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Yamaha makes a range of quality digital keyboards to suit every ability level. For beginners, Wider Opportunities, etc, try the YPT- 210. Perfect for individual and group lessons with the Yamaha build quality that you need in a school environment.

But if they show promise and are clearly going to proceed past the first couple of terms I encourage them to buy a decent Yamaha keyboard and I’m absolutely delighted that quite a few of the children now have quite high quality Yamaha keyboards, which the parents have forked out for and is a great tribute to how they feel about supporting their children’s progress and, of course, it improves our overall sound.

Expressive keyboard playing

Keyboards can easily be made to sound quite unmusical, without dynamics or expression. In my own teaching I encourage the twin angles of musicianship and technique – which is vital for every instrument. But with the keyboard you have the added strand of the technology which you can draw on and using it musically becomes another skill which keyboard players need to acquire. We always include dynamics, expression, phrasing and articulation but, for example we ran a style creation workshop last week, where Kit Marsden taught us how to create our own backings which can be added to the instrument’s automatic accompaniment styles. They saw and heard a real drum kit at close quarters

and learned how it relates to the general MIDI drum sounds they have in their keyboards and also learned about percussion notation. One task was then to read a simple part from the drum notation and play the correct drum sound – snare, hi-hat, bass drum, etc – on their keyboards. We then put together a 2- or 4-bar drum pattern which they could store in their keyboards and call up whenever they needed it. Since then we’ve built on that to add bass line and chords. They learn a huge amount from this

For intermediates, try the E413 or E423, with better sampling for a high quality, musical sound.

For more advanced keyboard players, the top of the range starts with the PSR S550 – a superb instrument which allows for greater expressive control.

kind of work: how a rhythm section is built, from scratch, which is very different from just pressing a button which says ‘8-beat’ or ‘Funk’ and never really understanding what that actually means. This has given them the confidence to create their own rhythms. Yamaha’s Bill Martin, who led the development of the UK’s Yamaha Music School course for keyboard players, Play For Keeps, will run an INSET day for Norwich’s keyboard teachers this Autumn, focussing particularly on arranging and creating expressive musical performances on keyboards.

More information on Yamaha keyboards can be found at:



Harry Twining, age 13: ‘I started playing keyboard when I was about six and I also play piano. I have a PSR 3000 keyboard at home which I use in the Keyboard Orchestra. It’s pretty cool! It has so many choices and variations that when you put them together it just sounds really good.’

Alfred Wells Dion, aged 11: ‘I’ve played keyboard for 5 years. I started on keyboard but also have weekly piano lessons. One of the nice things about the keyboard is that there are endless possibilities with every single thing you do on it and I’m still exploring them all on my new keyboard. I’m exploring the voices and styles on my keyboard but I’ve recently started learning how to make my own rhythms.’

Photo: © Bill C Martin

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