The MP11SE development team is a close-knit group of highly skilled individuals, all working together to produce an outstanding stage piano. The creation process can be very complicated, with numerous challenges to overcome, yet these interesting anecdotes are seldom shared.

We therefore decided to sit down with members of the MP11SE R&D team to hear their personal insights, and learn a little more about the instrument’s development. A selection of these first-hand accounts are collated below, with follow-up interviews planned for the future.


As MP11SE project leader, Aotani-san was responsible for overseeing the development of the various keyboard, sound, programming, and design components that came together to form a completed instrument.

What were the objectives/goals/aims for the MP11SE?

My goal for the MP11SE was to improve every aspect of the MP10’s control interface, while still keeping the instrument as easy to use as possible.

What are some of the changes/
improvements to the MP11SE
that you oversaw?

Well, the main improvements to the MP11SE are the Grand Feel keyboard action, HI-XL sampling technology, and new DSP engine (including reverb, effects, amp simulator, etc.). However, we also made a number of refinements to the MP11SE’s panel interface related to improving live control efficiency.

For example, the MP10’s SETUP memory buttons were arranged in a 3x2 array (6 buttons), however for the MP11SE we rearranged the memory buttons in a single horizontal line. We found this layout to be more intuitive when recalling sequential SETUPs, as you can immediately see which memory to select next. This change also allowed us to restore the final two memory buttons (i.e. 8 memories per bank), requested by players of older MP models.

Also related to the control panel, we rearranged the category and variation button for the sound sections, again to be more intuitive. The MP10 stacked these buttons vertically, so the categories and variations were side-by-side. For the MP11SE, the category and variation buttons are on separate rows (like the older MP models), which improves operation and gives a cleaner look. The way splits and key zones are handled is also more flexible, so we added dedicated buttons and indicators for each section, allowing the player to always see how their keyboard is setup.

What aspects of the MP11SE
are you most proud about?

On a personal level, I’ve happy with the MP11SE’s hardware improvements. As well as being the MP11SE project leader, I also designed all of the PCBs (printed circuit board) inside the instrument, so had an extra incentive to select the best components and utilise them in the most efficient manner. This new hardware allows the MP11SE to be considerably more powerful, without increasing production costs. It also allows greater accuracy and precision, especially when making fine-grain adjustments to sounds, EQ, and other parameters, resulting in much smoother operation.

Of course, I’m obviously proud of the instrument as a whole, and how it advances the MP line. But I’m also incredibly proud of how well my colleagues worked together as a team. We occasionally had differences of opinion, however there was a genuine sense of positivity within the group that allowed us to overcome any challenges we encountered. I believe that our shared desire to continually improve every feature and function will be appreciated by players, and that the MP11SE will gain a reputation as one of the best stage pianos available.

How do you believe the MP11SE differs from other stage pianos?

I feel the MP11SE specifically focuses on piano realism over everything else. In order to achieve this, we use the best components currently available at Kawai: the best keyboard action, the best sounds (requiring the most memory), the best tone generator and DSP engine, the best hardware, etc. The MP11SE is a professional instrument, so we did not want to make any sacrifices.

The MP11SE is also one of the easiest stage pianos to use. Of course, there is complexity when you enter the edit menus and begin experimenting with options and parameters, but for common tasks like selecting sounds, adjusting volumes, creating splits, etc. the MP11SE is very intuitive…so you don’t need to look at the manual. Some stage pianos I’ve tried are very difficult to understand, with complicated sound/effect interaction and buttons that have unclear functions. The MP11SE groups sounds into three independent sections, so the control is more intuitive and immediate.

What was the biggest challenge you
encountered (and had to overcome)
during the MP11SE development?

As I explained before, our goal for the MP11SE was to produce the most realistic stage piano, using the best hardware and software available. There was a considerable jump in quality from the MP8II to the MP10, and we wanted to maintain the same level of progress with the MP11SE. Our biggest challenge was finding methods to improve the instrument’s specification without increasing production costs, or sacrificing on build quality and materials.

