Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Yamaha CP300 Digital Stage Piano

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

The first thing you’ll notice about the CP300, Yamaha’s latest and greatest stage piano, is that it’s heavy. Extremely heavy. As in, you-can’t-really-lift-it-by-yourself without-getting-a-hernia heavy. The second thing you’ll notice, provided you survive the set-up ordeal, is that it’s exceptionally easy to use, and the acoustic-grand-piano sound is amazingly realistic.

One of the principal reasons for the heaviness is the fact that the keyboard comes with two gigantic built-in speakers. This feature is primarily useful for two different groups of customers that exist at opposite ends of a spectrum: beginners and amateur hobbyists will find the speakers to be more than adequate for use at home (eliminating the need for pesky amps, speakers and cables), while pros touring with roadies will be able to use the speakers as an onstage monitor, cutting clutter and leaving the PA to get the sound out to the audience.

The keyboardists that make up the rest of the spectrum (i.e., those who play regularly with a band but without a PA-for example, most jazz pianists) may find that all those extra pounds aren’t worth it. Yamaha’s CP33, the CP300’s slimmer sibling, may be an attractive alternative for this group at a little over half the weight (39 lbs. 11 oz. to the CP300’s 71 lbs. 10 oz.), and a fraction of the price ($1,699.99 list price to the CP300’s $2,699.99). What you lose in the tradeoff, besides the speakers, are total number of voices (while the CP33 has only 28 available sounds, they are the same samples as the CP300, meaning in particular that the acoustic piano sound is exactly the same), polyphony (64 to the CP300’s 128), ability to record, number of available pedals (two to the CP300’s four), and equalizer sliders.

The technology of digital sound reproduction has come a long way since Yamaha unveiled its first electric stage pianos in 1976, and while it continues to improve with time, it’s hard to imagine how an electric piano could sound and feel much more like an acoustic piano than this one does. The graded hammer action provides a realistically progressive weightiness as you travel from the top to the bottom of the keyboard, and the sustain pedal has evolved to the point that you can partially apply it to achieve the effect of slightly muting the resonating strings on a real piano (if desired, sostenuto and soft pedals can be purchased separately). Brighter and mellower piano sounds are available for different playing environments and styles.

A variety of other sounds can be found in 16 easily accessible banks, each containing three or four variations of a sound such as electric piano, organ, strings, etc. Another bank, labeled XG, has over 450 sounds, including all the traditional orchestral instruments, drum kits, synths and sound effects. The overall quality of non-acoustic piano sounds ranges from good (the harpsichord sounds virtually indistinguishable from the real thing), to acceptable (electric pianos, clavinets), to bad (the ensemble strings grate on the ear, and the guitars sound like they were copped off of a Nintendo Game Boy).

The enormous size of the keyboard makes room for more buttons on the front panel than can be found on most other models. Quick and easy adjustments can be made without going into menus on the LCD screen, which enables you to make changes during performance. Functions such as transpose, metronome, panel lock, edit and on-off for internal speakers each have their own dedicated button, and a handy row of sliders on the right side makes detailed equalizing simple and fast. Detailed edits to voices require more time and concentration, but the edits can be saved and called up later quickly (although be prepared to spend some time with the manual to learn how to do this).

The CP300 excels at the layering and splitting function. Splitting the keyboard into left and right halves is simple, and up to two voices can be layered on either side, for a total of four different sounds played at once. The LCD display is also divided into four sections, with a simple +/- control for each section, so you can clearly see which voices are playing in which areas of the keyboard, and easily adjust them. In addition, four dedicated sliders on the left side of the front panel allow for meticulous control of relative volume for each voice.

The recording function is also easy to use, and with up to 16 recordable tracks, it’s more in-depth than what’s found on most other keyboards. A USB connector links the keyboard to a computer, although no companion software is included. A Master Mode allows for control of up to four external tone generators from the keyboard, and a Performance Mode allows you to save all your settings as a file, with up to 64 separate files available.

Drawbacks of the CP300 include its extreme weight, a relatively high price tag and the poor quality of some of its non-piano sounds. Overall, however, the instrument is easy and fun to experiment with. It’s an ideal choice for a serious keyboardist in a rock, pop or blues band, and it’s an excellent alternative to a real piano for beginning to intermediate students.

Originally Published