How to Play Keyboards in a Band

Want to play keyboards in a band? Learn how to best contribute to a band on keyboards. Learn the difference between playing solo piano and playing with other musicians.

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How cool is it?

When I was thirteen years old I wanted nothing more than to play in a band. Why? Because it was way cool!!.

45 years later I still play in a band mostly on weekends. Why? Because after all that time it is still way cool!!

Different thinking.

If you were trained in traditional solo piano you will have to learn to rethink what you are doing if you want to play keyboards in a band.

You will rarely be called upon to play anything you learned that way.

If fact most of the time you will be playing quite a bit less.

Playing keyboards in a band is a really tricky situation because of all the competition in the frequency ranges.

If you play too much left hand, you’re treading on the bass player.

Playing big chords puts you in competition with the guitarist.

The blessing and the curse of the keyboard is that you can play as low as the tuba or as high as the Glockenspiel, so your potential to create a big mess in the different frequency ranges is extremely high.

That’s where the art of being a good ensemble player begins.

It all begins with listening.

When I think back over the dozens of bands that I was associated with perhaps the thing I did the most was to just listen!

Often times if the band was attempting cover music by already recorded bands it was just a matter of trying to imitate the keyboard parts that the original artist had played.

Because of the wide variety of sounds available on most electronic keyboards the keyboard player is often tasked with playing string parts, organ parts, horn parts and other sounds not represented in the band.

The challenge is to play those synthesizer parts like the instrument you’re emulating and not to play like a solo pianist.

You have to phrase your horn parts like a horn player. You can’t play two notes at the same time if you’re playing a trumpet solo on the keyboard. Remember as well that horn players have to breath!

If you’re playing a guitar part on keyboard you have to build the chords low to high like a guitar would. That means some strange chord inversions on the piano. Again, you’re being part illusionist on the keyboard.

Listening takes practice.

If you are going to play keyboards in a band you will need to refine the skill of listening.

Like any skill the more you do it the faster and better you will get at it.

In college at Berklee we had required listening analysis classes.

At first for me it was a lot of hunt and peck. Listening over and over and trying to find the correct notes or chords on the keyboard as the song played.

It could take an hour to find the notes to a three minute song in the beginning. Now I can listen to a song once without being in front of the keyboard and get a good idea of the chords and melodies I need to play the first time through.

You absolutely must know your Chords!

If you are to successfully play keyboards in a band you must have as much knowledge of Chords and Chord inversions as possible.

Perhaps the most common thing you will be doing will be "comping chords" also known as "vamping".

It is basically just playing the underlying chords in a repeating rhythmic pattern. Trying to pick the best places to play while complimenting other instruments.

Again listening to what others are doing is very important and in general the more pieces in a band the simpler your parts can be.

As you play keyboards in a band or any instrument for that matter you will eventually experience the thrill of "live" spontaneity that come with interacting with other musicians and the shared satisfaction of working with other musicians to produce a quality sound.

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Best Home Study for "Ear Players"

After checking out dozens of home study courses that teach you to play by ear and focus on chord progressions I am convinced that the folks at Hear and Play have the best, most well rounded program available for just about all styles of music from Gospel to Jazz. Read my review or visit Hear and Play for more information.

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