What is gear? Gear is just tools you want or need to do a particular job. Mechanics have gear, plumbers have gear, and musicians have gear too. What gear do you have? Are you feeling like you can get the job done well with this gear? It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the seemingly endless options. And it’s easy to purchase something that really doesn’t allow you to do what you had hoped it would.
For most gigs you are going to need these basic sounds:
How you lay that out is entirely up to you. But here is a link to an interesting article about the development of the piano. They needed some better gear well before Sweetwater came along.
The above link goes to an article on how Liszt and Beethoven had a lot to do with the development of the piano. The author makes some good analogies. Think of yourself as software, looking for the best operating system to run on. Let’s say you have great technique (fast software) but your instrument (OS) is holding you back. I like to imagine what I could do if the piano were split or layered with another sound, or if the strings could be accessed quicker if I did such and such. What COULD I do if it were laid out just right? I start here and then work backwards to the actual gear.
I’ve owned Roland, Yamaha, Kurzweil, Nord, Hammond, Viscount, Korg keyboards. I’ve had TOA amps, Traynor, Leslie, Motion-Sound and a few others. If I get a new gig, I just take what I currently have and go give it whirl. These days I always try to have a solid 88 key hammer action keyboard with all the sounds I might need on hand. A separate keyboard for organ and pads is also nice and it looks a little more impressive.
My first keyboard in my first band was a Roland RD something and it was very heavy. I used that for a long time and now I have back issues to remind me of it.
For my first artist gig (Kenny Chesney) I used a Kurzweil PC-88. I also bought a motion sound leslie simulator for organ sounds.
For Jo Dee Messina I used the same Kurzweil and I used a Korg T-3 for organ. Which was not doing the job. So I bought a Hammond XK2 and ran that through the motion sound. I also bought a Korg TR-Rack for some horn sounds for a Paul Simon medley.
For Blake Shelton I started with my Kurzweil PC88 and used the Hammond XK-2 and motion sound leslie. I also used my Korg TR-rack to beef up the strings. I decided to upgrade my piano and got a Yamaha S-90. Later on I upgraded the piano again and tried a new company called Nord. I also upgraded the motion sound suitcase leslie to a KBR3-D amp. It was beefier and already miked up. But that sound got a little old for me and so I had The B3 Guys rebuild a real Leslie 122 and used that.
For Casey James I used the Nord Stage and I bought a Nord Electro 4D for organ. It had a decent internal leslie. I could also fly with the Nord Electro and do an entire gig with it if I needed to. And I did.
For Tracy Lawrence I started with a Nord Stage and the Nord Electro. I upgraded the Electro Organ sound with a Leslie pedal made by Neo Instruments. I still have my 122 but it hasn’t been practical to haul it around so far. Plus, they get shook up pretty bad in a Trailer. You really need a semi for hauling a Leslie around right. Tracy prefers the Yamaha piano sound so I got a Yamaha CP-4. It sounds like a Yamaha and it feels better than my Nord ever did. And just recently I replaced my Nord Electro with a Viscount Legend Solo. To me it sounds fantastic using the internal Leslie sim. And it has the ability to hook right up to my Leslie in the future should I decide to do that. I’ll probably make some changes in the future.
My rig changes as I change and as my needs change. And it will continue to in the future. If you'd like to post your current rig or anything rig-related, please do.
Obviously, we don't know everything. But we do tend to think differently. Here are some of my thoughts on piano and maybe some on life. I play piano for Tracy Lawrence, produce new artists, write and practice piano.