John Legend finds the Yamaha C3 hits all the right notes

John Legend

'For me the Yamaha C3 has a certain character that really suits the sound of my voice, the style of my songs and the way I play,' said John Legend

Six-time Grammy award-winner John Legend was born John Stephens in Ohio in 1978. He adopted the name Legend because ‘a friend thought I sounded so much like an old-school artist. Although I knew it was presumptuous, I thought, “Well, now I’m gonna have to try and live up to it.”’

His 2004 debut album Get Lifted sold more than three million copies worldwide.

Today Legend divides his time between homes in New York and LA and is currently touring the UK promoting his single Shine, out next month.

I started playing the piano when I was three years old. I was brought up in Ohio, in a churchgoing, music-loving household, and we had a beaten-up old upright in the sitting room. It had been passed down through the family from my mother’s side.

In fact, both sides of my family are very musical. My grandmother was a church organist and she taught me a lot of the gospel songs when I was growing up.

When I was four I started taking lessons. I don’t remember it being difficult to pick up and I remember thinking I was pretty good. It wasn’t long before I played my first recital.

As a boy I was influenced by a lot of Stevie Wonder, and whenever I saw Michael Jackson on television I figured I’d like to do what he was doing.

Then in my teens I listened to artists like Jodeci, LL Cool J, Boyz II Men and MC Hammer, and that influenced my songwriting further.

Yamaha C3

Sound-wise, the timbre of the piano is superbly rich and deep, which really suits me because most of my songs have a soulful feel and are rooted in gospel

Years later, when I first became successful, I tried out lots of different pianos, including Steinways, but in the end I found Yamahas to be the best.

For me the C3 has a certain character that really suits the sound of my voice, the style of my songs and the way I play.

It’s beautifully made and looks fantastic in the matt-black finish that I chose. It gives it a very modern look, which I much prefer to that of shiny, black lacquer pianos – they always show fingerprints too much.

I particularly like the action of the keys, which is quite heavy and therefore forgiving if I make a mistake. If you accidentally graze a key it won’t go down and play the wrong note.

Sound-wise, the timbre of the piano is superbly rich and deep, which really suits me because most of my songs have a soulful feel and are rooted in gospel.

Yamaha C3
Yamaha C3

I particularly like the action of the keys (left), which is quite heavy and therefore forgiving if I make a mistake. Its sustain pedal (right) gives the notes an airier feel and is great for slower, more atmospheric tracks

Another thing I particularly like is its sustain pedal, which gives the notes an airier feel and is great for slower, more atmospheric tracks.

These days I write all my songs on either my C3 in Los Angeles or my other Yamaha, which is an upright that doesn’t take up too much room in my smallish apartment in New York.

I tend to think of myself as more of a singer-songwriter than a musician, because although I rate myself as an OK pop pianist, I’m not as good as a session player or someone like Jamie Cullum, who’s a significantly better piano player than I am.

In LA, although my piano sits in my living room, I have it connected directly to my studio next door so that I can record anything that I come up with.

Yamaha C3

When I first became successful, I tried out lots of different pianos, including Steinways, but in the end I found Yamahas to be the best

There are times when I’ll go for long stretches without playing my C3 and then there are times when I just can’t leave it alone.

I don’t sit down with the intention of writing a song about this or that; I just start playing and see where the music takes me, and hopefully some lyrics will pop into my head.

My only complaint about the Yamaha is that the stool that comes with it isn’t particularly comfortable, although I guess it’s not a great idea to be too relaxed when playing the piano.

But I love the C3 just as it is. It looks and sounds great and there’s nothing I’d change about it.

They’re expensive, sure, but quality always comes at a price!


Yamaha C3 from £17,500, Yamaha baby grands from £6,950, chappellofbondstreet.co.uk


Or have a tinkle with one of these...



We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now