Natalie: Hello and welcome to Gigajam. This is the introductory lesson of the essential keyboard skills course, part one. Now, as with all the instruments that we study with Gigajam, we have this introductory lesson to get to know our instrument, and also the Gigajam software that we'll be interacting with. In the studio with me is our tutor Terry Gregory. Terry how are you today?
Terry: I'm fine, how are you?
N: Feeling good, feeling good
N: You're our keyboard tutor, but you're also our bass tutor
N: I've seen you many times
T: It's interesting isn't it?
T: You know that, that I'm a bass player, but I've learned a lot from this fantastic instrument, the keyboard
N: Indeed. Well keyboard is what we'll be studying over ten parts
N: What do we need to follow this course?
T: We need a keyboard
N: What sort of keyboard?
T: Doesn't matter. Any keyboard, whether it's a keyboard that you might see in a concert hall, or a classroom, or in somebody's home. Or it's a keyboard like the ones we have in front of us, it doesn't matter, as long as you've got a keyboard you can get going
N: Okay, or even a piano?
T: Or even a piano, yeah
T: that'll be fine
N: Nice stuff. So, talk us through what the components are of this instrument
T: Yeah, well I guess everyone probably knows, I'm sure most people have seen a keyboard, and the keyboard itself, and playing it, is about depressing the keys. These are the keys, whether they're white or black, and you simply push them down with you're fingers, or with your thumb
T: You can either press one at a time, or you can press a whole bunch of them and play a chord. You can do that with either hand, play a scale or a melody pattern, or something, or a chord. So, and you can do that, I'm doing it sort of in the middle of the keyboard here where I play with my right hand
T: but I could do it down at the bottom end of the keyboard with my left hand. So it would sound much lower in pitch, same sort of thing. A scale pattern
T: or a melody, and then a chord
N: Okay, and chords and melodys we'll talk about in the course
T: Yeah, and what we'll get into is actually playing keyboard in the essential keyboard skills course, is about being a band player, being a band member. So it won't be like a conventional piano course, where you learn to play some interesting pieces. It'll be more about learning to play chords
T: and maybe some melody, and fitting in with the other guys
T: in the band so that you can play the lesson ten, the piece
T: at the end of the essential keyboard skills course. The interesting thing about the keyboard is, it looks quite daunting, doesn't it? When you first meet it, you know,
T: and you see all these notes, this massive amount of notes. It's quite confusing, it's quite difficult to understand what's going on
T: while it's really pretty simple when you know, it's
T: it's always the way, isn't it? Really the keyboard is about one small section
T: copied a whole load of times
N: One small section copied a number of times
T: That's exactly it, so conventionally we start at the note of C
T: And there's a C
N: Mmmhmm. How do you know it's a C? It looks the same as every other key on this board!
T: It looks the same as every other key, yeah well that's part of the organisation, this black and white monochrome patterning, this system, this shape. There's what we're calling C...
T: and next to it is a black note, and then other note and then another black note. So it's the one that lives before, between the two black notes
T: If you go up the keyboard a bit more, you get to three black notes in a row. So, you've got quite a lot of information here, but hang in there, because when you get to there
N: Those two black notes again
T: You can see the pattern repeated again, can't you? There's the one white note before the two black notes, so that is a C again. So really, all you need to do on a keyboard, in terms of visualisation, and understanding
T: the keyboard in the way it's laid out, sort of keyboard orientation, is that one section
T: which we call an octave, because it's eight notes .eight notes. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, there's our eight notes and that's an octave. And essentially that's what a keyboard is about, and if you look at it, that one section, or sector of the keyboard
T: that one octave is repeated again, and again, and again. And if I had a larger keyboard, it would be repeated again
N: Oh so that's how it works, the difference in the size. If you've got a smaller one which, which bits do you get? You just sort of maybe only get four or five octaves?
