Using a Keyboard

Using a keyboard is an optional but extremely useful extra. It's a fantastic reference point and learning support. If you want to hear how two notes sound at the same time, or how a pattern of notes goes, you can find them on your keyboard. If you want to understand how a major scale works, the keyboard will help you more than anything else. It is your instant note generator.

There are lots of virtual keyboards on line, including 'phone apps. You touch or click to get the sound of the note. These are very handy for finding notes and exploring how notes relate to each other. And they don't take up any space. 

A real keyboard (or piano) offers you a lot more. You can learn to use the centuries old technology the way that it was designed to work – with different fingers for different notes. That means you can play more fluently, and it's easy to play more than one note at a time. Crucially, you can develop your sense of feel – relating the finger and note patterns, which helps you understand, play and read music.

The Using a Keyboard materials help you develop this sense of feel, reinforcing your ability to remember pitch patterns by ear. You play tunes you have already internalised and understood, making use of all your fingers. Even if you are not the best typist, you've probably got a muscle memory for where the various letters are on your computer keyboard, and you can quickly get to the point where you can move around a music keyboard pretty confidently.

As you work through the Music Notation activities, you'll find the keyboard helpful. 

The materials are not a substitute for piano lessons – although if you decided you'd like to go on and do that, you'll find you have some good basic skills. They are so you can use the keyboard to assist you as you go on with your musical life.

Tempted, and you don't already have one? There are likely to be quite a few unemployed keyboards in friends' and neighbours' cupboards. They are the sort of thing people get and then end up not using. 

If you are thinking of getting one, spend a bit of time deciding on the size you want. There's a lot of choice. it's best to have normal sized rather than small keys. To develop that kinaesthetic sense you need to be comfy on the keys, not scrunched. If you do want to go on and play piano music you'll need a reasonably long keyboard otherwise you'll run out of notes, but for music learning, three octaves is enough. 

Most keyboards, even the most basic ones, have lots of extras, like automatic chords and accompaniments, headphones and loads of different sounds. They aren't vital, but can make exploring and playing more fun. For the materials you don't need a keyboard with MIDI – the system that lets your keyboard communicate with your computer.