First Real BK-7m Usage

February 3, 2017

I picked up the BK-7m via a special deal on November 24, 2016.  Since that time, I’ve purposely spent most of the time staying away from using the BK except for a few test trials and when making the foot pedal project for it, preferring instead to concentrate on learning the 8X accordion and trying to get back some semblance of ability back in to my fingers, and that has every so slowly started to come along.

Finally a couple of days ago I set it up with the intention of trying to make music with it.

Now, I am no newbie to arrangers.  I’ve had three of them since the early 1980’s, the latest two being the Ketron Solton Programmer 24 and the Ketron X4.  I know how they work and I’ve used them easily and quite effectively in the past and I have a bit of an idea as to what works with the kind of music that I want to play… at least that was before the Roland FR-8X and BK-7m combination came in to my life.  Those two have a strange ability of wanting to make you play other kinds of music, but I digress…

There is another accordion meeting coming up on February 8th, 2017, the first event of this new year’s monthly events, and I thought that it would be nice if I could play there using the 8X and BK together.

Yesterday I pulled out some music I thought would be appropriate for the event and almost immediately hit the first road block.  Surprisingly, the BK-7m doesn’t have styles that comfortably fit my style of playing!  It’s focus is on more modern stuff, disco, rock and roll and what not, and on top of that, the interface makes it difficult to find what I want.  I had to actually pull up the Styles and Rhythms PDF on the computer screen and search through things to more easily find what I needed and research on the fly!

I spent a few hours today gathering and putting the music in some semblance of a proper musical order and then set myself to the task of choosing the proper rhythms and accordion settings for each song.  You’d think that would be easy, wouldn’t you?

It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  The tremendous amount of sounds available, the difficulty of moving through rhythms and sounds and hearing them all made it a painfully slow process.

I did advance on the project, finding the settings that I wanted for about 5-6  of the 20 or so songs and stored them in the performance list of the BK (on a flash drive), and wrote them down on the sheet music… but after 2-3 hours, my biggest accomplishment was that I ended up giving myself a headache. 

Time to call it an evening.

I seem to recall having a much easier time with the Ketron unit, but then again, it also wasn’t as complex… or was it?

Don’t get me wrong, the sounds coming out of the BK are very good, but they are quite different from what the Programmer 24 or X4 put out.  Maybe it’s just a question of time and getting used to it, but I am definitely not getting rid of the X4 quite yet.

I especially had a hard time synchronizing the 2 foot pedal switch movements with the right hand register switches to accomplish the needs that the song demanded.  Yes, that is more a lack of practice and should come pretty fast, in maybe a day or 2, but I really had a difficult time finding proper rhythms that I wanted with my chosen songs and the proper sounds that the 8X was to project!

On top of everything, I’m also toying with the option of just playing through some of the songs and having the BK save the backing track file as an MP3 and then I could play those tracks on the 8X and at least in some cases, not even need the BK, like  maybe for a song that I want to stroll around with or something?

Anyway, tomorrow, I am going to spend more time polishing up the songs and going through the exercise of finding matching rhythms on the BK and main accordion sounds that match.  My goal is to have 20 songs ready by Feb. 7th, most of them using the BK-7m and it will be interesting to see how close I can get to that goal.

I see a real pattern here… the initial challenges I had with the 8X, now the challenges with the BK.  The issues are of course different, but the level of difficulty is similar in that they are both above average in terms of effort to resolve.

Oh, it is not really hard to set up nor is it hard to use the equipment in it’s most basic modes, but I can see where people with less technical backgrounds or older people can find it confusing, and I myself am finding that the learning curve is slower and more arduous than in the past.

I think I know what is happening… it is likely a combination of several things:

  • trying to learn/practice new music
  • learning the BK settings on the fly
  • trying to integrate the minimal familiarity of the 8X with the even less familiar BK and iron out the errors in my music and limitations of my lower abilities to make one cohesive song.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and see how far I can advance on this topic, but this time, as well as being motivated to spend more than a couple of hours on it, I am also bringing down a bottle of water, and some aspirin.  That along with a little coffee will definitely not hurt!

Let’s end the post with a good note… I’ll possibly have a couple of pieces that I might add to my public music section next week, and if it does, those will be the first songs that I record on the FR-8X!

Addendum:  February 5, 2017:

Yesterday and today showed me that things are slowly coming along nicely and that I should be ok to play a little this Wednesday.  I’m definitely feeling a bit less pressure than in December and the few pieces where I am using the BK-7m are coming along pretty nicely.  What I decided to leave out is the creation of making backtracks at this time.  We’ll see based on how much time I have.  Monday looks to be a very busy day.

Addendum:  February 8, 2017:

Well, I used the BK-7m today for the first time in a real life situation at the monthly accordion meeting.  I’d love to say it went amazingly well, however, two things played against me…

1.  First I always practiced in socks and at the location, I wore patent leather shoes.  Yeah, my toes were often either hitting the wrong button or multiple buttons causing all kinds of mistakes.  Good news… I don’t think many people heard them and over time I adjusted for the shoes and things got better fast.

2.  This was also the first time that I used the JC-160 amplifier with this setup at a live environment.  I didn’t have the balance properly set between the accordion and BK and the equalizer settings of the amp and 12-band EQ that I had connected (and sounded perfectly good at home), needed to be changed because at the venue the whole thing sounded incredibly bass heavy in certain songs.

Little nuggets… practice a bit more in the same shoes that I will be wearing and spend more time sound testing when setting up in a new environment.

Lessons learned.  🙂