Bands with keys...

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TeleMasterTeleMaster Frets: 4025
Do you add keys to every song even if it doesn’t have keys? It’s looking like we have decided to bring a keys player on board. 

Some songs like Immigrant Song (for example) don’t have keys, so would you guys add a keys part or tell the keys player to sit it out? Some songs are powerful as they are and I I’m thinking about how to manage it. 

How do you do it?
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  • axisusaxisus Frets: 19484
    I'd probably add something in, it doesn't need to be overbearing and particularly noticeable. 
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  • BahHumbugBahHumbug Frets: 258
    We just seem to find a way.  If the original version of the song didn’t have keys, then our keys player usually tries to add something to the sound.  If we agree that it’s not working then he shakes a tambourine instead. He’s good like that.
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  • paulmapp8306paulmapp8306 Frets: 688
    As a keys player.... depends.

    Firstly the set is based on having keys in most songs.

    Some benefit from adding.  We do crazy little thing called love but the live version has a piano.   Also brass in pocket and there is an ep run in one place, so I added an ep.

    Sometimes I'll try and fill a 2nd guitarists parts as we only have one guitarist.

    Other things like faith doesn't have keys nor does it suit.   I play tambourine in that

    I feel its important the keys player has vocals as well.  Can do complex harmony work if not playing key parts.

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  • FelineGuitarsFelineGuitars Frets: 8466
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    You have to be very careful, or else every song gets an extra helping of Chas N dave pub piano and gets ruined.
    Queen had Spike Edney nearly ruin tour dates by overplaying on songs that didn't need a honky tonk accompaniment in their final tours. 
    But in some bands like Deep Purple and UFO the piano can be an essential part of the tune.

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  • Handsome_ChrisHandsome_Chris Frets: 4455
    edited April 29
    You have to be very careful, or else every song gets an extra helping of Chas N dave pub piano and gets ruined.


    And this is the sort of shit I am living with at the moment.  Our other guitarist plays electric like an acoustic but he can handle keys.  The only problem is that he insists on overplaying and doing it loud, and badly.  It's like if he is not outplaying everyone else, he will lose the competition.  The point being that it results in stuff get heavily cockneyed up.


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  • horsehorse Frets: 1046
    Depends on the band's sound and purpose I think.

    If it's rock covers in pubs I'd generally let them use keys to make things sound bigger. On your immigrant song example I'd be straight on the dirty Hammond as a starting point.

    In one band I put a full orchestral patch behind Run to the Hills - strings in verses and brass with timpani added in the chorus - obvs not authentic but it sounded big, dramatic and a bit of fun.

    Often put Hammond behind acdc. Some subtle synth strings behind Panama...

    Depends how good the player is at listening and adapting too - if they don't get it, like some of the examples above, then I guess you may need to be more prescriptive.
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 6614

    Ideally it's always better to have someone who can play keys and guitar, pref with a good backing vocal too. 

    One of the advantages with keys is you don't need to just play keys parts, you can sample and trigger anything from backing vocals to guitar stabs to bits of ambience that you don't even know is there until they take it away. 

    All the 3 bands I play in have the same keys player and in the tribute we have 3 keys players inc me. But the patches need to be carefully considered and worked out, you don't want someone just banging hammond on everything. 

    Having a sound engineer helps as keys can use up a lot of headroom in a PA and generally swamp everything onstage. We are all IEM in all bands so it's not a big problem and I enjoy listening to our guy panned in stereo in my ears. He plays all the little production tricklets live that are on the record. 

    Ultimately is a good idea to have a keys player as there really isn't any cover you can't do with a bit of thought with a good keys player who's up on the production side as well 
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 6509
    I think with keys in a band context, the hardest skill is not about being a technically skilled pianist, but having a good ear and knowing when to be quiet.

    Stuff that sounds impressive on a guitar is usually pretty easy to play on a piano so some folks fall into the trap of then trying to overplay to show their supposed "mad skills" but actually end up just swamping the mix and making it sound like they are an old bloke at Blackpool Tower.

    That said, I think it's hard to find lessons or tutorials or what not on skills that are useful for a band context - largely keys lessons tend to be about physical technique rather than application. I can already play piano (did all the grades and diploma etc) but never did get into modern band playing because I could not work out what skills to learn, how to use the synth side of things in context, etc
    I want to be forgotten, and I don't want to be reminded
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 11753
    I think with keys in a band context, the hardest skill is not about being a technically skilled pianist, but having a good ear and knowing when to be quiet.

