Forums > Queen - Serious Discussion > Rick Wright and Freddie Mercury as keyboardists

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tarkintheproud user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 20 Jul 12, 02:39 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Hi,

not being a piano player myself, I was wondering what the technical differences are between Rick Wright (Pink Floyd) and Fred's leyboard style were. To me, it sounds like by ear that Freddie used more "plain" major and minor chords, and Rick seemed to incorporate more complex chords in his playing, however, it seems like Fred had a much more developed rhythm sense than Rick Wright did. Wondering what else musicians/piano players would like to add though! (And yes I know they are really two bands with different sounds, and its tough to compare the two, just wondering though, as Queen did do a good deal of prog in the 70s).

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Posted: 20 Jul 12, 06:00 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

My two cents:

Rick Wright (like Tony Banks) was much more of an ambient player. No noodling or twiddlies!! In other words, not as 'busy' as Freddie.

OF COURSE, you shouldn't judge the ability of a musician by how many notes he does or doesn't play.

To further the discussion: was Brian as good at piano as Freddie? Brian's playing on Save Me is beautiful!!!


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tomchristie22 user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 21 Jul 12, 00:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Brian was already a reasonable pianist when Queen started - the piano on Doing All Right is his playing. He also played on All Dead in '77, which was already quite an improvement, the piano intro is beautiful. Later on (80's & Innuendo) he didn't really play much, but you can still hear his piano on 'Forever' (the AKOM bonus track). Later in his solo career he plays a fair bit of piano again and he's definitely improved again. So yeah, it depends on the period, but I'd say Brian was as good as Freddie by the time he was making his own music in the 90's.

Mr Mercury user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 21 Jul 12, 08:42 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

To me, Ricks style as part of Pink Floyd was more a "soundscape". In other words, he provided the background to which David Gilmour could play over.

Freddie, on the other hand, played a more melodic style that could accompany what Brian was doing on the guitar, or the rest of the band for that matter.

Both were great players in their own right.


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Sebastian user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 22 Jul 12, 01:20 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Freddie was much better on the piano than Brian. Rick was, IMO, much better than Freddie.


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 22 Jul 12, 10:40 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

tarkintheproud wrote:
To me, it sounds like by ear that Freddie used more "plain" major and minor chords, and Rick seemed to incorporate more complex chords in his playing


With all due respect, you really can't use an argument like that in a discussion about the qualities of a piano player, because it's completely obtuse.

Let's take a random song, for example, Blueberry Hill in C.

**********************
C F
I found my thrill
C
On Blueberry Hill
G7
On Blueberry Hill
C
When I found you
***********************

As you will see, it consists of two major chords (C and F), and one dominant seventh chord (G7). The whole of this chorus (and, in fact, the rest of the song) is in the key of C major. Without straying from that key, I could change the chords to

***********************
Cmaj9 Fmaj7
I found my thrill
Cmaj7
On Blueberry Hill
G7sus2
On Blueberry Hill
C
When I found you
************************

I'm now using far more extended chords than before, but does it make me a better player? No, it just makes me play a different song.

What you are describing, both in terms of different approaches to harmony and to rhythm, is not in any way related to the qualities of the keyboardist in question, it's describing the difference the types of compositions the two played.

To take another example, let's look at painting. Imagine we compare Vincent van Gogh and Rafael. Is Rafael a better painter than Van Gogh because his perspective is more accurate and his images more realistic? Or, conversely, is Van Gogh more creative because his paintings are further removed from reality than Rafael's?

Your statement about harmonies is correct, it just doesn't have any bearing on the two keyboardist's respective qualities.




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Posted: 23 Jul 12, 04:22 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote


Freddie on the piano was always entertaining to watch and not having seen any of Rick Wrights piano stuff i cant compare but some have mentioned Brians piano playing and he is a good piano player but i much prefer Freddie

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Posted: 23 Jul 12, 11:28 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

No doubt Freddie was a better player than Brian. Brian would be the first to say that.

Rick Wright and Freddie Mercury were completely different players. Rick's musical vocabulary on his instrument was deeper, but Mercury's sense of rhythm set himself above most.


