Frankie Says Relax And Just Play The Keytar

In the world of music, there are plenty of interesting and unique instruments. Perhaps none carries as much novelty and excitement as the legendary keytar. A combination of a synthesizer-style keyboard and a guitar styled look, the keytar has become a popular choice for bands and solo artists around the world. Unlike a traditional keyboard, which sits flat on a stand, the keytar is strapped around the shoulder and played on its side, much like a guitar. In 1980, the keytar made its first appearance in Illianabeat Magazine, where it was mentioned in an interview. The actual inventor of the keytar is still a mystery, but the Moog company sold the first mass-produced version, called the Liberation. Since then, it has become an icon of modern music. In the 1970s, similar instruments were played that represented keyboards worn around the neck, but those were not considered keytars because they had no neck like a guitar. Many different manufacturers caught onto the popularity of the keytar including Yamaha, Moog, Roland, and Casio. Today, Roland holds the title of the only manufacturer that still makes them for sale.

The Birth of the Keytar

While it’s not definitely known who actually invented the keytar, a man named Steven Masakowski was given credit originally. He claims he did not invent the instrument, although many fans of the instrument praised the jazz guitarist and college professor for many years as being the father of the keytar. He did, however, invent something similar which was a guitar that had actual keys. Robert Moog is technically credited for the invention of the first commercially created and produced keytar. The Moog Liberation was the very first keytar sold on the mass market. Both keyboard/synthesize and guitar-like construction were combined to create the keytar, giving the keyboard a new, revolutionary way to be played.

The History of Keytars

Creating Keytars

Keytar Heroes

The keytar took off in popularity throughout the 1980s. The band Devo was one of the first bands to start paving the way for others to follow suit. The song “Relax” by the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood used the keytar heavily, and also catapulted it into the spotlight. Perhaps one of the most well known players of the keytar is artist Herbie Hancock, who had a number of hits in the 1980s. His song "Chameleon" is a good example of keytar playing. Other famous players include Howard Jones, Prince, and Weird Al Yankovic. Edgar Winter had a hit song, "Frankenstein," which used the keytar heavily. The instrument was a huge hit in the 1980s, but as time progressed into the 1990s and early 2000s, it lost its shine. Today, however, the keytar is making a comeback. Artists like Lady Gaga, the band Mutemath, No Doubt, and the Black Eyed Peas have all been seen and heard using one.

Keytar Artists

Although they waned in popularity slightly in recent years, the keytar is now making a serious comeback. Snoop Dog even used one in a video he made, paying tribute to the often overlooked, yet very sentimental instrument. It has also been seen in pop culture references and on television shows like NBC's Chuck and HBO's Flight of the Conchords.  Many new, alternative bands have been seen using the keytar, and even the band Phish has played one on many occasions. This once revolutionary instrument was almost placed into obscurity until it came back suddenly, and is now slowly climbing its way back up to being one of the most sought-after additions to bands today.

Keytars and Beyond