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Ever since I was introduced to the Kawai digital piano, I was captivated by its inherent user-friendliness. An example of this is the simplicity of adding a rich string ensemble to the piano.

When you power up a Kawai digital piano, you'll immediately have a premium nine-foot concert grand piano (click here to listen) at your fingertips (on every digital model).

On a Kawai CN, CA, or ES model piano, you may add strings to the piano by pressing the Piano sound button simultaneously with the Strings sound button. This is also true for Kawai's CP67 model piano.

On all other Kawai Concert Performer piano models (CP117, CP137, CP177, CP187, and CP207), you can add strings to the piano by simply pressing one button: the button labeled, "Right 2." This button is on the panel to the right of the display screen (just below the sound category buttons).

The name you'll see in the display screen for this newly added string ensemble is "Beautiful Strings."

Now, I promised not to sound like an owner's manual, so let's dispense with the clinical talk. Here's something I think you'll get a kick out of: After having pressed the "Right 2" button to add the Beautiful Strings sound, press the sound category button for "Strings" on the panel (in the Sound section).

In the display screen, you'll see a selection of various string-related sounds.

At the bottom of the screen, press the button for Page 2, for yet more string sounds.

The sound I'd like you to try is called Warm Strings, which you'll see in the display screen.

Press the corresponding button for Warm Strings and you'll hear gorgeous, symphonic "slow strings" with an effective stereophonic quality that nicely contrasts the former sound of Beautiful Strings. To my ear, the texture of Warm Strings is darker and even richer. As a companion to the piano, it's a syrupy mix!

Take this irresistible layer of Concert Grand Piano and Warm Strings (click here to listen) for a test drive with such music as the popular songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, or classic ballads from the first half of the 20th century.

Now, let's proceed with our musical journey to the next destination. Our layer of Concert Grand Piano and Warm Strings is about to become even more intriguing, as we have an ability to easily alter the texture of this layer.

Perhaps we're taking a seat in the string section of the Mantovani orchestra with this one: Press the right Octave Shift button on the panel (it's to the right of the display screen--below the dial). What you've done is shift the Warm Strings up one octave (click here to listen) while maintaining the piano at its normal octave. Quite a fascinating, multi-octave effect!

In this instance, try exploiting the high end of the strings by playing some passages with both hands above the middle C register. This takes me back to some of the gorgeously arranged sounds of AndrÈ Kostelanetz with which I grew up (from a collection of recordings on that long-forgotten format of the 10-inch LP!).

Among other things, I can hear Silent Night played as a lullaby with this delicate sound setting. No need for a lot of notes. Just let the instrument do the talking, and linger on the notes at the end of phrases for the Warm Strings to blossom.

You might even want to draw greater attention to the strings by boosting its volume.

Available on most Kawai CN or CA model pianos--and the CP67--is a balance slider. This is a nifty piece of hardware that allows for an extremely easy--and always available-- means of giving more volume to either the piano or strings (or any two sounds within a layer). Just push the slider to the left or to the right (click to listen) to "favor" one sound or the other. Think of this as being the equivalent to a left/right channel balance control on a stereo system, where you may favor one channel or another.

On the Kawai CP models 117, 137, 177, 187, and 207, let's balance the volume between the piano and strings like this: Press the button just below the bottom left side of the display screen--the button that corresponds with the screen command of "Mixer."

Toward the bottom of the screen, you'll see volume levels (from 0 to 100) for Right 1 (the Piano) and Right 2 (Warm Strings). To increase the Warm Strings volume, just press the panel button beneath Right 2 in the screen. Now, turn the dial on the panel clockwise to make the strings louder (For digital clock devotees, "clockwise" is to the right!).

Likewise, you may adjust the Piano volume by selecting Right 1 toward the bottom of the screen, then using the dial.

I'm looking forward to the next time we meet in this forum, at which time I'll relay the highlights of a fascinating topic that was explored during a recent concert and workshop that I did in Florida. Specifically, we'll discuss an exciting (and truly easy) way of recording...not just a single sound, but multiple sounds. That is, recording one sound after another in order to create an ensemble of instrumentalists playing together.

Using this recording "trick," we'll build an ensemble of four instrumentalists. Here's the best part, though: This whole recording "trick" is accomplished by using only six buttons! That's right. You can create a recording of four independent instrumentalists by recording them one at a time--and using only six buttons on the panel, right in front of you!

One final teaser: I have never found another digital piano or keyboard that allows you to do this procedure so intuitively and simply. Truly, any pianist at any level can have the musical time of their life!

So, until our next session, keep making music and indulge yourself in the wonders of your Kawai piano!

Barry Baker

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