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Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos #3023158 01/11/20 05:19 PM
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Stephen Fortner Offline OP
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Hi everyone! I figured that my first VIP Review would kick off with the still-new Yamaha CP stage pianos, as (A) I've had one for over a year and (B) there's a lot of collateral excitement over the YC61 combo keyboard, which Yamaha tells me won't be available for review until spring. (There's the old saying that NAMM stands for "not available, maybe May," LOL.)

By way of a little introduction about what VIP Reviews are, they’re ongoing reviews in the form of threads on this forum. Only moderators can start them (for now, anyway), and they’re more strictly supervised than a “regular” post on, say, the Keyboard Corner. Manufacturers and community members alike are invited to participate and ask questions, but the review originator (me in this case) has their hands on the product and will be doing the bulk of the writing, speaking straight from experience. That said, the back-and-forth (and to a lesser extent, stream of consciousness) feel of the VIP Review lets the community steer the reviewer about what’s important to know about. Okay, on with it!

Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos: Introduction

The CP73 and CP88 are something of a known quantity at this point, but with the OS now up to version 1.2 (with 1.3 expected as of NAMM 2020), there are enough new sounds and features that a comprehensive look at what makes them competitive professional stage pianos is called for. The two models are identical except for their keyboard actions, and I opted for the CP73 because for most of my gigs, compactness is more important than being able to stretch out on a full 88 keys. For my money, the CP73 hits a weight and price sweet spot (though I totally understand if for many of you nothing but 88 weighted keys will do). It carries a street price of $1,999 (via a quick check of Sweetwater’s site) vs the CP88’s $2,499. Those extra keys also add some heft: The CP73 weighs in at 28.8 pounds, which comes in well under my limbo bar of carrying it under one arm while carrying some other piece of gear in the other hand. The CP88, by contrast, weighs 41 pounds—not inordinately heavy for a weighted 88, but you’ll know you’re carrying a piano.

Action

Speaking of keys, the CP73 and CP88 differ in slightly more than keyboard length. The CP73 uses Yamaha’s “Balanced Hammer Standard” keybed where as the CP88 ups the ante to the “Natural Wood Graded Hammer” action. That accounts for the extra weight of the 88-key version, and makes it clear that the latter is aimed at more puristic pianists while the former is best for keyboardists who, like me, are seeking a general-purpose weighted combo that will offer good finger-to-music connection on acoustic piano sounds but be non-fatiguing on electric keys where the original instruments (such as Rhodes, Wurly, and Clavinet) in fact have lighter actions than any acoustic piano. In my experience, the CP73 succeeds in that regard: It still feels far more like a piano than it feels like anything else, but I'm not digging in so hard on tunes like “I Wish” that what I'm in fact wishing for is some bandages. The keys do not sense aftertouch, which tends to be par for the course on digital stage pianos, even high-end ones.

For the uninitiated, a graded action simulates the response of a real grand piano by offering somewhat heavier touch resistance at the bass end of the keyboard, then getting slowly lighter as one ascends in pitch. Yamaha is known for crafting their own digital piano actions (which draw on their experience as the world’s largest maker of acoustic pianos) instead of using off-the-shelf keybeds (e.g. Fatar) as many manufacturers do.

Sound Sections

The CP73 and CP88 have taken a very different approach to the user interface compared to recent Yamaha instruments with “CP” in the name. In the attached image, you’ll see three sound sections from left to right: Piano, E. Piano, and Sub. We’ll devote separate posts in this VIP Review thread to covering each section in detail, but for now, just know that acoustic piano sounds (including Yamaha’s celebrated CFX concert grand) as well as classic CP electric grands live in the Piano section; Rhodes, Wurly, Clav, and DX-style FM pianos are in the E. Piano section, and literally everything else (synths, strings, etc.) is in the Sub section.

The silver toggle at the bottom of each section switches it on or off, and there are quick buttons to decide whether a given section to the left or right of an assignable keyboard split point (or in both), octave shift buttons per section, volume and tone knobs with nifty LED collars, and dedicated effects per section. (To the right of the Sub section and not visible are the master effects and EQ—more on these later.) Selecting sounds (or Voices, as Yamaha calls them) is accomplished by a large, clicky category knob in each section plus an adjacent rocker switch. The tactile feedback of these controls plus the silver on/off toggles gives the CP a somewhat retro feel, and I like it a lot.

