||This article may contain original research. (October 2010)|
A keyboardist is a musician who plays keyboard instruments. Until the early 1960s musicians who played keyboards were generally classified as either pianists or organists. Since the mid-1960s, a plethora of new musical instruments with keyboards have come into common usage, requiring a more general term for a person who plays them. These keyboards include:
- electric pianos such as the Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric piano
- electronic pianos such as the Roland Digital Piano
- Hammond and other electric organ such as the Farfisa and Vox Continental
- analog synthesizers such as Moog, ARP and units produced by a variety of other manufacturers such as Alesis.
- Analog modeling synthesizers produced by such companies as Alesis, and Novation
- digital keyboard workstations such as those produced today by Roland, Yamaha, Kurzweil and Korg
- piano (but see Pianist for a list of famous pianists)
- reed organ
- pipe organ
Notable electronic keyboardists
There are many famous electronic keyboardists in rock, pop and jazz music. A complete list can be found at List of keyboardists.
The use of electronic keyboards grew in popularity throughout the 1960s, with many bands using the Hammond organ, Mellotron, and electric pianos such as the Fender Rhodes. The Doors became the first group to use the Moog synthesizer on a pop record on 1967's "Strange Days". Other bands, including The Moody Blues, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles would go on to add it to their records, both to provide sound effects and as a musical instrument in its own right. In 1966, Billy Ritchie became the first keyboard player to take a lead role in a rock band, replacing guitar, and thereby preparing the ground for others such as Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman. In the late 1960s, a pioneer of modern electronic music Jean Michel Jarre started to experiment with synthesizers and other electronic devices. As synthesizers became more affordable and less unwieldy, many more bands and producers began using them, eventually paving the way for bands that consisted solely of synthesizers and other electronic instruments such as drum machines by the late 1970s/early 1980s. Some of the first bands that used this set up were Kraftwerk, Suicide and The Human League. Rock groups also began using synthesizers and electronic keyboards alongside the traditional line-up of guitar, bass and drums; particularly in progressive rock groups such as Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Pink Floyd.
By the 1990s, fewer bands were using synthesizers, and even former purely electronic acts such as Depeche Mode began using traditional acoustic instruments alongside the electronic instruments. Increasingly, synthesizers became more and more unpopular in rock music, and became almost exclusively used by electronic dance music producers. Some of the more famous electronic production acts include The Prodigy, Massive Attack and Orbital. Producers such as William Orbit and Brian Eno would also use synthesizers and electronic effects to add colour to music by the bands they were working with.
Keyboardists are often highly sought after in cover bands, to replicate the original keyboard parts and other instrumental parts such as strings or horns where it would be logistically difficult to hire people to play the actual instruments.
- The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Muze); The Illustrated History of Rock, Clouds by Ed Ward; Q magazine article 1996 by Martin Ashton; Mojo Magazine article '1-2-3 and the Birth of Prog' nov 1994
- Young, Percy M. Keyboard Musicians of the World. London: Abelard-Schuman, 1967. N.B.: Concerns celebrated keyboard players and the various such instruments used over the centuries. SBN 200-71497-X