Exercises to learn scales and theory on the OP-1?

I’m coming to the OP-1 with an interest in learning synthesis, about a year of piano lessons from my childhood, and more of a serious background playing drums and guitar. I’d like to use the OP-1 at first to re-acclimate myself with the piano and develop some basic dexterity with one (or both) hands and muscle memory for chords, scales and inversions. I guess I’m looking to learn mostly theory, and a little bit of technique that is limited to two octaves.

There don’t seem to be a lot of resources (i.e. books and courses) geared toward this use case. If I went to the r/piano subreddit, for example, they would tell me to buy and 88-key piano and get piano lessons or get lost. While that would be great in the future, I don’t currently have the space, time, or resources for that. For me, it’s the OP-1 or nothing.

So, I’m interested to hear from people who used the OP-1 to develop basic keyboard skills and knowledge of theory. One thing that makes it unique is its form factor and portability - I can put it in my bag and use it during my commute, for example, which not a lot of similar gear can do. I’d like to hear what people have done to make the most of it from this perspective. Would appreciate your input! Any books, YouTube resources, courses, etc…

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I’m more or less in the same situation. Maybe worse. I always played what I thought sounded fine. No idea about chords!
The first thing I’ve done is downloading a PDF (a Google search will do it) with chords. Then I’ll try to learn how they can combine together… But I’m in a very basic stage. I’d like to see more replies on resources or materials.

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I learned music theory on the op-1 haha. Its possible but definitely a little limiting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgaTLrZGlk0

Here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgaTLrZGlk0&t=4s

Are there more sources? Video tutorial, books etc?

i used ‘piano scales and chords pro’ app on my android phone…Its very nice and straight forward at showing scales…A quick once over with that and onto the OP-1 to practice.

Thanks, I’ll check it out

Hi @FrankC. Don’t let people tell you wrong - you can definitely use the OP-1 to start out on piano. Personally, I would’ve loved to have such a thing when I learned piano.

You can definitely get lots of basics from Youtube, but I highly suggest the following steps for learning piano in a fun way:

  1. Find a simple song that you like (popular ones are What a Wonderful World, Let It Be, Time To Say Goodbye, etc.) and print out the sheet music. A piece of paper is essentially because you can write notes all over it (e.g. which finger to use on which note, very useful when you are starting).

  2. Obviously the OP-1 is a small keyboard, but the onboard metronome and the onboard 4-track is absolutely a beautiful thing here which can take you way beyond having a 88-key piano. I would take your song and practice just one section with just the left hand first (try to use a metronome often!). When you feel like you got it, put a metronome on and record it into the tape.

  3. Now you can practice your right hand with your own accompaniment! Not only is it good practice, but it is also highly satisfying to understand how easy it is to play/record your own music. Once you are satisfied with your right hand playing, I would record that into another track.

  4. Now, to learn some theory you can play back your song and practice improvising over it (you can turn off the right hand to make it easier). It will be fun to do and this will require you to immediately learn some practical theory. IMO theory is only as good as how well it informs you what notes to play (or not play) when improvising / writing music.

  5. Repeat these steps for each section of the song. Then repeat these steps for other songs! As you play songs you will notice things that are similarities between them (chord changes, number of bars in each section, etc.). Use those observations to generate questions and research those questions (the internet is full of specific answers to specific theory questions).

For years I’ve been practicing like this and its served me well. Not only has it helped my knowledge of theory and technique, it has really kept me passionate about playing piano, because it is always enjoyable and fun.

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Thank you for the great reply!

I also thought I should update this thread with my own findings. It looks like the app Melodics has built out a pretty robust section with interactive lessons for practicing scales and chords and is accommodating towards people trying to learn on small keyboards and midi keyboards. I had checked it out a few years ago when it was still mostly for finger drumming, but they’ve certainly built it out since then.

Here’s an OP-1 exercise to help you play in different keys:

  1. Sequence the C major scale (all white keys) up and down one octave.
  2. Record the sequence.
  3. Loop the recording
  4. Change the tape speed (changes the “key” of the tape-recording).
  5. Practice playing in unison with the looped recording.
  6. Change the tape speed again and play along in another key.
  7. Try the same exercise on a simple melody.

Scales, IMHO, are the key to unlocking practically everything in western music.

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Very new to OP-Z but loving it so far. Excellent info from others!

I’m from a guitar background and use Tonally on iOS to show the circle of 5ths and suggested chords with scale.

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@FrankC - I’ve come to the OP-1 from a pretty similar background to you. I intended it as much as an all-in-one learning aid and creative motivator. I liked Melodics but it doesn’t seem able to map the 24 key keyboard correctly. When it asks to hit the highest and lowest notes it shows the notes from a two octave C to C keyboard and complains when I stray outside its range on the OP-1’s F to F range. Maybe I’m missing something? :thinking:

@yakczar - that’s such a great method you’ve shared. I hadn’t been able to get much beyond noodling about and jamming along to spotify but this offers a much more structured approach. :nerd_face:

I’ve come back to music using the Rocksmith guitar game/tutor which is great fun. I got used to its coloured strings and subsequently found it really helped my understanding of the fretboard and guitar theory to map the string colour/notes to the fretboard with matching coloured stickers. I can grasp the basics of melody and harmony from childhood choir and piano lessons but still find chord theory slippery. The OP-1’s familiar keyboard layout really helps here. What I’ve done now is mapped the familiar Rocksmith colours onto the OP-1 with the same stickers I use on the guitar. I also have a set of Dr Neon strings which follow the theme. The result is gaudy as hell but my brain has now absorbed the :rainbow::musical_note: association and it’s become a really intuitive way of working out chord voicings/inversions and mapping them up and down the keyboard/guitar neck.


(Arty-farty phone filter has made the yellow ‘A’ and orange ‘G’ stickers look the same!) :face_with_monocle:

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