Bear with me please. I am a classical guitar student who is teaching himself keyboard for composition purposes, and I've gained some appreciation for the keyboard. Some pieces I've struggled with on guitar are at a very beginner level on the piano, it is superior for polyphonic music to the guitar for many reasons which are probably obvious.

I think some would argue that the piano is more limited in dynamics though, you can only control duration and loudness. Whereas on the guitar you can slide notes, hammer, change between a dolce timbre and an aspro, and probably lots of other things I don't know about.

But the electric keyboard is a very versatile instrument. Portable, can make pretty realistic synths of real instruments, and getting cheaper by the year. There's sliders built in, pedal controls, etc. Just take a look at this ROLI seaboard ad for a quick demonstration: [Link]

Will the electric keyboard, in the future, dominate the music industry/production/etc. and fade interest in learning non-keyboard instruments?

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    Did the electric guitar make the acoustic guitar obsolete? Yes. Did it stop people playing acoustic guitar? No... – Tetsujin Apr 24 '18 at 16:11
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    @Dadgumit -- any answer to this question would be pure, opinion-based speculation. – ex nihilo Apr 24 '18 at 16:33
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    David Bowling There's already 1 answer and it is not opinion-based. – Dadgum it Apr 24 '18 at 16:34
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    Re: Opinion-based... if one answer says "yes" & another answer says "no" how long are you going to wait before selecting the accepted answer? I'd suggest anything less than 20 years would be optimistic. – Tetsujin Apr 24 '18 at 16:41
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    @topomorto - I have no concerns with your answer, it's well thought-through, as always. it does, however arrive at a 'no-one knows for sure' conclusion. My main problem is with the 'I demand an answer' entitlement in the comments here ;) – Tetsujin Apr 24 '18 at 17:06


  • Music is an art form, and artists of all kinds express themselves in all the possible ways. Some writers still use Underwood typewriters. Some painters still use toxic pigments. There will always be musicians who want to use a particular instrument with all of its benefits and faults.
  • Of the musical instruments that have been documented as obsolete, they have fallen into complete disuse in one of two ways: 1) being supplanted by an updated version of the same or very similar instrument or 2) the death of the culture that originated the instrument such that the methods of construction and performance are lost. In the second case, I'll note that reconstructions of some ancient Greek instruments have been made in the last twenty years that have finally recovered the original construction and performance. So those are instruments that have been brought back to life after decades of study and research.
  • The history of keyboard instruments has been largely about replacing other instruments, especially all types of organs and synthesizers. As far back as about the 1500s, pipe organs were designed to replicate the timbre and articulations of other instruments. Since 1935, the Hammond electric organ, and competitors, have made the concept of the organ as replacement for a larger ensemble more affordable and somewhat portable. In the 1970s, Bob Moog ushered in the era of the portable synthesizer with the first Minimoog, and entire works of classical music were recreated with synthesizers, to say nothing of the composition of entirely new, synthesizer based works. The 1980s saw the introduction of sample-based synthesizers that can almost perfectly reproduce any timbre. The 1990s and 2000s saw the rapid growth of computer based sample sets with entire libraries of symphonic samples recording with multiple layers and every imaginable articulation. Now there is a new generation of keyboard style controllers available. And yet in all of that history, not a single instrument has been rendered obsolete by a keyboard recreation.
  • Electronic keyboards have not even rendered the acoustic grand piano obsolete! The acoustic piano did a better job of replacing the harpsichord than electronic keyboard instruments have done in replacing the piano. Digital recreations of analog electronic synthesizers have also not even rendered actual analog synthesizers obsolete.

In summary, history tells us that keyboards are extremely unlikely to render any other instrument obsolete.

  • I'm so ashamed of this answer and galled that is has the same score as this much better answer: music.stackexchange.com/questions/70245/… – Todd Wilcox Apr 24 '18 at 18:00
  • Your second bullet (if true, and I have no reason to doubt it) is a great little nugget of information. – topo Reinstate Monica Apr 24 '18 at 19:51
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    @topomorto I based it on a web search of obsolete instruments. Obviously I didn't find a list of every instrument that had ever fallen to complete disuse, but all the ones I found fit into the two categories I listed. And the ancient Greek stuff I learned about a few months ago when I was researching possible instruments for a project I'm working on. The amount of scholarship and research and dedication and creativity shown by some people working very hard very recently in that area is astounding. – Todd Wilcox Apr 24 '18 at 19:55

No - nothing that looks and works like electric keyboards do at the moment is going to make other existing instruments obsolete. Let's take your example of the guitar: nothing that works like currently-available keyboards has one of the many 'selling points' of the guitar - the ability to control pitch with the left hand, and 'triggering' with the right hand.

