Greatest Keyboard Player Of All-Time

The Top TenXW

1Nick Rhodes

Worked and scraped together enough money to buy his first Wasp when he was just a teenager, formed the band Duran Duran at 16 and is the only member that has remained since.

Completely self-taught himself keyboards and still making good relevant music - recent 2015 Paper Gods album hit the top 10 in charts- for almost 40 years through the eras of analog and digital keyboards, and still able to effortlessly work with both formats. Actively touring to this day.

Aside from keyboards, he's also a music producer, photographer and the creative behind many side projects from music to art & culture. Stylish and well dressed always -- a metrosexual gentleman to top it off!

An innovator, Rhodes creates structures, sounds and melodies that sometimes initiates and otherwise augments the work of the other band members. His ideas at the formation of Duran Duran to fuse the keyboards over the bass funk and guitar driven melodies gave the band a unique sound that still continues to develop fresh ideas 35 years later. Planet Earth, The Chauffeur, The Man Who Stole A Leopard, Paper Gods, are all incredible.

No one layers soundscapes like Nick, his sounds are original and different from what you have ever heard before. He mixes his keyboards very well with guitars as well, which isn't easy. It is also one of the reasons why you can't really put Duran Duran into one category. Their sound is a bit of everything and a lot of nothing you have ever heard before. It is why I consider them to be not only my favourite band but the most under appreciated band by the music press. OK, so they were good looking and knew how to package that with the music, but that doesn't mean that they didn't have substance or talent.

The fact that he is self-taught makes him an incredible player and obvious #1 choice, without disrespecting anyone else.

Is there any doubt?

V494 Comments
2Keith EmersonKeith Noel Emerson was an English keyboardist and composer. Emerson played in a number of bands before he found his first commercial success with the Nice.

I have been a professional musician (keyboard session/studio) and no one comes close to Keith. I see comments about other players like he can play two keyboards at one time... My dog can play two keyboards at one time. Wakeman's left hand is no where near the dexterity or speed of Keith's in the day. Keith played contrapuntal leads, when no one else did and most couldn't. So let's start the list over with Keith at number's one and two. One for his right hand and two for his left, and then let's proceed.

I have seen all the great Rock keyboardist and literally there is Keith Emerson and all the rest. The greatest technical player, Hell he plays complex Bach pieces with a 200lb organ on top of him upside down! REALlY!

His piano playing is extraordinary, but his mastery of the Hammond Organ is absolute Genius. Not mention he innovation with synthesizers.

I'm a professional keyboardist and in my opinion there is no better keyboard player on the planet and Keith Emerson as a composer and as a performer I studied his music since I was 13 years old and I still plays music of 57 his influential all over the world and has touched people of all cultures across the planet he was retired from keyboard magazine because he was number one and no one else had a chance to say that anyone beat ski when he was in his prime is a huge mistake he will continue to influence the world and it's keyboard players to His Brilliant music please don't waste our time with anyone else and give him his Just Desserts just playing it was the best keyboard player I have ever seen in my life the best writer and the best performer he was a true proof of the keyboards and a brilliant human being

Keith Emerson God Rest his soul was the greatest keyboard player ever to walk the planet. Dominick lento Philadelphia PA

V149 Comments
3Rick Wakeman

Not only was Rick a pioneer in keyboard playing - he's still got incredible talent and can deliver top-quality music live. The same cannot be said for Keith Emerson who, while once an awesome exponent, is not longer able to match his earlier capabilities. I know this is largely due to a physical condition with nerve damage to his hand, but we have to rely on his past performances. Rick is still up there - brilliant after such a long career.

While Rick & Keith are of similar talent, Rick's catalogue of compositions seems a little deeper. Physical dexterity & speed are difficult to argue now... Both have paid a heavy price from years of playing... Keith had to have an operation on pinched nerves in his right elbow... No info getting from his brain to his 4th & 5th fingers... Not much improvement after... In performance I still see those two fingers curled under most of the time. All of us have our bodies betray us eventually. It's like fighting over Mozart vs Beethoven.

