In 1954, Kakehashi opened Kakehashi Musen (Kakehashi Radio). Once again his interest in music intervened, this time leading him to develop a prototype organ. In 1960, Kakehashi Radio evolved into Ace Electronic Industries. The FR1 Rhythm Ace became a standard offering of the Hammond Organ Company, and Ace Electronic Industries flourished. Guitar amplifiers, effects units, and more rhythm machines were developed, but as a result of various business-equity involvements, Ace was inadvertently acquired by a company with no interest in musical products, and Kakehashi left in March 1972. One month later, Kakehashi established Roland Corporation. The first Roland product, not surprisingly, was a rhythm box.
Fast-forward to 1986, when the introduction of the RD1000 stage piano was Roland's first entry in what would become the digital piano category. Today Roland offers more than two dozen models of digital piano covering every facet of the category: slabs, verticals, grands (including moving-key player pianos), ensembles, and stage pianos. Some Roland digital pianos are even assembled in the U.S. at the Roland-owned Rodgers Organ factory, in Hillsboro, Oregon.
Of particular interest to those looking for educational features are the HPi models, which include a substantial suite of educational capabilities supported by a music-desk–mounted LCD screen. The newly introduced LX models add traditional-looking vertical pianos to the line. Roland can also lay claim to the most extensive collection of model designations in the world of digital pianos. While this is hardly a drawback, it does present a challenge when sorting through the model lineup; the chart of "Digital Piano Specifications and Prices" will help to clarify things.
The V-Piano is the first digital piano to rely entirely on physical modeling as its tonal source. Physical modeling breaks down a piano's sound into discrete elements that can be represented by mathematical equations, and creates the tone in real time based on a complex series of calculations. There are no acoustic piano samples. For more information about physical modeling, please see, elsewhere in this issue, "Digital Basics, Part 1: Imitating the Acoustic Piano" and "My Other Piano Is a Computer: An Introduction to Software Pianos."
The HP models are the core of Roland's home digital piano offering, and the latest models share Roland's new SuperNATURAL® piano sound engine, differing from each other primarily in the specifications of their audio systems and actions.
Samick Music Corporation
1329 Gateway Drive
Gallatin, Tennessee 37066
Samick, in the process of expanding its presence in the digital piano market, now makes four grand and nine vertical models. The company's Kohler line of digitals has been discontinued.
P.O. Box 710459
Santee, California 92072
Suzuki sells its line of digital pianos on its website, through other online outlets, and through Costco. Models change frequently.
90-02 Atlantic Avenue
Ozone Park, New York 11416
Symphony digitals are manufactured by Zhejiang Youyi Electronic Co. Ltd., one of China's larger digital piano makers, located in Zheijiang Province, China. A similar line of digital pianos appears to be distributed in Canada under the Bellissimo label.
P.O. Box 5111
Thousand Oaks, California 91359
Williams digital pianos, a house brand of Guitar Center, are also available through Guitar Center's Musician's Friend e-commerce website and two other e-commerce sites. There are seven models from Williams, including four verticals, two slabs with optional stand, and one grand.