    Stuff that sounds impressive on a guitar is usually pretty easy to play on a piano so some folks fall into the trap of then trying to overplay to show their supposed "mad skills" but actually end up just swamping the mix and making it sound like they are an old bloke at Blackpool Tower.

    That said, I think it's hard to find lessons or tutorials or what not on skills that are useful for a band context - largely keys lessons tend to be about physical technique rather than application. I can already play piano (did all the grades and diploma etc) but never did get into modern band playing because I could not work out what skills to learn, how to use the synth side of things in context, etc
    It may be because a lot of keys players have a bit more knowledge than a lot of guitarists and a lot will take that at home style into a band as well so they end up fighting the bassist.

    I was thinking of bands like The Cult who often have a keyboard player on tour although the records are pretty much keyboard free so they can add pads and texture live. On the other hand if you want the keys player to do something minimal during The Immigrant Song maybe there needs to be something more keyboard oriented where the guitar plays a minimal part.

    Having band members step out for the odd song can look awkward. Probably fine if you are Tom Jones and you have 12 band members and mix and match dependent upon the song as they are obviously his backing musicians but at a pub/club level it can be a bit weird; even giving someone a tambourine is a bit like putting a dunce's hat on them. The first band I joined had been a three piece and so doing two 45 minute sets in pubs for the first couple of gigs they did the first 45 as a three piece and the second with all four of us whilst we worked up the wider set in rehearsals.* Seemed to work at the time and was the alternative to me sitting down with a pint during random songs.


    *I'm making this sound massively more professional than it was!
           
    Inhale away Jackson Jeffrey Jackson. 
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 13115
    edited April 30
    A lot of keyboard players aren't used to playing in a band and will try and play every single part at the same time.

    I've had so many conversations around "Don't play the bass line with your left hand" it's great that they can, but it totally clashes with the bass player. 

    I've played in bands where it worked quite well and often getting them to stick to dirty organ, or clav on rock songs lets them cover guitar parts in a way that sounds natural. They can also add some vocal type sounds to pad out a chorus again the more retro Mellotron type sounds work there.

    In something like Immigrant Song I'd probably get them to hold off on the verse F# riff and then add some Hammond to beef up the ascending part of the chorus and the A and E big chords in the verse maybe with some choppy tremolo. 

    I've had loads of problems with brass players who don't like standing around (that's why it's important they can do BVs) and just noodle about if they haven't got anything to do. It just sounds like a mess.
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • TeleMasterTeleMaster Frets: 4025
    Thanks for the replies. I am concerned about having honky tonk style keys on everything but I don’t think this guy is like that. Essentially we want someone to add some rock and roll style piano to stuff like Johnny B Goode, Saturday Night, play the piano on the Queen stuff etc and then the synth for the more modern stuff.

    Apparently he does play a bit of guitar but I don’t think it’s his forte so I’m saying keys only right now and then we can see how it goes. 

    I think some songs just don’t need keys, so having them doing backing vocals and tambourine etc may be viable but I’d like to think that going forward if we have keys, that we would be adding songs that involve all musicians. I don’t like the idea of asking members to sit out.
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  • exocetexocet Frets: 1306
    In much the same way as I find guitar parts to play in songs that don't feature guitars. I tend to keep them sparse and simple.
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  • slackerslacker Frets: 1472
    Thanks for the replies. I am concerned about having honky tonk style keys on everything but I don’t think this guy is like that. Essentially we want someone to add some rock and roll style piano to stuff like Johnny B Goode, Saturday Night, play the piano on the Queen stuff etc and then the synth for the more modern stuff.

    Apparently he does play a bit of guitar but I don’t think it’s his forte so I’m saying keys only right now and then we can see how it goes. 

    I think some songs just don’t need keys, so having them doing backing vocals and tambourine etc may be viable but I’d like to think that going forward if we have keys, that we would be adding songs that involve all musicians. I don’t like the idea of asking members to sit out.

    IMHO you will either have to convince Richard Clayderman that he's the utility guy on keys, bv's and percussion or change the set.

    I don't know if your band has two guitarists or not. Mine does and I wouldn't add a keyboardist. I cover pads on a Mel 9 or synth 9 when needed. 

    Each musician should have enough to do in a set. Sometimes they are the star sometimes not. I gave up playing bass in bands because you can only play root fifth for so long without having a melt down. 

    I check with the others, well, before covid, and make sure they are happy. I've added easy songs to coast and a couple that are difficult or stretch our abilities.
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  • slackerslacker Frets: 1472
    Btw I once saw a question on a bbs...