Rick is loaded with talent, and is by far the greatest keyboard player to ever live. Sorry Keith Emerson, but once gaining a bunch of attention by acting like a wild nut on stage does not compare to the true talent, and pure musicianship owned by none other than the keyboard wizard... The caped one... Mr. Rick Wakeman. Rick's compositions are very inspiring and still very popular today. Rick continues to perform at his high standard, and owns the title "Best Keyboard Player to Live."

Myths and Legends Surrounding King Arthur and The Knights of The Round Table is the finest keyboard album EVER!

V67 Comments
4Tony Banks

He is not only keyboard player. But melody and harmonics maker.
Tony use his hands and keyboard very effectively, he makes very distinctive chords.. I can recognize his keyboard playing even with only one bar...
He is the mastermind in music compositions of Genesis.
I love Tony Banks' tasteful playing and compositions.
He is considered as the best keyboardist.. although he never expose himself too much.

There are probably more talented keyboardists when it comes to technique, but Tony Banks is the best composer I've heard. He just has a wonderful knack for song writing. He has stated that he prefers composition to actually playing. He wrote so many beautiful melodies with Genesis. So many incredible solos as well. The into to "Firth of Fifth" might be my favorite song intro of all time. Close behind that would be "Watcher of the Skies." I mean, there's no limit to his excellence.

The keyboard player who isn't just about playing fast. He is a master of melodies, and he also uses a lot of interesting chords. My vote definitely goes to Tony Banks. He defined the sound of early Genesis.

No other like him

V50 Comments
5Tuomas Holopainen

He made me love metal and opera. He taught me through music. He gave me hope in hard times by composing such incredible songs. I admire his talent and I hope he is going to give more and more beautiful songs to the world because we need them more than ever.

Without a doubts the greatest of all time, his talent is beyond measure because he is not only the greatest keyboard player in the word, his lyrics, the music he is able to create in his mind, and his endless imagination make them the most complete musician of our times.

Incredible composer. His talent to create amazing melodies, come up with catchy riffs and build one spectacular album after another - is a constant mystery to me. I just can't understand how it is even possible, but that just increases my admiration.

His music send me in a world of fantasies, a great never-ending stories full of beauty and pure power. Absolutely genius

V122 Comments
6Peter Bardens

Peter gave wonderful pathway for camel, he know how to use the keyboard for melodic construction of prog-rock.

Highly underrated. His work with Camel is brilliant.

In my opinion composer and an aranger of the best solos and hords in progressive rock history.

7Jordan RudessJordan Rudess is an American keyboardist and composer best known as a member of the progressive metal/rock band Dream Theater and the progressive rock supergroup Liquid Tension Experiment.

the people who didn't vote for him (or other great keyboardist), voted for a stupid the keyboardist from an stupid band like X Japan; one of the most overrated bands in TheTopTens....

by the way, ALL the members in DREAM THEATER are great: James LaBrie has a really awesome voice, John Petrucci is a real shredder who always gives a great feeling to his solos, John Myung has a great power for the bass, Mike Portnoy is one of the greatest drummers ever (to bad he left the band) and JORDAN RUDESS has made great keyboard performances... - rock2metal

Let's be honest here. Technical skill is something that almost EVERY keyboardist on this list possesses. However, what sets Jordan Rudess apart for me is just the true RANGE of things he does with this technique.

From orchestral to ambient, from classical to the prog metal that most know him for, this guy tries to do everything, and almost always succeeds.

Heck, he even goes as far to design new software to bring even further innovation to the keyboard scene.

It's this kind of dedication that truly marks a legend in music.

truly a Versatile Keyboard player, graduated from juilliard, he is in my opinion one of the best keyboard players, he has so much technique and so much versatility in his playing, he can literally play just about everything ranging from cartoon music to the most complex compositions, not to mention his innovative mind including his new iphone app "morphwiz"
and the use of new tools all the time

Hands down the best! Most people on this list can't play one of his solos. Jordan is brilliant!

V53 Comments
8Chick Corea

This guy can really play compose and piano and keyboards in classical, jazz and fusion styles. Truly incredibly talented!

