Practicing Keyboard in all 12 Keys

Big Fish Audio Plush

Big Fish Audio Plush

It is important as a keyboardist, or for that matter any musician to be able to practice and perform in all 12 keys. Many people practice the same song in all 12 keys which is of course important if you are called upon to do so at an event. I also think it’s fun to learn and come up with new ideas by playing improv material in all 12 keys. One example of how I like to “creatively” practice in 12 keys is to play along with back tracks created from sampled material.

Perhaps my most favorite Sampling DVDs are from Big Fish Audio. Recently I picked up “PLUSH” and it has been a total blast. You get 34 construction kits in all different major and minor keys. All of the kits are different which allows your creative juices to flow differently with each track. If using the computer, I fire up Sony Acid and import a construction kit otherwise I import the wav files to my Roland SP-606, Fantom, or Triton. Then I create a drum track, along with bass, and maybe even add an underlying synth, guitar, or sfx track if it adds to the groove. I try to keep the back track open and free of melodies so that I can play any chords or progression I want.

Big Fish Audio Plush is about “Smooth R&B” which can be useful for practicing Gospel, Funk, Jazz, and of course Blues. I have a folder with 12 different “Plush” tracks in all 12 keys. I might spend an hour jamming on each track working with the different scales, chords, progressions, and melodies I make up. It makes “creatively” practicing in all 12 keys fun and relevant. Of course it’s not entirely the same as practicing the same song in all 12 keys which is also important, BUT, you can use your favorite DAW ( in my case Acid ), to transpose the same backtrack to different keys as well. You can even vary the tempo or mix the track differently.

This is just one way to practice in all 12 keys. You could also create your own sequences using your keyboard workstation, or lay down some grooves using a looper. I use a Jamman Solo, Boss RC-2, or a Gibson Echoplex for that which is fun to, especially with guitar. However, for ease of use and to quickly run through all 12 keys each day, I like the Big Fish Audio Sampling Construction Kit Series the best. It just gets you playing, thinking, and experimenting in all 12 keys on a regular basis very quickly. I don’t just want to be confined to playing a song in all 12 keys, but also be able to create grooves and improv in all 12 keys fast and effortlessly. Give it a try and you’ll be amazed at how much better you can play in all 12 keys.

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