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Roland Newslink - Summer 1985

Pianos You'll Feel At Home With

Article from International Musician & Recording World, August 1985

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This article was also published in Electronic Soundmaker & Computer Music, August 1985, and first available on mu:zines here:-

What you get with the new generation of Roland pianos are familiar, expressive touch characteristics, sparkling sound performance and attractive appearance. What you don't get are tuning problems, space problems and maintenance problems.

HP-100 - full piano expression for £710

For those whose piano-playing aspirations are larger than either their available space or their neighbours' patience, an electronic piano has long been established as the ideal solution. The advantages are clear: the instruments are relatively small, even portable; several different sounds are available on the one instrument; the tuning is rock steady and easily adjustable; and there will be a volume control (a luxury seldom afforded to an acoustic piano!) together with a headphone socket for those rare occasions when even your own family are sick of your playing. Electronic pianos also compare favourably price-wise — compared with the new cost of a good upright piano most electronics are a decided bargain.

The Roland Piano Plus range have always been at the leading edge of the market, adding new facilities and technology as they have become available, and the new HP-100 model is a natural successor to the established line. Sleek and streamlined, it's easily portable while managing to fit a full 6¼ octaves of standardised keys into its length. The keyboard itself is one of the most striking things about the new piano; using careful springing and weighting, Roland have managed to produce a synthetic keyboard which plays like a much more expensive wooden one. The action is firm and solid, needing a realistic amount of effort to play expressively, without ever feeling heavy or spongy. This keyboard action is linked to a very carefully designed, musical touch response, so that the playability of the piano is unparalleled.

Four individual voice presets are provided, giving a good range of tonal variation. Piano 1 is full and warm, with all the depth of an acoustic; Piano 2 is brighter, a crossover into the classic electro-acoustic piano sound; Piano 3 is lighter and more bell-like, while the Harpsichord gives a good authentic effect, bright and crisp but never harsh. The Harpsichord in fact is a prime example of electronics occasionally being more expressive than the real thing — when have you ever played a real touch-sensitive harpsichord? For a bit more variety, Roland's inimitable stereo chorus — often copied but never duplicated — is provided, giving a rich swirling effect which adds considerable depth and movement to the preset sounds.

In normal use the HP-100 will be heard through its own built-in stereo speakers mounted at either end of the top panel. No mere squawk-boxes these; they cope faithfully with the range of sounds and dynamics the instrument has to offer, with plenty of clean volume to spare.

These days the idea of using two or more different instruments together is no longer the prerogative of the wealthy professional; as keyboards become more affordable the amateur musician playing at home for pleasure can expand his or her horizons by adding synthesisers and so on, and the HP-100 incorporates several features with this in mind. To start with, there's a pair of stereo input sockets fitted so that a second instrument with no built-in monitors, such as the Juno-106, can be played through the HP-100's speakers. Furthermore, a full set of MIDI sockets (In, Out and Thru) is provided, so that the HP-100's excellent keyboard can be used to play any other MIDI-equipped instrument, from the Juno-106 to the mighty Super Jupiter.

In addition, computer systems are available, such as Roland's MSQ range and PR-800 Digital Piano Recorder, which will record the MIDI data relating to a complete performance so that the piano will replay exactly what was originally played on it, allowing the player to perform duets, practise, or even cheat! For further scope there's the PB-300 which gives a bass, percussion, chord and arpeggio backing complete with intros, fills, and the ability to vary in volume according to how hard you play.

In appearance, the HP-100 represents something of a departure from previous Roland piano styling, with its flat, uncluttered, dark wood finish top, twin black speaker grills and rugged black end cheeks, and is complemented by its attractive wood-finish stand. A hold, or sustain, pedal is provided as standard, duplicating the function of the right-hand pedal on a steam piano. For budding Irving Berlins who only want to play on the black notes, or for pianists accompanying those annoying singers who never want to sing a song in the key in which it was written, a simple transpose function, operated from the keyboard, allows the whole keyboard to be placed in any key, quite independent of the master tuning control.

Overall the HP-100 is small, compact yet packed with quality features normally to be found only on larger more expensive instruments.

Modern Classics

The HP-350 and HP-450 compete with acoustic instruments — on their own ground

A few years ago playing Liszt on an electronic piano would have been approximately comparable to playing Rodrigo's guitar concerto on a three-string ukelele. That is, very hard. Lovers of classical music, however, like lovers of jazz and other well developed styles, are finding the HP-350 and HP-450 a very different proposition. Long keyboards (seventy-five or eighty eight keys) allow the full range of classical compositions. The sounds can often capture the majesty of a concert hall performance in a way which the average living-room upright won't, because there is a choice of tonalities and the built-in Chorus effect electronically re-creates a feeling of space. Lastly, these pianos feel like the acoustic instruments classical masters composed for. The piano is the most emotive of instruments, and only now that Roland have linked a responsive action to full touch-sensitivity can piano classics be played as their composers intended. The electronic piano has come of age.

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Publisher: International Musician & Recording World - Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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International Musician - Aug 1985

Donated by: James Perrett

Roland Newslink - Summer 1985

Feature by Eliot Trevor

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