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Michael Ramos and Brandon Bush: On the Road with Los Lonely Boys and Train

Michael Ramos and Brandon Bush: On the Road with Los Lonely Boys and Train
For keyboardists Michael Ramos and Brandon Bush, the M-Audio ProKeys 88 proves to be the perfect stage piano both on the road and in the studio

When choosing a stage piano that will travel thousands of miles from venue to venue—each packed with thousands of fans—it’s essential to find an instrument that combines world-class sound with true-to-life feel. For multi-instrumentalist Michael Ramos (Los Lonely Boys, John Mellencamp, Charanga Cakewalk) and keyboardist Brandon Bush (Train), it was precisely this combination of features that caused them to choose the ProKeys 88 for their respective high-profile tours. As these versatile players will attest, the ProKeys 88 delivers exactly what they need to get the job done night after night.

With a home studio comprised of M-Audio interfaces, mics and preamps, the ProKeys 88 was an easy choice for Ramos. “I’ve used M-Audio gear extensively both in the studio and in live situations,” he attests. “I know from experience that M-Audio stuff works. It sounds great and I know it will be dependable.”

It takes a versatile instrument to recreate the complex and varied sound of the latest Los Lonely Boys record in a live arena. Ramos found everything he needed—rendered with a stunning degree of realism—within the ProKeys 88. “There are lots of piano sounds, Wurlitzer electric piano sounds, and some Clavinet on their new CD,” says Ramos. “I like the sounds in the ProKeys 88 because they seem very realistic to me. I’ve noticed in most other keyboards the piano sounds usually have this tinny, digital-sounding overtone, but that wasn’t present in the ProKeys 88. I used to own a Hohner D6 Clavinet back in the day. When I heard the Clav on the ProKeys 88, I was thoroughly impressed.”

For Bush, the biggest factor was finding a top-notch grand piano with great feel that would complement Train’s driving pop rock sound. “I wanted a keyboard that would be dedicated to just the piano sound that was dependable and easy to use,” explains Bush. “I worked with our front-of-house engineer to find a sound that would sit well in the mix for the size of venues we would be playing on this tour. I use the Grand Piano 1 sound, which sounds great in the two octaves above middle C, where I spend plenty of time in the typical Train set.”

Of course, dependability is a major factor when you have to dismantle and transport a rig almost daily. “I can’t believe how solid this keyboard feels and how great the action is for such a light package,” Ramos enthuses. “If you have a gig where you need great sounds and great feel, and you have to move your gear a lot...this keyboard was made for you.”

In addition to using the ProKeys 88, Bush relies on M-Audio controllers to play a range of samples and synths featured on the latest Train release. He recently exchanged his M-Audio Trigger Finger and Radium for the new all-in-one Axiom 25 keyboard controller with trigger pads. “The Axiom is great for me because in one unit I get the pads to trigger one-hit samples and a keyboard to play the synth parts. The Enigma software made programming the Axiom quick and painless. The backlit screen is great on stage as well.”

When traveling, Ramos also relies on M-Audio gear so he can keep recording and creating music everywhere he goes. “On the road, I use Pro Tools M-Powered with the M-Audio FireWire 1814. I’ll take a Solaris mic with me and if I need it, my Octane. I like to write and record on my days off. The great thing about being able to record on the road is that I can be working on projects that I bring from home.”