Posts Tagged ‘keyboards’

I know many people don’t like year-end letters but I couldn’t resist.

2016 was a wild year for many reasons.  I am very happy to be working in the music biz.  This is what I love to do and I’m looking forward to 2017.

Last year I had fun playing gigs with 11 different bands/artists.

I enjoyed working in my studio as a player, engineer, producer with 9 different clients.  Additionally, I wrote numerous songs, TV/Film cues, arrangements, charts and transcriptions.

A CD I worked on was released in 2016 – Chico 45th Anniversary ~ CHICO [latin, variety] (Bill Keis, mastering engineer, keyboards).  I’m looking forward to three more CDs being released in 2017.

As a teacher, my niche is teaching adults.  I cover many things including accompaniment skills, composing and how to play in a band.

Super cool news:  a student wrote and recorded a song for his wife for their anniversary, several students played casuals and sat in at nightclubs, one student (who was failing) got an “A” in her College music class.  In 2016 I reached a milestone…all 10 of my music books are now available on Amazon Kindle!

Wishing you a happy, healthy, prosperous 2017.  Let’s get together and make some noise!


(818) 246-6858

Dear Bill, 
The book is great. Got me thinking that anyone can learn music 
and you really can use drills and practice to hone any level 
of innate talent you might have. 
Thanks, Matt

Triads are three note chords. Even though they are the most basic chords, they are very important to learn because there are many songs that use only triads. Other more complex chords would be inappropriate. Additionally, triads are the building blocks of larger more complex chords.

There are six different triads; major, minor, augmented and diminished, suspended 4 and suspended 2.  Examples in C:

major C E G

minor C E flat G

augmented C E G sharp

diminished C E flat G flat

suspended 4  C F G

suspended 2 C D G


The “home tone” of a chord is called the root. For example, in a C major triad, C is the root, in an F minor triad, F is the root, etc. This is similar to the first note of a scale which is called the tonic. The tonic is the “home tone” of a scale.

So, triads are made up of a root and two other notes which determine the type of chord (major, minor, etc)

The root of a chord is probably the most important note. It is most often played by bass players, in the left hand by piano players, as well as other applications.

Of course, the root is often played in the right hand on a piano, with the other two notes of the triad.

Practice Procedure

Beginner piano players should practice all the triad exercises on a piano or keyboard with right hand chords and left hand roots (one note). Advanced piano players should also practice with both hands playing chords.

Of course, these chords should be practiced from each of the 12 roots (in other words – all keys).

For more information see my eBook “The Basics of Harmony”

Of the three main ways to play the piano, solo piano is probably the most difficult. The reason is because you only have two hands, but you need to play all 3 elements (melody, chords, and bass notes). There are many ways to do this, which can be mixed and matched.

The best way to approach solo piano is to become very proficient with all the basic tools of music; scales, arpeggios, chords, rhythms, reading, etc., and then practice making up arrangements from melody and chord symbols with:

1. R.H.melody L.H.chords and then 2. R.H.chords L.H.bass 3. Then you’ll be ready to work on solo piano.

If you’re a beginner, you should learn several solo piano pieces before trying to make up your own arrangements. There is a vast amount of sheet music available with full grand staff arrangements for piano which will give you ideas that you can use for your own arrangements.

The basic idea is have the melody in your right hand be the highest note, and fill in notes from the chords under that. The left hand would commonly play roots in octaves or roots & 5ths or broken chords (1-5-10) or roots and 7ths.  The left hand could also play walking bass or other bass parts, depending on the style of music.

It is common to practice one hand at a time and then both hands together.

Once you’ve got the basic tune, the next step would be to add fills and then practice improvising the melody line (take a solo).

The end goal is to be able to look at piece of music that has only the melody and chord symbols and be able to instantly make up an appropriate arrangement. Of course an arrangement can further develop over time.

For more information see my eBook “For Piano & Keyboard Players Only”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that!

