What Can Pianists Do At Buckinghamshire Music Trust Music Centres?

If you are a keyboard player you can be assured of a warm welcome at all of our music centres, and we promise there will be plenty for you to do.

What Can I Do As A Pianist?

• Choir accompaniment: many of our choirs need live piano accompaniments for both performances and rehearsals. Whilst it is fair to say that some of this music can be advanced, much of it is not and there is always the option for simplification if a student is interested in playing. There may also be a chance to accompany soloists on occasions.

• Jazz piano: all of the jazz groups will have parts for keyboard, and most of the music will usually be written out (although some knowledge of simple chord symbols would be an advantage). There is never any requirement to produce improvised solos from scratch, though it is always an option for those who wish to do so. A keyboard is also a great substitute for a bass guitar (Don’t forget, the iconic ‘Seinfeld’ slap bass theme is actually played on a keyboard!)

• Orchestras/ bands keyboard: many of the arrangements usually include piano/ keyboard parts at varying levels of difficulty. Where they do not exist it is often possible for parts to be created by our conductors/ arrangers. Just as above, a keyboard is also a great bass substitute, and there is also the possibility of replacing missing instrumental lines in various groups.

• Baroque ensembles: for more advanced players there will usually be continuo (harpsichord) parts for Baroque music (Bach, Vivaldi, Handel etc), and this is also true for early classical music as well, such as Haydn.

• String parts: electric keyboards blend surprisingly well with string instruments (which is why the combination is so often used for West End and Broadway shows), so several players doubling the string lines is a very effective way to thicken the sound.

Hi-Gain: they are always looking for keyboard players for rock and pop bands and songwriting

In all of the above cases, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for the music in advance before attending the first session – this is not intended to be a sight-reading test. Just let us know which group you are interested in.

And Other Than Piano?

Piano players can be a huge asset to many music centre groups as they have so much to offer. The fact that they can read both treble and bass clefs is especially useful. So why might you consider doing something other than (or alongside) keyboard? Simple: the chance to rehearse and perform with others.

How might I benefit from joining a group?
• Being part of a team: learning the piano can be a lonely business at times, so joining a music centre ensemble enables you to be a part of a team.

• Increased Repertoire: there is no better way to be introduced to the orchestral and choral classics than from the inside, actively combining with others to create the sound rather than just listening to it.

• Instrumental knowledge: experience how the strings, wind and brass sound, and what those instruments can do. Learn what we mean when we stalk about ‘orchestral colour’ and aim to reflect that in your piano playing where desired.

• Extensive live performance opportunities: take part in concerts and festivals in various venues, ranging from your local music centre to the Royal Albert Hall.

What might I do instead of piano?
• Percussion: many of our orchestras and bands need percussionists, and a willing pianists can easily be trained up to do this. As well as playing the standard percussion instruments their major asset is the fact that they recognise keyboard layouts so are ideally placed to play the ‘tuned’ instruments: xylophone and glockenspiel. The percussion section of an orchestra or band is really the only place you get to play multiple instruments, sometimes at the same time: great fun!

• Singing: all instrumentalists, no matter what they play, should always be singers, simply because it helps so much with phrasing. Learning where the musical line is going is a key part of a musician’s development, and there is no better way to discover that than to sing it. There is also the added benefit of ongoing, constant aural training which will prove useful in music exams.

So if you are a pianist, why not come along and give us a try? Let us know in advance what you might be interested in doing, and our conductors will do their very best to make sure you feel prepared when the time comes. You never know – you could be performing at the Royal Albert Hall sometime soon!

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