Tips for Joining a Band as a Piano Player | Piano Marvel

Tips for Joining a Band as a Piano Player

by Scott Joyce

Scott Joyce plays a gig (courtesy Scott Joyce)

Scott Joyce plays a gig with his band./(courtesy Scott Joyce)


I was 20 years old and I didn't own a keyboard and I found myself in bass player Alex Rosa's living room auditioning with his band. Alex pulled a cheap keyboard from his closet for me to use. They asked me if I knew a particular song and I said, "No." They said, "It's in A, so play along." I would play mostly wrong chords and every now and then I'd hit an A when they were also playing an A. Then after about six songs they thanked me for coming and, to my surprise, they started talking about their schedule and set list. I got the gig.

Since then, I’ve played for Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Tracy Lawrence (currently), and more–as full-time road gigs. And I’ve also played for over 100 well-known country and blues singers as one-offs or guest appearances. I’ve recorded with Blake Shelton and Hunter Girl, and do many home-studio recordings through

I didn't know much when I joined my first band—and I did just fine—but here are a few things I've learned that might help you. I’ve included a few tips for joining a band as a piano player as well as some pointers on how to play piano in a band. I’ve divided this into 2 sections: practicing and performing.


The 3 T's

Technique: I use Hanon (the first 20) and Czerny, School of Velocity. 

Time: Feel the pulse as the main driver of your playing rather than the notes and chords.  

Transcriptions: Write out on staff paper what you are hearing the piano is playing. I do this with Oscar Peterson solos, for example. I use an app called Transcribe+. Listen to the music, write it out, use Transcribe+ to slow it down, and then learn to play it—4 bars at a time. Then speed it up. Just learn 4 bars a day. Get every nuance you can, right.  

Improvise every day

Start with just one hand and just noodle around. Build on that.

Be a rhythm player

Practice drum rudiments like paradiddles. You can practice these with your hands on your knees, with your fingers on a table, and you can play these on the piano.

Know piano intros

Play the whole piano. Everyone is staying out of your way for a change!

Learn to hear chord progressions

If a song is in the key of D Major then you should be able to listen to the guitar and bass player and be able to recognize when they go to an A chord. Build on that.

Sight read

Do this a little every day in case you get called for a gig that requires some reading. The SASR test in the piano learning software, Piano Marvel, is somewhat addictive and fun. Josh Wright recommended it on YouTube. He’s got a lot of great tutorials too.


Listen to what everyone else is already playing

Listen to the drummer and support that feel.

Don’t play what the bass player is playing but do be aware of what the root notes are.

Match the flavor of the guitar player's chords and rhythms without playing all over them.

Play open fifths

In Rock and Country, if it gets too thick sounding, try to avoid the thirds. If the band is on a D Major chord, just play D notes and A notes—no F♯s.

Use Pentatonic and Blues scales

For Pop, Rock, and Country solos, use pentatonic and blues scales for the most part. For Jazz and even some Pop styles, you’ll need to learn about jazz scales.

Play firmly and with authority

Put your insecurities aside and play it like it’s the last time you get to play piano and mean every bit of it.

Frame the singer

Play between vocal phrases. Watching the singer solves this problem of overplaying. They sing a little, you play a little.

Overall, your goal should be to help the band sound better and enjoy playing piano. Rock on!


Scott Joyce is a Texas native that has built a career in Nashville as a piano player.  He has received degrees in Audio Engineering, Commercial Music, and Computer Networking.  He has enjoyed playing in bands for artists mentioned already, plus Andy Griggs, Jo Dee Messina, Casey James, The Conway Twitty Musical, and more.
Scott is a songwriter with a Blake Shelton cut. He is also a recording musician on records by Blake Shelton, Tracy Lawrence and many indie artists.  And finally, he has produced songs for many writers including Hunter Girl, the 2nd place winner of American Idol.  
Scott has taught piano lessons as his touring schedule permits and is a Certified Piano Marvel Instructor.  He is married and has two daughters.
email:  [email protected]

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