What do the initials ‘M.P.’ mean to you?

Musical instruments for Professionals.


As head programmer, Kira-san was responsible for developing the MP11SE’s operating system. His work links the various hardware and software components of the MP11SE together to form a fully-working musical instrument.

What were your objectives for the MP11SE?

My goal for the MP11SE was to improve every aspect of the MP10’s control interface, while still keeping the instrument as easy to use as possible.

What do you believe differentiates the MP11SE from other stage pianos?

I think the MP11SE focuses primarily on acoustic and electric piano playing, so the keyboard and sound quality take priority over everything else. Of course the MP11SE offers great flexibility, especially with MIDI etc. but the emphasis is on being the best for piano. I also think the MP11SE is designed to be accessible, and easy to use without the manual, so even if a musician has never played an MP, they can sit down and get a feel for how everything works pretty quickly.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered (and had to overcome) during the MP11SE development?

The new EFX system gave me many headaches, largely because there are so many more parameters. The previous MPs had around 20 effects and relatively limited adjustability. On the MP10, assigning an EFX parameter to a controller just showed a generic number (e.g. Para2), but the MP11SE now shows the real effect and parameter name (e.g. Wah:LowEQ). I think there are over 1000 adjustable parameters, so the challenge was taking this flexibility, but still keeping the same direct, real time control of previous MPs.

What do the initials ‘MP’ mean to you?

I think the ‘M’ came from the older M8000 ‘Master’ keyboard launched in the late 80’s, while the ‘P’ means ‘Piano’, so for me ‘MP’ means ‘Master Piano’.

What are some of the main changes/improvements of the MP11SE compared to the MP10?

Apart from the new keyboard action and sound engine, there are numerous improvements to the interface and underlying OS functionality. For example, on the original MP10 only the MIDI section could be split – the sound sections would always use the entire keyboard. We resolved this functionality with a software update, but it was still quite limited. The MP11SE’s OS now allows any sound section to be upper/lower split, or to use an area between any two keys – it’s much more flexible than before, while also being easier to use.

The way MIDI is handled on the MP11SE has also been completely overhauled, so now the MIDI section consists of four independent zones, where the MP10 had just one. Each zone can also be split or assigned an area between two keys. The MP11SE integrates some of the improved MIDI controller functions of the VPC1, so we can use USB-MIDI and the 9-PIN IN/OUT at the same time, or reroute the MIDI IN data and send it out through USB. I think this is a great feature for players that use both types of MIDI connection.

We added a lot more fine-grain customisation with the MP11SE. The EDIT menu has many more parameters to adjust the sound, including new Virtual Technician adjustments and synth-style DCA/DCF controls. There are more settings for the controllers, pedal polarity switches, expression pedal calibration, etc. Lots of these improvements came about as a result of feedback received from product developers and MP players.

What new feature/
function of the MP11SE are you
most proud about?

It’s hard to pick-out one feature. The thing I’m most happy about [in the MP11SE] is the overall improvement compared to the MP10. There was a major change in concept from the MP8II to the MP10, from the sound selection and quality, to the panel layout and overall instrument operation. The MP11SE takes the solid foundations built by the MP10, addresses the weaker points, while also adding many new features. It feels more complete.


As DSP programmer, Matsunaga-san was responsible for developing the MP’s reverb, effects, and amp simulator engine that adds depth and realism to the instrument’s core sounds

What were your objectives for the MPs?

My goal was to make the MPs more diverse, interesting, and fun instruments. I felt that previous MP models were too simplistic in their approach to effects, so I took advantage of the new DSP and rewrote everything to be more flexible and advanced.

What was the biggest challenge you
encountered (and had to overcome) during the MPs' development?

