Monday, March 25, 2013

Decisions, Decisions.

Currently, I am shopping for a 88-key, weighted hammer, digital piano. Over the past couple months I have scoured the Internet reading reviews and forums and to date, I have read over 40 PDF product manuals. I have visited the San Francisco bay area 3 times to visit various music stores where I could get my hands on the main three pianos I am interested in. Today I spent another 2 hours in San Francisco trying digitals and here are my notes.

I checked out the Roland 700NX. Very nice keybed (right on par with CP5, a bit different) clean piano sound and nice interface. I also enjoyed playing it and I noticed the wood keys straight away. Bummer on the transpose which must be held down for 2 seconds before getting a menu. But, playing this keyboard, gives me "hope" about the A88. NEXT.

Korg Kronos is a very neat synth, a bit pricey, that I would be interested in learning; like how I felt back when I bought into MOTIF.XS, however, Kronos is pricey and not as nice as the 700NX and also does not sport live.transpose. NEXT.

Kurzweil PC3LE8 nice piano sound, plays nice, but I just didn't like the keybed; felt like plastic, no transpose. NEXT.

AKAI MPK88. Keyboard just okay. Knobs and sliders I already have on MOTIF.XS, entire keyboard felt cheap. NEXT.

Yamaha MOX8. Very much duplication of my MOTIF.XS (which isn't a bad thing) and my familiarity of XS makes this board easy to play. The plastic graded hammer action is easy to play and grows on you quickly. I thought about using this board to play samples and plugins, but then my mind wandered to Roland's A88. The MOX8 also has no.brainer vocoder, USB audio interface, and remote.DAW controller; which is a step up from my XS6. But right now I am buying 88.weighted keys. Transpose is spot.on.nice right up on deck and works great!

Roland FP4F. Nice piano; as is 700NX. no transpose. NEXT.

Yamaha MOTIF.XF8 could be my real solution; but if I go this route, I will probably sell my XS6. I have a Korg.i3 so this gives me a 61-synth key for organs, etc. But I would want to sell my XS6 first to apply that money towards MOTIF.XF8, will have to sleep on this idea. My MOTIF.XS6 has all the extras which could command an easy $2400 selling price to the right customer. 1gb.sampler.ram, FC3.damper, mLAN.firewire, $600++.samples,, stand, unopened.unregistered CubaseAI and all printed manuals.

Yamaha CP5. This keyboard did not surprise me at all. What I mean is the CP5 is in its own world. Other keyboards call themselves stage.pianos but this is the real deal. From the moment you power it on to the gas.flourescent display, the CP5 breathes an entirely different feel. The interface is NOT intuitive; but it IS Yamaha, which still feels nice. I LIKE THE KNOBS. The CP5 is designed to be played live and the controls are made for you to taylor that experience. All of the sounds in the CP5 are excellent. It will take me some time to get up to speed with the Spectral Component Modulation controls, but inside of an hour using the CP5, already, the buttons and knobs were making "Yamaha-sense" to me. The shorter.throw wooden keybed on the CP5 played nicely and responded well. Although the keystroke seemed short, the SCM offers very smooth sensitivity at all velocity levels. From zero to pounding on the keys and everything in between. I was impressed. Transpose. I had read ahead of time about it using a single knob to advance 1/2 steps. When I got to the store, I immediately pressed Transpose and turned the knob 1 click. I wished the click was firmer but inside playing for 45 minutues I goofed twice using the transpose. Not bad, 28 successful transposes in 30 tries; and by that time I had got better at using the knob. I can live with the knob in lieu of the other qualities this keyboard breathes.

For those of you who may have asked, what about PhantomG? CP33? CP50? Well, stack them up on the no.transpose pile. NEXT.

Strait away either the CP5 or A88 appear to be my best choices. I wish I was paying cash. Guitar Center is selling their floor model CP5 for $1600 which is $1000 off the price! But, I am buying at AMS with other studio gear on 8.payments. I walked away satisfied that I played a Yamaha.CP5 today. My fingers felt like they got a little workout, but nothing like playing Yamaha's Balanced Hammer (BH) like on the XS8 and XF8. The MOX8 is a really good choice if you don't have any other synth in your collection, but for me, it duplicates a bit too much and the idea of using a MOX8 to play sounds in my XS6 just seems plain dumb. But, I would do it. The MOX8 is very capable. On the other hand, playing the CP5 to drive sounds in the XS6 makes sense now. But then my mind wanders and I say do that with the Roland A88 and save $1500.dollars! I really did like the Roland.RD700NX but honestly, the transpose button is part of my playing style and IS a deal breaker for me.

