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How to read synth and keyboard notation and how to play properly?


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I know how to play per se a melody and can make my own songs. I own a microkorg. Curious how a notation is actually read? I play guitar and I know how to read tabs but not "notes"? Also, my synth has 37 keys and is it possible to play a tune composed on a synth with more than 37 keys, using a 37 key synth? Let's say "song 1" was used playing a 100 key synthesizer, can I play this same song using a 37 key synth? Would it sound slightly different but the same melody? I'm sure a song played with an 8 string guitar can also be played on a six string guitar but may have some slight difference, makes sense? What is the point of more keys vs. less keys, I never figured the story behind this. I know with guitar having more strings is to achieve lower end tones...


The "black keys" of my microkorg are positioned in a 2, then 3, then 2, then 3, then 2, then 3. Not sure what this even means. I'm not synth savvy, I can play it but can't play other people's tunes. It would be fun to learn to play some synth anthems from New Order, etc.

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The Piano Keyboard:





You can definitely reproduce just about anything from 37 keys with enough tracks and by transposing.but getting more keys would be a huge improvement.....76 keys works good but 88 keys is the best....when you have that many keys, your hands are free to move without being crowded......


Different keyboards might sound slightly different depending upon how the key velocity is on each particular keyboard but when I play things from different keyboards, they usually sound pretty close...


This board is only $200 new so less used on Ebay and it gives you 88 unweighted keys with a pitch bend and modulation wheel and a sustain pedal jack.(definitely get a sustain pedal)....you would run from the MIDI OUT on this board to the MIDI IN on your MicroKorg.....it even has a jack so you can add a volume pedal.....(17.6 pounds !!!)




I put these posts on here a while back that will help......you're way ahead to play by chords on sheet music than to learn to play by notes....once I learned my chords well, I found that I could play and sing songs on my first try that I never played before as long as I was familiar enough with them to know what the rhythm was that I should put in them.....also, by learning this way you can communicate with a guitarist effectively as the chords are the same on guitar....


Another thing about playing by chords vs playing by notes is a chord symbol instantly gives you all the notes you need where playing by notes you have to add the notes together and figure out what you actually have.....that takes time that you don't have to spend playing by chords.....


If you plan on being a studio musician, note reading is often the only way you can work as they might put a sheet of notation in front of you and you need to be able to read it, but playing solo or with bands, reading notation isn't usually needed....you can figure out leads by ear especially with devices that can slow down digital music without changing the pitch on it (Winamp has a free plugin called Pacemaker that can do this with MP3's).....


Another reason you would need to know how to read notes is to play sheet music without chords like classical or ragtime......


I've been surprised by how many "piano players" I've met who have taken lessons a long time who can't play without sheet music AT ALL......you pull their sheet music from in front of them and it's like unplugging the stereo.....the music just stops.......their piano teachers should be ashamed.....


I guess it all comes down to how much time you can or want to invest....you can be much better at one or the other than you can at both.....playing by chords seems to have a much bigger payoff and time you spend learning to read notation could be time spent learning more songs or learning how to operate your synthesizers and workstations better or time spent doing scales to make you a more accurate and fluid player.....if you have an unlimited amount of time you can learn both, but most people don't have that much time - - - especially if they are starting at a late age.......


To me, most people who play by notation (not all) sound mechanical like a player piano unless they memorize the piece to the point where they can make it sound like a human playing it....


The music theory I put on here gets deeper as you go.....master the first ideas before moving on to the later ideas.....


