Friday, May 14, 2010

Play Along & Learn Your Favorite Piano or Keyboard Parts With MIDI - Classic Keyboard Songs Volume Three

MIDI files are flexible - you can edit them and play them back an accompaniment to a performance, you can use them for fun or just to listen to, or, perhaps most importantly, you can use them to learn. With a Yamaha keyboard it's easy to use a MIDI file to learn the piano or keyboard parts to a song. Over the last year we've periodically picked out a few keyboard and piano based songs that are perfect candidates for learning this way, and today we've got eight new suggestions that will have you off and playing in no time. We've covered the process for using MIDI files this way in the past, but just in case you're new to the site or you'd like a refresher, here's how to do it:

For the songs below, and the songs we've featured previously, we've listed the MIDI track numbers where you can find the keyboard and piano parts. For other songs you'll have to figure this out yourself. To do so, you'll probably want to use your keyboard's mixer or channel mute panels, though you can use the score display as well. Easiest is to try looking for the track assigned to the keyboard (or piano) instrument in the mixer screen, if your instrument has one. You can also try playing back the song and muting channels using the channel mute panel until you find the correct channel (you'll know you've found it when you mute a channel and the piano stops playing). Or you can use the score display to view the scores for each channel as the song plays back. Once you see notation that looks like it matches with what you're hearing from the piano in the song, you've found your channel.

Next, after locating the keyboard track or tracks in the song, you can use the channel on/off or mute functions on your keyboard to turn off either the piano tracks or all of the other tracks, then play along. By muting the piano parts and trying to play along you can create your own performance and hear how your playing sounds with a full accompaniment. By muting the rest of the tracks you can isolate the piano or keyboard so you can hear it better and concentrate on it while you play along, paying attention to make sure you're performance matches up. You can, also slow down the song, change key, or use any of your keyboard's other MIDI features to help you learn and practice.

Below you can find eight songs that are perfectly designed to be used with this learning method. Once you master these, be sure to check out our previously suggested songs as well.


The Scientist - Coldplay
Piano on Track 4
One of Coldplay's signature ballads, this song combines an emotive melody with a piano part simple enough for even beginner players to pick up with a little work. As the lyrics say, "nobody said it was easy", but learning this song is a great place to start if you're getting started with MIDI files.

I Will Remember You - Sarah McLachlan
Piano on Track 5
Another well known ballad, "I Will Remember You" is a great beginner's piece.


Fallin' - Alicia Keys
Piano on Track 4
Alicia Keys may be a classically trained professional pianist with an intimidating command of her instrument, but that doesn't mean you can't learn her piano parts. For fans of Alicia's music, learning this song should be tons of fun. And in addition to being a great song, it's also a great introduction to 6/8 time.

Candle in the Wind - Elton John
Piano on Track 2
With Elton John's piano playing there is always a great blend of simplicity and sophistication, which makes songs like "Candle In the Wind" a joy to play. Learning the chords alone shouldn't be too difficult, but following Elton's flourishes makes this a slightly more challenging song to play along with.

The Way It Is - Bruce Hornsby

Piano on Track 2
For players ready to move on from simple chords and accompaniment to more involved riffs and rhythmic figures, "The Way It Is" is an ideal stepping stone. The piano riffs in this classic 80's song are fun to play and easily recognizable, and learning them with this MIDI file should be a blast.


What'd I Say - Ray Charles
Piano on Tracks 4 and 5
"What'd I Say" is classic R&B piano - if you learn this one right you can go a long way. Track 4 is basically the right hand part, but it's complex enough to play with two hands. Once you master track though, try adding track 5 with the right hand - this is an extra electric piano track that adds some extra bass.

Great Balls of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis
Piano on Tracks 4, 5 and 6
It may seem like Jerry Lee Lewis must have had three hands to play this song, and this MIDI file emphasizes that idea with three separate piano tracks. The right hand part solo part is on track four - this is where you get all of Jerry's slides and riffs. Tracks 5 and 6 handle the basic rhythmic parts, with right hand eighth notes in track 6 and a walking left hand bass in track 5. We'd recommend learning the song in stages. Try playing with tracks 5 and 6 first, then once you have that down, try and hold down the walking part in track 5 while following along with the solo right hand in track 4.

Superstition - Stevie Wonder
Piano on Tracks 5 and 6
While Stevie's original actually has eight tracks of Clavinet on it, this MIDI version of Superstition makes it's legendary keyboard part a little easier to follow by reducing the count to two. The main part is on track 5, so try that out first, then see if you can work in some of the extra flourishes from track 6.

Of course, this is just a sampling of the songs you can learn using Yamaha's MIDI files. We have thousands more songs where these came from, so look for your favorites and start learning. Or, if we don't have one of the songs you'd like to learn, feel free to leave suggestions us in the comments for songs we should add to our catalog.

Have a great weekend!

- Doug