Piano and Keyboard Techniques for Session Musicians

author.full_name

Authored by Matt Rollings

|

Course Code: OPIAN-310

Next semester
starts April 1

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition

$1,245

Non-Credit Tuition

$1,090

The role of keyboards in recorded music is vast and diverse; from acoustic piano ballad playing to synthesis, sound design and beat making in modern pop music. This course will focus on the role of “piano-based” keyboards in various styles of music through the lens of recording, including concepts and techniques related to crafting and performing effective keyboard parts on recordings, adding new keyboard parts to existing recordings “in process,” as well as the skills and techniques necessary to record and edit your acoustic and virtual instrument performances in a DAW, and deliver professional level files via file sharing software.

Read More

You will concentrate on the instruments in the “Pianist Tool Kit”—acoustic piano, electric piano (Rhodes, Wurlitzer), clavinet, and organ, and, to a lesser degree, synth and string pads, basic percussion, and auxiliary instruments, including bass and mallets. You will be given the opportunity to create your own keyboard parts and record them into tracks provided by the instructor.

The goal of this course is to give you the tools that will help you become an effective piano and keyboard player in the environment of digital recording. We will explore the concepts of time, feel and function in detail, to help you become a better recording musician, as well as technical tools necessary to record, edit, mix, and deliver final performance files from a DAW.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Create and record appropriate and commercially acceptable (musically and sonically) piano and keyboard parts into a DAW of your choice, and deliver audio and/or MIDI files of their parts via file sharing software
  • Listen to a track and evaluate what is needed, keyboard-wise, to enhance any track
  • Find appropriate keyboard solutions to fill that need and create parts that add to the overall feeling and vibe of the track
  • Be familiar and comfortable with the concept of a click track, be able to create one in your DAW and play your keyboard parts to the click, as well as play effective and appropriate parts when no click is present
  • Be familiar with the concept of accompaniment, and be able to craft basic keyboard parts that mesh with an existing vocal track
  • Have a basic knowledge of DAW use, signal chain, gain structure, piano miking techniques, virtual instrument instantiation and use, and file management and delivery
  • Be familiar with the concepts of time, feel, and function, and how they relate to playing and recording music
  • Understand the meaning of the “Pianist Tool Kit,” or PTK (acoustic piano, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, clavinet, organ), comprehension of each instrument’s strengths, weaknesses, and best uses, and the skill to develop and record parts with all of them
Read Less
Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
Request Info

Syllabus

Lesson 1: The Basic Tools

  • The Rig
  • The Pianist Tool Kit
  • Preparing for Session Work
  • Assignment 1: Rig Rundown

Lesson 2: The Process

  • Getting Ready: Download and Import Files
  • Getting Ready: Create a Rough Mix
  • Preparing Session for Data Transfer
  • Assignment 2: Session Demo

Lesson 3: Time, Feel, and Function

  • Time
  • Feel
  • Function
  • Putting It All Together
  • Assignment 3: Applying TFF

Lesson 4: Piano

  • The Acoustic Piano
  • Sample or Synthesized Sounds
  • Listening
  • Applying Time, Feel, and Function
  • Musical Concepts
  • Technical Concepts
  • Assignment 4: Session

Lesson 5: Rhodes

  • The Fender Rhodes
  • Sample or Synthesized Sounds
  • Listening
  • Applying Time, Feel, and Function
  • Musical Concepts
  • Technical Concepts
  • Assignment 5: Session

Lesson 6: Wurlitzer

  • The Wurlitzer Electric Piano
  • Sample or Synthesized Sounds
  • Listening
  • Applying Time, Feel, and Function
  • Musical Concepts
  • Technical Concepts
  • Assignment 6: Session

Lesson 7: Hammond B3 Organ

  • The Hammond B3 Organ
  • Sample or Synthesized Sounds
  • Listening
  • Applying Time, Feel, and Function
  • Musical Concepts
  • Technical Concepts
  • Assignment 7: Session

