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Best places to live for keyboard players


drohm
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I'm curious to hear your opinions/experiences about which US cities, or areas, have the most interesting music scenes and cultures for a keyboard player (assuming you want to play music with others). For example, I live just south of Denver, but until a few years ago I lived in the Boulder area. The music scene was much more diverse in the Boulder area compared to where I am now. On this end of the front range there seems to be a large emphasis on classic rock cover bands. I also miss the bluegrass culture that existed up near the Boulder/Lyons area. It is easy for me to assume that places like Nashville, etc., are top on the list, but I don't want to make any assumptions here. It will also be interesting to see how, or if, the past pandemic year changes the music scene in cities/areas.

 

Let's say a person (keyboard player) was looking to choose a place to live based on the music scene. What would you choose?

NS3C, Hammond XK5, Yamaha S7X, Sequential Prophet 6, Yamaha YC73, Roland Jupiter X

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Maybe I am trying to be a little more specific. Do these places have something unique about the music scene? Is there an emphasis on specific genres or venues? What is the scene like (or was it like pre-covid) where you live? Like I said, my area now seems to be dominated by classic rock cover bands. Anyone live in an area where that is not the case?

NS3C, Hammond XK5, Yamaha S7X, Sequential Prophet 6, Yamaha YC73, Roland Jupiter X

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Best place for a keyboard player? A house with a dedicated studio room (in my humble opinion).

I say two rooms! :idea::rocker:

 

One (live room) for playing/live tracking, another (control room) for mixing/editing.

 

dB

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I would avoid the small town in Oklahoma where they banned dancing in "Footloose". Seems a law against dancing would definitely eliminate a lot of possible gigs.

Yamaha U1 Upright, Roland Fantom 8, Yamaha YC88, Nord Stage 3C, Nord Wave 2, Viscount Legend Live, Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 Mk2, Arturia V Collection 8, Komplete 13 Ultimate

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Well why not - I'll offer my 0.02 as a lifetime SF Bay Area native. I'm part of an active R&B, Funk, Dance and covers community and scene, as well as a sometimes-part of the local jazz scene, have more gig offers than time, and am not a full timer.

 

The scene here has a long and rich history. One might suggest the Bay Area was a primary epicenter of the '60s music scene, and as a result there's a host of companies around here that popped up (Alembic, Seamoon / ADA, Mesa Boogie, for example). There was a time there was a wealth of venues for every kind of genre out there. Over the last couple of decades it seems the influx of tech money in SF has accelerated the decline of struggling music venues, as many have closed and the tech money seems to go elsewhere than live music.

 

There is still a community of players here who network, play together interchangeably, and are familiar with each other. There is a burgeoning jazz scene here, that of course gives birth to versatile and fine players who can carry their own across genre lines...and few dyed-in-the-wool "jazz only" elitists who complain about no money whilst asking you to buy their drinks. I imagine this is not a Bay Area-only phenomena.

 

There is a busy covers / corporate / wedding band community here, since wine country remains a wedding destination. We'll see if SF tourism continues to provide live music work for corporate events the way it has in the past.

 

There are enough opportunities, it seems to me, that players with day jobs can play to their hearts' content. I'm not sure it provides enough paying work for a wealth of full-timers to really survive, especially with the infamous cost of living we struggle with here. As a result, it seems to me the Bay has a rep as a place for folks to cut their teeth and get better...and then leave for NY, LA, New Orleans or Nashville.

 

With a few full-timers I've encountered, there is a small element of bitterness toward part timers like me - some full timers here feel I'm taking work from their plate, they deserve it, it belongs to them and I'm an interloper. While I can sympathize with their frustration, I believe their anger is better directed at the systemic inequities that make it difficult for to build a good-paying career exclusively in music, not at a guy who loves playing music and made different life choices. But I've run into this more than a few times, and I doubt this is a Bay Area-only phenomena.

 

My non-authoritative perspective from the cheap seats.

 

Tim

..
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Well why not - I'll offer my 0.02 as a lifetime SF Bay Area native. I'm part of an active R&B, Funk, Dance and covers community and scene, as well as a sometimes-part of the local jazz scene, have more gig offers than time, and am not a full timer.

 

Tim

 

Thanks Tim! That is a really interesting insight into your area. How long did it take you to build up a network of musicians you like playing with? Or, do you primarily play solo gigs?