T: In the middle, in the centre of the keyboard, cos they're the bits that you're gonna use most when you play, you know. You're not really gonna really get into playing up there very much and maybe not down there very much, until later on. And of course we did the keyboard going up
T: ascending up through the right hand, and those notes would be written in the treble clef
T: on the stave. The same thing, the same pattern of course, works the other way. So we just took this as our nominal starting point, but we could have started anywhere on the keyboard. So if we go back down .there's going down an octave
T: so there's that one octaves shape again, there's that C note before the two black notes, and then that will continue down into the area which is known as the bass clef, written on the bass clef
T: on the stave, and played with the left hand. So again, when you're playing a keyboard, you might have two hands quite close together
T: Or you might have the two hands a bit further apart, and the essential keyboard skills will look at that, will look at developing this kind of two hand coordination. Practising one hand on it's own, practising your other hand on it's own, and then putting them both together
T: to play maybe some chords and a melody or something
N: So, we'll be playing with two hands there, on the keyboard?
T: Yeah, we wanna get both hands going as soon as we can and developing that two hand coordination, and there are special exercises in the essential keyboard skills
T: lessons to help us improve and practice that
N: What other functions have we got on a keyboard? I mean we've got, obviously the piano sound, which you demonstrated
T: Yeah, good point Natalie. I mean, in the old days people would probably have had a keyboard, sorry a piano as their first instrument. A piano forte which you see in a concert hall, or you see in school, or you see in the church hall
T: those kind of things
N: big old wooden thing
T: Yeah, either an upright or a concert grand if you're lucky enough, which can be quite expensive those concert grands
N: How much?
T: Ah well, they could be anything, up to, you know, tens of thousands of pounds. Something like the keyboard you've got in front of you is probably, I don't know, typically around a hundred and fifty pounds, something like that, give or take. One of these keyboards might cost as much as a thousand pounds. So, but it doesn't really matter, you know, get hold of a keyboard and get practising
T: The we talked earlier about, you know, actually the processes using your fingers and thumb, and being comfortable, and just dep..depressing the keys. When you depress, depress the keys on this keyboard, or on your keyboard, what's happening on a modern keyboard is it's just closing an electrical contact
T: and that's triggering the sound which is a synthesised or a sampled sound. In a piano, in a real piano, it's a quite different mechanism, and it's, you press the key down on a piano and inside the piano, you know we're talking about the upright piano, there's a mechanism, there's a whole bunch of mechanics, there's a hammer so when you press that key a hammer falls and strikes a string. So the reason pianos are quite large, either standing up as an upright, or with that length you see in a concert grand piano, is because they actually have strings in them like the strings on a bass guitar, or a guitar
N: So they're a stringed instrument?
T: Yeah, they're a, well they're a percussion instrument because really you're pressing the keyboard down on a real piano and the hammer inside the mechanism is striking the
N: Ohh, right
T: string and producing the tone. So they're really part of the percussion family, so we're, we're really picking up on that and saying well it's a percussion instrument, it's a rhythm instrument, and it's part of the rhythm section. And so the essential keyboard skills course is written that, with that very clearly in mind. It takes you through that, kind of, progressive, structured learning to help you play as a member of the rhythm section, to play with your friends
T: In a band situation
N: Okay, so we've got the keyboards in front of us. Obviously mine's a bit smaller .
N: which I could, you know it could be used in a school or I can use it at home. They're quite loud
N: Yeah. I mean it's a good thing isn't it? You know, you can't carry around a real piano, whereas you could transport one of those. If you were in a classroom situation at school, they're not likely to have thirty real pianos
T: But they might have a bunch of these, or something. So
N: But again, that's gonna be quite noisy
T: Well yeah, it could be quite noisy. I mean as you can see you've got speakers there
T: and these are the speakers. So it's totally self-contained in the sense that you plug it in and you play. And of course it is noisy but you could control the volume, I've got speakers here
T: Turn the volume up
N: Oooh, yeah
T: Too loud, or turn the volume down a bit. The other cool thing is that you can use headphones of course
T: you can plug into the headphone socket, and you could, you know, work silently. You can just practise on your own, working through the essential keyboard skills stuff, without bugging anybody else
T: For the interactive software, you can just hook up to your computer, or your laptop or your PC or whatever
T: Just plug the keyboard straight into it, via a midi-lead, and you can access the software immediately
N: Do all the keyboards would work, would work like that then?
