Visited a cool, damp Anaheim in mid-Jan to attend the NAMM show. With over a 1,00,000 folk passing through the convention doors over four days, the buzz at this music industry convention is powerful and contagious, this year being no less.
Strategically situated by one of the main entrances was the Cakewalk booth in the Roland arena where music production demos of the SONAR X1 were being held.
What I really want for Christmas: The PianoMic System by Earthworks. The adjustable bar lies across the soundboard, and there are no awkward booms or messy cables. I think something this inconspicuous and easy to use will definitely be an incentive to record solo piano more often. [Update: Father Christmas did grant my wish!]
The PianoMic System was installed in a piano with a sound that matched its stunning looks – the Ravenscroft. I met it’s creator, the affable Michael Spreeman – he custom builds pianos (acoustic grands in two sizes only), tailoring the action to his clients’ specifications using CAD optimization. This one was priced at 235K – only a couple or so are produced a year in his factory in Scottscdale, AZ. And then there’s the 9′ version at 280K. Darn, there was always someone at the seat playing this instrument, this is one I would have loved to test-drive!
Had the pleasure of spending some time with Peter Gannon, CEO-founder of PG Music. He is a musician as well, and was a medical practioner before he launched his music software company full time. The venture grew out of neccessity- he missed having accompaniment while he practiced at home, and this motivated him him to write a program that would generate different MIDI accompaniment styles based on chords that were entered into the program. I’ve been using Band-In-A-Box for over a couple of decades now (had the first DOS version!) and it’s come a long way since then. As one of the best music accompaniment & teaching tools available, I often recommend it to my students, especially those learning jazz.
Pianos, pianos! Day 3 at NAMM was spent mostly on level 2 & 3 where the acoustic piano booths were located. I’ve been to the NAMM show on two occasions prior to this one, and I just felt that this year, jazz pianists (most were killing!) far outnumbered classical pianists. Here’s a pix of 4 pianists improvising in tandem on the Shigeru Kawais – I was the 4th pianist, not in the picture 🙂 Had a swell time playing on the Shigeru Kawai’s very responsive, beautiful touch, which reminded me of a water-bed for fingers!
On the uppermost floor, along with the Mason & Hamlin, Petrof and some organ makers, was where I played a couple of Faziolis – so different from the other pianos – the action was lighter, very airy and you could create smooth graded dynamics from a whisper to a crash with little or no effort! It was around a year and a half ago, after much piano testing and hands on research, factoring in various requirements and constraints, that I decided to finally purchase the Estonia L190 (for those wanting to read more, here’s the amplified version). Naturally, it was great to see Estonia booth at NAMM and meet Indrek Laul, its owner – he’s a concert pianist (Juilliard) as well.
There was much to check out in this maze of halls and booths. I attended a session for teachers – one of the statistics presented by a speaker caught my ear – a huge uptick in adult students inquiring about music lessons. I couldn’t agree more. I’d been wondering where the children have gone (I get more lesson inquiries from adults than children), but it is the baby boomers making a comeback! Then there were random events and people I came across that made the day all the more interesting. Like a chance meeting with bassist Matt Garrison just as I was scuttling through the bass and drum exhibition halls trying to avoid the ear busting cacophony! Good thing we both recognised each other – he was my first web design client way back in ’97! Then there was a shining transparent Brian Francis Moore drumkit that even had me stop in my tracks, Dr. Lonnie Smith demoing Hammond organs with a slow bluesy ballad, guitarists Martin Taylor and Andreas Oberg trading lines on All The Things You Are.