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

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!

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.

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.

Simply a monster at the keyboards, exists an order before and after Keith Emerson when we talk about the instrument in rock. The only one, Emerson

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.

ELP Welcome back was the first album I bought as a young boy. Nobody understood why. Always stayed a fan since the 1970’s. After 45 years a big fan of Keith Emerson.

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.

What I loved about Jon is he was the main rock keyboard player I loved because he attacked solos like guitar players did in a blues rock pentatonic modes..my main rock keyboard god

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

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

Dude plays 9 keyboards during concerts. Definitely a magician.

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.

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 .

Undoubtedly one of the greatest keyboard players of all time. Comparable to Mozart and Beethoven

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.

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.

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

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

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...

A very tasteful and underrated player - more of an ensemble player than your average Prog keyboardist, some of his work in Genesis (both in the Gabriel and Collins era) is magnificently intelligent and professional.

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

Light My Fire immediately comes to mind when you say Great Keyboard

Jim Morrison got all the credit; he was amazing but ray was the driving force of the doors.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

The Newcomers

? David Stone

The Contenders

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

Underrated pianist. He played by his own rules.

Underrated as a pianist.

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!

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.

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.

David should definitely be a lot higher than #11...he is amazing!

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

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

This guy was Journey’s big gun.

Leon Russell

Leon was the best. He is being underestimated as #16. Definitely should be in top 5 if not #1.

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

Very disappointed. There will never be another Leon.

Should be #1. No question at all.

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

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.

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.

RIP, Nicky. We'll miss your fantastic work you did for the Beatles, the stones, et al

Geddy Lee (Rush) Gary 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.

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.

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

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

A list of rock keyboardists without this man is not complete. He played on many records, toured with many artists as a hired gun. Bobby Kimball from Toto, Andrew Strong, Ian Cussick etc. He had his own rock band Lone Age in the early 90ties and was also the founder of the Brotherhood of Rock&Soul, featuring Kingsize Taylor and Chris Thornton Jr. Also a skilled guitarist.

Definitely top ten!

Dr. John
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

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