10 Greatest Rock Keyboardists / Pianists

Keyboardists were chosen for their skill, creativity, influence,
impact, musical depth & expression, and lasting popularity in 'Rock' music.

The Top Ten

1 Dave Greenfield (The Stranglers)

Seriously under rated keyboard player. Heavily stylised, very much in the mould of Ray Manzarek. Seriously adept at extended solo runs up and down the keyboard. Take a listen to Down in the Sewer from the first album to get an idea of this man's talent.

I have watched this man perform for forty Years and it has been a total pleasure the whole way. Without a doubt the only keyboard player to come out of the Punk movement with serious credentials and his talent and ability is second to none.

One of the most understated keyboard players of our generation. He is The Stranglers and without his genius they would not have endured the 40 plus years of some of the most iconic sounds that he has delivered from those keyboards. A truly humble gentleman. That' is our Dave Greenfield. Legend!

Awesome keyboardist and truly an inspiration

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2 Keith Emerson (ELP) Keith Emerson (ELP) Keith 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.

HOW IS FREDDIE MERCURY (great singer but not a very good pianist) ABOVE THE KING OF THE KEYBOARD HIMSELF! Seriously just listen to karn evil 9, tarkus, take a pebble, the three fates, the endless enigma & hang on to a dream and you'll see why he's easily the greatest keyboardist of all time. You ask any keyboardist and they will tell you he is easily the greatest keyboardist/pianist of all time. Plus he obviously influenced jordan rudess, if you listen closely there's snatches of tarkus in his playing.

The greatest Rock keyboardist, and with very little competition. "Karn Evil Nine", The Piano Concerto, "Tarkus", "Three Fates", "Take a Pebble", "Fugue", "Blues Variations" (or anything of Pictures at an Exhibition for that matter), the man is a monster.

Of course, there can be no contest here, although I rate Rick (Wakeman) highly. As far as piano goes, you must watch Keith playing 'Piano Improvisations' live! Of course, Tarkus/Aquatarkus on organ are great, but obviously a totally different keyboard technique. How sad this guy died the way he did, but I guess his music and playing was so important to him that when he could no longer physically continue, the way he wanted to. HE chose the only way (for him) out. I have lost probably the greatest inspiration in my life, musically. RIP Keith Emerson.

Simply the greatest. Showed a new way. Brilliant

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3 Jon Lord (Deep Purple) Jon Lord (Deep Purple) Jonathan 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.

It was a rare alignment of the solar system, somehow, Deep Purple had the greatest keyboardist (Jon Lord) the greatest lead guitarist ( Ritchie Blackmore) and one of the greatest lead vocalists ( Ian Gillian) of all time...

Jon could play it all, he matched every guitar solo by blackmore, and that says a lot.

Great hands, Great composer, amazing soloing abilities and most of all, his organ has a distinguished sound that tells him apart from other Keyboardists


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4 Rick Wakeman (Yes) Rick Wakeman (Yes) Richard Christopher "Rick" Wakeman is an English keyboardist, songwriter, television and radio presenter, and author.

He is just a magician with his hands. A virtuose. A great composer too, although here we vote for the better pianist. He, Jon Lord and Ray Manzarek are the best. Although I think of Lord and Manzarek as batter musicians, because their orchestration skills are better, Rick is the top notch pianist of them all. Lord is the maestro, Ray is the pioneer and the dreamer and Rick is the VIRTUOSO

In my opinion, Yes is underrated Progressive Rock Band, and while I think Keith Emerson is the all time greatest keyboard player ever, I need to show the keyboard player from my 5th favorite band ever some love. I mean have you heard the keyboard from the song Roundabout!

This was close between Kieth Emerson and Rick Wakeman for me. But I am listening to Rick's version of Starship Trooper of his Fields of Green. Amazing. Keith's new version of Fanfare for the Common Man of his Three Fates Project is a close second.

