HEY! Hope all is well with ya.

Soooo…I started work on Acoustic Hymns Vol. 3 and the first hymn on the album will be “Be Thou My Vision”.

As I began to work up the arrangement for Be Thou, it occurred to me that *now* might be a good time to somehow compare as many different grand pianos as I can and then get my lovely wife and I to listen intently to the comparison and decide which grand piano to use for Acoustic Hymns Vol. 3.

Sheet music is here! Also there is a YouTube video where I show you how I arranged this wonderful hymn and my thoughts and all that…see: https://youtu.be/92zQFwfw-lM

Grand pianos used:

  1. Addictive Keys Studio Grand by XLN Audio (Steinway D)
  2. Austrian Grand by UVI (Bosendorfer)
  3. 7 Grand Piano presets on the Yamaha CP88 (5 Yamaha grand pianos, 1 Bosendorfer and 1 Steinway)

Tell ya what…here are the links to the YouTube video and the SoundCloud playlist and you can then decide whether you wanna read all the boring technical stuff down below.

YouTube Video:

SoundCloud Playlist:

Hopefully you’ve listened to the comparison track (the track behind the YouTube video *and* the 1st track on the SoundCloud Playlist) and maybe you’ve even listened to a few of the full versions on the various grand pianos. What a hoot!

Before I even get started here…have some caveats:

  1. I am NOT a professional concert pianist. I am a hobbyist and maaaaybe could be considered “semi-pro” (whatever that means). I have a day job where I hack code for hours on end. While yes, I have certainly earned money by playing “gigs” (this is where “semi-pro” might fit), I am certainly not making my living at the piano. THEREFORE: you are getting a non-professional opinion of all of these grand pianos.
  2. I did NOT get a college degree in music, or classical playing or jazz, or anything like that (which is truly unfortunate…my foolish pride got in the way of gaining much needed instruction – let that be a lesson to you prideful keyboardists out there). I have no credentials. Therefore you are getting a non-credentialed opinion of all of these grand pianos.
  3. I DO (in my opinion) have good ears. I have tried to take care of my hearing my entire life (wearing ear protection while mowing the lawn, chainsawing, weedeating, herding cats, etc.). I have listened to hundreds of thousands of hours of all different types of music and all different types of grand pianos throughout my life. Again: NOT an expert, but I think I can at least say that I have listened to enough overall SOUND, that I can give you some opinions on what I’m hearing across all of these pianos.
  4. As stated in various Bios about me, I have indeed been playing piano since I was 6 and at the current writing, that makes 52 years of playing (and listening) to the piano.
  5. Many of my observations are SUBJECTIVE. They are tied to MY PERSONAL biases and likes/dislikes. As an example: I tend to like “woody” sounding pianos (Steinway). That doesn’t mean I won’t possibly use a Yamaha grand piano, but I tend to drift towards “woody”. I tend to NOT like “tacky” or “plinky” sounding pianos (see the definitions described below). I like some high end “sheen” from an EQ perspective, but not so much that it jars the listener or jumps out of the mix. These are what *I* like and dislike. You may be completely opposite to me or maybe have a mixture of similarities to my likes/dislikes.
  6. Bottom line: if I only had ONE of these NINE pianos, it doesn’t matter which of them…if someone simply told me I was going to use ONE of them to record the next album and this person got to pick…I would still use it. All nine are good enough to record a piano album on. That said, you’ll see below that my personal likes/dislikes are driving me towards the ultimate grand piano that I’m going to use.
  7. I should point out at this time that I’ve given thought to mapping out an album and then simply using the grand piano that “sounds right” for the song. In other words, on an album with 10 songs, it might then use 10 different grand piano sounds. I am choosing at this time NOT to do that for the following reasons:
    • My goals when recording an album are that the album has enough continuity that the listener could listen to the entire thing in one sitting or perhaps while driving or hiking or studying or whatever. I therefore tend to shy away from anything that will “jar” the listener out of their reverie. Switching piano sounds between different songs could potentially jar the listener so I won’t do that.
    • That said, I *may*, as time permits, someday release an album of maybe my personal favorite hymns and they are all done on different grand pianos that I feel match the “feel” of the particular hymn. But that would be sort of a pet project of my personal preferences and probably wouldn’t be something I would tout to the world…I don’t know…we shall see about this.

