Thanks to Gary Brown for these photos from our half time show for Disney’s High School Musical. I ham it up by playing a Roland Keytar through a JP8000 synth. The best part is at intermission when the kids come down to the pit to see all the musicians. On some shows I’ve let the kids each take turns playing my Keytar. They start by asking “What’s that?” and I say “It’s a keytar!” – then they say “What’s a keytar?” and I say “It’s a keyboard that wants to be a guitar!” – and the great thing about kids is: That’s a perfect reasonable explanation to them and they accept that. I’m sure it makes it more fun for them to watch the half time show after they’ve seen the keytar up close and played it themselves.
Audiences have been really fantastic for this run. They are very enthusiastic to jam with the band by clapping and singing along to our jams. Each show’s jam is a little bit different – and I know each night how much the crowd enjoyed it by their lion-like screams and yells when we’re done. Life is good.
The keytar I use is the Roland AX-1 – I used this for a couple shows when I toured with Freddy Fender but he didn’t care for it much – “Dude, why do you have to play so many notes?” – I don’t think he ever heard of Keith Emerson.
It was really fun to dust off my keytar for this show. Disneys High School Musical is very “bubble-gummy” – and the keytar came to mind as the perfect complement to the show. Opening night I picked it up out of storage and we worked up a jam with the band.
I predict the keytar will be the new secret weapon of the Vikings when they regroup and once again being their world domination.
HISTORY OF THE KEYTAR
A keytar is a keyboard or synthesizer worn around the neck and shoulders, similar to a guitar. The word “keytar” is a portmanteau of “keyboard” and “guitar”. Keytars allow players a greater range of movement, compared to conventional keyboards, which are placed on stands.
Originally the creation of guitarist Steve Masakowski, the keytar was commercially introduced in 1978 as the Moog Liberation. The first Liberation owner (#1001) was Spyro Gyra keyboardist Tom Schuman (with numbers 1002, 1003, and 1004 owned by the band Devo).
Perhaps one of the earliest printed use of the term “Keytar” was circa 1980 in an interview of Jeffrey Abbott (owner of Moog Liberation #1005) by Tom Lounges of Illianabeat magazine (now Midwest BEAT Magazine)
The keytar was made popular in the 1980s by hair bands, as well as synthpop and New Wave groups. Changing trends in music diminished the keytar’s popularity shortly thereafter. The keytar has enjoyed new visibility due in part to software innovations from companies like Musiclab (RealGuitar), UltimateSoundBank (PlugSound) and the Williams (Keytar V-1).
THE ROLAND AX-1
The Roland AX-1 is a keytar (a shoulder-held clavier keyboard worn like a guitar) that does not produce its own sounds but controls other devices (such as keyboards, sound modules, and samplers) via MIDI.
Henrik Klingenberg of metal band Sonata Arctica played an AX-1 before upgrading to a Roland AX-7.
More recently, Jake Hallman, pianist for Eric Lee Beddingfield and County Line was seen playing an AX-1 at several live shows, a rarity in country/Southern rock music.French Maestro Jean-Michel Jarre has used the AX-1 Both a Black(with customised lower Octave having reversed colour keys)and also the Red Version during his Europe in concert tour back in 1993
Imogen Heap formerly of British pop duo Frou Frou sported an AX-1 while touring with Frou Frou and on her solo tours.
ALTERNATE NAMES FOR A KEYTAR
* keyboard guitar
* remote keyboard
* portable keyboard
* synth guitar (not to be confused with MIDI Guitar)
* master keyboard (as most were used as MIDI controllers)
* Piano guitar (in french Canada)
Peter Bridgman – Bass Guitar
Oscar De La Rosa – Percussion
Luke Hansen – Guitar
David Bridgman – Drums
More pics of Conrad with his Keytar
Brianne Weaver – Keyboards
5 thoughts on “Keytar Photos”
Wow… you pick up a keytar once, and people never forget it! When I’ve used it, I can’t resist turning into a total Van-Halen-esque guitarist, complete with faces, dramatic poses and crazy bends using the ribbon.
Keep the faith, brother!
I agree. The Keytar is our ultimate revenge against history’s battallions of too-cool guitar players.
You should check out the CME Widi unit which is a wireless MIDI transmitter. I play a Roland A-X7 and run it through my Fantom X-6. The keytar is definitely a crowd pleaser! Having the wireless unit allows me to do things like, oh I don’t know, jump off the stage into the crowd…things like that! How awesome would it be if you could allow the kids in the audience play around on it without the worry of any chords. Just a suggestion! Thanks for the music!
P.S. Sorry I can’t spell…
A vintage keytar like the Moog Liberation is truly analog and has that true analog sound that some keyboard players want. Maintenance for such units can be costly given the scarcity of spare parts for such instruments. Some vintage digital keytars come at disadvantages such as obsolete parts, leaking batteries for synth-type keytars, limited or dated sounds and small polyphony. Vintage keytars on the second hand market (other than the Moog Liberation) can be purchased cheap with some only costing less than $100.
Contemporary keytars like the Roland AX-Synth are very powerful and could easily be at par with some contemporary keyboard models in terms of polyphony, sound quality and other attributes. Repair, maintenance and support for such models is generally better than vintage ones. New equipment is often pricey and it is the same with contemporary keytars. Such new features often come at significantly high prices.
Buying the perfect keytar requires careful research and patience. As in all things that cost money, keyboardists willing to spend on a keytar should ensure they get their money’s worth by checking carefully all available options.