• “So, What’s The Role Of A Keyboardist In A Band Situation?”

    in Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Self-Improvement

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    We’ll be taking a look at the role of a keyboardist in a band situation.

    The keyboard is a powerful instrument in range and capability and can either be played in a solo or band situation.

    If you’re a keyboardist in a band, this lesson is for you because we’ll be looking at some of the things you’re expected to bring to the table as a band member.

    But before we go into the vital roles of a keyboardist in a band, it’s very important for us to discuss briefly on the band.

    A Short Note On The Band

    When a group of instrumentalists are playing together they are described as a band.

    Attention: A band may or may not specialize in a particular genre of music. For instance, a band that specializes in playing jazz music can be called a jazz band.

    The reason for playing together is because music is multi-dimensional and can be broken down into its melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic components.

    The melodic components of a song may include (but is not limited to) the bass line, the tune or melody, and melodic lines from other instruments like the guitar, violin, saxophone, etc.

    The harmonic components of a song may include keyboard chords, vocal harmony, or instrumental harmony (of horn instruments, string instruments, etc).

    The rhythmic components of a song include the tempo, beats and bars, time signature, accent, meter, and many others that are mainly played by drums and percussion instruments.

    Different instruments play different roles in a band and the instruments used is dependent on the genre of music and the part of the world.

    Also, the size of a band can vary from a trio (three musicians), to a quartet (four musicians), quintet (five musicians), etc.

    Apart from brass bands, most bands have a keyboard player and he/she has a role that he/she has been assigned to and that’s our focus in this lesson. So, let’s go ahead and take a critical look at the role of a keyboardist in a band situation.

    The Role Of A Keyboardist In A Band Situation

    A keyboardist is someone who is trained to play the electronic keyboard/synthesizer.

    When the role of a keyboardist in a band situation is not known, the abuse of the role is inevitable. So, I’m going to show you the primary, secondary, and auxiliary roles of a keyboardist in a band situation so that you can be a lot more useful and productive as a band member.

    Primary Role — Harmonic Accompaniment

    The primary role of a keyboard player in a band is to provide harmonic accompaniment to the melodic components of the song.

    To do this, the keyboard player must have an in-depth understanding of the music genre, the appropriate chord qualities to play, the right voicing or inversion, and the harmonic implication of the melody of the song.

    When a melody or tune is being played, the role of the keyboardist is to house those melodies with chord structures. The keyboardist has to be thinking “what’s the best chord or chord progression that will “house” these melodies and give them the best interpretation”.

    After thinking, he should be able to play the chords with the right texture. Texture in this context talks about the several layers of notes in a chord: thicker texture chords are full-sounding as opposed to chords with thinner textures.

    The ability to create or heighten rhythmic interest is not left out. The keyboardist must also be well versed in a variety of comping style, vamping patterns, etc., and be able to play montunos in a Latin music band.

    At the beginners’ stage of development, the keyboardist (through trial and error) learns how to accompany songs using primary triads in the key. Then, he/she proceeds into learning other sophisticated chords that will turn heads or how chords can be used to reharmonize a tune.

    A keyboard player must be very conscious of the fact that although his/her role can beassigned to a horn section or guitar player, the harmonic accompaniment in a band is primarily his/her role.

    Auxiliary Roles — Synthesizing Other Instruments

    The keyboardist’s role in a band can extend to using the synthesizer to play the role of other instruments like the drums, bass, string section, brass section, and more.

    A knowledge of the range and technique of various instruments is required for the keyboardist to play this auxiliary role. For example, if a keyboardist is playing the auxiliary role by synthesizing the sound of the guitar, he/she has to sound like a guitar player in range and technique.

    When done appropriately, the keyboard player would sound like a guitar player. Playing notes that are either too high or too low for the range of the guitar or techniques that are unrealistic for the guitar will defeat the intention of synthesizing the guitar.

    So, depending on the band, a keyboard player should also be prepared to take on the secondary role of synthesizing other instruments.

    Final Words

    Now that you’ve seen your primary, secondary, and auxiliary roles as a keyboard player in a band, it’s important that you know what to do at any given point in time and we’ll be covering that in another lesson.

    It’s important for a keyboard player to know when to play the primary role, when to play the secondary role, or when to play the auxiliary role.

    Also keep in mind that band music is dynamic and involves creativity. There are situations where the keyboardist has to combine roles or switch between roles and it’s solely at his/her performance discretion.

    Thank you for your time.

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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