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#187707 - 08/21/01 05:41 PM How did YOU get into Arranger Keyboards ? !
Scottyee Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/01/99
Posts: 10427
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area, CA, US...
Coming from a background of playing acoustic piano, I was a bit surprised to discover that there aren't a lot of arranger players here who come from a piano playing background. It seems that the largest percentage of arranger players here come from a background in organ playing. It also seems that a number of forum members are accordian players as well.

I started playing acoustic piano at 4 (classical lessons), getting into rock in jr.high school and jazz type bands in college. Being both a vocalist and piano player, I needed a way to make money performing solo and found the arranger keyboard the best way to achieve this. Before the arranger, I gigged SOLO (playing the piano & singing) with custom made midi backup sequences playing back via my laptop computer. This soon began sounding rather predictable.

Prior to my discovery of the power of arranger keyboards (4 years ago), I had a lot of negative pre-conceived prejudices about them as tacky shopping mall toys for kids and non-legit musicians only. This all changed of course and now I love the arranger keyboard because it permits flexibility and spontaneity: being able to change the number of chorus/verses played, changing styles mid song, adding spontaneous drum fills, and throwing in tasty chord substitions to fit the spontaneous mood of the moment. The arranger keyboard just 'cannot be beat' for a LIVE solo or duo act.

I'm now interested in hearing from other forum members about YOUR music background and HOW you got into arranger keyboards. Also, how has your unique musical background helped you in transitioning to arranger keyboard type playing? - Scott

#187708 - 08/21/01 11:29 PM Re: How did YOU get into Arranger Keyboards ? !
Uncle Dave Online   content
Senior Member

Registered: 12/01/99
Posts: 11945
Loc: Philadelphia Pa, USA
I have always thought of myself as a singer that accompanies myself. I never liked the piano as a kid, but fell head over heals for the Fender Rhodes, and Hohner Clavinets! I started as a bassist in larger bands, with a background on guitar as a child. I never even touched a piano (with serious intent) till high school.

I was a reed man, doubling on clarinet, sax & flute when I decided that singing was more important to me. The logical move was to play piano, so I could "lead" the band. I borrowed some cash from my sister, bought my first Rhodes and started a trio with a bass player and a drummer. That grew into larger bands, and when drinking/driving laws started to change the face of the club scene..... the bands started to shrink in size. When I was the last one left, I was using a Rhodes, a Moog bass on top, and a cheesy Korg drum machine (analog). That was the beginning of the solo act for me. My vocals were strong enough for me to compete with a lot of the larger bands in the area, and I worked as much as I wanted to all through the 80's and into the 90's. The only real reason I ever bought an arranger was to get a built in drum machine. Back then, I was set up in rooms for 5 or 6 nights at a clip, at least for a few months...if not longer. It wasn't till the early 90's that I decided to do more one night stands. That's when the arrangers came in handy. I stopped stacking the boards up, and using 5 or six amps, and downsized to a "one keyboard" rig. and that's where I am today.

I still enjoy the simple, live trio sound I get when I play left hand bass lines, and right hand chords, but I DO use the arranger when it can be helpful. The real important elements of my show are the vocals, bass and drums. I never get requests for "larger arrangements" or "more backing parts." It's just me, the crowd and the tunes. That's all that matters. However you get there is the way to go. Some of my BEST shows were with the old Rhodes and Moog! The arrangers just made it all fit into a smaller package for me. Now, with MD's and sequences... it's getting less and less important to have the best arranger on board. As long as I have a few good "staple beats" I can take any request and make a lively, interesting show with just me and my throat....of course, the harmonizer has become my best friend! (4 friends!)

Right now - it's back to the Korg i5s till something new pops up!

[This message has been edited by Uncle Dave (edited 08-21-2001).]
Every instrument, every voice, every sound in nature ... these are are all my private tutors ... 24/7 for free, and all I have to do is listen.

