First things first: is this title slightly heretical? Probably. Is it pure, unashamed clickbait? Definitely! But stay with me, because I want to explore two questions that I’m betting many of you have asked yourselves: what are these red keyboards and why do I see them everywhere?!
If you attend church, Christian festivals, or watch the latest Christian music releases, you will have seen a Nord keyboard. You might not know you’ve seen a Nord keyboard, but you are unlikely to have missed their distinctive red colour.
Branded by the company as the ‘Original Red Keyboard’, Nord have established themselves as one of the most respected keyboard manufacturers and the ‘go-to’ for many professional musicians. But more and more frequently, Nords are also finding pride of place in churches big and small, all around the world.
Why is this? It’s an interesting question (to me anyway!), because Nords are in some ways the opposite of what churches generally look for. Nords are not known for being particularly easy to use, and being hand-made in Stockholm, Sweden, are not cheap! For churches, ‘easy to use’ and ‘affordable’ are usually quite high on the list of conditions when considering a new purchase for a worship team, yet many still find the money so they can own their own ‘Original Red Keyboard’.
It might sound like I am leading towards an admonishment of this bizarre status quo, but the truth is quite the contrary. I get it. I am a Nord Keyboards artist, and use them exclusively. I’m fortunate to work closely with the company as a demo musician and beta-tester and have travelled the world to promote their keyboards. I love Nord! I love the people that work there and I am a passionate advocate for their products.
However, I also come into regular contact with individuals or churches who have bought a Nord keyboard and have no idea how to use it. They have seen them on stages everywhere, but quickly realise after their purchase that they are intimidated by the many knobs and buttons (understandably so). If this is you, or your worship team, then my upcoming Nord Training Day would be perfect for you!
Ok, shameless plug over. Maybe I should get around to answering my question: why Nord? Here are three quick thoughts.
Let’s start with an obvious point – they sound great. No keyboard would be this popular if it didn’t sound great. But what’s different about a Nord over many other keyboards is that their piano samples capture the nuance of acoustic instruments so well. And with so much Christian music based around a suitably ‘vibey’ piano, the vast array of diverse upright and grand piano sounds are a dream for those trying to recreate the sound of their favourite recording. Nords are also known for having some of the best sounding electric pianos, great pads and, many would agree, the most authentic organ recreations on the market.
As a Christian musician, I often find myself in a worship setting where my goal is not to simply play a part, but rather respond to what the Spirit is doing. I love this context, a context where I need to listen to what is going on, listen to God, and play something appropriate that can accompany how the Spirit is moving in that moment. At least that is the goal! To do this I need an instrument that can adapt in the moment and helps facilitate this ‘flow’. Enter the Nord…
Whilst the seemingly infinite knobs and dials might initially induce mild panic, there is a reason for this apparent complexity. The truth is, Nords are actually incredibly intuitive and easy to use once you understand them, because everything is accessible. It’s all right in front of you. If you want to change something you don’t need to delve into menu after menu or scroll through page after page, instead you simply press that button or turn that dial. This makes them perfect in a live environment that is often not set or scripted.
I love how accessible sounds and effects are, and how easy it is to adapt or ‘morph’ my sound in response to what’s happening around me. For me, a Nord doesn’t provide any barriers to me trying to flow with the Spirit and play in a prophetic way, in fact it helps facilitate it. What more could you ask for in an instrument?
Lastly, I think the increasing abundance of red keyboards in churches is indicative of a desire for excellence. When I talk to church leaders, worship pastors and church musicians, I so often hear the same heart for ‘something greater’ in worship. I get a sense of unrest and an unwillingness to settle. I love this! It’s completely biblical! God is always about moving forward. He’s about strength to strength, new seasons, transformation, greater revelation, and so it’s good and pleasing to God when we strive for excellence and seek to offer Him our very best.
In my previous article I referred to the ‘iceberg’ principal, where the substance and mass of something is represented by the ‘nine tenths’ below the surface. Let’s be real, owning a Nord keyboard is very much the ‘one tenth’, but I do believe that for many it is a surface representation of something deeper. In some ways a Nord may have become a physical representation of a spiritual desire: the desire to take our worship to another level, offer God our best, and enable congregations to encounter Him on a deeper, transformational level.
Praise the Nord? No, of course not, they’re just keyboards (albeit great ones). However, they have come to represent a sound and a standard that so many aspire to. This desire to give God our very best in worship is wonderful, totally right, and wholly biblical! Right at the beginning in Genesis 14 we read of God favouring the offering of Abel, who gave of his best, and gave something that cost him. Scripture is clear that music can just be noise, that singing can just be singing, and that the production value (or the ‘outside of the cup’) is not as important as the heart (the ‘inside of the cup’).
Our sacrifice of worship and ‘our best’ come first from our hearts that our turned towards Him. So we must be careful to guard against being distracted and only striving for a great physical sound, but rather seek in our worship a spiritual frequency that is tuned to heaven and connects with the heart of God. There is a lot more that could be said on this topic, but if a bright red keyboard can play even a small part in helping the churches achieve this, they are worth every penny.
Matt Cossey is the Principal at Nexus Institute of Creative Arts, a degree provider for those passionate about God, music and worship. He is also an active performer, a keen composer, a Nord Keyboards artist, and keyboardist for Disco icon, Gloria Gaynor.
If you or your worship team would benefit from further training on how to play and use your Nord keyboard in a worship context then be sure to sign up for my Nord Training Day on Saturday 14th January at Nexus ICA in Coventry. Click here for more information.
A day of in-depth training on how to play and program a Nord keyboard in a worship setting. Learn from Matt Cossey, a passionate Christian musician and Principal of Nexus Institute of Creative Arts. As a Nord Keyboards artist, beta-tester and demo musician, there are few people on the planet more qualified to talk about this subject!
The day will be suitable for any Christian pianist/keyboardist who wants spend a day investing in their craft and learning from an experienced worship keyboard player.