Chick has forgotten more about playing the keyboard than anyone else on this list will ever know.

Had the privilege of seeing him play in person with Return to Forever in 2007. absolutely wonderful.

Absolutely leaves everyone currently in the top 10 list far behind

V4 Comments
9Yoshiki Hayashi

The greatest pianist, drummer, composer all time. His creations range from classic, orchestral pieces to heavy metal song. - kurotenshi

Too bad can't vote twice. Nick Rhodes wins over Yoshiki. Sorry.

Simply the best pianist, songwriter, drummer and sexiest man on the planet

Just love him. That's all.

V12 Comments
10Jon LordJohn Douglas "Jon" Lord was an English composer, pianist, and Hammond organ player known for his pioneering work in fusing rock with classical or baroque forms, especially with Deep Purple, as well as Whitesnake, Paice Ashton Lord, The Artwoods, and The Flower Pot Men.

Jon Lord was one of the creators of Hard Rock. All others were either guitarists or singers so that says a lot about his contribution.
He played heavy riffs and classic peaces with equal (some would say unparalleled) virtuosity.
I am a guitarist and Deep Purple is my favorite band, but Ritchie Blackmore is not my favorite member of the band - it's Jon.
I have nothing but respect for each name on this list (especially Wakeman, Wright and Manzarek) but Jon Lord showed that the Hammond organ is a powerful Hard Rock instrument and that keyboard can growl, scream, weep or sing as good as any guitar or vocal.

Jordan Rudess is good, but he can't hold his own against Jon Lord's genius. Also, Yoshiki Hayashi? Really? X Japan is a pretty good band and I like them, but Yoshiki ain't no Ray Manzarek or Jon Lord.

Deep Purple will greatly miss him, as his keyboard parts were an integral part of the classic sound. The riffs sounded better thanks to him.

The greatest keyboard/organ player of all time!

Deep Purple and Jon Lord forever!

To understand how good Jon Lord was, go see Deep Purple in Concert and watch his replacement. A fantastic keyboard player but not Jon Lord. That says it all. Unique and impossible to copy.

V23 Comments

The Newcomers

?Craig Jones

The Contenders

11Ray Manzarek

Ray is the most underrated member of the doors considering he probably the most work (organ, bass, backing vocals). I love his classical Bach-Influenced organ solos and rhodes-basslines that no ordinary bassist could have a hope of playing! And I envy his sideburns!

He is amazing. The fact that he was able to come up with the riff from Light My Fire by just screwing around on the organ for a while is truly incredible.

I've always held that the Doors was more Ray's band than Jim's, an opinion which has put me in disfavor with some purists. I saw them once as a trio after Morrison had passed and I was astounded at the quality of the music.

Light My Fire. Period.

V20 Comments
12Kerry Minnear

While he may not play as fast as Wakeman or Emerson, Kerry Minnear played with such finesse, while composing so much intricate music for the band Gentle Giant. Even though he played other instruments - in the studio but especially on stage - he stands above enough of his contemporaries to be considered a top ten keyboardist.

Kerry is fantastic at composing complex contrapuntal pieces and when he plays it looks like his fingers hardly move. And I have seen it up close. My favorite of all time!

Unbelievable playing. Incredible fluidity and inventiveness. Not only that Cello, vibraphone, xylophone if I'm not mistaken.

Kerry Minnear. One word: genius.

V7 Comments
13Richard WrightRichard William "Rick" Wright was an English musician, composer, singer and songwriter. He was the main keyboarder for the psychedelic and progressive English band, Pink Floyd.

Definitely should be number one. He mastered keyboards with samplers in the Floyd's early days, (Piper at the gates of dawn, Meddle, etc.. Etc.. ) and then explored new territory with the Synthi A on what are considered their masterpieces:"The Dark Side of the Moon", "Wish you were Here", and "Animals". On top of that he had his own successful solo career. I am saying this not just as a Pink Floyd fan, but as a keyboard player myself, with many other influences, (Billy Preston, Miles Davis, Brian Wilson). As was mentioned in other comments, his modesty is the other half, of what makes him a legend.
P.S. this seems a bit too much, but I'm just a really big fan.

