The MP7SE 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 MP7SE 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 MP7SE 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 MP7SE?

As with the MP11SE, our goal was to produce a stage piano with the most realistic keyboard and sound quality possible, but also an instrument that delivers the best ‘all-in-one’ experience. In addition, we wished to improve the MP7SE’s ease of use (compared to the MP6), to the extent that an MP11SE owner could also operate the main functions easily after a few moments playing the instrument.

What are some of the changes/
improvements to the MP7SE that you oversaw?

As project leader, I was ultimately responsive for deciding the instrument’s hardware specification, which has a direct impact on its store price. The initial plans for the MP7SE utilised the same chassis and control interface as the MP6 in order to maintain production costs. During an early development meeting it was suggested that the 16x2 character LCD display be improved to a 24x2 character unit, in order for additional information to be presented to the user. This was an improvement, but wouldn’t necessarily help with control, especially given the EFX engine upgrades that were planned.

What we really needed was a larger graphic LCD, as used on the MP10. This was a much more expensive part, and would also require a considerable redesign of the panel. However, following several lengthy consultations with the sales division, it was agreed that these improvements would be greatly appreciated by players, and they [the sales division] accepted the production cost rise. This was an important early step in the MP7SE’s development – without the larger display, we would have encountered many interface/OS issues, and wouldn’t have been able to unify features and operation with the MP11SE. I have a background in hardware engineering, but this was one of my first experiences as a project leader, and I learned a great deal about negotiating with colleagues in other division.

What aspects of the MP7SE are you most proud about?

Again, as with the MP11SE, I’m very happy with the various hardware improvements made to the MP7SE – not just the visual changes like the larger display and new panel interface, but also the internal upgrades to components. Redesigning all of the PCBs used inside the instrument allows the MP7SE to operate more efficiently than previous models, while also allowing greater accuracy when making fine-grain adjustments to sound, EQ, and other parameters. It’s really satisfying when you turn the knobs or adjust the pitchbend and see the assigned values changing smoothly, instead of jumping in steps like on older MPs.

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 MP7SE will gain a reputation as one of the best stage pianos available.

How do you believe the MP7SE differs from other stage pianos?

I feel that all of the MP7SE’s core features are strong – the sounds, keyboard, control interface, MIDI implementation, etc. There are no areas of the instrument that you feel are weak – I believe is one of the main strengths of the MP7SE as an ‘all-in-one’ stage piano. Visually it is also very impressive, creating a very strong first impression among players as a high quality, professional instrument.

In addition, the MP7SE (and MP11SE) EFX system is very flexible, allowing far greater fine-grain control over effects and parameters than you’d typically expect to find on a stage piano. The 4-zone system is also very powerful, allowing control over internal sounds, external MIDI devices, or both simultaneously – I believe the latter is quite a rare feature for a stage piano instrument.

To reiterate what I said about the MP11SE, the MP7SE’s interface is very intuitive, allowing most players to control functions and adjust parameters etc. without looking at the owner’s manual. Again, this is not always the case on some stage instruments, with complicated panels and button controls…actually even the MP6 was quite weak in this area (although the panel was quite powerful once the player had learned the instrument), so we’re glad to have improved everything on the MP7SE.

What were the biggest challenges
you encountered (and had to overcome)
during the MP7SE development?

As with the MP11SE, our goal was to improve the MP7SE as much as possible, using the best hardware and software available. However, the challenge was raising the specification of the instrument while keeping it competitively priced, at a level similar to that of the MP6. Again, negotiating with the sales division was crucial here.

Aside from this, another challenge we face was in improving the instrument’s real-time control, especially in the new tonewheel organ simulator. The MP6’s tonewheel adjustments had to be made via the EDIT menu, which was not satisfactory for players that like to adjust drawbars during songs. Upgrading to the larger LCD allowed us to overcome this weakness, with a nice real-time adjustable interface. I remember when Kira-san first showed me the new tonewheel screens, with the moving drawbars and rotary switch…it was so cool, and so much more intuitive and direct than the MP6.

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

Musical instruments for Professionals.


As head programmer, Kira-san was responsible for developing the MP7SE’s operating system. His work links the various hardware and software components of the MP7SE together to form a fully-working musical instrument.