So the first thing you should know about this Grand Piano Shootout is that each grand piano was played and recorded specifically for that particular grand piano. In other words, I DID NOT record a single performance of Be Thou and then point that single performance to all the different grand pianos. I SPECIFICALLY recorded each track on each grand piano (of course, this was after practicing, messing with the arrangement, making mistakes, re-recording, etc., a BUNCH OF TIMES). Bottom line: you are hearing me play all nine grand pianos as though I’m sitting at each one and I’m more-or-less focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of each piano as I play/record them. As I worked on the arrangement and went through the recording process, I listened enough to all 9 pianos to know what to watch out for, what to emphasize, what to de-emphasize, etc. All nine resulting final tracks were recorded in ONE TAKE EACH. In other words, if I made a single mistake while recording, say, the CFX track, I would stop, undo the recording, and start at the beginning and record it again. I did it this way because I believe a piano performance shouldn’t be “stitched together” with multiple takes of different sections of a song. It should be one recording from start to finish of the entire song. I’m ALSO doing it this way to force myself to learn my own arrangements well enough that I could possibly perform them in concert at different churches or other venues some day. I recorded in this manner until all nine final tracks were recorded and I was happy with them.

All nine grand pianos are beautiful in their own right, but they are actually very different from each other and they all have moments where they shine, and perhaps moments where they don’t shine so much or they have bad habits or whatever you wanna call that.

Another note: in order to get an accurate comparison, I decided to record to a metronome (which technically, I *hate* because it means I’m less free to “emote” and I’m held to a merciless time keeper…ask yer keyboard playing frens what I’m talking about…they’ll nod knowingly). What this means for YOU, the listener is that I’m pretty much hitting every measure exactly the same across all nine grand pianos. This also means that as I move from piano to piano in the YouTube video (and the 1st track on the SoundCloud playlist) everything should be lining up so that the transition between pianos is as smooth as possible. Now sure, because I’m not a perfect robot, there are some slight variations and slight jarring between pianos at certain points of the comparison track…but hey…you get what you get fer free…and you don’t complain. K?

When I recorded each grand piano for the full song on SoundCloud, I turned off the metronome.

Now I need to share some terminology with you of how Kevin sees the world of different grand pianos.

“tacky” – this means the piano (usually when I hit it HARD) sounds more like a “tack-piano” than a real grand piano. This means the sound gets kind of sharp and metallic. Some of the pianos in the comparison start to sound tacky when I hit them really hard (and yes, I sometimes hit all the way up to 127 MIDI velocity, which in layman terms means: he actually smacked the key THE ABSOLUTE LOUDEST IT WILL GO). BAM. I personally don’t like a “tacky” sounding piano because I think it takes away from the majesty of a typical grand piano. Other folks might like this sound. The CF3 and the Live CF3 and possibly the C7 can get “tacky” at times. You can REALLLLY hear this on the Live CF3 at about 2:00 into the YouTube video above. Listen to that Live CF3 just TACK OUT…BLAMMO. Yeah…not a fan…but you might be…who knows?!

“poised” – this means the piano DOESN’T have any bad habits and doesn’t get “tacky” at higher velocity. It also usually means the grand piano in question is more “balanced” across all the keys and you don’t have any weird glaring volume level variations. The Hamburg (Steinway) preset and the S700 preset on the Yamaha CP88 and the Addictive Keys Studio Grand (Steinway) are very “poised”. I suppose the UVI Austrian grand (Bosendorfer) is somewhat poised (but still has some bad habits I’ll discuss below). Also, nearly ALL of the grand pianos are somewhat “poised” if you play them at a lower level of velocity and you never hit them hard. It’s usually at really hard hits that they lose their “poise”. I personally don’t like this, but some folks might love how this works…hard to say.

