So, we all know this piano instrument is one of the coolest things created in the world (this is fact, not opinion). Because of that, we also understand it is a wonderfully flexible instrument in that we can use it for many different genres of music.
As we take piano lessons, it’s important to start with music theory and the classics to learn chords, melodies, and how to read all of this on sheet music. The reason this is important to learn from the onset of piano lessons is so when we get to the cool stuff mentioned below, once we migrate or supplement the piano with a digital keyboard, we have a musical understanding of what’s happening and we can recreate it at a later time.
So with that, here are some very cool things you can try on a digital keyboard — most of which can be done no matter what brand of keyboard you have, from a basic Casio to a more high-end Yamaha digital piano. Get ready to have some fun!
Rhythm is a huge component of playing any instrument. Understanding how poly-rhythmics works can go a long way in instrument reproduction on a digital keyboard. The endgame becomes what drummer The Tommy Drums demonstrates in his keyboard drum cover of Paramore’s “Misery Business” (below). This recreation is wonderful and showcases the versatility of a good digital keyboard. With steady lessons in rhythm during your piano lessons, you’ll soon be able to equate that to the recreation.
Strings and Synths
A good digital keyboard has the capability of replicating the sounds of many different instruments. One of those many instruments are of the string variety. Once you understand how inversions and improvisation functions musically, changing your keyboard settings to a synths or string instrument output can transform your eventual performance or recording. Musician MHanded showcases how he created an improvised “movie soundtrack” track using his Yamaha digital keyboard below.
Guitar? On a digital keyboard? If you have a really good digital keyboard, recreating the sounds of the guitar is well within reach. For example, I recently played with the Yamaha Motif XS8 (one of Yahama’s pricier options) and it is quite remarkable what Yamaha has been able to accomplish using digitized sounds. Famed YouTuber and musician Ronald Jenkees demonstrated this possibility in amazing all the way back in early 2008! Sure, recreating these sounds may prove difficult on a lesser-optioned digital keyboard, but if you’ve decided you want to outfit your instrumentation with one keyboard instrument that can replicate many different instruments with incredible sound and clarity and your budget is bigger, the Yamaha Motif series is an amazing option.
Developing Left-Hand Skills to Play Pop Songs
You may have seen the wonderful videos on YouTube of pianists — such as David Sides and Ryan Jones (PianoKeyz) — playing popular songs on the piano. What may seem like a very difficult feat to accomplish is actually not that difficult. One of the underpinnings these pianists use is arpeggiations (playing a note within the chord one note at a time), in addition to playing the melodies either by ear or by sight (but mostly by ear). Developing your left hand will prove crucial in fostering your ability to play your favorite pop songs’ chord progressions across two octaves in conjunction with chord inversions for ear-pleasing bass notes.
Go to Pop Piano Class!
Sure, a masterclass on how to play pop hits seems daunting as a beginner or intermediate piano player, but as you’ve develop your ear to recognize tones and melodies from the radio to the piano, transferring that to learn more songs – maybe even mash-ups – is not too far away. World-renowned pianist and performer Chilly Gonzales teamed up with 1LIVE (Eins Live) in Germany to create a YouTube series “Pop Music Masterclass”, in which he goes over some of the last few year’s top hits reimagined on the piano. While this will take a bit of knowledge and piano independence on your part as you watch and incorporate what you’ve learned on your piano, this is a remarkable challenge that is not only attainable but also very rewarding. Here are some tutorials to check out:
And there you have it! Some cool new tricks you can try on your digital keyboard either in or in-between your piano lessons. Now don’t just sit there staring at your computer screen reading words, let’s get to playing!
Milton J. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!
Photo by Pink Dispatcher