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Are guitars inherently more expressive than Keyboards?

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  • #46
    I will say, as a keyboardist of many years, that guitars are probably sexier to audiences than pianos are... They're so phallic... think of how many rock guitarists use their guitars to simulate masturbation and oral sex...

    Not to mention that a guitarist can waltz all over the stage and even into the audience if he wishes. Guitars make for great visual spectacle, hugely important to stage shows. Most of the time, the audience cannot even see what the pianist is doing.

    As instruments, their ability to pitch-slide so easily truly makes for a very emotional sound, almost certainly because it emulates the slides of the human voice.

    And a guitar always seems so instantly warm to me: pull out a guitar at a campfire, and a warm, intimate, emotional mood is created instantaneously, even if the guitarist only knows a few chords... I've been jealous, on more than one occasion, of the "drawing power" of an acoustic guitar. As the folky 1960's showed us, the guitar seems to express the "vox populi" more readily than any keyboard.

    Perhaps the advantage of keyboards is the ability to instantly reproduce SATB harmonies, all up-'n'-down the pitch spectrum; ie., simulate an orchestra. A good synth player can wield a pitch wheel like a mo'fo... I'm thinking especially of the great synth players of 1970's Funk and 1980's R&B... but I've never been able to play my synths like that--- live, anyway-- unfortunately...

    It's been said that a piano is the EASIEST instrument to get started on (think: Chopsticks); but the HARDEST one to master. I'd have to agree.
    Every paint-stroke takes you farther and farther away from your initial concept. And you have to be thankful for that. Wayne Thiebaud


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    • #47
      If a child hits a key it sounds the same as Jan Hammer hitting a key.


      Except Jan might know when to hit the key.
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      • #48
        Pianos have no soul, no unique voice from player to player like a guitar player develops. If you hear a new guitar piece you can guess who it is in a few attempts. If you hear a new piano (or classical piece) the music has no defining signatures where you might know who it is.



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        • #49
          Sure that no real men play keys anymore, at least not like when Keith Emerson used to play a big Moog modular behind his head WITH HIS TEETH.

          Keith Emerson has teeth in the back of his head?!?

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          • #50
            I will say, as a keyboardist of many years, that guitars are probably sexier to audiences than pianos are... They're so phallic... think of how many rock guitarists use their guitars to simulate masturbation and oral sex...


            You got all kinda hot and bothered while writing this thread, didn't you?
            Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven

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            • #51
              Guitars have the capability of being more expressive but guitarists have been fighting it for years. Saturation, compression, delays, chorus... anything to get away from having to learn how to actually control all that variability. So sure... inherently they are.

              Tune into a classic jazz station for a week and start hearing how guys like Oscar Perterson, or Brubeck, or Tyner or Corea or Morton or Shearing overcome the "limitations" of thier instrument.

              So are guitars really more expressive. I think in the end... no.


              I second that.

              I think the string bending thing is getting the most focus from the guitar perspective. But what about a guitarist who bends poorly - eg. overshoots and bends to sharp? And the lack of dynamics? And the inability to play tightly clustered chords (unless you're using the Frank Gambale tuning)?

              Even as a guitarist myself, I've been more blown away by keyboard and sax players than guitarists in general - except oddly enough by certain blues based guitarists. I'm not a huge blues fan - but SRV? Wow - take about touching a nerve. I think it's the whole vocal emulation thing.

              Corea, Herbie, Shorter - they tend to cause the hairs on my arm to stand up.

              Gregg Rolie with early Santana - another master of the B3.

              Also, I have to mention East Indian musicians, and their 31 note scales. L. Shankar for instance. Also, check out the "Concert for George" DVD - "The Inner Light" with Anoushka Shankar on sitar.

              A vocal quality in a player's approach is always impressive, as is a mastery of any instrument and an understanding and mastery of harmonic knowledge which manages to touch the listener's soul.

              Heck, it's been said many times that Stevie Wonder's harmonica is more expressive than any of his keyboards...

              I guess it's a cliche, but expressiveness exists when the musician is touching the listener's soul. And it's not just about bending strings.

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              • #52
                Depend on what you're expressing...lol.

