Introducing the CP Series Stage Pianos

By Blake Angelos A stage piano that sounds great and feels great is important to every pianist and keyboardist. The modern keyboard player also needs to bring studio production elements to the stage. This makes access to key sound shaping controls an equally important part of the instrument. Over the past several months I’ve been […]

By Blake Angelos

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By Blake Angelos

A stage piano that sounds great and feels great is important to every pianist and keyboardist. The modern keyboard player also needs to bring studio production elements to the stage. This makes access to key sound shaping controls an equally important part of the instrument. Over the past several months I’ve been playing the new CP88 and just finished a long session with the CP73. It has been a great experience because all the aforementioned attributes of great sound, great feel and great UI have been met! There is something about playing an instrument that looks really good too, and the CP88 and CP73 just look cool. If you’ve ever owned something that you sometimes look at it and think “wow…that is so cool”…That is what it’s like for me and the new CP!

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In this article I’ll point out new features and discuss why they are cool and how they can be used in musical situations. If along the way it seems like I’m gushing, it’s because I am, and I’ve only been able to express those feelings to my colleagues until now. In fact, while writing this article my boss said this: “Capture the feelings you express to me every time we talk on the phone about CP”. Now I get to share what I love about the CP88 and CP73 Stage Pianos with you. This won’t be a complete overview of every sound, feature and parameter: I will call out sounds and features I find particularly good. If you’d like to check out the detailed specs go here to the CP product page on the Yamaha website.

Here is a quick summary of what’s new:

  • Direct Sound Control
  • Authentic Grand, Upright and Electric Pianos
  • Two Actions for Two Types of Players
    • CP88: New 88-key Graded Hammer, Natural Wood Action with Synthetic Ivory and Ebony Keytops and GH3 Triple Sensor
    • CP73: New 73-key Balanced Hammer Action
  • Sound Expandability
  • Cool Design
  • Comprehensive Connectivity
  • Soundmondo Compatibility
  • Comprehensive 4-Zone MIDI Controller
  • Cool Cases

Direct Sound Control

The user interface on the new CP88 and CP73 Stage Pianos make it easy for you to control important musical sounds and effects during live performance. One of the best things about the new CP stage pianos is this: you can look at the front panel and figure out how it works! The ONLY difference between the CP73 and CP88 lies in the size and type of keyboard action (more on that below). The user interface and internal sounds are identical.

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Sounds on the CP73 and CP88 Stage Pianos are divided into three Voice Sections–Piano, E. Piano and Sub—with a Master Effect Section where you apply Delay, Reverb and Master EQ to the sound. Note that all the Sections have a similar configuration in the black outlined area. This is where you select Voice Categories, Voices, L/R Split, Octave +/-, Volume and Tone. Each section has a switch at the bottom to turn it on and off.  Different Insertion Effect options lie to the right of each Voice Category select area. 

I’ve had the opportunity to play the CP88 for a while now and the experience has been wonderful. The instrument just sounds amazing, feels great and it’s easy to interact and adjust the sound. The cool aviation-style Section switches, the knobs with LEDs that show position and the color-coded rocker switches feel really solid and give you confidence that you are playing a high-quality instrument designed to last. 

Once you set up your sound, you can instantly recall it with the Live Set. Conveniently located to the left of the Voice Sections, Live Set gives you 20 banks of 8 Live Set locations for instant recall of Voice Section settings, Master Effect set ups, layers, splits and MIDI controller set ups. Best of all when you move between Live Sets the sounds won’t cutoff because CP88 and CP73 support Seamless Sound Switching.

So, you get this great one-to-one interface that you can instantly interact with and evolve your sound, and when you get it exactly where you want it you can save as a Live Set for instant recall. It’s just a great UI; it’s very wide (one knob/button/switch usually does one thing) and not very deep (not many confusing and distracting menu dives).

