Having played for several years in a band that didn’t use on-stage amplification, I’m now looking for an amplification solution for small/medium sized gigs. I’ve tried a couple of keyboard-specific amps, but find that although they do a decent enough job on most keyboard sounds, the results for high-end grand piano plugins is unsatisfactory… usually boxy and/or harsh.
What are people’s recommendations? Should I try some surgical EQ in Cantabile, or is that addressing the symptom rather than the cause?
Good question… the answer is probably no. I doubt there’s much that’s both affordable and loud enough to do the job.
That said, I and others have found that high quality piano sounds often fail to work in a stage mix all around and go for (ironically) older, less pristine pianos; something more akin to ROMpler pianos from the days of yore.
I totally agree with Fred.
Yeah, in loud/rock situations I’m aware of the syndrome where all you really hear of an nice grand piano VI is the attack, unless you compress it… thereby spoiling the very sound you want to hear…
The band I’ve joined is not so loud… more in a jazz direction, albeit with an electric rather than acoustic bassist. So there will be at least some numbers where the piano is pretty unobscured and volume isn’t an issue.
Also, I realise that mono amplification isn’t going to sound as nice as listening to the VI through headphones… Would still like to get a better tone than I’m currently getting, though.
I’m aware some keyboardists swear that using their own dedicated PA if necessary, rather than a keyboard amp, is better for acoustic opinion. Anybody with experience of this?
Yes, I do. I’ve mentioned before that I use a portable PA from Yamaha (StagePas 600) that has the power and features I needed for open air stage monitoring of just my keyboard. I like it because
2 X 10 ’ woofer and radial tweeter
the Stereo power amp/ mixer is separate from the speakers making them light and easy to move and place. Built in 3 band eq to adjust for different rooms.
has a good flat sound response
they pole mount or wedge on the floor
there is a built in crossover if you need to run a sub woofer with it when you need more bass. I use a powered 12 inch from Behringer.
Anyway, I’ve seen others using powered PA speakers in the same way with a small passive mixer for their mixing needs fed to the powered speakers and to the main board or snake.
Electro-Voice ZxA1 is a popular choice for clean reproduction of a piano sound (i use two of them).
I wouldn’t fiddle with the EQ to compensate for bad monitoring - that will also affect the sound that goes out to P.A., which is ususally not a good idea,
I have come to thoroughly detest “keyboard amps” - they color my sound far too much. These days, I swear by my QSC 8.2 active monitor - it’s absolutely tiny, easy to carry, and it puts out a surprising amount of volume. And it is an absolute joy on piano sounds, compared to all alternatives I have used previously. Definitely not a cheap solution, but you get what you pay for…
That said, I agree with Fred; live piano sounds in a band setting are a different beast than solo or recording. I tend to shape my piano sounds to be band-ready, which does require a bit of getting used to. Especially the lower register tends to create mud and conflict with bass and kick drum, so I EQ generously, combining a low cut around 80 Hz and a low shelf that tames the boominess to taste.
I’m generally an “EQ to fit the mix” kind of guy, so my ears have gotten used to keyboard and guitar sounds that are far less pronounced in the low end than a lot of players prefer for their monitoring. My Hammond sounds are all massively thinned out in their low end - organists who are used to a Leslie behind them wouldn’t be caught dead with my setup - but it works for me
I use two Bose L1s for my piano gigs (with Synthogy Ivory Grands plugin) and these give a very warm grand piano sound with plenty of power in small to medium spaces, or just as personal monitoring when a PA is in use.
My only issue with them has been when I do Hammond gigs (I use an HX3 module for the Hammond) and the Bose don’t give a true sound in the mid-range so I switched to Headrush FRFR speakers which are perfect. But guess what - Headrush are not as nice for piano so instead of selling the Bose I’ve kept them! This is not the cheapest solution…
+1 on powered PA speakers. I use a pair of Electro-Voice ELX200-10Ps for live performance. I have yet to hear a ‘keyboard amp’ from any manufacturer that doesn’t have some noticeable coloration or other deviation from what I’m looking for: a) flat frequency response and b) loud enough to compete with the rest of a band.
I chose a 10", rather than a 12" or 15" for several reasons – the least of which was size/weight. Almost all modern powered speakers have a cabinet that is smaller than the woofer would like to see, some of them significantly so. EQ, usually via a DSP, is used to correct this problem. Generally speaking, though, the larger the speaker, the more manufacturers play this ‘starve the woofer and fix it in EQ’ game. Smaller speakers generally have better transient response, too, which benefits sounds like acoustic piano and Clavinet.
I chose the ZLX200-10P because it had a) smooth midrange and treble response; b) high maximum SPL; and c) smooth roll-off in bass, rather than a steep cliff. (Gently decreasing bass response can be augmented with EQ at low to mid output level; forcing a speaker to work ‘over the cliff’ is near impossible, in my experience.)
The whole cut the lows on guitar is what makes a Rangemaster pedal. And countless hit records and star guitarists. That guy in U2 cuts pretty much all the low out of his guitar and sounds pretty good to me.