Sunday, January 1, 2012

My new piano - some first impressions

I'm an adult. I've got four kids and I haven't played the piano since my early teens, when I quit because it was to boring. Since then I've played various percussion instruments for some decades, but lately I haven't had much time for that either. Kids and work take too much time. About a year ago I visited a friend, and he had a Yamaha digital piano. I sat down and tried to play some of the pieces he had lying around and found I could, kinda, sorta play the piano: Some of the motoric skills were still there and my music-reading skills were much better now than when I quit playing piano. I spent an afternoon playing on his piano, and I was hooked.

I'm a somewhat obsessive and impulsive personality, so to avoid veering away in every direction I usually let my impulses mature until they are irresistible, or as some would say: Obsessive :). In this case I let the impulse to buy a piano mature for almost six months before starting to looking for a piano. I asked friends, looked at reviews, read Graham's booklet and went to the local music shops. Before christmas I had narrowed my search down to two pianos: The Kawai CN-33 and the Yamaha CLP-430. I can't claim that the final decision was wholly rational. Both of these pianos are as far as I can tell really good ones so I guess it came down to the shop offering a much better deal on the CN-33. I ended up getting some 30% off relative to the sticker price and that was pretty much that.

After that, the matters have been mostly practical, so I'll run down how the first few days as a piano owner has been:

  • Transport: The piano weights 53 Kg, the box it came in weighs in at 20Kg, so the whole thing weighs 73 Kgs. It's 150cm x 65 cm x something, and fits nicely in a station wagon, but you do need to be two fairly strong individuals to transport it safely.
  • Unpacking: No instructions for assembling the piano was included. At least none that Icould find. There was a small sheet of paper on the top of the stack of pieces saying thatassembly instructions could be found in the owner's manual. Well, first of all the owner's manual was at the bottom, under 53 kilos of piano pieces wrapped in plastic, and I didn't find that until after the entire piano was assembled. Secondly the owner's manual didn't say much of interest except the pretty much obvious things about not pooring liquids into an electrical piano etc. In particular, no assembly instructions could be found.
  • Assembly: Luckily assembly wasn't that hard: There are sixteen screws in a small bag. The four shiny ones are used to fasten the pedalboard to the sideboards. The four long black ones are used to fasten the back-panel to the side-panels. The four shorter black ones are used to fasten the back-panel to the pedalboard, and the four machine-screws are used to fasten the piano to the stand. Plug in the wire coming out of the pedals into the hole labeled "pedals", and the power cable into the hole saying "power", and you're done. The whole thing took about an hour and some thinking. It wasn't hard, it was just that in a situation like this you really really don't want to do something wrong, so I had to stop and think a lot to make sure I didn't make any mistakes, and I think I didn't.
  • Using it: It is wonderful. It sounds ridiculously good. Really. It's unnatural :-) The CN-33 easily sounds better than any piano I've ever played on myself and most pianos I've heard other people play. Also It's just so much fun to play. Playing on the simulated ebony keyboard is just a sensuous experience. I won't compare it to touching human skin, since someone might take it the wrong way and be offended, but that's almost what it feels like. My kids have clicked on all the buttons and played with the piano for several days. They find it great fun. Myself, I've just used the piano sounds (no organs, no bass, no midi, no usb, no weirdness) and the recording feature. The recording feature and the metronome is actually extremely useful. The metronome for keeping pulse (as a percussionist I've played more duets with metronomes than anything and anyone else :-), and the recorder for immediately reviewing something, sometimes a full tune, sometimes just a few bars. I haven't done that with any instrument before, but I've found it extremely useful.

So that's that. So far I'm a happy CN-33 owner. Let's just hope I also one day can become a somewhat proficient pianist, but as of today I'm a happy one, and that that's also something ;-)