Authentic Grand, Upright and Electric Pianos

Piano Section Highlights

The Piano Section sounds are divided into 4 Categories: Grand Piano, Upright Piano, CP (Electric Grand) and Layered Piano. Select a Category and use the Voice Select Switch to choose sounds under that Category. The effects in the Piano Section give you some nice options for live and recording situations and give you some cool options like distortion and drive. I love having the compressor in there to even out the dynamics a bit during recording or in a live situation, and the chorus effect is a must-have for a CP80 sound. Lastly, the ability to play with or without Damper Resonance is especially useful during recording sessions, where a purer, less resonant piano sound is sometimes easier to mix in with other instruments. Here are some of my favorites in the Piano Section: 

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CFX 9’ Concert Collection Grand Piano
The new CFX is amazing. Yamaha describes the CFX 9’ Concert Collection Grand Piano thusly: “The nine-foot CFX is a full sized concert grand piano characterized by a wide palette of tonal colors and the ability to create the most subtle expressive nuances. The CFX can project over the sound of a symphony orchestra, even in very large halls. The crowning glory of the Yamaha line, today’s CFX concert grand incorporates numerous refinements in performance, appearance and safety, elevating this revered instrument to an even higher standard of excellence.” 

To me that “ability to create the most expressive nuances” is what I love about the actual CFX concert grand and that aesthetic is wonderfully reproduced in the CP88 and CP73. You can play very softly and the instrument will respond accordingly. Individual notes have a singing quality due to the strong fundamental tone of the instrument, and when you play complex chords you can really hear each individual note ring. As you play louder the sound smoothly opens up and ultimately delivers that remarkable projection and dynamic range associated with the CFX concert grand. Its great in a band, great as a solo instrument…It’s just a great piano!

Bösendorfer Concert Grand 290 Imperial: A totally different yet equally impressive concert grand piano is the legendary Bösendorfer Concert Grand 290 Imperial. The actual instrument features a C-to-C 8 octave range. Those 8 additional notes at the bottom of the 290 provide a deep and resonant bass tone that rings out, and that deep and resonant character permeates the overall sound.

When you need a darker, more resonant piano sound the Bösendorfer 290 Imperial will satisfy. There is an enveloping quality that sounds great when accompanying solo vocalists or instrumentalists and a cinematic quality when used with the reverb and delay effects. Notes have a wonderful “bloom” to them.

S700 Concert Grand Piano: Back in 2005 the S90ES Synthesizer was introduced, and that instrument included a meticulously sampled Yamaha S700 7’6” Grand Piano, a very limited run piano built in the early 1990s and renowned for its precise tone and expressiveness. The S90ES became a staple for session musicians around the world and showed up on tour and recording session riders because of the MOTIF sound and that S700 piano (The S90ES Voice “Natural S” used the S700 waveform). For this reason, a completely updated and revoiced version of the S700 piano from the S90ES is included in the CP73 and CP88 stage pianos. This piano has a similar vibe to the CFX but has a little less resonance due to the smaller soundboard. It is a particularly nice piano in a band or in a recording because the sounds blend so well with other instruments. I think that is one of the major reasons musicians dig the S700.

U1 Upright Piano: I just love the character of this piano and when played through studio monitors or headphones the visceral organic quality will hit you. I have played this piano through a large PA and the people listening made a point of saying things like “that sounded so real it was spooky” or “I could feel that sound in my chest”. I think this is because it is not a perfect, pristine U1. The sound design team put it this way: “We intentionally wanted the piano to be out of tune, like a normal piano in a home or a studio where it’s been a few months since the last tuning so that there was a different character to it than the usual perfectly tuned sample sets.” That quality makes the new U1 sound in the CP88 and CP73 really fun to play.

Electric Piano Section Highlights

The new selection of electric tine and reed pianos deliver the right sound for lots of musical genres. They are very dynamic and expressive. A satisfying punch is added by engaging DRIVE and adjusting the depth to taste…in fact I almost always leave DRIVE on with the Depth turned all the way down and increase it when needed…I jus love the added warmth and punch just having it “On” imparts. The VCM effects cover the classic stomp-box style effects nicely along with a few esoteric ones like Ring Modulation and a choice of three very different and useable Phaser types:

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: This electric piano has the most modern sound. It’s has the most “tine” ring, is really dynamic and sounds great with the DRIVE on and set to your taste! It also sounds amazing with the Wah insertion effect. Definitely useful in funk, fusion and modern pop/rock/R&B.