I’ve been a piano teacher for over 25 years and I’ve heard countless people say, “I love the piano, I wish I could play,” or “oh, you teach piano, I used to play piano,” or “we had a piano when I was a kid,” or “I wish my mother had forced me to practice,” or “I never learned to read music, I always memorized what my teacher played. When she found out, I was in trouble!”

Of course studying music is a wonderful activity for a child. Whether he/she goes on to a career in music or not, it is still highly recommended. Numerous studies have concluded that children who study music do better in school. In general the world needs more art and music and even if one wasn’t interested in becoming a professional musician or making a living at it, playing music is a good thing!

The main point is, however, you can learn how to play music anytime. You don’t have to be a child to learn. I’ve taught countless people to play who never played as a child. In fact, often adults learn faster than children!

One can get many hours of enjoyment from the music. It really doesn’t take that long to get some satisfaction. Anyone can learn to play a song fairly quickly. Anyone can even learn to improvise (play by ear)! Whether you like Classical or Jazz, Rock or Pop, you can learn to play.

It has been said that the piano is the most important of all musical instruments. It is certainly the most versatile. I do think that it is a good idea to learn some skills on a keyboard even if you play sax or you are a vocalist.

The main point here is that it has been proven to me countless times with firsthand experience that anyone can learn to play well enough to have fun making music.

Good News!

Music: [< Old French musique, from Latin m?sica < Greek mousik téchn? art of the Muses < Moûsa Muse < Greek Mythology, oneoftheninegoddessesofthefinearts and sciences]

(1) MUSIC is a language. (2) AESTHETIC communication that uses SOUND as its medium1. (3) an artistic form of auditory communication incorporating instrumental and/or vocal tones in a structured and continuous manner. (4) MUSIC can be divided into three parts: MELODY, HARMONY, RHYTHM. (5) any rhythmic, melodic, or harmonic grouping of sounds that is specifically composed and that forms a unity so as to convey a message, to communicate, or to entertain. 2

Musician: a person who creates MUSIC. Someone who plays, performs, composes, arranges, records MUSIC.

Musicianship: skill in creating music: His musicianship increased markedly after studying full-time for 6 months.

Musicology: the academic study of MUSIC and its history.

Music Theory (Theory of Music): information about how MUSIC is put together, for example; the subject of music can be divided into three parts: Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm.

Melody: notes played or sung one at a time Harmony: two or more NOTES played together.

Rhythm: the temporal3 element of MUSIC relating to how sounds are made into patterns.

Note: (1) a SOUND of a definite PITCH. (2) a symbol that represents a musical SOUND.

Pitch: refers to the FREQUENCY (speed) of vibration which determines how high or low a SOUND is in relation to other sounds, pitch is one of the three elements of SOUND.

1 Medium: a method or means of doing something. 2 Def. #5 of Music: from Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary. 3 Temporal: of or relating to or having to do with time.

In my 30-plus years of experience in the studio, I’ve worked with many producers.  I have also produced lots of recordings.  From all this, I evolved a concept of what makes a great producer.

For me, a producer is someone that takes the artist’s vision and gets it recorded and puts it onto the tape or the computer.  The producer enhances that recording through his wealth of knowledge of recording techniques (staying up-to-date on new technology), and experience with a wide variety of musical styles, as well as an ability to play various instruments.

A producer should be able to oversee the whole project from beginning to end including: pre-production (choosing songs, arranging, rehearsing, etc), tracking, mixing, and mastering.

He would decide if live musicians were needed or not, or if it could all be done just using keyboards, computers and  software.  If session musicians were needed, he would know how many and be able to call up different ones that could do a good job quickly, to add to the project as needed.

A good producer communicates with the artist and figures out how to accomplish the project within a person’s budget—I always keep that in mind while I’m producing.  Recording budgets can vary widely!  I will try to figure out the best way to get what an artist really wants, the product they’re looking for, within the amount of money they have to spend.

