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Joined: Jun 2022
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IraBob Offline OP
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Hello all,
I'm new here, with a different background, most likely, than everyone else here.

I'm a tour manager and sound engineer for an internationally known music group. They were hugely popular 20 years ago, but not so much anymore. They are not playing nearly the number of shows that they used to.

Their agent is telling them that promoters have to spend too much money to book them, and with pandemic issues still on people's minds, the promoters aren't willing to take chances, and they want to reduce their costs, just as everyone else is trying to do. One way that we could lower our production expenses and help promoters to be more willing to book the group is to eliminate the rental and cartage and tunings of a 7' or 9' grand piano in those venues that don't already have one. The GP, mind you, is an important part of the show, both sonically and visually, even though it is embedded in a 30-piece orchestra and not the featured instrument. But compromises do have to be made occasionally, and their agent says more and more promoters are asking for that compromise. In some cities we've played recently, the cost of rental and cartage was $2500 and then the tunings are another $300 minimum. If we could bring that cost down to an $800 rental and cartage expense for a DP, promoters would be more willing to book the group.

So, I'd like to ask the community - if we were to compromise and ask for a DP instead of the acoustic grand, could you tell me which keyboards you think would be appropriate? The keyboard would be played by an orchestra pianist, so it would have to have the "feel" of a concert grand. As the sound engineer, I'd like it to have an excellent sound, of course. The other criteria would be that it would need to be a well-known keyboard that a rental company, such as Studio Instrument Rentals (SIR) might have in inventory. Those brands would include Yamaha, Kurzweil, Roland, maybe Kawai, maybe Nord. I'm sure there are others. The other preference would be that it's hardware-based - I couldn't have an orchestra pianist (a different one each night) be expected to know about software solutions, and we don't carry a keyboard tech as part of the entourage.

TIA for your opinions and for taking the time to read and respond to this.

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In that you insist on something self-contained...

Josh Wright is a classical pianist who has said good things about the Nord: https://kit.co/joshwrightpiano/digital-pianos/2448776-nord-piano-4-88-stag


Jane - expert on nothing with opinions on everything
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Originally Posted by IraBob
Hello all,
I'm new here, with a different background, most likely, than everyone else here.

I'm a tour manager and sound engineer for an internationally known music group. They were hugely popular 20 years ago, but not so much anymore. They are not playing nearly the number of shows that they used to.

Their agent is telling them that promoters have to spend too much money to book them, and with pandemic issues still on people's minds, the promoters aren't willing to take chances, and they want to reduce their costs, just as everyone else is trying to do. One way that we could lower our production expenses and help promoters to be more willing to book the group is to eliminate the rental and cartage and tunings of a 7' or 9' grand piano in those venues that don't already have one. The GP, mind you, is an important part of the show, both sonically and visually, even though it is embedded in a 30-piece orchestra and not the featured instrument. But compromises do have to be made occasionally, and their agent says more and more promoters are asking for that compromise. In some cities we've played recently, the cost of rental and cartage was $2500 and then the tunings are another $300 minimum. If we could bring that cost down to an $800 rental and cartage expense for a DP, promoters would be more willing to book the group.

So, I'd like to ask the community - if we were to compromise and ask for a DP instead of the acoustic grand, could you tell me which keyboards you think would be appropriate? The keyboard would be played by an orchestra pianist, so it would have to have the "feel" of a concert grand. As the sound engineer, I'd like it to have an excellent sound, of course. The other criteria would be that it would need to be a well-known keyboard that a rental company, such as Studio Instrument Rentals (SIR) might have in inventory. Those brands would include Yamaha, Kurzweil, Roland, maybe Kawai, maybe Nord. I'm sure there are others. The other preference would be that it's hardware-based - I couldn't have an orchestra pianist (a different one each night) be expected to know about software solutions, and we don't carry a keyboard tech as part of the entourage.

TIA for your opinions and for taking the time to read and respond to this.

Hi IraBob,

There are quite a few things to talk about: values wise.

There are a number of options of DP's:

Cabinet Pianos:
*Transacoustic pianos (where there is a real piano that plays digital sounds through the soundboard and strings)
*Silent pianos (real piano that can also be silenced for a purely digital sound source)
*Hybrid pianos (real acoustic action, totally digital sound source)
*Clavinova type pianos (digital action; digital sound source; fairly function light)
*Arranger Clavinova type pianos (digital action; digital sound source; arranger electone organ type functionality built in)

Slab pianos:

*Workstations
*Stage pianos
*Portable pianos
*VST controller pianos.

Cabinet Pianos:
Transacoustics are overkill and expensive; Silent pianos and transacoustic require tuning, so they are out.

*Hybrid pianos (real acoustic action, totally digital sound source)
For a concert pianist, the action would be an important consideration. The hybrid digital pianos ---Yamaha Avant Grand; Kawai Novus; Casio GP510---contain real acoustic actions (the casio is slighty less realistic but still on that side of things) are the pinnicle of action quality in digital pianos.
Pros: Amazing action; highest quality sound source; best internal amplification
Cons: Big, heavy, not really built for constant moving around; still quite expensive.

[Linked Image]

*Clavinova type pianos (digital action; digital sound source; fairly function light)
These are not worth it for your usage IMO. They have comparable actions to the slab pianos and the amplification in a gig would come from the PA system. Therefore, there would be no benefit to using Clavinova type pianos (Yamaha CLP785; Kawai CA99) over the slab variety; whereas, with the Hybrid piano, you have the action benefit.


