Friday Top: 25 Greatest Keyboardists in Guitar-Driven Bands

As voted by UG community...

Ultimate Guitar

This week's traditional Wednesday Question saw the people of UG community discussing the matter of the finest keyboard players ever to perform within guitar-driven acts.

We received a fair chunk of votes and over 300 comments, all of which were summed up into a Top 25 rundown.

Before kicking things off, the honorable mentions are pretty much all dudes mostly known for playing other instruments in their bands, but have also contributed some mean keyboard lines.

Specifically, the honorable mentions are:

  • Freddie Mercury
  • Eddie Van Halen
  • Steven Wilson
  • Trent Reznor
  • Matt Bellamy
With that stuff out of the way, the full list awaits right below.

25. Gregg Allman (The Allman Brothers Band)

Kicking things off, it's the one and only Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band!

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24. Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead)

Up next is Radiohead's multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood, who shaped the band's guitar and keyboard sound.

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23. Tony Banks (Genesis)

The man who defined the keyboard sound of the mighty Genesis, Mr. Tony Banks, is up next at No. 23.

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22. Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)

Dewitt noted: "What's up with all these keyboard players being the shining star in their respective bands?

"I think this is the third time I've said it (and the third time I've meant it), but he is the most musically talented member of the Heartbreakers. There are a lot of songs where you'd forget he's even in the band, but when he gets the chance, he tears it up in the most tasteful ways."

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21. Josh Silver (Type O Negative)

At No. 21, give it up for Josh Silver of Type O Negative!

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20. Michael Pinnella (Symphony X)

At No. 20, the only member of Symphony X apart from Michael Romeo who appeared on each of the band's records - Mr. Michael Pinnella.

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19. Tuomas Holopainen (Nightwish)

Keyboardists aren't that often band leaders within the rock realm, and Mr. Tuomas Holopainen of Nighwish stands out as one of the select few.

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18. Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson, Miles Davis, etc.)

Up next is the son of Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman, Mr. Adam Holzman, one of the individuals who performed with the highest number of bonafide music legends on the entire list, including Miles Davis, Ray Manzarek, Marcus Miller, Steven Wilson, and more.

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17. Derek Sherinian (Planet X, Dream Theater, Alice Cooper)

Fun fact - every Dream Theater keyboardist made the list! Kicking things off, it's Mr. Derek Sherinian at No. 17.

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16. Roddy Bottum (Faith No More)

At No. 16, you folks voted for Roddy Bottum of Faith No More.

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15. Don Airey (Ozzy Osbourne, Deep Purple, Rainbow)

At No. 15, one of the most notable keyboardists in hard rock history - Mr. Don Airey. The list of acts the man performed with really speaks for itself - Gary Moore, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Whitesnake, Saxon, Wishbone Ash, Steve Vai, Colosseum II, Ten, Sinner, Michael Schenker, Rainbow, Empire, Thin Lizzy, Brian May, and more.

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14. Nameless Ghoul ['Air'] (Ghost)

Up next, the nameless one on keyboards...

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13. Billy Powell (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

This week's Lucky 13 is late great Billy Powell, the piano man of the mighty Skynyrd...

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12. Jens Johansson (Stratovarius)

Delving into the realm of power metal for a change, you folks gave plenty of love to Mr. Jens Johansson of Stratovarius.

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11. Per Wiberg (Opeth)

Up next, former Opeth keyboardist Per Wiberg brings us a step closer to the Big 10.

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10. Kevin Moore (Dream Theater, Fates Warning)

As noted, each and every individual who played keyboards in Dream Theater can be found on this list. At No. 10, give it up for Kevin Moore!

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9. Christian 'Flake' Lorenz (Rammstein)

Up next, it's that weirdo from Rammstein, give it up for the man!

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8. Ray Manzarek (The Doors)

Up next, a genuine keyboard legend who needs no introduction, Mr. Ray Manzarek...

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7. Janne Wirman (Children of Bodom)

Picking it up a notch in terms of heaviness, No. 7 goes to Janne Wirman from Children of Bodom.

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6. Rick Wakeman (Yes)

Another legend - Rick Wakeman of Yes!

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5. Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater)

The highest-ranked Dream Theater keyboardist on the list happens to be the band's current keyboard master, Mr. Jordan Rudess.

Travislausch noted: "He gets a lot of flack from fans who can't get the fuck over Kevin Moore or Derek Sherinian (though to be fair, those guys are also pretty amazing), but I really like what he brings to the table in playing, emotion (he actually can play grippingly emotional stuff, contrary to popular opinion), and innovation in technology (it's because of him that half of my synths are now smartphone-based!)."