So, do I sell my MOTIF.XS6 and buy balanced hammer MOTIF.XF8? or do I get the Roland.A88 to master my MOTIF.XS6? or do I go for the gusto and buy the CP5 as if its the last piano I ever buy? decisions, decisions; will give much more thought and run all this through a few more spreadsheets.

Feel? Yamaha CP5
Practical? A88 with XS6
Solution? XF8 sell XS6
Price? MOX8


Saturday, March 02, 2013


Many people [I think] wonder why people blog, Twitter and post status updates on Facebook. Although I am no expert on this phenomenon, I do understand the dynamics of why blogging is important, as I will attempt to explain here. Effort.

In 1993, I sustained a brain injury during the course of a car vs. motorcycle accident. Since that time, I have battled what seemed to be insurmountable challenges which took great effort to overcome. Today some of this is still true, whereas I still deal with the onslaught of morbid headaches. But, for the most part, I have won the war with headaches.

This past eighteen-months is another story, for I suddenly was stricken with ulnar neuropathy in  both of my arms. This condition appeared with little or no warning. Due to fear, I began scrambling and playing guitar and piano more than I usually would, but it was not helping. And as the days and weeks went by, I was losing ability. Here is where sheer terror began for me.

On January 14th of this year I had my first surgery for ulnar decompression. I've been told the surgery was a success in that, during the surgery they found exactly what was causing the problem. However, while I am recuperating post-surgery, it is very frustrating and disappointing in that I have not regained ability and the numbness and original problem(s) are still present. This faking it until you make it, doesn't work too well with me. Nor am I accepting it very well. Some people might be led to say, "getting old ain't for whimps" and they would be correct. And although there is some accuracy to that statement, it really isn't what is troubling me the most.

Creativity through my hands has always been a huge benefit in my life. And even during the horrendous brain injury experience, I had full use of my hands! Lately, I have even said outloud, "give me a headache any day, but give me my hands back".

A few months ago I began using speech to text translation tools, such as Siri Dictation on my iPad. While this is convenient and works very well, I would be a liar if I said I wasn't upset about the fact that I was needing to use such a tool. I appreciate that this utility is available to me and without question it is helping very much. But, I am not quick to accept needing such a device. There is a part of me that thinks if I accept this to be true, then that sets into motion the possibility of losing ability altogether.

Now months later, I luckily won my battle with depression. And, did so without becoming an alcoholic. Other people who I have spoken to about this condition were not so lucky. It is very trying and takes great emotional effort. It isn't like a challenging job where more energy, time or patience may be required. I have energy, I'm now retired and have time; and contrary to popular belief, I have much more patience than most people give me credit for. But, in this case, they would be right. And perhaps, this would be my first time to admit to my impatience in this matter. I am use to Harry fixing things with record-breaking speed. But, this is not the case now. And, when the thought of your mortality kicks in, then you're in trouble. But again, this is also true. Afterall, I am 59 years of age, and as much as I would like to believe I am 9 years old; the fact is, I am not.

So, with all of this said I am redefining my efforts. Taking clear and concise inventory in order to implement the best choices that I can possibly make now.

In order to refuel my musical vocation, I am having my instruments reworked with hopes of them being able to be easier to play. I have found a new guitar I plan to order which will also help in this quest. I've decided to take another stab at setting up my music studio in a new location, with better tools, better technology and a more realistic attitude with regards to what I expect from my efforts.

Standing back and looking at the big picture, I now see this as the same story that has been unfolding for the past 30 years; this is simply another chapter to that same story. But until very recently, I did not know this. Everything in my life always came to me so easily. Not that everything was given to me in life. But rather, I did not have to expend much effort to do anything. I was smart. I was quick, agile, witty and knew how to navigate everything. Then I grew up [a little bit]. Now I must expend effort too. The same effort every body else must exert every day of their lives. And perhaps this helps me to join the human race all the more. Now I have something more in common with everyone.

Now I must apply effort.