                There's a narrow definition of expression that defines it as the ability to slur notes or, as someone else pointed, achieve fine difference in timbre and attack.

                But piano also has great touch response, and its capacity for expression through counterpoint and harmonic color exceeds the guitars's.

                Somehow, we've equated expression with sustain and slurs. It's wrong. ; )

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                • #53
                  Yes the guitar is inherently more expressive, but a good keyboardist can overcome the limitations of the instrument to play as expressively as a many guitarists. Also the piano is more expressive than the harsichord, and a B3 organ or good synth in the hands of a skilled player is more expresive than a piano.

                  The proof is that there are several "one-note" guitar players: players who you can identify on the first note. Examples include Santana, Garcia, Scofield, BB King, and Hendrix.
                  "In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."- George Orwell

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                  • #54
                    I always get a grin when I see keyboard players slamming down one of the keys and then jiggling their finger as though they're applying a vibrato to the sustained note. That ain't fooling anyone.


                    I think that's called "aftertouch".

                    Really, both instruments can be equally expressive, if played by very good musicians.

                    Now my opinion may be biased, due to the fact that I'm not a guitarist, but to me, it seems that piano is an easier instrument for a beginner. Most younger children start out on this instrument. As already mentioned, the note is gonna sound the same no matter who strikes the key. Guitar requires more finger technique.

                    But because piano is a bit of an easier instrument to learn, it allows for greater flexibility with different kinds of chords, voicings, inversions, polyphony. As a compositional tool, I think it's way better than guitar. Most songs written on guitar tend to have simpler chords and progressions, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's a bit harder to stretch out, if you aren't really good. Unless you're writing a three-chord rock 'n roll song, in which case a guitar's limitations can actually be a help. I think part of the appeal of guitar is its ability to make less sound like more. Maybe in that sense, it's more expressive.

                    But in terms of flexibility, I think the piano/keyboard wins, hands down. And when you add synth and sampling technology, it beats guitar by a landslide. Not that it's a contest.

                    That said, as a piano player, I envy the portability of a guitar, and that it's much easier to look cool, and jump around the stage with one. Also, when you walk into the guitar department at a music store, there are so many choices. Different shapes, sizes, colors--it must be really exciting for someone looking to buy a guitar. I find it exciting, and I'm not even a guitarist. With keyboards--you've seen one, you've seen 'em all, basically.
                    ...

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                    • #55
                      Got the idea for this topic from an editorial by Paul White in Sound on Sound magazine. I won't prejudice your thinking by quoting what he said...but does the ability to massage strings on a guitar beat being able hit keys on a keyboard? Or maybe a sax is even more expressive than both...

                      Any opnions?


                      Guitar more expressive than key board --- YES!
                      Sax more expressive than both --- YES^2!

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                      • #56
                        A big greasy Hammond with a leslie attached in the hands of a master can floor me every time.



                        Well, duh...if I had that combo hurled at me, it would floor me, too. Might even kill me.
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                        • #57
                          I think that's called "aftertouch".


                          Wow... old thread.

                          But seriously, I've seen players do that since the 60's, on Hammond B-3's and pianos and such.

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                          • #58
                            You got all kinda hot and bothered while writing this thread, didn't you?


                            Ha-ha, UKA... You must admit, no-one ever went broke assuming that Sex Sells... Bowie, Zep, Alice Cooper, Stones, Springsteen, RHCP have all gotten plenty of mileage out of the stage shtick of having one group member kneel at the feet (ahem) of the lead guitarist during one of his musical spasms...
                            Every paint-stroke takes you farther and farther away from your initial concept. And you have to be thankful for that. Wayne Thiebaud


                            Friend me on FACEBOOK!

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                            • #59
                              No doubt. Guitar is more expressive. The human voice though, is the most expressive IMHO.

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                              • #60
                                Ha-ha, UKA... You must admit, no-one ever went broke assuming that Sex Sells... Bowie, Zep, Alice Cooper, Stones, Springsteen, RHCP have all gotten plenty of mileage out of the stage shtick of having one group member kneel at the feet (ahem) of the lead guitarist during one of his musical spasms...


                                You're right, so true!!!

                                Prince, Pussycat Dolls, Beyonce....
                                Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven

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