Modern technology is an awe inspiring thing. When I see cell phone getting more and more sophisticated, mp3 players that can play video, and keyboards that produce sounds that can mimic a 100 piece symphony my head spins at the possibilities of such devices. This technology has allowed people to do things and communicate in ways previously only seen in cartoons or on Star Trek.
As a musician we now have so much that can help us in our efforts to become better at our craft. Thus technology is a good thing-or is it? I have been in awe of a certain keyboardist for years because of their wonderful ability to play and play anything-or so I thought. One day I mustered enough courage to ask this musician to explain what they just played as well as how they practice. Well, this musician only played by ear, which is fine, but she could not explain what she was doing nor did she wish to know what she was doing. So I asked her what key she was in, and she told me that she was playing in C, but the song was in Bb! I, not understanding the concept of the “transpose button” on a keyboard, asked her how that was possible? She then showed me how she did that! Amazing! What a cool invention until I really thought about it. You see I realized that I had been fooled! So had many others too. She was playing everything in C and using the transpose button to make it sound like Ab etc.
I was so disappointed after that conversation, because not only was she using the “button” she was sure she did not need any other training or knowledge! I don’t think transposing is a good habit to form because to me it is deceitful. If I can not play the song in a certain key then I practice until I can. I do what it takes to learn al 12 keys. I refuse to “fake” through a service because I am too lazy to learn to play skillfully. I am not saying that musicians who can not play in all 12 keys are fakes, only the ones who perpetrate and do not want to learn. I know musicians who use it in order to keep the flow of a service, but they are learning to play in those keys that are unfamiliar to them.
I call that button the “abominable button” because I that is how we as God’s musicians should think of it. It will become a crutch that will hinder your growth as a church musician. What if you go to a church that only has a piano? What would you do if you have been “transposing” the keyboard? You would be embarrassed to say the least! Don’t let this happen to you; learn all 12 keys. Start slowly by playing common progressions in one or two new keys per week. Before you know it you will be playing all of your favorite songs in any key you please!
Tell me your thoughts on this subject. Are “transposers” real musicians? Should they get paid to play when they have no intention of learning more? Hmmmmmmm?