When we spotted UK producer Jan ‘Stan’ Kybert’ tweeting about his fondness for Toontrack’s EZkeys earlier this year we had to get in touch with him to find out how he was using the songwriting software and what he loved about it.
This week, fresh out of the studio where he’s been working on a new album with the great Paul Weller, and new artists Harley and Todd Dorigo, we got to have a chat with him about how Toontrack’s highly acclaimed range of piano software is making his life EZ-er…
[Stan] “I use EZkeys as a starting point – whether it’s for a brand new artist who knows roughly what sound he/she is trying to achieve or for sketching out ideas for established musicians. I’ll play a riff, work out what key it’s in, stick it in to EZkeys and straight away I’ll get six chords that work and they all sound good! I can drag and drop these straight into Pro Tools, it’s so easy, EZkeys interaction with Pro Tools is perfect. I used EZkeys Mellotoon for a track I worked on with Harley and the verses and the bridge were constructed this way.
EZkeys gets me closer to the musicianship of the people I work with and it also allows me to quickly get the ideas that are in my head out in the open and into my ears. I’ll drop it into Pro Tools and just edit it and make it my own from there.
The most outstanding feature for me is the Circle of Fifths, that’s a game changer. Some people won’t like this idea, but you can literally make a tune with just a mouse. I also love the fact that pretty much everything is inside the interface, for example, a simple thing like having the volume knob is useful as I don’t need to click out of EZkeys to make an adjustment which makes a difference to my creative flow.
I love the Classics Electrics, particularly the Rhodes. I hear more possibilities and options when I use the warm Rhodes compared to using one of the acoustic pianos, in fact it’s my default. I love the Electric 200A, particularly the two Dirty Small Amp presets, those are really good.
The EZkeys MIDI packs are enormously helpful. I’ve got the Classic Soul and RnB packs. I’ll have a chorus and I’ll get to a part that needs embellishing so I’ll take my chord sequence and cycle through the MIDI pack contents until I hear what’s in my head. Inspiration comes in many forms and a new MIDI pack refreshes the whole software, it becomes something else again.”
So as an industry pro himself, does Stan feel EZkeys is equally useful for highly experienced producers as it is for ‘amateurs’?
“Absolutely, as a starting point. The quality of sounds is there – I use Mellotoon all the time, and that’s just the sounds and even before I get into demoing chord sequences. Every idea is accessible with EZkeys, what’s more the more I use it, the better musician I become, every variant is there to try out so it allows me to do something usual. I know plenty of artists that all have comfort in what they do, they’re afraid to try a new sound. EZkeys makes getting out of your comfort zone accessible – which is great for producers like me. It’s a great way to find the new. It’s a great learning tool as well, I’ll sometimes stick my NI Komplete Kontrol into Chord Mode, pick a key, cycle through the chords, copy those into EZkeys and it tells me what the chords are.”
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