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Why is the keyboard player always the music director?


kbrkr
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Almost all the musical situations I have been in, I've been looked to be the musical director. Establishing keys of songs, arranging (Intros, Pre chorus, bridges, chorus, endings), etc.

 

A lot of times this is even in fill in situations.

 

Do you ever resist and just sit quiet and not "Accept" the lead role because you don't want to deal with the drama/egos? I admit I do this a lot because I don't want to be the guy that tells the drummer he sucks or the singer she's flat.

 

How do you deal with this?

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Speaking as a guitarist, the reason that the keyboard player is usually the musical director, is that in nine bands out of ten, the keyboard player is the only "real" musician.

 

As to your reluctance to be the bad guy, accept the musical director position, while insisting that someone else be the band leader, and pass all the onerous duties over to them!

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He's not always the MD, sometimes it's the bass player.

 

Whoever it is generally has (among the band members) the wider, deeper understanding of what the band is capable of sounding like and how to get there. He/she knows the music well enough to pick up on the details. Hopefully he/she is also able to encourage / motivate / coach diverse set of personalities and egos.

 

Why does it seem to be those two likely suspects? I think it's because with KB experience comes rubbing shoulders with orchestration, roles and parts that other instrument roles aren't forced to deal with. With BPs, they are used to being the essential that holds the band down, and spends most of the gig hearing what other people are playing right and...not so right.

 

At least that's my guess for now.

 

 

..
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Historically it has always been so, piano (keyboards) have the most harmonic control and the whole range of the orchestra is right in front of us (88's at least) .... this I was told goes way back in the good 'ol US of A...!
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In a couple musical theater productions and a tour I did for the troops I did once. It has been in addition to a keyboard player, a guitar player and a horn a player. But to paraphrase what timwat stated. "It is not the instrument, but the knowledge." When one person has a masters degree in music and the talent to use it and the others don't it pretty much makes them the MD by default.

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... and be practiced at making multiple parts blend together.
At the keys, with our 2 hands, we do this daily. ... harmony, rhythm, dynamics, arrangement

 

Keyboard players are unique in the musical world because we are the only musicians who think, hear, and play multiple parts simultaneously. No other instrument in the orchestra does this (with the arguable exception of the percussion trap kit player). Even first year beginning pianists are playing multiple parts in simple songs. Keyboard players can look at a 4-voice choral arrangement, and play simultaneously all 4 parts: no other musician in the orchestra can do this.

 

So even from their earliest experience with their instruments, keyboardists have a very different and very much more advanced musical experience than do other instrumentalists. And this more advanced approach to music lends itself nicely to the task of directing multiple musicians to play multiple parts together.

 

This is also the reason the keyboard is more difficult to learn than other instruments: all the other instruments only demand the player attend to 1 voice or 1 part, not two or more.

 

Caveat: I have on rare occasion heard fingerstyle guitar players do ragtime music with both a melody and an omp-pa style bass part. So it is possible for a guitarist to play 2 parts simultaneously. But very few do this.

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Sometimes we rag on guitarists but then GE Smith was the musical director for SNL for 10 years. There a numerous examples of phenomenal fingerstyle guitarists all over YouTube.

 

[video:youtube]

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Because with precious few exceptions, the other players are too focused on themselves and are not listening to the group as a whole.

 

Keyboard players usually have more training with theory which is integral with piano lessons. Too many guitar players and drummers don't put the work into learning theory because they keep looking for shortcuts.

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Caveat: I have on rare occasion heard fingerstyle guitar players do ragtime music with both a melody and an omp-pa style bass part. So it is possible for a guitarist to play 2 parts simultaneously. But very few do this.

 

I've heard plenty of guitarists play in a style that at least insinuates multiple parts... like strumming with the lower 3 fingers while picking out a melody with a pick held between the thumb and index finger. Pat Metheny does this nicely. Plenty of others have. No, it's not a common technique, but not 'relatively' unheard of.

 

As for band members giving ME the responsibility for musical directorship... it actually rarely happens in my world (anymore). The country band only wants my honky-tonk piano and swirling B3 sounds added to the music; they already know how to handle their own parts, and nothing there needs correction. Real pro's who know what they're doing.

 

But yes, I've certainly had to step up to the plate in a few past bands, and write out charts, make suggestions for a bridge or a solo, etc.

 

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......because the guitar player, bassist and drummer usually have their hands full with the groupies, which is a distraction that we don't usually have to deal with.....

 

I was going to give the exact same reply (though probably with less wit).

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Historically it has always been so, piano (keyboards) have the most harmonic control and the whole range of the orchestra is right in front of us (88's at least) .... this I was told goes way back in the good 'ol US of A...!

 

Hey there, hi there, ho there .. I think it might just be a little dated, if not offensive to say the good 'ol US of A. :laugh::laugh:

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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Caveat: I have on rare occasion heard fingerstyle guitar players do ragtime music with both a melody and an omp-pa style bass part. So it is possible for a guitarist to play 2 parts simultaneously. But very few do this.