“yummy/gooey” – so yeah, this is probably the most subjective of my terms, but once you see/hear what I’m talking about, hopefully it will make sense. There are aspects to a grand piano that I can’t quite fully describe, but it has to do with how the strings resonate between each other and how they “chorus” and blend together. The Addictive Keys Studio Grand definitely has some of this as does the UVI Austrian Grand. However, the grand piano that NAILS THIS HANDS DOWN IS (wait for it): the S700 preset on the Yamaha CP88. I cannot figure out what exactly is doing this, but nearly the entire range (all 88 keys) of the S700 somehow are yummy/gooey in how they resonate and blend with each other. It’s downright DELICIOUS! Hopefully I’ll do another YouTube video where I talk about this and show you what I mean. The Hamburg (Steinway) preset on the Yamaha CP88 also has a pretty good degree of yummy/gooey but not as much as the S700.

“tinkly/sparkly” – another subjective term, but once you see what I’m saying, you’ll probably agree. I think everyone in the world would agree that one of the strongest aspects to any Yamaha grand piano (that Yamaha makes…like the CFX, C7, CF3, etc.) is that they are “tinkly/sparkly” and this allows them to really stand out in a mix. The CFX preset on the Yamaha CP88 shows this HUGELY, especially on the higher notes. They just sparkle wonderfully. Now, in some cases, I actually don’t like this because again, it can take away from the overall effect of what I’m trying to do with a particular song/arrangement, but on the other hand, it’s a fun thing to play with and it certainly gets the point across. I think the CFX preset probably has tinkly/sparkly nailed 100% whereas the C7 and the CF3 presets have to be hit a little harder to get to the same level of tinkly/sparkly. The Live CF3, has more “tacky” than it does “tinkly”, but it’s sort of in the same ballpark.

“woody” – now sure, Steinway’s are known for sounding “woody”. No other real way to describe it. And THIS IS MY PERSONAL PREFERENCE in a grand piano. So you are definitely getting my biases here. I LOVE A GOOD STEINWAY (there…I said it). You can really hear the woodiness of the soundboard. So, as expected the Hamburg (Steinway) preset of the Yamaha CP88 really displays this well as does (in my opinion), the Addictive Keys Studio Grand (which is a sampled Steinway D). I don’t believe it’s as “woody” as the Hamburg, but it’s similar in my book. None of the other grand pianos have as much “wood” as these two grand pianos (at least to my ears). When played quieter, the CF3 preset of the Yamaha CP88 has a bit of a woody sound.

“brassy/brash” – so this term makes me think of grand pianos that have more metal in the sound and maybe have a bigger overall in-your-face sound. Most Bosendorfers (UVI Austrian Grand as well as the Imperial preset of the Yamaha CP88) definitely have a brassy/brash sound to them. To a slightly lesser degree, the CFX and C7 presets of the Yamaha CP88 also sounds “brassy” to me. Just think of this as a big, brassy, brashy, bellowing piano…and you’re getting the drift. The Live CF3 can get pretty “brassy” when played loud (see also: “tacky”). Contrast this with the S700 and Hamburg (Steinway) who don’t sound “brassy” at all to my ears. They are more “poised” and “yummy/gooey” (this is getting silly…but hopefully it’s giving you a sound picture…heh heh).

So how would we classify each instrument based on our incredibly subjective and biased and downright silly word salad above?

