I always wonder what people’s opinions are when mixing guitar and piano to make a record. I remember going to the studio one time with a drummer, bassist and a rhythm guitarist. As a keyboard player I of course played the chords with my left hand and extended with voicing on my right hand. The guitarist was also strumming out the same chord on his guitar however it just sounded rather noisy. Like a waste of an instrument.
Both the guitar and the piano, although playing the same chords, simply clashed with noise due to occupying a similar frequency of sounds. That was when I realized how difficult it is to record guitar and keys together, it would need to be either one of the other.
Another way around would be the following.
- Have the keyboardist play chords only, have the guitar improvise freestyle melodies and licks between phrases
- Or have the guitarist play chords only, then have the keyboardist play phrases and melodies.
Any of the above would work much better then having the guitar and keyboard / piano both going hard over the same chords. Or another way could be to completely separate the parts. E.g. Guitar silent when the keyboardist is playing and vice versa.
I have been playing with people who hate guitars as they say they don’t fit in the genre. I don’t think that is true as there are many Neo Soul tracks with guitars, however the preference does seem to be towards the keyboard, mainly being the Rhodes or other similar sounding electric pianos e.g. Wurlitzer. And nowadays, electric piano VSTs plugins for DAWs which are inexpensive but can sound great.
I think similar can be said when mixing acoustic pianos with electric piano sounds. Both playing the same chords at the same time will sound messy, however separating them out can sound nice in a track. Robert Glasper’s stuff is a great example. Live on stage he often alternatives between acoustic and electric piano. He will also play chords with one and melodies on the other at the same time since they seem to be positioned at 90 degrees from each other. If you listen to his albums too “Black Radio 1&2”, you will be able to hear a good balance of acoustic and electric piano sounds. However I have not noticed any guitars in his productions.
In general, instruments that occupy a large frequency range are more likely to clash together. In Neo Soul and R&B people often like to use simple synth for melodies too since these tend to sit in mixed well without disturbing the other instruments.