How To Layer Your Keyboard Tones

Part 1: Finding Your Frequency

One of the keys to becoming a better keyboard player is knowing how to use your gear! One of the most indispensable tools as a keyboard player is layering your keyboard sounds. In the video below, our lead keyboard instructor, Ryan King, will take a look at keyboard tone layering, teach you how to layer stock sounds, and show you how to use them in a worship setting.

Layering keyboard sounds can be helpful for:

  • Transitions

  • Volume shifts

  • Building momentum

  • Prayer breaks or talk breaks

In this video Ryan is using the Roland RD700 SX, which is simple but has the ability to combine different sounds easily. often has great deals on Rolands.  

Worship music comes from the heart, and layering your piano sounds together can really help set the tone for prayer. Practice layering different tones and sounds to create the ideal sound and smooth transitions that make for great music, whether you’re on stage or recording at home.  Layering a song with keyboard sounds can help facilitate worshipful moments and takes your playing to the next level.

Ryan is currently the Worship Director at The Church at Wills Creek in North Alabama. He has been the keyboardist for many Christian artists and has served with several churches including Christ Fellowship and Church of the Highlands. Ryan is the keyboard instructor for and also works as a producer, music educator, and studio musician. Ryan has two children, Josiah and Vivy, and they love spending time on their 100 acre farm.

How To Layer Your Keyboard Tones

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Keyboard layering

So much information in a well thought out lesson. I can do this!
I'm self taught, picking up bits and pieces here and there, just because of the way things in life happen (or not).
Many piano players I've had the pleasure to work with, don't know the difference between the piano and a keyboard (or it's capabilities). They just push a button for the stock sounds available and leave the other knobs and switches alone, because "it's too complicated."
I try to tell them, "Get to know your instrument. Take the time. You're already a great musician, now lets put some "magic" in to your sound." Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
Please keep the lessons coming. Very insightful!


iPad Midi controller app

On the lesson tutorial for the song "Dance" by Planetshakers, what app are you using on the iPad to control the patch sound on your midi keyboard?


iPad Midi Controller App

IPad MIDI app

I'd like to know what app that is as well

iPad Midi Controller App


May you show me different piano strumming patterns


I am new with Worship Artistry. Just signed up yesterday and I am impressed with the methods of teaching, the different musical topics, ease of getting around the website and the quality of instruction. As a former school teacher, this combination of teaching is very important. The lesson on layering was very informative and well thought out. I would like to see an instructional video on what keyboards have the capability to layer on the spot. I have gone through at least 5 keyboards throughout my church ministry. None of them allowed me to change sounds or layer on the spot. Most have been too difficult to learn. Right now I own two quality keyboards. I have a Korg X50 music synthesizer and a Piaggero NP-V60. With the Korg, I can save my favorite built in sounds that come with the keyboard and save them in the banks. Changing sounds are not instant. I still have to press the banks and move the numbers within those banks. The sounds are hidden within these banks. With the Korg, I can also make some minor changes to these default sounds. I would have to really be technology savvy to be able to use any other features. I don't utilize the instructions on the manuals, because they are not very user friendly. Many of these high end keyboards were made for the music/technology professionals. I recently purchased the Piaggero, because the reviews said it was very simple and easy to use. I consider this keyboard to be moderately simple. The down side is that you can only layer two sounds at a time. You have to press several buttons simultaneous in order to use the layered sounds you saved in the banks. That means, you have to stop playing to change the sounds. This sounds choppy and too abrupt. I am thinking of selling the keyboard, but don't know what to buy. I need a keyboard that will allow flexibility, good sounds, less than $1,000 and lightweight. I don't want a keyboard that weighs more than 20 pounds. Can anyone make some good suggestions?


First off it's great to have you as a member of the site. This will be an indispensable tool for you moving forward.

Secondly... I understand the dilemma with finding the right keyboard. The answer... there is no one perfect one-size fits all keyboard. Trust me. I've looked and tried. Plus add on top of that your 'under $1000' budget and that makes it even more difficult. I will say that the Roland RD-700sx is one of the easiest to layer. You can do it on the fly with up to 4 different sounds. Unfortunately, this model is out of production and the internal sounds are somewhat limiting. Layering pianos, eps, pads, strings, and organs is about all you'll want to do with this model. The only other keyboard that I've used personally that has the capability to layer on the fly is the Nord Stage 2 Piano. Unfortunately this is a very pricey keyboard (about $4500) and it also has it's limitations.

So what's next? If you are comfortable, you could just use one of your existing keyboards as a controller. If you have a Mac, you can use Mainstage as your host software and purchase a variety of other virtual instruments (Omnisphere, Keyscape, Native Instruments Komplete, etc.) All you'll need to add is a fader controller like the Korg NanoKontrol. This would allow you to layer a variety of sounds together. You'd need to do some pre-configuring, but other than that, that's about the least expensive option right now.

Capability to layer on the spot

I just stumbled onto the worship artistry website looking to layer tones.

@Miriam319, just wanted to share what I found recently. I used to own a Yamaha Motif ES6, which was a great keyboard but was very heavy to carry around. So, I sold it and bought a used Yamaha MOX6 around $600. It has a Performance Creator (layered sounds) which is very easy to use. It allows you to pick a voice and layer it with another sound, add a drum and an arp that gets assigned to four parts. Later, each of the four parts can be assigned to any other sound as desired. This keyboard is lighter compared to the Motif ES6. I am still getting to know the instrument. The manual gives clear instructions on how to layer sounds using the performance creator. It has even more capability hooked to a DAW for song production.

The Motif ES6 had the capability to layer the four sounds easily assigned to four parts. Each part could be assigned to four sliders which could be ramped up or down while playing. I liked that feature and miss it.

I am also going to try Ryan's mac option for an even lighter carry around package.

God bless you and hope you find what you are looking for.