What were your objectives for the MP7SE?

My goal for the MP7SE was largely the same as that of the MP11SE – to improve every aspect of the interface while still keeping the instrument as easy to use as possible. I was keen to take advantage of the MP7SE’s larger LCD and revised control panel to extend the classic 4-zone control functionality.

What do you believe differentiates
the MP7SE from other stage pianos?

I think the MP7SE is special because there are no weaknesses – it’s strong in all areas: excellent keyboard action, pianos and EPs, very good organs and synths, intuitive panel/interface, full MIDI control, well built, professional design, etc.

What were the biggest challenges you encountered during the MP7SE development?

One of the first challenges was improving the tonewheel organ mode to allow effective real time control over all 9 drawbars, along with the percussion, and rotary speaker effect. On the MP6, the tonewheel adjustment mode was buried deep in the EDIT menu, and therefore wasn’t suitable for real-time control. I resolved this on the MP7SE by implementing the ability to quickly switch between normal play mode and drawbar control mode, using the SW1/SW2 buttons. The drawbar registrations/percussion settings and button assignments can be easily stored to a SETUP (or POWERON) memory, allowing a lot of freedom when playing live, and helping musicians to get the most out of their performance on stage.

As with the MP11SE, another big challenge was incorporating the new EFX system, with its many parameters and greater flexibility, while retaining the direct real time control of previous MPs. On the MP6 the display size dictated the number of parameters that could be controlled/assigned to a knob – there were around 20 effects and relatively limited adjustability, so the programming and interaction was quite simple. The MP7SE EFX engine is far more advanced, but also therefore more complicated – there are over 1000 adjustable parameters available, so the challenge is 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 MP7SE compared to
the MP6?

Perhaps the biggest change to the MP7SE was the new control panel layout and larger LCD. Unlike the MP10, which changed dramatically, the MP6 interface remained largely consistent with previous MP models. This was initially going to be the case for the MP7SE too, however we decided it would be beneficial to integrate the display and four knob interface of the MP11SE. The larger LCD obviously allows us to present far more information to the player, and with greater clarity – we no longer have to squash everything down to fit inside 16x2 characters.

Thanks to the new layout, the effects/amp sim/reverb handling is also clearer and easier to use – everything can be turned on/off, or adjusted directly from the panel, without having to select the desired zone and then enter a menu. Similarly, the MP7SE now has two easily assignable buttons (SW1/SW2) separated from the rest of the panel, whereas the MP6’s SW button was located in an awkward position, was unintuitive, and could confusingly be used to EXIT menus.

The MP7SE’s sound quality is major upgrade – not just in the pianos and EPs, but also the organs. The tonewheel organ mode introduced with the MP6 was actually one of the first components to be redeveloped. We have a vintage B-3 in the R&D labs, and spent quite a while using this as a reference for the MP7SE’s tonewheel simulation. As a result, the MP7SE’s tonewheel organ mode has a much better volume balance from bass to treble, with realistic percussion characteristics that are now adjustable directly from the panel. We also implemented a special keyboard trigger mode that allows the player to set how ‘fast’ the keys should play. I think this will be really useful for performers that need a good quality action for piano and EPs, but are also required to play organ parts from the same keyboard.

The fast trigger mode is also useful for playing synth leads, which sound much better on the MP7SE – the whole synth section has been updated with new samples. The new DSP and effects engine obviously contributes to this improved sound quality, however I also implemented 24dB/octave filters and portamento with adjustable time and slide modes.

What new feature/function of the MP7SE
are you most proud about?

As with the MP11SE, it’s difficult to pick-out one feature. I’m very happy with the new tonewheel engine – both how it sounds, and how it is controlled from the improved panel. I also think we did a very good job of combining the larger graphic LCD and knob interface from the MP11SE, with the traditional 4-zone functionality of the MP6 and previous MPs. There are so many improvements and new features…it’s practically a completely new instrument, yet still feels very much like a classic MP. Generally speaking, though, I’m most proud of the MP7SE overall – it has become a true ‘all-in-one’ stage keyboard.


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 MP7SE’s exterior design, including the instrument’s physical shape and control panel/interface appearance.

What were your objectives for the MP7SE?

