Keyboard for the Electronic Musician
Authored by Ross Ramsay
Course Code: OPIAN-150
The keyboard is a complete instrument for the writer, arranger, and producer, capable of playing any type of part, including bass lines, chords, and melodies. For the modern musician utilizing digital audio workstations and virtual instruments, the keyboard is also the most effective input device for sequencing and score creation. Developing your keyboard playing will strengthen your knowledge of theory and enable you to more efficiently create great sounding productions.
Keyboard for the Electronic Musician is aimed at the beginner or early stage keyboard player who wants to build skills that will help them write, produce, and perform using keyboards ranging from acoustic piano to modern controllers with virtual instruments. Along with the development of healthy fundamental playing techniques, the course develops your skills through an exploration of music and musical parts used in a wide variety of genres, including pop, rock, R&B, gaming, film, and television scores.
Each week, you’ll be assigned exercises and songs supported with audio and video examples and audio play-alongs to give you a real sense of performing in a production. In addition to weekly assignments, you’ll have the option to submit weekly bonus assignment that display a greater command of the controller and production techniques presented in the lesson.
By the end of the course, you will be able to:
- Read and interpret music expressively from a notated score
- Effectively play chord symbols to support the harmony of a song in a variety of textures and settings
- Play a variety of virtual parts from a keyboard, including drums, bass, guitar, strings, brass, and synthesizer textures
- Effectively use controllers in your productions, such as pitch bend, modulation wheel, expression pedal, etc.
- Use the keyboard as a writing and producing tool
- Gain a greater understanding of writing and production as you learn to perform excerpts derived from Grammy-award winning music
Lesson 1: The Grand Staff
- Introduction to the Musical Language of Keyboard Playing
- First Position Melodies with Two Hands
- Second Position Melodies with Two Hands
- Keyboard Action
Lesson 2: Sharps and Flats
- Half Steps and Whole Steps—Sharps and Flats
- Two Notes Together
- New Positions—Beyond the 5-Note Range
- Controlling Velocity
- Production Techniques—Drum Groove
Lesson 3: Major Scales and Major Key Signatures
- The Major Scale Formula
- Major Triads
- Playing in the Key of D and G
- Controllers—Modulation Wheel
- Production Technique—Synth Line Hooks
Lesson 4: Intervals and Minor Triads
- The Key of F and Bb
- Minor Triads
- Controllers—Sustain Pedal
- Production Technique—Bass Lines
Lesson 5: Diatonic Songs
- Diatonic Chords
- Diatonic Progressions and Voice Leading
- Anatomy of a Chord Chart/Lead Sheet
- Controllers—Pitch Bend
- Production Techniques—Electric Guitars, “Power Chords,” and Bluesy Riff Root 5th to Root 6th
Lesson 6: Contemporary Accompaniment Patterns
- Broken Chord Patterns
- 6/8 and 3/8 Time Signatures
- Technique Builder—The Key of A and the Use of Slash Chords
- Controllers—Assignable Buttons/Switches
- Production Technique—Acoustic Guitars
Lesson 7: Seventh Chords
- Major 7 and Dominant 7 Chords
- 12-Bar Blues
- Classic Pop Songs Using 7th Chords
- Production Technique—Hammond Organ
Lesson 8: Contemporary 7th Chord Voicing Techniques
- Minor 7 Chords
- Contemporary 3-Note Chord Voicings
- Minor Funk Grooves Using Straight and Swing Rhythms
- Controllers—Expression Pedal
- Production Technique—Electric Piano in the R&B Style
Lesson 9: Keyboard Grooves and Fills
- Pop Keyboard Grooves and Fills
- Reggae Keyboard Grooves and Fills
- Technique Building—Scales Parallel Motion
- Controllers—Using Mono and Mono Legato Mode
- Production Technique—Guitar and Synth Lead Solos
Lesson 10: Developing Hand Independence
- Back to Bach
- Minor Key Signatures
- What’s the Score
- Controllers—Key Switching
- Production Technique—String Parts
Lesson 11: Rhythmic Independence
- Etude #9 3/4
- Funky Upbeats
- Controllers—Continuous Controller Pedals—Wah-Wah
- Production Technique—The Clavinet
Lesson 12: Crossing Hands and Stretching the Keyboard
- Diatonic Sweeps
- Technique Builder—Arpeggios
- Open Harmony
- Controller—Breath Controller
- Playing Technique—Brass and Horn Parts
Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements
Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
This course does not have any prerequisites.
