Keytar hero: cool video clips galore

Belinda bedekovic

Belinda bedekovic

The Chinese may have it down as the year of the Ox, but as far as MusicRadar is concerned, 2009 belongs to the keytar.

Why? Roland might be calling it a 'shoulder keyboard', but its new AX-Synth is most definitely a keytar for the next generation, and we've even seen the instrument being played on Britain's Got Talent.

The keytar's phoenix-like rise is surely set to continue over the coming months, and we're celebrating its return with a set of classic and contemporary clips featuring some of its finest exponents. After watching these, you'll never want to play a keyboard on a stand again.

Rick and Adam Wakeman

Legend has it that Wakey's keytar was forged in Avalon and that he pulled it out of a stone, but no one really knows for sure. This recent clip of a new song, Tudorock, shows him cutting loose on his mighty axe and, in a beautiful twist, he's brought his son, Adam, along for company. This isn't just music - it's poetry.

Jean Michel Jarre

The Gallic electronic maestro is helping to drive the keytar's resurgence by using it on his current world tour. The poor visual quality of this clip makes it hard to see exactly what his hands are doing, but even if we had a hi-def close-up, those fleet fingers would be little more than a blur.

Belinda Debekovic

Croatia's answer to Steve Vai can shred better than that machine you use to destroy your old bank statements, and she does it in some style. Here, she's accompanied by a drummer who goes by the name of General MIDI, while the scattering of balloons says "I'm here to party, and I've brought my keytar". Minus points for not taking the thing off its stand, though.

The Brett Domino Trio

They were cruelly robbed of a place in the semi-finals of Britain's Got Talent, but YouTube will always be Domino and his cohorts' spiritual home (in fact, it's a hive of keytar activity). When Brett's rocking that shoulder keyboard, girls want to do far more than just kiss him.

Herbie Hancock

Hancock's half hour: both a groundbreaking British comedy series and the average length of one of Herbie's keytar solos. If you don't believe us, just look at him checking his watch as we join him halfway through this one - even he can't remember how long it's been going on for.

Dr Ryman

Whatever ails you, Dr Ryman's prescription is always the same: strap on a keyboard and gurn like hell. The lack of a neck on his instrument means that he's straying dangerously close to the outer orbit of planet keytar here, but his intentions are pure. The video below looks suspiciously like it was filmed at a wedding - some day, all marriages will be celebrated like this.

Justin Timberlake

First he brought SexyBack - now JT is doing his bit for the keytar. He and his bandmates have borrowed some moves from The Time, but no one's looking at the dancing - they're simply in awe of the hardware. The bloke with the guitar looks like the kid at school who turned up on the first day back after Christmas with the wrong toy.


Anyone who says that synths can't rock should check out this dirty digital delight. Rather than fearing the keytar, Dragonforce have chosen to embrace it, and the results are breathtaking. When Mario throws a party in the Mushroom Kingdom, he asks these guys to play.


New wavers Devo arrived early to the keytar party, and they brought one with them when they performed on the Letterman show in 1983. They look like they've been arranged in a police line-up at the start of this clip - we charge the guy on the far right with looking so cool that he should be locked up before he freezes to death.

Synthesizer medley

We've featured this clip on MusicRadar before, but familiarity will never dull its brilliance. Taken from the 1985 Grammy Awards, it features Thomas Dolby, Herbie Hancock, Howard Jones and Stevie Wonder on a variety of electronic instruments, including, naturally, the keytar. For those who witnessed it at the time, life would never be quite the same again.

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Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.