You’ve heard the cliché: Summer NAMM in Nashville is mainly a guitar show. Pickin’ and grinnin’. Both kinds of music: country and western, with rock allowed as long as the band loves Stevie Ray Vaughan. That’s somewhat true, but greatly exaggerated. If you’re a retailer along the eastern seaboard or in the midwest, Summer NAMM has the major advantage of being a relatively low-cost proposition (compared to the big January blowout in Anaheim, California). That in turn makes it attractive for manufacturers to show up. Plus, Nashville is home to a busy hive of top-call session musicians who envy New York and L.A. nothing whatsoever. Indeed, it may be the last city in the U.S. where the studio system is still truly thriving.
The culture and focus of Nashville is far broader than country music, but still, Summer NAMM isn’t the ideal show to exhibit your tweaky analog modular synth components or granular synthesis app for the iPad.
Stage pianos are a different story—the do-it-all bread and butter of the singer-songwriter scene. Four of our favorite companies had major new showings in this category, so let’s take them in alphabetical order.
We’re getting our hands on a Privia PX-3 for review very soon, and we can’t wait. When we first heard about it, “PX-330 without speakers” was the over-simplified description we kicked around. True that—removing built-in speakers you won’t use at the gig anyway weighs the PX-3 in at a hair under 24 pounds. That makes it the lightest stage piano we know of with 88 fully-weighted keys.
The main piano sound uses four velocity layers, with morphing interpolation between them that greatly smooths out any audible velocity-switching. Our own reviewer Richard Leiter (shown) raved about the piano sound, as did just about every show attendee who stopped by Casio’s booth to play the PX-3. Rich also praised the electric piano, Clav, and even tonewheel organ sounds. Though these won’t kick a dedicated clonewheel off your keyboard stand, the variety and variable-speed rotary effect (in which the difference between treble and bass rotors is intelligible) makes them credible enough for gigs where you only want to take one keyboard.
Listing for $1,099.99 and expected to street at around $800, it also gets our nod for the biggest keyboard bang-for-buck at the show.