- Piano Essentials: Scales, Chords, Arpeggios, and Cadences for the Contemporary Pianist by Ross Ramsay (Berklee Press, 2005)
- Students are required to record video while playing along with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
- Digital camera
- External webcam
- Note: The camera view must be from above, recording the keys right side up. It is imperative that the videos show the student's fingerings. You may need certain accessories to accomplish this, such as a goose-neck camera holder, tripod, etc.
- Piano or keyboard instrument with at least 49 full-size keys (61 or more recommended) and a sustain pedal
- If using a MIDI keyboard controller, a high-quality piano software instrument is also required.
- If using a digital piano or keyboard workstation without built in speakers, an audio interface or amplifier is also required.
- Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
- Input (one required if not using MIDI and software instruments):
- Keyboard connected directly to audio interface (recommended non-acoustic option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
- XLR microphone and audio interface (recommended acoustic piano option)
- USB microphone
- Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
- Output (one required):
- Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
- Studio monitors and audio interface
- Built-in or external computer speakers
- Input (one required if not using MIDI and software instruments):
- Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need XLR/instrument cables and microphone stand(s).
General Course Requirements
Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course.
- Latest version of Google Chrome
- Zoom meeting software
- Speakers or headphones
- External or internal microphone
- Broadband Internet connection
Author & Instructor
James Ross Ramsay, faculty in the Piano department at Berklee College of Music, has been teaching piano for 25 years, and has been included in the "Who's Who List of American Teachers" several times. He composes and produces music for local and nationally broadcast television, radio, cable, and video programs, and has been a featured soloist on piano and keyboards with various artists touring throughout the United States and Europe. Ramsay is a product specialist and clinician for Yamaha Corporation of America, Digital Musical Instruments, and Pro Audio Division. He received a Bachelor of Music from Berklee College of Music in 1986.
Anastassiya Petrova is a jazz pianist/organist from Kazakhstan currently based in Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout her musical career, she has been given opportunities to share the stage with artists such as Terri Lyne Carrington, John Patitucci, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, Noah Preminger, Allan Chase, Patricia Pérez, Ben Street, Adam Cruz, Marco Pignataro, Ellis Hall, Catherine Russell, and others. She participated in international festivals such as Umbria Jazz Festival 2013 (Italy), Wave of Ideas 2015 (Bulgaria), Panama Jazz Festival 2020, 2021 (Panama), Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival 2018 (Boston, MA), Monterey Jazz Festival 2018 (Monterey, CA), Soular Jazz Festival 2021 (MA), and Arlington Jazz Festival 2022 (MA).
Petrova was hired as the principal keyboardist for The Voice TV show in Kazakhstan and TEDx events at Suffolk University. She received her bachelor's degree in professional music and performance at Berklee College of Music and a master’s degree in global jazz from Berklee, studying in the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. In 2019 she was awarded with a DownBeat Student Music Award for the Best Graduate Arrangement. In 2021 received a grand-prix at the International Jazz Bridge Competition as a pianist, composer, and arranger, and became the finalist at Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition. In 2022 Petrova received a prestigious New Jazz Legacy Grant, which will let her perform alongside the renowned jazz saxophonist Chris Potter and get creative mentorship with Kris Davis. She is currently working on her debut album and is a principal pianist and organist for Champion: An Opera in Jazz written by Terence Blanchard as a part of Boston Lyric Opera. Read Less
“Here you have a marvelously endowed talent. This is the musicianship and artistic sensitivity at its highest level. Of such ingredients are great musical memories made and lives enriched thereby.”
– Joyce Miller (The Item, Sumter, SC)
Virtuoso at the piano, Maxim is a remarkable pianist, whose stylistic versatility and musicality makes him one of the most sought-after musicians.
Native of Odessa Ukraine, Maxim was originally trained as a classical pianist at famous Stolyarsky school of Music and Odessa State Conservatory. Already in school he has developed a passion for jazz and received a scholarship to come to Berklee College of Music to further his studies.
Maxim has performed and recorded with such musicians as Dee Dee Bridgewater, Terri Lynn Carrington, Gabrielle Goodman, Rhiannon, Patrice Rushen, Greg Osby, Dave Samuels, and participated in St. Petersburg Music Fest (Russia), Spoleto Festival (SC), Beantown Festival (MA), Diacetum Festival (Italy), “Black Sea Weekend” (Ukraine), “Usadba Jazz” Festival (Russia), ArtNaples Festival (FL), Cambridge Jazz Festival (MA), Salem Jazz and Soul Festival (MA).
Maxim is an assistant Professor at Berklee College of Music. He has also been invited numerous times with masterclasses in China, South Africa, Ukraine and Russia.
Maxim continues a vivid performing and recording career, leading Maxim Lubarsky Group and working on several other projects with musicians from around the world.
When taken for credit, Keyboard for the Electronic Musician can be applied towards these associated programs: