I recently read an editorial stating that although Keyboards are primarily used with computer DAW's, (Digital Audio Workstations) most musician users are in fact guitarists. However, for me it's the other way round as my problem as a keyboard player has been my inability to record guitar tracks, due to my lack of skill as a guitarist. As Fuzz are developing continually, the Guitar voices on modern instruments are sounding more and more authentic. However, these voices still do fall short of the real thing especially when it comes to Guitar Rock solos.
Fortunately, with the advent of superb guitar software plug-ins and effects I can, with careful programming and canny use of the pitch and modulation wheels, use my keyboard to produce some pretty convincing guitar tracks when I am writing music or creating backing tracks.
Practical application for 'live' work
Using a computer on stage is impractical, so how can I adapt these new found skills in my 'live' work - and why should I need to anyway? The answer is Electric Guitar Effects Pedals.
But first, let us look at the Keyboard player's lot.
Hands up all those Keyboard Players who have struggled during a gig, to be heard over the Guitarist, whose only aim in life is to make your ears bleed.
Yep, thought so.
Also, having to provide piano, strings, brass, second lead etc., we tend to feel a bit unappreciated when the guitarist only has to play one power chord for all the males in a venue to roll up there eyes in ecstasy, and start playing 'Air Guitar'. Don't get me wrong, I have worked with some brilliant guitarists, but I have also worked with some whose only concept of balance, is not falling off the stage while totally wasted. So, back to my original question - why would I adapt my new 'keyboard/guitar' skills for live work?
No Band. No Guitarist
In my case, I also play as a soloist or with another musician in a duo. Both of these combinations have a rock influence, and as such, each requires those guitar licks and solos - but I don't have a guitarist. So I have programmed my keyboard to send the Keyboard guitar voices out via an assignable spare output and have connected that to a Guitar Multi-effects Pedal.
Many Keyboards now have spare audio output jacks that enable you to patch any voice on your keyboard via that output. This nicely separates that voice from the keyboards normal stereo output. I use a Yamaha Tyros for most of my live work, and My Korg M3 also has the ability to assign voices separately. By using a multi-effects pedal I have a wealth of Guitar effects voices at hand, and by connecting to a separate channel(s) on the PA the increased ambience and dynamics of the guitar sound is greatly enhanced to spectacular effect. Obviously, you could use a specific single Effects Pedal instead - e.g. Compressor or Overdrive pedal - to equally good effect. But personally I would go for the Multi-Effects Pedal.
The types of Keyboard Guitar Voices I use are generally the straight acoustic guitar voices which modify nicely with the Effect Pedal. I also use the clean electric guitar sounds as well, which are also very effective. Experimentation is the key.
When playing, make good use of your pitch and modulation wheels to imitate those pitch bends and vibrato techniques, and you will soon hear some pretty convincing sounds - especially during your solos. I would also add that using the Effects Pedals is not exclusive to your Guitar sounds. Assigning other voices through the pedal can produce some excellent results too. For example, try out the Hammond Organ sound with some distortion effects on your pedal - WOW - Deep Purple man. I know that all keyboards have their own inbuilt DSP (Digital Signal Processor) effects that you can apply to your internal voices, but diverting that sound separately through your PA via the Effects Pedal is really cool.