It's so hard to pick a single musician on this list, but I really love Rick Wakeman for his versatility and feel. - Gg2000

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5 Richard Wright (Pink Floyd) Richard Wright (Pink Floyd) Richard William "Rick" Wright was an English musician, composer, singer and songwriter. He was the main keyboardist and a backup vocalist for the psychedelic and progressive English rock band, Pink Floyd .

Wright practically invented the combination of sound effects and music into something never since rivaled, great gig in the sky, and various keyboard and effects throughout pipers at the gates of dawn are more than enough to rate him as the single greatest innovator of all time, especially considering his work integrating surround sound at the Games of May

Roger writes great lyrics, Nick is amazing at percussion, David is one of the greatest guitar players of all time, Syd was an amazing innovator, but the true Pink Floyd sound came from this man. Rick Wright wrote amazing melodies and created awesome effects and textures that made Pink Floyd shine above other rock bands. Also he is very underrated as a singer.

Absolutely agree. Glad to see him getting the recognition he deserves. - fractaled45

How can I say.. Richard was that piece of paper that Gilmour, Waters and Mason were performing and writing their notes. HE was creating all the atmosphere behind, that background filled with hidden keyboad notes. Richard was as important as Gilmour and Waters. Plus, he was much more dedicated to the band that them, and never went to court for song rights. Anyway, I think he deserves better ranking. This is unfair.

Check Echoes and you know why he’s top ten

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6 Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) Jordan 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.

Composes classical music, invents/creates both new electronic instruments and software packages... AND plays as well as anyone who has ever stroked the electric keys... Listen to your favorite keyboardist and THEN check out some of the videos online of Jordan playing... And weep... ;0)

Rudess is a monster. He's fast, technical, melodic and will do things with a keyboard that will put a smile on your face. He's crazy, but also a complete genius in this field. Emerson might be your hero, but Rudess will always be the God of Keyboards.

Rudess is a complete genius! No one can even match his technical ability! He is the number 1 for sure!

Just listen to this guy.. how can he not be in the top 5?

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7 Tony Banks (Genesis)

Too many people vote with their hearts and not with their minds. Tony Banks IS the quintessential keyboardist in rock music. Volumes could be written on the man. He has an understanding of music and all its various and sundry components, and translates it in a way that makes ones tears runnel down their cheeks, cascade off their chin, and pool upon the floor. It is a true privilege to watch the Master at his work.

Banks is the #1 keyboardist in the rock era. Wakeman and Emerson are more technically proficient, and achieved many highs but much of their work is too noodly or discordant in the mix. This results in tedious exercises or whacked-out space sounds. Banks (and Genesis) blend a lot better into an overall composition piece. Nothing from ELP or Yes can approximate the beauty and majesty of Cinema Show - when the song takes flight, Banks solo lifts you up to behold a chorus of angels. It gives me goose bumps every time after 40 years. With many more examples of these eargasms - he's the only keyboardist that reaches that emotional and spiritual peak usually reserved for Gospel or spiritual music. Simply listening to Genesis makes a listener more intelligent - for this reason Banks far surpasses the others.

Like Manzarek, Banks was the heartbeat of the band and most of their tunes revolved around his 'odd bits and ends' that he brought to the band when they jammed, creating music. Like Emerson and Wakeman he was a composer, incredibly talented at an early age with classical training and an uncanny ear. Gabriel had a masterpiece of lyrics in the Lamb but Banks wrote most of the music with Rutherford and shone most brightly on 'The Wind and the Wuthering'...give it a listen and know his true brilliance...

Kind of a snob lol but an awesome keyboardist

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8 Ray Manzarek (The Doors) Ray Manzarek (The Doors) Raymond Daniel Manczarek, Jr., better known as Ray Manzarek, was an American musician, singer, producer, film director, and author.

Ray deserves much of the credit for the Door's success. Ray was classically trained and he fused the unique style of the doors. He played bass with keyboard to help keep time with his left hand while he completed the beat with his right hand. Ray is unique and underappreciated among keyboardist's...

