Roland’s digital piano keyboards have a long standing reputation within the music industry for demonstrating consistent innovation in their designs. Founded in 1972 as a manufacturer specializing in electronic musical instruments, they have been a focal point in modern music history for the past 50 years. Hence why they decided to celebrate by making a digital piano which is both futuristic and laden with history in style.
The one-piece wooden body that incorporates Japanese oak was created in collaboration with Japanese furniture designer Karimoku.
The Roland name has been revered amongst the best of the music industry and there is such a rich history of those who have used any one of Roland’s pianos. Now, even though this new design is different from the Roland digital grand piano, the fact that there is a lid – a clamshell lid I may add – could be a nod to the classical style of piano. There is a fusion of old and new and you can clearly see this in the design.
Since the release of Japan’s first electronic pianos, the EP-10 and EP-20, in 1973, and the world’s first touch-sensitive electronic piano, the EP-30 (1974), the RD-1000 (1986), Roland has continuously worked to transform the space. Additional innovations including the V-Piano (2009), the Kiyola (2015), jointly developed with the Japanese furniture maker Karimoku, and the Facet Grand Piano (2020), the Grand Prize-winning design searching for the piano of the future showcases how Roland has continued to innovate electronic pianos over decades.
Roland states; “The wooden body promises to help deliver truly resonant piano tones from the speakers, which Roland says are powered by its latest technology. The company also claims to have come up with a keyboard that offers a touch that’s more natural and responsive than ever before”.
There are 3 foot pedals and a wooden stool which comes with the model.
The model highlights where Roland pianos have been and where they are going. Or, as Yoshiyasu Kitagawa, the Piano Development Division Head, says, “We would like our customers to expect that Roland and our pianos will never stop evolving.” “Based on the PureAcoustic Modeling technology announced in 2018,” explains Kitagawa. “We have continued to refine our modeling technology through the Facet in 2020. More complex and advanced modeling calculations and multi-channel speakers create a realistic piano sound. We also developed an innovative keyboard sensing algorithm (patent pending). As a result, we have achieved a keyboard touch that provides a more natural response than ever before.” This natural response extends to the pedal, with a faithful reproduction of the noise that the physical mechanism creates.
The new model was not without its challenges. Incorporating the legacy instruments was particularly difficult, given they all come from different eras of Roland’s history and synthesis models. They also had to sound natural through the sound field of the new unit. “It was difficult to recreate the tone of the time,” remembers Takahiro Murai, General Manager of Roland Keyboard Instrument Development dept. However, the team was able to do it “through trial and error, based on the opinion of a legendary engineer who knew the original sounds.”
The unique wooden body of the 50th Anniversary Concept Model also presented some difficulties. “The cabinet, which is formed as a single body,” says Murai, “is extremely rigid. We could realize a speaker driver faithful to the original sound. This was a great help in creating the expected tone and sound field.” To make sure the cabinet was just right, Roland once again called upon the assistance of the furniture company, Karimoku.
Roland wanted to create a model that was not just to be kept in the corner of the room, but one that is a home grand piano of the future. The mixture between the traditional materials and its modern feel is such an amazing feat to have accomplished.
“In contrast to KIYOLA, which comes from assembled parts, we created the new model by machine-cutting layers of small wooden pieces from digital data and stacking them to shape a single body,” Fujimori adds. “We incorporated the concept of 3D printing, in which cross sections are made with high accuracy and layered, and the ancient method of manufacturing Buddhist statues based on the characteristics of wood movement, etc.”
SDGs stand for sustainable development goals and these were a very important aspect of this model. The new model uses Japanese Nara oak wood from Hokkaido, as oak is hard and heavy. However, Karimoku used already cut, small-diameter oak. This ensures that the model can be repaired when needed and not discarded like many modern electronics.
“We want users to get past the digital and acoustic concept and enjoy the natural performance and beauty purely as a piano,” Kitagawa says. “And we want the users to experience the advances of technology from the past to the present and the future.” The 50th Anniversary Concept Model will tour the world along with a revolutionary new sound system that must be heard and seen to be believed.
The Jupiter-X shares the limelight with the digital piano with the 50th Anniversary Concept Model Piano. It is a model with an intrepid design featuring a black keyboard with gold accents and is attracting attention at events around the world.
We should also mention that the Roland 50th anniversary concept model electronic drum kit, project D-Flux, was designed to reimagine the modern drum. With the newly developed D-Flux pads, which inherit the geometric shape of the Alpha Drum, multiple tones can be assigned to a single pad to express a variety of drum sounds. For the bass drum, Roland developed a unique belt kick feature with two beaters and two belts, replacing the conventional drumhead to achieve a dynamic bass drum performance.
It is fair to say that the 50th Anniversary Concept Model is an example of evolution in the modern music era. The celebration of Roland’s history of piano, drums and synthesizer innovation is one that has been championed in the industry. Roland are the music innovators of the future and long may it continue!