  1. Addictive Keys Studio Grand (Steinway D):
    • Poised, woody, sometimes yummy.
    • Good for solid tunes that might not have a lot of dynamics.
  2. UVI Austrian Grand (Bosendorfer):
    • Somewhat poised, somewhat yummy, sometimes brassy/brash when pushed hard.
  3. CFX (CP88) – this is a Yamaha grand piano:
    • Tinkly/sparkly, sometimes brassy/brash. Reasonably poised.
    • Has a slightly off center stereo spectrum (where middle C is slightly in the left stereo hemisphere…will talk more about this below in the final thoughts).
    • If you like Yamaha grand pianos, you’ll probably want to use this one for everything because it CAN be used for everything.
  4. Imperial (Bosendorfer – CP88) – Yamaha is the parent company to Bosendorfer:
    • Brassy/brash, slightly tinkly on high end, but has strangely quiet top keys.
    • When played quieter, it calms down and would probably be good for hymns and other similar tunes.
  5. S700 (CP88) – this is a Yamaha grand piano:
    • Yummy/gooey (wrote the book on it). Fairly well poised and balanced.
    • Really good for solid tunes that don’t need a lot of dynamic range because its very well balanced and “gluey” (there’s yet another crazy term).
  6. C7 (CP88) – this is a Yamaha grand piano:
    • Definitely tinkly/sparkly with some aspects of brassy/brash.
    • Less poised than the others simply because you can get so much range of emotion out of it with different velocities.
  7. CF3 (CP88) – this is a Yamaha grand piano:
    • Overall a quieter, slightly woody, less tinkly/sparkly and certainly not brassy/brash type of grand piano.
    • When pushed (higher velocity playing) it can get tacky.
    • When played at quieter volumes, it’s definitely well balanced and again, I would say slightly “woody”.
  8. Live CF3 (CP88) – this is a Yamaha grand piano, however, it is tweaked a bit:
    • Wrote the book on “tacky” if played at high velocity (see 2:00 into the YouTube video above)
    • Actually has some yummy/gooey that the S700 has but only at medium velocity because once you get higher/harder hitting, it switches to tacky.
  9. Hamburg (Steinway) CP88 – this is NOT a Yamaha grand piano, but Yamaha sampled it:
    • Very well poised and balanced. I truly feel like I am in complete control at ALL velocities (soft to very hard hitting) and that it never gets “tacky” or “splatty” at hard hits. It just stays in control.
    • Also seems to have good resonance across all keys and has decent bass/low end and decent tinkle in the high end, but again, it’s all very “controlled”.
    • I like the resonance in the lower end bass notes. They “roll” nicely with chorusing and this blends wonderfully with mid to high notes. Dare I say “yummy”?

Effects used and recording techniques (compression, EQ, etc.):

I tried to use effects (reverb, compression, etc.) as “equally” as I could across all nine grand pianos in an effort to make the comparison as “fair” (whatever that means?) as possible.

For the comparison track (where the grand piano is changing every two measures), each grand piano used the reverb IN ITS ENGINE. In other words, for Addictive Keys Studio Grand (Steinway D), I used the reverb within that sound library (and tried to give it a small hall type of sound). The UVI Austrian Grand (Bosendorfer) used its own “Sparkverb”, again, with a small hall type of algorithm. The Yamaha CP88 presets all used the built in reverb with a small hall/room algorithm.
In fact, the specific CP88 reverb settings are: Depth: 50 | Time: 30. What this means is that there’s a decent amount of “room” in the reverb, but not a lot of “time” that the reverb reverberates. So this might be considered a medium room or small hall.
On the CP88 itself, the reverb is the ONLY ONLY ONLY effect being used. I’m not using any compression, or EQ or chorus or anything else. JUST the reverb at the settings listed above.

When I then recorded each grand piano again for its own separate track on SoundCloud, I used the Relab LX480 Essentials reverb on a default Room reverb at 60/40 mix.