75Rd Funky: Our sound designers put the word “Funky” there for a reason. This electric piano Voice really barks at high velocities! I absolutely love playing this with a lot of drive with the Compressor insertion effect. 75Rd Funky effectively delivers the sound of early 70s jazz/funk and beyond.

73Rd: The mellowest of the three, with that early felt hammer sound of the first-generation electric pianos from the mid-60s. For ballads, jazz trio tunes, mellow R&B the 73Rd excels, but when you thicken it up with additional DRIVE and try out a few effects (like the R. Mod (Ring Modulator effect) I find this electric piano Voice works in MANY musical genres.

Wr Warm: The Wr Warm electric piano has the classic first-generation reed piano sound. I love the wide dynamic range and the beautiful tone. It’s like playing a warm blanket. I use the Tremolo effect (Trem) for that soulful and authentic sound.

Wr Bright: When the tempo picks up and I’m playing in a band I would play this Voice. This has the later generation reed piano sound and sounds great with DRIVE and the Compressor Insertion Effect. It also sounds great with the Phaser effects (Pha 1/2/3).

Sub Section

Pads, strings, basses, brass, leads, organs…That’s what the Sub Section is all about. Because this Section is often used for synth pad layers behind an acoustic or electric piano basic Attack and Release envelope controls are here to fine tune your sound. If you want to split the keyboard and play left hand bass you’ll find acoustic, electric and synth basses in the Sub Section. And a decent selection of tone wheel, combo and pipe organ are here along with a rotary speaker effect controllable with the modulation slider:

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Master Section

On the far right of the front panel is the Master Section with Delay, Reverb and Master EQ:

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In the Delay Section you have a choice of Analog Delay (like an old tape style delay) and Digital Delay along with simple controls for effect Depth, Feedback and Time. The Reverb Section gives you control over reverb Depth and Time. A nice feature is the Effect Level Display Button which allows you to toggle each Section independently or all Sections by pressing the button a few times (The LED next to the Section name illuminates when selected; when they are all illumintated all Sections are selected). This allows you to have independent send levels per Section, so a Piano Part and Sub Part can have different delay or reverb amounts.

I love the things you can do with this simple feature, especially with the Digital Delay effect. You can create cool looping textures by setting the Depth, Feedback and Time controls to maximum for one Section and to minimum for a second Section. You can then play over the delayed looping Section with the second Section. It is an easy-to-use and cool musical effect.

Section Tip!

Here’s something cool: Say you want to take an acoustic piano like the CFX and apply the “R. Mod” effect found in the Electric Piano Section to that sound? Can that be done? Can ANY sound appear in ANY section? The answer is yes! There is a mode called “Advanced Mode” that can be engaged making this possible. I have created a few Live Sets that feature creative ways to use Advanced Mode that I’ll share on Soundmondo exploring this feature.

Two Actions for Two Types of Players

The very first time you touch a keyboard is an important moment. For a pianist or keyboardist that moment can be summarized with the following words: “Wow”, “Nice” or “It’s ok”. That first impression makes all the difference. Yamaha has over 100 years of experience building world-class acoustic piano actions for the most discerning pianists in the world, and that history is behind the actions in the CP88 and CP73 stage pianos.

CP88: New 88-key Graded Hammer, Natural Wood Action with Synthetic Ivory and Ebony Keytops and GH3 Triple Sensor

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I will never forget the first time I played this new CP88 action…that moment was a “WOW” moment. This new action is really designed for a pianist. It feels remarkably stable and solid, is nicely weighted, and the synthetic ivory and ebony keytops feel great under your fingertips. The additional GH3 sensor makes a big difference to a pianist because it simulates the physical behavior of a grand piano action, where a note can be re-struck before the key returns to the top of a keystroke. The bottom line: A pianist will be able to pull off difficult passages easier with the CP88.