Lesson 8: Strings/Synth Pads

  • Strings
  • Synth Pads
  • Sample or Synthesized Sounds
  • Listening
  • Applying Time, Feel, and Function
  • Musical Concepts
  • Technical Concepts
  • Assignment 8: Session

Lesson 9: Clavichord

  • The Clavi
  • Sample or Synthesized Sounds
  • Listening
  • Applying Time, Feel, and Function
  • Musical Concepts
  • Technical Concepts
  • Assignment 9: Session

Lesson 10: Auxiliary Sounds

  • Auxiliary Options
  • Listening
  • Applying Time, Feel, and Function
  • Musical Concepts
  • Technical Concepts
  • Assignment 10: Session

Lesson 11: Player's Choice 1: Using the Pianist Tool Kit

  • Listening
  • Applying Time, Feel, and Function
  • Musical Concepts
  • Technical Concepts
  • Assignment 11: Session

Lesson 12: Player's Choice 2: Using the Pianist Tool Kit

  • Listening
  • Applying Time, Feel, and Function
  • Musical Concepts
  • Technical Concepts
  • Assignment 12: Session

Requirements

Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Basic skills for recording yourself to provided tracks on a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) are required. If you do not meet the DAW proficiency requirements, you will benefit from taking any of the following courses: Music Production FundamentalsAudio Fundamentals for RecordingPro Tools 101Producing Music with Logic, Ableton Live Fundamentals, Producing Music with Reason, or Producing Music with Cubase.

Two years of experience on a keyboard instrument or equivalent knowledge is also a must. If you do not meet the performance requirement, you will benefit from taking any of the following courses: Berklee Keyboard Method or Piano Technique 101.

You must also be able to demonstrate knowledge of basic pitch notation, and of basic harmony (major and minor scales). If you do not meet the music theory requirement, you will benefit from taking any of the following courses: Music FoundationsMusic Theory 101Getting Inside Harmony 1, or Music Application and Theory.

Textbook(s)

  • No textbooks required

Software

  • Full-featured DAW, such as Pro Tools (Studio or Ultimate), Logic Pro, Cubase Pro, Ableton Live (Suite or Standard), Reaper, Reason, or FL Studio (Producer or Signature). Note that GarageBand is not acceptable.
  • Note: You may need software instruments to fulfill the sound requirements listed under Instrument below; many DAWs will have some or all of these included.

Instrument

  • Digital keyboard or MIDI keyboard controller with at least 49 keys (61 or more recommended) and access to the following sounds, or a combination of the corresponding physical/analog counterparts where applicable:
    • Acoustic piano
    • Fender Rhodes electric piano (or approximate emulation)
    • Wurlitzer electric piano (or approximate emulation)
    • Clavinet (or approximate emulation)
    • Hammond B3 organ (or approximate emulation)
    • Basic synth and string pads
    • Auxiliary instruments (percussion, mallets, glockenspiel)

Hardware

  • Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (if not using only MIDI and software instruments):
      • If using onboard keyboard sounds, audio interface with keyboard connected directly
      • If using acoustic piano, 2 XLR microphones suitable for recording piano and audio interface with 2 mic preamps
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (required if using a microphone for input)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu with 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

Instructors

Matt Rollings

Author & Instructor

Matt Rollings is a multiplatinum, Grammy-winning producer, pianist, and songwriter. His performance discography spans thousands of recordings, including from Eric Clapton, Lyle Lovett, Sheryl Crow, Billy Joel, Johnny Cash, Queen, Metallica, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Mavis Staples, and more. In the producer’s chair, Matt uses his innovative approach to great effect. His work has been met both with critical acclaim and commercial success, with credits including Willie Nelson’s Grammy-winning Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Grammy-nominated The Age of Miracles, Keith Urban’s multiplatinum self-titled breakthrough opus, and the Edwin McCain Band’s multiplatinum Misguided Roses. Within the Nashville scene, he is established as a sought-after collaborator whose unique voice graces numerous landmark releases. Continually recognized by the industry, the Academy of Country Music (ACM) notably awarded him “Pianist/Keyboardist of the Year” 10 times (1991-1998, 2002, and 2007).

Questions?

Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

Get Info
Call
Text