Since their inception, digital piano keyboards have been popular for the convenience and cost efficiency they offer in contrast to traditional pianos. As technology has advanced, such keyboards provide not only this increased value, but also features that make them particularly suited to certain types of playing environments and music.
Several functional capabilities of digital keyboards lend themselves especially well to the playing and performance of boogie woogie.
Stemming from jazz, boogie woogie is the most pianistic of jazz forms. As such, it is imperative that a keyboard used to play boogie woogie sound as authentically like an acoustic piano as possible. Digital keyboards enable such authenticity by the fact that its sounds originate from the recording of genuine acoustic pianos.
In addition, piano keyboards can also include an array of piano timbres to simulate the sounds of baby grands, uprights, harpsichords, organs, and other types of electric pianos. They also feature additional “voices” of other instruments like a string ensemble, for instance. Since boogie woogie styles seeped into various types of music, including big band, country, and even gospel music, the variety of instrument choices in a piano keyboard allows a player to adjust the sound to the exact type of boogie woogie; if the player opts to play a boogie woogie gospel piece, for example, an organ sound may be the most authentic, and it is available at the touch of a finger.
The weighted key action of digital keyboards is also crucial to boogie woogie playing. This feature emulates the way in which an acoustic piano responds to the weight and speed of fingers hitting the keyboard, allowing variation in volume and intensity of sound through the player’s physical inflections.
Boogie woogie became quite popular with the advent of rent parties, in which tenants would hire local musicians to play at their home and invite their neighbors and friends over to listen and hang out. A hat would be passed around, into which the guests would donate a small sum of money.
This collection would help the tenants pay their rent, and the event was reciprocated often. In fact, the term boogie often was used interchangeably with this type of gathering. Such was the social and informal context of the earliest boogie woogie playing, and the contemporary use of an instrument as portable as a piano keyboard harkens back to this music form’s roots.
Having evolved to a frequent accompaniment to singers or as a solo portion of band performances and the like, boogie woogie artists further enjoy the portability of keyboards. In addition, as can be imagined from the festive nature of rent parties, the genre became influential in period dance music.
Boogie woogie beats infused swing dancing and its offshoots like the jitterbug and the Lindy Hop. Indeed, boogie woogie is characterized by an emphasis on rhythm over melodies. The built-in metronome, drum kits, bass sounds, and digital reverbs of many keyboards enables fine-tuning and multi-dimensional recording and performing capabilities that optimize boogie woogie playing and performance.
In addition, the presence of MIDI sequencers and other MIDI devices allow for easy interfacing with other instruments and also enable recording, playback, and editing on computers. This is especially desirable in emulating the sounds of authentic boogie woogie music. Using MIDI devices, players can interface with other performers or can even record multiple tracks of themselves playing various “instruments” on the piano keyboard.
All in all, piano keyboards are not only an affordable and convenient alternative to real acoustic pianos, but even provide features unavailable in traditional pianos that enhance the performance, playing, and even learning of boogie woogie music. Endorsed by professional musicians and regularly used in both live performances and recordings, piano keyboards complement the special qualities and unique characteristics that make boogie woogie what it is.
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