CP73: New 73-key Balanced Hammer Action

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Having just spent a full day playing the CP73 a few things come to mind. The new Balanced Hammer Action is fast, solid, a bit lighter than the Natural Wood Action, expressive and really playable. It feels very close to the MONTAGE 8 action just with 73 keys. I love how this action feels with the Electric Pianos, but it is great across the board. The size of the 73 is what is striking: Compact, yet totally playable and perfect for gigs on small stages and if you have small car it will fit!

A final word on the two models: You may be wondering…which one is right for you? I can tell you that I will have both! There are times where each model will be useful. For solo piano or jazz piano trio gigs I prefer the CP88 and at 41 lbs. (18.6 kg) it’s still surprisingly light. However, for gigs where space is an issue or where I have to walk for a bit to get to a stage (like at a resort, or a big church) the CP73 is ideal at 28 lbs, 14 oz (13.1 kg).

Sound Expandability

A new feature for the CP88 and CP73 stage pianos is built-in Flash memory. Yamaha will release regular OS updates that add new sounds to the flash memory. To introduce this new feature CP OS v1.1 will be available when for you when you get your new CP home! There are some great instrument additions in CP OS v1.1 :

Yamaha C7 7’6” Grand Piano: The Yamaha C7 Grand Piano is one of the most recorded pianos in the world. The new C7 added with CP OS v1.1 has a huge dynamic range, powerful high end and a wonderfully expressive and present sound when played softly. And excellent choice for a live performance with a band, and at the upper velocity the powerful fortissimo bite will really appeal to gospel and R&B players. I really love this piano.

9 C767Rd “Dark” and “Bright”: Imagine if you could play a meticulously maintained, 100% authentic “silver top” tine piano from 1967. The 67Rd added with CP OS v1.1 comes from a legendary tine piano favored by artists and session musicians in Los Angeles. It has a lot of character and our sound design team created Dark and Bright versions by adjusting the tines on the original instrument during the recording process. This is something that owners of the real thing understand…and to be honest don’t miss. I spent hours in my youth adjusting (and replacing) tines attempting to achieve the sound the 67Rd delivers.  

Wr Wide: Scott Plunkett is a legendary sound designer for Yamaha and a seasoned session and touring keyboardist with credits like Boz Skaggs, Don Henley and Stevie Nicks. He meticulously sampled his classic reed piano for the “Wr Wide” electric piano sound added with CP OS v1.1 . The “Wide” modifier speaks to the wide dynamic range and expressive quality. With the Tremolo effect (Trem) the soulful, haunting quality of Wr Wide makes this an ultra-satisfying sound to play.

Stay tuned! More updates and more sounds for your CP73 and CP88 will be coming in subsequent CP OS updates!

Cool Design

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I’ll never forget the first time I opened the CP88 box and had a look. “Yeah…This is COOL” That’s was my feeling. The knobs, the cool metal section switches, the LEDs around the knobs…GREAT design. There are little things you might not initially notice. Check out the three sections: YELLOW rocker switch for Piano, RED for Electric Piano, GREEN for Sub…but did you notice that the LED indicator and the line on the Category Selection Knob matches the color? And the CP logo…Did you notice that is a single line that writes out “CP”? This is a hip design. Those little details are super cool. The instrument just looks super cool. But looks aren’t everything.

The new aluminum chassis is strong, lightweight and professional. The pitch bend and modulation sliders are totally useable and sit in a perfect spot at a nice 45-degree angle for comfort. The intuitive one-to-one user interface gives you great real time control optionsl, but not too much to distract from making music. That is a crucial point. Too much control becomes a distraction; to little becomes an encumbrance. The CP88 and CP73 feel just right. It’s a fantastic design. 

