Greatest Keyboard Players of All-Time
The Top Ten
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.
Completely self-taught which is extremely admirable, especially in this day and age of everything being "done for you", Nick continues to create new and unusual sounds while still keeping the original Duran Duran undertones that we all recognize and love so much. As such a creative artist in many forms, Nick Rhodes is delighting old fans while engaging new, younger fans with his continued eclectic sounds. Nick is truly the epitome of class, style, talent, and sound!
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
Just listen to the the end of "Fugue" in the middle of "The Endless Enigma". Incredible piano piece followed with a wonderful synth flurry. Should always be number 1.
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 Wakeman cut his teeth with David Bowie (mellotron on Space Oddity and piano on Changes), Cat Stevens (piano on Morning Has Broken), T Rex (piano on Bang A Gong) and as a member of Strawbs before gaining prominence in late 1971 as keyboardist of Yes. With his work on Roundabout, South Side Of The Sky, Heart Of The Sunrise and his solo Cans And Brahms, Rick took Yes to another level (all on Fragile). He would continue to take Yes further with his work on Close To The Edge, Awaken, The Remembering and other songs. Though Yes has had keyboardists come and go, Rick Wakeman stands out the most.
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."
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...
I don't even need to do any research to know he's the best. I could be deaf and I'd still know.
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
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.
A kingpin of an underrrated band. With Lattimer, he devised and drove English Prog.
Journey is one of my favorite bands. I think Jonathan was a fantastic choice for a keyboard player. Wherever he goes, he'll be amazing
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.
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?
I am 12 years old and no one comes close to him. When I went to a Journey Concert, I realized that he is simply the greatest.
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.
Tuomas is an absolutely incredible man. Not only is he a phenomenal composer who can create magical moments and stir emotions effortlessly with his fantastic melodies, bombastic symphonic rock tracks and rhythmic solos, his mastery of the keyboard is something to behold. Every album, every song, every moment by this man is beyond words. I see no reason why his name cannot be placed in the same breath as Hans Zimmer.
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!
Not AT ALL a keyboard fan but Jon Lord's style truly enhanced DP's songs. As a classic metal guitar player I always felt that keyboards tended to slow the tempo, muddied the phrasing and the poor slob trying to express his/her stage presence standing behind a keyboard can't be anything but pathetic (see Dio Holy Diver Live version of Rainbow in the Dark). This narrative does NOT apply to John Lord. Jon ROCKED IT.
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.
Inspired by the likes of Rachmaninoff and hailed as the 'chord master' by fellow Genesis member Steve Hackett, he has a personal style and some of his traits are now quite popular, such as adding the 4th on a triad on the 3rd inversion. Has always done all the keyboard programming himself and has always had a distinctive sound as well as style which singles him out as an outstanding individual. Quite sensitive to the needs of each piece of music, the overall soundscape has been top priority and virtuosity has been just one of many devices as well as his unique method of using the cross-hand technique. Yes, other can play 'faster' but Tony's passion for his music supersedes technique for the sake of showing off technique. The music's all that matters for Tony so all in all he stands at number 1 in my chart, and always will.
Most excellently stated! As you said, he probably isn't the "fastest" keyboard player but far exceeds that in quality and composition.. Sometimes listening to older Genesis in the car and/or over headphones, his keyboard playing is almost mesmerizing and you totally "get into" the composition or story line of the song. I've seen him playing three keyboards at once along with the piano in some of their mid 70's music. I just stood there shaking my head in disbelief. Yes, one maybe two of the keyboards were in sequence while he was actually playing the other one or two along with the melody on the piano, but managing all this in his head as the song went along, is mind blowing! Although to him, probably just second nature from doing it so long. My vote will ALWAYS be for Sir Anthony as #1 in keyboards in the world! Would be nice to shake his hand someday.. !
Note for anyone who wants to write a comment: If you have nothing nice to say about Yoshiki, just leave this side. If you just want to tell everyone how low talented he actually is, please go back to wherever you came from. Thank you. - Yuumiko
Whose Yoshiki Hayashi? Whose X Japan? Never heard of these guys and they get up there on the Top Tens? Now this is a perfect time to use the word "overrated," even when they suck so much but people kept believin' they're so cool
Simply the best pianist, songwriter, drummer and sexiest man on the planet
The greatest pianist, drummer, composer all time. His creations range from classic, orchestral pieces to heavy metal song.
