REVIEW - Stage Digital Piano Controllers

UPDATED - Stage Digital Piano Controllers - for home, studio, and stage - There are many types of digital pianos including home furniture cabinet models, portable beginner digital pianos, professional digital pianos, stage digital pianos, controller digital pianos, and others. Stage digital pianos (aka Piano Controllers) can be good alternatives to regular portable and furniture cabinet digital pianos if you are looking for more sound and control flexibility in making and creating music.

Roland RD700NX
Professionals typically use 'controller' digital pianos on stage because...well...they are better at controlling the sounds and functions that are on that digital piano as well as being able to control external digital sound devices such as MIDI sound modules, drum machines, external computers, and so on. Some controller digital pianos have no sounds built into them at all because they are used solely to control those external devices and those devices have all of the sounds. Although some professionals and/or studio musicians still use those types of digital pianos because they have all the sounds they need and want, that is not what I am focusing on here in this review. Controller digital pianos (with built-in sounds) in years gone by were typically very difficult to use, quite complex, and for those reasons were not the best choice for churches, schools, and everyday musicians looking to have more control but without the hassle and the huge learning curve needed to use those controller pianos. Only the most knowledgeable keyboard musicians could use them properly.

Yamaha CP5
But now, everything has changed. A few of the new pro quality controller 'digital stage pianos' with built-in piano tones along with other nice instrumental & percussive sounds that are available from Roland, Kawai, Casio, and Yamaha, can now also be enjoyed by the average piano player, church musician, studio musician, recreational piano player, as well as pro musicians. These new pianos allow the player to get past the normal 'preset sounds,' basic layers, basic splits, simple effects, and simple setups that most regular digital pianos are limited to. They greatly expand the enjoyment of playing a digital piano so you can get more out of it than you ever thought possible by owning a stage piano/piano controller.

One such digital controller piano or 'stage piano' that I am impressed with for its ease of use, great quality piano tone and touch, vast array of functions and features, and low internet price of $1799, is from the Kawai piano company called the MP7 (left pic). This is a perfect piano in a lower price range for the serious solo pianist, piano student, church pianist, as well as recreational piano players. The Kawai MP7 piano allows the user to individually control and combine up to 4 individual instruments at a time (there are 256 instruments in the piano including 20 high quality acoustic pianos) with the ability of pre-setting these instruments and turning them on or off in any combination with the push of a button. It will also allow the user to split up the keys into 4 different and independent 'zones' so that each of the 4 instruments you select can be played live (with independent volumes) one at a time on different sections of the keyboard, with the ability to have each section transposed to a different octave for proper instrument range on those keys. You can also assign 2 independent instrument sounds to the right hand and two to the left hand for a total of four, and each of those instruments can have their transpose, octave, and effects individually changed and edited.

A great thing about the Kawai MP7 is when you have created a unique instrument combination and orchestrated the sounds to be a perfect mix for your song, you can easily save that as a memory setting to recall it later without having to set it all up again. There are 256 memory settings, so more than enough to save all your creativity. And to top off this kind of digital piano flexibility, the Kawai MP7 also offers 256 notes of polyphony to handle all 4 instruments at once, progressive half-pedaling, key let-off for actual grand piano feel along with synthetic ivory keytops and progressive fully weighted hammer action.

In addition to that, you can also create country slide steel & Hawaiian guitars by using the pitch bend wheel along with vibrato modulation wheel (left pic) which is on the MP7 as well as other controller pianos. This allows you to bend up or down any instrument you choose including guitars, saxophones, clarinets, etc, to get that authentic slide sound. That is something not normally found on regular digital pianos.

Once you have this piano connected to a good pair of stereo powered studio monitors for proper amplification and sound disbursement (generally 150-300 watts of power with 4 built-in amplifiers) and have it sitting on a sturdy stand, you will have a piano package for under $2000 that will pretty much outperform nearly any furniture cabinet piano for two to three times the price. When it comes to your music and what you'll be able to do, there are virtually no limitations when it comes to the Kawai MP7 and playing beautiful music based on my playing experience with it. Go to the following link to get a full review of the Kawai MP7 controller piano: Kawai MP7 Review

Another 88-key digital piano controller keyboard (no built-in speakers) with hammer weighted type keys that really impresses me is the Casio Privia Pro PX5S (left pic). It differs from the Kawai MP7 in that it is in a much lighter weight cabinet, is a lower price at $999 internet price, and it not only reproduces the acoustic piano sound and key action very well, but goes way beyond the Kawai MP7 in offering more contemporary synth and keyboard sounds (it has lots of useful built-in sounds & effects) including live rhythmic phrases great for more current dance music and synth music creation. I have played this new model and although it really is the best all around piano controller synth instrument out there right now for under $1000, the Kawai M7 would be a better instrument in terms of actual acoustic piano playing while have flexibility and high quality features & functions that most people seem to want. Either way, both of these instruments would be great choices in the lower price range without needing to spend $2000 or more for one. Go to the following link to read my review of the new Casio Privia Pro PX5S: Casio PX5S Review

If you want more info on these and other pianos and lower prices than internet & store discounts, please email me at or call direct at 602-571-1864.

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