More importantly, changing things up on the fly — as you might do when you’re subbing in a band and the leader is calling out tunes — is remarkably easy. Without ever looking at the manual (that came later), I was able to take the CP73 to pickup gigs and split and layer to my heart’s (and bandmates’) content. This is as good a place as any to mention that although the CP panel presents a format geared towards what we’d call three-part multi-timbral operation, there’s an Advanced Mode that lets you put any Voice in any zone and create more complex multi-zone setups. Advanced Mode will get its own post in this thread.

To change the split point, you simply hit the Split Point button then strike a key.

Live Sets Preview

Located in the memory/preset/main controls section (the area with the display) Live Sets deserve their own post in this review, and they’ll soon get it. For now, they’re equivalent to Multis, Combis, Setups, or Registrations, saving virtually the entire state of the instrument and commonly used for programming a gig’s worth of sound setups. As is the trend these days, the CP is “modeless” in that you don’t have to switch between, say, single and multi modes to perform different musical tasks. Want to just play a nice grand piano? Turn the other two sections off!

Next ...

I know ... how does it sound? Next up, we’ll devote a post to the Piano section and the Voices and effects therein. Then we'll keep going through the other sections. But you needn’t wait to fire off questions about any aspect of the CP73/CP88 in this thread. Of course, keep it civil and classy!

Attached Files
Yamaha_CP_panel.jpg (263.49 KB, 219 downloads)
L to R: the CP73's memory section, Piano section, E. Piano section, and Sub section.
Last edited by Stephen Fortner; 01/13/20 07:03 PM.

"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
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Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine
Content Creator and Behind-the-Scenes Writing Wonk, Damned Near Everyone
Re: Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos — Piano Section [Re: Stephen Fortner] #3023433 01/13/20 06:43 PM
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PIANO SECTION

The Piano section on the Yamaha CP73 and CP88 is home to grand and upright acoustic piano Voices, vintage CP electric grand Voices, and a Layered Piano category that “bakes in” strings and synth pads, presumably so that you don’t need to tie up the Sub section to add those.

I’ve linked to an image right from the YamahaSynth site, as it already has cool captions of the controls. Scroll past and we’ll get into the sounds.
[Linked Image from yamahasynth.com]

Here are the sounds (Voices) in each category along with my take on them. As mentioned in the first post, you select Voice categories with the clicky knob and Voices with the yellow rocker switch. Note: These Voices are the latest as of the CP version 1.2 firmware.

Grand Piano Category

- CFX: This Voice features a multisample of the Yamaha CFX grand piano, which in 2012 took the flagship baton from the CFIIIS as the maker’s finest nine-foot concert grand. Having played the genuine article several times, I can tell you that the emulation is as faithful as can be in the digital domain. However, the question for live keyboard players is not so much “How much does this sound just like the piano from which it’s sampled?” as it is “What is this piano patch good for in my real gigging life?” In that department, the CFX Voice has become my go-to for, oh, 75 percent of tunes I play in any genre. It is extremely versatile, and if I need it more or less aggressive, I tend to reach for the Tone knob instead of a different piano sound.
- Imperial: The Bösendorfer Imperial concert grand. Bösendorfer has remained largely autonomous under Yamaha’s ownership, and this piano has a very different character than the CFX (or any Yamaha piano) indeed. The hallmarks such as full, woody bass and long, singing sustain are all present. In fact, it’s got audibly more low end than the CFX Voice. The same goes for mellower highs. If I played more solo classical and jazz piano I’d be all over this all the time. It was my preferred sound for a piano-vocal duo gig where my girlfriend and I performed selections from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and other jazz-infused holiday fare.
- S700: The highly regarded 7'6" studio grand from Yamaha. It would be remarkable were it not for the presence of the CFX and Imperial. Your mileage may vary.
- Digi Piano: Half harpsichord, half saloon piano, all unpleasant. I have no idea what this Voice is doing in the grand piano bank.
- C7: Given that the seven-foot C7 grand has been used in more recording studios and backlines than any other acoustic piano ever made, this is a must-include, and sounds fabulous. As expected, its mids and highs are a bit brighter un-EQ’ed than the other grand piano Voices. I turned to this one when I needed a more aggressive grand for rock and blues jams.
- CF3 (UPDATE as of January 16, 2020): The 2020 NAMM Show saw the release of CP firmware version 1.3, which adds this new multisample of the CFIIIS, the nine-foot concert grand that was Yamaha’s flagship prior to the introduction of the CFX in 2012. Consequently, this was the star piano Voice in better Yamaha digitals until the CFX sample started trickling through the product line. Compared to the CFX sample, it’s a little brighter up top and, to my ears, simultaneously more bassy but less “round” in the lows.

