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Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

For fans of synths, pianos or keyboard instruments of any sort.

Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby comradec » Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:02 pm

I've played a lot of gigs, albeit mostly open mic nights, since I
returned to live performance last summer.

However, I'm a keyboard-based solo singer-songwriter and the
guy-standing-behind-synth routine can create a bit of a barrier
between artist and audience, especially when I'm playing longer sets
that go beyond the three or four numbers of open mic nights. It's also
very static with no possibilities for movement on the stage. I'm
playing some 45-minute sets at forthcoming gigs and I would like to
liven up my stage routine.

One thing I've already done is introduce a 'keytar' to my live act.
Well, it's a Behringer UMA25s, which is just a two-octave MIDI
controller with a guitar strap, but it's very brightly coloured (red)
and shiny and has definitely added a bit of interest to the
proceedings, especially when I use it to play parts that emulate rock
guitar. I can't use that on all of my songs, though, and I still
think I need a few more tricks to break up the routine.

Can anyone here suggest other ideas they've used, or seen being used,
to make a keyboard-based live performance more dynamic?
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby Freuman » Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:16 pm

More Synths and a spangly coat?

Image

In seriousness, Keytars and guitar straps on keyboards look AWFUL!

It's better to have that barrier but you should look over the heads of the people at the back of the audience. Stand up (and stomp maybe) in louder sections. You can headbang (Waynes World for power or Elton John for softer stuff) or just move a bit of swaying and shoulder dancing.

Just moving to the music and looking like YOU're enjoying it makes a massive difference.

This gives a sense of passion, but without having to look like a time-traveller from the wrong side of the 80s...

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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby Phil O » Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:48 pm

Sit at the Piano in the nude..... worked for Dudley Moore !!!

P
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby The_BPP » Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:13 pm

If I've learned only one thing from playing keyboards live for the past twenty years, it's this...

Look like you're enjoying yourself.

Plus... don't let the evening's DJ handle your sound. He will always make sure you sound worse than his CD player.

Ok, that's two things.
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby artifus » Thu Mar 31, 2011 5:25 pm

a lot of venues have video projectors these days - have you thought about putting together some visuals to compliment your live show? computer generated, animation or old film footage - maybe even mix in a live cam to show off your finger work?
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby Neil C » Thu Mar 31, 2011 6:54 pm

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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby Steve Hill » Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:10 pm

Elton's take on Pinball Wizard is pretty eyecatching...

More practically, if it works for you, a discrete headset mic can help reduce the "barrier" thing.
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby desmond » Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:21 pm

You could get a fit backing singer in a skimpy dress to stand a few feet over.

Then no one would care about what you were doing...
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby ProximityProduction » Thu Mar 31, 2011 10:47 pm

synth player I know has a kaosillator running through a radio belt pack and runs around the stage like someone from an asylum, makes for interesting viewing!
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby MarkOne » Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:09 pm

Well here's one technique:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1-9tgLGO1I

and while we're on the subject of Keytars:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjwQN8QaD7U

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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby zenguitar » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:08 am

Pyros...

and eye contact too...

but mainly LOTS of Pyros

Andy
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby comradec » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:16 am

I do stand up for live performances but Wakeman-style banks of multiple keyboards aren't really practical for the sort of small venues I play. I have enough keyboards and gadgets to do that, actually, but it wouldn't be realistic.

I also tend to move around to the groove of the music, in so far as I can while still playing, and try to look like I'm having fun. But the trouble with synths is that they create a barrier which prevents the audience from seeing you do that.

Another trick I'm considering is using my Alesis ControlPad drum pads on some songs. Just for the odd hit here and there. As a solo performer, though, I'd be doing that at the expense of playing the keys and relying solely on the programmed sequencer parts. And that might pose a problem for some audiences - ie, "Hey, that guy's not actually playing the instruments."
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby comradec » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:22 am

I have purchased a police car style disco light (video: http://goo.gl/aTEEx) to deploy at gigs during the performance of one song, an instrumental called 'Cop Car Chase' (http://goo.gl/BQ3qc).
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby hollowsun » Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:54 am

Watch some JMJ vids of his latest tour.

