Most desktop environments provide options for customizing keyboard shortcuts. In XFCE, there's settings panels for both for window manager shortcuts and application shortcuts. While the term "application shortcuts" suggests using them for launching applications, and many keyboards do have special keys for launching a music player or a calculator that I do have set up, I don't find myself using those much. I have buttons on my panel for applications that I launch often; if I'm going to be clicking away into a new application, I don't find clicking on the panel to be an additional inconvenience.
On the other hand, "application shortcuts" can be used for launching arbitrary scripts, including ones don't involve switching contexts.
Keys to use
Many keyboards have extra keys intended for global commands labeled with various symbols. If you have them, you can be creative about what you want them to mean and even combine them with modifiers (Shift, Ctrl, etc.) to get more inputs. On the other hand, if you have a more traditional keyboard layout (which is likely the case on a laptop), your choices are more limited. To avoid confusion, it's generally best to use the Windows key (usually called the Super key in Linux) for global shortcuts as it is not usually used for anything else.