Elton John's Yamaha

Posted by: JBeck

Elton John's Yamaha - 08/23/09 02:32 PM

I love the sound of Elton's Yamaha, but everytime I try a Yamaha in a store, it just doesn't sound like his... take a quick look at the beginning of this video to really get a feel of the sound:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCNqIBpO2ho

Could anyone with better ears help me out and let me know what kind of "sound" is going on here, and maybe what pianos have this sound that I could get my hands on, whether it be acoustic or digital?

Thanks!
Posted by: pno

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/23/09 02:41 PM

That piano sounded very weird, bright and digitalish. I don't like it. I've never played a Yamaha sound like that.
Posted by: Tweedpipe

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/23/09 05:01 PM

Originally Posted By: JBeck
I love the sound of Elton's Yamaha, but everytime I try a Yamaha in a store, it just doesn't sound like his... take a quick look at the beginning of this video to really get a feel of the sound:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCNqIBpO2ho

Could anyone with better ears help me out and let me know what kind of "sound" is going on here, and maybe what pianos have this sound that I could get my hands on, whether it be acoustic or digital?
Thanks!


I wouldn't know how to describe this sound except to say it's bright, and no doubt being processed/ampified/mixed (you name it) by very costly electronic equipment.
It's not exactly to my liking, and I'm pleased that my acoustic piano doesn't sound that way.
However when playing my Yamaha PF1000 digital piano, on selecting one of the 2 'Bright Piano' voices, and layering with 'Midi Grand' voice, I get a sound which is not unlike the one you refer to, but richer and warmer - especially when monitored through Grado SR80 headphones.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/23/09 05:26 PM

The piano is a CFIIIS. The recording is awfully buzzy, which is a function of the miking or the record itself, not the piano.
Posted by: Piano-on-Hudson

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/24/09 07:30 AM

Elton's pianos (indeed, CFIIIS's) are always special editions -- packed with equipment which helps to deliver the stage sound Sir. John requires for touring. Unplugged, off stage, they are hardly usable as pianos. But on-stage, plugged in, they do just as needed. Even the touch is customized. Each piano is named -- one famous one (now-retired) being "Diana", named for the late British Royal.

James
Posted by: vandyboy

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/24/09 09:35 AM

My piano tuner works on a lot of pianos used in studios on Nashville's Music Row. She complains that the artists and engineers want the studio pianos tuned so bright they no longer sound like pianos when played. She thinks the sound is even worse once recorded.
Posted by: rodmichael

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/24/09 11:01 AM

Originally Posted By: JBeck
I love the sound of Elton's Yamaha, but everytime I try a Yamaha in a store, it just doesn't sound like his... take a quick look at the beginning of this video to really get a feel of the sound:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCNqIBpO2ho

Could anyone with better ears help me out and let me know what kind of "sound" is going on here, and maybe what pianos have this sound that I could get my hands on, whether it be acoustic or digital?

Thanks!

Dear JBeck,

If your self esteem isn't totally wrecked by the responses to your question, you are a strong person indeed. Obviously, likes and dislikes when it comes to piano sounds are very subjective. So, take heart and see if you can find that special sound that you're looking for.

Best regards,
Posted by: JBeck

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/24/09 04:12 PM

Originally Posted By: Coordinator
Unplugged, off stage, they are hardly usable as pianos.


I'm curious about this... could you explain further?
Posted by: Ludwig van Bilge

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/24/09 05:44 PM

Sounded great to me.....until he opened his big mouth.
Posted by: SeilerFan

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/24/09 05:45 PM

Originally Posted By: Ludwig van Bilge
Sounded great to me.....until he opened his big mouth.


Haha! That was a good one.
Posted by: HappyApple

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/25/09 12:14 AM

He is a genious. We can't even get close to his world. I believe that kind of talent comes at a price though.

