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Another one Bites the Dust .... and songs with no keyboards.


Bob L

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My cover band wants to do "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen (not my idea...). Other than the single notes that fade in (I think low note on the piano, with bringing up the volume) I didn't see much for me to do and I told my band mates the song would be an opportunity for me to leave the stage and get a drink. I won't be singing it, and can't think of much else to do. Usually when we cover a song without keyboards there is something I can do (play the second guitar part on distorted Wurli, etc.). This is the first time the band has wanted to do a tune and I don't really think I have a role. I have a Casio PX-5S and analog Korg CX3, so don't think I will be recreating the scratching sounds and other stuff during the break in the song with my rig. Maybe sitting a song out is the best solution. Wonder what some of you guys/gals would do in this situation. Doesn't seem worth making a big deal out of it but maybe there is some other way to handle this I'm not thinking of.

Korg CX-3 (vintage), Casio Privia PX-5S, Lester K, Behringer Powerplay P2, Shure 215s

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Those reverse piano parts are iconic, and you will please a lot of people in attendance by doing the single act of triggering those samples in the right places. The other stuff you can let slide. Get those piano sweeps right and you will be the star of that piano-less song.

 

Here is a source for mp3's; download the "Sound effects" track and load it onto your board or even your phone.

Now out! "Mind the Gap," a 24-song album of new material.
www.joshweinstein.com

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Sound effects make the song! I also like to spice up the second verse by doubling the bass line with an over the top reso supersaw with filter wide open. Distort the hell out of it for extra points. Heavy distorted auto wash clav groove works too. Have fun with it and make it your own!
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Agree with MoI on what you can contribute to Another One Bites The Dust, that's a great idea.

 

More broadly, the rock band I'm in occasionally does a song without keys in it. We make a team decision on it and if we think it works for the band I don't get bent out of shape about it. We all have the right of veto on any song too which is great.

 

I will either throw in a bit of organ to fatten the chorus up, or sometimes a Wurli can substitute pretty nicely for a second guitar, or a piano can replace an acoustic guitar. On one or two songs I play guitar sounds on the keys, don't love doing it but if it serves the song I'm happy to help.

 

And depending on the set list for maybe one or two songs per night I'll completely sit out and get a drink, chat to some punters and check the FOH mix if I don't see myself adding any value. It's not a big deal and in a way a welcome little break.

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Like the others, I think it's no big deal.

 

If you want to recreate the song as faithfully as possible, play the synth parts and sound effects.

 

If you have more freedom to rearrange the parts, it's a funk song after all, so some Hammond or clav will fit right in.

 

If none if those options are applicable, nothing wrong in sitting out for a song and getting a beer!

;)

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The band I used to do sound for frequently played Free's "Mr Big". The bass player used to do a great solo, while the vocalist kept quiet, and I faded the lead guitarist right down, so basically he was just a backing instrument.

 

We always performed it just before the break, so the keys player left the stage, and had plenty of time to get the beer in, as it lasts over seven minutes.

Occasionally, do something nice for a total stranger. They'll wonder what the hell is going on!
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I personally like having a setlist where there's some light and shade - in my current band we play approx 32 songs each night and there's 4-6 where I don't play at all (AC/DC, stuff like that). I either do some backing vox or sit behind my rig and wait ;)
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On the larger question of what to do about a song without keys, the answer is: enjoy getting a longer break than everyone else. Equal $, fewer songs, and you get to do the rock-star stroll through the crowd while the guitar player is still onstage working. Win-win-win.

Now out! "Mind the Gap," a 24-song album of new material.
www.joshweinstein.com

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There are sound fx in there that others have mentioned (backwards piano and others), but in general, yeah, that is a tough one.

 

We have a couple like that, a couple old Van Halen tunes that we do on request mostly come to mind. Also a couple 90s tunes, especially one from Creed--there's literally nothing I can add to that of value. That isn't typical for non-keyboard songs though...usually a piano, ep or organ can find a spot as we play mostly classic rock.

 

I tend to turn down (a lot or completely) and fake it on those non-keys songs where I feel I can't add keys. If we did a large number of these I'd simply find a different band. In my situation I kind of brought some of it on myself since I told the band we were doing too many gigs (for my family life) and I had to quit...they wanted me to stay so the compromise is that they book as a 4-piece or a 5-piece at different spots. Upside, the 5-piece ones are better places :) Downside, the band isn't really motivated to learn keyboard-heavy songs.

 

 

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I would add some strings (maybe some glissandi), Clav (with wah itll be funkier), and disco style horn stabs (playing chords during the fills) on the Keys (preferably analog horns or a big Hex Layer horn section on the Casio), also you could do an organ solo in the song as well with your CX3.
Yamaha MX49, Casio SK1/WK-7600, Korg Minilogue, Alesis SR-16, Casio CT-X3000, FL Studio, many VSTs, percussion, woodwinds, strings, and sound effects.
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My band does a number of songs that don't have keyboards on the original track. I always come up with something that adds a new dimension vs. taking a break. For ABTD, I could see some funky clav working and maybe some organ during certain parts like the chorus. There are some sound FX you could try to simulate even if you don't have the ability to sample the originals with your rig.

 

In general, I find that organ works well on songs without keys, but also like to use some kind of synth pads/stabs as well. A little Yamaha CP-80 sound goes a long way as well.

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Often, I will play finger percussion on the keyboard and lock in with a drummer if there is no keyboard part and it's an upbeat song. This allows the band to have a richer sound ranging from percussion instruments, hand claps, electronic drums, etc. I usually find that drummers like to lock in and groove together, as well as being refreshed to hear new kit sounds. It's usually just for a song here or there.

Yamaha U1 Upright, Roland Fantom 8, Nord Stage 4 HA73, Nord Wave 2, Korg Nautilus 73, Viscount Legend Live, Lots of Mainstage/VST Libraries

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