Playing in a band is so different than playing in your living room. Follow these rules to fit right in.
May keyboardists will pound away at their left hand, playing lots of chords, octaves, fifths, and tenths. Now these chords and techniques in and of themselves aren’t bad. But when you have a bass player in the mix, it can totally rain on their parade, and it can very quickly muddy things up. You have to remember that many instruments have a large frequency range to them. The piano has the largest. This means that you can play the same notes as a bass, acoustic guitar, and even a vocal. When two instruments are playing the same note, they are competing for whose note will be heard. So when you pound away at your left hand, you can easily drown out the bass player and make the mix very muddy. To keep from doing this, I recommend following these 2 simple rules.
Playing in a band is different than playing in your living room.
The KISS Rule
Stop me if you've heard this one. KISS! This stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid”. You don't have to be running up and down the keys like Liberace. If fact, it's better that you don't. Playing less will help leave some space for others. How much space you ask? That's rule number two.
The 100% Rule
When you are playing by yourself, you have the freedom to play 100% of the rhythms, notes, melodies, and chords. When you add another instrument to the mix… cut it in half! If it’s you and one other instrument, you should play about 50%. Add another and it drops to about 33%. Another… 25%. And so on. Again this is just a rule of thumb. You can cheat it a little here and there, but the point is to simplify!
Try It With These Easy Keyboard Songs
If you put these techniques into practice, your bass player will love you. Your sound engineer will love you. Heck, even your mom might love you a little more. So back it off. If you are having trouble recognizing the right percentages, try scaling back to just your right hand and then start adding one note at a time in the left. It might actually surprise you how little you need. I've suggest a few songs that are a great example of simple playing.