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Casio PT-30

Article from Music UK, July 1983

Dave Crombie calculates his chances



Casio describe the PT-30 as a "Carry-Around Keyboard"... YOU can certainly carry it around if you wish — me?, I'd rather play it because it puts such a wealth of musical facilities at ones fingertips that one is constantly amazed how an instrument of such small dimensions (40 x 415 x 143mms) and cost (just £79) can produce such a full and varied sound. The PT-30 has a recommended retail price of £79, which has got to be good. As one might expect, having translated the above dimensions into inches, the PT-30 utilises Casio's mini-keyboard — it's the only way to get 2½ octaves into such a compact unit. In fact the PT-30 has a mini-mini-keyboard, it being smaller than the mini of the MT range, but bigger than the micro keyboard of the VL range — got that? I hope so. Actually, the tiny monophonic keyboard is surprisingly easy to get to grips with, although I found it necessary to keep looking at the keyboard, just to make sure. But I must take Casio to task over their choice of scaling — F to B is terrible. The top note should have been a C, it's very frustrating to find oneself hitting a static piece of plastic where the top C should have been; G to C would have been far better chaps.

To the left of the keyboard is a second single octave keyboard formed from black and white calculator type switches, and this is used to program the automatic accompaniment — more later.

The PT-30's main features are 1) 8 preset voices; 2) 18 rhythms; 3) Auto play, One Key Play, and One Chord Key Play; 4) Programmable memory; 5) Cassette dump (requiring the optional TA-1); 6) Monitor Speaker; 7) LCD data display; but most impressive of all is 8) Automatic chordal harmonization with the melody line — one plays a tune and the PT-30 automatically generates a suitable backing accompaniment. Let's start with the eight preset voices; for one's amusement Casio have provided monophonic realizations of: a Piano, a Harpsichord, an Organ, a Violin, a Flute, a Horn, and in addition there are two abstract presets, 'Fantasy' and 'Mellow'; now these aren't at all bad considering the cost, and of course it's virtually impossible to make any attempt at simulating a pianoforte with a monophonic instrument. These voices are selected via a row of calculator type keys above the keyboard.

To select a rhythm however one has to first go for the 'Rhythm' button, then hit the note on the keyboard that corresponds to the desired rhythm. The patterns are good, though the percussion voices, in particular the bass drum, leave room for improvement, but by simply feeding the signal through an external amplifier, the tone quality is dramatically improved. The patterns are of course the old favourites — from waltz to ballad, rock to disco and bossanova to samba.



"...IT IS POSSIBLE TO PROGRAM INTO MEMORY BOTH THE CHORDS AND MELODY LINES..."


Now we approach, with trepidation, the automatic section proper. On its own, the calculator keyboard is used to set the root of the accompaniment note, but in addition to these switches there are eight further notes designed to specify the type of chord based on that root. It is possible to generate diminisheds, suspended 4ths, minor 6ths, 6ths, maj. 7ths, minor 7ths, and 7ths with this section — that is quite staggering, and not many of the £2000+ organs can boast this kind of chord generation technology!

So by simply pressing the root and chord type switches simultaneously it is possible to produce complex chordal accompaniment to the rhythm and melody lines, which by then should be going full tilt.

Now, it is possible to program into memory both the chords and melody lines in several different ways. For example one can firstly load in the melody line (with or without a chordal accompaniment) in real time; or if one's playing is a little shaky, one can first enter the melody notes, then load the respective timings using the 'One-Key-Play' facility, and then add the chords on later; or yet another option allows one to load in just chords, these can then be replayed at the touch of a button (the 'One-Key-Chord'), the melody line can thus be introduced afterwards, hence one doesn't have to worry about getting the right buttons down.

The PT-30 provides 508 steps of memory, and each note takes up one step, a chord one and a half steps. The 508 memory steps can be split up into 8 areas (M1 to M8), each of 63.5 steps, in order that several different songs can be pre-loaded into the unit. Now, would you believe that you can further sequence these memory chunks? For example one can get M1 to play twice (say) followed by a burst of M2, then back to M1 and then on to M3 etc. So, long and involved compositions can be realised with relative ease — the liquid crystal display indicating quite clearly what is happening. All this programming can become quite time consuming, so I would recommend the purchase of a TA-1 cassette interface unit which enables you to down load the data, complete with a file number (for ease of future recall) onto an audio cassette via a standard player. Very useful and time saving.



"THE PT-30 PROVIDES 508 STEPS OF MEMORY..."


Now, I've saved the best bit to last — the 'Automatic Chord Harmonics.' This circuit will study the melody line as programmed above, and automatically generate what it thinks to be a suitable chord accompaniment — and it works nine times out of ten. If however, the programmed tune breaks the rules on which the PT-30's ACH system is based, then there are three alternative chord structures pre-programmed into the unit, and one simply has to press the 'Change' button to find one that is better suited to the melody. And, as this chordal info is displayed in the LCD, you soon start to grasp simple accompaniment theory for yourself.

The PT-30 really is an impressive piece of hardware, with so much to offer that it hurts.... well it hurts the opposition anyway! Casio have now been designing musical instruments for some five years or so, what'll 1990 see them doing?

Likes: Dislikes:
Programmability Bass Drum Voice
Compositional Utilities No top 'C' on keyboard
Chordal range
Auto Chord Harmonics
LCD Display
Clear Control Layout
Owner's manual


CASIO PT-30 (RRP £79 inc. VAT)


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Publisher: Music UK - Folly Publications

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Music UK - Jul 1983

Gear in this article:

Keyboard - Home/Personal > Casio > PT-30

Review by Dave Crombie

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