    Q what should I do with my left hand when playing keys in a band?

    A sit on it.
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  • TeleMasterTeleMaster Frets: 4025
    edited April 30
    slacker said:
    Thanks for the replies. I am concerned about having honky tonk style keys on everything but I don’t think this guy is like that. Essentially we want someone to add some rock and roll style piano to stuff like Johnny B Goode, Saturday Night, play the piano on the Queen stuff etc and then the synth for the more modern stuff.

    Apparently he does play a bit of guitar but I don’t think it’s his forte so I’m saying keys only right now and then we can see how it goes. 

    I think some songs just don’t need keys, so having them doing backing vocals and tambourine etc may be viable but I’d like to think that going forward if we have keys, that we would be adding songs that involve all musicians. I don’t like the idea of asking members to sit out.

    IMHO you will either have to convince Richard Clayderman that he's the utility guy on keys, bv's and percussion or change the set.

    I don't know if your band has two guitarists or not. Mine does and I wouldn't add a keyboardist. I cover pads on a Mel 9 or synth 9 when needed. 

    Each musician should have enough to do in a set. Sometimes they are the star sometimes not. I gave up playing bass in bands because you can only play root fifth for so long without having a melt down. 

    I check with the others, well, before covid, and make sure they are happy. I've added easy songs to coast and a couple that are difficult or stretch our abilities.
    I'm the only guitarist. I’ve tried numerous times to add a second guitarist to bands and they either had all the gear but weren’t good enough, hadn’t learned the songs or came with a headphone amp or something stupid. There’s a lot of guitarists out there but not many good or even average ones. And then you may find a decent one and it doesn’t click personality wise. 

    I tend to try and limit the amount of things that can go wrong and make it work with as minimal people as possible. There has been talk about a second guitarist but I’ve decided against it every time. But we have been talking about adding keys as a compromise and it’s the drummers mate so he’s recommended him, and we’ll give him an audition.

    In my mind the guy needs to be able to do synth and keys. So everything from adding rock and roll piano to classics like Johnny B Goode to pads and lead lines for more modern stuff. 


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  • slackerslacker Frets: 1472
    edited April 30
    @TeleMaster I've  had similar problems in the past. Generally you get an acoustic player who jangles up the works or an egotist. The other guitarist in my band is awesome and I'm not just saying that because he's a member here.

    In your situation keys would fill it out and an audition is wise. Most keyboardist I have played with over play, have no dialogue, use wrong sounds, refuse to play pads and over power the bass player in varying degrees. 

    One of the 'best' players I have worked with started on a mono synth and could just about play chords. It fitted in with what the rest of us were doing.

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  • TeleMasterTeleMaster Frets: 4025
    edited April 30
    So does this person really need to have a synth and a digital piano or a synth that has good piano sounds in it? I play some synth but I’m learning and I’m not 100% sure about the piano sounds in my one because well, I’m not too interested in that. 
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 6614
    So does this person really need to have a synth and a digital piano or a synth that has good piano sounds in it? I play some synth but I’m learning and I’m not 100% sure about the piano sounds in my one because well, I’m not too interested in that. 
    Workstation ideally
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • TeleMasterTeleMaster Frets: 4025
    Danny1969 said:
    So does this person really need to have a synth and a digital piano or a synth that has good piano sounds in it? I play some synth but I’m learning and I’m not 100% sure about the piano sounds in my one because well, I’m not too interested in that. 
    Workstation ideally
    Ahh yes of course. Thanks. 
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  • hollywoodroxhollywoodrox Frets: 1385
    Exactly , stabs, and  atmospheric pads etc 
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  • StratavariousStratavarious Frets: 1205
    edited April 30
    I play the keys as well as guitar in my band.. often swapping mid song..  its easy to overcook it all playing together.  We have two guitars.. extra keys would be overkill.

    The points about finding the sonic space and not playing the bass or melody notes on keys are spot on. I did some special event gigs last Xmas and the keys player we got just dominated the mids and notes swamped the foldback.  You need to have a sound guy to make most of it IMHO.

    i use a Yamaha workstation synth with decent organ and piano sounds in it now but it is a bit heavy.  I am looking at a dual keys setup of a Behringer Deepmind 12 for arpeggiator and classic analog stuff and a Roland performance keyboard with organ, strings and piano

    Yamaha, Roland, Nord and others do performance keyboards that will cover most bands needs in one.
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  • NeillNeill Frets: 895
    I wouldn't do it.  In my cover band days I would guess we had done around a hundred songs and I can't think of one that really needed a keyboard player.   I agree that you risk sounding like the Wheeltappers and Shunters house band if you're not careful. Or maybe the dreadful Jools Holland thing where he can't resist shoving his nose in where the song really doesn't warrant it.