NS3C, Hammond XK5, Yamaha S7X, Sequential Prophet 6, Yamaha YC73, Roland Jupiter X

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I love living in Longmont, Colorado. Easy access to Boulder and the entire Denver area, all the way up to Fort Collins. But then, I have unusual tastes in musical genres and live venues. I wouldn't leave Colorado for musical reasons; I can play online anywhere, and visit most places to play a gig, but home is where the rig is. :)

 

It's tempting to say that I'd have way more options for my music in Berlin or San Francisco or London or Tokyo... but they're already saturated with this stuff. A great place to be a listener, not so good if you want to be listened to.

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) :D

Janitor and Hall Monitor, Dr. Mike's Studio Workshop

 

clicky!: more about me ~ my schwag ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job

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I love living in Longmont, Colorado....

 

Mike - That is where I lived prior to moving to Lone Tree! Small world. I enjoyed the music scene in the Boulder/Longmont area. Played in some good bands with a lot of music variety.

NS3C, Hammond XK5, Yamaha S7X, Sequential Prophet 6, Yamaha YC73, Roland Jupiter X

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I cannot tell you where to go, but I will mention a few considerations that I used when I moved to Louisville in the 80's to play keys full time.

 

Cost of living/rent - At the time Louisville was one of the cheapest cities in the nation for housing. I was renting a nice 2 bedroom apartment for half of what it would cost me in some other cities.

 

Distance from home base - From Louisville I could drive back to my family home in a few hours. A very nice convenience.

 

Job availability and competition - When I looked at Louisville I also checked out Nashville. Not only was rent twice as high, in Nashville it seemed like there was 10 musicians lined up for every job. In Louisville I was able to step right into a job with one of the top full time bands in the city. Within 6 months I had enough of a rep that I never had to look for work again.

 

Transportation - This one can be quite important for a keyboard player. In Louisville or Nashville I had the option of driving my own vehicle and hauling my gear. That way on Saturday nights when we closed up a week long job I could take my stuff home and work on my gear. Not going to happen in places like New York.

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Just an idea -- go to Craigslist and search on keyboard player ads in various cities -- that might provide some insight to what's out there.

Yamaha YC-73, Roland Fantom 7, Korg Kronos 2-73, Roland RD-2000, Nord Stage 3 Compact, Hammond SK-Pro 73, Mainstage w/ Arturia Keylab 61 mkii, Yamaha U1 Upright

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I'm curious to hear your opinions/experiences about which US cities, or areas, have the most interesting music scenes and cultures for a keyboard player (assuming you want to play music with others). For example, I live just south of Denver, but until a few years ago I lived in the Boulder area. The music scene was much more diverse in the Boulder area compared to where I am now. On this end of the front range there seems to be a large emphasis on classic rock cover bands. I also miss the bluegrass culture that existed up near the Boulder/Lyons area. It is easy for me to assume that places like Nashville, etc., are top on the list, but I don't want to make any assumptions here. It will also be interesting to see how, or if, the past pandemic year changes the music scene in cities/areas.

 

Sounds like you don't want to play classic rock, but maybe you want to play bluegrass?

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That is a reasonable idea, but if other places are similar to Denver, then there is an entire segment of the music scene that does not solicit via craigslist. That segment is often the part with the better musicians, imho. Not sure if that applies to other cities.

NS3C, Hammond XK5, Yamaha S7X, Sequential Prophet 6, Yamaha YC73, Roland Jupiter X

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I've been to Indiana. No thank you. There's a reason its a "Fly over" state.

 

 

Mike T.

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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I've been to Indiana. No thank you. There's a reason its a "Fly over" state.

 

 

Mike T.

I've lived in SW Indiana since 1990....I know EXACTLY what you mean....

 

I like northern Indiana fairly well - nice climate, nice people too. I don't care for southern Indiana as much. From a work standpoint, not so great I'd think in many fields. I also like Kentucky, probably a similar situation. Not regarding music work though as I don't know about those markets there. More for electrical engineer/astrophysics-related stuff which is what I'm going into.

Yamaha: Motif XF8, MODX7, YS200, MX61, CVP-305, CLP-130, YPG-235, PSR-295, PSS-470 | Roland: Fantom 7, JV-1000

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Well why not - I'll offer my 0.02 as a lifetime SF Bay Area native. I'm part of an active R&B, Funk, Dance and covers community and scene, as well as a sometimes-part of the local jazz scene, have more gig offers than time, and am not a full timer.

