3 Questions of Digital Keyboards & Pianos

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These Fan Corner Questions come from Vicki here in Nashville TN.

Questions:  Do you play digital AND “old-style” acoustic pianos?  And do you prefer one over the other?  How do they differ for you in composing and performing?

To answer Vicki’s first question, I do play both. I grew up playing a Wurlitzer upright piano back home in NY. I spent about 6 years on this piano learning the basic fundamentals when it came to classical piano. When I was about 14, I then entered into the world of digital keyboards, drum machines, etc. Currently, I have a Yamaha Motif XS8. It’s an 88-key weighted action digital keyboard that’s touch-sensitive. Meaning, that the harder you press down on the keys the louder it gets. Which is important when you’re needing to play louder or softer.

  • And do you prefer one over the other?

It depends on the circumstances. Overall, I do prefer pianos over digital keyboards. I just love the feel and action of a real piano. The Yamaha C7 Grand Piano I would say is my favorite. It’s a little brighter sounding than other grand pianos out there. With a lot of my music being more upbeat and happy, the sound of the C7 compliments my style of playing. Whereas a Bosendorfer Grand Piano, which I like, has more of a darker sound to it.

Also, each make and type of piano play a little differently. A Yamaha plays differently than a Steinway. An upright plays differently than a grand piano. By this, I am talking about the action and feel of the keys. In general, the keys on an upright are little easier to press down than they would be on a grand piano. Same thing with your different makes of grand pianos. Each has a different feel to them.

Digitally speaking, keyboards are great because of portability. You can take them wherever you go; granted you have power. Pianos make it a little more challenging to take them with you due largely to their size and makeup. When pianos are moved from one location to another, they will likely need to be tuned due to the strings and moving parts inside.

  • How do they differ for you in composing and performing?

Composing wise, digital keyboards are nice. On some you can record directly into the keyboard itself. Mine, for instance, will do just that! If I get the inspiration to sit down and to compose a song, I just hit the record button, and away I go! It also makes it nice that the majority of my recording is done via computer. I’ll hook up my computer to my Motif and compose that way.

When it comes to composing with a piano, I love sitting down at a piano, or preferably a grand piano. I can be inspired by just the feel of the keys and or the sound of the piano all by itself. What’s fun, if I am in a music store, is that I might jump from one piano to another. Sometimes for me, by playing on different pianos and or digital keyboards can help with the creative process when it comes to composing.

In regards to performing, I enjoy performing on both. There’s not too much you have to worry about with a piano. You just want to make sure all your keys and pedals are working properly and that it’s tuned. Also want to be sure that you’ve spent some time playing the piano before you begin your performance. As I mentioned earlier, each piano has a feel of its own.

Before I recorded my album Out of the Blue, I spent about 4 hours playing on the C7. Having spent about 5 years playing on my Motif, I knew the action was going to be a lot different going from a digital keyboard to a full size grand piano. So spending time going through all of my pieces on the album 3 or 4 times was important. Especially before you’re paying $100 plus an hour for studio time.

However, with digital keyboards, there’s a little bit more to think about. Not only with power issues, but to make sure that everything is set up properly. Including your sustain pedal! My sustain pedal is metal with a plastic casing. The cable from the pedal, then plugs into the back of my keyboard.

At a live show, in between sets, I sat up my keyboard, bench, and sustain pedal. It was on a wooden stage. Part of my keyboard and bench was on a piece of carpet that was about 6X6 and my pedal was on the stage and not on the carpet. When I started my first piece titled Riding the Wind, I noticed the sustain pedal was sliding away from me!

As I was pushing down on the pedal to sustain the notes, the pedal was sliding away from me due to the stage floor being nice and smooth. Didn’t experience that at my place because I have carpet! You would think I would’ve thought about putting the pedal on the carpet!

So when I noticed what was going on, right in the middle of my very first piece, I not only was sustaining the notes, but was also trying to slide the pedal back toward me so I could sustain the notes! Nonetheless, I got through the piece with no problems and to my knowledge, no one recognized what was going on. Before I started my second piece, I did call for the stage crew to help move my keyboard and pedal on to the carpet to prevent the pedal from sliding again!

“Thank You” Vicki for sending these questions my way!  Hope I was able to answer these for you.  I really enjoyed them! 🙂

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