T: Yeah anything that's midi-enabled would
T: be fine, would be fine. So the difference between this keyboard and the keyboard you're sitting with, is that this is really based on, and copying a piano. It's got a few sounds, couple of different piano sounds
T: there's an electric piano sound. It's only got a half a dozen or so, maybe ten sounds. The beauty of the keyboard that you've got in front of you
T: is that it's light, it's good value, it's self contained, it's got access to a lot of other sounds. So we won't get into that much now
T: or indeed in the essential keyboard skills lessons because we want to focus on studying
T: learning about chords and harmony. And it doesn't matter whether you, you're a drummer or a bass player, I've learned a lot about music, about how the relationships work between music's and chords and scales, I've learned as much from the keyboard
T: as I've learned from playing bass. Yeah cos it's all kind of laid out in front of you. You can see how the scale looks, you can see where the chord is
T: you can combine and compare, you can play a chord in the left hand, and then check the notes in the right hand. So it quickly reinforces all
T: that kind of information and knowledge, and helps me to understand it more
N: So who is the essential keyboard skills course for? What's the ideal viewer for this course?
T: Yeah, anybody really, anybody that's every fancied playing a bit of keyboards. Some people will have had conventional keyboard lessons, more like the piano
T: lessons at school. So we won't be getting into that area, you'll be focusing on contemporary music, on modern music, popular music, learning to play some popular music, and the chords and scales, and all that stuff, and the techniques associated with that. So it doesn't matter whether you've had piano lessons at school or not
T: you might be a drummer, you're gonna learn a lot
T: about how music works from, from going through the essential keyboard skills lessons
N: Yeah, so it's, I mean it's for the musician, isn't it? I suppose if you're a guitar player, or a drummer, or a bass guitarist, like our very own Terry Gregory. It's helped you, hasn't it?
T: Oh enormously, yeah an understanding of the keyboard, and being able to see all that laid out has improved me as a musician and a bass player
N: Absolutely. Join us back here for part two where we'll be exploring the Gigajam course and having a look at some of the technology that helps us achieve our grade one
N: Hello, welcome back to part two, this is part two of our introductory lesson to the Gigajam essential keyboard skills course part one. With me is Terry Gregory. Terry, we were talking about the anatomy, if you were, of the keyboard in the first half
N: Let's now talk about Gigajam and how we can
N: interact the two. So what is Gigajam?
T: Yeah, well the good thing about Gigajam is it's a very organised system. It's a very structured learning pathway, you know, so I'm sure the guys will have absolutely no problems following it all the way through. It's very clearly laid out, each lesson, as we'll see as we go through it now. Each lesson has lesson objectives at the beginning
T: so you know exactly what you're looking at, exactly what your attempting to achieve
T: And the system that Gigajam uses throughout is, introduces a bit of knowledge
T: Helps you to understand it, and then helps you to apply it. So that means
N: So what do you mean?
T: Yeah, an explanation in the text, as you can see
T: and then if you scroll down a bit there'll be some more text. There is a picture of the keyboard
T: so showing you some ideas, showing you some information, giving you the knowledge, helping you to understand it. Then there's more text, as you can see, then there's the musical stave, so it shows you where the note lives
T: on the treble clef, on the bass clef. So, knowledge, helping you to understand it, and then, the key thing about it is playing. Actually putting those exercises into practise, so you can try those things out for yourself
T: The way the software supports your learning is, there are those little icons there, the first one, when we click on it will open up a video clip, so
T: that we can look at somebody else playing the example, playing the exercise that we're looking, currently looking at, you know
T: Can see it for real, you're doing it now, good for you
(Video clip starts playing)
T: Here it comes
N: So what's the advantage of being able to see it?
T: Well I mean it's interesting, you know, often people learn to play by ear, which is a fantastic skill cos obviously music is all about hearing things. So Gigajam
(Video clip stops playing)
T: helps you to do that, because it plays you the examples and you can hear how they sound. It also shows you real pictures
T: cos some peoples visual understand is better, so, and the way that the teachers would talk about this structured pathway, and the way it's supported in Gigajam, is that it's multi-sensorial. It allows you to read, it allows you to look
T: it allows you to hear, it allows you to try. It, illustrates the information and the knowledge in all sorts of different ways
T: so you can access it in whichever way is best for you
N: Covering all bases
T: Well said
N: Alright, so that was our first icon
T: That was the first icon which was the video clip, and you can loop that video clip round, you can watch it a couple of times, you don't even have to try it. You know, if you want you see somebody else, which finger he's using, how much pressure he's using, where the hand is located, what the technique issues
T: are involved. You can just study that for a couple of minutes first, see how it goes. You could play along with the video clip, just to practise it so you get comfortable with the whole idea
T: When you're ready, you can open the next icon which is, I thought, what you were alluding to there
N: So this is the little icon with the musical stave and then the G
N: G for Gigajam I'm guessing?
