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Composing on the Go with Nektar SE25 By Ric Getter Even before Apple released its latest generation of 8-core MacBook Pros, it wasn’t hard to have a high-end digital audio workstation (DAW) or MIDI music-maker travel accompany you everywhere you go, But musicians’ input device of choice, the piano keyboard, hasn’t made such great strides. Even the compact, 25-key varieties are usually bulked up with a lot of the requisite controls. The designers at Nektar saw the need and came up with a unique solution, the SE25, that is sturdy, simple and definitely backpack-friendly. They realized that there are actually loads of “buttons” on a 25-key keyboard if you make the keys do double-duty. On the SE25, they can be used to program the small function buttons on the keyboard for MIDI control and to send commands like track selection to your DAW. This makes room for a very comfortable keyboard that is less than 4” deep and under an inch in height. Just over an inch of the 13” wide keyboard is taken up by the control buttons. The rather sparse control set and equally sparse user manual took us a while to wrap our head around, but when the overall concept sinks in, it makes a great deal of sense. The piano keys serve double duty. In the SE25’s setup mode, they can be used to assign functions and values to the control buttons. They can also be used to assign more global settings like velocity curves for the keys. The feature Nektar refers to as “Part 2” is really the main act, giving the keyboard some depth that can be hard to match in a larger, more cumbersome device. With a single button press, you can shift the keyboard into an entirely different set of presets, up to five of which can be pre-stored and recalled. These can include octave offsets, MIDI output channel assignments, layering and latching notes. It can be rather easy to get things tangled up when you first start playing around with Part 2, but setting that mode back to its defaults is very easy. If things get wonky during a performance, there’s a Panic function that turns the notes off and resets the MIDI messages on all the channels.

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