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Welcome to the first lesson in our free Piano for Beatmakers email series.
Like I was saying in our email, you may not have put too much thought into how beatmakers and classical piano players differ.
Here’s the list of differences again:
- We have to think in context of our whole production (multiple instruments)
- We have editable MIDI Notes
- We need to know how to improvise for our fast workflows
- We have to train our ear to know a catchy loop from a bland loop.
And as mentioned, as a beatmaker, it’s fundamental to know:
- How chords work (major + minor)
- What notes we’re allowed to play in our scales
- How to count beats and other advanced timings
- Be fluent in our music program for fast editing (and humanizing if desired.)
Okay, so let me explain why I think beatmakers and classical piano players differ.
We think in context of our whole production:
As a beatmaker, we are composers.
Think about someone who would compose a big orchestra containing violins, harps, flutes, trumpets, tubas, xylophones, triangles (lol).. you get the point.
There’s really no difference when you look at yourself now.. is there?
So when we play piano as a beatmaker, we have to decide if we want that piano front and center or push it back as a filler.
And not only that, we also have to think in terms of space for our mix.
See, when we compare to a classical piano player, they are practicing their solos for when they perform in a concert hall in front of hundreds.
But you as a beatmaker may have multiple instruments in which you can decide to layer, create counter melodies, and add multiple instruments to complement your track.
This sometimes takes a little bit more planning than you may think because it’s easy to get carried away and add more instruments in than is necessary.
(Also the more instruments can get harder to mix, too!)
I find the best beats are the ones where each instrument can compliment each other, but at the same time, if you remove an instrument, the beat can still hold itself together without sounding too thin or weak.
We have editable MIDI Notes:
This is probably the biggest difference for us beatmakers.
Classical piano players spend THOUSANDS of hours practicing piano basics just to get their timing and technique right.
But guess what? – And it’s kind of sad to say – We have MIDI notes where we can edit after we’re done recording LOL!
Think about it.
If you want to adjust your timing, change notes, or lower the volume of an individual note, it’s all at your fingertips.
I honestly find this such a funny point to make!
But as a beatmaker, we take advantage of this as a tool, and in a sense, we use our MIDI notes as a type of effect to mold our sound.
And another important point with editable MIDI notes:
Since MIDI notes are adjustable in pretty much every way (length, actual note, velocity, etc.), we can easily transpose our melodies from one scale to another.
Why is this important?
Well, it takes time to learn all these different scales!
What I’ve done over my years is learned 2-3 scales that I know off by heart. I can create my melodies as such, and if I end up working with an artist and they specifically request the song be in a certain key/scale, since we use MIDI notes, we can easily transpose accordingly.
This is a big time saver, and also helps you learn the piano faster as it solidifies your muscle memory!
Sure some may call it lazy, but these are the tools available to us.
You want to know the basics, build on them as you grow, but you don’t need to spend thousands of hours to perfect something that you can use your DAW to fix for you in seconds.
It’s sad but true. So take advantage of it!
Improvising and a Trained Ear for Catchy Loops
Now, I’m not saying classical piano players can’t improvise.
They’re usually amazing at it!
But as a beatmaker, I’m talking about knowing when and how to play that certain sound in your beat.
Because I’m sure you’ve experienced this before:
You make a loop, listen to it 10 times and think to yourself.. “Wow this loop is annoying”.
You end up deleting it and starting over again.
So this is what I mean by training your ear to know what’s catchy and will allow you and your fans to listen on repeat to the loops you create.
It definitely takes a trained ear, and the improvisation is apart of this to complete your project.
But how do you improvise if you don’t know how to?
Well, improvising is half knowledge and half creativity, in my opinion.
You first have to learn the basics of how things work, and then you can take this knowledge and try your own thing with it.
I read a saying one time that went something like this:
Learn the fundamentals so you can break them like an artist.
Ya.. I probably mangled that quote, but the concept is this:
It’s hard to be creative if you don’t have the basics.
Learn the basics (through these emails, or by taking the full version of this piano course), and then you’ll understand how you can bend the rules with your own style.
The main difference I feel from us beatmakers to classical piano players is the MIDI notes we have available to us.
I don’t know how many times I’ve created awesome melodies by accident:
I hit record and play my keys, make a few mistakes in my recording, but when done, I quantize my MIDI notes which syncs them into their proper timing, and sometimes results in a NEW MELODY or sparks a quick idea to build off of!
Put it this way, a lot of my melodies I’ve created have been either by accident or just clicking around FL Studio’s piano roll.
If I didn’t have the power of MIDI notes, most of my tracks wouldn’t of ended up the way they did.
Sure you can practice for days on end learning the piano, but by being a beatmaker and having these tools available to us, I think it’s wiser to know the basics and move on to other areas and perfect this craft as a beatmaker.
I’ll talk to you in our next email of this Piano for Beatmakers email series.