I started seriously playing the piano around 2019, and ever since then it's made me a much better producer. One of the things that I picked up from picking up an instrument is being able to interpret melodic ideas a bit faster rather than clicking in a whole bunch of midi notes hoping that I get it right. The biggest thing that it has done for me is that it has allowed me to work with artists from different genres and has given me the ability to produce a wider range of music. Here are a couple of points that I have learned from learning how to play the piano. (Even at a novice level)
I Can Pick Up on Chord Progressions: Recently, I was listening to The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” and not only could I hear the chord progression but I could go back to the piano and actually replay them. I haven't gotten good enough to tell which note is which but I can play by ear. This is a great tool to have for when working with artists simply because if there is music that inspires them you can take those same chord progressions and implement it into the record that you are currently working on. Every artist is influenced by the music that they grew up on and whether or not they are conscious of it that same music influences the records that they make today. So being able to take certain elements from the past and modernize them for their records gives you a much bigger advantage over someone who doesn't have that ability. Overall it's a great tool to have when you’re cooking up on the spot.
I Don’t Need a Chord Pack: Like most producers when I started out I desperately looked for chord packs or some sort of midi folders that would allow me to create music in key. Being able to tell what makes a minor note and a major note has allowed me to create chords on my own much faster. I am not confined to some notes that are coming out of the "box.” In my personal opinion, using midi packs can make you a bit lazy so being able to create those chord progressions or that melody on your own puts you at an advantage. Plus, it'll help you save money.
Creating Melodies is Much Easier: Remember when you had to look at a piano role to see which notes fit in that particular scale? And remember when you had to click in all the notes for your melody and it sounded a bit stiff? Well, when you learn how to play the piano, even add a novice level, it's much easier to create those melodies and gives them more fluidity. Sure you can strum the notes, you can quantize them to a certain swing, or you can even nudge them yourself. However, there's nothing like being able to come up with that melody on your own and being able to play it by hand. Imagine how impressed an artist will be if you play the melody by hand in front of them and then was able to play that same melody on a grand piano. Right then and there you have the foundation for a song and they can come up with their own top line or even a chorus right there on the spot.
Now I still have a very long way to go but the one thing that I can say from learning how to play the piano is that making music is way easier than it was three or four years ago. Sure, it does take a while to pick up the nuances and being able to translate your ideas once you're in your DAW but being able to do so is a great asset. I recommend anyone who follows this blog or me in general to try to learn at least one new thing in music theory or with an instrument. Your future self will thank you.