Playing piano in pop/rock bands


To play pop/rock piano and keyboards in a band requires energy and restraint; it means having great skill and technical ability, and knowing when and how to use them.

Playing pop/rock piano in a band can be great fun. It can also teach you a lot about music. There’s nothing better for your creativity than feeding off of other great musicians on the band stand, in rehearsals, or in the recording studio. You will develop your ears, through listening and reacting to your band members, and your improvisation, through soloing, part-writing, jamming, and reacting to the unexpected twists and turns that can happen in group performance.

Our pop/rock piano teachers can teach you the ins and outs of playing in a pop/rock band. Our piano teachers have extensive experience performing, recording, and touring with bands through the UK, Europe, and internationally. Their perspective on what it takes to be a great band member can help you avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes that can annoy other musicians, and can help you contribute the greatest possible skill and talent through your pop/rock piano and keyboard playing.

Here are some of the main principles that will help you become a great band member and keys player:

  • Learn each song inside-out: Having a thorough sense of what the other musicians are playing - knowing the drum part, bass part, guitar part, etc - will help you perform your own part better, and gel with the rest of the band.

  • Know when to play less: A band of 4 or 5 musicians can produce a lot of sound. The ability to produce different textures and dynamics can give your band’s sound more depth and interest. There are times when it’s best to play a simple part, with one hand only, and other times when you can cut out completely, leaving room for others to shine.

  • Move seamlessly from background to foreground: You may be playing a simple, repetitive part for several minutes, when suddenly it’s time for the keyboard solo. Your role in the band can change instantly, and you must be ready, bringing intense energy, excitement, and volume when it’s required.

  • Styles of accompaniment: Being able to provide pads, rhythmic figures, arpeggios, and counter-melodies, and at ease with piano, organ, clavinet, rhodes, synth, and other common keyboard patches are essential for fulfilling your role on keyboards in a band.

  • Listening: Listening to yourself as you play piano can be a task in itself, but playing in a band requires you to listen to every other instrument as well. You must lock in your time and rhythms to the bass and drums, and be careful not to clash with guitars or overshadow vocalists. Though great rock music can sound messy sometimes, in actual fact the music works because every musician is blending with one another perfectly and with great skill.

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