Syd Barret invented Pink Floyd, whereas Rich Wright was the essence, the atmosphere, the aura, the soul. You can realize that on all Floyd's masterpieces, after Barret, the structure of the music is from him. Echoes, A Saucerful of Secrets, Summer' 68, Us and Them, Welcome to the Machine, The Great Gig in the Sky... Top 3 for sure.

Pink Floyd has the best use of keyboards I have ever heard and Richard's talent shows it's on all their albums and best songs such as 'Wish You Were Here', 'Pigs', and 'The Great Gig in the Sky'. Richard was the genius behind many of their songs and has always been the underrated one of the group. It's time to give him the respect he deserves for mastering that beautiful instrument

He must be into the top ten as Roger Hodgson, Elton John, Mark Kelly or Joe Jackson. Your list is ridiculous.

V28 Comments
14Jurgen Fritz

Keyboard player from German band Triumvirate. If he was born in England instead of Germany, he'd be on everyone's top 10 list.

15Jonathan Cain

He wrote the parts for When You Love A Woman, Don't Stop Believin, Open Arms, and Who's Crying now. What more do you need?

Best keyboard player I know of. His rhythm playing is great and nowadays how he plays the melodies to older songs the won't play anymore in his solos.

V3 Comments
16Patrick Morez

Look at his work in YES. In my opinion he's Definitely top Ten

MORAZ definitely belongs in the top ten. One of the greatest innovators in music.

MORAZ is the spelling and he was fantastic filling in for Wakeman.

Quirky moody awesomeness

V4 Comments
17Alan Wilder

He has always shown that feeling of knowing what sound to play exactly when. An absolute master in the art of constructing an harmonious ensemble. His tireless work with Depeche Mode is evidence of that. Depeche Mode was clearly something else with him onboard.

Classically trained, experimental composer, sampling master. Be Piano, Synthesizers or Keyboards, Alan Wilder is tops in my list. Throughout the years he has set the bar, for whom still today, Alan Wilder and Depeche Mode too, has been an influence to a vast majority of successful groups and musicians.

Alan Wilder is more than a keyboard player, he's a musical genius, producer, drummer, architect of sound and mastermind behind any project on his command (Depeche Mode, Recoil).

Depeche Mode were at their greatest with Alan

V78 Comments
18Richard Barbieri

Tin Drum was the real starting point for Richard. Since then, he has honed his craft to the point where, listening to the pieces he created on his 2 solo album (Things Buried and Stranger Inside) leaves me in absolute awe of his skills. I was lucky enough to see him perform earlier this year, and watching how he builds the layers of sound, until they create the most sublime pieces of music, was utterly awe-inspiring.

A truly unique innovative musician. The bedrock with which Japan (the band) lay upon. Underneath the traditional sounds of Guitar, Bass, Drums and Vocals, Mr Barbieri would lay his highly original keyboard sounds. His collaborative works after Japan show a versatility that more well known keyboard players would die for. A true original. Craig. Manchester

It didn't surprise me when Mr. Rich (a very nice guy, by the way) was asked by Steven Wilson to join Porcupine Tree. It fitted like a glove, although the musical output of PT was very different from Japan's. He is so much skilled, but this is true with many other keyboard players; it's his inventive, his creativity, that makes the difference. What impressed me was to find out, reading Japan's biography "A foreign place", that he barely knew how to play when he joined the band. In a couple of years, I repeat IN A COUPLE OF YEARS, he was making the best sounds in the world with "Britain's cleverest group". Nearly 40 years have passed, but he's still doing it. (Stefano, Mantua)

To live is to dream is to play... Richard sculpts aural landscapes with gorgeously textured tonal sublimity and engages the listeners with authority that transcends disobedience yet transports one to other dimensions of musical appreciation...

V77 Comments
19Geoff Downes

His record speaks for itself. Listen to Asia!

V3 Comments
20Tom Coster
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List StatsUpdated 1 Jul 2016

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177 listings
7 years, 333 days old

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1. Keith Emerson
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1. Keith Emerson
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