I like the sound of his 'piano' I just enjoy the sound, without having to compare it with this or that.
Posted by: charleslang

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/25/09 12:25 AM

I don't think it's a great sound in that video and I wonder if it sounds better when you're there. But, that said:

It sounds like there's an electronic pickup. Helpinstill pickups are electronic pickups that slide under the strings for example.

This makes the soundboard a bit less of a factor since the sound is coming from the strings directly (but the soundboard is still a factor in how the strings vibrate of course just like the body of an electric guitar is still important). They produce a thinner, but more clear, cutting sound than regular micing.

They sound best when used together with mics. Like in this recording:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QgqRdbpA7Y&feature=channel

They cost a few hundred bucks. Helpinstill himself has some videos up you can search for that demonstrate the system.
Posted by: HooDoo

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/25/09 09:56 AM

Even taking into account that it's a You Tube clip, in my opinion the piano sound in that Elton John performance is very poor. It almost sounds like a toy. It's odd since he obviously has the means to get a very nice piano sound in a live setting.

Here' a clip from a show that Elton produces with an acoustic piano performance by Diana Krall. Quite a difference.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BM1ZE86Y2qY
Posted by: charleslang

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/25/09 03:30 PM

That's a jazz combo though and the other one's more rock. They might have to pull some of the body out of the sound in order to make it audible against the rock.
Posted by: Little_Blue_Engine

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/25/09 09:28 PM

Originally Posted By: charleslang
That's a jazz combo though and the other one's more rock. They might have to pull some of the body out of the sound in order to make it audible against the rock.


Maybe that has something to do with it because when she's playing her piano isn't against a backdrop of electric guitars and such. She's also playing in a studio as opposed to an arena or stadium.
Posted by: Piano-on-Hudson

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/25/09 10:15 PM

Originally Posted By: JBeck
Originally Posted By: Coordinator
Unplugged, off stage, they are hardly usable as pianos.


I'm curious about this... could you explain further?


Sure. The instruments used in pop situations like this can be so totally packed with gear that sans amps and plugs, the instrument isn't setup to sound like much. But used in the setting for which it is intended it can become an incendiary musical tool and very exciting.
Posted by: HooDoo

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/26/09 01:25 AM

Not to beleaguer this too much but perhaps someone could enlighten me since I'm not an audio engineer. I understand that it might be necessary to thin out the piano sound once the rock band joins in, but the first half of the Elton John song is solo piano. Would it not be possible for the engineers to adjust the EQ so the piano sounds better at the beginning and then cross fade to a different setting as required? Am I the only one who thinks that when the piano is by itself it sounds woefully thin?

The Krall clip was recorded at the Apollo theater in a live setting so it's certainly possible to get a rich full sounding piano in front of a large audience that sounds pretty close to a studio recording. To get that sound does the microphone setup preclude the brighter, thinner sound that would fit into a rock mix?
Posted by: Piano-on-Hudson

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/26/09 08:28 AM

HooDoo:
I'm not qualified to comment on Sir John's taste or direction in sound, but whatever sound is heard at his concerts is by his direction. Yamaha makes the pianos to suit, and his own crew does the voicing and technical setup. Ms. Krall is a jazz pianist whose natural setting would be piano alone, with an emphasis on the acoustic properties of piano and voice. Sir. John is a stalwart of pop/rock, and the intent is just different.
Posted by: Hop

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/26/09 09:00 AM

Originally Posted By: JBeck

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCNqIBpO2ho

Could anyone with better ears help me out and let me know what kind of "sound" is going on here, and maybe what pianos have this sound that I could get my hands on, whether it be acoustic or digital?

Thanks!


To me, this sounds like a digital piano. The type of tone and sustain is more similar to what I have heard on various digitals. You might try some of the more popular ones and see if any of these suit your tastes.