#187709 - 08/22/01 07:12 AM Re: How did YOU get into Arranger Keyboards ? !
sk880user Offline

Registered: 01/26/01
Posts: 1255
Loc: United States
Well, this is what they used at church when I was young and I always liked it and dreamt about it. Even before I ever played music, I was dreaming about music.

#187710 - 08/22/01 07:39 AM Re: How did YOU get into Arranger Keyboards ? !
Ketron_AJ Offline

Registered: 03/21/01
Posts: 3241
Loc: Middletown, DE
sk880user - I believe you and I are in the same boat in this case. The Marist Brothers had a TECHNICS KN250 (later upgraded to the YAMAHA PSR 70 & DSR2000) in my school (Sacred Heart College) and on one early Saturday during choir practise, the principal asked if anyone could play a keyboard (then, I was 11yrs old). My friend lifted my had up, and while I was trying to pull it down (since the only notes I could play was part of the Xmas carol - 'Joy to the World' - since all keys were in progression), the principal spotted me and asked me to come up. Ofcourse all I generated that morning on the TECHNICS was noise! I had no idea of what my left hand had to do wrt my right, and with all those LEDs infront of me, I was as confused as can be. However, I believe he saw something in me that I didn't for he immediatly scheduled rehersals with me every weekend (while others were out there doing manual labour), and that was my begining.

Design Engineer & Product Specialist.

#187711 - 08/22/01 08:22 AM Re: How did YOU get into Arranger Keyboards ? !
Vic01 Offline

Registered: 12/12/00
Posts: 275
Loc: Madison, Wisconsin USA
I guess the whole concept of arranger keyboards has been attractive to me since the late 80's and my little casio mt540. It was like a scratch pad for new song ideas. I went through many years since then doing most of my song writing using sequencer software. On occasion though I'd even break out my old Yamaha acoustic guitar and bang out some stuff. When I came across the arranger forum a little over a year ago something sparked inside of me that this was the way I needed to go to get the songs out of my head quickly where my wife and I could practice together and eventually start playing for others. I guess the biggest thing that pushed me over the arranger edge was I couldn't play the music I was hearing in my head on my Yamaha 6-string guitar. I'd hear whole arrangements and wanted to have those playing as well. We tried singing to CD backing tracks, but we both felt that was too restrictive. With an arranger you can be like the Energizer Bunny. You can keep going and going and going... Itís definitely been an interesting road.

#187712 - 08/22/01 08:47 AM Re: How did YOU get into Arranger Keyboards ? !
lukitoh Offline

Registered: 08/15/00
Posts: 550
Loc: Hayward, CA, USA
started with organ (Yamaha electone), playing simple tunes. Shortly jumped to piano, memorizing classical pieces Fur Elise, etc to contemporary songs.

Then I became a Christian and felt called to serve in music - bought YAMAHA PSR keyboard that has arranger functions. Then I saw one guy who was really good(he was my model) using a ROLAND arranger E-series. From that point, I got hooked on arrangers and bought the high end arrangers until today. Shortly after getting into arrangers, I found that manual bass playing add more customization and feel - so I ditched the arranger functions and just use the trios(bass, drums and chords) just like Uncle Dave.

#187713 - 08/22/01 08:34 PM Re: How did YOU get into Arranger Keyboards ? !
RJMiller Offline

Registered: 11/25/99
Posts: 35
Loc: Minnesota, USA
Took about one year of piano lessons when I was about 10, but didn't practice much. Stopped lessons when I started playing trombone. Played tenor and bass trombone (non-professional) - in orchestras, concert bands and my own dixieland band for over 40 years.

Started entertaining at care centers about 25 years ago - vocal with wife accompanying on piano. But, noticed the bed ridden or dementia residents weren't able to attend.
About 9 years ago bought my first accordion (my Dad had played accordion, but I wasn't interested in it growing up) and started to teach myself to play so I could bring the entertainment to all the residents.

