An introduction to the keyboard
While most people know what a keyboard looks like, some may not be aware that an electronic keyboard is a musical instrument that includes a range of features such as accompaniments, voices, a power amplifier and small speakers. The term keyboard can often refer to more than just one type of musical device, including synthesizers, electronic organs, digital pianos and so on.
Top of the range electronic keyboards are incredibly versatile as they are not only capable of sounding like a piano, as you'd expect when looking at them, they can also make themselves sound like an organ or even a violin!
Basic electronic keyboards, while still adaptable, are usually used in the home for non-professional users or beginners. That said, the recording capabilities of an electronic keyboard make the instrument a helpful piece of equipment for those wishing to become recording artists and making low-cost samples of their music.
Electronic keyboards commonly have unweighted keys, and many don't have velocity-sensitive keys. Some of the lower-end budget keyboards don't have as many editing capabilities, allowing the user to simply select one of the presets (which may be an electronic synthesizer or an imitation sound of another instrument).
Among the most popular and praised manufacturers of keyboards are Casio and Yamaha, which you'll no doubt have heard of.
How to play the keyboard
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Playing keyboard: the basics
There can't be much to it - you press the keys and make music, right? This is true, however, as always with music-making, there are some challenges and hurdles to overcome when learning to play any type of keyboard instrument. For instance, do you know the difference between the white and black keys? Do you know why there are so many keys to play with? And that's all without understanding the various buttons that can be found on some digital pianos or synthesizers!
You'll be pleased to hear that one thing that is simple is the order of the keys, which correspond to the music scale, displaying consecutive notes from left to right, or bass to treble.
When it comes to the colour of the keys, white means whole notes. They have no sharps or flats, and are just natural notes from the musical alphabet. The black notes, however, represent sharp or flat notes.
What's fascinating about playing an instrument like the keyboard is that even when you grasp playing individual keys one at a time, there's a whole new level to playing music when you begin to play chords, creating more interesting and tuneful sounds by pressing various keys all at once or in close succession.
This complexity makes the keyboard so versatile as an instrument, meaning that it is as popular today as it was in the time of classical composers, and electronic keyboards are even more adaptable because of the additional features they offer.
And while it sounds like it is easily learnt, it takes a lot of dedication and natural flair. Not everyone can play a keyboard instrument like the greats!
We'll go into more detail about the buttons and features of an electronic keyboard below.
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Playing the keyboard: the details
Playing keyboard is not just about where you place your fingers, you must ensure you place your body comfortably too.
You must sit straight at the centre of your instrument in front of you, preferably on a piano stool or bench, and maintain your posture. You want your feet placed flat on the ground when playing (except if using foot pedals like on some organs).
Your arms, meanwhile, should be relaxed and supple, with your hands curved in a C shape over the top of the keys. Align your fingertips with the middle of the white keys, elbows at the same height. With the keyboard, you may be required to remove your fingers from the keyboard, however, to switch on features as desired.
You can find out more about which hands will control which features below.
To start off your practice session, begin by finding the A note, as it's the first in the musical alphabet. You'll find this note near a group of three black keys, and A is the white key located between the second and third black key in the grouping.
If you wish to, you can mark the notes on the white keys.
Next, find the C note, then F, and so on...
When it comes to practising playing music from sheets, you should remember that there are different representations of notes for whole notes (solid, filled in circle with an upwards line played for one beat), half notes (empty circle with upwards line played for 2 beats), and also quarter notes (empty circle played for four beats). They all look different, so this shouldn't be too hard or confusing.
That said, if you are a modern musician, you may simply like to play freestyle.
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What are all the buttons on the keyboard?
The keyboard, while its distinguishing feature is its black and white keys like you'd find on a piano or organ, also has a range of features available to its users in the forms of buttons, flips and toggles. Automatic accompaniments are standard on most designs, known as styles or rhythms.
What's more, your keyboard offers you the opportunity to make your instrument sound like pretty much any other instrument - guitar, organ, choir voices... you name it!
To make use of these features, there's usually a very simple process which entails pressing one of the many buttons, and then playing along as you wish. Most players would use their left hand to play chords and then their right hand play a melody, with the automated sound usually following the chords you're playing.
As a general rule, the left side of the keyboard is where you will find the options for automated accompaniments whereas the right side is where the buttons are for different instrument sounds.
If your keyboard playing skills don't come to anything then you'll probably be set up for DJing at least!
Who is the keyboard good for?
If you wish to record your own music, then a keyboard is a fantastic instrument for you.
If you are an 80s baby or older, then you'll probably recall the film Coyote Ugly (featuring LeAnn Rimes) where actress Piper Perabo plays a young singer with dreams of writing music for the industry and records her melodies on cassette using an electronic keyboard!
Today, still, the electronic keyboard has a place for budding recording artists.
Nowadays, you can become a number one selling artist by simply recording a video of you singing on your webcam and uploading it onto YouTube, so using the editing settings on a keyboard can only improve your music. Many believe that synthesizers and the like are infinitely more popular than software plugins because they are more powerful and authentic. Many recordings today feature the keyboard in one way or another.
Of course, capturing the best sound possible all comes down to which device you go for and how you use it. You'll want to ensure you have a good home audio setup with noise-cancelling features, and be well-rehearsed when you choose to sit down and record your session.
As we've already discovered, both Casio and Yamaha are steeped in music history and thus know exactly what learners need and want from their keyboards As a result, their designs are second to none, and are particularly effective at keeping up enthusiasm in beginners!
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Learn to play keyboard with Superprof!
Always available for your learning needs, Superprof features a range of music tutors with varying levels of experience and offering different rates. You can search the website for keyboard tutors now.
With this platform, you can either choose a tutor based in your area, one who either has a studio or will come to your home. Another option would be online classes via video link, which could save you money in the long run - no travelling time to and from lessons, and your tutor might give you a discounted rate because s/he won't have to travel, either!
You might also be interested in knowing that most Superprof tutors give their first hour of lessons at no charge, just to see if you two would learn well together. With such an offer, how could anyone not choose that option?
Learning the keyboard or any instrument from the keyboard family, in fact, over Internet connection is also great for those who have busy lives and need to schedule in lessons with minimal disruption to their routine like having to travel to a studio or tidy up in preparation for a visit from a tutor.
Do you want to learn more about playing the keyboard's sister instrument, the harpsichord?
Would you like to discover more about the keyboard accordion?
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