Upright Piano Category

- U1: Captures the Yamaha U1 upright, probably the most ubiquitous upright piano in the world. In terms of realism and usefulness, I find this to be a weaker link in the CP’s piano offerings. While upright pianos use shorter bass strings than grands, the U1 multisample on hand here seems to overstate that point, with less thunder and harmonic complexity than the bass on any actual U1 I’ve played. About +4dB on the lows using the Master EQ, and things improved greatly.
- SU7: This is Yamaha’s top-of-the-line upright piano, for buyers who want to fit grand piano sound into an upright piano space. The real thing costs $40,000. This Voice does it total justice and then some. ’Nuff said.

CP Category

Before digitizing a piano was practical or even possible, electro-acoustic pianos aimed to put real piano sound in the hands of touring musicians in a kinda-sorta-portable-if-you-had-roadies-or-really-supportive-friends form factor. The concept was not unlike an electric guitar: Real strings, real hammers, but pickups instead of a heavy wooden soundboard. The kings of this type of instrument were the Yamaha CP80 and CP70 “electric grands,” known by their trapezoid-shaped harp. Combined with a bit of chorus, their somewhat more metallic timbre became sought-after for its own sake, and defined the sound of classic tunes including “Video Killed the Radio Star” and Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain.” The new CP stage pianos earn those letters with the two variants in this section. Pick the one you like better, add chorus, go back in time.

Layered Piano Category

This category simply provides a layer of what sounds like the CFX voice with either strings or a nice, mellow synth pad. This means you don’t need to call up the Sub section to get this often-needed combination, leaving it free for tasks such as putting an upright bass under your left hand. The trade-off is that there’s no way adjust the volume balance between the piano and strings/pad components. That said, Yamaha did a good job here, with the pianos out in front and the supporting layer being certainly there but not distracting.

What About Resonance?

Make no mistake: Overall these are premium, lush, beautiful piano Voices with nice long decays and no audible velocity layer breaks or other unpleasant telltales of digital sampling. One feature that’s found in many home-oriented Yamaha digitals is absent here, however: Virtual Resonance Modeling (VRM). This is a complex algorithm that captures things like sympathetic string resonance and other acoustic nuances that result from the physical interaction of parts and the vibrations they create inside an acoustic piano. The omission is not terribly consequential here, though, because the CP73 and CP88 are stage pianos—no one is going to hear those things when you’re playing with other members of a band. In fact, I’d hazard that the only live environment where you might hear them is one in which Keith Jarrett would cuss you out for not turning off your cell phone.

Damper resonance, which is more audible under different circumstances because it’s the total of everything inside the piano vibrating when you play with the damper pedal depressed, is provided. It even gets its own button.

Piano Section Effects

Effects provided in this section are simple, as they should be for piano Voices, with just a one-knob depth adjustment so you can season to taste.
- Compressor: At lower depth settings, this will reduce dynamic differences between soft and loud playing, and there may be some musical contexts in which you need that. At higher depths, it adds that distinctive compression “pop“ to the attack of the sound. It’s pretty smart, too—it responded more aggressively to my playing several notes at medium velocity that it did to one note at full velocity, because those multiple notes are putting out more dB.
- Distortion: I’m not sure why you’d use this on piano sounds other than for Marco Benevento-inspired experiments. That said, even at it’s highest settings it’s not guitar- or even Leslie-like overdrive. At mild and medium settings it does a sort of cool thing where new notes seem to steal thunder from previous sustained ones, not unlike the phenomenon of voltage-robbing on a vintage Hammond organ.
- Drive: File under “Thing I thought I’d never use but kind of love.” This isn’t overdrive per se. It just seems to make the sound more aggressive, midrange-forward, and growly without being distorted or hairy. At settings just shy of 12 o’clock, I found it was a good way to bring piano solos forward in a mix without adjusting the master or section volume.
- Chorus: Ahhh. Again, on CP electric grand sounds, it’s almost necessary. Dial some into the acoustic piano Voices, though, and you have all the harmonic complexity of a real piano bathed in so much retro goodness that you will, in fact, not stop believin’.

Next ...

We’ll go into depth on the Electric Piano section and its buffet of very tasty Voices.

Last edited by Stephen Fortner; 01/18/20 03:12 PM.

