how I have been using YAMAHIKO pickups

JULY 2011 BIG ED BLOG: Busy July coming up.  I start the "Tribute To Miles Davis" tour Sunday.  This band features Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter & Marcus Miller - the song list includes pieces from the entire Miles Davis catalog, ranging from Kind Of Blue through to his late period electric stuff.  I'll be using my Yamahiko pickups for Herbie's piano on this tour as I always do.  Look for us at major European jazz festivals (Istanbul, Perugia, North Sea, Vienne, Montreux, Antibes, Vitoria, Paris, Marseille) through July.

Last month, I used my pickups for the first time with KEM (Universal/Motown recording artist) at a show in Toledo OH USA.  I am the monitor engineer for KEM - gives me a chance to experience life apart from FOH!  KEM plays several piano-based ballads on a typical show.  Usually, we use a midi grand piano - that is a grand piano with a midi pickup system, which we tie to a Yamaha Motif keyboard module.  We place two standard microphones high/low above the piano strings AND use the Motif module stereo.  As the midi hookup is direct, we get a grand piano sound nice and loud, using the mics for a bit of "wood acoustic" flavor to the sound.  For sure, it's NOT an acoustic sound  - maybe 80% Midi, 20% mic.  But very easy to get loud enough.  HOWEVER - Midi pianos are not ALWAYS available.  In those instances, we are FORCED to go completely acoustic.  Typically, we mic the piano as we always do AND use Barcus Berry 4000 piano pickups in place of the midi hookup.  This usually presents a problem as to will we be able to get the piano loud enough over the band, and what will it sound like when we do?  At this particular show, we had a 9' Steinway.

I talked Jim Gibbons, KEM's FOH engineer, into trying out my Yamahiko pickups INSTEAD of the Barcus Berry.  His comment?  "Those pickups are amazing!!"  He now wants me to use them at EVERY show where we do not have a Midi piano.  But the kudos for Yamahiko pickups do not stop there.  Our opening act for this show was Swiss-born "lite-jazz" pianist Alex Bugnon, playing as a trio with drums/bass.  The plan was for him to use our piano - so we moved it to the position he wanted, got his monitors set up, and he began to play.  After about 5 minutes, he stopped and came over to me at the monitor console.  "This is the BEST sounding Steinway I've EVER had in the monitors" he said.  He went back out, finished his sound check, and came back over to ask me how I did it.  I explained my background with Herbie Hancock and told him about the Yamahiko pickups.  On our way back to the hotel he outlined his frustrations, as a piano artist, in getting the instrument loud enough on stage WITHOUT suffering an altered sound.  He owns Barcus Berry 4000 pickups himself, and expressed how superior he found the Yamahiko pickups at this, his first time using them.  As schedules happened, I shared a ride back to the venue with him and his band.  He mentioned that during our brief dinner break, he had visited the Yamahiko web site to learn more about the pickups.  He specifically mentioned the video as being very helpful. Don't be surprised if you hear from him soon - I think, after his experience in Ohio, that he is looking to buy some!

All for now - off to Istanbul TURKEY for stop #1 on the Miles Tribute Tour. - Big Ed -


Holiday greeting to everybody, and let's enjoy a happy, healthy and prosperous 2012!!!  My Yamahiko piano pickups continue to be the most valuable item in my "toolbox", and have certainly made a big impact on my work around this planet we all call home.  Among the many highlights:

"TRIBUTE TO MILES" TOUR 2012: epic European tour included a super band (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Sean Jones, Sean Rickman) covering 50 years of the Miles Davis repertoire reinterpreted by Herbie, Wayne & Marcus.  EVERY NIGHT a different musical adventure - as you might expect when you get a group like this together   Concerts at Istanbul Jazz fest, North Sea Jazz fest, Montreux Jazz fest, Viennes Jazz fest, Antibes Jazz fest & Umbria jazz fest to name but a few.  Used my Yamahiko pickups on Herbie Hancock's pianos at every show.  These were Fazioli 278 concert grand pianos at MOST events, but I DID have a few Steinway concert grands where Faziolis were unavailable.  No worries - due to the flexible mounting system included with Yamahiko pickups, dealing with different piano construction is a breeze.  And ALWAYS consistent excellence with our sound.  At Viennes, we had guitarist John Scofield (opening that night with his own quartet) sit in with us for the encore.  Sco's audio engineer asked me if I was using Yamahiko pickups for Herbie's piano, as he LOVED the sound we had.  When I told him I was, he mentioned that he was saving his $$ with the intent of getting a pair of Yamahiko pickups for his own use. Another convert to the Yamahiko family!

