The Yamaha CP-80 is an electric piano used by Prince in the mid-1980s. It features a full piano frame with strings and hammers but uses a pickup to amplify the sound. Prince used a purple CP-80 on the 1999 and Purple Rain tours. Dr Fink discussed Prince's use of this CP-80 in the January 1991 issue of Keyboard magazine.
Unlike other electric pianos, the CP-80 is notable for having actual strings, amplified by a pickup. This proved to be a problem on tour as Prince liked to jump and dance on the piano. It was replaced on the Parade tour by a shell of a grand piano that contained a Yamaha KX88 controller and MKS-20 sound module. This set up proved successful and a variation of this prop appeared on most subsequent tours, including Sign O The Times tour and the Act I & II tours.
About three years ago, we had a real Yamaha grand [CP-80]. We put Barcus-Berrys and other pick-ups in there. They sounded okay, but they picked up a lot of ambient noise. And Prince used to get up on the piano and dance, so forget that. Anyway, the sound man came to me, because he didn't want to bug Prince, and said, "Matt, I got this problem with the sound in the piano. What do you think we can do?" I said, "There's this new MKS-20 thing. I think we should try that out, and put the Forte MIDI mod in the piano." So we put that in to trigger the MKS-20. I tried it out, and it sounded really good. Prince showed up for rehearsal a couple of days later. He had no idea that we had modified anything in the piano. He sat down at the piano and started playing, not saying anything. I walked over to him and said, "So what do you think of your piano sounds" He said, "Sounds really great! What did you do?" I told him what we had done because of the ambient noise problem. He said, "Wow! Good idea. Thanks a lot." The following year, the crew people came up and said, "We can't haul this big Yamaha grand around anymore. Besides, it's totally useless, since you don't even need the soundboard anymore." So I said, "Why don't you have a fake piano shell built, and mount a [Yamaha] KX88 in it?" That’s what they did, and they strengthened the top so that Prince could get up and do his stuff on top of it.
He would just put three or four tracks of Oberheim sounds together and use different voicings to make it thick and fat. The Oberheim was the main synthesizer he used in the studio back then. He used the Yamaha CP-80 electric grand too, but for synths, the Oberheim was the main axe. In the earlier years, he always liked to have a real strong lead line tone incorporated into his songs; that was a trademark of his. If you listen to "Delirious," from 1999, there's a real high Oberheim patch with a lot of modulation in there. It’s real lively – kind of a cross between an organ and a square wave.