As a musician who plays many styles of music, I’m frequently called upon to play songs and pieces that use keyboards but aren’t necessarily pianos. Each one of these keyboard instruments (Synthesizer, Organ, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, and Clavinet for example) all have different quirks and tone colors (timbres) that require them to be played in a particular way.
Think for a second about all the music we listen to today that use Synthesizers, Organs, Electric Pianos, etc….. Not just today’s music, but music of the past 60 years! Think about your favorite songs and the sounds those musicians used to create those songs. Many of those sounds are made using electronic keyboards and pianos!
The list is vast, but here are just a few examples:
Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles = Moog Synthesizer
Just the Way You Are by Billy Joel = Phased Fender Rhodes Piano
What I’d Say by Ray Charles = Groovin’ Wurlitzer Electric Piano
Jump by Van Halen = Absolutely EPIC Synthesizer
Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey = Iconic Piano/Electric Piano/Synth Sounds
Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley = Did I just Rick Roll this blog post? : )
During the height of the pandemic, while exclusively teaching online lessons, I was introduced to all of the pianos and keyboards that my students were practicing on at home. It was no surprise that most of my students, like me, practice on electronic keyboards, and also like me, continue to play on electronic keyboards.
In addition to learning the fundamentals of music and piano technique, I considered this an incredible opportunity to show many of my students how they can use their keyboards at home to make practicing even more fun by trying out different sounds while practicing pieces they were already working on. Learning piano technique gives you the ability to play so many instruments when paired with different keyboard sounds!
Have you ever tried out your lesson book pieces using synth, strings, mallet, horns, or electric piano sounds? Listen to how different sounds affect the way you play different pieces. Did it make you play slower? Faster? How would you use each sound in a band or ensemble setting? Do some sounds last longer than others? Which types of sounds are very short? How does it change your playing? If you needed to play your piece for a video game soundtrack or a movie score, what sounds would you choose?
So much to think about and so much fun!
In short, studying piano technique in combination with exploration of different sounds on electronic keyboards can allow a student to be an incredibly versatile musician in their musical development, and in my own experience, being versatile is always a very welcome trait when musical doors are opening up.