Remember how I didn’t, but then I did, like lady singers? Piano and keyboard is like that, too. This may come as a shock (but it shouldn’t). Keyboard, especially, has often offended me. Ugly bell/piano/reverb-laced garbage has overpowered many a song (especially in churches), and it has left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Then, there are the piano bands like Coldplay that while in reality are probably far less pretentious than the bands you’ve never heard of that I listen to, always leave me with a “Ugh, who do these dudes think they are?” taste in my mouth (seriously, that song The Scientist is so boring). That’s not a pretty taste. Christian band leaders (not necessarily the ones you hear on radio, but the ones you hear Sunday morning…but not my friend Kevin Brungard…he had a severe dislike of the ivories) love keyboards, and their sound engineers love them more. My band-mates and I would not-so-affectionately refer to the mix at churches as Christ-innitus (get it? Christ + Tinnitus…I know, I’m a genius). The syndrome is characterized by creating a mix with very little bass, tons of acoustic guitar and bell/piano/reverb keyboard and vocals that float so far above everything else you’d need a ladder to get from the guitars to the vocals. If there are drums, the drummer is the poor victim of constantly berating to play his/her inherently loud instrument more quietly or consider investing in v-drums (ugh…I just threw up in my mouth).
Well, it turns out that not all keyboard is bad, and piano, used properly can actually enhance a song. It requires balance. David Crowder Band (Christian Band) used synth with pinache and excellence on their Church Music record. Jack’s Mannequin (not a Christian Band) utilizes piano in a way that doesn’t make me want to choke. A myriad of “bands” have taken up the call to make keys/synths relevant in a post-80s kind of way, and some are succeeding; just ask Kenny Camacho for a copy of his 2011 Best Of Music playlist. And success comes down to this: balance.
I’m not saying things between the guitars and the keys and the bass and drums need to be equal, but they need to work together. If the keys are the star, then let them star. If the guitars are the star, then turn the freaking keys down, dude (and please, for the love of Pete, turn down the vocals and stop harassing my drummer during sound check for your “coffee house” where you don’t even have coffee). Pianists, please, don’t hold the sustain pedal the whole show. In rock music, choppy piano can be cool, man, and if you’re in a band with other instruments, getting off the sustain will give them some room.
Let’s face it, keys deserve the chance to shine a little bit. Even the biggest nerds (especially when the keyboardist is male) in any given band should get some face time. (I’m teasing…………sort of).
Anyway, the thing that makes keys work is balance and planning. Balance is a result of planning. Planning is not saying, “Hey, there’s a keyboardist: everyone needs to hear that like whoa.” Sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes, keys is just the support structure.
It may be hard to believe, but this blog was inspired by Kenny’s mix and my friend Jody’s sermon Sunday. He talked about generosity, balance, life and money. I feel like I’m always walking the tight rope of balance in my finances. My body wants to buy this gym membership, that Kala U-Bass, the banjo I saw on Craigslist, and a minivan for my wife. My brain fights hard against these urges.
So hard, all the time, every day…stupid Internet and your promises of “great” payment plans. (I don’t actually take them up on their offers, but ooooooooh I want to).
Anyway, keep your life in balance. Keep your checkbook balanced. Make a plan for keyboards if you plan on using them. Don’t just crank ’em cause they’re there….
AND PLEASE TURN THE VOCALS DOWN OR BRING THE BAND UP TO MEET THEM AND ALSO BE POLITE TO DRUMMERS.