If you grew up in the 80s, you would likely recognize the keytar. The design of taking a piano-style keyboard and lightening and adjusting it to be worn around the neck made it an iconic instrument of the era. With that in mind, you might be thinking: who was the first to make the keytar a famous instrument?
Tom Schuman, the band Devo, and Jan Hammer made the keytar famous. While the keytar was only developed in the 1980s, by the 90s, it had largely fallen out of use. It has been brought back into modern music by artists like Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, and Snoop Dog.
While the keytar was intended to be a staple of rock bands comparable to a guitar, it never quite got past the stage of being a novelty item. Functionally, it has fewer keys than an actual keyboard (which come in 61 or 88 key varieties, typically), however, it has an exciting role in modern music. Here are some of the key people that helped make the keytar iconic and where you can see a keytar used in contemporary music.
Who Invented the Keytar?
When discussing the keytar, we first need to look at who initially made the instrument. Most people believe that Steve Masakowski was the inventor of the keytar. However, some controversy leads people to think other people created the instrument.
Masakowski made an instrument called a keytar in the 80s, but it looks and acts differently than what people recognize as a keytar today. It was a guitar with buttons that could be pressed simultaneously as the strings were played to change the sound. A man named Robert Moog made an instrument that was a piano worn like a guitar. This instrument is what is known as the keytar today. It has been sold and refined since the early 80s.
This distinction between the two different instruments with the same name is often lost, and Masakowski gets the credit for inventing the instrument. Many people think that Robert Moog should receive an equal amount of credit.
Who Were The First Musicians to Use a Keytar?
Now that we better understand who helped to create the first keytar, you may be wondering who the musicians were that made it viable as an instrument in the music industry. While the keytar never became a staple in every rock band, some big names still used a keytar. We’ve listed some of the more prominent names below.
This Spyro Gyra keyboardist was among the first prominent musicians to use a keytar.
This band was often photographed with keytars in promotional materials. Though they became known for these photos, they never used the instrument in concerts. Still, using them in music videos and promotional ads helped to bring the keytar to mainstream music.
The composer best known for his work on Miami Vice frequently used the keytar. An example of how he would use it is shown in the video below.
Who Made the Keytar a Famous Instrument?
There are many different people in a variety of genres who have used a keytar in their music. Some people built the foundation of keytar use in modern music, while others added twists to the instrument.
One of the earliest professional users of the keytar was a French man named Jean-Michel Jarre. He started performing music in 1969 and used a keytar throughout his career. He is known for producing some of the first new age and electro music.
Prince and Weird Al Yankovich
Prince was also a user of the keytar during his music career. His sound was powerful and original for his time. Often, he was unconventional in his style, songs, and showmanship, so, unsurprisingly, he would be a big supporter of the keytar. In a similar vein, Weird Al Yankovich has also been seen using the keytar in his musical parodies for years.
Robert Lamm – Chicago
The band Chicago was also a huge keytar player, becoming a more widely-used instrument. Robert Lamm specifically played the keytar in the late 80s. He can be seen playing the keytar while collaborating with the band Earth, Wind, and Fire.
Tyler Joseph – Twenty-One Pilots
In recent years, Tyler Joseph of Twenty-One Pilots has been known to play the keytar. Twenty-One Pilots’ unique sound relies heavily on modern modifications and unique instruments. Some fans have been watching for keytar use, and the last song that a keytar was spotted in was “Fake You Out” in the album Vessel. Before Vessel, he used the instrument frequently.
The Keytar Bear
A few lesser-known people have based their musical careers on using the keytar. One of them is called the Keytar Bear. The Keytar Bear is an unknown artist who plays near subways and train stations. He often plays to make money for charities and protests against racism. He has been recognized by artists such as Mick Jagger for his performances, been beat up for what he stands for, and still dons the suit to perform for good.
Who are Modern Musicians Who Have Used a Keytar?
While the keytar was almost exclusively used in the 80s and had largely died off by the 90s, it came back during the 2000s. In the late 2000s, artists began to play the keytar in music videos and concerts. This was often done to call back images of the 80s or pay homage to earlier musicians. Some big names have brought the keytar back into the music world.
Lady Gaga has several custom keytars that she has used throughout her career. She has used them in concerts, as part of music videos, and during special presentations at award shows.
Black Eyed Peas
Members of the Black Eyed Peas have used large keytars during tours and concerts.
Snoop Dog used a keytar in the music video for “Sensual Seduction.” It was included in this single as a call back to more “old-school” bands.
Overall, it is cool to see the progression of keytar use. The sound it produces is unique and has been used by many to create many songs. The keytar is a beautiful combination of two classic instruments.