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Are guitars inherently more expressive than Keyboards?

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  • #77
    I play both instruments like some of you do (guitar and keyboards).

    However, I actually started out on piano. It was my wish to be a keyboardist/synthesizer player for an '80s band. Back when I took piano lessons, synth pop was all over the radio and on music video channels.

    Over the years of piano lessons I took, I was able to learn how to give weight to a composition, with light touch in certain parts, heavier touch in others and the use of the "forte" (sustain) pedal on the right would add a touch of airyness. It's similar to a guitarist letting an open string ringing out and decaying (drone) while playing other notes on other strings.

    Keyboards were a different animal, since some of them did not have aftertouch or velocity sensitivity. Using the pitch and modulation wheels became important to get some sort of expression. One of the reasons I bought my Ensoniq ESQ-1 back in 1990 was because it had velocity sensitivity. I knew I would be unhappy if I could not use loud and soft touch when I played certain sounds on a synthesizer, so I gravitated towards that one. It still plays and sounds great. I love the keys. Like the neck of a guitar, it's very important to me how the playing area feels under my fingers.

    When I switched to guitar a few years later, I had to learn a whole new set of tools to get an expressive sound out of it. As before, I started out on an acoustic version (flat top guitar) and graduated to an electric guitar and amp. I played through that for many years with my only effects being my pick, my fingers, a second channel for distortion and built-in reverb. After several years of that, I started to add pedals like a wah, an eq, chorus and delay. All of those elements helped me to express the sounds I was hearing and feeling.

    If it's a quick and dirty comparison between a basic synthesizer and an electric guitar, I would choose the guitar because the strings are directly manipulated by the fingers, much like a violin, viola, cello or double bass is. A synthesizer is a plastic and metal machine that is more like an effect pedal. Still, in the right hands, it can sound like magic.

    For the record, I think I would answer the question thusly: with the proper amount of skill applied, any instrument can be expressive if the musician playing it happens to have a natural ability for expression itself.
    (This is my Non-Signature.)

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    • #78
      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?


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      • #79
        You're absolutely right for most of them, with few exceptions, the first that comes to mind is obviously Jan Hammer.


        Yes there is no denying Jan, amazing.

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        • #80
          I'd say neither. I've heard Jimi and I've heard Earland. What was the question?
          This concludes your blast from the past!
          Time travel is just a relative shift.


          AHA!
          So it was you who revived this thread!

          How on earth did you find it?

          Do you spend your spare time sifting through old posts on HC?

          I vote for guitar.
          Inherently a guitar...even an acoustic guitar... is more expressive than
          an acoustic keyboard such as a piano or harpschord and even a basic
          electronic keyboard such as an organ.

          The story changes when you include Synths with pitch and mod wheels
          and whatever other controllers you may be able to rig.

          But the basic guitar, by it's very nature is able to be played more expressively
          than a basic keyboard because of the direct contact of the fingers to the
          strings.

          Even on an acoustic guitar you can bend a note... which just isn't possible
          on a piano, harpsichord etc etc....

          Of course, being a guitarist 1st and a keyboard player a distant second,
          I may be somewhat biased in my opinion on this subject....

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          • #81
            I'll chime in again, as I continue ruminating about it.

            My gut reaction at first was to say "guitar" because, after all, a guitarist is playing it directly with his fingers.

            But then, when you consider what a keyboardist can do with a keyboard - what kind of keyboard? - then it becomes more difficult.

            A B3, after all, is capable of a LOT of sounds, especially with those pedals and drawbars and such. I mean, that's a LOT of nuance.

            And then, if you add a keyboard that has aftertouch sensitivity or warbling or modulations or filter sweeps or portamento or pitchbending or morphing from one sound to another or effects or patching or different sounds or whatever, it becomes quite difficult to truly determine whether a guitar is more expressive than a keyboard.
            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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            • #82
              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?



              No - You have it backwards: people are expressive - guitars and keyboards are inanimate objects -- Yes, thats profound -- but man knows how to adapt himself artistically - with touch, taste, soul, and finesse - regardless of the instrument of choice
              "Many (bands)have retooled with that marketing concept in mind without understanding that the party experience is supposed to be for the audience and NOT themselves" - wheresgrant3

              Still HCBF's reigning "Sexiest Forumite"....Dont hate me because Im beautiful

              DRF On MySpace

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              • #83
                No - You have it backwards: people are expressive - guitars and keyboards are inanimate objects -- Yes, thats profound -- but man knows how to adapt himself artistically - with touch, taste, soul, and finesse - regardless of the instrument of choice


                Fine then. Which inanimate object, guitar or keyboard, is more expressive when just laying there?
                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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                • #84
                  Fine then. Which inanimate object, guitar or keyboard, is more expressive when just laying there?


