Keyboardist Matt Gilder is a piano-aficionado who has made the Roland V-Piano a cornerstone of his sound, both on the road and in the studio with Chris Tomlin. We caught up with him at the recent National Worship Leader Conference in Leawood, KS, where he shared some of his techniques and reasons he uses the V-Piano.
What was your first impression of the V-Piano?
Immediately I was drawn to the design of it, it looks fantastic. So, a buddy of mine asked me if I wanted to play one. Chris Tomlin was with me the first time I got my hands on one, and seriously after about 30 seconds of playing it, I was completely glued. We were there playing it for like three hours. I’ve never played anything that remotely feels like this, or sounds like this. I don’t know exactly what you guys are doing technology-wise, but whatever it is, it’s right.
When did you start using it on stage?
We did our first Christmas tour last year called “Glory in the Highest.” It was about 15 cities, and we had the V-Piano on stage in lieu of a grand piano. It was a very intimate set, and we wanted something with a big, full sound that still felt right on stage. Before I played the V-Piano, I planned on using a controller and triggering samples from a computer, but after playing it, I knew the V-Piano would be the perfect solution. It was pretty funny, Chris and I fought over it – going back and forth between songs. For example, Chris will lead “How Great Is Our God” on piano and he since he doesn’t want to play anything but the V-Piano on stage, I’d have to relinquish it. I had another keyboard station setup with an RD-700GX across the way when Chris sat down at the V-Piano. But as soon as he got up, I was right back on it. I even figured out a way to trigger click tracks from the V-Piano just because I wanted to play it as much as I could.
Have you created any of your own custom pianos in the V-Piano?
Yes, and I’ve used the editor software that comes with it. I made my own versions of a few of the presets, like the upright and the bright piano – which really cuts through the mix. I love how easy it is to make changes. I have my favorites assigned to the four program buttons. I made my own version of the Vintage piano on 1. Program 2 is where I have the Upright. Number 3 is the Silver string piano, and the fourth is another version of the Vintage piano with a different ambience setting. I also have the buttons sending program changes to my rack to call up some different sounds that I layer with the
Are there certain V-Piano sounds that are designed for particular songs you do?
I play a tweaked-out version of the Upright preset on a song off the new Passion record called, “Awakening.” I used to be all about playing the “big huge piano sounds,” but the more I started hearing myself and what it sounds like in the house with other people playing, it occurred to me that I needed something like this that cuts through the mix better. There’s also a song called “Where the Spirit of the Lord Is,” which has this modern rock piano kind of thing going on, and I use the Upright on that one as well. But if I’m playing by myself it’s almost always the Vintage piano preset. Or if it’s just Chris and I, Vintage is winning most of the time…or sometimes the Silver piano. Any of Chris’ big tunes, like “Jesus Messiah” – that’s the Vintage piano. Pretty much any time we get soft and pretty, I pull up the Vintage piano…it just moves me.
What makes the V-Piano different than other keyboards you’ve played?
Every thing, every nuance I put into this piano, it gives me feedback. If I hit it as soft as I can, it’s giving me feedback, which I’ve never experienced on a keyboard. Usually on other boards, up to a certain point it feels good. But if I’m trying to get real dynamic, it’s just not going to happen. But with the V-Piano – it’s giving me that feedback. Honestly, it freaked by brain out the first time – I’m not kidding.
Once I started using the V-Piano and got about two months under my belt, and then I had to play some other board, I was like, “Nope, I can’t deal.” I have to start practicing on other gear just so I don’t get too spoiled.Did you use the V-Piano in the studio on the upcoming CD?
Yes, there’s tons of studio footage of me sitting at the V-Piano. But two of the songs that really feature its sound are “Faithful” and “All to Us.” Both are slower tempo, really worshipful songs, which is one of the areas where the V-Piano shines. It just inspires you like crazy. Yeah, the V-Piano sound is all over the record.
Look for the upcoming Chris Tomlin CD, “And if Our God is For Us“ available this November. If you’d like to get in touch with Matt, you can email him at email@example.com.