Top 10 Greatest Rock Keyboardists and Pianists

Keyboardists were chosen for their skill, creativity, influence,
impact, musical depth & expression, and lasting popularity in 'Rock' music.
The Top Ten
1 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.

With all due respect, this list is a joke. For instance, Ray Manzarek. As much as I loved him, he was highly simplistic in his playing, and stuck there. He was innovative, and there would hardly be any Doors without him. But anyone with any real musical knowledge knows that Ray was no technician, or even a highly skilled player. Nor did he pretend to be.

Keith Emerson, on the other hand, blew them all away, and more. No one in Rock comes close. He's even turned some heads in the Jazz scene, which is saying a lot because Jazz musician too often carry airs of superiority and have little or no respect for Rock musicians. Keith was also the foremost composer and arranger in Classical-Rock. Even a #1 position for Keith, on lists such as this this, is an understatement.

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.

Of course it's Keith Emerson - no question. He was a Moog pioneer and was the person in rock that brought keyboards to the front as a lead instrument. ELP was the only band that could rock without a guitar! Since ELP was only 3 guys - there was no one else to play the lead parts but Keith...He never got a rest or relief from the guitar player! And, during the occasional guitar solo by Lake - there was Keith - taking over the bass parts on the Moog. Now - as this list stands on 7/12/15, Keith is number one - as he should be... However after that, I don't really agree with this order. I would put Rick Wakeman next as he's right up there with Keith, as a legend. I'd go with Lord at #3, Jobson #4, Rudess #5, Moraz #6, Argent #7, Banks, Manzarek and throw in Jürgen Fritz... To round out the top ten. Freddie Mercury is a rock KEYBOARDIST? Who put that here and how in God's name is he above Eddie Jobson and Patrick Moraz? Some people just don't get it! Just my 2 cents!

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.

2 Dave Greenfield (The Stranglers)

Dave Greenfield to me epitomises & dictates the Stranglers sound, as much as JJ's grinding bass sound or Hugh's choppy psychedelic sound.
In my humble opinion, he is one the most underrated, forgotten legends of the keyboard, a national treasure, a psychedelic wizard, thoroughly decent approachable musician!
From soaring Doorsesque riffs, Europop, stark industrial sounds, to Sci-Fi dystopian menace, classical & to a little number with odd time signatures played on a harpsichord!
This man can & has done it all, with such surgical precision, with speed, panache & a pint in hand.
Man's a bloody legend!

Dave Greenfield, had he been in any other successful/legendary Band, would be celebrated and revered.
Because he is in the Stranglers, who have always stuck up Thierry mega talented middle finger to conformity and the fickle music press, he has been cast aside like a fly around a Turd.
The fact is, Dave is one of the most creative, brilliant musicians of our time, and for those of you who think The Stranglers ended when Club Singer Hugh Cornwall left, should listen to Norfolk Coast, and Suite 16 Albums. Relentless from Suite 16 is a classic, and Daves Keyboards put Rick Wakeman in the shade Man!
Good luck Dave! You deserve recognition, and so do the Band. That's why I created The Stranglers for lifetime avievementvaward on Facebook, and 5000 members agree!
Andy Wade. Fan.

Dave may not be a household name like some on this list but he's definitely more adept. He's the backbone of The Stranglers. Not only does he play wonderful keyboard architecture, he's written and sung their songs, which he's rarely known for (only to the diehard fans). He's such a master in his field - a geek in IT speak - some say he's not of this world... GENIUS.

I think Dave was self taught which makes his way of playing unique... nobody sounds like him.. he created his style... from Golden Brown to Rat's Rally to the greatest ever cover walk on by where he duals with the bass and drums and comes out top... He can do the prog rock sound, just listen to Rusty Butler... however his Hammond has bigger valves..

3 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.

Too damned often people overlooked Deep Purple because of the constant turmoil that surrounded the band.
Case in point the Rock and Roll Hall of fame had to postumously allow one of the greatest keyboardists in their ridiculous club. Allowing trash bands like the beastie boys, nirvana, guns&roses, sex pistols in ahead of so many worthy artists is a damned shame.

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...

This man said that the most important criteria that makes an individual a great keyboard player is the ability to improvise. He was a great improviser himself and the music he (co) wrote prove him right.

Maybe not the first to plug a Hammond into an overdriven guitar amp, but nobody did it better. Great understanding of classical music. Great composer.

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

Incredibly technically gifted. Not a fan of his early solo work (it has not aged well), but my God this man's fingers are so agile!

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

Fantastic keys solos with yes, and he has fantastic synth tones for the early 70s. Listen to CTTE, the soundscapes he creates with his synths are incredibly moving especially on And You And I. Along with that he is also a great piano player, he is under credited with works such as Life on Mars? and Morning has Broken. I think what's most important though is his ability to create great melodies and his song arrangements.

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!

5 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 .

Less in your face than others on the list - not as obviously into big solos, but his palying was an essential part of Floyd's sound. Wonderfully understated and all the better for it.

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.

