Sharing the spotlight with the rock star lead singer, sexy guitarist and cool drummer can’t be easy, but keyboard players have consistently proven that when it comes to musical re-invention they are forces to reckon with. Want to be the next Herbie Hancock, Brian Eno or Moby? Here’s where you can get started.
The Keyboard Through The Ages
- As far back as the 1st century A.D., Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio described an organ with balanced keys. Also, the Roman water organ had a row of little levers, evidence for which can be found in ancient art.
- During the 10th century there was an organ at Winchester Cathedral. It apparently took three men to play the instrument.
- 15th century art shows that early keyboards had few keys - as little as eight or nine.
HOW TO BUY A KEYBOARD
These are the factors to keep in mind:
How many keys do you need?
You have a choice between 88 (standard piano size), 76, 61, 49, 37 and 25 keys.
Most people recommend that even as beginners, you should get a keyboard with 61 full-size keys. This is suitable for music study at the primary level. If you are an absolute beginner and not really sure of how seriously you want to learn the keyboard, (and money is a consideration) you can start by getting yourself a 4 or 5 octave keyboard.
A 76 key instrument is again suitable for early intermediate learning but to progress further you will need an upgrade.
If you are planning to venture into sound development and professional playing you should just get yourself the full size 88 key instrument.
Weighted action or synth action
This refers to the feel of the board.
Weighted action means that the keys on your instrument are heavy (weighted) and feel like an acoustic piano. If you want to develop your piano skills, a weighted keyboard would be better suited.
Synth action means the keys are lighter and you can usually play faster and easier with such a keyboard. If your primary aim is to create synth sounds and play techno, trance or club music then a synth action keyboard is better since you can play faster and easier with this.
WHICH KEYBOARD TO GET
Of all the brands available, the Yamaha PSR series is widely recommended by musicians. Here’s a guide to some essential instruments to check out when you’re getting yourself a keyboard by Lincoln Fernandes of Furtado’s Music in Mumbai.
YAMAHA PSR E203
Cost: Rs. 7075
Features: 61 piano-size keys, 5 octaves with touch response. Has a digital screen so you can see in detail what you are playing. You can also use the dictionary function to teach yourself to play songs.
YAMAHA PSR E303
Cost: Rs. 9575
Features: 61 piano-size keys, 5 octaves with touch response. Features more instruments than the E203, has 482 voices and touch response. The pressure on the keyboards corresponds to loudness of sound, and gives you a piano like feel while playing.
YAMAHA PSR 295
Cost: Rs. 11,970
Features: 61 piano-size keys, 5 octaves with touch response. Features the Easy Song Arranger and a mixture of styles and voices. It also has a 5-track recording system so you can record 5 songs in the keyboard itself.
YAMAHA PSR 450/550
Cost: Rs. 20,350 and Rs. 26,540 respectively
Features: 6-track sequencer that can be connected to the laptop for recording.
One half of Bollywood super-composer duo Vishal-Shekhar, he began his musical journey learning to play the piano and keyboards from his father Hasmukhbhai and teacher Xavier Fernandes. According to Shekhar, “When you go to buy a keyboard make sure you try it out yourself and like how it feels. Don’t go all out and buy a really expensive one at first because you don’t at that time how long you will continue playing it.”
When it comes to practice Shekhar says there is no shortcut. “You have to put in hours of practice each day. And you have to love playing the instrument. Only then will you get anywhere with it. You have to feel the music from within, really get into the playing.”
Should you train or should you teach yourself? Shekhar makes an interesting point when he says, “There are some great musicians who have never had any formal training. And then there are other musicians who have trained and become really good at their craft. So it depends on each individual. You have to figure out which works better for you.”
You can read the rest of our special feature Getting Started in the December 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.
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