Around Nashville with my MP6
In addition to my work with Kawai, I’m a gigging musician and music ministry director at a church in Nashville. I’ve gigged for a long time and lugged around lots of gear; from huge Hammond B3’s and “suitcase” electric pianos to dozens of synthesizers and workstations. Once long ago, when I stopped by a local piano store to pick up a spare A/C cord, I played an acoustic grand piano. Wow! I thought I’d just sit “noodle around for a minute”, but suddenly I realized I’d been there for over an hour. My emotions had me really going at the piano… “So that’s what I’ve been missing!” I thought.
Well, my Kawai MP6 arrived about 6 months ago. I swear 90% of that “connection” I felt to that acoustic grand piano that day is now under my fingertips. It’s funny, but every time I get with other musicians (even non-keyboard players), the first thing they do is hit the keys a few times – whether or not the board is even powered up. The surprised expression is always entertaining to me. “Whoa!” is typically the first word uttered. Between the realistic key surface and the action’s let-off feature, this thing feels unlike anything that’s been around.
When I’m out in Nashville, the MP6 really attracts attention. The first ones to speak up about its sound are… well… the sound guys! At every gig, from my church to the songwriters’ nights in places like Nashville’s famed The Bluebird Café, heads tilt when I start playing and the guy running the sound asks “What’s that?” The question often seems to be expounded upon with one simple comment: “great sound!”
Every gig is an adventure here and the town is full of amazing musicians. The other day, a clarinetist showed up at my church. (I doubt that happens in the average city. Maybe it does, but…. I doubt it.) He did a New Orleans-style rendition of Amazing Grace – then the drummer kicked in with this zydeco-type of rhythm. The bass player was immediately zoned-in and on it, as was the guitarist. I was like a deer-in-the-headlights as I thought about which piano sound to use and how to approach the tune. After maybe 20 seconds of pondering and scrolling through the MP6’s sound list, it hit me: French accordion. YES! What a blast we had. And standing ovations in a church setting are especially satisfying, in my humble opinion.
One night the response to the MP6 was especially entertaining. I was playing keys for a performing songwriter friend of mine at a local showcase. This particular song was screaming for that classic B3 sound. We’d only rehearsed once and I stuck with the piano sound in rehearsal, but at the live show I switched to the drawbar sound and kicked the rotary speaker sound in and out. The bass player was elated and my buddy singing lead spun around and was smiling from ear-to-ear – almost losing his place in the tune. But the real treat was the puzzled look of the two guys at the sound board. I saw them looking around the stage trying to figure out where I’d placed the Leslie® speaker. After the gig, one of the guys wanted come see for himself how I pulled that sound off so authentically.
The MP6 isn’t really a workstation. It’s really not just a stage piano. It’s not exactly a synth. (I won’t bore you with specs and details... there’s plenty of that info available online). But the bottom line is this: I’ve finally got one board that can handle every gig – with all the stuff I need – and a bit more – while giving me the level of connection and expression that I experienced in that piano store. (Plus, my back is not in jeopardy nor do I need to own a moving van, thank you very much.)
This MP6 is really making the rounds here in Music City, USA, Nashville and I’m grateful to make a living with it doing something I love.
— Sean O'Shea