T: G for Gigajam, and that's what we call the Xtractor. This is a fantastic piece of software which as you can see now loads up a CD, which has the backing track on, the virtual Gigajam band
T: And there is it. It looks like, it always reminds me of a car stereo this thing
T: And, and then you can press play, and again it will play the exercise
(Xtractor starts playing)
T: Here it comes, there's four clicks. Okay?
N: What are the, what are the flashing lights that we've got there?
T: The flashing lights, it's like a mixing desk really there. It shows you all the instruments that are playing, you can see acoustic piano, metronome, default instrument, your midi, sorry muted guitar
T: and finger bass. So you can see all the other instruments playing, if you want those louder or quieter you can adjust the volume. There you go, you're clicking on the cursors. If you, for example, good so you've reduced the bass
T: So you can personalise the setting, so that you are comfortable when you work. You can hear the, the Gigajam software playing
T: the keyboard part, playing the keyboard part that I'm gonna have to play
T: So you can mute that, you can click on that 'M'
T: To the left of the instrument, and then that will
(Xtractor stops playing)
T: mute the piano
N: I've muted it so much it's stopped
T: It's stopped, that's alright you can play it again
T: So you can mute the instrument
T: First, I might listen to the instrument. I might listen to the Gigajam software demonstrating what I've gotta play, just to remind me what I'm doing
T: Getting the sound of it, the note length, etcetera, etcetera, and then holding onto that idea and trying to match that when, inevitably I come to play. So I might rehearse with the software, with the exercise a few times
T: Try it out, just get the feel of it. When I'm ready I can click on, or you can click on that red button
N: This one here?
T: That's it. Red for record, thank you
(Xtractor starts playing)
N: Okay, that's
N: a metronome
N: counting us in
T: That was four clicks
N: And what are you doing?
T: I'm playing the keyboard. I'm playing an A which is the note that I need to play in exercise one of lesson one
T: Of the essential keyboard skills
N: We're giving you a little sneak preview here aren't we? Just
N: a demonstration
T: Yeah. So this is how it works, and I would play that, and keep playing it while you're recording it
T: And it would go on and on and on, and that would be my
N: And you mentioned about muting out instruments, and .
T: Yeah, you can do that, so if you wanted to take out
N: That piano's gone, that piano is just you playing now
T: Ah fantastic
N: Sounds beautiful. Okay, I'm just gonna stop this
N: I presume with the stop button
(Xtractor stops playing)
N: There it is
T: So what we've just done is recorded my performance of the exercise, exercise one
T: And now, great thing about the software, the Gigajam software, is we can have a look at that performance
T: So you can press A for Analyser
T: Thank you, and the Analyser should open, and when it opens we'll see in notation, in music notation, written out in the language that musicians use, there it is, what I actually just did. So let's explain that. That top, the top stave, there's the treble and bass clef there, you can see there's the perfect virtual version as played by the computer
T: So it played one note
N: There's the note
T: which is represented by the black blob with the tail on it, there you go
N: And what about this grey, sort of, exhaust stream coming out of it
T: Yeah, that's the exhaust stream of the note
T: that's to say that's how long that note should last. It's lasting for the whole bar, it's a whole note, and there's the note length. And my job is, when I play that exercise, to play the right note
T: at the right time at the beginning of the bar, and to continue the sound of that note, so to hold that note down for four complete beats
T: So, and that will all be addressed in the content and the objectives of the lesson
T: So as you can see my note was on time
N: So this is your performance
N: this bottom section?
