Saturday, August 31, 2013

USB Keyboard

I was visiting Andy Baird in his motor home a couple of weeks ago, and he showed me his USB Keyboard and demonstrated how it works with his computer.  I tried to teach myself piano years ago, and have had a piano and two electronic keyboards - one was an "electronic grand piano" from Costco with all the keys a full sized piano has - and I loved it.  Unfortunately, I never took lessons and could only go so far on my own.  The piano and the keyboard were sold along the way, and finally in my estate sale in 2011, the electronic grand piano was sold.  Even though it wasn't a big piece of furniture and could fit anywhere in my condo, there just wasn't any way it was going to fit in The Palms.

Fast forward 2 1/2 years, and here was a solution.  The keyboard Andy had was not large and would fit on my dinette table.  It has a USB cord that plugs into my laptop, and uses the laptop speakers to provide the sound.  I'd never heard of this kind of keyboard before, but it looked really interesting and might be the answer to my wanting, still, to play the piano.

When I was out of Bluewater on my six days in Grants, the second day I had an appointment for an annual service on my generator.  I had made an appointment at Rocky Mountain Cummings LLC in Albuquerque and drove down there my first day out.  They have an area where big rigs can park, and another area for RVs.  The whole area is fenced and gated and locked, so it was very safe and quiet and I arranged to stay there the night before my 8 am appointment. I just had to be there by 7 pm.

I drove down to Albuquerque and had some time to spare, so I checked at Best Buy for keyboards.  They had some, but not the size/price I was looking for.  One of the salespeople was a musician, and she recommended Guitar City, just a few minutes drive from Best Buy, so I drove over there.  Guitar City had a lot of different sizes, prices and kinds of keyboards, and they had the one I wanted, an M-Audio KeyStudio, on sale!  So, rather than order it on line and pay for shipping, I bought it on the spot, thinking I could try it out and practice while I was blacktopping it in Grants for the next five days.

The following day, after my service was complete on the generator, I drove back up to Grants, parked in a church parking lot for the day, and set up the keyboard.  That's when I realized there was no way I could play this thing with my dinette table so high.  It was bad enough typing on my flat laptop keyboard, but the electronic piano keyboard was even higher, so I packed it up and stored it until the table was lowered three or four inches.

After taking care of the table height on Wednesday, I got it out again and set up on the newly lowered table.  It's still about an inch or so too high for the keyboard, but I have a chair cushion I put on the dinette seat to make me sit higher, and that works.  The extra inch might have been too low to allow easy in and out of the dinette seats. 

I tried it out, and was surprised how much I remembered from my self-taught beginner tunes from years ago.

This is the maker of the keyboard:

For an RVer without a lot of room, this M-Audio USB Keyboard is the perfect answer for someone wanting to play keyboard. It came with a program on a CD, but unfortunately it doesn't work with Windows 8.  I have a PC with Windows 8, and Andy has e-mailed me some links for free sites that teach lessons or have other helpful things and I've also found some websites with free lessons.

Now - if you have an Apple computer like Andy, you can just download an Apple app, GarageBand, for $4.99, which is a really good program that does lots of things, allows you to lay down your own tracks, has lots of different instruments that your piano can sound like, you can record your own voice, a really nice program.  I wish there was a GarageBand for PCs, but apparently not, at least I couldn't find one that was reasonably priced. But, anyway, I need to learn how to play the thing first!

I'm going to have to go slowly, though.  Wednesday night, after playing around with some of the beginning (really simple) tunes, my hands and wrists were hurting.  I wasn't playing for long, but I was definitely using muscles that aren't used to it.

So, I have a new hobby that I never thought I'd be able to do on the road - thanks, Andy! I really appreciate the time you spent showing me your setup and letting me try it out. 

Oh, and one of the other nice things about this little USB keyboard - it has a volume control.  I can be inside The Palms playing away, and no one will be disturbed.  And believe me, from what I've done so far, if any neighbors heard me, they would definitely be disturbed.  :)

One note, for anyone who might be interested in getting a USB Keyboard - if you have an Apple device, you'll be fine, but if you have a Laptop with Windows, bring it with you. My salesman plugged a couple of keyboards into my laptop and they wouldn't "talk to each other."  Luckily, this M-Audio, which is the one Andy has, did work with Windows 8.