Hop
Posted by: Louis H. Bousquet

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 08/28/09 10:14 AM

If you liked the sound that much Im not sure that you could customize like uim but always keep in mind a technician can voice the piano anyway you like.
Posted by: JBeck

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 09/18/09 06:38 PM

Well, my next question would be, is it possible to get this sound from a digital Yamaha or is the sound outputed to modules which have their own voices? Basically, what makes it possible to get this sound?
Posted by: acortot

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 09/19/09 10:48 AM

that almost sounds like a digital built into an empty grand.
Posted by: SteveConslaw

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/26/13 06:09 PM

Elton uses many different sounds. He layers sounds frequently, and he uses effects like delays,choruses, etc. His diverse sound pallet is most on display in his solo shows. He has become identified with a bright piano tone that actually comes from an early non-sampled digital piano, the Roland RD1000 (in rack form as the MKS-20). The RD1000 was the first digital piano that sounded good and had an organic response. Roland's sound modelling synthesis made the RD1000 sound more acoustic than the FM pianos of the day. These days Elton is likely to mix the RD1000 tone with acoustic piano samples, strings, or whatever he wants. There are RD1000 soundfonts floating around on the web if you want to experiment with layers. Here's a good Youtube video demonstrating the Elton John sound on a real RD1000. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z0r0QlrIJ8
Posted by: piano_deb

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/26/13 06:29 PM

Originally Posted By: HooDoo
Here' a clip from a show that Elton produces with an acoustic piano performance by Diana Krall. Quite a difference.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BM1ZE86Y2qY

Well, I started the clip just wanting to hear the difference in piano tone but stayed for that rocking amazing performance. Krall says at the end that that's the piece that made her want to play jazz piano. Heck, it's made me want to play jazz piano and I've never wanted to before!

Just saying.

Okay, back to topic ... Yeah, Elton's piano isn't enjoyable for me at all. But, to each his/her own. smile
Posted by: Bob

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/26/13 09:30 PM

What I heard, in Orlando a few months ago was at least 12 different piano sounds, changing from one song to another, including the sound posted here. Elton didn't change the sound himself, someone else did.
Posted by: j&j

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/26/13 09:31 PM

Yeah the YouTube recording seemed pretty buzzy and listening to it on an iPad makes it that much worse.

I guess we can only judge the true Elton Yamaha sound live in concert.

I have heard a CFIII live, never got to play one though, and the sound was wonderful.
Posted by: Pianolance

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/27/13 01:31 AM

To me it sounds a lot like a CP80 (Yamaha Electric Grand from the 70's) Maybe Yamaha used the same pickup system they developed for that instrument, or maybe it's midi'd to a sound module using a sample that sounds like a CP80. I don't think the YouTube recording is a good way to judge the results as it surely sounded much different to the audience. Concert sound and recording studio sound are two completely different animals. In a recording studio you never have to deal with feedback, but in concert sound feedback is your constant #1 enemy.
Posted by: fingers

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/27/13 02:18 AM

I have my original RD 1000 with a large Peavy amp/speaker- still sounds pretty good.

fingers
Posted by: karlosserio

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/27/13 06:54 AM

From what I read around about Elton's setup he actually uses the sound of his acoustic piano mixed with a digital sound (cp80? I'm not sure). So the actual blend between acoustic and digital give a piano sound with a little more punch and brightness. And his piano is prepared with a MIDI system.
Posted by: peterws

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/27/13 10:32 AM

I always thought Elton and Steinway were bedfellows . . . but this didn`t mike up well. Not good.
Posted by: Mark...

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/27/13 11:55 AM

Yammy anniversary...
Posted by: KurtZ

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/27/13 12:07 PM

I din't listen to the video but I can comment on what EJ is currently using at least at his vegas show.

I've been backstage at the Million Dollar Piano show and Elton's keyboard tech is a client of ours. On the MDP show, while the MDP piano is a fully functioning Yamaha CF model, all the house and monitor sound is purely digital. There is no attempt to mix acoustic sound in with the digital. I believe this is the same for all his big hall shows with regard to acoustic sounds but I won't swear I know it's true except that I know that he uses the same rack set-up I describe all over the world. He has four identical set-up and pianos (minus the video screens) parked in storage. Two in the US, one in the UK and one on the continent. The digital sound is a mix of Roland MKS-20 and Yamaha Motifs. I want to say they were ES models but again, I can't swear to it. Elton doesn't like IEM's and monitors with wedges set into the deck at a fairly high volume. According to his tech, getting a mic'ed up piano loud enough without feedback would require such drastic EQ that it would be much worse than the digital piano sound they are able to get.