Even If we just look at the 'specifying pitch' element of that interface, the guitar still has some advantages over a keyboard - e.g. the ability to do hammer-ons and pull-offs, and slide notes into each other. (and I'm assuming here that your keyboard would have all the ability to do bends, vibrato, etc. that the guitar does).

I know others have said that this is an opinion-based question, and I see their point of view, but I am confident of the above :).

Getting more into the realm of speculation, of course it's possible that some of the technology used in current clever keyboards like the ROLI might make itself into an instrument that looks like a futuristic version of the guitar. With advances in touchscreens, robotics, AI, computing power, manufacturing techniques... who knows what might come and sweep all of what we have now into the 'cute historic oddities' corner. But it won't be anything like keyboards as we currently know them, because there are too many limitations inherent in the current concept of a keyboard.

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    I might add here that people have certain preferences and perspectives of instruments. Some people want to play a guitar because it's a guitar, ie, it is the definitive rock instrument and you can strum it with a windmill motion. Not everyone likes the idea of playing a keyboard. Acoustic guitar can also just be carried around and played in a field, where any decent keyboard requires power beyond batteries. You can even find decent battery powered amplifiers to play your electric wherever you want (not that I'd ever recommend playing that on stage). – Basstickler Apr 24 '18 at 16:53
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    @DavidBowling I avoided the 'people will continue to use the old stuff anyway' line of prediction - one of my local pubs is regularly visited by a hurdy-gurdy player who gets the place rocking with it, but it's still arguably an obsolete instrument! – topo Reinstate Monica Apr 24 '18 at 17:20
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    @topomorto This is longer ago than I'd like, but when Jimmy Page and Robert Plant reunited in the 1990s to revisit some of the old Led Zeppelin material in a world tour, they hired a hurdy-gurdy player to play on a few songs. it was pretty awesome. – Todd Wilcox Apr 24 '18 at 17:31
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    @topomorto I think a better question is whether the electric hurdy gurdy will make all other instruments obsolete. Aaaaaand now I have to go buy or build an electric hurdy gurdy. – Todd Wilcox Apr 24 '18 at 17:40
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    I have a great sample-playback hurdy-gurdy somewhere... you can change the drone key on the fly... not something to be attempted on a real one ;-) – Tetsujin Apr 24 '18 at 18:41

The electric keyboard (or rather the computer-driven synthesisers and samplers it can control) largely HAS taken over. A lot of what you think are real instruments actually came straight out of a computer.

But I think there'll also be a place for real instruments for some time yet. Same way as cinema killed theatre, TV killed cinema and radio (and the Hammond organ replaced all other instruments in 1935) the old ways have a habit of not QUITE dying!

  • I'd be curious for you to cite any examples of things that I think are real instruments that actually came out of a computer. – Todd Wilcox Apr 24 '18 at 17:20
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    Can you always tell in a movie score just how much is 'real'? – Laurence Payne Apr 24 '18 at 17:23
  • For a film score, it's usually all or none. If you book an orchestra, you might as well book the whole orchestra. Certainly there are many film scores where synthesized sounds are mixed with orchestral instruments - Hans Zimmer is a big fan. In Zimmer's case, the synths are software synths and the orchestral sounds are the real instruments. For particularly "cinematic" sounding orchestrations, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, I reserve judgement. They certainly have the budget to book real orchestras, but I'm not convinced they bother. Those soundtracks are quite bland. – Todd Wilcox Apr 24 '18 at 17:29
  • So you're actually saying it ISN'T always 'all or none' and your ear ISN'T always sure which it is? Point taken then? – Laurence Payne Apr 25 '18 at 18:37
  • "Can I always tell in a film score just how much is 'real'?" Well that's not a question that's very fair to you because most of the time I already know because I follow film score production avidly. In general the answer is "Yes". Being a heavy user of virtual instruments and a life-long listener to film and symphonic recordings, I have a lot of experience with the differences in how they sound. If you look for and listen to Vienna Symphonic Library demo recordings, you'll realize the difference is obvious. VSL is the premier product in the space and still isn't convincing. – Todd Wilcox Apr 25 '18 at 19:10

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