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
David Gilmour has long said it, there would be no Pink Floyd without Rick's sounds and influence. Innovative genius whose melodies are at the very heart of some of the best albums in history.
He should be no. 1. Van Halen 4 Life baby!
What? He’s a fantastic guitar player but not so much keyboard.
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!
They had no bass player. He was the bassist with his left hand while ripping chords and solos with his right. He Keith Emerson and Jon Lord are the three best keyboardist EVER! Would have given anything to see all three of them on stage at the same time. RIP to the great ones!
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.
Freddie should be higher on this list! Take me to The Seven Seas of Rhye!
His record speaks for itself. Listen to Asia!
My favorite Yes keyboardist!
His New Dance Orchestra album from 1986 is a tour de force.
Higly underrated guy, also a excellent singer/songwriter. I am following his career since 1982 and I am always astounished to see his next project which is mostly very different from the previous one. Hardrock, Jazz, Ambient, Pop, Blues, Soul, you name it, he is always spot on.
I really like his solo piano improvisations CD. Very, very subtle and technically outstanding. Not sure it is available in the U.S. it has a Japanese cover. Got it out of Germany.
Nick is a very talented musician, and above that, he is a very nice person, and fun to work with. I suggest to anyone who needs a great musician who will work well with the whole band, choose Nick... (Bobby Kimball)
As a kid he was an amazing musician. He is unmistakable one of the very best. And much more he is still improving as a real musician never stops learning
Keyboard player from German band Triumvirate. If he was born in England instead of Germany, he'd be on everyone's top 10 list.
Incredible players, with an unique flare and ability to gracefully dance whis fingers around his gear, Fritz has been quite often critiziced for his love for Keith Emerson. Regardless, there are also differences, emotions that only belong to him. From a purely technical aspect, Jürgen always used string emsembles and Mellotrons as part of his rig, instruments which Keith never embraced. Jewels like Spartacus and Pompeii are a must.
Top 2...Billy and Rick Wakeman. Different styles so I'd call it a tie but if I had to pick, it's Billy. Once you see him in concert and experience the range, clarity and accuracy you'll never be the same and you'll never miss any of his shows. He embodies and is The Piano Man.
But he's not a keyboardist, he's the piano man
? should be top 5
How is Billy Joel not top 5?
Come on this is crazy
To many hits to list jon cain #2 give me a break
Strangest key board list of all time
He's actually not that bad on keyboards sometimes
Come on! Why is Geddy missing on this list?
Hey he also plays bass!
He can have more vote!
People have mentioned Yes, Refugee and solo but what about the Moody Blues? You can't forget his keyboard playing in that iconic band. He was also in a band called Mainhorse. He only played on one Yes album but what an album it was. I also recommend people checking out his collaborative album with Bill Bruford called "music for piano and drums" as well as "long distance voyager" by the Moody Blues.
Look at his work in YES. In my opinion he's Definitely top Ten
Quirky moody awesomeness
Moraz is best known for his work with Yes, but in Refugee, with Lee Jackson and Brian Davison of the Nice, he was incredible.
Greatest pianist of all time. How could there be another choice...
Chris Martin is a master at keyboards and makes beutiful music with them
He is a bassist, organ player, pianist, mandolin player, and sometimes he even plays a guitar, but has a huge amount of skill on keyboard
His is a very talented musician and deserves to be higher on this list.
A top ten keyboardist for a top two band. Very underrated.
He can really play the organ in Since I Been Loving You
I would love to simply speak of his genius in three words, but recognize that there's so much more. Those three words, "Upstairs At Eric's." (Drops mic.)
Vince Clarke has created the soundtrack to my life for near 40 years. He has been innovative and original through it all. The album Chorus may be the best synth music ever.
Techno pop genius!
Damn how do I take my vote back and vote for Vince?
Fooling Yourself solo
Grand Illusion pomp
Should be in the top 10, along with Geddy Lee.
Is there any doubt
My vote is my voice.
Highly creative player who could both do elaborate and complex solos that are truyly amazing and relatively simple ones that just make me happy and stick in my head.
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!
Other may have amazed us with their performances, but Kerry Minnear amazed me with his MUSIC. More contrapuntal, more harmonically complex, more rhythmically textured, more modern, more innovative, and more FUNKY than any other progrock keyboardist of his time. My personal favorite.