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5 Reasons Why Learning Music Production As A Keyboardist Is Essential

5 Reasons Why Learning Music Production As A Keyboardist Is Essential

Top Tips from Music Industry Pros: Chris Senner

Our guest article comes from Chris Senner, keyboardist for the band Vinyl Theatre and CEO of Keyboardkraze. A musician who already boasts over 20 years' playing and writing experience, it's fair to say that Chris knows a thing or two when it comes to all these keys-related.

The music industry has been completely flipped on its head and we have entered into a new world of music. Over the years, we have seen the rise of the bedroom producer and we have even started to see number one songs being produced by rather new producers.

I have the opinion that this is great for keyboardists who are new and for keyboardists who have been playing for years. The reason being: keyboardists have a slight advantage when it comes to music production.

While not all producers use keyboards when producing music, a vast majority do.

I started off playing the piano for about 20 years before I got into music production and once I did, I was extremely happy that I had experience playing the piano.

In this article, we are going to break down why I believe keyboardists should also learn music production as well as break down a few great options for MIDI keyboards/digital pianos.

Before getting into the list, here are a couple of essential items you may be interested in for music production:

Note: Should you want to get into music production, but you don't want to purchase a MIDI controller, you can use most digital pianos. If you have a USB port, which most digital pianos do, you can connect seamlessly to your PC/laptop.

1) Music Production Can Be Extremely Lucrative

The first reason is simple, but it couldn't be any more true. With how little it costs to get into music production nowadays and how much money can be made, it's a no brainer.

Whether you're just starting to learn to play the piano or you have been playing for years, you can slowly start to learn production along the way.

If you're someone who is a skilled pianist, you will be able to pick up production a little bit quicker than most. For those who are playing in a band, whether it be a cover band or an original band who is looking to make it big, I can't urge you to learn production more.

Making money on the side and developing a few artists can go a long way in today's day and age of recording.

On top of this, having someone in your band who knows how to produce your music is essential.

Even for cover bands, if you're a keyboardist, the chances are, you might be wanting to run some backtracks for certain songs. This is where learning a little bit of production can come in handy.

Here's a quick list of what you can do with a background in music production:

  • Record/Produce artists
  • Cowrite/produce
  • Sell beats
  • Create musical beds and sell to artists

2) Keyboardists Have An Advantage

I strongly believe that keyboardists have a slight advantage when it comes to picking up music production. While there are many different elements to production, we are in a world now that is dominated by keyboards/vocal hooks which are often played on MIDI pads or keyboards and sampled.

Should you have a decent background in piano or you are starting to learn, the evidence points to production becoming a little bit easier.

I believe music theory also comes to play in this department. Music theory is something that is drilled into pianist's brains during piano lessons.

If you have an understanding of how chord progressions work and you understand key signatures and the circle of fifths, you will be in a good spot. Most keyboardists I've met have a great grasp on these rudimentary concepts.

3) It's Free & Easy To Start

With software like GarageBand, you can easily begin to start learning music production. Should you not have a Mac, you can also use a GarageBand alternative such as Cakewalk.

GarageBand and Cakewalk are both DAWs which is short for a digital audio workstation. This is basically your home base for producing music.

Outside of having a DAW to use, you can then connect your digital piano or MIDI controller via USB and start your journey.

The easiest way to do this is to pull up Youtube and do a simple search of, "How to Ableton Live," or whichever DAW you decide to use.

Youtube has made it very easy to watch some stellar tutorials for so many questions you may have.

4) Learning Music Production Can Make You A Better Musician

The way I look at playing the piano since I've started to produce songs is definitely different. I now am looking at everything I'm playing and almost trying to be a few steps ahead.

For example, if I'm writing a song, I'm thinking and hearing what a chord progression is going to sound like before I even get to it.

Something that music production will instil in you is rhythm. I strongly suggest trying to record parts as close to the grid as you possibly can without quantizing it at first. This will force you to get better at playing to a click track.

5) Increases Your Value As A Keyboardist

Should you pursue music long-term, you will notice that the more technical skills you can offer, the more you will be paid and the more people will want to work with you.

As the game continues to advance, more and more musicians are learning either multiple instruments or they are learning a little bit about music production.

The one thing for certain here is that having a solid grasp of music production is never going to hurt you and will only help you in your journey as a pianist.

MIDI Keyboards/Digital Pianos For Music Production

Now that you have an understanding of why music production is so valuable as a keyboardist, let's take a look at some great keyboards that I recommend.

We are going to be focusing on a few inexpensive digital pianos/controllers based on your skill level.

Should you be wanting a digital piano and don't want to sacrifice the quality of the keyboard beds, I would recommend going that route. I will also be highlighting a couple of options below.

1) Novation LaunchKey Mini MK3 - Inexpensive, Portable, Powerful

The Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 mini midi controller is fantastic for beginners looking to test the waters of music production. It's extremely portable as well as easy to use and it also comes with some great software.

Weighing in at under 1.5 lbs, you will now own a keyboard that you can travel with by simply placing it in your backpack along with your laptop or cellphone.

This will allow you to work on production when you're on the go.

The only downside for some is that the keys are smaller. I do not believe this is a problem if you're just learning music production.

2) Arturia Keystep 32 - Extremely Popular

Should you be a keyboardist who is into EDM, this is a great pick. The Arturia Keystep 32 has grown very popular over the years due to its incredible sequencing abilities and great keyboard bed.

One thing that the Keystep can also do is hook up to any of your favourite older synthesizers. You can simply connect them and have at it. For a keyboard near this price-point, this is impressive and it has kinda pushed the envelope in this department.

You are going to have 32 keys with this keyboard and you will be able to instantly plug and play.

3) Yamaha P-45 - Budget Digital Piano

I've had the pleasure of owning the Yamaha P-45 for multiple years as playing on it for a lot of our band demos.

If you're someone who is wanting to learn on a fully-weighted digital piano, but on a budget, the P-45 is a great pick. It's been one of the more popular options near its price range for years and it really does a great job emulating an acoustic piano for this price-point.

You can also connect the P-45 via a USB cable to your PC or laptop and use it just like one of the keyboards mentioned above. While it doesn't have any pads or bells and whistles, you will now be playing on a weighted keyboard.

4) Casio CDP-S100 - Portable Powerhouse

The Casio CDP-S100 is another digital piano that is branded and built for beginners. With this being said, it has fully-weighted keys and boasts an impressive light-weight build.

While this isn't built for music production, it can be connected to a laptop or PC with ease via a USB cable. For beginner production, this is all you need, especially if you're wanting to also learn to play the piano.

If you are using the CDP-S100 as a MIDI controller, which means to just connect it to your PC/laptop, you will be able to play countless VSTs.

I would recommend the CDP-S100 for those of you who are looking to pursue piano lessons, yet still, have a desire to learn music production in the future.

Wrapping Up

I strongly believe that learning music production is a smart thing to do as a keyboardist, provided you find it interesting.

I hope this guide motivates you and has provided you with enough information on exactly what you should do keyboard wise.

About The Author

Our guest article comes from Chris Senner, keyboardist for the band Vinyl Theatre and CEO of Keyboardkraze. He has been playing keyboards and writing music for over 20 years. A regular on the touring circuit in his native USA, Chris knows a thing or two about life on the road, has a love for music gear, and a passion for sharing his experience and knowledge with others.