Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Help! What's a Good Chord Instrument?

We've been talking about strengthening our piano skills by playing the right hand and left hand separately on different instruments, and then re-synthesizing the two parts on a piano later.

My example was using a melodica (a two and a half octave mini keyboard that you blow through) to work with the right hand, and then a guitar to work with the left hand. I find the guitar most helpful because it's a way of looking at chords through an entirely different medium. I get a whole new perspective on chords by playing them on a guitar.

Piano players can easily adapt to the melodica; it's just a miniaturized form of a piano. But what if you don't already play the guitar? I don't recommend starting to learn it from scratch. Unlike the piano, the guitar is a very difficult instrument. It takes a lot of dedication.

So what can you use for chords? Well you could play chords with your right hand on the melodica, I suppose. But you get no new insight from that.

There have been various chord producing instruments on the market over the years. The Omni Chord comes to mind. But these tended to be just one finger chord generators that didn't really reveal much in the way of how chords work. Plus they were limited to relatively simple chords.

Take a Cole Porter chord progression such as Gm7b5 - C7b9 - Fm6 - Dm7b5 - G(alt) - Cmaj7 and you've had it. These one finger chord gizmos can't cut it to my knowledge.

I believe one of our bloggers suggested a chord instrument by Suzuki or somesuch, but I have no clue how those work.

So I'm kind of stumped. Anyone out there who knows of a chord based instrument other than the piano that's versatile, musically correct, and easy to use, please let us know.


  1. I have to be honest. I have no idea what those chords are that you list at the bottom of this post. I play piano, can read sheet music well, but just do not know about chords. I just play what I see on the page. Is there a good site to show me what different chords there are and teach me a bit about them?

  2. This is somewhat related. I wanted to post a separate blog topic, but... I was looking to buy a very portable USB keyboard w/25-keys to practice chords and melodies separately when commuting by train. I have a 88-key Privia w/full hammer action at home. The one I bought felt terrible so I'm returning it. Now, I'm wondering if I should get something a little bigger with semi-weighted keys and skip the commute idea. If I could just plop it on my lap while watching TV, that may be good enough.
    So, I guess my questions are (all are w/the premise that I have already have a nice full-size keyboard):
    1) Should I try another 25-key keyboard? Would this be something I would outgrow as soon as I get proficient w/two hands.
    2) What is the absolute smallest number of keys, if you are going to play w/two hands? 37, 49, etc?
    3) Should I worry about semi-weighted or weighted keys?
    4) USB keyboards would obviously have to plug into my laptop. Are there any standalones that I should consider?

    Thanks in advance!


  3. Bryant here again. I finally purchased a 61-key Yamaha EZ250i keyboard. I think Yamaha has a better feel on the low-end portable keyboards over Casio. My other piano is a Casio Privia, which has a great feel.

    Since I've purchased the portable keyboard, I've practiced every day. I also appreciate the lighted keys (for now). I even took it with me on a trip out of state.

    If you already have a nice keyboard, then a portable is a great choice to lug around the house or out of the house.

    Later, when I get a chance to hook up the keyboard to the computer through USB/Midi connection, I'll try to post another blog.