Ray should be waay upper. The way he combined the renaissance music with rock to create one of the biggest psychedelic experiences. The Doors were about three things: Astonishing vocals from Morrison, weird Robby Krieger solos, and, most of all, Manzarek's keyboards. A very intelligent musician, you just listen to Break on Through, or Light My Fire, or The End. Also he wrote great compositions.

The music that he created is not only pleasurable but also creates a particular color in our subconscious mind and indescribable combination of feelings of euphoria and melancholy. Manzarek is unsurpassed keyboardist and my great role model.

Played bass with one hand while playing the keyboard part with the other? This man was great with a Capital G and should be in top three without a doubt.

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9 John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) John Baldwin, better known by his stage name John Paul Jones, is an English multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, composer, arranger and record producer.

In the light, your time is gonna come, no quarter and somethin' else (Eddie Cochran cover). These are just a few examples of jonsey's genius.

If anyone's heard live versions of Thank You, this guy would be in the top 5, or at least higher than Freddie Mercury. (Nothing against Freddie, but this guy was better)

John Paul Jones was really cool how he could preform so well, like in Misty Mountain Hop. His playing in that song really gave it something special.

The only guy in the top 10 list for bassists and keyboardists...The silent monster

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10 Elton John Elton John Sir Elton Hercules John CBE is an English singer, pianist, and composer. He has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin as his songwriting partner since 1967; they have collaborated on more than 30 albums to date.

Yep, Elton is STILL STANDING AFTER ALL THIS TIME... in fact it's 50 YEARS & MORE that Elton has been recording & performing! A musical genius!

This list is comical. Freddie mercury above a twentieth ranked elton, who is unmatched on piano in rock history. Who needs rodney dangerfield for laughs when all I need to do is look up one of these ridiculous lists. !

Terrible and delusional list by an obviously unqualified group of fans--not musicians or those with any musical knowledge! Elton is the greatest rock pianist and according to van cliburn( you know,the greatest classical pianist of all time --he won the prestigious Tchaikovsky piano tourney in Moscow in 1957 before an all soviet judging panel) who stated and I quote " that elton john fellow is the finest improvisational player I've ever heard! His mastery of irregular and difficult chords and his alacrity of playing these sets while singing is nothing short of incredible! enough said!

71 and still rocking the world, now on his 3 year tour.

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The Contenders

11 Freddie Mercury (Queen) Freddie Mercury (Queen) Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara, 5th September 1946 - 24th November 1991) was a Zanzibari-born British singer of Indian descent, songwriter and record producer, known as the lead vocalist and songwriter of the British rock band Queen. He also became known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave ...read more.

The piano on "Don't stop me now" bohemian rhapsody and somebody to love, you're sleep he's number one in vocals and top with elton john for piano skill

Underrated pianist. He played by his own rules. - FredRogBriJoQueen

Underrated as a pianist.

Virtuoso pianist.

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12 Garth Hudson (the Band) Garth Hudson (the Band) Eric Garth Hudson is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist. As the organist, keyboardist and saxophonist for Canadian-American rock group the Band, he was a principal architect of the group's unique sound.

Unrivalled for range of styles, check out "Webster Hall," "Chest Fever" (Big Pink, Genetic Method (Rock of Ages), Moon Struck One, The Weight with the Staples, The Shape I'm In (Stagefright), Atlantic City, Free Your Mind, Move to Japan (with the Trews), Like a Rolling Stone (live with Dylan in 1965), Ballad of a Thin Man (from Before the Flood), too many tracks with him accompanying brilliant singers of all kinds to count, orchestration, solo, inventiveness, understatement, beauty and idiosyncracy

Just listen to chest fever. A more epic organ solo has not been done!

13 Patrick Moraz (Refugee, Yes)

A unique style, completely different from Wakeman's, a cleaner player on another note. I love Rick but guys like Moraz or Emerson are much technically profficient. Rick will always throw in a bad note during his keyboard licks. Emerson is near perfection. Same for Moraz. But my truest idol is Tony Banks.

Exceptional contribution in Yes album Relayer and great talent live in the Relayer tour. Made us nearly forget about Rick!

