I like to have little 3-octave keyboards on top of a grand piano, and then a 4-octave USB controller to the right of the piano routed to virtual instruments in a mac book pro. While my first love is the piano, my real secret of making the piano sound good is having plenty of other sounds within easy reach… and uh, NOT playing the piano all the time.
So what I’m trying to do is to keep the piano sound fresh by varying what I am doing on it. Sometimes that means sitting out a section, and sometimes that means I switch to a pad for the verses and the bridge. Sometimes I play one hand on a pad and one hand on the piano for some sections. I like the smaller keyboards, because then I can have more of them closer to me, and since I’m trying to be sure to make room for the base, the smaller boards are perfect. If I do need to do an epic pad when it’s all me, I can always use two different boards at once and the two different sounds will sound even more amazing.
The other thing I love doing is running arpeggiators. But that’s one of those things you can do only if the drummer is playing to a click track, so the tempo is tight and doesn’t drift. You know that cool, muted, 8th note rhythmic device the guitarist is doing? It isn’t good form to try to layer that with an arpeggiator. No stealing riffs! When guitarists do get that mountaintop solo, there are two things we can do: hold down the song and create some space! Two hands down low playing whole notes will define the chord and the downbeat and add meat, freeing up the guitarist to do their thang in the space above.