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Posted: 23 Jul 12, 13:56 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Sebastian wrote:
Freddie was much better on the piano than Brian. Rick was, IMO, much better than Freddie.

Correct.

Freddie was not a great piano player because of his great technical ability but because of his unique style and musicality (same goes for his singing but it's obvious he was a far better singer (technically) than piano player). But his unique FM signature was always there and that's what matters.

That's why we call people like FM (or Queen as a band) artists. otherwise it'd just be craftsmen (and there's nothing wrong with that either!)


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tarkintheproud user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 24 Jul 12, 01:55 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

thomasquinn, I agree with your post. Once again, I am not trying to saw one pianist is better than the other really, I was just observing the differences that they would use when playing piano. I didnt mean that Rick is better because he embellishes his chords more than Fred, just that that was he preferred to do and that was more in his "style".

Anyway thanks for the responses. I could never see Fred coming up with a piece like Great Gig in The Sky, but similarly could never see Rick coming with a song like Leroy Brown.

Sebastian, if you don't mind me asking, I'm curious as to why you prefer Rick's playing?

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Posted: 24 Jul 12, 02:02 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

also, I will add for any PF fans here I think it's a shame that Rick didn't play a larger role in Floyd post WWYH. He's a better singer than Waters IMO, and think the sound of the late 70s floyd would have been really interesting with stronger input from him. Roger was ace at coming up with clever songs especially structurally, but Rick gets forgotten a lot in the mix. He and Gilmour together really made a lot of Roger's songs classics for Floyd.

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Posted: 24 Jul 12, 07:33 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Freddie had a classical backround in the piano, but Rick was more jazz influenced. Thus Rick used more extended chords. Freddie used them occasionally too, like in A New Life is Born and We Are the Championsm, and he used quite often diminished chords as well apart from major and minor chords.

In the Classic Album series about The Dark Side of the Moon Rick stated he borrowed the main theme of Great Gig from some other song he heard of, or something like that.

As Freddie was a great rhythm player with keyboards, we must not forget those rare virtuosic solos like Love of My Life and Death on Two Legs. He was also capable to arrange multiple keyboard parts like in The Fairy Feller and The Miracle.

It always seemed to me that Freddie could have done more with the keyboards like those examples, but maybe he wanted to leave more space for harmony vocals and multiple guitar parts.



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Posted: 24 Jul 12, 08:12 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I would describe Freddie's piano playing as percussive - but then I know nothing about music. :-)


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Posted: 25 Jul 12, 05:09 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

It *is* quite tricky to compare pianists who chiefly play what they've composed/arranged or what has been composed/arranged specfically for them, like the two musicians of this thread. It's, IMO, far easier to compare two classical pianists as their recorded and filmed catalogue will most likely include a lot of the 'standard' material, so they'd be playing the same notes in the same keys in about the same tempo and possibily using similar pianos in terms of size, etc., so we could actually rate the performing details against each other (e.g. articulation, dynamics).

Between Freddie and Rick, it's far more hypothetical ... Rick is obviously far more fitting to play 'The Great Gig in the Sky' because he composed it, so it's as bespoke as it can get; same for Freddie and 'Love of My Life', for instance.

Using diminished chords, etc., qualifies as comparing them as songwriters/arrangers, not as keyboardists. As keyboardists, what qualifies is their technique, their projection, and loads of other details that should be consistent regardless of what they're playing. That's why an amateur will sound amateur no matter what they play, and a pro will sound pro even playing a Grade I piece.

Judging by all those aspects, I think Rick was better and more versatile, for he had a larger playing vocabulary and use of dynamics, whereas Freddie was pounding the piano three of four times. Freddie was perfect for the stuff he wrote or for what others wrote for him - there are many people who can play piano way better than him but wouldn't sound the same on 'Leroy Brown' or 'Somebody to Love' - but for anything else, I reckon he wouldn't be that impressive. He was good, very good, excellent, but not in the top level. Rick wasn't in the top either, but he was far closer to it than Freddie, in my opinion, and considering only what they did as performers (not as songwriters, singers, ping-pong players, etc.)


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.