Whoa There, Cowboy!

This is a comment I received from David Golden on my last post, "Ken's Five Rules For Keyboards". I thought it was awesome! Good points, well written, and funny. I thought it deserved to be here on the main page for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to check out his thoughts on bass guitar in the last paragraph. Hilarious! Thanks David!


Whoa there, cowboy! I’ll tell you how to revolutionize your band, although I know you’ll never do it. Save up about 25 grand and buy a GRAND. Good old acoustic piano fits in anywhere (yes, yes, it can sit out some songs too). It can sound raw, it can sound refined, it can pad, it can solo, it can support, it can shine, it can rock. If Mozart, jazz, blues, country, etc are ever in the house, it can fit in most anywhere. A century from now when your current set up is languishing in a museum of musical oddities the piano will still be making music on the cutting edge.

My guess is you’re a little younger than me. I grew up standing on the main floor of the Portland Coliseum watching Keith Emerson claw out sweaty solos on a monophonic moog, with the funky patch cords sticking out everywhere, swooping and soaring until it shot out fireworks and smoke (literal ones, not just musical ones). How do people refer to that music now? PRETENTIOUS! Pretentious? How dare they!

You probably grew up watching Flock of Seagulls and Simple Minds play those nice one-handed, three-fingered riffs which you know so well. And pads. Texture. Background. Keyboard parts that say “I can’t believe it’s not a robot! Oh that’s right, it IS a robot!” Everyone and their dog playing a Yamaha DX-7 (digital of course, or maybe an analog of some kind if they have hand sanitizer available).

But on the other hand, you’re a blues man too. So you should have some soft spot in your heart for a good piano and a Hammond B-3.

A piano is a great addition to any band. But guitar players have trouble realizing that sometimes they can sit out on the verse, and just join on the chorus. Or sit out, then come in with a blazing solo out of the blue. Or even sit out a whole song, and let the piano carry it. And NO I am not talking about just ballads.

I realize there are no keys in punk or grunge. That’s because everyone assumes that if you play piano you’ve had lessons somewhere along the line, and you probably have more than a passing knowledge of music theory. It destroys that DIY mystique.

My perfect praise band would be structured like Soul Asylum. An acoustic guitar driving it with just some good folky strumming, and an electric guitar having fun with riffs, musical gymnastics, color. A piano (acoustic) and B-3 (I’ll even accept a synthesized substitute) giving soul and the universe of subtlety. And just some good back to basics bass and drums playing (bass player limited to 3 notes per measure, and no thumb slaps allowed, because they are not Christ-like). Everyone takes turns on lead vocals. Everyone gets at least one instrumental solo (yes, including the drums). And the whole thing unified with a “raw but fun” aesthetic.

I KNOW that’s what Jesus would do.



By the way, Flock of Seagulls RULES! (not.) And yes, I would take an old B3, Rhodes, or Moog in my band over a grand piano any day. And I love Keith Emerson and all the 70s prog stuff, Yes, Rush, Fripp, ELP, ELO, etc. But when I think of a grand piano in a rock band I can't stop the visions of a balding fat Elton John in a pink feather boa and rose colored glasses. Lord help us.

1 comment:

Terry said...

i know for a FACT that jesus (and god for that matter) HATES both the flock of seagulls and soul asylum.