On the Yamaha CP88 presets, within Logic, on each audio track, I used EQ to bring up the low end +3dB and pull down the mid-range (right around 1k) by -2dB. This is because after listening to typical popular piano libraries as well as playing the Addictive Keys Studio Grand and UVI Austrian Grand, I realized that out-of-the-box, the Yamaha CP88’s grand pianos are somewhat “flat” (meaning the EQ curve doesn’t emphasize or de-emphasize anything). This is actually a GOOD thing because it means you can EQ things to your own taste later. I decided to boost the lows a bit (get the bass area more full and boomy) and pull out a little of the mid-range to make the pianos less “nasally”.

Here’s what the EQ looked like on the Yamaha CP88 presets (tracks 3 through 9 in the YouTube video):

I then used the Vintage VCA compressor in Apple’s Logic Pro X on the master bus (which means all grand pianos used the same exact compression) with the following settings

Here’s a shot of the Logic Pro X environment:

From the above environment, I rendered out tracks 4 through 12 to separate 24-bit/48Hz .wav files.
I then loaded these .wav files into a new Logic Pro X project with ZERO effects or compression or anything (because that was already done in the above screenshot).

I then simply routed each track to a single Bus and created a 10th track that recorded what the “Bus” heard.
I then stepped through each of the tracks (1-9 in the below screenshot) and soloed them (hold Option key and click Solo button which solos current track and mutes the others) and Track 10 “heard” me stepping through Tracks 1-9 and recorded it. As stated above, I tried to get seamless transitions between tracks but sometimes it’s not perfect. But it’s good enough to compare at one go (I told my wife I created a “frankenstein track” of 9 grand pianos). I also adjusted track volumes slightly with my ears to get close to equal sounding volumes for all 9 grand pianos. Not perfect, but certainly “good enough”.

Logic Pro X environment to record the comparison track:

Kevin’s Overall Thoughts and Impressions:

I’m gonna go out on a walk and come back and finish this later…I do have some definite opinions here however, at this point of writing this post, my wife and I haven’t even listened to the compilation/comparison so we do NOT have a grand piano picked yet for Acoustic Hymns Vol. 3.

Stay tuned!


Okay…I’m back from the walk.

Final thoughts about each wonderful grand piano:

