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How to Use the Built-In Songs on Your Keyboard

Most electronic keyboards have some built-in demo songs, which the store uses to show off the instrument’s sounds and sonic capabilities. But this class of portable keyboards, along with many digital pianos, usually also has a library of simple folk songs, holiday favorites, popular classical selections, and instructional songs to help you in your studies.

Look on the front panel for a button labeled Song (Yamaha) or Song Bank (Casio) to confirm that your keyboard has actual songs built in, not just a few in-store demos.

How to select a song

First, you need to choose a song. On most low-end models the song names, or at least the categories, appear on the front pane.

[Credit: Illustration courtesy of Casio America, Inc.]
Credit: Illustration courtesy of Casio America, Inc.
  1. To select a built-in song, press the Song or Song Bank mode button.

    You’ll also see the word Demos on the front panel; usually, it means you have to hold down two buttons to bring up a special playback mode of all the built-in songs. That’s not what you’re looking for in this step. You need to be able to select one specific song of your choosing for this process.

  2. Use any of the data entry controls (+/−, up/down, numeric keypad, value wheel/slider, or whatever applies) to select the song you want to listen to.

  3. Press Play or Start/Stop to listen to the song.

  4. While the song is playing, press the Pause button to stop the song but keep it at the current location.

    To resume play from where you left off, press Pause again. If you press Stop, you stop the song and relocate to the beginning.

    [Credit: Illustration courtesy of Yamaha Corporation of America]
    Credit: Illustration courtesy of Yamaha Corporation of America
  5. Press the Fast Forward (FF) button to move ahead through the song while it’s playing and the Rewind (REW) button to scroll back to an earlier section of the song.

    On many keyboards, if you press FF or REW once, the song moves one measure in the chosen direction. Holding down the button causes the keyboard to speed through the song until you let go. Then it resumes playing.

Slowing down the tempo

You’ve found a song you like, and now you want to attempt to play it for yourself. Your keyboard may come with printed music for the included songs as part of the manual, or you may want to figure it out by ear.

Whatever method you choose, the first step should be slowing down the song so you can hear it at a slower tempo, good for learning and playing along with. Learning a song at a comfortable tempo before attempting to play it at the final, correct tempo is important. Work slowly and gradually increase the speed as you get comfortable.

Your keyboard has two buttons labeled Tempo — an Up control and a Down control — or a Tempo knob or slider. You can use these to adjust the tempo as desired.

[Credit: Illustration courtesy of Yamaha Corporation of America]
Credit: Illustration courtesy of Yamaha Corporation of America

Use the Tap Tempo feature if it’s available. This function lets you tap on a marked button at the speed/timing you want to set the tempo to. When setting the tempo with Tap Tempo, you need to tap at least three times to give the keyboard a clear indication of the tempo you want.

Turning off one of the parts (RH or LH)

Many keyboards have a feature for turning off one of the hands or parts. This functionality is a good way to be able to listen to and focus on one part at a time without being distracted by the other part. After you’ve learned one of the parts, you can turn it off, turn on the other part, and play a duet with the system, each playing one hand.

Look on the front panel of your keyboard for a button labeled Part Select or buttons labeled Part 1 and Part 2 or RH/R (right hand) and LH/L (left hand). These buttons turn off a selected part, toggling it on and off with each press. Look at your display for visual feedback of what you’re doing with each button press.

[Credit: Illustrations courtesy of Casio America, Inc, and Yamaha Corporation of America]
Credit: Illustrations courtesy of Casio America, Inc, and Yamaha Corporation of America

Repeating small sections

As you start to learn a song, you want to limit the playback to small sections at a time. Dividing a piece into small phrases is an essential part of practicing that allows you to concentrate on each section and work on it over and over again. Plus, working on small phrases helps when you’re trying to figure out a song by ear.

The easiest way to create these smaller phrases is to press a button to mark the start and end locations you want while the song is playing. On Casio keyboards, this button is labeled Repeat; on Yamaha, it’s often A-B Repeat. On both brands, setting up these repeats is easy to do:

  1. Select and start the song playing.

  2. As you come to the measure you want to start repeating from, simply press the Repeat or A-B Repeat button to set the start marker.

  3. When you reach the end of the phrase you want to use, press the same button again to set the end marker.

    If you’re having trouble setting the right measures, try slowing down the tempo while you set the markers. Then you can raise it back to the speed you want.

    Now when you play the song, it will start with a count-in to get you ready and then play the same selected range of measures over and over. While it’s playing, you can still use the FF, REW, and Pause buttons and adjust the tempo.

  4. To turn off these repeat markers, simply press the Repeat or A-B Repeat button again.

    Doing so clears those markers so that your song plays fully from beginning to end.

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