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by slightly altering the sound through a series of knobs and buttons.
The world's been oscillating ever since. Although modern synthesizers are far more complex (and, thankfully, more user-friendly) than Mager's early feats, the principle remains the same.
Part I: Warming Up to the Keyboard_____________
Electronic pianos and organs
If you were alive in the 1980s, you may have experienced an unavoidable shopping mall phenomenon I like to refer to as the “Organ in Every Home” craze. As Mom shopped for shoes, you were with the salesman at the organ shop, pushing knobs and buttons and playing rock song riffs by Journey and Bon Jovi. So was I.
Electronic pianos and organs became a huge success. Simply plug ’em in and have the kids gather ’round. Each comes in a compact size, even smaller than an upright piano, loaded with 10 to 20 different sounds — including piano, organ, trumpet, violin, and banjo.
Given their ability to imitate the sounds of other instruments, these keyboards are close relatives of the synthesizer. In fact, they use the same “brains” as a synthesizer. The difference, however, is that you can’t change the sounds. Sure, you can change between a trumpet and piano sound, but you can’t change the particular sound of the trumpet.
But thousands, even millions, of customers are not concerned with programming sounds. They are happy with the sounds they have and just want to play music, thus the electronic piano and organ craze continues.
Many of these electronic instruments feature a bonus rhythm section. With the push of a single button, you have a non-stop-always-on-the-beat drummer accompanying you on “Yankee Doodle.” (Bossa nova, anyone?)
Hear an electronic organ at work, playing “Here Comes the Bride” on Track 5 of the CD, complete with the rhythm section. It’s quite alright if you feel the need to dance or shout, “I do! I do!”
Read more about the types of electric keyboards, synthesizers, electronic organs, and their many wealthy manufacturers in Chapter 16.
What Your Parents Never Told You About Posture
In This Chapter
^ Sitting or standing at your keyboard ^ Getting comfortable ^ Avoiding pain while playing
m ^ood posture, including how you sit and how you hold your hands, keeps you comfortable at your keyboard for hours on end.
Practicing good posture while you play also helps you avoid cramped hands, a tired back, and even more serious medical problems like carpal tunnel syndrome. After you’re a famous concert pianist, you can look back fondly on Chapter 2 of this book and remember how it helped prepare you for a career with the keyboard.
To Sit or Not to Sit
Depending on the type of keyboard — and sometimes the type of stage — that you are playing on, you can either sit or stand while you play.
As a general rule, concert pianists sit at the piano, but many rock keyboardists stand behind their boards. I’ve never been quite sure why on the latter. Perhaps rock keyboardists are jealous that the guitarist and singer can run around on stage. Maybe they want the audience to have a better view of them playing. Or maybe they’re just tired of sitting from all those days on the tour bus.
As a beginner, however, I advise that you begin your musical endeavors in a seated position. No matter what kind of keyboard you play, sitting brings you closer to the keys, which makes picking out unfamiliar notes a little bit easier.
Part I: Warming Up to the Keyboard
Whether sitting or standing, you should be comfortable at all times. Your feet should rest firmly on the floor. Your hands should have a nice relaxed arch to them. The keys should be at an appropriate height so that your hands and forerams are parallel to the ground, as shown in Figure 2-1. That’s my hand and arm. Lovely, yes?
Make sure your back is straight and that you are not slumping, slouching, or hunching over. Not sitting up straight leads to backaches — the kind that discourage you from practicing.
Chairs Versus benches
If you choose to sit, you have a few options: a chair, a bench, or a devoted teacher or fan who will hold you. I don’t advise the last option, because the adoring devotee tends to drop you when overcome by the need to applaud during your big solo. Needless to say, this is not the ideal time to fall to the floor.
So, now you’re down to either a chair or a bench. Both are acceptable, and both are readily available at most piano stores and concert halls. Of course, either one you choose has its pros and cons.
When I say chair, I’m not talking about a recliner with flip-out footrest and side pockets for the TV remote. I’m talking about standard-issue piano chairs, which are usually plain, black chairs. Many have a padded seat, and a few offer a mechanism to raise or lower the height of the seat just a bit.
Chapter 2: What Your Parents Never Told You About Posture
The back on a chair does provide some added support, but the back may cause you to slump more just because you can. As Mom and Dad always told you, slumping isn’t very attractive or good for your back. Also, the extra wood on chair backs often tends to creak, which is not a pleasant sound during a performance of Debussy’s Clair de Lune.