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Certain electronic keyboards look like pianos, but their keys are weighted totally differently.

For someone who has never learnt playing the piano, what would be the best method of taking the most out of a nice keyboard like the Novation UltraSound ? (light keys)

Any references to links, videos, books, welcome.

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Edited "synthesiser" into "keyboard" because there are other interfaces for a synth. –  slim Sep 4 '12 at 13:31
    
@slim: thanks so much –  Skippy Fastol Sep 4 '12 at 13:33

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The full huge range of sounds available from synthesisers means that the subject is enormously broad. Typical keyboards behave differently depending on the virtual instrument you are playing.

For example, a piano patch isn't likely to respond to aftertouch, and might not respond to pitch bend; a strings patch will respond to pitch bend, and might swell if you press harder while sustaining the note.

Electronic keyboard use falls into three main camps:

  • standing in for a traditional keyboard instrument: piano, harpsichord, pipe organ, Hammond organ, electric piano, mellotron
  • standing in for other traditional instruments: flute, trumpet, string section
  • sounds with no traditional equivalent

For playing in the style of piano/organ, learning materials for those instruments will be perfectly transferable to the electronic keyboard. Practising piano pieces using the piano patch on your electronic keyboard will always be beneficial. Learning organ pieces with an organ patch will also be useful, and you'll be able to compare the different playing styles.

Many sounds naturally fit "piano style" playing, or "organ style" playing. For example, a glockenspiel sound is percussive and decays; so a piano style is more applicable. A flute sound is sustained, so an organ style fits better.

Note that some pianos have very light keys too.

I'm not aware of well-known teaching material for imitating other instruments. The skills learned playing piano/organ parts will be very transferable to this. But you'll also want to bring in aftertouch, pitch bend and modulation, for volume, vibrato, and bend effects. I suppose one way to practice is to find a score for (say) trumpet, along with a recording of a real trumpet playing it, and try to imitate that.

Music technology magazines like Sound on Sound sometimes have articles on imitating other instruments. There's an awful lot to know, if you want get it right -- for example, playing a guitar sound such that you never play two notes together which would be on the same string.

For purely electronic sounds, the sky's the limit. The skill of creating synthesised sounds is separate from the skill of playing them. A lot of the time, the parts you hear in records are not difficult to play -- or when they are, they're sequenced.

For the piano and organ pieces, at least, you should be able to follow structured courses intended for those instruments; so working through a series of piano exams (whether or not you actually get yourself graded) will work. For imitating other instruments, you may find that a piece that's easy on one instrument, is harder on a keyboard because of the key or the hand stretches. Wait until you can recognise whether a score is within your difficulty level by looking at it.

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thank you for your answer slim. Although bright and very well written, well structured, it does not answer my primary concern : how may I make progress, technically speaking, on a keyboard that does not have the same characteristics as a piano ? Should I perform the same exercises as the ones performed by a pianist ? (scales, etc...) I guess that all "keyboardists" were "pro" pianists before ? –  Skippy Fastol Sep 4 '12 at 15:57
    
I think the answer is in there -- I've bolded the relevant parts, and added a small extra bit. –  slim Sep 12 '12 at 9:59
    
thank you for the additional edits. –  Skippy Fastol Sep 13 '12 at 13:14

Piano and synth (organ) keyboards are really not very different at all. Even across acoustic pianos the feel is QUITE different from one to the next (even moreso than between organ/synth keyboards).

The reason to learn on a fully weighted digital piano is so your playing can easily be moved to a real acoustic. (Which is the king of all instruments, really:)

But you don't NEED to learn on one. Start with what you got. KEEPing in mind that I am -not- a piano teacher.

The overall process of becoming a musician is exactly the same across these keyboards. (And VERY similar even across musical instruments).

  • find a teacher who can coach you and get you on the right track quickly

  • learn to read sheet music or SOME way of coming up with a song

  • keep finding good songs to play and the time to do it in

  • hone your craft - find how to "nudge" your playing with subtle velocity and rhythm changes to the song to make it really sing.

Good luck to ya!

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But note: A harpsichord feels VERY different and needs a delicate touch. I don't know of any electronic keyboard that feels like a harpsichord. If you want to learn to play one, you are going to have to find a real harpsichord. –  Mark Lutton Sep 5 '12 at 5:11
    
@MarkLutton: That was worth mentioning ! Thanks Mark. –  Skippy Fastol Sep 5 '12 at 8:10

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