Rob Healey Keyboard Tuition Specialist

Keyboards Explained

The Home Keyboard . . . .

I teach on the 'Home Keyboard', they have auto accompaniment and built in speakers. These keyboards assist us to be 'one man bands' and play all styles of music easily.

Home keyboards are a very cost-effective way for the budding musician to begin. While studying the basics of timing and notation they can absorb much about rhythm styles and ensemble playing.

Popular music has become more complex over time and the keyboard lets us re-create some of the important factors such as drum, bass and rhythm accompaniment that help to make our favourite songs and especially current chart hits more recognisable.

Ideally the Home Keyboard player will progress to some piano pieces after mastering basic notation and sight reading the Treble Clef.

All their focus can then be on learning to read the Bass clef, which becomes an easy process.

The teacher will have started two-handed co-ordination early on, perhaps with some simple 'memory' tunes and left-hand bass patterns.

Piano Style . . . .

Playing the keyboard purely as a Piano is limiting the features of a very interesting instrument. An explanation of the difference can be found under 'Tuition' on the TUITION page. I'm often asked to take on students that have begun to learn on the Piano but have lost interest.

The Piano is of course the master instrument, but it takes dedication to learn to play well. I've helped many disheartened students regain their joy of music because, on the keyboard,  with just a few simple steps, we can be playing recognisable songs.

When a student has progressed and is learning Piano pieces, I'm always pleased if they make the decision to study Piano. I often wonder if they would have progressed so far without the pleasure they've had from taking the 'Keyboard Style' approach.

There are 5 Types of Keyboard . . .

Electronic keyboards can be immensely versatile instruments with high quality sounds hard to distinguish from the real thing. There are five types - Synthesizer, Workstation, Electronic Piano, Organ and Home Keyboard.

Synthesizers - A Synthesizer can be manipulated to make sounds and effects, some of them imitating musical instruments. Several early inventions could be called synthesizers, many people consider Robert Moog as a founding figure. From his electronic modules comes much of the original jargon such as 'Patches' and 'ASDR' (Attach, Sustain, Decay, Release).

 Workstations - A development of the synthesizer incorporating a recording system to create and store songs in the keyboards memory. Some have auto accompaniment and drums similar to home keyboards.

Electric & Electronic Pianos - Keyboards dedicated to imitating the real thing. Usually touch sensitive (the harder you hit the keys, the louder the note). Some have 'weighted' keys to give a Piano feel. Some have auto accompaniment and drums similar to home keyboards.

Electronic Organs - Two keyboards and a Pedal board allowing the player to play Bass with their feet and freeing up the hands to play chords and melody. Most have auto accompaniment. The built in amplifier and large speakers produce good quality sound.

Home Keyboards - Automatic accompaniment with Chords, Bass and Drums. Built in speakers. Early models were very basic instruments with poor sound quality (the drums went POP and CLICK ! ). The present generation, such as the Yamaha PSR range, produce excellent drum sound and instrument voices, similar to the real thing.

The auto accompaniment feature creates a band or ensemble situation. The keyboard's microprocessor uses the chord being played as information to provide Bass, several Rhythm Instruments and Pads. The musician plays the Melody and Chords.

Just over three decades ago Home keyboards were generally considered as 'Toys'. Since that time keyboard technology has skyrocketed in similar fashion to (and because of) the home computer.

Keyboard Features - Some tips on what to look out for

Left Hand Voice . . .

There are two important tasks for the voice that is sounded by the left-hand.

Firstly, when learning a new piece, without drums or rhythm, it is VERY important to have a soft sound for the chord, such as strings or similar. A good keyboard will automatically have this sound.
(It's not simply a matter of changing the main voice. The left hand voice needs to be quieter and not too deep)

Less expensive keyboards often automatically start the drums and auto accompaniment the moment a chord is played and the student hasn't a chance to practice the new chords or notes and play in time. This can cause serious problems.

There are a few tricks and tips to try and correct this problem, depending on the brand & model of keyboard.

Secondly, when using the auto accompaniment, the default setting on most keyboards uses no voice in the left hand. Only the automatic rhythm voices are heard.

It is most important that a voice be heard when re hitting the chord. Good keyboards have an assignable  'split voice', or 'Lower Voice'. The simplest use of it is as a 'Pad', with usually Strings or an Organ voice.

This lower or split voice is essential in many pieces that I teach, because when we play the chord rhythmically, using a Piano or other suitable voice, it can be used to emphasise the rhythm, chords or moving notes. It's especially useful in showing quick chord changes that the auto accompaniment doesn't pick up.

Reverb . . .

Reverb is the natural echo produced by real instruments and varies from the ambience of a small room to the strong echo's found in an empty Cathedral. All good keyboards have this feature and usually offer a choice of reverbs from 'Broom Closet' to 'Large Hall' and also a choice of strength.
Voices are very flat without reverb.

Memory . . .

Registration Memory is another vital feature. Each memory button stores an entire setting of the keyboard. To set up an average song can take several minutes, we have to choose the Main voice, the Dual voice, the Split voice, the Style, the Tempo, adjust the Volumes, and possibly the Octaves, of all of them. Maybe also adjust the Split point, change the Reverb type and level, etc. But once this is saved to a memory it can all be recalled instantly.

Disc Drive / Memory Card . . .

The built in disc drive, memory Stick or Card facility is another powerful performing and learning aid. It saves valuable time by storing sound settings and can be used to record and play a MIDI file with specialised accompaniment that creates a very professional performance.

MIDI . . .

All good keyboards have USB or Midi sockets for connection to a computer. Most have MIDI in and out sockets for connection to other keyboards or a computer. This interface is a valuable learning and playing aid and can be used for a number of functions from adding extra voices to song writing/recording.

Touch Sensitivity . . .

The harder you hit the key the louder the note. Most important for keyboard players to help them put expression into the music. Good keyboards have wonderful touch sensitivity that you hardly know is there and allow you to play with natural expression.

Sound Quality . . .

Every brand of keyboard has a Piano, Saxophone, Trumpet, String, and Organ voice etc. Although the name is the same the actual sound can be very different. I play and teach on 30 - 40 different models a year. Ask me before you buy ! I have definite favourites that make my job easier and the music better.

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional

2006 by Rob Healey, ABN 59 588 931 915