I am a keyboardist / pianist in several (2) rock bands. Above I posted 6 reasons (page 1 of thread for full) why we are in short supply. I have been thinking about my own situation and some to some other conclusions / opinions.
John Dumke wrote:Problem #1 - The teaching community is geared towards classical sight reading.
Problem #2 - The piano is just damn hard.
Problem #3 - From my perusing keyboard forums, keyboardists find that many bands play too much and too loud.
Problem #4 - Do we really have to play strings, sound FX, horns, organ, synth, piano, rhodes, etc.
Problem #5 - Maybe in our culture, we are loosing the focus on learning piano.
Problem #6 - We want a challenge, background rock keyboards are not.
The reason I am in two rock bands is because I did not have the skills (5 years ago) to be able to do a solo gig. I was new to the gigging scene and just playing my part was challenging. I did however have 8 years of classical training in my youth and brief Musicians Institute attendance as an adult, so I have made very fast progress with 2 hours of practice everyday for 5 straight years. 5 years later the band thing is now more likely to bore me. Fortunately, I am starting to sing lead on some songs, so this is challenging me and keeping me interested and growing.
With regards to keyboards placement in rock.
yod wrote:what a bunch of horse hockey. Keyboards are background support to guitars in 90% of rock. As they should be...
I won't disagree with this, because this is partially true. But it also explains the lack of interest a complete keyboardist has in playing in a "Rock" band. For argument sake we could say there are three types of rock bands.
1) The guitar only bands - ZZ Top, AC/DC
2) The rock bands with keyboards. Tom Petty, Bon Jovi, and many country bands. I am sure there are a lot more.
3) Keyboard centric or prominent bands - Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce Hornsby, Keane.
If you look at an orchestra, which in essence is the History of sound, whenever there is a piano included, it is front and center. They are piano concerto's. The piano is the lead instrument. Why? Because it has the most comprehensive sound palette. I understand that rock doesn't always use a keyboard player to the fullest potential. But to a keyboardist that has complete chops, asking them to sit back and play a few chords is boring. It is like asking Whitney Houston to do a few background "Dew Ops". As I mentioned I have been in rock bands because playing the simple parts has been challenging, but as I grow, I am looking towards doing a solo act.
But back to the 90% of rock bands are guitar focused. This in general is true. About 90% of your average bar bands don't have a keyboardist. It is much easier to find a 2nd guitarist.
But I will state something that is only my opinion, and obviously highly colored by the fact that I play keys. Rock bands that don't have keys bore me to tears. The most innovative (only in my opinion) had other instruments, and worked on expanding their sound palette. Take bands like ELO, or even Deep Purple and all of the 70's, 80's prog rock. Genesis is clearly on of my favorite bands. Even bands like the Beatles that started out only with guitar, as they progressed and became more innovative started using more instruments, orchestra's and obviously keyboards / pianos.
So while 90% of rock bands do not have a keyboard player, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't aspire to a more innovative and complete sound. The only problem is often times it is the keyboardist that is the orchestrator of a band. He is often the one with the most musical training. Case in point. At Berkelee Music School in Boston. When you learn the guitar, you also learn the piano. When you learn the trumpet, you also learn the piano, when you learn the drums, you also learn the piano. The piano is what you use to compose. I am not saying I am of this caliber, I am not. I could not step into a band and be the band leader. But if you are looking for somebody of this caliber, and then asking him just to sit back and play a few chords to fulfill your musical goals it is not likely to happen. Case in point, I am in a Rush Tribute band. Needless to say, it was the drummer's idea for this band as Rush is a very drum and bass centric band. The bass player and guitar player also have a blast with this band. I did it because I wanted to help our drummer out. He is a good guy, as are all of the other band members. People think we are awesome, and I have a lot of respect for my band mates. It took me MANY hours to get all of the sounds right, there was lots of research on what VST's would creat exactly the right sounds. So I did learn alot about VST's. But musically, from a keyboardists perspective, it bores me to death. I am there to help the other members live out their rock fantasy. Would I take on a second project like that, hell no. I have learned what I need to learn.
So this brings me back to my previous point. If you want a keyboardist to be interested in your project, the project must be interesting to them. Most rock bands with two guitars jamming away simply aren't interesting, from a keyboardists perspective. Which leads me back to one of the original posts. If you want a keyboardist to just fill in a couple of sounds and sit in the background, find a new guy, and nurse him along. Is this ego or greed? I don't think so. Me, I play for fun. Money is not a factor. I have a day job, and just want to get better. A typical 2 guitar, rock band is not that path. Then take a Berkelee or other music school grad. They maybe payed 100k + for their education and likely had 10 years of dedication before entering college. They need to make money to put food on the table.
So is 90% of Rock guitar based, yes maybe? Is rock better off being only 90% guitar based, I think not.