Rock Keyboard Players: Legends and Innovators

The Best Rock Keyboard Player

Keyboards add a unique dimension to the standard rock formula of vocals, guitars and bass. The best keyboard players can add to a composition or even dish out riffs themselves.

Jon Lord could do both with his Hammond organ, using it to create furious runs and epic solo sections. He also figured out how to add texture and mood.

Keith Emerson

Keith Emerson is a true legend and perhaps the most innovative keyboard player to have ever played rock music. He was a part of the prog supergroups The Nice and then later with Greg Lake and Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake and Palmer). He was an absolute virtuoso on the Hammond organ and the Moog synthesizer. He could play just about any style of music and was able to do it with incredible flair. He was also a great showman on stage and used to plunge knives into his organ keys, shake the instrument to get distortion and even rock the piano like Franz Liszt!

He is the Hendrix of the keyboard world. He was truly one of a kind and his death in 2016 left the world in shock. He will be missed by many.

Billy Currie

Billy Currie is a legendary keyboardist who should be up there with the best of them. He’s known for his work in the synth pop/new wave band Ultravox and his solo albums, as well as playing guest spots on numerous other bands’ albums.

Born in 1950 in Huddersfield, England, he began his musical career playing guitar and then violin before moving on to keyboards, drums, percussion, flute and vocals. After studying at a music college, he played in several bands before joining Ritual Theatre and later the glam rock band Tiger Lily.

Currie’s trademark sound is based on analogue synthesizers, particularly the ARP Odyssey, which he used to produce soaring fluid lines that made use of oscillator sync. He also used a Yamaha CS80 and the Oxford Synthesiser Company OSCar. He also has a reputation for being one of the most underrated piano players in rock history. He should be up there with the likes of Spencer Davis, who was a master at piano and invented rock organ before anyone knew what the genre was.

Ray Manzarek

Ray Manzarek co-founded the Doors with some dude named Jim and helped define a generation of music. He is one of the best rock keyboard players and his organ work is untouchable. In live performances, he would play the bass notes on his keyboard using his left hand while his right hand played a Fender Rhodes. He’s also an excellent singer and composer.

5 Jon Lord (Deep Purple)

It’s a crime that Deep Purple is so underrated when compared to the likes of Led Zeppelin and Nirvana. Jon Lord has some of the most impressive technical chops in the world. He was an expert at fusing rock with classical or baroque forms on songs like “Kashmir.” The guy can really abuse his Hammond organ, but he can also create sonic landscapes that are almost orchestral in scope. He’s a true legend of rock music.

Page McConnell

Page McConnell is known for his work as the keyboardist for Phish, but his talent doesn’t stop there. He is also a skilled pianist, organist and songwriter. He has been a member of the band since 1985 and is an integral part of their jamming.

He is also the leader of the electronic jazz fusion band Vida Blue, which he formed with Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge and Funky Meters drummer Russell Batiste. He has also performed as a solo artist and has collaborated with Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman in other projects.

The only reason he doesn’t rank higher on this list is that Jon Lord and Don Airey are better technically, but McConnell is more than capable of holding his own. His keyboards blend in perfectly with a song and are often emotionally moving. He reaches a level of beauty and majesty that is rarely seen in rock music. Unlike Wakeman or Emerson, who can be boring and noodly, McConnell delivers an experience that is truly breathtaking.

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