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Anyone doing keyboard-heavy songs with no keys?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by tbirdsp, Mar 8, 2014.

  1. tbirdsp

    tbirdsp Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2012
    Omaha, NE
    I'm in a cover band with a female vocalist. We recently re-formed the band with just one (versatile) guitarist, bass, and drums (+ the singer). Trying to do stuff like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. I have been using a EHX Bass Microsynth to get some synth bass. I just bought a used Alesis Micron synth so I may actually play keyboard bass on some stuff. So far I think we sound pretty good on these songs.

    The singer can play a little keys, but I would hate to have her stuck behind a keyboard - she is a great front person and knows how to work the crowd.

    Anyone have any strategies and/or success stories doing this?
  2. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    In my last band, the rhythm guitarist also played synth guitar, so we could get piano, strings, B3, and horns that actually sound half-way decent.
  3. pklima


    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    I think getting the notes right is a lot more important than having a sound that's synthy, but synthy sounds are great if you can get them too, whether from keys or guitar-driven synth or effects or sequences. There's a lot of automation in tracks these days too, gradually rising filter cutoffs and stuff like that, so that synth tones are not static. You could use an expression pedal for a lot of that.

    These days I have sequences, but just for the hell of it we sometimes run a guitar through trance gates and stuff. I think I should start running the bass through the computer, too, so we can sidechain it to the kick or just fake a sidechain with volume automation.

    This thread sure brings back annoying memories, though, of having to play the accordion part from "Danza Kuduro" or synth melody from "No Limit" or sax loop from "Mr. Saxobeat" on DB because nobody else in the band had learned them yet. The audience didn't seem to mind, but...
    xgator4u likes this.
  4. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    I do. I play bass/MD for some Rap HipHop & R&B in my area..

    Sometimes I use sequence & Sample from my MacBook,
    Speaking Bass,..sometime I use keyboard like you..
    Speaking Bass Guitar,.. I use Octaver and some effect or trigger bass sound from my MacBook (rarely)..

    I always thinking about some Keyboard Pedal controller, (Geddy Lee/Rush way LOL)..but I never have nor try one..

    How about something like Roland AX-Synth Keyboard for her?

    Attached Files:

    natw42 likes this.
  5. Lobomov


    Aug 2, 2013
    She does have to be stuck behind a keyboard. place a small one sideways to her right and let her use it for intros and solos ... she can choose whether to play it facing the audience or just play the intro/whatever and then let go of keyboard and embrace the audience

    Just a thought
  6. pklima


    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    True, and basic two-octave MIDI controllers are tiny. They could even be mounted to the side of a mic stand.
  7. Excellent idea. You could share a keyboard, one at a time.

    Mostly backing tracks for one band I'm in.... 20 of the 24 tunes for a Tribute Show have backing tracks, it really helps us get an authentic sound. Also has extra harmonies & acoustic gtr tracks. People expect a certain sound with tribute shows. Means more $ per player.
  8. Tomorrow


    Jun 7, 2013
    I'm in a cover band that plays mostly hard rock and classic rock, but we do the song "Moving in Stereo" by the Cars with two guitars, bass, and drums - no keys. It's one of those songs that leaves people scratching their heads when we first mention that we're going to play it, but we've gotten good feedback from people once they hear it.
  9. THIS.
    We play songs that are primarily keys, we just play them with guitar and bass.
    It's called "arrangement".
  10. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    I did this once upon a time. Played bass mostly, but would switch to keys when the song demanded and kick bass with my left hand on a small synth I used mostly for that. This was in the days when you had to have at least an organ, a piano, and a string synth to get by.
  11. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    We do the same thing: make sure all the signature parts of the tune are covered.

    An example:
    On Dr. John's Right Place Wrong Time the guitar player starts the intro clavinet part and I cover the horn parts with upper register double stops played like tremolo picking. In the chorus I play the right hand key part (parallel 3rds in the upper register, up and down the scale) while the guitarist chunks the left hand piano part on the downbeats.

    Rearranging like that can work pretty well.
  12. BrentD


    Jun 7, 2008
    Lansing, MI
    fraublugher likes this.
  13. MoeTown1986

    MoeTown1986 Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2010
    SoMD (Mechanicsville)
    I'm in a 4 piece cover band as well. We cover a LOT of new pop music. The guitarist and I both have pretty big pedal boards and can cop most keyboard parts in some way shape or form and it usually sounds pretty decent.
  14. Kragnorak


    Sep 20, 2008
    I'm in one band that does hard classic rock to metal, and the guitarist hates keys. So in that band I'll cover certain tones with the MarkBass synth pedal or something, or for example when we do "Comfortably Numb" and we're essentially just a trio during the guitar solos I augment the bass parts with chord and lines borrowed from the synth parts.

    But my preference is to just play bass with one hand and keys with the other - I'd need a different band to do that in though.
  15. marmadaddy


    Oct 17, 2005
    Rochester, NY
    I've had good luck using a Digitech Bass Synth Wah.
  16. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    I'm forced to play Don't Stop Believing without keys all the time. Guitar plays the right hand and bass plays the left hand. I think it sounds like crap, but nobody seems to care.

    Sent from my iPad using TalkBass
  17. As long as you arrange it, and execute it well, nobody will.
  18. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    It's executed fine, there are just a lot of holes. Like when the guitar switches to the diddly diddly part before the second verse, suddenly it's just bass for a minute. Doesn't really matter I guess, people just want to sing along with the bit at the end anyway.
  19. tbirdsp

    tbirdsp Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2012
    Omaha, NE
    Update on my 5-month old thread:D Band is going fine. We almost added a keyboard player, but decided against it. As xgator4u says - it's all in the arrangement. We are going to attempt "Problem" by Ariana Grande pretty soon. Guitar playing the sax line, me just hitting a G# with the kick drum on the boom boom parts.
    Our singer does play the piano on "Don't Stop Believin" - she does it well enough to get by.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2014
    pklima likes this.
  20. pklima


    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Hell, if you have a singer who can hit Ariana's notes in the original key and do Iggy's verse, you HAVE TO find a way to make the instruments work. It'll be worth it.
    tbirdsp likes this.