  1. Addictive Keys Studio Grand
    • SoundCloud track
    • So if you’ll recall, I used this piano library for the Live Hymns album. At the time, I was using a Yamaha DGX-640 (with the Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) keybed) to trigger it. Since I wasn’t doing any crazy theatrics with the songs, I didn’t realize the inherent limitations of the DGX-640 and GHS keybed. So it worked just fine for that application. And I LOVED it for that particular album.
    • This grand piano made it to the top 3 for the following reasons:
      • It is a Steinway D and is “woody” as you would expect (although I seem to hear more “wood” in the Hamburg preset on the CP88?).
      • Wonderful bass notes that just resonate yummily.
      • It’s very balanced with no bad habits.
      • Responds well with hard hits…doesn’t “splat” them…just responds well.
      • This piano library software within Logic Pro X has *no* bad habits, never crashes, always sounds exactly like it should, and actually has a really nice built-in reverb that is nice and spacious and helps “sell” this particular piano sound.
      • Also, because this piano library is so configurable, I could decide later to re-customize it into something else if I decide to focus on some other type of grand piano sound that I’m after.
      • Very “musical” sounding to my ears. Again, it just sells whatever song you’re trying to sell.
      • This particular piano library works extremely well with the Yamaha CP88 acting as a keyboard controller.
  2. UVI Austrian Grand (Bosendorfer)
    • SoundCloud track
    • While this grand piano sounds decent enough, there are enough “warts” that cause me to not trust it nor really want to use it for any albums at this time.
    • Reasons:
      • For some reason, when this runs inside of Logic Pro X, it takes what seems like an inordinate amount of computer resources such that I have to increase the latency of the environment so that I can play it without pops and clicks and such.
        • Just so we’re clear: I’m running this on a 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro with 16Gb of RAM and the Apple M1 Pro chip (also a 1Tb internal flash drive). THERE SHOULD BE NO PHYSICAL REASON that this piano library should behave like this. Addictive Keys Studio Grand is probably a 1Gb sampled Steinway D and it behaves FLAWLESSLY. Addictive Keys NEVER crashes. So yeah…there is something spoopy going on here and maybe a future update will make this piano library behave better.
      • I can also get it to “crash” (or at least stop responding) by messing with various FX settings and/or removing FX blocks.
      • This suggests to me that it’s kind of buggy at this time and I cannot trust an album to buggy software where I spend more time quitting Logic and reopening and/or re-instantiating it within Logic than I do actually focusing on the music and recording it.
      • It seems to only be about 350Mb of sample data. I could be reading this wrong, but if true, this would suggest that the bulk of the sound engine is basically clever programming to simulate the sustain/release/resonance portions of the sound (rather than simply sampling the source grand piano with long samples/large samples that are more true to the original). This would also explain why it requires more computer resources and also possibly why it crashes occasionally. ALSO: if you listen carefully to the entire track, you can hear kind of a faked resonance (which again, is probably being rendered via programming and NOT the actual samples). Not saying it’s a bad thing…just that it’s there and you should listen to it and determine if you like it. Listen to the end of the SoundCloud track linked above and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
      • Now, as noted above, Jordan Rudess recorded an amazing demo of this piano library and you really should listen to additional opinions more than my crazed ramblings in order to get a clear picture of what this grand piano library could do FOR YOU.
      • I mean no ill will nor disrespect to the fine folks at UVI. These are my uneducated and unprofessional opinions only. Besides, I am champing at the bit to start using the other amazing libraries from UVI that are flat out gorgeous (the analog synthesizer stuff from the 80s as well as other fabulous stuff that these folks put out).
    • Good things:
      • Fantastic bass notes. HUGELY bass without being “boomy”.
      • Yummy middle section.
      • Decently tinkly/sparkly high end notes.
      • There’s a LOT to like about this piano library, so you simply must try it yourself and maybe you won’t experience or care about my negative nelly-ing above.
  3. CFX (CP88 preset) – this is a Yamaha grand piano
    • SoundCloud track
    • So yeah…I have a real interesting love/hate relationship with this particular grand piano. First, the perceived warts:
      • For some crazy reason, the stereo spectrum of this piano is slightly shifted to the left. NONE of the other grand pianos on the CP88 (nor in the other software libraries) have this strange shift. If you listen on good quality in-ears, and you hit middle C and perhaps a few notes above middle C and a few notes below middle C, you should notice that they occur slightly in the left side of the stereo hemisphere in your head and basically slightly off-center. Not radically to the left, but ENOUGH of an off-shift to the left that it’s kind of annoying. Now sure, this could be simply MY particular nit-pick, but after spending the amount of time I have spent listening, practicing, recording, listening some more…it just BUGS ME. I want the middle of the keyboard to BE in the middle of my head. Period.
      • This piano is tinkly/sparkly at the high end, and fairly brassy/brash over the rest of the keyboard. Not necessarily a “wart” per-se, but enough for me to not really want to produce an album with it because these features are just not what thrill me about a piano.
      • Because I tend to hit hard (especially in the higher octaves), I tend to hear the tinkly/sparkly more than I’d like. That’s on ME, but you get the picture.
    • Good things:
      • Fantastic tinkle/sparkle, especially in the higher notes. Some people really like this aspect of a grand piano and the CFX does not disappoint here.
      • Fairly good at being brassy/brash. If you push it hard you can really make this thing yell. And yet at the same time, it feels like you can really control it fairly well by playing carefully and intentionally. Hope that makes sense.
      • Fairly good “poise” in that it feels pretty balanced to my hands.
  4. Imperial (Bosendorfer) CP88 preset – Yamaha is the parent company of Bosendorfer
    • SoundCloud track