"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
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Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine
Content Creator and Behind-the-Scenes Writing Wonk, Damned Near Everyone
Re: Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos — Piano Section [Re: Stephen Fortner] #3024222 01/17/20 06:51 PM
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Hello all, has anyone tried the new firmware 1.30 for the cp73/cp88? There are two new Rhodes samples there!


Nord Stage 2 76, Nord Electro 5D 73, Rhodes Mk2 73, Vintage Vibe EP 64, Akai Miniak Synth, Studiologic Acuna 73, Yamaha Reface CP, Small Stone Phaser, Boss GE7, FBT Jolly 8ba, Roland JC 120
Interlude - Quick CP Splits Tutorial Video [Re: Stephen Fortner] #3024322 01/18/20 06:34 AM
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While I try to do justice to all the amazing sounds in the Electric Piano section, I made a quick video of how easy it is to split the keyboard on the Yamaha CP73 and CP88. Enjoy and stay tuned for more!



"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
Principal, Fortner Media
Senior Editor, Music Player Network
Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine
Content Creator and Behind-the-Scenes Writing Wonk, Damned Near Everyone
Re: Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos — Piano Section [Re: 1203] #3024324 01/18/20 06:44 AM
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Stephen Fortner Offline OP
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Reader 1203 asked:

Quote
Hello all, has anyone tried the new firmware 1.30 for the cp73/cp88? There are two new Rhodes samples there!


Version 1.3 launched as of NAMM, and I have just downloaded it. Hence the delay in completing a post about the CP's Electric Piano section, as I knew these were coming and wanted to make sure to include them. Yamaha’s press release says, “CP OS v1.3 adds two new electric pianos: 73Rd Studio and 74Rd. These correspond to classic electro-mechanical tine pianos: a smooth, warm studio model from 1973 and a brighter, more aggressive stage model from 1974.” Though Yamaha cannot use someone else’s trademark in their press materials, I am free to speculate that this refers to a Suitcase and Stage Rhodes, respectively.

Expect to see the E. Piano section post, including evaluations of these two new sounds, sometime later today (Saturday January 18). Sound examples are forthcoming for all sections as well!


"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
Principal, Fortner Media
Senior Editor, Music Player Network
Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine
Content Creator and Behind-the-Scenes Writing Wonk, Damned Near Everyone
Re: Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos — E. Piano Section [Re: Stephen Fortner] #3024384 01/18/20 04:50 PM
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ELECTRIC PIANO SECTION

If you’re of a certain age, you might remember loading third-party electric piano samples into the sample RAM of your workstation in order to have something with enough meat and attitude on the gig. The original Motif synthesizer (2001) raised the bar for what we could expect from the factory EP patches in a ROM based instrument, and Yamaha has been steadily improving this area ever since. (Side note: I also think Kurzweil’s EP sounds were always ahead of the curve at any given time and still love them, but this is a Yamaha review.) In fact, nearly every brand out there has great EP sounds and we keyboardists are now pretty spoiled, but those in the CP are among the leaders of the pack when it comes to stage pianos. Here’s the diagram; more below.

[Linked Image from yamahasynth.com]

So, we have four categories here, and though Yamaha can’t use the real product names for obvious reasons, I can. (Dontcha just love freedom of the press?) Rd (Rhodes), Wr (Wurly), Clv (Clavinet), and DX (FM-based electric pianos. Okay, Yamaha can use this one because they invented it!)

Rd Category

Rhodes pianos used a combination of tines (which were struck by the hammers) and resonating bars (in which the tines were seated) to create a sound that had differing proportions of bell and bark depending on the model and vintage. As of OS version 1.3 (released at NAMM 2020), the CP series captures seven different flavors, with Voice names referring to years. The two newest Voices are 73Rd Studio and 74Rd Stage (likely referring to a Suitcase model with active preamp and Fender’s stereo tremolo console amp, then a Stage model with a passive preamp and chrome legs). I originally intended to do a Voice-by-Voice list here, but honestly they’re all so good that between the seven selections and the Tone knob, you can’t avoid getting the exact tonal balance you want for the tunes you want. The sounds all have wide dynamic and harmonic range in response to velocity. Spank the bottom keys hard and you’ll get plenty of sass. Dig into the top end, and you can almost feel the tine protesting.

