Psychedelic Rock Keyboard Style

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Psychedelic rock keyboard style is a unique and creative way to make your music stand out. Learn about the different techniques and tricks that you can use to create this style of keyboard playing.

The Psychedelic Sound

Psychedelic keyboard style is a genre of rock music that is characterized by the use of electronic keyboards, such as the Hammond organ, and by the incorporation of elements of jazz, soul, and blues. The genre emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

What is Psychedelic Rock?

Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that is inspired or influenced by psychedelic culture and attempts to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs. It often uses new recording techniques and effects, synthesizers, and sometimes incorporating elements of Eastern mysticism or philosophy. Psychedelic rock developed in the mid-1960s with bands such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Byrds exploring new recording techniques to create sonic effects, while others like Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream and Procol Harum expanded existing ideas with feedback and distortion.

The Birth of Psychedelic Rock

The early psychedelic groups were based in not only San Francisco, but also in Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle, and Portland. Musically, they were influenced by the pop music of the British Invasion (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and the Who), as well as by country (Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons), folk (Joan Baez), jazz (Miles Davis), and electronic music (Pierre Henry). The early psychedelia was also characterized by its poetic lyrics and trippy sound effects.

The Psychedelic Sound

Psychedelic music is a diverse style of rock that was popularized in the 1960s. Musicians drew on external influences, such as the work of Santana and Jimi Hendrix, to explore new levels of creativity. The genre is characterized by its use of extended instrumental solos, distorted electric guitars, and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

While the movement began in the United States, it was quickly adopted by British bands such as Pink Floyd and The Beatles. The sound reached its peak in popularity during the Summer of Love in 1967. However, by 1968, psychedelia had largely fallen out of favor with the public. In the 1970s, some bands continued to experiment with the style, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that psychedelic music experienced a resurgence in popularity.

Psychedelic Rock Keyboardists

Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that originated in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Psychedelic rock keyboardists were at the forefront of this new sound, experimenting with different techniques to create mind-bending sonic effects. In this article, we’ll explore some of the different keyboard styles used in psychedelic rock and how they helped shape the sound of this iconic genre.

The Beatles

The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. The group, whose best-known line-up comprised John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, are regarded as the most influential band of all time. With a sound rooted in skiffle, beat and 1950s rock and roll, they later utilised several genres, ranging from pop ballads to psychedelic rock, often incorporating classical elements in innovative ways. In 1963, their enormous popularity first emerged as “Beatlemania”; as the group’s music grew in sophistication incorporating elements of Western classical music, they came to be perceived as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the era’s sociocultural revolutions.

The Doors

The Doors were one of the most influential and controversial rock bands of the 1960s. From their inception, they were fronted by charismatic lead singer Jim Morrison, who became known for his shaman-like stage presence and poetic lyrics. The band was also known for their innovative and psychedelic approach to music, which was reflected in their use of keyboard instruments.

Keyboardist Ray Manzarek was a pivotal member of The Doors, and his style of playing was integral to the band’s sound. He often used a Fender Rhodes electric piano, which helped to give the band’s music a dark and eerie quality. He also made use of the Hammond B-3 organ, which added a thick and heavy sound to the band’s music. Manzarek’s keyboard playing was highly improvisational, and he would often go off on extended solos during live performances.

The Doors were one of the first rock bands to make extensive use of keyboard instruments, and their style of play was highly influential on subsequent generations of musicians.

Pink Floyd

Probably the most popular and successful psychedelic band, Pink Floyd was founded in 1965 by Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. Barrett wrote many of their early hits, including “See Emily Play” and “Apples and Oranges,” but his erratic behavior due to drug use led to his expulsion from the band in 1968. He was replaced by David Gilmour.

The band’s lineup would change several more times over the years, with Gilmour emerging as the primary songwriter and leader after Waters left in 1985 (the two had a very acrimonious split). Although Pink Floyd would never again achieve the pinnacle of success they reached in the 1970s, they remained active until 1994, when Wright died. Barrett also died in 2006.

Pink Floyd is well-known for their extended solos and innovative use of sound effects and tape loops. Mason’s drumming was powerful and precise, while Wright’s keyboard work ranged from gentle textures to full-on assaults. Gilmour was an excellent guitarist and singer, but it was his work on the keyboard that made him unique among rock keyboardists. He often played Hammond organ and Hohner clavinet through wah-wah pedals to create an otherworldly sound that was an essential part of Pink Floyd’s music.

The Psychedelic Keyboard Style

Psychedelic keyboard style is a approach to playing the keyboard that emphasizes on creating a “trippy” sound. This style of keyboard playing originated in the late 1960s and early 1970s with bands like The Doors, Pink Floyd, and The Grateful Dead. If you’re interested in creating a psychedelic sound with your keyboard, here are some things you’ll need to do.

The Beatles

The keyboard style used by the Beatles was very much informed by the zeitgeist of the times, with many of the band’s songs featuring psychedelic passages. This style of playing would come to be emblematic of the psychedelic rock genre, and would be adapted and incorporated into the playing of other artists.

The Doors

one of the most influential and popular bands of the 1960s, The Doors used a wide range of keyboard sounds to create their distinctive sound.

Keyboardist Ray Manzarek was a classically trained pianist who became interested in rock & roll while he was in college. He began experimenting with electric keyboards in an attempt to recreate the sound of a rock band using only one instrument. This led him to develop a distinctive style that incorporated elements of classical music, jazz, and blues.

The Doors’ keyboard parts were often complex and involved multiple layers of sound. Manzarek would often use a Hammond organ to play the lead melody while simultaneously playing chords on a piano or Rhodes electric piano. He would also add embellishments with a Wurlitzer electric piano or Mellotron. For special effects, he would sometimes play pre-recorded tapes of sounds such as police sirens or train whistles through a Leslie speaker.

Manzarek’s approach to keyboard playing was unique and highly influential. Many subsequent psychedelic and progressive rock bands would attempt to recreate the sound of The Doors, but few were able to capture the same magic.

Pink Floyd

Psychedelic rock is a subgenre of rock music that emerged in the 1960s which was influenced by psychedelic culture and attempted to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs. Keyboardists in psychedelic rock band tended to use creative effects to produce unique sounds. Many used the newer, more portable and affordable instruments that were becoming available, such as effects pedals, wah-wah pedals, and Leslie speakers.

Pink Floyd were an English rock band formed in London in 1965. They achieved international acclaim with their progressive and psychedelic music. Their song “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” (1967) was one of the first pop songs to contain a theremin solo. Floyd are known for the extended compositions “Atom Heart Mother” (1970) and “Echoes” (1971), both of which made extensive use of keyboardist Rick Wright’s Hammond organ playing.

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