Here are 3 solid techniques you can mix and match any way you’d like to create the best rendition of your song. These are great on acoustic or electric pianos (I’m using an acoustic piano sound on the videos) and a number of other synth sounds to varying degrees. Take some time to experiment with your favorites!
Soft or loud, fast or slow, block chords give the listener the whole enchilada with every beat. Most typically, they are played as quarter notes pulsing through the song. Any embellishments are played along with the triad.
At a slower tempo, block chords can provide a gentle undercurrent or a bold in-your-face kind of sound. Played really fast and high, they can make you sound like Jerry Lee Lewis. In this video, I’m playing right in the middle for this pop-style progression.
how many combinations can you think of to play a three or four note chord? One note at a time, going up or going down, playing two notes against one, or lots of other combinations. Broken chords can give a lighter touch to a song than block chords, so a standard approach is to play broken chords through the verse, then use block chords for the chorus.
One caveat with whatever method you choose for your keyboard chord progression: when you’re in the band, remember that the whole sound doesn’t depend on you. You’re only responsible for your part of it. So if you are playing block chords, any other mid-range instruments (like guitars) should play in a different style, like picking, or playing lead fills or accent chords. And it’s true the other way around. If the guitar is strumming chords, they you should probably play broken or accent chords so as not to compete for the listener’s ear. This is all part of the 100% Rule, and knowing your job description in the band.
Sometimes it’s important for the keys to back off and add some color to the progression without carrying it. Accent chords are strategically placed within the overall rhythm. They can be longer, held chords (as in my video), or short, bright chords that add rhythmic character and depth. Either way, accent chords will add rhythmic, tonal and textural interest to any song you play.
We’ll spend some time soon on choosing patches (sound textures) for your songs. Using MIDI instruments, the world is your oyster! From really great sounding orchestral instruments to odd ethnic percussion to sound effects and ambiance generators, you can easily get just the sound you’re looking for. We’ll also go through underscoring techniques, often called padding, for those times when a little unobtrusive music is called for, gently replacing silence with instrumental wandering. (It’s not nearly as weird as I just made that sound.)
What techniques do you use on your keyboard to craft your songs just the way you want them? You can leave your comment below, or email me at [email protected].