On Relayer he plays phantastic.

14 David Bryan (Bon Jovi) David Bryan (Bon Jovi) David Bryan Rashbaum, best known as just David Bryan, is the keyboard player of the popular American Rock band Bon Jovi, with which he has also co-written songs and performed backing vocals.

Are you kidding me. He plays 5 keyboards at a time and improvises each show! Amazing technique and playing. Plus Memphis is a piece of work. I dare anyone to play that piece as well as him as well some other piano versions of the full rock band songs!

Yep I am big bon jovi fan and David has skills you would never believe he is truly amazing.

What an amazing man. So talented. There really is no competition. Hand him the prize now.

Highly underrated like every other member from Bon Jovi. Watch him play 'Keep the Faith' live and you will realise his talent; literally plays 5 keyboards at a time. He has also played beautiful piano on songs like 'Always' and 'Bed of Roses'. A extremely versatile keyboardist whose musicianship ranges from being supporting instrumentalist in songs like 'Livin' on a prayer' and 'Its my life' to being a driving force on songs like 'Bad Medicine' and 'Runaway'.

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15 Jonathan Cain (The Babys, Journey) Jonathan Cain (The Babys, Journey) Jonathan Cain is an American musician, singer and songwriter best known for his work with The Babys, Journey and Bad English.

You and your wife, Tane were second to none in what you did. Yay, JC! His playing defined arena keyboard rock

He’s top in my book. Most famous opening of most downloaded song

16 Eddie Jobson (UK)

He was an artistic genius with his band Zinc and The Green Album, but he earned his spurs playing for frank Zappa

17 Leon Russell

Very disappointed. There will never be another Leon.

Should be #1. No question at all.

You can't be serious!

18 Eddie Van Halen Eddie Van Halen Edward Lodewijk "Eddie" Van Halen is a Dutch-American musician, songwriter and producer. He is best known as the lead guitarist, occasional keyboardist and co-founder of the hard rock band Van Halen.

Jump, I'll Wait, Dreams, Love Walks In, Why Can't This Be Love, When It's Love, and Right Now all speak for themselves

He makes great melodies on the keyboard and plays guitar too. One of the best, I think.

19 Nicky Hopkins (Rolling Stones)

He played on more really great rocks songs than any other musician, keyboard or otherwise... The greatest keyboardist if just for symphony for the devil and Edward the mad shirt grinder. God bless. (Really...Keith Emerson...how pathetic).

Who else played with the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Who? Also time in Quicksilver Messenger Service and Jerry Garcia Band - Jerry said Nicky was the keyboard player he ever played with.

Geez. He was amazing. He died too young, so I guess that's why more people don't appreciate him.

All the others are just pretenders.

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20 Jens Johansson (Yngwie, Stratovarius, Dio)

This guy is a master and very fast. - Metal_Treasure

21 Steve Winwood (Traffic) Steve Winwood (Traffic) Stephen Lawrence Winwood is an English rock musician whose genres include progressive rock, blue-eyed soul, rhythm and blues, blues rock, pop rock, and jazz.

That Steve Winwood would be this low on a keyboard list is baffling. He invented rock and roll organ with Spencer Davis and he plays untouchable organ work to this day. If you listen to his work on "Blind Man" from the "Last Exit", Traffic album, you gotta think, Winwood was doing Prog keyboards before that genre was truly identified. His piano work is untouchable and he also plays synthesizers. Don't hate him because he is awesome. Just listen.

Steve Winwood owns the Hammond Organ and the piano, you will have a hard time finding someone greater with those instruments. Furthermore, his composition skills are amazing. He has never written a bad melody. He is number one in my book, though Keith Emerson has to be up there as well. Winwood is Top Three minimum.

Should have been rated much higher one of the most talented musician ever Traffic one of the best bands as well as Blind Faith, Spencer Davis...

Damn right he should be in the top three. Winwood may well be the most gifted overall musician on the planet.

