The Ultimate Piano Players Toolkit (for Gigging Musicians)

If you’re reading this I assume you are one of two things: 1) You’re a piano player who already gigs and is curious to see what, if anything, is not in your current ‘toolkit’ OR 2) You are a piano player looking to start gigging and therefore want to know what to have in your very own toolkit. Well, if you’re either or neither, welcome! My name is Isaac and I’m one of the guys here at ePianos. I’ve been a musician for over 6 years and have been gigging now for just over a year. It’s still early days but it’s surprising how fast you learn in this business – especially when you’re gigging!

I remember when I first ventured into the ‘searching’ phase of the gigging journey – eagerly googling for all the best gear. Honestly, for pianists, I couldn’t find many answers. I found thousands of results for Guitar-Musician related gear but when it came to us lot, the Piano players, there wasn’t much around. So, this being said, having gone through the process of looking, buying and actually physically gigging with the stuff – I thought I would write about what I use, what’s out there and why (or why not!) you should be buying the gear you do.

The Piano

Now as a piano player naturally the most important tool in your tool-kit will be (drum droll) yes you guessed it – it’s the PIANO! Your instrument is the bridge between your songs and the audiences ears – without it, there’s no show!

Selecting this all-important tool is tricky. You can spend hours searching the web for the right one, comparing prices and endlessly watching youtube reviews and comparison videos (which, by the way, we do here at ePianos. Check out all our videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBCGLXu2Binm24n7y8A5Clw/videos).

I know what you’re thinking – where do I start? Well, there are some factors to consider…

Firstly, it needs to portable! That’s number 1. If it’s not portable then you’re not going to be able to gig anywhere other than your house. That’s no good! So make sure it’s compact enough to be able to transport from one place to another.

Secondly, do you want the portable piano to ‘feel’ like a real piano? What I mean is do you want the keys to be weighted? A real grand piano (which on most budgets isn’t the best gigging tool) has a fully weighted, hammer action. Acoustic piano keys have a resistance to them, which is why some prefer playing them to keyboards. The weight of them forces you to push a little harder to get the desired sound and therefore making you a more conscious player; You’re forced to feel how you’re playing (hard/soft) as opposed to simply concentrating on what you’re playing. Harnessing this technique is what separates a good performance and a great one!

Some musicians like to experiment with different sounds when they’re practicing/performing and in this age of technology, pianos are following suit when it comes to functionality. Digital Pianos and Portable Pianos now feature not only the conventional Grand Piano sounds (or voices as they’re commonly referred to in the business) but offer you other instruments like strings, electric pianos, guitars, drums etc. For some, one or a handful of piano sounds are enough but others however like to vary the voices used during performance so this is another aspect to consider when searching for your Piano.

Following on with the theme of the digital age, Portable Pianos do much more than just being a Piano. Aside from the range of voices included on most keyboards nowadays, other features like rhythms; Recording capabilities; Smart device connectivity; On Board Effects etc. You have to ask yourself, what are you going to be using the Portable Piano for? Do you want to record and be able to playback instrument parts live? Would being able to have a drum rhythm backing built in help add another texture to when you’re playing background music in a restaurant? If you’re wanting some more details about the various types of pianos on offer, check out one of Chris’s really helpful videos here

I’ve also made a video which you might find useful – it shows you Yamaha’s new ‘Smart Pianist’ app which has some REALLY cool features! Check it out here:

There are lots of varying degrees of portable pianos on the market but if you’re a traditional piano player looking for something portable to take to pubs, clubs, restaurants and bars, I would always recommend Yamaha. Yamaha have produced some of the worlds finest acoustic pianos for centuries and, quite generously, have inputted the same technology they use with these very acoustic pianos in their digital range.

The P-Series (‘P’ standing for portable) is the range I would  suggest looking at when in the market for a gigging/portable Piano. From the bottom of the range all the way to the top they all, in their own way, feel like a real piano and they’ve all got really great sounds! You can view the whole range here: https://www.epianos.co.uk/product-category/yamaha-pianos/portable-pianos/p-series/

My favourite of the range is the Yamaha P515 (soon to be released) as it has wooden keys! Wooden keys are ESSENTIAL to getting a portable piano that actually resembles playing a grand piano and the P515 does this really well. The LED display makes it really easy to use (perfect for live gigs), has USB so you can play backing tracks live and the voices built in are of a really high quality. Speakers and sound are great although for gigs I would always use a seperate PA system to amplify the instrument (I’ll be getting into that further down in the post).

The P515 isn’t actually due for release until early October, however I have had the chance to spend some time playing one down at Yamaha HQ and I think it’s the best gigging keyboard Yamaha have done so far! There’s another blog post we’ve done revewing the P515 which can be found here: https://www.epianos.co.uk/new-yamaha-p-515-personal-piano-review We’re still awaiting price confirmation so keep checking the website to be the first to know.

The Speakers

A lot of portable pianos nowadays have built in speakers which is great for ease but when you’re playing gigs (especially when you start playing venues bigger than a village hall) you’re going to need better amplification to reach all the latecomers at the back. What speakers are best? How much do I have to spend to get the right gear? I personally use a Yamaha Stagepaas 400i. The Yamaha Stagepaas systems are awesome as they all have multi channel mixers built in and, if you’re like me and sing too, you can put your piano, microphone and another instrument through the same speakers which is really convenient. I often use backing tracks from my laptop and due to the amount of channels on the mixer, this can also be played through while my other instruments are plugged in at the same time.

You can view our speaker systems here: https://www.epianos.co.uk/product-category/accessories/speaker-systems/

Other accessories to consider are sustain pedals, dust covers and gig bags. All of which can be found on our website. I’ve linked the most popular ones below:

OnStage deluxe piano sustain pedal

Stagg K10-138 Keyboard Gigbag

Dust Cover for 76-88 Note Keyboard

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If you have any questions, do get in touch! We’re open Monday – Saturday 10am till 5pm. You can call us on 01295 266 788 or email us on sales@epianos.co.uk