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I'm in big trouble: how to hang w/ a keys player who doesn't know music...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by pablomigraine, Jan 22, 2012.

  1. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    So, my drummer friend send me some demo tracks of a contemporary pop-rap group. My buddy on electric drums & sampler a talented MC who can actually sing a little, and a keyboard player....

    No I'm a little nervous because I've only ever worked with keys once before... but I've played with this drummer and lock with him like no problem. I like the music an really want the gig.

    So I show up and everyone is hooked into a JamHub and headphones with the outs going to a mixer and then into an Mbox & protools. Not exactly what I'm used to but I've got my Brubaker so it sounds pretty sweet without the benefit of an amp.

    So we get ready to start up and I ask the keyboard player what key the song is in..... I get a blank stare. He says "I don't read music". I said I don't sight read either...but can he tell me what the root note of the melodies or chord progression is. He says no, he can't.

    Now, I know there's guys out there who can pick the key out of the air and roll like that.... but that ain't me. Tell me its in Cm and I know where to put the flats and can peice the melody together.... guessing from a decent sense of relative pitch.... but the first song went really poorly. They liked my rhythmic positioning and flair.... but it just didn't sound right as my harmony wasn't correct. I'm so upset. I get thrown into a situation and leave feeling like I'm not a very good bass player....

  2. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    Glen Cove, NY
    If you don't have the ear for it, you need to train that ear. Hence, "ear training." There are lots of melodic and harmonic exercises available online, but something you can do right now without searching the web for interactive stuff is pick songs at random out of your hard drive, and play around with it until you find the tonal center. You'll get better at it the more you do.

    Those moments where you're thrown into situations that you're not prepared for are huge opportunities for learning. You may feel bad at first, but when you hit the shed and come out of it with the knowledge you need, it's a big step forward in your musical growth.
  3. Keyboard player that does not know the keys on his keyboard? Huh.
  4. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    Right?! His playing sounds pretty good...
  5. What snarf said.
  6. I'm in a similar situation. I'm going to a jam session with a guitarist friend who can play quite good and has been playing for YEARS but just found out that beginning with the 12th fret, the notes repeat!!!!! He plays with two other guys who are teaching him theory (progressions, chord structure, song structure, etc.). I'm meeting up with them every week and figure I'll look knowledgable on some things and look like a complete dumbass on others...part of the process to become better I suppose...good luck in your "similar" position!
  7. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Learn the keyboard layout well enough to know all the note names and and all the chords and their notes.
  8. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson SUSPENDED Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I know musicians who don't know their notes/keys, some are beast, some aren't. It takes all kinds and I wouldn't broadbrush anyone over that. It's really no worse than someone who can read but can't play by ear.

    Ear training is going to be key if you're having difficulty picking out the chord structure/intervals. I've always been able to recognize what I'm hearing so I don't have personal advice on how to learn to do that... I could do it before I started playing an instrument.

    One problem though is that you could play something that seems like it fits and be wrong. If the keyboardist can at least establish the root note you should have a good shot at figuring out the rest. Learning to recognize how particular chords/intervals sound can be extremely helpful... once you can put a mental "name" to a chord, it's much easier to play within or against it.

    A solid ear makes it so much easier to learn music when you don't have a chart. I usually learn at least six new songs for the church thing I do, never have charts and the main part of my learning process is learning the song without picking up my bass. It becomes easier ver time.
  9. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson SUSPENDED Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    That does come in handy. At my church gig I watch the organist's feet if he's playing something I don't know yet.
  10. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    This has less than nothing to do with Technique.

    Moved to General Instruction.
  11. jackwell1029384


    Dec 12, 2011
    the keyboard player is a dumbass, my only advice is to at least find the key, so if you think it's in Dm (for example) play only the notes in Dm to see if it's right.

    the world is full of idiots, and sadly you've gotta learn to deal with them, train your ear up
  12. I agree with Jackwell sound like a jerk to me! Get yourself a chart of what the keyboard note lay out looks like then ask him how many keys from left to right and the first one the keyboard god pushes down to start with then look at the chart and you and him will learn something. sad
  13. jobu3

    jobu3 Artist formerly known as Big Joe

    Feb 17, 2002
    Mountain Top, PA
    Best advice when it comes to hip-hop: Less is more.

    That said, I'd say get to know the music and feel where the songs are going. If you play only off of what the KB is doing it will have a tendency to be more supportive. It's very easy to get lost in the mix or crowd the mix and space with his LH going too. Sometimes playing a new genre is good to get away from what you usually do. It will help your ear, feel, and sense of creation. Sit down with these guys and jam. Take time to feel each other out and record everything to see what fits and what doesn't. Your confidence will grow. And if you are building from the ground up, you can take it where ever you want.
  14. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    I have great relative pitch.... If I know the root, I can easily distinguish whether the progressions move down a fifth, up a flatted third, octave etc.... but if I dont know the root, I'm lost entirely.

    Yep... I've played in this type of project before... It's actually a lot of fun because even though it isn't appropriate to fire off arpeggios and tapping etc.... within each song there are so many different things I can do as a bassist and have practically unlimited ways in which I can establish a groove. They loved my rhythmic choices, but the notes were off.
  15. HeadyVan Halen

    HeadyVan Halen

    Jun 11, 2010
    Anyway, you should:
    1.) Get your ear right. Takes practice and expierence.
    2.) Keyboard players left pinky (99% of the time) will play the root note or key.

    Get use to it. Much of Hip-Hop and Gospel, there are no charts, no chord symbols etc. Ear training!
  16. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Keep an eye his right hand and try not to collide with it (watching and listening). The mention of "less is more" is right on the money......rests, ghost notes,etc.....

    Also, lend an ear to the keyboard, listening will yield you more playing ground.
  17. Already In Use

    Already In Use

    Jan 3, 2010
    I'm working with a guitar payer who can play well, sing OK but cannot communicate regarding what he is doing. He brings lead sheets with just lyrics. I send him home to fill in the chords and he doesnt do it. He admitted he doesnt know...so I am working on teaching him. It's real frustrating. I recall not knowing and appreciated somebody helping me...I guess it's a give back IMO.
  18. I don't think this was brought out ----- I have a friend that plays the keyboard just using the black keys. Seems that happens with self taught keyboardist.

    Look at his hands if he is playing just the black keys that's the key of C#. My friend when asked will say he is in F#. I think it's C# as that is all black keys. F# has a natural B.

    Look at his hands and see if that tells you anything.

    Good luck.
  19. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Sorry, C# (major scale) is not all black keys. Sure, it has seven sharps, but two of them fall on white keys (E# is enharmonically equivalent to F and B# to C).

    C#, D#, E# (white key), F#, G#, A#, B# (white key), (C#)

    There's no major or minor key that is all black keys as there's only 5 of them in an octave. The black keys on the keyboard are the notes for Gb/F# pentatonic major (or the relative pentatonic minor, Eb/D#). You can play some simple stuff using only the black keys, just sticking to those pentatonic patterns. Gets kinda boring pretty fast, though.

    So, your friend is closer to being in F# than C# in that sense. You couldn't play either the major or minor third in C# just using the black keys.
  20. digitalmoney


    Nov 13, 2011
    Appleton WI

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