Yamaha portable piano?
Are you thinking of buying a portable piano for live use?
Introducing the new Yamaha P-511 73-note Portable Piano ....
.... which (unfortunately for now) exists only in our dreams!
We live in hope though - so I guess this blog post may serve as a kind of open letter to manufacturers of keyboard musical instruments - for what it's worth.
Let me explain:
When Yamaha introduced their P-515, it ticked a lot of boxes on many musicians' wish-lists;
1. Top quality piano sounds (among the best on the market, including the Yamaha CFX & awesome Bösendorfer Imperial Grand piano)
2. Top quality keyboard action (from the Clavinova series pianos)
3. Wooden keys with synthetic ebony & ivory key-tops,
4. String & damper resonance (making for an authentic sound response & playing experience)
5. A stereo audio input & powerful speakers (which means it can be used for onstage monitoring - no external stage monitors required)
6. The (by now) legendary Yamaha quality & reliability.
But, speaking for a lot of relatively petite, solo gigging musicians, there are two main problems with it that may well force you to have to look elsewhere;
1. Its' size - it won't fit into the rear foot-well of many small cars (Yaris, Corsa & 500c owners - forget it!)
2. Its' weight - at a hernia inducing 22kg it's hardly a portable piano (unless you happen to be a nephilim).
(Note: Small cars are relatively easily toppled, so transporting the piano in the rear foot-well lowers the centre of weight distribution)
So naturally, many of us are thinking;
'Oh I wonder will there be a 73 key version of Yamahas' top "portable" piano - like they did with the P-121' - this should reduce the size & weight enough to make it a plausible consideration for the solo gigging musician who drives a small car but still wants high quality piano sounds, in a truly portable instrument.
In an age where half the live music venues in Ireland have gone out of business, solo musicians need to do long journeys to keep working (so small cars make economic sense) & this situation seems to be the case (to some extent) in every other country.
Even very powerful, small, modern PA systems can fit into the smallest of boot spaces - so that's not really a problem for touring solo performers anymore.
We know there's a new Yamaha CP-73 stage piano but it doesn't have any mention of string/damper resonance & doesn't have internal speakers at all, meaning that a separate powered stage monitor would have to be crammed in, along with a compact PA system, all the usual stands & bag full of mics & leads.
Above: Yamaha CP-73 - should be a good buy when prices settle a bit.
So, if you want a high quality, reliable, 6-octave & truly portable piano that can facilitate onstage monitoring, but will still fit into a small car, there's presently nothing on the market for you - unless Yamaha introduces a 73-key version of their P-515, or Kurzweil bring out a fully weighted replacement for the Artis SE, with audio inputs & built in speakers.
My own choice considerations
The ideal instrument would be relatively light (which means less than 18kg) relatively compact, with authentic & dynamic piano sounds, fully weighted hammer action keys, stereo audio & possibly a microphone input (with compression & FX) & built in speakers - powerful enough for onstage monitoring.
Also, it would have to be under £1200 as more expensive pianos (no matter how good they are) are simply not worth it - for live use.
Above: Kurzweils' SPS4-8 - no longer unavailable (along with the Artis SE & others) soon to be replaced.
As a Toyota Yaris user, the instrument of choice had to be a super compact seven or six-octave keyboard, with instant on/off switching of a 2nd layer (for strings/pad) - as I use this a lot during performance.
The Yamaha P121 is not bad, but has no dedicated layer button & no audio input, plus the sound quality (while good for the price) is not quite as high as I'd like, considering I'm relying mostly on piano & similar sounds, to inspire confidence while playing live.
Above: Yamaha P-121 - Superb value, ultra-portable piano ...I might still buy one for practice & jamming.
The Yamaha P-255 would have been almost perfect, as it would have just fitted into the car, had the required audio input, powerful speakers & at 17.5kg is not overly heavy, but unfortunately it was discontinued (replaced by the P-515) right before I got the chance to buy one - Grrrrrr!!
Above: Yamaha P-255 - Fantastic (but no longer unavailable) - could still represent a superb bargain if you can find one secondhand.
The Korg SV1-73 was under serious consideration, because of the quality of its' sounds (even though it has no actual layer function) but the deal-breaker was that more than a few owners have complained about it freezing up onstage, especially while playing lots of notes. Apparently needing to be switched off & then on again before it can continue be used (!!!!) - not exactly confidence inspiring.
Above: Korg CV1-73 - still a good buy for studio use.
The Roland FP-90 sounds awesome & has impressive specifications - but again, it's just too big & heavy at a whopping 23kg (not really portable at all). Such a shame really, because in so many ways it could be the perfect instrument for the solo piano/vocalist, with it's audio & microphone inputs (with mic effects) & superb build quality. If only Roland could offer something like this in a more compact, lightweight & affordable package, it would be a no-brainer for solo piano/vocalists everywhere.
Above: Roland FP-90 - awesome sound & specifications for studio & live use as well, if it can be carried & transported.
The more lightweight & compact Roland FP-60 ticked a lot of boxes as well, but it lacks the mic input with FX & ultimately (sound-wise being on a par with the considerably cheaper Yamaha P-125 & P121) it fell slightly short on piano sound quality, to these ears.
Above: Roland FP-60 - A compact & lightweight alternative to the FP-90. No mic input, but still a decent piano.
The Casio Privia pianos were not under consideration at all this time - for two main reasons;
1. I've experienced some reliability issues with Casio products in the past - usually only after expiry of the manufacturers' guarantee.
2. While I've owned a Casio Privia PX-410r for a long time & really liked it, my last Casio (a Privia PX-350 - there's a link to a review below) turned out to be very disappointing in the 'piano sound' department.
As mentioned in the review - even the piano sounds on the entry level Yamaha P-45 are fuller, more authentic, responsive & better to play than on any Casios I've tried. The new Casio Privia & CDP 'S-series' pianos seem to be an improvement (in sound & key action) - but not enough to make me buy one.
Above: Before the inferior Air sound source was introduced, for a long time I used a Casio Privia PX-410r (AKA PX-575) Superb sound & reliability (only 32 not polyphonic though) The ZPI sound source was one of Casios' best, but at the time Casio seemed to yeild to pressure from the market to up the polyphony. It did seem a rather strange decision at the time, to make their non-arranger pianos 64-note polyphonic, yet only 32-voice polyphony was available on the arranger pianos, before they eventually killed off the superb ZPI sound source altogether.
The Kawai ES-8 was also considered, but there's a fair few users online (some with videos) complaining about mechanical problems with their brand new instruments - keys stuck or not working & issues with dynamic response on individual keys as well. This raises too many questions about the companys' quality control & whether their products could withstand life on the road.
Above: Kawai ES-8 - Authentic sounding piano/arranger that would be good for the studio.
So, the only other instrument that meets most (but not all) of the other criteria, sounds as good, is as reliable & affordable as a Yamaha (despite having no speakers - hence external stage monitor use) is the one I ended up buying - a Kurzweil Artis 7.
I must say - it's sound quality is really good, even with its' (rather spongy) semi-weighted keyboard action - I like the fact that the acoustic piano sounds are big & dynamic (like a real piano), plus there's a lot of both grand & upright piano sounds .... & you've got a lot of control over them.
It's also very easy to bring in layered string & pad sounds - either with buttons, sliders or with a foot controller - so yes, it's definitely a good choice right now & I'm very happy with it!
Above: Kurzweil Artis 7 - Fantastic all round instrument! Could be even better with fully weighted keys & the option to buy a variant with built in speakers.
So I hope you'll check out my Video Channel where I'll be (all being well) uploading performances with it (& other instruments) soon.
Until then cheers & God bless!