 

I've heard plenty of guitarists play in a style that [b]at least insinuates multiple[/b] parts... like strumming with the lower 3 fingers while picking out a melody with a pick held between the thumb and index finger. Pat Metheny does this nicely. Plenty of others have. No, it's not a common technique, but not 'relatively' unheard of.

 

 

Speaking of insinuating six string guys. Not to mention intimidating.

 

[video:youtube]

 

[video:youtube]

 

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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This topic has come up before, and istr there was an opinion that "learning piano" brings a lot of theory/harmonic/arranging knowledge that doesn't necessarily come with guitar or drums.

 

Of course that's not to say that guitarists or drummers can't be MDs - just that fewer of them might have the requisite knowledge.

 

Cheers, Mike.

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Historically it has always been so, piano (keyboards) have the most harmonic control and the whole range of the orchestra is right in front of us (88's at least) .... this I was told goes way back in the good 'ol US of A...!

 

Hey there, hi there, ho there .. I think it might just be a little dated, if not offensive to say the good 'ol US of A. :laugh::laugh:

 

Sometimes I embrace my age now T!

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Generalization warning: Pianists study to play music and guitarists learn to play guitar. As was said before, pianists are orchestrators from day one. We learn to fit the pieces together to play music because we are trained to look at the totality of a work. Learning harmony, timing and dynamics and all of the components of music is the basis of our study. We don't teach ourselves to play in our bedroom in six months and then become a rock star. However, I now play with an exceptional musician/guitarist who has a thorough musical knowledge and background and at times lead our 10 piece horn band. We get on famously. He's the only guitarist I know with whom I can have a theory discussion. I wish knew more like him.
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Don't get me started on Guitar players. Partly the instrument lends itself to a lot of study. You can't learn piano and just go out to play. The amount of time to sound decent on piano in order to play out is so much more than playing guitar or bass because of some of the factors mentioned above.

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Don't get me started on Guitar players. Partly the instrument lends itself to a lot of study. You can't learn piano and just go out to play. The amount of time to sound decent on piano in order to play out is so much more than playing guitar or bass because of some of the factors mentioned above.

 

I generally don't mind and can deal with them after playing with them in bands since the age of 8, but musically if they get nasty I'll get irked, not that I'm above being criticized. Because of what you have just stated and others in terms of the time it takes to just sound good...well let's just say that really gets me going if they get to musically nasty...I've had them make me out or any keyboard player out to be 'boring person' 'unexciting' the 9 yards thing, making it personal. Often the more self conscious players. But until that occurs in a band, if ever, I'm OK with most of them....just don't make me out to be the musical midget based on your need for bravado or some Rock and Roll paradigm you feel they are privy to ... many of them could never go through what we did to get our chops (modulation is hard on keys). Hard or easy isn't always clear in art...some of them are actually very good 'musicians' not just talented players . . .but it's rare I find in a general way. At least they play polyphonic instruments and understand chords and a bit of Diatonic theory that way and in that sense they are polyphonic brothers and sisters . . . as are horn players who understand a bit of arranging.

 

Jazz guitarists are another thing but when the 77 year old guy I study with said to me 'Well you know guitar players (jazz), they are almost like hobbyists with their pickups and all their stuff', I realized it was not only a Rock and Roll phenom in terms of how they are perceived for good or bad. I was a bit shocked after hearing that and went :idea: But a jazz guitarist does have to know much more to get through an average jazz gig than your average good rock or blues player . . . a lot more and they play at half the volume if not less most times!

 

 

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I play guitar and piano at an acceptable level. I think in many ways guitar is way more complex. .... and pedal steel that's interesting also.

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Piano is simple. Its linear. There is only one place to play a middle C on piano. On guitar there is 5. I've been lucky I guess many of the guitarist I have played with were music majors in college.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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There is only one place to play a middle C on piano. On guitar there is 5.

Interesting thought. I've played guitar and piano for most of my life and I never really thought about it in exactly that way before.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

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Piano is simple. Its linear. There is only one place to play a middle C on piano. On guitar there is 5.

 

Technique is not the same as theory. I know plenty of guitar players with great technique but they don't make a competent MD.

 

I've been lucky I guess many of the guitarist I have played with were music majors in college.

 

You are lucky, and you're the minority. Where I live, I encounter many more guitar players who don't possess the theory knowledge and who have never attended college.

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Piano is simple. Its linear. There is only one place to play a middle C on piano. On guitar there is 5.

 

Technique is not the same as theory. I know plenty of guitar players with great technique but they don't make a competent MD.

 

[

 

Absolutely true :like:

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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Piano is simple. Its linear. There is only one place to play a middle C on piano. On guitar there is 5.

 

Technique is not the same as theory. I know plenty of guitar players with great technique but they don't make a competent MD.

 

[

 

Absolutely true :like:

 

Yes sir! I'm almost never the hot player onstage, but frequently end up being the MD. The hot player is many times the lead guitar who really has no interest in riding herd on the rest of the band even if he has the aptitude to do so. Leading a band is a skill unto itself....

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