A keyboardist, often known as a keyboard player, is a musician who primarily performs on keyboard instruments. Until the early 1960s, keyboard players were typically classed as either pianists or organists, depending on their instrument. Since the mid-1960s, a multitude of new musical instruments with keyboards, including as synthesisers and digital pianos, have become commonplace, necessitating the creation of a more broad phrase to describe someone who performs on them. Nowadays, professional keyboardists in popular music perform on a wide range of keyboard instruments, including the piano and various organs (such as the Tonewheel organ, the synthesiser, and the clavinet). Some keyboardists may also perform on similar instruments such as the piano accordion, the melodica, the pedal keyboard, or bass pedals with a keyboard layout.
In the worlds of metal, rock, pop, and jazz music, there are several well-known electronic keyboardists. A comprehensive list of keyboardists may be found at List of keyboardists.
Throughout the 1960s, the usage of electronic keyboards gained in popularity, with many bands using instruments such as the Hammond organ, Mellotron, and electric pianos such as the Fender Rhodes. "Strange Days" was released in 1967, and it was the first time the Moog synthesiser was used on a mainstream album by the Doors. In later years, other bands such as The Moody Blues, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles used it in their recordings, both as sound effects and as a melodic instrument in and of itself. When Billy Ritchie replaced the guitar in a rock band in 1966, he laid the groundwork for future keyboardists such as Ray Manzarek, Keith Emerson, and Rick Wakeman to follow in their footsteps.. Jean Michel Jarre, a pioneer of contemporary electronic music who lived in the late 1960s, began experimenting with synthesisers and other electronic equipment in the late 1960s. Many more bands and producers started adopting synthesisers as they grew more inexpensive and less bulky, ultimately opening the way for bands that were completely comprised of synthesisers and other electronic instruments like as drum machines by the late 1970s/early 1980s. Kraftwerk, Suicide, and The Human League were among of the first bands to make use of this setup, among others. With the introduction of synthesisers and electronic keyboards, rock bands started to branch out from the conventional line-up of guitars, basses, and drums. Progressive rock bands such as Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Pink Floyd were among the first to do so. During this time period, the pop-blues-rock band Fleetwood Mac was also well-known for its synthesizer-infused singles.
The use of keyboardists in cover bands and tribute bands is common because they can faithfully reproduce the original keyboard parts, as well as other instrumental parts such as strings or horn section, in situations where it would be logistically difficult or prohibitively expensive to hire people to play the actual instruments.