    • Definitely brassy/brash, but you can play with less velocity and kind of calm it down. I *will* say this though, it does not have the sustain that the other grand pianos have. So don’t expect to hold down a final chord or note at the end of the song and have it sustain for a long time. It won’t. Also, for some reason, the very high notes (maybe the last octave or so) are at least 0.5 if not 1.0dB quieter than the rest of the piano. Maybe this is how a real Bosendorfer sounds, but it forces you the player to be aware of it and adjust accordingly (especially if you have a heavy left hand like Kevin does…in order for those super high notes to be heard, I’ll have to back off my left hand a bit).
    • That said, it’s still obviously a gorgeous piano. I personally feel that it gets slightly muddy in the mid-range/middle of the piano so you have to be aware of that and play intentionally enough so that those notes can be heard and be clear…but it’s not a huge issue…just something to be aware of.
    • This one definitely has some tinkly/sparkly in the higher notes that you might like. But certainly not as piercing as the CFX or C7.
    • Here’s an interesting thing: if you turn the reverb completely OFF on the CP88 and hit some notes on the Imperial preset in a staccato manner (hit them quickly and let go), you can actually hear some of the “room” that Yamaha recorded the samples in. FREAKY! This tends to ever so slightly add to some muddiness that you might not like, but if you just blend that into the overall reverb “room” you’re using, you’ll be fine. It’s just an interesting fact to be aware of.
    • This one’s a “sleeper” for me because I know someday I’m going to play on it more and possibly somehow fall more in love with it and do more with it.
  5. S700 (CP88 preset) – this is a Yamaha grand piano
    • SoundCloud track
    • THIS GRAND PIANO IS GROWING ON ME. Let’s just get that right out into the open.
    • There is still something I cannot quite put my finger on or put into words that is REALLY special about this grand piano. Maybe it’s the maple wood used? Heavier plate? SOMETHING is going on to make this thing resonate so sweetly the way it does. There’s an article here on Piano World forum that speaks to this.
    • To me, this piano just SINGS. It’s DEFINITELY in the yummy/gooey category. And yet (AND YET!!!!) it somehow still captures a tinkly/sparkly element without being TOO tinkly/sparkly. And it gets this tinkly/sparkly sound down in the middle of the keyboard as well as at the top. Just yummy. Can’t think of any other word.
    • When I push it hard it doesn’t get brassy/brash but still gives “oomph”.
    • Also, when I use “poised” here, it definitely means that the piano feels like I can “control” it without it getting out of hand. Also this means to me that it’s well balanced across the entire keyboard range. Just a really good piano to use if you want to get a solid point across.
    • The only real downsides I can think of is that you might want more tinkle/sparkle or brassy/brash than this piano can give…but again, that’s part of its charm…it just sits there sweetly in the mix whether solo or in a more complex mix and it just does its job nice and yummy. Yeah…I’m out of adjectives. Sorry.
  6. C7 (CP88 preset) – this is a Yamaha grand piano
    • SoundCloud track
    • This piano, to me, has both tinkly/sparkly *and* brassy/brash completely figured out.
    • It also has the distinction of being used/recorded with on all KINDS of different, highly popular music. Very popular piano for Yamaha.
    • Now, having said the above, when I push it with higher velocity hitting, it has the tendency to get “splatty” and/or “tacky” and more nasal.
    • aaaaand having said the previous bullet, as I’m listening to the SoundCloud track, I happened to play quieter for a moment and the piano just quiets down all nicely and poised and blinks its eyes at me as if to say: “I HEARD what you were saying about me…”.
    • I will say this: if you need something to completely cut through a mix like a hot knife through butter, this is your grand piano.
    • I like the bass notes…they roll nicely and don’t get too boomy.
    • Even though I like this grand piano for its good qualities, it doesn’t really match what I’m after for Acoustic Hymns Vol. 3. It’s almost too “aggressive” in the mix for what I want in a typical hymn.
  7. CF3 (CP88 preset) – this is a Yamaha grand piano
    • SoundCloud track
    • Dare I suggest that this is Yamaha’s slightly “Steinbergy” grand piano?
    • Has some woodiness to it but not a lot.
    • When pushed hard it gets tacky/splatty but not as much as Live CF3 (see bullet 8 below).
    • Good bass/bottom end.
    • This one could be a sleeper too because it DOESN’T get as “tacky” as its Live CF3 brother.
    • Also has some interesting resonance going on between strings that isn’t present in the other grands. Not saying its as yummy as S700, but it has a certain something in there that’s nice.
  8. Live CF3 (CP88 preset) – this is a Yamaha grand piano, but has been tweaked a bit
    • SoundCloud track
    • This grand piano isn’t something that would immediately seem useful to me, but you never know. I haven’t yet played the CP88 in a live setting (either solo piano concert or possibly with a band doing instrumental jazz) so it MIGHT be that this preset works great for that.
    • This preset gets “tacky/splatty” real quick when you start hitting hard. Listen to about 2:00 in at the SoundCloud link above and you’ll see what I mean.
    • That said, there is a sweet spot for this preset in the medium velocities where it gets some nice resonance (almost S700-like) but not as pronounced as the S700.
    • Due to its tacky/splatty aspects, it feels less easy to control as some of the others…but perhaps I would just need to play on it a bunch more and get my hands/fingers/brain engaged to find that sweet spot more consistently.
  9. Hamburg (Steinway) CP88 preset – this is NOT a Yamaha grand piano, but they sampled a Steinway (quite well, I might point out)
    • SoundCloud track
    • Ahhhhh…there it is. I am COMPLETELY biased towards a Steinway. I love the woody sound with decent bass/bottom and some tinkle to the top end.
    • Again I say: “control”. You can hit this thing with soft, medium, hard, slamming velocities and it just seems to always stay in control and it NEVER gets tacky/splatty nor does it really get brassy/brash either. Mostly poised and yummy with a slight tinkly/sparkly at the high end (similar to CFX/C7 but more controlled).
    • As discussed above, this preset also seems to have good resonance between notes in the lower end that blend nicely with mid to upper notes.


