Sunday, December 27, 2015

Thoughts on Pianos

piano keys

Copyright : Teerawut Masawat

During this holiday season I had the chance to play six different pianos. These ranged from a small upright (console) to a professional (about 6’) grand piano. Included also is my own personal digital stage piano, the Kawai MP7.

Of the five acoustics, one console had a very nice exterior but I experienced stuck and slow keys in addition to not being in tune. Another console is quite aged and has various minor issues with mechanics and sound. There is an old mini-grand which has some tuning and maintenance issues. There is a studio upright which has been well maintained and has decent sound. And the professional grand which surprisingly I found a couple of keys that didn’t respond as well as they should have. Of these five, the last two are the ones I am most pleased playing, with both mechanics and audio.

I found that the Kawai MP7 is at least the equal of the professional grand piano, in terms of keyboard touch, feel, action, and sound.


This season I took my digital setup to two venues: one that didn’t have a piano at all, and one that has a piano but is one of the ones I don’t like. I found I could tear down the setup and load it up in my van in about fifteen minutes, and about the same amount of time to load-in and set up at the venue.

The good things about hauling my own setup is that the instrument is always in tune across the entire range, feel and action are consistent on every key, I know what it sounds like, and because it’s what I practice on, I know how it will respond. When it comes to pianos already at the venues, even on ones that I’ve played before, unless I am using it regularly the response and sound take some time to get used to, and there is always the possibility of finding a mechanical or tuning issue.

The negative aspects include the set up and tear down time and effort that has to be figured in, the wobble during playing (though it really doesn’t affect my playing now that I’ve gotten accustomed to it) due to the “X” stand I use, and yes, it might sound a little “too perfect”, aka, electronic.

When I used my setup today, I noticed that the room I was in was killing the high frequencies (shaggy carpeting, and speakers on the carpet). With just a few touches of buttons and knobs I was able to change the EQ to bump up the high frequencies – something you can’t do with an acoustic piano.

My takeaway from this month of playing and performing with different pianos at different venues is that unless the on-site piano is of good quality and I’ve had the chance to practice on it, I would much rather haul my own setup and be able to control the sound as much as possible.