78Rd (the first of the bunch) has been my go-to for just about everything. For a harder and less harmonically complex sound (think of the comping figures on “I Wish” or “Ladies Night”), I turn to 75Rd Funky and the new 74Rd Stage. I will say that to my ears, nothing in this category sounds quite like a “Dyno” Rhodes—the modification by Chuck Monte’s Dyno-My-Piano company that, among other things, really brought forward the bell-like character of the tines. 67Rd Bright, slathered in chorus) perhaps comes closest to that Al Jarreau “Morning” Dyno sound.

It wouldn’t be me writing this review if I didn’t name-check Steely Dan, so let’s just say that a full-bodied Voice like 78Rd with the Phaser 2 effect’s Depth and Speed knobs both at about 10 o’clock nails the “Babylon Sisters” vibe.

Wr Category

Three voices are on hand to represent the reed-based Wurlitzer electric piano, considered the main tonal alternative to the Rhodes: Wr Warm, Wr Bright, and Wr Wide. (Fun fact: Wurlies’ actions were far more complex than Rhodes, approaching that of an acoustic grand piano in geometry and number of moving parts.) For my money, the Wide variant has most of what I want to hear—enough aggression without verging on too buzzy. While I’d rate the Rd category 9.5 out of 10 for overall realism and detail, the Wurly Voices are maybe an 8.5 at worst, which stands to reason because this sound is somehow just a little less sought-after among keyboardists. They’re plenty expressive, and you won’t be lacking on Supertramp covers.

Yamaha has plans to update the CP series’ OS every six months or so for the foreseeable future, and I’d like to see a Hohner Pianet or two added to this (or some other) category. Its clarinet-like harmonic profile is often mistaken for the Wurly, as on tunes like Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” and Steely Dan’s “Black Friday.” But it’s a distinct sound and us fans of vintage rock would love a couple of options.

Clv Category

The Hohner Clavinet is an indispensable sound in funk/soul and rock music alike. Using a rubber hammer tip, each key frets a string which continues to ring out until the key is released. Physically, the process is closest to the hammer-on technique on electric guitar. Pickup select, tone, and phase rocker switches on the genuine article (the D6 being the post popular model) allowed for a range of timbres from mellow and woody to bright and sharp. The Clavinet sounds in the CP number just two but are excellent, and cover 99 percent of what you’ll need to play.
- Clavi B: The full-bodied Bill Withers “Use Me” kind of sound. Go nuts.
- Clavi S: The sharper Stevie Wonder “Superstition” kind of sound. Go nutser.
And to think this instrument was originally conceived as an electric clavichord for playing Baroque music! Speaking of which, this category is also home to a Harpsichord voice, which has pronounced key-off noise. It's a nicely more realistic sound than the afterthoughts I’ve heard in many digital pianos.

DX Category

The sound of the Yamaha DX7 (and other Yamaha FM synths) dominated pop music of the 1980s. One aspect that made players go “I just have to find $2,000 for one of these” was its electric piano sounds: They had articulation, dynamic response, envelopes, and harmonics you just couldn’t get out of even the best analog keyboards of the time, and digital samplers were still in the realm of most working musicians’ five-figure dreams. In retrospect, they didn’t sound like a Rhodes (or Wurly) any more than a Rhodes sounded like the acoustic piano it was intended to emulate, but both got musicians close enough that they became sought after for their own sound. That said, many players today consider DX piano sounds cheesy—sort of the mullet of synth patches. David Foster’s bank balance is untroubled.

Six Voices here give a sort of historical tour through DX piano history, from the initial DX Legend (the first patch you’d find in the original DX7) to fare from the DX7II (my favorite for the “Law & Order” theme) and TX module series. Unlike on certain other Yamaha synths (Montage and MODX), these aren’t coming from an FM engine; they’re merely very good PCM multisamples. I still have my original DX7, and these take me back. Look, you may not ever want to get a mullet, but if your hairstylist didn’t even know how to do one, you’d consider their education incomplete.

E. Piano Section Effects

The CP’s E. Piano section provides two simultaneous insert effects, both drawing on Yamaha’s Virtual Circuit Modeling (VCM) technology in pursuit of authentic vintage stompbox and rack effects sound. The first bank has a choice of auto-pan, tremolo (modulation of the volume, not the pitch), ring modulation, a touch wah that follows your playing velocity, another wah controllable by a pedal, and a compressor. The second offers two choruses, a flanger, and three phasers.

The quality of all these effects is superb, with the only thing possibly to complain about being that you can’t adjust more than their depth and rate—but this is a stage piano, not a synth, those are what you’d most want to adjust, and (again), the audio quality is on par with dedicated effects hardware. So let’s talk about some applications ...