1 -



2 -



3 -



4 -



5 -




As far as reading sheet music by notes, the TREBLE CLEF (the top 5 lines and 4 spaces) is as follows, starting at the bottom and working your way up:




E-very G-ood B-ird D-oes F-ly (UP in the air....UPPER clef)




F - A - C - E (the UPPER part of the body....the UPPER clef)




OK .....the BASS CLEF (the bottom 5 lines and 4 spaces) is as follows, starting at the bottom and working your way up:




G-reat B-ig D-ogs F-ight A-nimals (DOWN on the ground....the LOWER clef)




A-ll C-ars E-at G-as (DOWN on the ground.....the LOWER clef)



The patterns on the two clefs continue on LEDGER LINES once the note range is lower or higher than the clefs can show.......the pattern is always C - C# - D - D# - E - F - F# - G - G# - A - A# - B - C (low to high) and etc......I eliminated listing flats to simplify things but the flats are:


The two black keys, left to right


C# = Db

D# = Eb


The three black keys, left to right


F# = Gb

G# = Ab

A# = Bb


The white keys are C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C .....and etc.


The ledger line between the two clefs is middle C


Actually, I need to re-word what I said........ C - C# - D - D# - E - F - F# - G - G# - A - A# - B - C is the CHROMATIC scale and is what you hear if you play the notes up the keyboard without skipping any notes......with notation, there are no sharps or flats default (like the phrases I showed you to help you remember them have no sharps or flats).....sheet music usually shows you the key you are in by marking sharps or flats on the clefs at the beginning of each line or sometimes sheet music will print the # or b sign by the note to show it is sharped or flatted....


As an example, if the song was in the key of F, there would be a Bb marked at the beginning of each line because in the key of F there is one flat (Bb)......


When they choose whether a key has sharps or flats, it is whichever maintains the alphabet.....as an example, in the key of F, if they used and A# which is the same note as Bb, they wouldn't maintain the alphabet......


F major scale using Bb


F - G - A - Bb - C - D - E - F




F major scale using A#


F - G - A - A# - C - D - E - F (no note with a B in it to maintain the alphabet)





A NATURAL symbol on sheet music



means that a note that is normally sharped or flatted isn't, for example, if you were playing in the key of F and you saw a B with a natural sign by it, that means it would be an unflatted B note.....


When a note is made natural, it stays this way for the rest of the measure without needing to be re-marked......



This page shows a more complete list of symbols you run into on sheet music:



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Music theory works with any amount of keys....even small keyboards can play many octaves depending on how transpose is set......size only restricts how many keys you can play without transposing......I personally don't like keyboards under 76 keys for my main / bottom board.....I like to be able to play without transposing


Also, on small keyboards you need to set up splits to be able to play sections of keys at the same time that are father apart than the keyboard is able to reach.....larger keyboards don't need to do this (for example, if a song called for you to play the really high and really low notes on an acoustic piano at the same time)


With 88 keys, you have the largest keyboard available....even though some acoustic pianos have been made with less than 88 keys, most have 88 keys......


Something interesting is on an 88 key keyboard, the white key on the far left is an "A".....the keyboard starts on "A" just like the alphabet and the top note is "C"......many keyboards start and end on "C" but with 76 note keyboards, they start on "E" and the top note is "G".....


73 note keyboards start and end on "E"


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Even though that Alesis board would be a better controller because of the pitch bend & modulation wheels, maybe a Yamaha NP-31 would be a better choice (76 unweighted keys) as it would give you awesome acoustic piano (soooooo important) or a Yamaha P-35 which has even better acoustic piano and 88 hammer action weighted keys......the best thing is being able to play all the sounds in your MicroKorg from hammer action keys.....


The Alesis board has no built in sounds.....


You don't realize how important your acoustic piano sound is until you need it and realize the one you have isn't good enough.....both of those Yamaha boards excel with that sound








You would LOVE the P-35......it's a sensational board that plays and sounds like a real piano.....it can layer with any sound from your MicroKorg


P-35 Demos






I made a demo of my Yamaha P-70 piano which is pretty much the same as the P-35....I recorded this straight into my Yamaha Motif ES6 synthesizer.....




NP-30 Demo (76 unweighted keys) (pretty much the same as the NP-31)




Here's a couple close-up photos of the P-35 keys.....I love the action on those keys.....





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