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22 Geddy Lee (Rush) Geddy Lee (Rush) Geddy Lee Weinrib, known professionally as Geddy Lee, is a Canadian musician, singer and songwriter best known as the lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist for the Canadian rock group Rush.

Geddy Lee is one of the most disciplined and hardworking rock and rollers of all times.

How can the Keyboard, Bass, Vocalist not be in the top 10. Sad.

Should be top ten

Tom Sawyer. enough said.

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23 Billy Joel Billy Joel William Martin Joel is an American singer-songwriter, composer and pianist. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man", he has been making music since the 1960s, releasing popular albums throughout the '70s, '80s and '90s.

Are you kidding me? Should be in top ten. Axl Rose is a better keyboardist than Billy Joel? Who made this list? Probably a bunch of stoner kids, who never touched an instrument.

How is Billy Joel only at 29? I've only heard of 3 of the people in the top 10, where only one of them is actually a solo artist. Billy Joel has produced more classics than most of the people in the top 10.

I voted for Emerson, but it needs to be said that this guy is a monstrous keyboard. Everybody's aware of his stunning song writing talents, but one listen to his playing on songs like "Prelude/The Angry Young Man", "Root Beer Rag", "The Entertainer", "Travelin' Prayer", "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant", "Stilleto", "Great Suburban Showdown", "Los Angelenos", "James", "New York State of Mind" and... man, the list is endless!

What a strange survey... between Mister Joel and Sir Elton they have written, composed, and performed more top 20 hits then the rest of the top 30 combined

24 Thijs Van Leer (Focus)

Mad eccentric genius.

25 Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers)

Benmont's musical genius is manifest in the countless tracks by what is for certain the most epic collection of musicians that should still be holding down 1-33 on the Billboard!

Sad that Benmont is underrated as The Heartbreakers key man. Heck, he played for Rufus Wainwright

26 Dr. John
27 Bruce Hornsby

Fantastic composer and singer. Ability to melt the coldest person

28 Gregg Allman Gregg Allman
29 Billy Preston Billy Preston

Should be higher than 35.

RIP, Billy; you deserved to be a Fifth Beatle and I loved you 70s solo work

30 Greg Hawkes

Crazy-talented keyboardist for the Cars!

31 Dennis DeYoung (Styx)

Truly one of the most underrated and overlooked keyboardists and singer/songwriters in rock music. Organ solo in "I'm OK", keyboard solo in "Angry Young Man", etc. His keyboard compositions helped define the sound of Styx.

Amazing voice and great at keyboards. - MaxPap

Top 10 for sure

#1 in my book!

32 Al Kooper (Blood Sweat & Tears)
33 Dick Sims

Dick Sims is certainly THE BEST! His playing is styled impeccably and he was a natural from birth. I don't see Dick as number 20 on here! He is the ONLY NUMBER ONE... THE BEST OF THE BEST! Dick could play anything beautifully. I could hang on every chord and float in the clouds listening... Yes it's DICKEY SIMS!

There is no other like Him Dick was the, that's probably why Eric clapton choose Dick to play with Him for ten years!

Dick Sims was the best! Eric Clapton was lucky to have Dick as long as he did... RIP Dick, your well missed on this planet!

He was so good on those bass pedals too. as good as with his hands on keys and together he put it down in the pocket perfect DUDE!

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34 David Paich (Toto)

Great composer! Technically not as good as Jordan Rudess, but his songwriting talent is huge! Listen to the Toto song "Jake To The Bone"... Good stuff!

Those keyboard solos in "Africa" and "Rosanna" never fail to make me smile! Beautifully Jazz inflected and melodic.

Toto hold the line

David Paich was a prolific session musician and he wrote and composed many great songs as a member of TOTO group and also for other artist like Boz Scaggs, Michael Jackson, Cher, Chicago etc... - zee_ma

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35 Tuomas Holopainen (Nightwish) Tuomas Holopainen (Nightwish) Tuomas Lauri Johannes Holopainen (born 25 December 1976) is a Finnish songwriter, multi-instrumentalist musician (but mainly keyboardist) and record producer, best known as the founder, leader, keyboardist and songwriter of symphonic metal band Nightwish. He also studied jazz and classical styles.