T: Yeah, it's got a really funky colour coding system there, which allows you to see very quickly how good you were. You get a, an overall grading
T: a percentage score at the bottom
T: which wasn't too bad, 67.71 percent, so that wasn't too bad
N: So it grades your performance, how well you've done, so if you've hit the right notes, and if you've held it for the right amount of time
T: Exactly, yeah, and at the moment there's only one note, so no problem. But if I was playing a chord, or something, with a bunch of notes
T: It would measure all of the notes, that I played the right one, that I didn't hit any wrong notes, any unintended notes, or catch any other notes with my fingers. Obviously the process is really accurate in recording, you know
N: Yeah, I mean, to my ear it sounded perfect, but here on the second bar
N: you've got an orange note
N: which means below average. Why have you got that?
T: Because I'm below average!
T: Probably because I was talking to you and trying to do too much, rather than focusing and concentrating on the music
T: That's my excuse anyway
N: (Laughs) And you're sticking to it
T: I'm sticking
N: well it also shows the positioning, doesn't it? So if you're, timing-wise, if you're slightly out
T: So I think I was a bit late on that note
T: probably because something else was going on, so
N: A millisecond probably
N: but obviously the computer's picked that up and it's not gonna lie to us
T: Digital technology, I mean it's fantastic isn't it, you know, but it is pretty unforgiving, and so I'm, don't feel too bad about a sixty-seven percent average. I probably, having looked at that now, and it's good that your taking me through the process, is thought okay, so occasionally my note was late. But if you look most of my notes were black notes so
N: Spot on, yeah
T: they were on time, I think it was the length of note that I didn't hold for quite the right amount, be that too long or too short
N: Yeah, and that is consistent, so obviously you thought when you were playing it that you were playing the correct length, but now that it's pointing it out in full technicolour
T: Yeah, so this is the really good thing about the software is that it allows you to revisit what you did, to look at it in detail, and then, when you try it again you know exactly how you should adjust your performance
T: to play slightly longer notes or make sure they're on time, or whatever. So you can learn by your mistakes as it were, it's fantastic
N: We've seen it, sort of in front of us
N: on the musical stave. Is there any way that we can listen to it?
T: Yeah, you can just go back to the Xtractor and play it back so that you could just use your ears and just listen along and see how it sounds and feels. Good idea Natalie, yeah, so just press play and it should go
(Xtractor starts playing)
N: So this is you playing now, not the Gigajam band. Aahh
T: So that was late
T: you kinda heard that very clearly there
T: that note was very late
N: And we know this is your performance cos at the bottom there, it says 'your performance'. Ah I see
T: And you've got the
N: Every time that notes being played right at the bottom that last little LED display almost there goes
T: Yeah that's what I did. So that's how the Xtractor, the performance, the recording, analysis
T: Looking at the Analyser
(Xtractor stops playing)
T: deciding how, what have I gotta do to get a better performance? And obviously a better performance would be reflected in the score. But I mean I'm not so worried about that, I'm worried about, as you said, how it sounds, how it felt. But when we listened back to it, we heard that it was different. It's interesting isn't it, when you play, when you're playing along
T: you might have felt that you did okay
T: and we kind of thought I'd done okay, but that's probably because you're involved in the process, so it's really important to stand back from the process, and analyse what you did. Have a look at it and have a listen to it
T: especially, and think okay, fine you know, how did it sound and how did it feel? And then I'll have another go, take two if you like
T: And try it again. Important thing to point out of course is that because of this keyboard, which is midi-enabled, I can connect up from a midi-lead straight into the PC
T: And that allows me to use the Gigajam software
T: so that all this can take place
N: But most keyboards, hopefully, will be midi-enabled anyway
N: so you don't need to worry about that
T: Just check that but I'm sure they will be
N: Alright, well that's nearly then end of our introductory lesson
N: In a nutshell, what can we expect from the course?
T: In a nutshell, what we can expect from the course is lots of fun, playing chords, playing scales, developing two hand coordination
T: so that by the end of lesson ten of the essential keyboard skills lessons you'll be able to play a piece in a band
N: Excellent stuff. Terry, I can't wait. Ten lessons ahead of us, join us here for lesson one, it will be, on our way to keyboard greatness, where we'll be achieving our grade one. See you soon