There are multiple units of each type in the rack both for layering and for preloading the up-coming patch which is done manually, that is, while MIDI patch control is used, no type of sequenced show control is. His tech is at the rack in monitor world pressing buttons.

Kurt
Posted by: EssBrace

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/27/13 03:33 PM

The answer is contained in a couple of posts above -

But the PRINCIPLE tonality of the piano is Roland RD1000/MKS-20. Reinforcement comes from Yamaha Power Grand and one or two other sources that form a very small part of the overall sound. The Roland sound is modelled, not sampled and that makes it extremely expressive and satisfying for him to play but the Roland sound lacks tonal accuracy to a real piano and is very metallic sounding when played hard. In addition to that it lacks some definition and clarity and this is where the Yamaha Power Grand sound comes in as it cuts through an electric band like no other digital piano sound and gives exceptional clarity. Even in the hardest rock numbers the piano comes through very articulately, which is unusual in rock music. In my opinion this is the reason Elton has stuck with this set up despite the fact it really doesn't sound very natural. Personally I would like to hear a more organic sounding piano, especially during ballads.

The sound pressure from the monitors at Elton's head during live shows has been measured at 120db and so as stated above the task of getting a true acoustic piano to give enough signal before feedback is too much hassle - his vocal mic is also very difficult because he likes his monitors incredibly loud.

Last night during Yamaha's 125th anniversary concert Elton thanked Yamaha for the great support they give him and other artists, especially up-and-coming artists. He went on to say that earlier in his career he had used a very famous American piano but the manufacturer (which we all know is Steinway) "didn't give a sh*t".
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/27/13 06:10 PM

I wouldn't bet all my money that the piano in the initial post is an acoustic piano. If I didn't see the shell of a grand piano I'd think it was a digital.

If it is in fact an acoustic piano they certainly could have made it sound more natural.
Posted by: belsha

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/27/13 08:53 PM

The irony is he plays and endorses a Yamaha, but the sound acvtually is Roland ! The big grand is only for showing off...

I really can't believe the techs can't properly mike and amplify the piano, the Roland digital sound is just so horrible, I could kill the guy that conceived that...

Possibly Elton hears the real piano on stage, that crap is just for the audience...
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/27/13 09:30 PM

If Lady Gaga can play a Roland V-Piano Grand (as she did in England recently) successfully - and make it sound like a real piano, why doesn't Elton just paint 'Yamaha' over one (or put a Yammy case over a V-Piano slab) and please both his sponsor and his discerning audience at the same time? grin

He can even make the V sound as odd as he wants, if that's what he's after....
Posted by: Bob

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/27/13 09:55 PM

I would imagine the action of a concert grand is preferred. The piano sounds change from one song to the next. Kurt's reiteration of the set up is what I heard and saw in concert.
Posted by: PianoWorksATL

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 01/27/13 11:18 PM

For most of the 125th Anniversary concert, the featured piano was a Yamaha C7. It sounded mic'd. For Elton John, they rolled out the CFIIIS setup. There was a pile of plugs coming out of it. Part of that was for their "remote live" broadcast to disklavier owners. I don't know how to describe the sound fully as there was a lot going on. There was different mixed instrumentation for different parts of the keyboard.

I would have preferred an acoustic piano sound for his song selections of the night, but I certainly enjoyed being there.
Posted by: EddieT

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 04/23/13 10:39 AM

I've been to a number of EJ concerts and the piano sound does alter slightly from song to song. For instance, Funeral For A Friend has a "growlier" piano sound than some of the ballads. I can't stand that Roland MKS20/RD1000 module. You'd think with the quality of samples and the newer modelled sounds which Yamaha have come out with he could get a nicer, richer, sound than that.