                  Guitar.

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                  • #85
                    Yes there is no denying Jan, amazing.


                    Actually, IMO, you can deny Jan.

                    Jan gets a lot of attention, but to me he's a one-trick pony. Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and absolutely Joe Zawinul out distance Jan as composers and multi-faceted performers.

                    And those other three I named are more expressive (just to stay on topic)
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                    • #86
                      Fine then. Which inanimate object, guitar or keyboard, is more expressive when just laying there?


                      Neither - which is my point....Have you ever seen a skilled laborerer of a particular facet perform? Like when an assembly line worker's hands run a ballet of functions that can "magically" solder together a component perfectly and beautifully in a few seconds that would take the average slob like me an hour to complete with globs of **************** all over the place...or the way the string-winders at a guitar factory can slap strings on an instrument in unbelievable record time, with picture-perfect windings, and perfect pitch that takes the average layman ten times as long to do ( I actually witnessed this in Meridian, Mississipi) ...same goes with canvas painting, dressmaking, typing, blacksmiths, clay, brick masons, sports, keyboards, guitar, and a billion other things.....

                      Human beings are some clever and tricky little bastages that eventually figure out all the "paths of least resistance" to any given task by incorporating soul, experience, and just the right amount of "touch", with some performing beyond the expectations of others.....and its this "adaption" capacity of the human equation that makes the difference, regardless if they are playing music, flying airplanes, or making wedding dresses........

                      Which is why a human familar with all the idiosyncracies of guitar will give you every reason in the world why the guitar-format supercedes the keyboard-format for expressiveness..... and a proficient keyboardist/synthesist/pianist/organist that knows their instruments in depth and the facets of their performance can point out every advantage that the keyboard-format has for expression over the guitar-format...... and people familiar with reasonable knowledge and/or experience for both will sit on the fence and ping-pong the advantages/disadvantages of either....

                      No offense, Mr Anderton, but its really that simple - therefore not a very good question to begin with.........
                      "Many (bands)have retooled with that marketing concept in mind without understanding that the party experience is supposed to be for the audience and NOT themselves" - wheresgrant3

                      Still HCBF's reigning "Sexiest Forumite"....Dont hate me because Im beautiful

                      DRF On MySpace

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                      • #87
                        Neither - which is my point....Have you ever seen a skilled laborerer of a particular facet perform?


                        Surely you must have seen my posts, then seen the smiley face on my ridiculous question that was a response to Fretwizz?
                        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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                        • #88
                          Actually, IMO, you can deny Jan.

                          Jan gets a lot of attention, but to me he's a one-trick pony.


                          Hey Bill,

                          You should check out Jan with Mahavishnu(esp the YouTube footage with Mahavishnu at Syracuse Univ 1972). He absolutely rips on the Rhodes.

                          Folks often associate Jan Hammer w/ guitar-like synth leads. His Rhodes playing is hugely underrated IMO.
                          http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page...m?bandID=73567
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                          • #89
                            Interesting thread.
                            How do we define expressiveness?
                            Sonically? ( such as one bends notes one doesnt, one does chords one doesnt)

                            OR

                            Should expressiveness be measured by the ability to evoke an emotional response in active listeners?

                            If you use the second definition then, in the right hands, all these instrumments can be equally expressive.

                            Even so I must say I'm really glad Jimi played electric geetar rather than piano.
                            Psst... Wanna check out some free tunes?
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                            • #90
                              Surely you must have seen my posts, then seen the smiley face on my ridiculous question that was a response to Fretwizz?


                              yup -- Lets just say that, when I posted all that, I was posting "Under The Influence"...



                              "Many (bands)have retooled with that marketing concept in mind without understanding that the party experience is supposed to be for the audience and NOT themselves" - wheresgrant3

                              Still HCBF's reigning "Sexiest Forumite"....Dont hate me because Im beautiful

                              DRF On MySpace

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