Yamaha CP70B Electric Grand Piano
Yamaha CP70B Electric Grand Piano - Yamaha CP70 Front View - CP70

The Yamaha CP70 Electric Grand Piano (also known as the Yamaha CP-70) was first introduced to the market in the mid-70's and production was ceased in the mid-80's. This particular unit has a 1983 serial #. The Yamaha CP70B model (also known as the Yamaha CP-70B) included several improved features such as balanced outputs (hence the B added to CP70) and included an improved preamp, etc. There was also a CP70M model that included midi output, and EQ, etc. Very few of these units were made. The Yamaha CP80 (or CP-80) was the big brother of the CP70, and it included an extra octave of keys (the CP70 has a total of 73 keys). As you can see in the photo's, this piano has real strings, hammers, wooden keys, and an internal baby grand piano frame.

Since it was designed as a stage model, it is covered in black tolex, and comes apart in two separate pieces that weigh well over 100 lbs a piece. Yes, this piano is very heavy. Amazingly enough, this piano stays in tune very well if not moved too much or not exposed to too much tempertaure and humidity changes. In the studio it is very stable. I have yet to tune mine, but will attempt this soon with a Peterson 490 Strobe Tuner. A basic Yamaha piano tuning wrench will work just fine. Original piano strings can still be purchased directly from Mapes Piano Wire at a very reasonable price. Mapes has been the string supplier for Yamaha pianos for many years.

The CP70B is called an electric grand piano, even though it has hammers and strings, because it has a sophisticated piezo type pick-up system that translates the vibrating strings into an audio signal. This was great for touring because of the hassle invovled with miking regular heavy, large pianos. You can still hear the piano play acoustically with no power on, but it isn't as loud as a regular baby grand piano. You can still mike the piano if you'd like, and some people leave the top off to generate a little musical feedback. Unfortunately, Yamaha ceased part availibilty for these back in 1997. However, some shops still have them and you can always buy a cheap beater for parts if needed. Dating information via the serail #, etc. is still available from Yamaha at (800) 854-1569 the the last I checked. The CP70 was originally sold at a $4000 list price in the mid-70's which translates to around $12,000 to $13,000 in 2002 US dollars.

The construction, engineering, and sound of these piano's is simply amazing. The sound of the CP70 is very unique because of its warm, smooth sustain. It is not nearly as percussive as many grand piano's, particularly the the Yamaha C and G series. Since the lowest octave bass strings are shorter than normal, the lowest octave doesn't quite sound like a regular baby grand piano. The CP70 was the standard touring piano in the 70's and 80's. It was used by just about every artist and group at one time or another in the studio or on the road. John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin used a CP70B on the 1977, 79-80 tours in place of the Steinway he used on the 1975 tour. He actually had a white case built around it to make it look like a full size grand piano next to his massive Yamaha GX-1 synth. This can be seen on the Knebworth video, and at the following cool site dedicated to Led Zeppelin keyboards and synths.

Other users in the 70's include musicians that range from Stevie Wonder, ELO, Genesis, Boston, Hall and Oates, Journey, etc. In the 80's you had bands such as Asia, U2 (songs like New Years Day, October, etc.), and british pop such as Howard Jones, others such as Simple Minds during that era of music. The musical style didn't matter. It was used by almost everyone. The good news is that these units are still fairly easy to find on the used market from $400 to $1000. Be very wary of the road warrior beat up types. There are plenty of nice CP70B's around for about $500 if you're patient. The CP80 is worth a little more, and the CP70M is probably worth around $1200. For what you're getting, I think that the CP70B is by far the best piano deal on the market.

Yamaha CP70B Electric Grand Piano - Yamaha CP70 Top Closed - CP-70
Yamaha CP70B Electric Grand Piano - Yamaha CP70 Frame - CP-70
Yamaha CP70B Electric Grand Piano - Yamaha CP70 Electronics - CP-70
Yamaha CP70B Electric Grand Piano - Yamaha CP70 Frame Hammers - CP-70
Yamaha CP70B Electric Grand Piano - Yamaha CP70 Strobe Tuning - CP-70
Tuning The Yamaha CP70B (above pic) involves a little bit of a learning curve, but it's not too bad. I used a new Peterson 490 Auto Strobe Tuner, and a standard Yamaha tuning wrench. I turned on the piano and connected one of the outputs to the line-in of the Peterson unit with Monster 1000 series instrument cable. After messing around a little, I found that the following procedure worked best for me. With exception of the lower octave notes, every note has two strings that it's respective hammer strikes. I would first put the tuning wrench on the peg for the left string. I would then play the note while muting the right string with my finger (not a bad idea to use a string damper or wear rubber gloves to keep oil off the strings due to long term corrosion). I would then look at the stobe tuner and dial in the tuning with the wrench. Then I would place the tuning wrench on the peg for right string, play the note and turn the wrench until the right string sounded in tune with the left. That got me close, and then I would hit the note again while my finger was muting the left string, and dial in the right string. As I worked my way up to the higher octave strings, it became more difficult and time consuming to tune because these strings have less sustain. That gives you less time to dial in the tuning between note strikes. With a little patience, it can be done, though. Once I had my procedure in place, it took me about 2 hours to tune the piano. I could've done it quicker, but I took my time and really dialed it in. I was amazed at how good it sounded once I was done. I've ehard some people state that they've had troubles tuning their CP sereis piano's with their older Peterson Strobe tuners. With the new 490 unit, I had no problems.
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