I saw a clip of him playing piano with Ed Sheeran. Looks like he played an AvantGrand - but even that sounded thin and tinny.

I wouldn't be averse to him going back to using Helpinstill pickups - no mic feedback problems and the sound could surely be EQ'd/processed better thesedays than in the 80s when he last used them to make it cut through the band. At least then we'd be getting the real sound from the strings.

He should look himself up on youtube when he did the MTV Unplugged set. Steinway with the lid off, mic'd up. One lovely sounding piano.
Posted by: Dave Ferris

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 04/23/13 01:18 PM

My friend John Mahon, who plays percussion in the group, said you can't get anywhere near the 180 degree vicinity of the Elton's piano monitor without risking loss of hearing...it's that loud.. wink cry
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 04/23/13 06:02 PM

Originally Posted By: peterws
I always thought Elton and Steinway were bedfellows . . . but this didn`t mike up well. Not good.


They USED to be... Elton wanted a brighter sound.
Elton Johns Yammie
Posted by: Nash. Piano Rescue

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 04/23/13 11:43 PM

It's called a Stage Shell in the business. Slam Grand makes a pretty good one which is what that is. We make them as well. I doubt it is a stripped out real grand because width is an issue with keyboards that are put into them. We have to build them standard at a 60 inch keyboard tray width so the piano needs to be like 64 inches wide so the keycover closes over the keyboard. Naturally they will look weird if they are not long enough and will be wider than longer

Many, many pianos get destroyed by people who strip everything out only to find out their Roland which is 58 inches wide wont fit in some old baby grand cabinet that is 54 inches wide, then the whole thing is too tall ( playing height) all of this has to be dropped .

Antique ex uprights are a little different because they can be stretched laterally. We are currently working on an 1893 Kranich for Lincoln Brewster which will be stretched 5 inches for the Roland FP-7F.

Lots of churches these days are mostly buying digital and having them put in grand shells for the look without the tuning expense.
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 04/23/13 11:56 PM

Great info, Nash!
Posted by: EddieT

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 04/24/13 04:54 AM

Hi Nash,

Billy Joel does that thesedays (with, I think, a Kurzweil PC2X in a grand piano shell).

I believe from things I've read previously that Elton still plays a full Yamaha grand piano with strings in it, but the sound we hear from it is mainly digital/sample based.

Davey Johnstone has said recently he's pretty sure the touring pianos have to be tuned.

Having said that, I've seen a few photos of the Million Dollar Piano, which has a transparent lid, and it's not entirely clear whether there are any strings in it.

E
Posted by: scorpio

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 04/17/14 10:28 AM

Thought I would pass this picture along - four (Nina, Nikita - the Red Piano, Kay and Diana) of Elton's pianos in one place.

Four Pianos in One Place…What Are the Odds?
Posted by: EssBrace

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 04/18/14 05:37 AM

Originally Posted By: scorpio
Thought I would pass this picture along - four (Nina, Nikita - the Red Piano, Kay and Diana) of Elton's pianos in one place.

Four Pianos in One Place…What Are the Odds?


Yes I saw that picture. Amazing when you think about it. He is the only top name artist working to this extent - year in, year out. 100+ shows every year. Seven 9 foot Yamahas strategically placed around the globe for the touring 'machine' to grind ever onwards. A one man industry quietly "taking care of business" as Elvis might have said.

Oh, to own just one of those beauties (and the house to accommodate such a thing)....sigh....
Posted by: LarryShone

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 04/18/14 06:18 AM

I got confronted with this wjen trying to play that video:
Posted by: scorpio

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 04/18/14 08:52 AM

This one works -

Posted by: LarryShone

Re: Elton John's Yamaha - 04/18/14 09:10 AM

Thanks for that scorpio.
I thought it was gonna be the million dollar piano gig but it was still great to see.