Keyboard for the Electronic Musician


Authored by Ross Ramsay


Course Code: OPIAN-150

Next Semester Starts
June 26, 2023

Level 1

Level 1

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


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.

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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
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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

  • Intervals
  • 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
  • Controllers—Sliders/Faders
  • 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 

This course does not have any prerequisites.

Required Textbook(s)

Software Requirements

  • A basic audio recording tool that will allow you to record yourself and save the recording in MP3 format. You will have a tool to use for this purpose inside the learning environment. Alternatively, you can use software like Audacity (PC) or GarageBand (Mac) 

Students are required to record video for certain assignments. You can use your smartphone, digital camera, or webcam to do this. If you do not already have a preferred video software, you can use the built-in recorder tool within your assignment post. You can play the backing track through your speakers as you record and the microphone will pick up both the keyboard (playing out loud through speakers) and the track as you play along.

Hardware Requirements

  • Keyboard instrument with at least 49 full size keys (synthesizer, MIDI keyboard controller, digital piano, acoustic piano, etc.)
    • If using a MIDI keyboard controller, a sound source is also required.

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact for any questions.

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. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Ross Ramsay

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.

Maxim Lubarsky


“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.” 

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– 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.

To learn more about Maxim Lubarsky visit Read Less


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