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)

A true gent & absolute demon on the keyboards. Who else can play fast paced, intricate keyboard parts whilst knocking back a pint? Dave Greenfield. That's who.

I was Gripped as soon as I heard the melody & it really was music to my ears

Best band and keyboard player on the planet by a mile!

Utter genius and incredibly approachable fella to boot.

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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.

He's so good it almost scares me. - JoLeKosovo

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 best!

Out of the world as a keyboardist

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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.

Amazing musician. Amazing player. And a great human being

THE GREATEST!

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.

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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.

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

Not even any question.

Just listen to Close To The Edge. - MaxPap

The best

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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.

Wright made keyboards a vehicle to show his soul, inventiveness, art and technique all at once. Without him, there's no real Pink Floyd (as THE FINAL CUT, no matter how good, proves). He always has been underrated as a keyboard player but no one else has propelled the instrument to the stratospheric heights in which he excelled. Rick was more virtuoso than he seemed but generally chose to lay the musical carpet for the others to stand over and play. And he was also the better composer of melodies in Pink Floyd, as well as a good lead singer, but his quiet, peaceful and very good nature kept him a step below the fight for leadership between Waters and Gilmour. For me, after the Barrett's era (when Rick was clearly Syd's right.hand man) and with absolute respect for his fellow bandmates, Wright has been the most important member of Pink Floyd.

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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.

As every Dream Theater musician, he has superpowers. Honestly.

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.

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.

Genius

Kind of a snob lol but an awesome keyboardist

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.

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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.

Great man and Keyboard player

He should be in the number one.

Bassist with one hand, soloist with the other. The guy is one of the greatest. Jim Morrison provided the deep aura to amplify the talent that was true to the core from this man. RIP Ray as I am jamming to the Doors playlist as I write this!

Great riffs - Ships

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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. He is best known as the bassist for the English rock band Led Zeppelin. ...read more.

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.

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)

Just listen to no quarter once and you know he's the best, if I didn't know better I'd say he's better on the keyboard than the bass, he's incredible

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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!

Greatest rock keyboardist/pianist EVER.

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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.

Underrated pianist, everybody calls him the greatest singer but he was a very good pianist.

Virtuoso pianist.

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

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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.

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'.

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.

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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.

John Cain is absolutely amazing and underrated

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

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

16 Leon Russell

Really? #17? I'm pretty sure if you surveyed the 16 above him, most would put Leon a lot higher. Just ask Elton!

Should be #1. No question at all.

Very disappointed. There will never be another Leon.

You can't be serious!

17 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

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.

Revolutionary guitarist, pretty good at piano/keyboards and he can also sing pretty good. This dude is amazing

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)

My favorite

All the others are just pretenders.

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.

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20 Jens Johansson (Yngwie, Stratovarius, Dio)

Listen to his solo stuff to get a true taste of this legends talent. Enigma suite is a cool place to start. Blends all sorts of styles like jazz and neoclassical elements. Also played temporarily with sonata arctica and spastik inc. absolute legend in the European melodic metal scene.

This guy is a master and very fast. - Metal_Treasure

21 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.

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

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

Should be top ten

Tom Sawyer. enough said.

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22 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.

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

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.

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.

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!

23 Dr. John
24 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

25 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.

This list is a joke...Steve Winwood's work easily makes him Top Ten if not higher...

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...

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26 Bruce Hornsby

Fantastic composer and singer. Ability to melt the coldest person

27 Gregg Allman Gregg Allman
28 Billy Preston Billy Preston William Everett Preston was an American musician whose work encompassed R&B, rock, soul, funk, and gospel.

Should be higher than 35.

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

29 Thijs Van Leer (Focus)

Mad eccentric genius.

30 Greg Hawkes

Crazy-talented keyboardist for the Cars!

31 Dennis DeYoung (Styx)

Amazing voice and great at keyboards. - MaxPap

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.

Top 10 for sure

#1 in my book!

32 Al Kooper (Blood Sweat & Tears)
33 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!

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

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

Toto hold the line

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34 Nick Oosterhuis Nick Oosterhuis

This cat is absolutely underrated, played on so many records, toured half the world, and is a excellent guitarist and singer as well.

A killer rock keyboardist, although virtuous in many styles

Love his music!

I love his music he is so intelligent!

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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.

Great musician and songwriter

He should be at least in the top twenty.

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 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!

The best ever. And that custom Hammond with no black keys! Wow!

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

From Estranged to November Rain, Dizzy has always laid out and performed the pieces perfectly. Also he's the only member other than Axl to last past the Spaghetti Incident days

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

44 Richard Tandy (Electric Light Orchestra)

It's not always about complicated keyboard lines, it's about you to sit within the song and compliment it. Tandy does just that. Completely underrated

45 Ian McLagan (Faces)

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

46 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

47 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.

48 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

Fantastic pianist and guitarist. His skill set is extraordinary and he deserves to me much higher on the list.

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49 Brian Eno (Roxy Music, David Bowie, Talking Heads)

One of the most innovative and influential musicians in Rock since the 70s. He invented a way to use the synthesizer in rock music, and has been involved in creating the sound of so may experimenting bands through the 70s and 80s and so on.
Including Roxy Music (start of his career as keyboardist, he left), The Velvet Underground, Talking Heads, David Bowie (making the sound for the Berlin-trilogy and others) and many more. He also made lots of great experimental soloalbums.

50 Chuck Leavell

The best!

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List Stats

4,000 votes
102 listings
8 years, 58 days old

Top Remixes (15)

1. Keith Emerson (ELP)
2. Rick Wakeman (Yes)
3. Tony Banks (Genesis)
williammorrison123
1. Keith Emerson (ELP)
2. Rick Wakeman (Yes)
3. Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater)
Hypernova007
1. Rick Wakeman (Yes)
2. Tony Banks (Genesis)
3. Keith Emerson (ELP)
MaxPap

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