With Piano COSM, players can alter many parameters of the V-Piano's virtual components to create their own custom-designed pianos. For example, the "unison tuning" of any single note or group of notes can be adjusted, just as a piano technician would do when tuning an acoustic piano. While digital pianos have long had the ability to raise or lower the overall tuning of the instrument, the V-Piano is the first digital piano to allow tuning at the single-string level, an option that many players have found creates a warmer, more acoustic sound.

In a similar fashion, players can alter the hardness of the hammers, just as a technician would do when voicing an acoustic piano. This lets pianists create a brighter, bolder timbre or a softer, mellower tone, depending on personal preference and/or the music to be played. String, damper, soundboard, and cross resonances can also be customized to dial in the perfect tone.

The V-Piano includes 16 Vintage and 12 Vanguard piano model presets on board. The Vintage pianos are inspired by a variety of actual piano types, while the Vanguard presets represent piano designs that do not exist in the real world, but are possible with the V-Piano's ability to drastically alter fundamental components of the piano. Roland recently introduced free downloadable software that allows V-Piano owners to upgrade their instruments with the latest presets.

SuperNatural Piano Technology

A third key development that emerged from the V-Piano is Roland's new SuperNatural piano technology, which is a key component in the expressiveness of the V-Piano and is now included in the newest of Roland's finest digitally sampled pianos.

As discussed in the Digital Piano Basics article mentioned above, conventional digital pianos use sampling, in which digital recordings are made from an acoustic grand piano. When done using very high recording standards and powerful digital processing, sampling can yield a superb piano tone. However, even the best sampling-based piano sound engines have certain inherent limitations or shortcomings.

One is called looping, in which the last few seconds of the sampled tone are repeated over and over as the volume diminishes. This requires less memory and therefore costs less, but many critical listeners and/or skilled players will find it unsatisfactory. With SuperNatural piano technology, decaying sounds linger and fade away naturally without looping, for a more realistic sound.

Another shortcoming common to most digital pianos is that groups of as many as seven adjacent notes are based on the same basic sample. The critical ear will often detect an abrupt change in tone color as the player moves from one sample "zone" to the other. Roland's SuperNatural piano technology uses a discrete sample for each of the instrument's 88 notes, resulting in a smooth tonal transition across the entire range of the keyboard.

Yet another problem of sampling-based digital pianos has to do with dynamic range. In acoustic pianos, as one plays more forcefully, not only does the volume increase, but the tone color changes, as more high-frequency overtones come into play. With small dynamic changes, this tonal change is very subtle and smooth. However, sampling-based digital pianos often have an audible and unnatural change in tone color as the player moves from pianissimo to fortissimo. With Roland's SuperNatural piano technology, there is a seamless variation in tone across the dynamic range, just as with an acoustic piano.

For more information: A brief video at www.RolandUS.com/Supernatural includes audio clips of the SuperNatural sound vs. the sounds of traditional sampling-based instruments.

John Norton is Product Specialist, Pianos & Specialty Keyboards, Roland Corporation U.S.