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How to Use Auto Harmony and Chord Pads on the Keyboard

How can you expand your keyboard music with features already included? Modern arrangers have a number of other cool features that help your playing sound fuller and fancier without any extra work on your part.

Adding harmony to your melodies

Block chords is a style of playing right hand melodies where the melody is harmonized with additional notes below it to form full chord voicings, using smooth voice-leading. Organ players often use this technique, as did jazz pianist George Shearing, and it’s popular in jazz and dance big-band arranging within their sax section writing.

And you can too; it’s just a button-push away. Look on your front panel for a button labeled Ensemble (Korg), Harmony/Echo (Yamaha), or Melody Intelligence (Roland). Turn it on and then try the following:

  1. Set up your accompaniment to play.

  2. Start the accompaniment with a simple C major chord.

  3. Play a single note with your right hand; notice it’s playing a whole chord.

  4. Move around to some other notes while keeping the left hand chord the same and listen for how the sound changes.

  5. Hold a C note with your right hand and change your left hand chord to an F major.

    Notice how the melody (right hand) part changes; it’s now adding harmony using notes that match an F chord.

  6. Change your left hand chord to an A minor and hear the change.

Your keyboard may have different settings for the type of harmony it creates when using this feature. Read your owner’s manual and explore all the possibilities.

Listen to examples of auto-harmony.

Hitting the chord pads

Some arrangers offer some buttons called pads or multi pads that you can use to tap out drum beats and trigger sound effects or even phrases of music. This setting is a fun way of adding more sounds and parts to your playing without having to worry about playing the right keys on the keyboard. These chord pads have various names and operate in a variety of ways:

  • Momentary/Hit: Touch the pad and a sound triggers once. This option is good for playing a single drum sound or synth sound effect (such as a zap).

  • Once: A musical phrase plays one time and then stops. You can use this method for something like a harp arpeggio or flamenco guitar strum flourish.

  • Looped: A musical phrase or sound keeps playing endlessly (in time with your accompaniment parts) until you turn it off. This function can add an additional percussion groove or a cool synth arpeggiated phrase (or even trigger the sound of endless audience applause).

Each style and rhythm has its own saved settings for the pads, so take some time and explore them.

Check here for some chord pad applications.

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