Aftertouch is a type of keyboard expression, which is a keyboard’s ability to change the tonal qualities of a note based on how it’s played.

In this case, keyboards with aftertouch respond to pressure.

Here’s a quick example to help you understand this concept.

Let’s say you play a C note on your MIDI keyboard.

Without aftertouch, this note will sound the same over time – as you continue to press down on it.

However, with aftertouch, applying additional pressure to this note will change its tonal qualities.

What Can You Do With Aftertouch?

You can use aftertouch to alter a note’s pitch, volume, the position of a filter, and more.

To do so, you’ll need to assign aftertouch to a parameter – i.e., pitch, volume, reverb, modulation, etc. – in your DAW.

You could also add these effects in post-production. But the great thing about aftertouch is you can add variation in real-time. 

So if you need a MIDI keyboard to spice up your live performances, we recommend making sure it has aftertouch.

What’s the Difference Between Channel Aftertouch vs Polyphonic Aftertouch

There are two types of aftertouch: Channel or mono and polyphonic.

Channel aftertouch, also known as mono aftertouch, senses the amount of pressure you apply to all keys simultaneously and sends a single MIDI controller value to the MIDI output. 

On the other hand, polyphonic aftertouch senses the amount of pressure applied to each key individually and sends a separate MIDI controller value for each key to the MIDI output. 

Is Aftertouch Necessary?

Aftertouch isn’t necessary, but it can enhance creativity.

If you’re an experienced keyboardist, aftertouch can add a new dynamic to your production and performances.

You can use it to add variation to your sounds in real-time and spontaneously create interesting sounding melodies.

While aftertouch has advantages for skilled keyboardists, it’s difficult for beginners to use. 

To use aftertouch, you’ll need to apply additional pressure to keys while still playing fluently, which is difficult without experience.

Aftertouch Alternatives

For non-keyboardist, the parameters you can control using aftertouch, you can also control through your DAW. 

You can add automation to your melodies in your sequence editor to add variation without aftertouch. 

Is Aftertouch Worth it?

Aftertouch MIDI keyboards can be expensive.

However, they’re worth the expense if you’re looking for a creative way to spice up your music.

Today, it’s easier than ever to be a “music producer” since all you need is a computer and a DAW.

An aftertouch MIDI keyboard can help you make unique melodies and stand out from the pack.

Aftertouch vs Velocity Sensitive

Aftertouch and velocity sensitivity are both forms of keyboard expression.

An expressive keyboard lets you change specific tonal qualities of a note based on how you play it. 

The main difference is aftertouch responds to pressure while velocity sensitivity responds to velocity – or how hard/soft you press a key.

Each form of keyboard expression triggers a change in a note’s tonal qualities through different actions.

Takeaway: What is Aftertouch in a Keyboard?

Aftertouch is a type of keyboard expression found in some MIDI keyboards that you can use to add effects to your melodies in real-time.

The keys on an Aftertouch MIDI Keyboard are pressure-sensitive, meaning you can apply additional pressure to notes after striking them to apply effects as you play. 

Aftertouch can be a valuable tool for music producers, as it offers a way to add nuance to their performances.

You can create more expressive and emotive music by carefully controlling the amount of aftertouch you apply to each note.

Whether you’re a seasoned producer or just getting started, aftertouch is a great way to add more personality to your music.

So don’t be afraid to experiment with it and see what you can create!

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