There were many challenges! I realised that when creating effects, it’s difficult to reach a universal agreement about what sounds ‘good’. For example, I would prepare a phaser effect and present it to my colleagues here and overseas. Even though I felt it was an authentic recreation of my favourite phaser pedal, other people would say it should sound more like this model or more like that model. There are many different opinions, so I prepared various effect simulations to cater for the broadest range of sounds and musical styles.

Another challenge was memory allocation for effects. The previous MPs had 25 effects, with a maximum of 3 of parameters for each. However, I had prepared many, many more effects – some with as many as 10 parameters – so the amount of memory required was much larger. Kira-san was able to expand the memory allocation, however I still needed to do a significant amount of code optimisation. This was a positive step though, as it also allowed me to make some additional refinements.

What new features/functions of the
new MPs are you most proud about?

I’m very happy with the outcome of the new DSP engine – I think this has made a big difference to the overall sound of the MP, from reverb and effects, to amp sim and Virtual Technician. I feel that the new effects have an analogue-like character, even though they are digital recreations…they behave as if they were analogue.

I’m proud of the level of detailed we’ve been able to achieve with the new effects system. For example, I like that the ‘Drive’ effects have a different overdrive characteristic to the amp simulator drive. Because in real life, an overdrive pedal is solid state, whereas an amp is usually tube-based, so will naturally sound different – the new MPs take these variations into account…it’s not just one type of overdrive for everything.

I also really like comparing the characteristics of combined effects, either using the EFX1+EFX2 blocks simultaneously, or a ‘+’ effect on a single block. There’s also the ‘Parallel’ effects that sound slightly different depending on how they’re chained together. Of course, I know that not everyone is interested in spending time experimenting with all the effects and parameters, but I believe that some players actually enjoy this aspect of creating sound – that they feel there’s always something more to explore – so I’m glad that we provide them this depth and flexibility with the new MPs.

Of course, the MPs are serious, professional instruments. However, I also like that people can still have fun just exploring…adjusting sounds, tweaking effects…even without really playing the instrument.

What are the main DSP changes/
improvements of the new MPs
compared to the previous generation?

Well, the new chip we’re using in the MP11SE/MP7SE is several times more powerful than that found in the MP10/MP6, so some of the inconvenient restrictions (e.g. the PIANO and SUB sections would previously share the same effect type) are no longer an issue.

The greater power also allows the reverb, effects, amp simulator, and Virtual Technician resonances to be far more complex and detailed than before. While there had been gradual improvements to the MP’s effects, the system was too… ‘standard’ – for example, you had Chorus1 or Chorus2, and a few parameters, but that was all. This system is probably fine for home-oriented pianos, but professional players require fine-grained control…various different types of Chorus with distinct characteristics, and many parameters to adjust.

Reverb is greatly improved on the new MPs, too. The older reverb used on previous MPs hadn’t really changed for several generations. There were different reverb types, but apart from depth, their actually character didn’t change so much. The new reverbs are all distinctive, and recreate their intended environment much more realistically.

The faster chip is also useful for creating more accurate models, which are used for Virtual Technician resonance effects and the new amp/speaker simulations. As a guitarist, I’m obviously interested in pedal effects and different amps, so it was good fun remaking the new amp simulations. I spent quite a while visiting music studios, testing different amps, and analysing how they affected the sound character using my equipment. I would then return to my office and use these recordings for reference while writing the new amp sim modules.

What do the initials ‘MP’ mean to you?

Magic Performance!


As a member of Kawai’s design group, Henda-san was responsible for the MP11SE’s exterior design, including the instrument’s physical shape and control panel/interface appearance.

What were your objectives for the MP11SE?

I aimed to make the MP11SE design feel timeless and professional. Timeless, because I want players to feel a close association with the MP11SE for many years, and professional because this instrument is created as a tool for professional and high-level musicians, so its appearance should obviously reflect this.

What do you believe differentiates the MP11SE from other stage pianos?

