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Keyboard recommendation vs jazz theory studies

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by BigDBass, Aug 12, 2003.


  1. BigDBass

    BigDBass PWIYB! Supporting Member

    With the hope that this is the proper place to post this message:

    I've been working with a few theory books (Levine's _Jazz_Theory_, Haerle's _Jazz_Language_ and _Jazz_Sound_) and I'm hoping someone can recommend a passable (cheap) keyboard that will suffice to reinforce learning the sounds of various chords and scales and modes. Would some low-end Casio do the job or are there factors (intonation or something?) that point to a higher quality device? I'm buying into the suggestion that any musician should learn some piano; can I do this with some $75 "kiddie" keyboard?

    Thanks,
    D
     
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think for learning theory - the 'cheapness' doesn't matter - the only thing is you may lose your motivation to play or yoru sanity!! ;)

    So - cheap Casios have no intonation problems and can help you work out how harmony sounds - but their awful grating sound can put you off using them and really get on your nerves!! ;)

    Get one with a midi port and you might be able to connect it to a better-sounding module - but seriously, if you are only looking at studying theory - anything will do, if you can live with the sounds.

    The only possible downer, is less-than-full-size keyboards, if you have large fingers - may be difficult for some chords...?
     
  3. I just bought a Yamaha(P120) last week, right now I'm just banging out chords..but plan to take Class Piano-1 at the local college to get the proper technique down.

    I look very much forward to every challenge the piano will present to me.
    The Problem will be on dividing up the practice time for both consistently.
     
  4. chardin

    chardin

    Sep 18, 2000
    Does technique matter when playing the piano for the purpose of learning chords? In other words, is it important that your index finger go here, middle finger go there. I would think for the sake of learning the sound of a chord, as long as you play a minor third for a minor chord, it shouldn't matter which fingers you use.
     
  5. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I would aim for reasonable size keys and midi - that gives you a fair range of options for what to do with it in the future.

    You could of course just get a sequencer program of some kind and program in the different progressions on your computer - it depends whether your aim is to be able to play piano or just to hear the examples (and also how much time, space and money you have to spare).

    Wulf
     
  6. AJ Love

    AJ Love

    Oct 8, 2002
    Madison WI USA
    I bought a $125 keyboard from radio Shack that seems to work well...plus it has 100 pre-set rhythms which are OK for home practice sessions
     
  7. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Aha, this is my subject ;)

    First off, there should be no intonation problems, no matter how cheap you go. Assuming you're talking about electronic keyboards, that is.

    However, as Bruce quite rightly points out, the nasty sound quality of a really cheap keyboard might piss you right off. And it might well have the "mini keys", which I find really annoying to play, because they make me hit all sorts of notes I don't intend to. Also, if it is not touch sensitive (i.e. the notes come out at full volume, no matter how hard/softly you press the keys) - that might annoy you. It annoys the heck out of me whenever I play a keyboard like that.

    But then, I do call myself a pianist, and I'm used to playing a real piano. If you're only looking to use this to learn theory and develop your ear, a cheap keyboard would work - as long as the above things don't annoy you too much.

    As Bruce & Wulf mentioned, a MIDI out would be a good thing to have, so at least you have the option of hooking up to something that sounds better.

    From the point of view of comfort playing, you want these three things, ideally: full size keys, touch sensitivity, weighted keys.

    But, just for helping with theory, you *can* make do with none of those.

    fretlessb1 - Congrats on the Yamaha! That's a nice digital piano. I could only afford the P80, which is the next model down from the P120 (or was, rather, the P80 has now been superseeded by the P90).

    As Vunz points out, it must have some decent level of polyphony. I'm not really familiar with what the cheapest keyboards are like these days - but I'm assuming anything you get will have some reasonable level of polyphony? Can you actually get monophonic electronic keyboards?

    Chardin - just for getting your ears around the chords, no, technique is not of utmost importance ;) But if you're interesting in actually playing the piano, then yes, it is gonna be important. If you're not interested in being a pianist of any sort, then I'd say just make sure that you're not doing yourself any physical damage by using some screwed up technique.

    As far as fingering is concerned, I would say just do what feels comfortable, but I won't, because I've seen people use the most bizarre fingering technique, and presumably they were just doing what felt comfortable...

    Personally, I don't recall ever having any kind of wrist or finger pain as a result of playing the piano - and I do play a lot, and have done for the last 12 years or so. But I knew one guy who adopted the most bizarre technique, tensing his wrists and fingers, and playing triads without the thumb, and he really did cause himself considerable wrist pain, very quickly.

    It seems crazy to me, but I've seen people play triads using their index, middle, and ring fingers - not their thumb. To me it seems like a completely ridiculous thing to do, but for some reason some people do it...