This man (along with Gilmour's guitar) made Pink Floyd what it was. When you listen to songs on The Wall, Final Cut and Momentary Lapse they don't sound like classic Pink Floyd. This is because Wright wasn't given any room to play on these albums (he didn't even play on Final Cut). Listen to Shine on you crazy Diamond Pt.1 and then Pt. 9. They show off his talent with both classic piano and keyboards. Then listen to The Great Gig In The Sky and then Us and Them.

Keith Emerson and John Lord are surely the Kings of the Prog and Metal keyboard kingdoms, respectively, but in my humble opinion no keyboard player had as much range and influence as Mr. Wright. Just listen to Echoes and Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and you'll notice how influential and iconic is songwriting, synthesizer operation, organ & piano virtuosity, emotional playing style, and even his vocals are. RIP Rick.

6 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.

This man is a technical powerhouse. But overrated. He is fast and tight. But the man lacks feeling and is by far the most boring synth soloist that I have ever heard. and is a poor improviser.

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

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

The original great rock/prog keyboard player. Made so many Doors tracks memorable. Huge fan of others on the list and listen to some more than RM, but he was the daddy of them all.

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.

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...

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.

8 Tony Banks (Genesis)

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...

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.

Also, undertow, the burning rope,Robbery assault, home by the sea... his influence has touched many fantastic pianists like David mayers who transcribed many banks Genesis songs into the piano. Banks is incomparable as a sensitive deep composer, his taste is perfect and unique, Genesis is the greatest band ever, and there is no Genesis without tony banks.

9 Elton John Sir Elton Hercules John (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight; 25 March 1947) is an English singer, pianist and composer. Collaborating with lyricist Bernie Taupin since 1967 on more than 30 albums, John has sold over 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He has more than fifty Top 40 hits in the UK Singles Chart and US Billboard Hot 100, including nine number ones in the UK and nine in the US, as well as seven consecutive number-one albums in the US. His tribute single "Candle in the Wind 1997", rewritten in dedication to Diana, Princess of Wales, sold over 33 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling chart single of all time. According to Billboard more.

What to say - the man is a very gifted player. I personally loved his earlier stuff, where he showed off his playing, such as the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. But his pop song longevity
somewhat blocks out his keyboard brilliance.

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!

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. !

Elton should be number one if you go by what they said the criteria is but then again does Elton care? He is still at the top of his game, selling out concerts, top 10 CDs while the rest of theses guys on the list are just a footnote and GONE.

10 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. more.

I'm happy to see JPJ in the top 10! Not only did he come up with the best bass lines and riffs ever, his keyboard skills were amazing too! Just listen to the songs Trampled Under Foot, Thank You, and Fool In The Rain.

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.

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)

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.

The Newcomers

? Gary Wright (Spooky Tooth, Solo)
The Contenders
11 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 vocal range. Before he became a singer he has been in 3 other bands (Ibex, Sour Milk Sea, and The Hectics). He died on November 24, 1991 from bronchopneumonia as a result from HIV/AIDS

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

Top 2 in vocals now top 3 in piano ¿
I can say that Freddie is a great musician who ever live before. Id like to learn to play piano too and try to play bohemian rhapsody first...

Underrated pianist. He played by his own rules.

Underrated as a pianist.

12 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.

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

13 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.

As a pianist myself, it's a disgrace that this man is not in the Top 10. Why is Freddie Mercury ahead of him? Freddie was an incredible singer, but his piano playing was pretty basic. Apart from basic chords, there was nothing special he did as a pianist. Meanwhile, Billy Joel is a master of putting emotion into his piano playing, and his finger rolls are stupidly fast.

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!

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.

14 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

15 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!

16 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.

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

This guy was Journey's big gun.

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

17 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 'It's 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!

You gotta be kidding me. He should be in the top 7. He is the package. Bon Jovi is a great band and he has such a chemistry with richie and tico. Creates songs. Hits the solo instead of sambora
David is the best in the world

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

18 Eddie Van Halen Edward Lodewijk "Eddie" Van Halen (January 26, 1955 – October 6, 2020) was a Dutch-American musician, songwriter, producer, and inventor. He was 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

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

19 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!

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

Very disappointed. There will never be another Leon.

Should be #1. No question at all.

20 Eddie Jobson (UK)

Second attempt to type this on the train. Eddie was not just talented keyboard player of the piano, CS80 Yahama Syth, Hammond Organ and Mini Moog - he played the violin through cornish customised pedalboard. Far as I am considered he mastered the CS80 just a good as Vangelis. But playing live showed he was not just studio keyboardist. Totally underrated because he never got the opportunity with UK for the band to be appreciated despite the other talented artists such a Terry Bozzo / Bill Bruford, John Wetton and Allan Holdesworth. A real shame.

21 Nicky Hopkins (Rolling Stones)

Nicky Hopkins didn't just play with The Rolling Stones, he played with The Kinks, The Beatles, Qucksilver Messenger Service, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, The Jerry Garcia Band and The Jeff Beck Group.

Hopkins doesn't get as much recognition because he wasn't really with one band but he was possibly arguably the greatest session keyboard player.

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 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.

22 Nick Oosterhuis

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.

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

Absolutely brilliant, not only as a solid rock player but also very versatile in many different music styles.

Greatest musician of all time. Never forget him

23 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.

24 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.

25 Dr. John
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