Auto-pan is essential for creating the “stereo vibrato” (actually tremolo) sound of the Fender Suitcase amp typically paired with the Rhodes. Cranking up the depth here reveals that the LFO waveform involved is close to a square; ideally I’d like to make it smoother and more sinusoidal. Up to about 12 o’clock on the knob, though, and it’s certainly smooth enough.

Touch wah is essential for nailing Clavinet classics like Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good” (and if your drummer can come in at the right time at the beginning of the latter, consider paying them more). I also love the Compressor for recreating the pop that happens on a real Rhodes when you dig into the mids and highs very hard. Especially on Stage Rhodes models with their passive pickups, some compression was inherent at higher velocities, so seasoning in a little of this to taste adds an extra touch of realism. Keep in mind it will also attenuate your bass bark factor.

There’s no way to describe the choruses other than sweet. A phaser on a Rhodes patch, though, is where I like to live, perhaps with a little auto-pan or compression added from the other insert section. The sound is emblematic of so many yacht rockers, from Simon and Garfunkel’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” (played by the late, great Richard Tee) to the Doobie Brothers’ “Minute by Minute” to countless Steely Dan tunes. Your mileage may vary, but my favorite for this sound is the second of the three phasers, with both depth and rate knobs set at around 10 o’clock.

Last but not least, a Drive knob (separate from the two insert sections) adds some crunch. I’m not going to get into how much it credibly sounds like a vacuum tube overdrive, but Yamaha VCM is definitely up to some magic here. It’s warm, it’s not fizzy, it’s not buzzy, and breaks up nicely at higher settings as you increase your playing velocity. I especially like the lo-fi way in which it interacts with the compressor.

Sound Examples

I really need to call out how the quality of the E. Piano section voices interacts with the effects: It‘s pretty darned delicious. When I first tried the CP73 at the 2019 NAMM Show (!), I found myself just getting lost in this section, experimenting, and playing—enough that a couple of times I looked up to realize I had negative five minutes to get to a meeting in a different hall in the convention center.

I’m working on some original sound examples for you, but in the meantime this page at YamahaSynth has some killer SoundCloud examples by Blake Angelos.

Apropos of nothing, layering in just a little of the phased 78Rd under the CFX grand piano Voice? Magic. The piano remained forward but the Rhodes sustained for longer and almost acted like a pad. Adding a little more approached the “Gaucho” vibe. (There I go with the Steely Dan again...)

Next ...

We’ll have another quick video interlude, then explore all of the supporting cast members in the Sub section: strings, pads, synths, chromatic percussion, acoustic and electric bases, and more!




Last edited by Stephen Fortner; 01/18/20 05:29 PM.

"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
Principal, Fortner Media
Senior Editor, Music Player Network
Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine
Content Creator and Behind-the-Scenes Writing Wonk, Damned Near Everyone
Re: Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos [Re: Stephen Fortner] #3024589 01/19/20 11:15 PM
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Hey all,

Would love any feedback on this. Here’s a square, Instagram-style video (which, come to think of it, we’ll also put on our Instagram at musicplayernetwork). It’s a no-talking tutorial about creating quick splits and layers on the Yamaha CP series. The idea is that you can watch it without really worrying about the sound if you’re casually scrolling through your phone in the airport, DMV, etc. It’s inspired by those sped-up recipe videos that show you how to cook something with just captions flashing on the screen.

Useful? Silly? Somewhere in between? Let me know! Now to get back to working on the CP’s Sub section, which is where literally every Voice that’s not an acoustic piano or an electric piano lives. Coming in a day or so!

Big shout out to Trevor Contois and Cody Pavolvic of SOLI Music School in Essex, Vermont for the use of their studio and camera expertise in this video!


Last edited by Stephen Fortner; 01/19/20 11:22 PM.

"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
Principal, Fortner Media
Senior Editor, Music Player Network
Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine
Content Creator and Behind-the-Scenes Writing Wonk, Damned Near Everyone
Re: Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos [Re: Stephen Fortner] #3024764 01/20/20 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
Hey all,

Would love any feedback on this. Here’s a square, Instagram-style video (which, come to think of it, we’ll also put on our Instagram at musicplayernetwork). It’s a no-talking tutorial about creating quick splits and layers on the Yamaha CP series. The idea is that you can watch it without really worrying about the sound if you’re casually scrolling through your phone in the airport, DMV, etc. It’s inspired by those sped-up recipe videos that show you how to cook something with just captions flashing on the screen.