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4. Geddy Lee (Rush)

Not many bass players can boast with being ranked among greatest keyboardists, but Mr. Lee is one of them...

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3. Richard Wright (Pink Floyd)

At No. 3, give it up for late great Richard Wright...

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2. John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)

In case you missed it, here's 20 awesome things you didn't know John Paul Jones did...

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1. Jon Lord (Deep Purple)

And at the throne of UG this week, with legitimate gold, the one and only Jon Lord...

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77 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Jon Lord FTW! Honourable mention
    And traditionally - here's the rest of the list: Joakim Svalberg (Opeth) George Duke (Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention) Bob Katsionis (Firewind) Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) [though the band isn't a guitar-driven] Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep) Bryant Clifford Meyer (ISIS) Diego Tejeida (Haken) Thijs van Leer (Focus) Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me) Michał Łapaj (Riverside) Alan Clark (Dire Straits) Dizzy Reed (Guns N' Roses) Shawn Lane Mustis (Dimmu Borgir) Christopher Bowes (Alestorm) Mike Pinder (The Moody Blues) Christine McVie (Fleetwood Mac) Chuck Leavell (The Allman Brothers Band) Vadim Pruzhanov (DragonForce) Rhys Fulber (Fear Factory) Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree) Neal Morse Ikey Owens (The Mars Volta, Jack White) Matt Langley (Fair to Midland) David Bryan (Bon Jovi) Greg Hawkes (The Cars) Edgar Winter (Edgar Winter Group) Ian Stewart (The Rolling Stones) Henrik Klingenberg (Sonata Arctica) Garth Hudson (The Band) Noah Landis (Neurosis) Steve Winwood (Blind Faith) Nick McCarthy (Franz Ferdinand) Santeri Kallio (Amorphis) Einar Solberg (Leprous) Francesco Ferrini (Fleshgod Apocalypse) Elliot Vernon (Alestorm) Paul Meany (Mutemath) Marco Sneck (Kalmah) Allen Lanier (Blue Öyster Cult) John Evans (Jethro Tull) Dee Palmer (Jethro Tull) Steve Walsh (Kansas) Kerry Livgren (Kansas) James Dewees (The Get Up Kids) Nicky Hopkins Tom Scholz (Boston) Sammy Avila (Walter Trout) Madonna Wayne Gacy (Marilyn Manson) Reese Wynans (Double Trouble, Captain Beyond) Yoshiki (X Japan) Greg Rolie (Santana, Journey) Billy Preston (The Beatles) Eugene Cester (TISM) Colin Doroschuk (Men Without Hats) Deyan Shkartov (Badmingtons, Alexander Makedonski) William D. Drake Kyle Hollingsworth (The String Cheese Incident) Lol Tolhurst (The Cure) Tait Nucleus (Electric Six) Jonathan Cain (The Babys, Journey, Bad English) Rob Kleiner (TubRing) Glenn McCLelland (Ween) Tony Carey (Rainbow) Sven Karlsson (Soilwork) Dave Greenfield (The Stranglers) Joel Cummins (Umphrey's McGee) Oliver Palotai (Kamelot) Dennis DeYoung (Styx) + some great keyboardist I want to mention: Martin Powell (My Dying Bride, Cradle Of Filth) Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) Frank Boeijen (The Gathering) Lorentz Aspen (Theatre Of Tragedy) Danny Cavanagh (Anathema) Les Smith (Anathema, Cradle Of Filth) Lazare (Borknagar) Marta Peterson (Bleeding Through) Jon Oliva (Savatage) Ronnie Leahy (Nazareth) Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys) Janne "Burton" Puurtinen (HIM) Ihsahn (Emperor) Dave Sinclair (Caravan) Peter Bardens (Camel) Tuomas Planman (Norther) Yuhki (Galneryus) Joost van den Broek (Ayreon, Star One, After Forever) Richard Tandy (Electric Light Orchestra) Page McConnell (Phish) Wesley Willis + the whole Mr. Bungle keyboards section
    How strange Brian Wilson gets votes but not Paul McCartney. As a MASSIVE fan-nerd of both as equals I will say- IMO Paul has way more examples of piano wizardry than Brian. Brian's specialty was composing/harmony, he did have a special touch on the piano and when he played it was pretty interesting (middle era contributions up to "Love You", solo work) But most agree Brian's masterwork or genius was when he was hiring other musicians to play his compositions (Today!, Pet Sounds, Smile Sessions, Friends). Also during that era they simply were not a "guitar driven band" Paul's more like a real performing piano player than Brian ever was (and I just saw Brian at the Ryman last week). Paul's got "Lady Madonna" "Martha My Dear" "Maybe I'm Amazed" that can do the talking for him. And the Beatles and Wings were almost always guitar driven bands.