Eventually had a MIDI kit installed in my Excelsior acoustic accordion. Bought an Orla dedicated "accordion" module and then the X1 when it 1st came out.

I use the X1 as a back up band to my vocals. My keyboard technique is limited to playing full chord melodies - not able to ad lib as I could if I were playing trombone. My left hand technique is limited to triggering the auto-accompaniment chords. My audiences seem pleased with a recognizable melody played in rhythm with the accompaniment (I have heard accordion players who don't play in rhythm with the auto-accompaniment) and my voice.

#187714 - 08/23/01 12:10 AM Re: How did YOU get into Arranger Keyboards ? !
Dreamer Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 02/23/01
Posts: 3849
Loc: Rome - Italy
When I was a teenager I played the guitar in a band made of friends; gettin golder I lost all my contacts in the music world due to my job and so turned to the keyboards. To have a backing of some kind for my tunes I used to spend a lot of time simply recording rhytm tracks and saving them as midifiles on my Akai MPC 60. When I bought my first arranger (Roland E20) I realized what a waste of time that had been. So I can say that arranger keyboards really helped me to concentrate on music and to free my (however limited) creativity.
Korg Kronos 61 and PA3X-Pro76, Roland G-70, BK7-m and Integra 7, Casio PX-5S, Fender Stratocaster with Fralin pickups, Fender Stratocaster with Kinman pickups, vintage Gibson SG standard.

#187715 - 08/23/01 06:28 AM Re: How did YOU get into Arranger Keyboards ? !
Tom Cavanaugh Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 12/06/99
Posts: 2121
Loc: Muskegon, MI
I was playing professionally in a big band. I was carrying around a Hammond and an external Lesile speaker. I needed a 5 by 7 foot trailer to carry the stuff around. I was really tired of moving the stuff all the time. I was repairing organs for a couple of music stores and I went to the NAMM show in Chicago. I heard the PS6100 from Yamaha. The sound was no where near as good but I could fold it up, put it under my arm and walk out of the gig. I was hooked. I bought a set of SLM bass pedals and shazamm I had a two manual organ with pedals. I built a little reverb/vibrato box for it and used it until I bought my PSR740. I used the 740 for three months and bought my X1 from Don.



#187716 - 08/23/01 09:29 AM Re: How did YOU get into Arranger Keyboards ? !
DonM Online   elvis
Senior Member

Registered: 06/25/99
Posts: 16177
Loc: Benton, LA, USA
The PSR6100 was my second arranger. The first was a PSR70 I think. I used a DX7 for lead sounds, and a drum machine midied to the PSR Later added a piano module and a Yamaha effects unit (for vocal harmony). It wasn't an automatic thing like the Digitechs. I used a midi foot control to assign pitch shifts. I made settings that shifted a third, a fourth and a fifth. You had to know what key you were in, what note you were singing, and what interval was appropriate to call up with the foot control.
If you used to high a pitch, it sounded very "duck-like", but with enough effects it was like having a female harmony singer (who occasionally hit bad notes when I hit the wrong midi button(. This rig replaced a 3-manual Yamaha organ, leslie, etc.
The first arranger I had that I felt didn't need external sounds and drums was the Technics KN2000. (I earlier had an 800 and 1000). By this time Digitech had introduced their Vocalist.
The PSR8000 was the first arranger I had that eliminated need for the external harmonizer. I'm playing that again now, after getting an X1, PSR 740, PSR9000, and Korg PA80, and it still is a wonderful keyboard.
I sold the X1 mainly because the fill buttons were on the wrong side. The 740 vocal input and harmonizer were not up the quality of the 8000. I traded the 9000 for the Korg, then didn't like the harmonizer on it. So I sold it while it was still very new in order to get as much value as possible from it.
I'm looking forward to trying the PSR2000 next. I'm intrigued by it because of the light weight, 4 variations, Cool Sounds and improved harmonizer (over the 740). If that doesn't work it's probably a 9000 Pro, or by then maybe GEM will have a new offering to consider.

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