The Six Lives of Rick Wakeman
The six best keyboard ideas of Rick The First, in condensed, easy-to-follow Making Music style.
Rick Wakeman has been around long enough to know better. Now he's the proud owner of a new album of New Age piano instrumentals and he's just flown in, cape billowing around his shoulders, to give us a few words.
1 "I'm very fond of sticking arpeggios in all over the shop, which sometimes gives the impression of chord changes when you don't actually have any. John Barry is the best example of this, back in the Fifties. If you ever listen even to the James Bond theme, most of the time everybody had lines like in the old orchestral days, nobody had chords to play but it gave the impression of chord changes.
2 "I'm very fond of having suspensions, by having the same bass note under a series of chords because it always gives the impression if the chords are changing that you're going to end up on the same spot again. For example, allowing for a straight C bass all the way through, just straight chords: C, Ab with a C bass, Eb with a C bass, F with a C bass, Ab with a C bass, Bb with a C bass then back to C again. And there's another thing you can do, play a whole series of chords with the same note on the top. It's not to try and make your life difficult, it's almost like you're trying to convince people you're taking them down a certain path, and then you turn off at a tangent.
3 "At the Royal College of Music I studied orchestration under a brilliant man called Philip Cannon. He taught me to be bold, not to be frightened of things going wrong. If you go for safety you end up with safety, and safety never has any longevity.
"I'm totally and utterly against demos because it's a musical waste of time."
4 "I always pick on keys that are alien to other instruments. Guitar players inherently enjoy playing, and their fingers act naturally, around your Es and As and your Bs and Ds. Invariably I will write in Bb Db or Gb. All the usual riffs and things that are in your fingers go straight out of the window. It's the same on a keyboard, you're used to doing certain things and you try to move that pattern into another key and it doesn't work. What happens is that another pattern develops so you end up playing something slightly different which you would have done in another key.
5 "When you're writing, the secret is to write on piano, because if it'll sound good on piano you can adapt it to anything. A lot of stuff gets written in my head, of course, and then I'll write it down. I wrote the whole of "No Earthly Connection" on aeroplanes: everybody's part, the lyrics, I never myself played one note until we got in the studio, and I gave them all their parts.
6 "I'm totally and utterly against demos because it's a musical waste of time. Nine times out of ten the full recording ends up exactly the same but with nowhere near the feeling that it had in the demo. If you go into the studio to do something, do it for real."
Feature by Rick Wakeman