Roland Product News
Pianos: expansion & tuition
Now you can ploy a piano concerto on your Roland Contemporary Piano, here's the backing orchestra.
The new EM-101 expander turns any of the MIDI Roland pianos into a touch-sensitive preset synthesizer capable of a whole range of solo and orchestral voices.
At under £300, the expander transforms the instrument it's plugged into. Roland pianos are built to meet the exacting requirements of classically trained pianists and the long keyboards, touch-sensitivity and expressive key action contribute to the musical possibilities of the expander.
Without losing the piano or harpsichord sound of the 'parent' instrument, it will give a choice of sixteen extra voices, eight polyphonic (ensemble) and eight monophonic (solo). The poly sounds include high and low strings, church, jazz and 'home' organ, mellow and bright brass sounds and 'poly synth' voice. The solo sounds are bass guitar, bass synthesizer, 'cello, clarinet, flute, violin and two synths.
The balance between the EM-101 sounds and the sound of the piano itself can be adjusted and with the solo section there's an ingenious system of low and high note priority. It works like this. Because the solo voices, like the instruments they represent, will not play chords but only allow one note to be played at a time, the EM-101 has to select which note will sound if more than one is played. With the low voices such as the bass and 'cello it selects the lowest note whenever more than one is pressed down. Therefore if you play normally, you will get the sound of the piano plus a bass line consisting of the lowest notes of the left hand piano part. On the other hand, the high solo voices such as the violin and flute have high note priority, so if you're playing piano normally the flute will always sound in unison with the highest note played by the right hand.
Touch sensitivity is another function which is used to vary the balance between the EM-101 and the parent keyboard. It's adjustable so a different level of touch response can be set on the expansion module from the parent piano. In this way, for example, you can have a brass section which only comes in when you play hard. A development of this is that the touch sensitivity on the EM-101 can be inverted. In other words, the harder you play the piano, the softer the orchestral backing will sound — allowing an accompaniment part which will swell or fade automatically according to how you play.
For greater control of the sound there are Brilliance and Attack functions, but the EM-101 has deliberately been kept very simple — just plug the MIDI DIN cable in, switch the unit on, and you're ready to go. The unit will sound through the internal amplification system of the piano or any external amplification system.
Time was when the only satisfactory way of teaching music was on a one to one basis. Roland's TL-12 Teaching Lab communications system has changed that and allows one teacher to teach twelve students as quickly and effectively as a single pupil.
Julia Young is typical of music teachers who have discovered the advantages of Roland's Teaching Lab.
Like many more progressive piano tutors, she finds electronic instruments such as the Roland HP series fit the bill perfectly for tuition up to Associated Board Grade 5 and even beyond. They're accessibly priced, unobtrusive and transportable, and have output sockets both to headphones and to an external sound system. Which is where the TL-12 comes in.
Julia's system involves a number of Roland HP-70 pianos connected up to the TL-12 communications desk. There are inputs for up to 12 instruments, and an elaborate network enabling instruments and groups of instruments to be listened to either by the teacher or by one another. The headsets have built-in microphones so the teacher and students can also talk to one another.
With fifty or sixty students on her books, Julia finds the TL-12 allows group teaching with as much individual attention as one-to-one teaching. Using the Teaching Lab it is even possible to run up to three 'subgroups' at different levels of ability by using the A, B and C group settings on the unit. Each intensive half-hour lesson is recorded, and the student takes away a tape recording of the lesson for practice purposes. After three days practice, there is another session with Julia and the TL-12, another set of new things to learn, and another cassette to practise with. The learning experience can be augmented by communal playing or by more advanced groups playing for the benefit of beginners' groups, all simply done by routing through the TL-12 and all, due to headphones, without disturbing anyone with earshot of the piano class.
Needless to say, there has been a dramatic increase in Roland Contemporary Pianos in the part of Dorset where Julia lives, but she is only one of many teachers exploiting the new technology. Waterford College use 6 HP-400's connected to a TL-12 for advanced music lessons, Hesse's of Liverpool have an in-store 'school' with HP-20's connected to the system for beginners, and the Teaching Labs are used at all levels in between. TL-12's currently retail at £1,118 for a six instrument system: a very acceptable price for both teachers who are able to fit more students in to the same number of hours, and for students who can enjoy the economy of group tuition without sacrificing the effectiveness of personal attention.
Roland Newslink - Autumn 85
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