Apart from the obvious things like keyboard action and sample quality, I think the choice of materials used for the MP11SE is significant. Going all the way back to the first MP9000, the instrument was praised for its solid design and construction, and MPs generally have a reputation for being indestructible. So obviously we stuck with the same wood and metal construction. It relates back to my goal of making the MP11SE look and feel timeless – if the instrument is strong and well built, players will happily keep their MP for many years.

I’ve always liked the wooden side panels on the MP. They contribute to the instrument’s classic appearance, but also protect the keyboard action…which is arguably the most important part of any stage piano. Some instruments leave this area exposed, and the keyboard soon becomes damaged when bumped or knocked. But if you look at old MPs that have been gigged with, even if the wooden side panels have dents and scratches, the keyboard action will still be working perfectly. I actually like to think that these ‘scars’ in the wood add character to the piano, like a battered guitar or a pair of old jeans…whereas plastic would just get smashed-up, and cheapen the instrument’s appearance.

What aspects of the MP11SE design are you most proud about?

I always try to be humble with my work, so it’s difficult for me to say. Of course, I believe the MP11SE is a nice design, but that doesn’t necessarily make me feel happy or satisfied, because it’s just my opinion. It’s more important that the players appreciate the MP11SE design, and that they take pride in owning this instrument. They are the people who will play this instrument on a daily basis, so if they’re happy with the MP11SE design, I’m happy too.

What do the initials ‘M.P.’ mean to you?

Most difficult Piano to design. The reason I say this is because the MP is designed for professionals, however this market is quite small and therefore very competitive. Professional people are often very fussy about the tools they use to do their job, so for a professional stage musician, the piano has to not only have great sound and touch, it also needs to look professional. In Japanese we would say ‘shin-bi-gan’ [審美眼], which can mean ‘eye for beauty’ or ‘aesthetic sense’…but in this context it means that the player can understand the quality of an instrument simply by how it looks. This is what I tried to achieve with the MP11SE design.

What are the main design changes/
improvements of the MP11SE compared
to the MP10?

The overall design concept is the same as the MP10: ‘Piano-like’, however I think it’s further refined with the MP11SE. I used the front face of a grand piano as inspiration for the MP11SE, with a tall, flat surface behind the keyboard, and various other piano-like characteristics. The goal is to give the player the impression that they are sitting at a grand piano when playing at the MP11SE. The control panel of the MP11SE has many buttons, knobs, faders, an LCD display…so when concentrating on changing sounds and adjusting parameters we obviously feel that it is a modern instrument. But when your hands return to the keyboard, and we concentrate on playing, the technology becomes separated and we are playing an acoustic instrument again. Kawai obviously has a long history of crafting acoustic instruments, so I think it’s natural to incorporate the feeling of playing a traditional piano even in our latest digital models.

But aside from the ‘Piano’ aesthetic, I also wanted to improve the MP11SE’s usability, especially in live performance situations. So I revised the control panel appearance, using larger fonts and brighter printing to help in low-light environments. I also used accents to highlight important functions such as the ON/OFF buttons for each sound section…the idea is that when looking at the keyboard, you can still ‘see’ these buttons out of the corner of your eye, making them easier to touch while playing.

What challenges did you encounter
(and have to overcome) during
the MP11SE development?

There were many challenges. Lots of back and forth discussion with R&D, the sales division, and overseas members…trying to satisfy everyone’s requirements.

However, perhaps the biggest challenge was related to the keyboard action. The MP11SE’s Grand Feel action is longer than the MP10, due to the longer keys and pivot, so the whole instrument had to be physically deeper in order to accommodate it. I didn’t want to simply extend the top panel, so instead kept the same dimensions, but stretched the angled champher [where the jack names are printed], out of the player’s eye-line. This method provides enough depth for the new action, while maintaining the size of the MP10 from the player’s perspective. This is one of a number of design changes that help to reduce the profile of the instrument.

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