Useful? Silly? Somewhere in between? Let me know!


Way useful, and very cool. One Minute Mastery - love it!

dB

Re: Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos [Re: Stephen Fortner] #3024842 01/21/20 03:48 PM
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Okay, we have one vote, so here's another in the same vein, showing that you can use the CP73/88 to mix through a second keyboard. And, since the CP has XLR outs, you can connect directly to a stage box. This eliminates the need to carry both a compact mixer and direct boxes!

Again, Trevor and Cody of SOLI Music School provided the vibey venue and camera work here.



"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
Principal, Fortner Media
Senior Editor, Music Player Network
Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine
Content Creator and Behind-the-Scenes Writing Wonk, Damned Near Everyone
Re: Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos [Re: Dave Bryce] #3024982 01/22/20 02:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Dave Bryce
l. One Minute Mastery - love it!


Agreed. Hoping to upgrade to a CP 88 from my CP4 sooner than later


A reason why I collect old keyboards is that I feel partly responsible for doing it, responsible for preserving history and being a custodian for these things
Plus, old gear has a story. I like that.
Re: Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos [Re: Stephen Fortner] #3025019 01/22/20 06:14 AM
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Stephen Fortner Offline OP
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SUB SECTION

Okay, this took a bit longer than I wanted, but I have a good excuse for that. As of the latest firmware version (actually 1.2, the previous one) the Sub section now has so many cool sounds that I got lost in playing them and didn’t spend enough time writing.

This section is home to everything in the CP that’s not an acoustic or electric piano. Sixty-three Voices are spread across the four major categories: Strings/Pad (17), Organ (10), Chromatic Percussion (11), and Others (25). “Others” is far from ancillary — it’s where you’ll find several cool synth leads and comps, electric and acoustic basses, a couple of guitars, Oberheim-y synth brass, and more.

Here’s the diagram from YamahaSynth:

[Linked Image from yamahasynth.com]

All in all, this section may not cover every supporting sound for which you’d reach for a synth-oriented “top keyboard” perched above your CP, but it definitely covers most of it.

We’ll be here awhile if I try to describe 63 Voices in detail, but then again, what the heck else do I have to do? Don’t answer that. Let me cover some standouts instead.

Strings/Pad Category

Pop Pad (11), is superb for layering underneath acoustic piano. In Spandau Ballet’s rabbit-killing ballad “True,” the piano is backed by a very similar pad which sometimes goes into a subtle vibrato at the end of a musical phrase. Since the modulation lever is programmed by default to affect the Sub section but not the Piano section, I could do exactly that on the CP. It sounded so close that I was suddenly able to sing like Tony Hadley. (I made that up, but this much is true: it was close.)

Natural String (05) actually had a cool Fairlight-like quality that reminded me of “Under Ice” by Kate Bush. There are in fact more “natural” sounding string voices in this section such as Section String (08). Tape String (16) is a wonderful Mellotron emulation, and Octave Syn String (17) is equal parts disco and Bernie Worrell.

Organ Category

Let’s get this out of the way first: These are sample-based organs in a stage piano, so the B3-inspired drawbar Voices aren’t trying to be competitive with a dedicated clonewheel. (And with the YC61 showing up at NAMM 2020, Yamaha just released their first such instrument in, like, forever.) For example, the jazzy Click Organ (02) sounds harmonic percussion on all notes all the time instead of imitating the correct staccato-triggered behavior. That said, they’re largely quite good overall, and the Rotary effect in this section really adds a lot. Here’s a tip: With the effect off, the modulation lever just adds a simple LFO-based vibrato. With the effect on, it controls the speed of the actual Rotary effect—you can see the LED collar around the Speed knob change. The Depth knob is also fun to experiment with; higher settings emphasize higher frequencies and roll off the lows, so it’s sort of like having a rotor balance control as well.

This section is rounded out by three wonderfully woozy Italian transistor organs (06–08) and two pipe organs (09–10): one with full tibias and one that sounds like only a single stop is active. It’s worth mention that church organists actually do this on gentler passages.