Mrs. Selby and myself will listen intently (both with decent quality in-ears and then through the Yamaha HS80M studio monitors) later today/tomorrow and we’ll probably narrow the list to 3 grand pianos and then pick one from there.

Kevin’s picks BEFORE reviewing with Kathy (shhhh…don’t show Kath…I want her unbiased opinion):

  1. Hamburg
  2. S700
  3. Addictive Keys

Okay…Kathy and Kevin just spent more than an hour listening together on fairly good in-ears.

Kathy’s picks:

  1. Hamburg (CP88)
  2. Imperial (Bosendorfer) (CP88)
    • The Imperial is growing on Kevin…
  3. A toss up between the CFX (CP88) and the Addictive Keys Studio Grand (Steinway)
    • The CFX is ALSO growing on Kevin…we shall see…we shall see…

Tomorrow we will listen to the 9 grands through the Yamaha HS80M studio monitors. That should give us a really good idea of what we like. I will also try to post a PDF of the score for the arrangement I created for this (so you can try this at home kids!).

Okay, it’s tomorrow. We sat in the studio and Kevin played the 9 grands through the Yamaha HS80M studio monitors. And the winners are:

  1. Hamburg (Steinway) from the Yamaha CP88.
  2. Imperial (Bosendorfer) from the Yamaha CP88.

Kevin will produce Acoustic Hymns Vol. 3 on BOTH of the grand pianos above and then I suppose we’ll release both of them to SoundCloud but then pick ONE of them to go to the main music providers (Apple, Amazon, Spotify, etc.).

So there ya go. Hope that helped you to see what 9 different grand pianos can sound like with “Be Thou My Vision”. Very fun exercise!

Until next time,

Kevin B. Selby