As with the MP11SE, I intended the MP7SE design to feel timeless, ensuring that players feel a strong connection with the instrument for many years. I also aimed to create an attractive, professional-looking instrument that musicians could feel proud to own and play. While the target user of the MP7SE is perhaps a little different to that of the MP11SE, due to the larger selection of sounds and more compact size/weight, I felt it was important that the quality of the instrument’s appearance remain on a par with the MP11SE.

Moreover, I intended the MP7SE design to follow the same principles established with the MP10 and later refined for the MP11SE, with the objective of re-unifying the MP series’ appearance.

What do you believe differentiates
the MP7SE from other stage pianos?

Apart from the obvious things like keyboard action and sample quality, I think the choice of materials used for the MP7SE 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 MP7SE 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 challenges did you encountered
(and have to overcome) during
the MP7SE development?

As with the MP11SE, there was a considerable amount of back and forth discussions with R&D, the sales division, and overseas members, and it could be a challenge trying to satisfy everyone’s requests.

One of the major challenges I faced was retaining parts of the MP6 panel layout (such as the SOUND/SETUP buttons) while integrating elements of the MP11SE interface and creating additional sections for new functionality. Yet despite this mix of old and new components, I believe the MP7SE’s appearance is consistent with the MP11SE – the two instruments look like they’re from the same series.

The MP7SE is a powerful instrument with a broad range of functions. The panel interface should indicate these functions to the user clearly, but in a way that is elegant and not ‘busy’. Features such as the tonewheel organ simulator were present on the MP6 (albeit in a less mature form), yet its interface was buried in the EDIT menu. Members of the product development team requested that the MP7SE’s improved tonewheel organ be more visible, and controllable in real-time. The amount of panel space available was already limited, however we able to use the existing zone interface to provide control over organ drawbars and percussion settings. These functions have a lower overall priority than the main zone controls, therefore their labels are printed below and grouped inside a highlighted box. Generally speaking, I believe the MP7SE panel design is clean and well-organised…and a definite improvement over the MP6 interface.

What are the main design changes/
improvements of the MP7SE compared
to the MP6?

The MP7SE design is completely different to the MP6 design, and adopts many of the visual characteristics of the MP11SE. This means that the MP7SE control panel is now flat, as opposed to being angled on the ‘classic’ MP models, with a gloss black finish instead of a lighter matte finish. The wooden side-arms adopt the same shape as the MP11SE, curving inward from the bottom instead of the top, and we retain their raised, semi-reflective surface [with the Kawai logo] behind the keys, giving the MP7SE a similar ‘piano-like’ feel. I essentially used the MP11SE design as the basis for the MP7SE, reducing the chassis dimensions for the more compact RH2 action. The result is a reunification of the MP series’ appearance that had become separated in the previous generation [the MP10 and MP6], and two new models [the MP11SE and MP7SE] that are clearly from the same lineage.

With the instrument’s chassis redesign complete, I then turned my attention to the control panel appearance and layout. As with the MP11SE, larger, brighter were chosen for improved legibility in low-light environments, while jack/connector names were also printed on both the back side and top panel as an extra convenience to the player. The familiar 8-8-4 SOUND/SETUP button configuration was retained from previous classic MP models, with MP11SE LCD, control knob, and cursor system replacing the smaller display and MENU/VALUE buttons.

I made some additional changes to the Zone interface, removing the zone selection buttons [this functionality is now offered by the F1~F4 buttons below the LCD], and repositioning the INT/EXT indicator LEDs. On the MP6, these LEDs were in a slightly confusing place to the right of the fader, so I repositioned them below the fader, which should improve clarity when quickly glancing at the panel. I also moved the master volume fader away from the zone faders, spaced-out other important controls to prevent accidental changes mid-performance, and relocated the pitchbend/modulation wheels to match the MP11SE’s positioning. I feel relatively small changes like these can be make a big difference to the player’s experience and understanding of an instrument, while also contributing to its visual appearance by reducing clutter.

What aspects of the MP7SE design are you most proud about?

I’m proud of the overall MP7SE design, and how well it matches the MP11SE. While working on the MP10 and MP6, it was always a little frustrating that the two instruments should have such different designs and interfaces. Now, a few years later, it’s satisfying to finally have the opportunity to remodel the ‘little brother’ MP and retired the classic chassis design that has existed since the late 90’s.

