I was born and reared in Portrush – a seaside town on the North Coast of Northern Ireland. Many years ago, when I was at primary school my mother suggested to my younger sister that she should take piano lessons. My sister, who apparently was not particularly interested in doing so, began the lessons. I was puzzled why I had not been given the opportunity and a few months later I asked if I could also go to piano lessons and to my surprise my mother said, “I did not think you would be interested” and so my introduction to playing music was merely by chance.
I continued my musical development at a Belfast College, whereas a boarder and not at all interested in sport, I formed a group with three others, guitar, drums, and bass – a tea chest with brush shaft and piece of string – thumping out the latest pop tunes of the day. I also continued my piano lessons up to Grade 5 but found I could pick the tunes up quicker ‘by ear’ than waiting to learn to read the music – so I stopped the lessons at that point. Something I regret now but never gave it a second thought at the time.
Used Keyboard Selection
My first instrument was the Yamaha Electone – 2 manual and pedalboard. I was so delighted with my own instrument and practiced non-stop for weeks. Then completely unexpectedly my father (who worked in a pub) came in one evening and said his boss (the bar owner) had asked if I would play on a Friday night from 9-11 – and thus my career in entertainment began.
I very quickly had to invest in some amplification equipment and microphones as the bookings came in to play in other bars, hotels, and golf clubs – and not just locally but in Belfast and other locations across the province. This was no easy task as the Yamaha Electone was not a portable keyboard and could not be dismantled for transporting. Also, many of the venues required the organ to be carried up to the first floor so I became very friendly with door men during this period of performing and was very grateful for their assistance before and after the gig. My next keyboard was the HammondX5 (including pedal board) with Yamaha Leslie speaker cabinet.
A church, which needed to raise money for roof repairs, was selling it, as it was rarely used and I was fortunate enough to be the first to reply to their advert. Although it was Hammond’s ‘portable keyboard’, it was a heart attack on legs and combined with the Yamaha Leslie speaker cabinet – a hernia on wheels – portability was far from easy but was surpassed time and again by the tremendous sound. Over the years I progressed through a number of keyboards Technics KN5000 followed by the KN6500 and then latterly the Tyros 5. While the Electone and Hammond did not have any programming functions, the Technics and Tyros did, but playing 3/4 nights a week on the cabaret circuit, in addition to my day job, simply left me no time to get the benefit of these new tools.
I had watched many videos about the new Genos and researched many websites regarding the best deals and I concluded that ePianos came out on top for the best value for money offer. My wife and I had to come over to England for a family wedding (at which I was providing the entertainment) in March last year and coincidentally found our hotel was in Banbury close to where the ePianos showroom was located.
I emailed David Cooper (the owner) to arrange a meeting and demonstration of the Genos in the hope that if I could arrange an exchange deal I could bring the new keyboard back home with me. We met David the day after the wedding who immediately made us feel very welcome and provided an impressive demonstration of the keyboard. I had made a list of questions regarding the differences and location of different items from the Tyros to the Genos and David, very knowledgeably, was able to answer them all.
I thought my Tyros keyboard was brilliant and a massive step up from the Technics keyboards and needed to be satisfied that an upgrade was going to be better but I was completely sold on the sound of the new Genos, especially when the deal involved having all the sounds of the Tyros keyboard that were not in the Genos, added into it along with many other extras.
The only difference that disappointed me was that Yamaha – for reasons best known to them – had not included the ‘rhythm recommendation’ button on the Genos – I had found this facility very useful on the Tyros – but it was not a deal-breaker. After a warm cup of tea in a Yamaha mug (nice touch David), followed by a mix of good Irish bartering, craic and banter, a successful exchange deal was agreed. While David went off to load all the extras into my keyboard, I had the opportunity to ‘test drive’ the showroom model which was the ‘icing on the cake’.
I unloaded the Tyros 5 from my car and loaded the Genos and speakers and made my way to Holyhead and home to Bangor just in time for ‘lockdown’ due to Covid 19. While this prevented me from my regular gigs in residential homes, I began playing on a Thursday evening at the front of our house when everyone came out to clap for the NHS and frontline staff, which seemed to go down very well with the neighbors.
Used Digital Piano Selection
Over the last year, I have had a lot of time to get to know my new Genos keyboard but do feel I have still only scratched the surface. I have programmed almost 350 registrations and see great opportunities to add further registrations to give even more variety to my performance. Previous to the pandemic, I also used to meet up with a friend of mine for recording sessions but this is too has now stopped due to the lockdown and social distancing.
I am currently familiarising myself with Ableton recording software so that I can have a go at this myself. I have tried the recording facility on the Genos but have had some problems getting the ‘multi recording’ facility to record the full accompaniment on the left hand. However, a phone call to David I am sure will tell me what I am doing wrong. So, to summarise, I am delighted I upgraded to the Genos and ironically, grateful that the pandemic afforded me the time to spend getting to know the instrument and utilise aspects I never was able to use in previous keyboards.
Hope you found my story interesting and no matter what you give up – never give up the music.