Ed Roth: Keyboard Versatility

Ed Roth
Photo: Ed Roth

How to Raise the Bar as a Keyboard Player

Contributed by Roland US Team

There’s a ton of music out there, but as a guitarist, drummer, keys player, etc., who do you follow to keep your playing chops razor sharp? Who really inspires you? Keyboardist Ed Roth has been known to strike a special chord within an extremely diverse group of musical circles. He is a versatility powerhouse on keys and listening to him play could be just the nudge you need to reach your next keyboarding milestone. Regarded as a “musician’s musician,” Ed Roth innately knows how to raise the bar and compel musical peers, like Quiet Riot’s drummer Frankie Banali, to reach higher.

Ed Roth is a musician’s musician who covers so many musical bases that it is really amazing. At any moment, Ed can conjure up the intricacies of Chick Corea or Herbie Hancock’s piano stylings, the rock-solid melodies of Led Zepplin’s John Paul Jones, the earthiness of Booker T. Jones, or the sensitivity of Paul McCartney’s Beatles-era imagery. That’s just the tip of this musical iceberg. He makes every song and every musician sound better by his contributions. Each time I’ve seen Ed live, be it with the “Voice of Rock” Glenn Hughes or that Red Hot Chili Pepper Chad Smith, he has been flawless, and when I’ve performed with Ed, he has made me a better drummer. –Frankie Banali

So Who’s Ed Roth?

Ed Roth has played, recorded, and music directed for a wide range of artists including R&B legends and Grammy winners, the Brothers Johnson, Rap pioneer Coolio, genre bending singer-songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins, and Andy Vargas (lead singer of the multi-platinum group Santana). He’s also performed with with Rob Halford, guitar legend Ronnie Montrose, Glenn Hughes, Jimmy Barnes, Mya, Tom Morello, Flogging Molly, Maia Sharp, and the Avett Brothers. The diversity of this list of artists alone, from hard rock to R&B, speaks volumes of Ed Roth’s musicianship.

When asked, “What do you get when a keyboardist releases a self-titled album?” Ed said, “You get instrumental music, smooth jazz, and you get keyboard music whether you like it or not (laughs).” Ed further elaborated…

As a player, your chance to speak is when you’re playing a melody; you want to make it sing. You want to make your instrument sing, and this is the chance for me to do that, to put out something memorable. Your only outlet for instrumental music is pretty much the smooth jazz world, which is not always my favorite thing. So my stuff is a little edgier, and I tried to put some adult chords in there. I tried to put a little jazz into smooth jazz, which is not a very common thing, but, you know, I think some of it will jar you.

His self-titled album Ed Roth is full of fresh instrumentals with plenty of edge and a strong melodic groove. Featuring a who’s who of musicians, the album’s artist roster includes Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Chad Smith, Danny Seraphine (Chicago), Kenny Aronoff (John Cougar), percussionists Rock Deadrick (Ziggy Marley) and Cassio Duarte (Lee Ritenour), horn players Jimmy Roberts (Rod Stewart), Chris Mostert (the Eagles) and Mitch Maker (Ray Charles), bassists Phil Chen (Rod Stewart) and Andrew Ford (Whitney Houston), and guitarists Linda Taylor (Tracy Chapman), Joe Calderon (Billy Childs), Bruce Watson (Christina Aguilera), and fretless guitar virtuoso Ned Evett.

Even though Ed Roth has not achieved that “house-hold name” status just yet, a common thread with hired guns of his caliber, if you’re a keyboardist unfamiliar with his playing, take some time to explore his work. You can visit his Facebook page for show dates or check out his latest self titled album Ed Roth on iTunes or his website.

Stay tuned for future posts with tips and tricks from Ed Roth himself. We’ll also be taking a closer look at his current rig that includes a V-Combo VR-700, an RD-700GX stage piano, various synths like the V-Synth and vintage D-50s, and an array of vintage keyboards from the ’60s and ’70s.

In the meantime, here’s Ed’s take on the classic groove jam “Low Rider.”

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Created by Roland V-Drums specialist Simon Ayton, these patches were designed using the internal factory sounds and many of the techniques covered in the TD-50 guide. Enjoy exploring the possibilities!