Of course I am very happy with the MP11SE, however I feel that the MP7SE is even more ‘timeless’ – it offers an excellent balance of price, performance, size, weight, features, and quality.

I feel that when customers see the MP11SE and MP7SE side-by-side, they will identify them as two professional stage pianos of the same series, and of the same high quality. As a designer, it is very satisfying to fulfil this goal.


As MP7SE materials writer, James was responsible for creating the instrument’s owner’s manual and developing the Kawai MP website.

What were your objectives for the MP7SE?

My objectives were to rewrite the owner’s manual from scratch to make it easier to read, and develop a content-rich website that raises the profile of MP instruments.

Can you outline the MP7SE owner’s manual writing process?

Initially I received technical documentation from Kira-san that explained the instrument’s main functions, and data such as parameters, default values, value ranges etc. This allowed me to plan the owner’s manual structure and estimate how much of the existing MP11SE documentation could be adapted for the MP7SE. A large portion of the EDIT menu is the same on both the MP11SE and MP7SE, however there are still a number of differences due to the 4-zone system and INT/EXT/BOTH handling.

I also received a prototype instrument from R&D which was placed beside my computer, allowing me to check functions, and write the necessary explanation without leaving my desk. Some functions were still in development, so I would prepare an explanation based on Kira-san’s theoretical documentation, then check and/or rewrite once the feature was implemented. Kira-san and I have a good working relationship, and I often provide feature suggestions or report bugs found while testing the prototype instruments. I feel it’s rather unique for the manual writer to be so closely involved in a product’s development (as opposed to out-sourcing the task to an unrelated agency), and this knowledge and insight undoubtedly helps when preparing marketing materials later on.

Once the completed owner’s manual had been fully checked by R&D and the layout data finalised, the text content was translated into multiple languages, with assistance from Kawai’s partners overseas.

What do the initials ‘MP’ mean to you?

‘Multi-Purpose’…I believe this is especially true for the MP7SE.

What are the differences between
the MP6 and MP7SE owner’s manuals?

The MP6 manual was an updated version of the MP5 and MP4 manuals, with some explanations dating back to the MP9500 and MP9000 documentation. The MP6 text itself is quite clear, however due to the way new features were added with successive instruments, the manual’s structure and order could be difficult to follow.

The MP7SE is a very powerful instrument, so it’s important that the manual documents functions as clearly as possible, in a way that all users can understand. The MP7SE owner’s manual adopts the layout and writing style guidelines of other Kawai digital piano manuals, albeit with some alterations to reflect the greater flexibility of the instrument. The MP7SE shares many functions and operations with the MP11SE, which allowed me to reuse large portions of the completed MP11SE documentation as the base for the MP7SE manual.

While the MP6 manual was arguably geared more towards higher-end users who were familiar with synths and digital music hardware, the MP7SE manual is written for a broader range of users, yet still provides the detailed information that experienced electronic musicians appreciate.

How does marketing for the MP11SE/
MP7SE differ from previous MP models?

The MP11SE/MP7SE marketing focuses heavily on online content, whereas previous instruments relied almost entirely on printed brochures and advertising in industry magazines. While I believe there are certainly merits to having printed materials (and we will continue to produce brochures for the foreseeable future), for specialist instruments such as the MP11SE/MP7SE, online media is really the only option.

When planning the MP website, I wanted to include as much information about the instruments as possible, explaining features from a player’s perspective in a level of detail that would simply not be possible using a traditional printed brochure. I also wanted the website to feel modern and advanced (reflecting the technology used in the instruments) by utilising the latest web technologies, and taking advantage of great services such as SoundCloud to host audio demos. Hearing how the instrument sounds is obviously an essential part of the buying process, so we attempted to provide a broad selection of demo clips featuring a range of voices and effects, and performed by a variety of players. We also appreciate that not all MP owners are live performers, or musicians that only play modern styles, so included classical piano audio demos featuring works from Chopin, Schumann and Lizst.

In addition to the MP website and SoundCloud, we also established Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube pages to foster a community among Kawai MP users and those interested in the instruments. These social network services also provide a convenient way to inform users about software updates and other related news.

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