HERBIE HANCOCK - our fall tour of California included an appearance at the 54th Monterey Jazz festival.  Outdoors with the FOH sound system in close proximity?  No problem!  Thanks to my pickups, getting Herbie's piano sounding full-bodied and OVER the band was painless.  We also did a number of Herbie solo dates; "An Evening With Herbie Hancock".  This was an INTERESTING project, as it involved not only Herbie playing solo acoustic piano but ALSO using EXTENSIVE electronics.  Herbie debuted his orchestral arrangement of "Sonrisa", which required the live grand piano be superimposed on a full orchestra playback via Herbie's MAC hard drives.  An interesting challenge: the SOUND of the solo acoustic piano had to be identical to the SOUND of the acoustic piano amplified to "float' over the AMPLIFIED orchestra playback - and this in MOSTLY symphonic orchestra venues with LIVE REVERBERANT ACOUSTICS.  Use my Yamahiko pickups for an "acoustic" performance?  ABSOLUTELY!  Subtle blending of mics and pickups insured I could get a natural sound while providing the necessary level WHEN NEEDED to carry that sound over and above any amplified elements.  At our performance in Philadelphia (at the Kimmel Center), I particularly enjoyed a post-concert discussion with a couple of "audiophile classical piano" enthusiasts.  I was complimented regarding the fact that I "had maintained the acoustic integrity of the instrument at all times, even when dealing with louder accompaniment".  After spending some time discussing the microphones I used and why, I asked these guys how they felt about the use of piano pickups.  They responded "by definition, they compromise and color the natural sound of a piano".  As much as I would have enjoyed revealing that I HAD USED PICKUPS AS PART OF OUR PRESENTATION THEY JUST ENJOYED and bursting their bubble, load-out urgency dictated ending the conversation.  Suffice to say that our "guardians of acoustic music" were unable to discern the inclusion of Yamahiko pickups as integral to our presentation.  Elegant anecdotal evidence of just how natural these pickups sound.

KEM - I continue to use my pickups for any/all KEM dates where we do NOT use a MIDI-triggered grand piano.  MOST of the time, these instruments are baby grand pianos - and even WITH the smaller size we can get usable low end out of the instruments via my pickups.  What we used to go through...  There have been MANY occasions where we just did NOT have the time to thoroughly tweak the piano EQ to insure we could get it heard in a large venue without feedback issues.  Our old system REQUIRED at least a few minutes alone with the piano to "dial it in".  The addition of my Yamahiko pickups makes this substantially easier and faster.  It's a feeling of confidence that when KEM starts "Why Would You Stay" with that classic "hook" ALONE ON ACOUSTIC PIANO, you KNOW you can get it loud enough to be heard in a big theater/arena, even over screaming female fans.  AND IT STILL SOUNDS LIKE A PIANO.

2012 - Looking forward to a busy year.  Right off the bat I have Herbie Hancock in Paris late January - a "special quartet" of Manu Katche, Esperanza Spaulding and Corrine Bailey Rae.  This will be Herbie on acoustic grand piano only, but as I have my Yamahiko pickups I go with confidence.  Stay tuned for further updates.


greetings and New Years Wishes to everybody. And continued salutations to Mr. Kiyohiko Yamaya for creating what is without doubt the finest and most reliable piano pickup you will find ANYWHERE. Some highlights from 2012:

KEM - Universal/Motown R&B artist toured throughout the USA. As his monitor engineer, I always need to get his grand piano clearly heard on stage over a kickin' band. OR, to allow FOH engineer Jim Gibbons the means to get the signature piano intro on "Why Would You Stay" to carry the far reaches of large auditoriums. It's a wonderful feeling to KNOW that with my Yamahiko pickups, we NEVER have any worries regarding these demands. For our Japanese fans - KEM will be in Tokyo at the Blue Note this January 18 & 19. Check him out.

HERBIE HANCOCK - 2012 saw the creation of Herbie Hancock Plugged In: A Night Of Solo Exploration. Herbie's first solo tour of Europe visited Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal & the UK in October-November 2012. As always, only Yamahiko pickups were good enough to properly reproduce Herbie's brilliance on his preferred Fazioli concert grand. As this show ALSO includes electronic and track elements WITH acoustic piano, it's important to have CONSISTENT sound at all dynamic ranges - acoustic whispers to electronically-backed screams. With my Yamahiko pickups, never a worry. During a live studio TV broadcast in Amsterdam (Kunststof TV), we used the Yamahiko pickups exclusively - no microphones. This was an extremely popular decision with the director, as he no longer had mic stands spoiling his camera angles. The audio engineer was horrified that I would agree to such a thing - UNTIL he heard Herbie play the piano at soundcheck. "AMAZING - what ARE those pickups?" he asked. Believe me, I get this reaction all the time. Another new Yamahiko believer.

PERFECTING CHURCH - only the best will do in God's house. My Yamahiko pickups made it to Perfecting Church in Detroit, Michigan where gospel superstar Marvin Winans is the founder & senior pastor. I used my pickups during the official release concert of Marvin L. Winans Presents: The Praise And Worship Experience. To date, the church had been using a single condenser (clamped inside the piano) and a Barcus Barry pickup. I replaced these with my two Yamahiko's for the concert, and the result was revelatory. Most of the church members I talked to afterward were convinced we had brought in a new piano for the event. NOPE - same old piano, all new Yamahikos. I'm sure they wanted me to leave them in there, but no way. I NEED my pickups for the next round of challenges - who knows what is in store for 2013?

- BIG ED -