He should be at least in the top twenty.

Great musician and songwriter

36 Mic Michaeli (Europe)
37 Mike Pinder (Moody Blues)

His mellotron work was ground breaking and set the prog rock benchmark for others to follow... subtle, ethereal textures...

Best. keyboardist. ever. Nights in White Satin would never have been a thing if it weren't for his mellotron.

38 Don Airey (Deep Purple) Don Airey (Deep Purple) Donald Smith "Don" Airey has been the keyboardist in the rock band Deep Purple since 2002, after the retirement of Jon Lord.

His better than Elton John and many others

39 Peter Bardens (Camel)

So underrated. Prog rock keyboardists all the way. - RalphSaad

what - iyikuzen

40 Doug Johnson (Loverboy)
41 Woolly Wolstenholme (Barclay James Harvest)
42 Dizzy Reed

Dizzy Reed from Guns n' Roses great keyboard player. November Rain, Estranged, Don't Cry, Knockin on Heavens Door...

43 Ian McLagan (Faces)

With the Small Faces, the Faces, the Rolling Stones, he was always great or super

44 Steve Porcaro (Toto)

Most prolific and worked on so many records that proof that he was very demanding.

Toto sure wasn't the same when Steve left--he was a hyperpowered master on the keys alongside Dave Paich

45 Janne Johannes Puurtinen (HIM)

Never saw anybody playing so cool but still letting so many emotions tae part.

There's just one word about janne jonannes puurtinen- EPIC.

46 Matt Bellamy (Muse)

That man is a genius. let the breathtaking vocals, the songwriting skills etc aside. he is a true artist. he composes music and the piano is just extraordinary. the way he manages to combine the soft sound of the instrument with the unique and intense songs of the band is so brilliant. just listen to all his live performances (like sunburn live at glastonbury) or his symphonies (like exogenesis symphony) and you'll feel me!

Extraordinary pianist and it shows in many of their songs (if you don't know what I'm talking about listen to Piano thing or Butterflies and Hurricanes. ) He was also aiming to be a concert pianist before muse formed.

This man's fingers dance across the keys and produce magical sounds. Listen to Butterflies and Hurricanes to know what I'm talking about

Amazing pianist and guitarist. Nobody else has ever integrated classical piano with hard rock the way Matt has. He’s one of the most super talented musicians of our time and he gives me hope that truly great music is still alive and well in the 21st century.

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47 Ian McDonald (King Crimson, Foreigner)
48 Gregg Rolie (Santana, Journey) Gregg Rolie (Santana, Journey) Gregg Alan Rolie is an American singer, keyboardist and organist. Rolie served as lead singer of the bands Santana, Journey and Abraxas Pool – all of which he co-founded.

Hey, without Greg there wouldn't have been a Santana band that rocked to fame!

Should be at the top 12 minimum

Great organ player.should be in. Top 10. Also dam good singer.

49 Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park) Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park) Michael Kenji "Mike" Shinoda is an American musician, rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, graphic designer, manager and film composer.

In the end, numb and what I've done are just a few examples of his prowess

Numb, In The End, My December, From The Inside, Iridescent...
Enough said =)
Best Pianist and Rapper.
Linkin Park Rocks!

50 Chuck Leavell

The best!

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Best Psychedelic Rock Keyboardists Best Progressive Rock Keyboardists Best Rock n Roll Pianists Best Metal Keyboardists Best Pianists of All Time

List Stats

3,000 votes
98 listings
7 years, 180 days old

Top Remixes (17)

1. Keith Emerson (ELP)
2. Rick Wakeman (Yes)
3. Tony Banks (Genesis)
1. Jon Lord (Deep Purple)
2. Richard Wright (Pink Floyd)
3. Dizzy Reed
1. Eddie Van Halen
2. Jonathan Cain (The Babys, Journey)
3. Dennis DeYoung (Styx)

View All 17

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