Even though I would perhaps know more than the artist or band I was producing, I’m not going to just take over and say, “Well, no, you can’t do this,” or “You can’t do that,” or “It has to be this way not that way.”  There are producers like that—they’re more like tyrants.  They take over and say, “No, it has to be this way.”

I don’t think that’s particularly the right approach in most cases.  Overall I want the client to be happy and comfortable, and feel creative and willing to express themselves.

I would say it’s extremely advantageous to have a producer who is musically trained, because they are able to get things done faster and easier.  You can get a great result with someone who is not trained—they could use their intuition or their artistic and creative instincts.  But you also run the risk of dabbling around with a lot more experimenting and having things take a lot longer.

A knowledge of various instruments, including keyboards and software is important.  And some degree of orchestration chops is a plus.  In other words, knowing what combinations of instruments with sound best for different styles is key in getting a good product.

A producer should also be someone who is well-trained in the technology of recording, and a pretty decent engineer.  Contained within that is a knowledge of what microphones to use and how to place them.  If you don’t mic a recording properly, you’re not going to get a sound into the computer that you can use.  Then, once you recorded it, there are countless ways to edit/mix including: cleaning up any unwanted noise, pitch &/or time correction, eq, compression, reverbs &/or delays, etc.

An example of someone who has all of these qualities is Quincy Jones who, among many other accomplishments, produced Michael Jackson’s biggest albums. He is highly trained musically, knows what session musicians to bring in when needed, and knows well the technology of recording.  He also keeps the artist’s vision firmly in mind the whole time and is always after a great product.  Another example that fits all of these categories is Beatles’ producer George Martin.

There are “producers” nowadays that just know how to run the equipment, and know how to use the computer programs, but don’t even know how to play the piano or guitar, or don’t know anything about music.  Some might be able to get results by putting samples together or splicing  things together—but that’s a whole different type of producer.  You wouldn’t want to get one of those guys to produce a country tune or a jazz tune or a classical piece or even a pop song.  They might do a great job in certain kind of genres like the hip-hop or trance electronica stuff, but for just about anything else they’re kind of limited, in my opinion.

It is true that a great recording does not necessarily require a state-of-the-art high end studio.  In fact, many of the recordings you hear today are done in a tiny little studio, because the technology has gotten to the point where you can do that.  But in such a situation you still need to have certain things in place—like really good software and someone who is competent and  knowledgeable about how to use it.  You will still have to have decent microphones.  And last but not least, you still need a knowledgeable producer.

Knowledge and skills along with the care factor, as outlined above, that’s what makes a producer great.

My new pair of QSC K12’s arrived at noon on Monday Sept 19.  How cool!!  I quickly set them up in my studio and played my Korg Kronos through them to find the optimum settings for me.

I was very impressed with the sound quality and the design.  Very nice is the weight, only 41 lbs. each. The tote bags I ordered were so cool.  Very easy to get the cabinets in and out of them.

For me the best sound was to use them in the vertical position behind me about 2.5 feet apart and up off the floor (on milk crates).  By they way, did I mention they are LOUD?  Very loud, which is good because there is lots of headroom.  I found what I thought would be the loudest setting I’d ever use and packed them up for my gig that night.

OK, why did I say they arrived just in time?

OMG, my gig was in downtown LA at a club called The Vault with the band CHICO.  We had never played there before.  It was a Monday night and a private party for some company.  The club was standing room only!  Wow, it was so much like the iconic Studio 54 in NYC complete with a house sound system for the DJ (and for the band) that was, in my opinion, way overkill for the room.  I thought I’d hit a time warp!

I had to play my QSC K12’s 2x louder than I had previously thought would be the loudest!

So, they worked like a charm and I could hear myself!

I’m looking forward to the next gig to hear them at a more reasonable volume!


This blog category is all about the wonderful world of recording.   I will share my tips & tricks, my experiences as well as humorous antidotes.


This blog category is gonna be about my adventures as a live performer.  There are often funny things that occur on my gigs as well as wonderful aesthetic moments.  I will talk about these and other related topics.