    If you must, surely most keyboard players have another, er, string to their bow?  I don't know many piano players who can't play any other instrument.  Being able to strum a guitar would be useful but if you find someone who can turn their hand to a flugel horn who knows it might open up a few doors. 


    BTW you have all heard the one that goes how many bass players does it take to change a light bulb..?
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 6614
    Oh Mainstage from Apple, just £25 or so and the sounds are really fat and authentic. My current rig is 2 x Macbook Pros with Mainstage, both get the same midi and both have same patches set, ones just there for redundancy. You can set your controllers up to control just about anything so although it's a software setup you're not doing much software wise. Runs on old hardware so one of the cheapest pro sounding rigs to gig with.  
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • TeleMasterTeleMaster Frets: 4025
    edited April 30
    You don’t think songs that have keys in them on the original and live recordings ultimately need keys? You can do without them but let’s say you’re doing Mr Brightside and you have the synth parts down, that’ll surely only enhance that song. 
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 6614
    Most bands add a keyboard player to bolster the live sound at some point, Stereophonics, Manic street preachers, Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters, Muse etc ... even Greenday had a bit off stage when I saw them. 

    There is an image conjured up of somebody putting cheesy hammond over every song but proper modern keys players don't do that, some are the parts aren't even notes, they are subtle sound effects and atmosphere. 


    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 13115
    If you find a decent keyboard player who understands playing in a band there is hardly anything a regular pub band plays they can't contribute to.

    Especially if you tweak your set a bit with that in mind.
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • RolandRoland Frets: 5333
    For a guitarist the question is always “what are you going to give up to give the keys space?”. In a single guitar band the guitar will occupy a vast amount of the audio spectrum. It will have a fatter tone. It will play more notes in chords to fill things out. It will play riffs and motifs. When you add keys the guitar needs to give up audio space to the keys, play partial chords rather than the full six strings, and leave many motifs to the keys. 

    Examples: in a guitar-only band I used humbuckers, and a synth pedal, but that’s another story. When we added simple keys I switched to a Telecaster, but still carried the song. When we switched to a competent keyboard player, with more than three fingers, I had to re-think the guitar parts. Some songs I barely play on now.
    Known here as Old Misery Guts or the Big Bad Classified's Sheriff. Also guitarist with  https://www.undercoversband.com/.
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  • paulmapp8306paulmapp8306 Frets: 688
    edited April 30
    As I'm that "competent" (cough) keys player in rolands band....often the song dictates.  There can be no room for egos with a full frequency spectrum of keys and guitar.  I appreciate the space he hives me when needed as much as I try to give him the space when that suits more.

    Some of the things we do have limited guitars in the originals, like dua lipa and Kylie stuff.  Others have limited keys like Queen and pretenders.    Others have both pretty prominent like maroon 5 and sissor sisters.    

    It's all about balance in song choices, and knowing when to play loud and/or full when to play quiet and/or sparse and when to just sing or clap....for both keys and guitar players.
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  • paulmapp8306paulmapp8306 Frets: 688
    edited April 30
    I play the keys as well as guitar in my band.. often swapping mid song..  its easy to overcook it all playing together.  We have two guitars.. extra keys would be overkill.

    The points about finding the sonic space and not playing the bass or melody notes on keys are spot on. I did some special event gigs last Xmas and the keys player we got just dominated the mids and notes swamped the foldback.  You need to have a sound guy to make most of it IMHO.

    i use a Yamaha workstation synth with decent organ and piano sounds in it now but it is a bit heavy.  I am looking at a dual keys setup of a Behringer Deepmind 12 for arpeggiator and classic analog stuff and a Roland performance keyboard with organ, strings and piano

    Yamaha, Roland, Nord and others do performance keyboards that will cover most bands needs in one.
    Plenty of options.   i use a Roland RD2000 for piano based stuff, a Roland Fantom 7 for orchestral and some synth parts.   I use a legand organ module, a virus Ti2 and a Peak on a top shelf for real synthy stuff.  

    I do  have a deep mind (desktop) and an argon 8 at home as well, but neither has made the live rig.   The Deep mind might replace the virus at some point live.

    It's probably overkill for one project but my 80s thing needs all those synth options.
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  • rsvmarkrsvmark Frets: 960
    I dunno. Ask Dave Grohl
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