Let’s be honest, we’ve all heard bands play live, and walked away thinking ‘geez, I prefer them on Spotify’. Let’s assume they can all play their instruments, and that they weren’t overly inebriated during the gig. The reason that it didn’t sound so good is that recreating a guitar tone that was carefully crafted in the studio is almost impossible to do through just one guitar and just one amp. It means these bands end up sounding a little flimsy, thin and generally undergunned.
Where does that leave us aspiring musos? Are we doomed to sounding underwhelming? By no means. There is a secret sauce to a bouncing gig: The humble keyboard piano. If you know, you know, but if you don’t know, stay with us. There are at least three good reasons why.
Reason #1: The sound you want is reproducible at the click of a button. Whether it be a string section in the vein of Bittersweet Symphony, or a dirty synth pad (a la Van Halen’s Jump), they are all safely sitting inside your keyboard piano. Even if you did develop a custom tone in the studio, this can be saved inside your own keyboard and used at your leisure. Unlike a guitar, it doesn’t require any careful mic’ing of a quad speaker, or double tracking to sound right, it just is right. Plug in and play!
Reason #2: The keyboard piano does good things for your sound. You want to fill the full spectrum with your band: bass, mid and treble. The guitarist’s favourite move is to scoop all the mid out of their tone because it sounds fat and warm when they play by themselves. The only problem is they go missing in the mix of a full band. Enter the keyboard piano. It sits in that mid range, providing all the thickness, filling every gap to make sure your band sounds big when you want to sound big. Ever noticed that many of the big rock bands will have a keyboard player when they play live? There’s a method to their madness.
Reason #3: Your band will be easier to mix from the sound desk, and that means you sound better to your audience. Here is an inevitable line from the technician during the soundcheck: “Ok, can I get the guitarist to turn his amp down please?” The guitarist winces, walks over and infinitesimally adjusts the volume knob. Nothing really changes. That means the sound from on stage is bleeding into the front of house mix that everyone else hears. It can be chaos. The keyboard piano, on the other hand, plugs straight into the sound desk and is incredibly easy to balance. In fact, this is so helpful that many brands are trying to make direct input for guitarists so that they can be just as seamless as the keyboard piano.
We could go on and on, but your time is valuable. Just do us a favour; keep an eye out for bands that use a keyboard and those that don’t when playing live.
That’s the only evidence you will need.