    +1 for Burton from HIM. His keyboard work is always incredibly tasteful and is a defining part of their sound.
    Not a single mention of the guy from Europe who wrote that riff that EVERYONE on the planet knows and hates? Damn...
    Oh, Mic Michaeli, we all forgot about him - you're absolutely right, thanks!
    That's a list of mainly keyboard players in bands, not guitar-driven bands. FNM, Pink Floyd, Yes, The Doors, Ghost, Genesis, etc. are not guitar-driven bands at all. There, I've spoken. Now gimme that damn poop award!
    i think the point of adding "guitar driven band" was to nullify any classical pianists and solo piano artists. It should have been worded better
    Arfing Thumb
    While I must add that Genesis did have a lot of guitar in their music, though one might not notice at first glance or wouldn't call it guitar driven. But they often had three guitars at the same time (one 6-string and two 12-strings, Banks playing one of them).
    Just a suggestion for a possible wednesday question: best performance by Lars on a record
    Easy. Seattle 1989 Justice tour.
    Metallica song with the best drumming then?
    Dyers Eve?
    That may be the fastest but I would say Harvester of Sorrow, The Shortest Straw, or Ride the Lightning for best.
    Ride The Lightning is a super boring performance. The best Metallica drum performances are all on AJFA, as that seems to be the only album where Lars really tried to make something different with his drumming. There's bits and pieces of interest on previous albums but AJFA is the only album where entire songs are noteworthy for the drum performance. And yea, Dyer's Eve is the best, not just because it's fast but because it's more creative and aids the flow of the song best of any of his drum performances.
    I don't exactly agree with the order but it's solid. Lord at the top though for sure. Love his work.
    Ian McLagan (Small Faces & Faces) if we are talking "guitar driven" bands.
    Jon Lord was a musical genius and his talent is undeniable. Rest in peace legend !
    This list is a fucking joke, where are the MOODY BLUES??? They should be in the top 5.
    Should Have Jim Gordon on the list. Played with Clapton in Derek and the Dominos. Who can forget the scene in "Goodfellas" when they play the epic piano exit of "Layla"
    No Geoff Nichols from Sabbath, or Tony Carey and David Stone from Rainbow? Go listen to "Gates of Babylon" again!
    Glad to see Flake on the list. I know Rammstein aren't exactly virtuosos, but I grew up listening to them, and his playing is a huge part of their sound. Also glad to see Jordan Rudess getting some love. Admittedly, I'm not too familiar with the other DT keyboardists, but I enjoy the way he and Petrucci tag-team solos with one another, particularly in black clouds and silver linings.
    I think its great Jon Lord won top honors I wouldnt think he had a shot but thats amazing to me at least.
    Another one I'd like to mention (who should be on this list) is Diego Tejeiada of Haken. Listen to their latest album "Affinity" if you don't believe me
    Nightwish is not a guitar driven band. If anything, Emppu should be mentioned in the 25 greatest guitarists in keyboard driven bands
    No Quasi? Sam Coomes is one of the best keyboard players out there in a rock band setting. Maybe he didn't fit the category since he plays either guitar or rocksichord. Either way, he is worth noting.
    Good list, although I don't agree with therankings of some of these people..
    As soon as I saw Don Airey listed as number 15, I already expected to see Jon Lord as either number 1 or 2... I can't honestly think of any better keyboard/organ player!
    waketeve · Sep 30, 2016 02:59 PM
    Think EVH should be at least on the list. They definitely pass the "guitar driven" test, and they have plenty of great keyboard/piano parts played by him. I think that one is kind of a no-brainer even.
    An idea for a future Wednesday question. Songs which have been used by charities to shamelessly manipulate TV audiences into putting their hands in their pockets. Examples include Everybody Hurts by REM, This Woman's Work by Kate Bush and anything by Coldplay.
    sheritaylor444 · Oct 01, 2016 05:21 PM
    Would've picked Joakim over Per in the Opeth choice really - Per played on Ghost Reveries and Watershed, sure, but Joakim is definitely the stronger player between the two.
    Bass Builder
    IMHO Neither EVH nor Geddy should be here because they ARE the guitar driving the band.