He has cymbal pads placed strategically he can thwack quickly without leaving the keys.

Given that you're using sequenced backing tracks (Alesis Fusion?), you could leap about and chivvy people up perhaps when the sequences are trundling and you're not busy.

Also, I think most people understand one-man band with sequenced backing tracks so they won't think any less of you if you just sing and perform while the track is playing ... or just occasionally touch the keys (or trigger stuff).

See also Thomas Dolby's recent live stuff

There's sleight of hand going on there vis a vis backing track vs 'live' but even so, who cares? You're putting on a show, not satisfying some tech nerds trying to figure out what's live and what's sequenced - if you're giving the audience a good time, they won't care!! Seriously!

And maybe an 'image' too. Tom's (and JMJ's) is strong (especially Tom's) but turn up to these open mic gigs looking like you mean business and in control and not just got out of bed and slapped the first pair of jeans and t-shirt you could find!

Good luck!
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby Freuman » Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:21 am

How big are your synths if people can't see you behind them?



Can I advise that before you spend more money, that you ask someone to film you. Then you can watch it back and may be able to see where your going wrong.

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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby Stephen Bennett » Fri Apr 01, 2011 9:39 am

Freuman wrote:
In seriousness, Keytars and guitar straps on keyboards look AWFUL!



Matter of opinion! I've never understood why there's so much antagonism towards a keyboardists getting up and strapping on a board.

It's no more stupid than a guitarists going through a cartwheel or whatever.

I think it's just jealousy from guitar players losing the limelight.

I looked awesome with my KX-5

Regards

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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby desmond » Fri Apr 01, 2011 10:35 am

Stephen Bennett wrote:I looked awesome with my KX-5

Back in 1985, we *all* thought we looked awesome...
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby comradec » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:05 pm

Freuman wrote:How big are your synths if people can't see you behind them?



Can I advise that before you spend more money, that you ask someone to film you. Then you can watch it back and may be able to see where your going wrong.



I take an Alesis Fusion 6HD to gigs and run my backing tracks from a Roland SonicCell which sits on top of cymbal-style stand to one side of the keyboard. I have the keyboard stand set quite high because it's easier to play that way. So we're not talking Rick Wakeman proportions here.

All the same, people can't see you playing a keyboard in the way that they can with guitars and most other instruments. That doesn't matter to some, of course, but there are others who tend to regard an act using sequencers as semi-karaoke, even if you have spent many hours programming each instrumental part yourself. It depends on the crowd but most of my gigs, in fact all of them, have been played at venues where the other acts are guitar-based solo artists or bands. My stuff is electronic and danceable but it's still song orientated, unlike many electronic-based performers whose main concern is the groove. (That's not a criticism of those genres, by the way.)
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby MarkOne » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:50 pm

comradec wrote:.... I have the keyboard stand set quite high because it's easier to play that way...

Me too! And what a lot of players don't realise is that playing a low keyboard from a standing position of necessity leads to a really unnatural hand position which puts a lot of strain on the tendons in the wrists.

This not only hampers your ability to play fluid runs, but also, in the long term can lead to tendon-related damage which can be very painful or at the worst end your ability to play!

I always thought Derek Sherinian came up with quite a cool way of playing keys that a) made for a natural fingering position (relaxed wrists parallel with forearms) but b) also let everyone see what is going on.

Does need a custom made stand though.

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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby Stephen Bennett » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:59 pm

desmond wrote:
Stephen Bennett wrote:I looked awesome with my KX-5

Back in 1985, we *all* thought we looked awesome...

Some of us still do.

S
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby hollowsun » Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:00 pm

MarkOne wrote:I always thought Derek Sherinian came up with quite a cool way of playing keys that ... also let everyone see what is going on.
And show off his pert 'moobs' nicely!
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Re: Ideas for livening up keyboard-b​ased stage performanc​es?

Postby djangodeadman » Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:00 pm

I refer you to the young Jerry Lee Lewis.
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