Most budding piano players, at some stage struggle with motivation when learning piano chords and scales, but at some point you might wish to have a go at playing in a band and you will quickly discover that your effort has been well worth it! Joining a band can be a cool thing, but making the transition to a band for the first time is a learning experience that you will at some point need to go through. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind as a keyboard or piano player in a band. Not a definitive guide to be sure, but some observations from experience.

Usually it is a good idea to stay away from playing left hand bass lines on keyboard when you are working with a bass player. Sometimes however, it can work depending on the music you are performing. Early rock as well as R&B pieces can work exceptionally well in this regard.

When playing you should be conscious of laying back in the grove in time with the drummer and not “rushing” when in a supporting role. The same does not apply when soloing and an experienced drummer will hold back so as to allow your solo to have appeal. A good band should sense where the soloist is taking them and back them up and while taking the lead is a great way to express yourself, playing a supporting role can be equally as satisfying.

An experienced keyboardist once told me, if you do “rush the beat” in the role as a rhythm pianist, watch out for flying drum sticks!

A few more general observations:

Do not “overplay” when playing with other musicians in a band. You should attempt to inject subtleties into your music and allow the melody to shine through the piece. Fast complicated finger work is OK, but only when in the correct context of what you are playing, otherwise you risk capturing the attention of your audience, leaving them dazed from the onslaught of advanced technique. While it is tempting to show off your technique by playing at a million notes a minute throughout a song, it is a mistake to treat music as a race and you risk leaving your audience emotionally flat and underwhelmed.

Working with a good music teacher will help you adapt to playing in a band, as will spending time with other musicians. If you are a young player and still at school, try and take the opportunity to play in school music performances, Even if you are forced to play the kind of music you don’t like, you will learn a lot from the experience of performing with other musicians and you’ll gradually develop your own musical attitude and style as your experience and level of skill increases.

While technique is extremely helpful in broadening your knowledge of music and offering you more choices of material to play in improvisations, an essential element that cannot be simplified to music notation, chords or scales is “feel” for music. This is commonly referred to as “soul” and can be thought of as an extension of your spirit and emotions within relation to the music. While music rules are important, they should serve only to help you express yourself and in breaking music down into components that you can understand. Your personal perspective and originality is what will make you stand out as a piano player in a band.

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