Chromatic Percussion Category

Mallet instruments are all rendered with more than enough realism to take a vibes solo on a jazz tune (especially when paired with the tremolo effect in this section), cover those times when Earth Wind & Fire reaches for the Kalimba, and nail the chime hits on “Rapture” by Blondie. A couple of the bell Voices have synth-like qualities, notably Heaven Bell (11) and Brightness (05). Notably, a touch of slow Rotary effect on the latter did this throaty and slightly lo-fi thing that immediately had me playing the bell part from “Cities in Dust” by Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Side note: I know I refer to hit songs a lot. In my opinion they’re one of the best points of reference for conveying what a Voice does or can sound like. If talking about sound is like dancing about architecture, I’m trying to dance in front of particular famous buildings and tell you, “This one here!” Besides, a large portion of potential CP buyers are looking for something to play cover tunes on, amirite?

“Others” Category

Now we’re getting serious. I put that in quotes because Yamaha might have done better to call this category “Way Cool Shit.” When the new CPs first came out last year, I think this section just had a couple each of synths, basses, and guitars — I didn’t take inventory before updating the OS — but now the 25 Voices living here include synths I find myself reaching for again and again.

Take Funky Mini (13), which to my ears sounds like the slightly nasal lead Chick Corea uses so often. Nu Mini (14) stacks saw and triangle waves in octaves for a fatter sound that evokes the era of jazz-fusion when alien landscapes were obligatory album cover art. Unison Bass (17) nicely opens up the filter in response to velocity, and the two OB Brass patches (21–22) earn those letters. Tape Flute (24) perfectly does the Mellotron thing a la “Strawberry Fields.”

It’s obvious that this is by far my favorite Category in the CP’s Sub section. It’s not uncommon for stage pianos to include synth sounds, but the attitude and vibe of each Voice — and the way Yamaha has curated them — makes this one special.

Attack and Release Knobs

Big props to Yamaha for putting these here. Having come up gigging when most synths had a keypad and a lone data entry slider, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called up a patch that was suitable for a given tune I had to play, then thought “This would be perfect for this other tune if only I could make the attack more (or less) aggressive or hang a little more of a tail on it…” It is seriously nice to have this kind of control on supporting sounds in a stage piano. It would be even nicer to have a filter cutoff knob as well, but I’m not complaining.

Example: Let’s go back to Octave Syn Strings from the Strings/Pad category. With a slightly soft attack and just a little release, this patch does nicely for Prince’s “1999.” Sharpen up that attack and add a little more release, and you have something suitable for those synth stabs on “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds. (OK Gen-Xer, that patch is more brassy, but I’m talking about the envelope.)

Don’t forget — because Live Sets save the entire state of the instrument including all controller entry values, you can program setups with different attacks and releases that turn the Sub section’s 63 sounds into effectively more. Speaking of which, Yamaha’s Blake Angelos programmed several cool Live Sets using these new sounds. Check them out here.

Sub Section Effects

You get four effects here: Chorus/Flanger, Rotary, Tremolo, and Distortion. I’ve already talked about the Rotary effect as regards the Organ category, but by no means should you limit its use to organ Voices. On the Octave Syn Strings Voice (I guess I love that one), it imparts the phasey analog string machine quality made famous by such artists as Gary Wright and Jean Michel Jarre. Crank the Depth knob to get a high-pass filter character.

The Tremolo is straightforward. The Chorus/Flanger is interesting in that lower Depth knob settings act more like a chorus and those past 12 o’clock act more like a flanger. I was wondering what Distortion was doing here other than to dress up relatively unremarkable guitar Voices, then I found a far better use for it: Applied judiciously to patches like Nu Mini, it decently mimics the filter overdrive that was a famously happy accident in the design of the actual Minimoog.

A final thought on the Sub section: Again, it’s both the quality of sounds and the curation that makes it so useful. You don’t need to wade through a ’90s ROMpler’s worth of afterthought sounds to find something that suits the musical need of the moment — and doesn't sound like a ’90s ROMpler. I’m looking forward to seeing how Yamaha expands this section in future OS updates.

Next …

We’ll take a look at the CP’s global Delay, Reverb, and Master EQ sections, and walk through the rear panel. After that, it’s on to such features as Live Sets and Advanced Mode, in which you can place any sound in any section.


"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
Principal, Fortner Media
Senior Editor, Music Player Network
Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine
Content Creator and Behind-the-Scenes Writing Wonk, Damned Near Everyone
Re: Yamaha CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos [Re: Stephen Fortner] #3025025 01/22/20 07:18 AM
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Good lord this is fantastic!! Great writing, great humor, and insanely great detailed information. Kudos to the good Dr. and MPN team for coming up with this section. And damn, this keyboard is amazing!


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