REQ: Niko Kotoulas The Modern Paino Masterclass
Why is everyone learning piano all of a sudden?
Here’s the thing…
If you’re like most producers, you’ll fall into one of these three categories:
“This is AMAZING. I’m learning so much and having a blast.”
“Okay, there’s a lot to learn. That’s fine though. I’m enjoying myself!”
“Agh, why is this so hard. I can’t come up with any good ideas. My music sounds nothing like I want it to sound. I’m so frustrated.”
If you’re not in category 3 yet, chances are you will be. It happens to almost every producer.
And the worst thing you can do when you’re in category 3 is to keep pushing and doing the same thing you’ve always done.
That’s what most producers do. And it doesn’t work.
You need a different approach: piano.
Why modern producers need to learn piano
Hi, I’m Niko.
I’m a professional concert pianist and electronic music producer with over 50 million global streams and support from artists like The Chainsmokers, Lauv, Kygo and Swedish House Mafia.
And I’ve got a question for you…
When you started producing music, did you think this is where you'd end up?
Session after session you sit down and start something new.
You pull in some samples from Splice.
Write a basic chord progression on the piano roll.
Try to come up with a catchy melody but get only halfway there.
Once the inevitable frustration hits, you lean back in your chair, put your feet up, and start scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. You notice that…
Your friend has just put out a new song and it sounds phenomenal. He’s getting tons of positive feedback.
Another artist you know has put out a semi-viral video of him turning a basic melody he came up with on the piano into a full song. It’s impressive.
Someone else is announcing their new tour dates.
You return to your project feeling even more demotivated. But you tell yourself to push through and work harder.
Except nothing really changes. You find yourself stuck in this cycle.
You feel like there’s something missing.
This is the eternal challenge that plagues producers. It’s the gap between what’s in their head, and what ends up in their DAW.
“I have all these great ideas in my head, but they never sound as good as I think they will.”
“I just can’t figure out how to translate what I’m hearing in my head into my DAW. I don’t know where to start.”
“I truly think I have a creative and musical mind, but I fall short when it comes to taking that creativity and putting it into something tangible and listenable.”
Some producers manage to grind their way out of this rut. Most end up quitting.
Fortunately, there’s another option…
And here’s why:
Creativity is best expressed dynamically through action.
Your best ideas come from the moments where you’re in the zone, enjoying yourself, and feeling completely free to do whatever you please.
Take a moment to think about it.
Would you feel more creative staring at a blank screen trying to figure out which notes to plot in your DAW to write a nice (but kinda boring) quantized melody?
Or would you feel more creative getting lost while playing piano and enjoying the sound of what’s coming out, noticing the weight of the keys, feeling the music tangibly, and exploring musical ideas that you’d never be able to conjure up in your head—all while recording them into your DAW?
The answer is obvious. Playing an instrument, especially piano, is a more natural way to express yourself musically. If you’re a producer who can play piano, you have the ability to be more creative, compose better music, and have more fun doing it.
Learning piano is the key to getting the musical ideas out of your head and into your DAW….
…and I’m here to help you do just that.
Ready to Enroll
Why the "Production First" approach fails
There are two main approaches to music production: Production First, and Composition First.
Most producers fall into the former camp. They focus on production first. They get caught up in all the shiny techniques and watch the newest tutorials.
When they start a project, they focus on finding the right samples, manipulating sounds (sound design), and getting the mix to sound right.
They spend hours and hours doing this, and then realize that their actual song isn’t even that good. The chord progression is too basic and boring. The melody isn’t catchy at all. There’s no hook. And it just doesn’t flow nicely.
The “Production First” approach is like trying to build a house without a foundation. It’s trying to run before you can walk.
The Composition First approach is much better. You’re focusing on generating and refining your core musical ideas first before worrying about which samples to use and sounds to create. If you want to write modern, pop-influenced electronic music, then it’s essential that you get this piece right.
The Composition First approach forces you to not skip the hard stuff. Writing a good song is hard. And every producer is tempted to procrastinate and come back to it later, or just rush the process.
Unfortunately, while the Composition First approach is ideal, it’s extremely difficult for most producers. There’s three reasons why:
They don’t know enough music theory to make it work. Even if they do, they still can’t practically apply it.
They can’t get themselves in a creative mood or zone
They’re still working “in the box” and revert back to doing what they’ve always done instead of pushing musical boundaries.
And that’s where the Hybrid Producer comes in…
The Hybrid Producer (Piano-First) approach
The Hybrid Producer is someone who can proficiently play piano and produce music.
This person takes the Composition First approach a step further.
He comes up with his ideas on the fly, instead of pointing and clicking in the DAW (only to end up with something average)…
He can sit down at the piano for 30 mins or less (sometimes in just a few minutes) and come up with a full, draft arrangement… ready to be arranged and produced in the DAW.
Instead of wasting hours designing sounds that never get used, he’s focused on playing and recording solid chord progressions and catchy melodies that make a song, a song.
The Hybrid Producer sees piano and production as one holistic process, rather than something completely separate. He uses piano to support his productions, and his production knowledge influences the way he plays piano.