Slab pianos:
*Workstations
Workstations are basically stage pianos with music production tools built in. The benfits include more sliders and knobs to have 16-32 possible parts and many more keyboard splits than on a typical stage piano (that usually maxes out at 8 parts or 8 internal, 8 external). Workstations have touch screens which can be beneficial for bands which require specific set-ups for each song. Often people who cover Queen, (or other bands that span multiple decades) like workstations because they are versitile.
Good workstations cost a few thousand more than good stage pianos. Excellent models include: Pure workstations---Korg Kronos; Kurzweil K2700---Synth workstations---Roland Fantom 8; Yamaha Montage. Of these, only the Roland Fantom 8 has a half decent piano-type action. However, in general, piano action isn't the most important thing for a workstation player, as they tend to also play synth, organ and other parts that benefit from less piano-like action charcteristics.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

*Stage piano
There are 4 stage pianos worth considering. Primarily liked by pianists: the Kawai MP11SE.
[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]
The action is primarily piano-focused. There are only 40 high-quality sounds and 3 parts. Unlike many other stage pianos, the action is not folded ----it uses a wooden keystick with a pivot-point.

If you want a piano action that is nearly as good as the MP11SE but you intend to only use external VSTi (virtual studio technology instruments) in order to provide higher-quality piano sound, then the Roland RD2000 is also a good option (along with the last option in my post).
[Linked Image]
It has over 1000 sounds of varying quality. You get 8 internal parts and 8 external parts with a raft of effects modules that is only rivaled by workstations.
The downside of the RD2000 is that the piano sound source is of poor quality compared to rivals---the modelling technology used to simulate the acoustic piano is expressive yet unable to match the high-quality tone of sampled pianos.

The upsided of the MP11SE is that it's heavier (so it won't rock at all) and has higher quality piano samples on-board than does the RD2000. Also, the sound selection system (user interface) on the Kawai MP11SE and MP7SE are superior to the RD2000.

The Kawai MP7SE is also a good compromise board.
[Linked Image]
It has 4 parts internal and 4 external parts that you can layer (half that of the Roland RD2000) and a plastic folded action that is similar to but maybe not quite as robust as the Roland RD2000's action. The benefit of the MP7SE is that it rivals the Roland RD2000 in effects but has better organ sounds, better over-all user-interface, and is sligtly better built due to a very sturdy construction.

The Nord Grand is also a possibility, as it uses a version of the action used in the MP7SE but without let-off similation. The advantage of the Nord is that you can load-in different piano samples as technology improves---you're not stuck with the sample-set the instrument was sold to you with. It's super-light---not a benefit for a larger group with hired help.

[Linked Image]

Unforunately, no other stage piano provides as good an action as those already mentioned, so they aren't worth mentioning; although, there are some lovely alternatives if action isn't a prime concern. Basically, it's the MP11SE or RD2000 as best choice if action is paramount.

*Portable pianos:
Again, these are just slab versions of mid-range clavinova cabinet pianos. They are less functional that stage pianos, so in my opinion, not worth considering for your situation.

*VST controller pianos.
Kawai make a VST controller digital piano---the Kawai VPC1--- that has no internal sounds and a similar action to the Kawai MP11SE.
[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]
Billy Joel tours with a VPC1 and uses a fake piano cabinet to make it appear like he's playing a grand piano. I.e., something like this.
[Linked Image]

In order to provide high-quality sound source, you basically either carry a laptop around with you, or ---more likely in your situation---you utilize hardware like the Muse Receptor; Seelake AudioStation; Peavey MuseBox etc., to have a more secure system to load the VST instruments into. For instance, Billy Joel's team I think used to use 2 Muse Receptors (one as backup). VST pianos include Garritan CFX grand; VST Hamburg D-274; etc.

Davidrosenthal and the muse receptor

The more tech phobic the pianist, the more likely they will prefer the hybrid option. The more the pianist is into mixing sounds and having an all-in-one do it all machine, the more likely they'd prefer the workstation or stage-piano route. The VST-controller option is mainly for people who want the hightest quality sounds with a really good action and nothing else.

Hope that helps

Last edited by Doug M.; 06/27/22 05:05 PM.

Instruments......Kawai MP7SE.............................................(Past - Kawai MP7, Yamaha PSR7000)
Software..........Sibelius 7; Neuratron Photoscore Pro 8
Stand...............K&M 18953 Table-style Stage Piano Stand
Piano stool.......K&M 14093 Piano stool
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Also check this ----- [LINK] and [LINK]

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As an observer with no specialized knowledge: There are two digital grand pianos I often see. 1) The one American Idol uses at their contestant auditions and 2) the one often in use at piano instruction website Pianote. They are, as far as I can tell, Rolands (altho it's possible I haven't looked closely enuff). They look like acoustic grands until you get a look at the keybed/fallboard, where you see the digital display and controls. Seems like something worth exploring.

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IraBob, I sent you a lengthy PM. Hope it helps. smile


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FWIW -

Write Studio Instrument Rentals, ask what digital pianos are most likely to be available.

You'll be picking from that list, not from any best-of-breed list this forum comes up with.

Edit-- you're using a pickup pianist, ignore this paragraph: Your pianist needs to be involved in the process. His buy-in may be the difference between success and failure of this project.

Last edited by Charles Cohen; 06/28/22 09:43 AM.

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