 

Tim

 

Thanks Tim! That is a really interesting insight into your area. How long did it take you to build up a network of musicians you like playing with? Or, do you primarily play solo gigs?

 

Short answer

Been gigging here since 2007, slowly building a network while I kept learning, practicing and working on my own abiilties. Did a little touring, played a few different genres. Around 2014 I became part of the 'house band' rotation for a R&B / Funk jam community that is a fixture in the East Bay. This crew plays many of the local bars, clubs and venues in Oakland, Berkeley and some of the SF venues as well. From there I got a ton of opportunities to play w a bunch of the local cats.

 

Longer version

After playing in bands in my late 20's, I spent most of my focus for 20 years playing in church and building a non-music career. Then after a huge life crisis, and being left with virtually nothing of my old life, I started playing in a band again in 2007. Didn't know anyone, answered a Craigslist ad. Kicked around in a few bands for 5-6 years. Got a good jazz education during these years. This led to gigging with larger circle of cats. Started my own band as a composing project for my own writing. Started playing with a really great singer who toured a bit. Played with her in LA and all over California. She introduced me to a lot of the cats in the area. Did a residency at a club in San Jose, and built my own small roster of house band cats.

 

All this led to building a decent rep. I think for me, it was mostly about being a responsible adult and being able to play well enough for the gig and not sh*t the bed. I've never thought I was all that - but some of the folks I've played with regularly like my playing and I don't embarrass anyone.

 

You know the drill - show up on time, have decent gear that doesn't break down, sound great, know how to solo, don't step on other's people's playing, be happy, go out of your way to make others feel relaxed, don't be a jackass. When it's my gig, pay people on time, make them comfortable, don't be a jerk.

 

Finally over the last few years, I fell into decent wedding band / corporate money bands. I can MD and keep the entire music side of things humming like a well-oiled machine. Now I have more calls and opportunities than I can really handle with my demanding day job. And I really miss the focus on composing and writing my own music. Have some time management challenges and some decisions to make coming out of this pandemic.

 

Hope that explains things a little.

..
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The pandemic affects everything, including this. I left the Bay Area a couple months ago after 20 years there, but just thinking about the places I was gigging, I can't say for sure what any of them will be like coming out of this. Some have closed, and maybe they will reopen under new ownership who have different ideas about the music.

 

Thinking about San Francisco specifically, it has been hollowed out to a significant extent. Lots of folks left and are not coming back. Will that be bad for music? Not necessarily! Over 20 years I saw much of the musical vibrancy of the City whither away as the tech industry moved in and saturated everything. Those people may have lots of money, but they're not spending it on live music, and certainly not the improvisational stuff I've always considered my home. So it may be very different now, and maybe in a good way.

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

Home: Vintage Vibe 64

 

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Interesting perspectives on the Bay Area. I lived there from 2000-2004, and my standard summary of that experience is, "I loved living there; I hated trying to be a musician there." My impression was that the focus was heavily on DJ and electronica stuff, and the little bit of a jazz scene that existed was guys who had been playing the same room the same night of the week for 15 years and would give up the gig when they died. In fact that was literally how I got my first steady weekly solo gig. (And then the day after my first gig as a full-timer I decided to end my marriage and leave the area, but that's another story.) Of course it's entirely possible that I just didn't do it right, didn't meet the right people, etc., but the impracticality of making a living as a musician is what made me leave.

 

I'll echo those who say that nobody really knows what anyplace is like right now, given what we're all just coming out of. It'll be easier to get a more accurate reading in 6 months or so.

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NYC, Boston, LA, San Diego, Miami, Nashville... anywhere there"s lots of people that want to experience live music and the venue is charging enough to pay the band. Places with big families with deep pockets that throw big parties and have kids that need lessons.

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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I would avoid living under bridges, that's where bass players live. And you cant move in with emotionally damaged groupie chicks cause the guitar players got all of them already. Keyboardist will have to settle for sleeping on the rehearsal room floor. Oh wait....the drummers got that.
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NYC, Boston, LA, San Diego, Miami, Nashville... anywhere there"s lots of people that want to experience live music and the venue is charging enough to pay the band. Places with big families with deep pockets that throw big parties and have kids that need lessons.

 

I'd say in general college towns they have lots of young people from all over that want music, movies, art, etc. Only drawback is you also have young musicians in school who'll work cheap to pay rent to compete with and they are more on top of the music their peers want to hear.

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