A new Yamaha CP40 concluded a recent search for a keyboard at our church. Our second keyboard – a Roland A90 – was in need of replacement. Although it was a really good keyboard – top of the class controller keyboard for its time – the keys kept breaking.
Here is what was most important to me in a new keyboard:
- MIDI connectivity for Mainstage. Any keyboard in the given price range was going to have a USB output for MIDI connection, but just needed to say this. As the “second keyboard” it will be needed for color parts more than primary keyboard sounds. We’ll get those sounds by connecting to a Mac running Mainstage.
- Good onboard piano sounds. I considered the straight up MIDI keyboard controller option – i.e. a keyboard with no internal sounds. However, I don’t like the thought of always having to connect a computer before playing. Plus, although Macs and Mainstage are very stable, I still don’t trust that they will be 100% reliable. If the computer goes down, this keyboard will still make sound.
- Ability to function as a backup main keyboard. The second keyboard won’t just be for synth parts. I want it to work for newer keyboard players who I’m training to play the main piano parts. This keyboard must allow them to take over that role for a song or two.
- Ability to layer a pad sound.
- Decent action and feel. I’m used to the feel of my old Yamaha S80 – I have the same board at home and at church. But I’ve found that these days, keyboards with that same heavy-duty feel come with a heavy-duty price tag. Even super expensive red-colored keyboards don’t feel that good. I wasn’t expecting great feel for this purchase, but decent.
- Be more portable than our S80. When we go out, hauling the S80 is beastly. I wanted a more portable counterpart.
The winner: Yamaha CP40
I chose the Yamaha CP40 stage piano after reading reviews and listening to demos. I ordered through Sweetwater for $1400.
After testing it out, here’s the good and bad…
- Very playable, responsive piano sounds.
- Easy layering options.
Bad (or perhaps, average):
- Cheap aesthetics. The keyboard exterior is almost entirely plastic.
- Slushy feel. The action is a little slower than I would like. Playing fast synth parts may be tough.
- The pad sounds require some editing and tend to get muddy.
All things considered, I am very pleased. None of the cons were a surprise. I knew there was a lot of plastic and didn’t expect the action to be pro level. The pad sounds are not terrific, but after some editing, they are very useable.
I must say that even though the action on its own doesn’t feel great, the responsive piano sounds make up for it. They are balanced and expressive. I don’t feel limited when playing these piano sounds.
Setting it up
There wasn’t too much to set up, but I wanted our keyboardists to be able to turn on the keyboard to a piano sound and layer in a pad right away. I also wanted a Rhodes EP and pad setup easily accessible.
After playing the different piano options, I chose the first one. For the pad, I selected Back Pad, but it needed some edits. I lowered the filter cutoff frequency almost all the way and increased the envelope attack time and release. I tweaked the effects settings to eliminate the chorus and lower the reverb.
Since the second performance setting was already a Rhodes sound and pad, I just changed the pad settings to the same as the piano pad.
To give you the opportunity to compare sounds on the Yamaha CP40 with other sounds, I recorded the same performance through different pianos and pads:
Mainstage/Logic piano Steinway samples
The PLG-AP150 expansion piano card I have installed in my S80
Stock Yamaha S80 piano (hear how far piano sounds have progressed in the last twenty years!)
Again, I’m very pleased. On its own, the CP40 will be terrific for developing keyboardists and as a board to take to gigs. Coupled with Mainstage (and some extra control with an AKAI LPD8), there’s not much you can’t do with it.