    Anyway, as some basic advice on fingering, the fingers are numbered as follows:

    1 = thumb
    2 = index
    3 = middle
    4 = ring
    5 = pinky

    And typically, you'd play a triad using 1 3 5 or 1 2 4 - they're both comfortable. For a four note chord, I would mostly use 1 2 3 5.
     
  8. chardin

    chardin

    Sep 18, 2000
    moley,

    I'm assuming you're talking about playing piano chords with the left hand. Don't you play the root of the chord with your pinky?

    I'm hoping that Chris Fitzgerald will post a quick lesson on piano voicings. From what I understand, he gave some great talks at this year's Jamey Aebersold jazz camp.

    Edit: Fixed typos.
     
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Thanks for the free spam! I enjoy teaching the voicing classes because the students are always so hungry to learn. I'm actually hoping to get the handout I use at the camps up on my site...All I need to do is figure out how to get the Finale file from my Mac to the webmaster's PC. Now THERE'S some theory I don't understand at all...
     
  10. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    If your Mac had Adobe Acrobat on board you could print to a PDF file and anyone with a browser would be able to access the file. You could also print to a file and have the postscript output processed by Adobe Acrobat Distiller to create a PDF file.

    As for the topic at hand...

    I wouldn't get one of those kiddy keyboards. A Casio in the 2 - 3 hundred dollar range should be good enough to work on chordal stuff and they usually have built in speakers. If you're actually learn how to play piano, I would get a real piano if possible or a keyboard with weighted keys and piano like action.
     
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The Mac is a G4 running Jaguar with all the bells and whistles (including Acrobat) on board. If you could walk me through this, I'd be grateful.
     
  12. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I'll see what I can do, but I don't have a Mac. :) Now, if you can drag a document over to an Adobe Acrobat icon the resulting output should be a PDF file. Or, if you can configure a postscript printer to print to a file, I can run that file through distiller and create a PDF file.

    Another idea...

    What version of Finale are you using? You might be able to send me the file and I can read it and do the conversion, assuming the file format for the Mac and the PC are the same of course.
     
  13. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Well, both hands really. The fingering I gave for a 4 note chord, 1 2 3 5 - well, you can use the same fingers, whichever hand you're using. If it's your right hand, your thumb will be at the bottom, and if it's your left hand, your pinky will be at the bottom.

    And in general, if I'm playing with a bass player (in a Jazz context), I won't play the root with my LH pinky, and often won't play the root at all.
     
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'm using 2002, which has the ability to save files as either .mus files or ENIGMA (etf) files. I'm very new to both 2002 and OSX, so I'm not sure I can be much help beyond that. :) But if either of those will work, I'll send 'em your way.
     
  15. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Chris,

    This is all you need to do to post the document.

    Piano Voicing Document

    Clicking on the above link should spawn a new window with the Adobe Acrobat viewer.
     
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Thanks, I'll try that. So far, I love OSX, but it sometimes makes me feel like a moron. :)

    BTW, is anyone else having trouble opening Phil's attachment in the post above? I can't open it on my wife's PC at all, and when I open on my Mac, the chord symbols all come out as bizarre heiroglyphics.
     
  17. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    The chord symbols are coming out wrong on my PC too.
     
  18. chardin

    chardin

    Sep 18, 2000
    First of all, many thanks to Chris Fitzgerald for putting this document together and posting it. In my book, you are one step closer to All Hail status! :D

    The file opens fine using Acrobat Reader v5.0 on my Windoze 2000 machine but only the dominant 7 chord symbols display correctly. I'm going to look at this as an opportunity to learn chord symbols!
     
  19. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    This is a common problem with creating PDF files. I've never tried to trouble-shoot it, but there is something going on with fonts and character sets. In other words, the intended character from a specific font that you put in your document using your original software is mis-printing on the Acrobat virtual printer. The problem complicates when you're talking monitor display of a PDF file versus printed hardcopy of it. Sometimes it will display fine and print gobbledy-gook.

    It's a royal pain in the arse, and it's the number one reason NOT to use PDF.

    Sometimes you have to be creative to translate. I'm not at all familiar with your original software, Chris, but sometimes it's possible to save as HTML ("save for Web"), or to something like MS Word and then to HTML. If you can save it as HTML, you'll get GIFs or JPGs of your graphic material. Maybe the whole shootin' match can be saved as a graphic image. Once you get graphics, you can use the web to make it available to folks; the Web actually works for this sort of thing. AND, you can use your TB pals to help you help us. I for one would be happy to host the document on my site (oops, forgot you've got your own site MISS HISS SNARE ALL), or to help put it together.

    It's the kind of thing that can make you want to feed your computer to the worms, Internet or actual.

    Good luck with it.

    Post-it note: from the brief gander I had, it looks like super-scripted text (probably "maj", "min", "dim", etc.) is the culprit.
     
  20. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    ... and it's such a charmingly EFFECTIVE font substitution algorithm, isn't it?

    I'd rather thing said "sorry, I'm not up to it" rather than produce crapola, but now I'm way off topic.