Pretty cool, huh?

I'm going to end with some photos of critters in and around my campsite here at Bluewater Lake.

These rabbits were playing one evening, four of them, running back and forth, chasing each other, having a great time.  Usually I see one at a time, not a group like this.  In the photo below, all four were running.

Here is one of our campground squirrels.  This guy has a big mound with his entrance hole in the center in the field by the electric sites, and he pops up from time to time, looks around surveying the landscape, runs in and out.  This day, he was heading toward the mound and saw us and stopped.  He seemed to think if he was very still, we wouldn't see him.  The funny thing was that his mouth was open, and he looked like he was smiling.  I know, I know.  But he did.  I snapped a bunch of photos as we walked by, and he didn't move.  Rabbits do the same thing.  So funny.

And then this little squirrel came by our site after I hung the seed feeder, checking it out.

 Katie was on high alert when he was out there checking things out.

Later in the afternoon, after the Pinyon Jays emptied the seed feeder and flew away, he came back.  He was still very curious about the feeder, but never ended up getting any seeds.

Then he ran down tree and sat in the grasses for a minute.

I wondered what the was doing, but didn't have a clear view, so I snapped one more photo, and this is what he was doing.

He got a little Pinyon pine cone and was trying to get the seeds out.  He finally ran away, taking the pine cone with him.  So cute.

WELCOME to our newest Follower, Roger Bond!  Roger doesn't have any information shown, so I can't give his blog a plug, but Roger, if you do have a blog, please let me know!  Thank you for following along with me and Katie - Welcome aboard!  :)

And that's it for now.  From me and Katie, have a great Saturday, everyone!  :)


  1. I had no idea such a keyboard existed. I have a mac laptop so could probably just plug and play!

  2. The Reveal! A keyboard--what fun you'll have! You'll be serenading Katie before we know it! Loved your photos of the bunnies, squirrel & chipmunk (the one Katie was very interested in). We love the chipmunk's in our area; they're the natives squirrels. Lowering the table was worth it, Barbara. An impressive project for an equally impressive endeavor! Well done all 'round!

  3. I have garage band on my mac, but don't know how to use it. I thought it was a feature so that I could play on the keyboard. Obviously not.
    Well, there is not enough time to explore this at the time being anyway. But interesting to know.

  4. Have fun with that new keyboard! Maybe one day, you will learn, I'll bring my soundbar & we'll have a concert. Of course, I won't be playing anything ;-)
    Windows8 :-( It doesn't like my old digital camera either, so I can't upload any pics unless I use the cell phone. The memory card in the old camera is too big for today's card readers

  5. I love my Mac! Now I can love it with a keyboard! Yay! Thanks for the info!

    I've used GarageBand for editing and processing audio files when I was the producer for a company that did training audios - it's an amazing program and very versatile. Looking forward to producing my own music now :) Thanks!!!

  6. If I didn't have so many hobbies now, I'd want one of those. I used to carry a keyboard in the RV but it was too big and didn't get it out often. That one might be the right size. Another someday ... maybe.

  7. I carry a couple instruments I swore I'd learn to play, but haven't. The keyboard appeals to me more. Maybe...

  8. Was your original electronic piano a Korg? I had one of those pre-RV, too, and donated it to a school when we closed down our California house and moved into the RV. I think about it often. I whinged about the loss to Andy, and he sent me one of his keyboards, which I am embarrassed to say, I still have not tried to use. Something else always seems to come up to keep me from dedicating the needed time to learning to put it all together and use it.

    Andy has moved on to the ukelele now, and is getting really good at it!

    Virtual hugs,


  9. I would like to attend one of your concerts.

  10. What a great idea. I had vaguely heard of these keyboards but never thought about trying it myself. I think it is so important that we keep bringing new ideas and hobbies into our lives. This is just perfect for RV or small garage apartments. Thanks for the write-up.

  11. I am fascinated by the concept of the computer providing the power, sound, and brains for the keyboard!

  12. Have you heard of this book,
    "How to Play the Piano Despite Years of Lessons" (by Ward Cannel and Fred Marx)? It's listed on Amazon - an excellent guide for teaching yourself.


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