Comprehensive Connectivity

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Outputs: On the back of the CP88 and CP73 you’ll see some nice connection options. XLR outputs mean you don’t need a direct box to connect to a sound system. The line-level ¼” instrument outputs allow you to connect to your own system or to a personal monitor system. And the TRS stereo headphone jack is conveniently located on the far right so it’s easy to find and control that pesky headphone cable.

Inputs: The ¼” line-level inputs allow you to connect another keyboard to the CP88 and CP73 and you can set the input gain with the small gain knob located right next to the inputs. This allows you to sum the sound of the second keyboard to the CP audio out for a single stereo connection. 

Computer Connectivity: A cool feature is the onboard USB MIDI and audio interface. A single cable allows you to connect to Mac/PC for both MIDI and 2×2 digital audio. It is a simple and straight-forward connection that speeds up the recording process in the studio. For musicians who use laptops and virtual instruments for live performance this feature allows you to leave that audio interface at home: The single cable connects to the computer and whatever virtual instrument host you use.

iOS Connectivity: With a USB cable and an Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adaptor (LUCA) you can connect to an iOS device and pass both MIDI and audio. This opens up a plethora of iOS recording apps and virtual instruments. When it’s time to take a break on a gig you can play your own break music from your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

Soundmondo Compatibility

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Speaking of Connectivity, the CP88 and CP73 Stage Pianos join reface, MONTAGE and MODX on Soundmondo, the free Social Sound Sharing site. You’ll be able to download Live Sets from other CP owners and artists, upload your own to share with the community and organize your Live Sets for gigs, sessions or just for fun. I find Soundmondo a great resource when I am looking for a sound for inspiration. Another Soundmondo User’s creation can be exactly the sound I’m looking for. Soundmondo is accessed via the free iOS app seen above or with the Google Chrome browser on Mac or PC.

4-Zone MIDI Controller

The CP88 and CP73 stage pianos work great as MIDI Controllers. Just activate a Zone (4 Zones Per Live Set) and you can decide MIDI Channels, MSB/LSB/Program Change, volume, pan and determine controls like pitch bend, sustain, expression, etc., will be transmitted or not.

Cool Cases

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I hesitate to call the CP88 and CP73 cases “gig bags” because they are so much more. First and most important they provide lots of cushion to protect the instrument, and the interior is super plush (we joke that you’ll be tempted to sleep in it). The zippers are high-quality, and the exterior pockets have lots of room for pedals, cables, music, etc. Both cases have nice roller blade style wheels that are wide set for stability and the strong quilted exterior looks great with that cool single-line CP logo stitched on the front. It’s a great case that is well made, provides solid protection, has lots of room for accessories and looks great!

The Stage Piano Reimagined

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I think you can tell I love the new CP88 and CP73 stage pianos.

At first CP88 especially grabbed me. The new action is remarkably precise, stable, solid and just wonderfully matches the sound. Then I spent that full day playing the CP73. There is something just captivating about the smaller size and lighter action. On a tiny stage, or a situation where you have to take a subway or walk awhile to get to a gig the CP73 size and weight will be a blessing. Either way, the cases will make the job easier because the design is great, and the wheels are rugged.

The new control you have over the sound makes this instrument fun to play as well. I love being able to instantly control delay times, effect depth, tone, reverb send, etc., at the turn of knob or flick of a switch and NOT with a menu dive. It allows me to stay focused on the music.

Finally, I have to comment once more about the sound quality. Our sound designers did a wonderful job on both the acoustic and electric pianos. The sound is detailed and expressive with new levels of fullness and playability. When you need to cut through a mix with punch and power there are impressive sounds capable of delivering just that. And the CP OS updates are wonderful. CP OS v1.1 rocks: I LOVE the C7 for its expressiveness and power, the vintage authenticity of the Rd67 and the expressive soulful quality of the Wr Wide sound. This is a great new feature.

Everyone who has had a chance to see and play them feels the same way I do, and I think you will too. As soon as you can make sure you go and check out the Yamaha CP88 and CP73 stage pianos.

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Make sure you check back here at for lots of cool stuff coming next week during NAMM 2019!

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