With more than 250 million records sold during his 40-year career, six Grammy Awards, and over 50 Top 40 hits, Elton John is one of the most successful musical artists of all time.
His latest endeavor is The Million Dollar Piano, which serves as both the name of his new Las Vegas show at the Caesar’s Palace Colosseum, as well as the name of the actual piano the show is based upon.
In typical Elton John fashion, the piano he plays is nothing short of spectacular—and crucial to the sound that is every bit as unique as the artist himself are four Countryman Type 10S Stereo Direct Boxes.
Lindsay Vannoy is the piano systems engineer for The Million Dollar Piano.
A 15-year plus music industry professional specializing in keyboard playing and keyboard/MIDI system design, Vannoy is responsible for the proper set up, operation, and the myriad of intangibles that ultimately make The Million Dollar Piano so special, including the MIDI electronics and LED lighting system that encases the instrument.
Vannoy discussed the challenges of obtaining the sound that is so undeniably Elton John’s and how the Countryman Type 10S Direct Boxes figure into the equation.
“The Million Dollar Piano is based upon a Yamaha CFIII 9-foot concert grand with MIDI,” Vannoy explained. “The piano shell has been stylistically sculpted and is encased with LED panels covering all vertical surfaces of the case.
“In addition, all external surfaces are Plexiglas encased and the piano is supported by two Plexiglas prisms as opposed to the standard three leg configuration.
“The Million Dollar Piano drives a rack of sound modules that create Elton John’s unique piano sound and the Countryman Type 10S DI’s are used to connect each of the separate tone generating modules to the Monitor and FOH (Front of House) systems.”
“In designing the new audio rack for this show,” Vannoy continued, “we needed to have a set of DI’s that would not color the piano sound whatsoever, and this is precisely where the Countryman Type 10S excels.
“In addition to this, we required components that would function well in the casino environment, which is very heavy with RF interference. The Type 10S has exceptional RF rejection characteristics and the box’s construction is very rugged, so the four that we have are a perfect fit for this application.
“Since the modules for the piano sound are all stereo, it was a definite plus to have all of this in a Stereo DI. We took delivery of our four Type 10S DI’s early this year and have been using them successfully, commencing with the February 2012 run of show.”
For any act operating at this level, rock solid reliability and responsive manufacturer support is crucial. In this regard, Vannoy reports he couldn’t be happier with his Countryman experience.
“Countryman’s customer and technical support service is top notch,” he explains. “Everyone I’ve spoken with really knows their product and they have been able to address any Type 10S inquiries I’ve had quickly and clearly. I’ve been very impressed.”
Before turning his attention back to the business of the day, Vannoy offered these parting thoughts, “We’ve had many performances of The Million Dollar Piano show since the installation of our Type 10S DI’s and they have served us flawlessly. With a show of this nature, every piece of equipment must function without a hitch—for each and every performance.
“There is absolutely no margin for error. While there will always be issues that cause me concern, I’m absolutely confident our Countryman Type 10S DI’s will not be one of them.”