My name is Scott Kelby, and I’m one of the founders here at KelbyOne. I wasn’t always a “business guy.” I spent a good deal of my early life as a full time musician, starting with drums and then switching to keyboards in my first year of college. I was self taught, and just kind of picked up things here and there, no formal training at all on piano/keyboards.
When I got my first gig playing keyboards in a band, the bass player sat me down one night after the last set and let me know that I really needed to work on my improvisation skills (my keyboard solos kind of stunk). Thankfully, he was a great guy and was really kind about it. Inside I still felt like a drummer, and even though I knew my chords and I could play most of the parts off the records, I knew I wasn’t really a keyboard player yet, and I knew I had to fix this.
A few years prior I had been playing drums in a quartet with a locally famous piano player and he had opened up a music school, so I went straight to him and signed up for my first piano lesson ever (by the way, it was not at all lost on me that I was getting paid at night for playing keyboards in a top-40 band, but now I’m having to take piano lessons).
I sit down with him for the first lesson, and he starts playing a blues tune. He was a master of blues, and I’m watching him and I’m just blown away. I’m also confused. I know the “blues scale” has just six notes (I did at least know that), but this guy is playing about every note on the entire keyboard, and it sounds great, and yet I have no idea how he’s getting away with it.
When he was done, I asked him, “How are you playing all those other notes that aren’t in the blues scale, but they still sound good?” He said, “Oh, I’m doing all sorts of stuff.” Well, that didn’t help me at all (and I really wanted to know), so I pressed him, and he said “I’m doing a little of this and a little of that” and the more I kept pressing the more he kept giving me the run-around until I realized something very sobering.
He just wasn’t going to tell me.
He let me know there were a lot of things I’d be able to do “one day” but for now basically I had to pay my dues and he handed me a sheet with a beginner’s lesson on it and I sat there at the piano and banged away it — upset, frustrated, and after my 2nd lesson I quit.
I bought some books and VHS tapes and made some progress so that at least I wasn’t embarrassing the band any longer, but I still had so many questions, and so many things I wanted to do musically, but simply couldn’t.
A few years later I wound up in a band, and the guitar player in that band was Barry Greene. Just an insane guitarist. He had graduated from the prestigious Berkeley School of Music and he was just on an entirely different level than the rest of us.
One night after the gig, I said to Barry, “One thing I love about your playing is that you always seem to start your solos on the perfect note. It just always sounds so right.” He smiles and looks at me and says, “I usually just start my solos on the 9th of the chord.” I was really stunned. I looked at him and said, “So if you're playing in the key of “F” you just play the next note up in the alphabet, a G?” He’s says, “Not always, but usually.”
I’m just standing there shaking my head. I say to him, “So let me get this straight. All I have to do to have that same awesome starting note in my synth solos is to hit the next letter in the alphabet from the key I'm playing in? So if we’re in “C” I just play a “D’” Are you kidding me?” He laughed, “I’m not kidding you. Try it.”
The next night at the gig, we’re playing a song where I have a 24-bar synth solo and it’s in the key of “A” so when it starts I nail a “B” and it just sounds amazing! I looked right over at Barry (with a pretty astonished look on my face) and he gives me a huge grin and takes his hands off the neck of his guitar just long enough to give me a thumbs up. It hit me right then. There’s some math behind this. I thought it was 100% creativity, but it’s creativity with some math. I can learn this. I can do this!
What Barry taught me in a 60-second lesson totally ignited my passion for learning how to improvise and I set out to do just that. If Barry’s one little tip could have that kind of impact on my soloing, imagine what learning more would do. Sure enough, it changed my playing from that day forward.
But that night, and that experience changed something in me that was much more important than playing a decent solo in a lounge band. It was something that would change me forever, and it would become the basis upon which I’ve led my entire life and career.
I decided right there, on the spot, that if I were ever lucky enough to become a teacher of anything, ever…I would do for my students what Barry Greene did for me. I would be the one to share every secret I learned. I would share every tip, every technique, and I would never make someone “pay their dues” to learn something that would help them. Something that mattered to them. The harder it was for me to learn, the more I would want to share it. I was going to be the guy that made learning as simple and easy as I could possibly make it, and I’ve dedicated my entire to life to that one driving principle, and that is exactly and precisely what drove us to create KelbyOne.
Ever since we started back in 1993, we’ve surrounded ourselves with people that feel the exact same way. Education is the key to happiness on so many levels, in so many things in our world, and we do our very best each day to help people break through walls, tear back the curtain, and uncover the secrets and the tricks-of-the-trade that they’ve been longing to learn. I hope they get the same joy from making the kind of images they’ve always dreamed of, that we get from helping them get just a little further along their path. we feel it’s an honor to be able to teach, and to see the difference it has made in so many people’s lives, my own included.
So that’s my story. It’s what I’m all about. It’s what we’re all about it. I just can’t believe I get to do this every day for a living. What an incredible blessing!