Freedom From Your 9 to 5

Manufacturers article index

This section focuses on the hardware and software of various piano and synth manufacturers, including Yamaha, Casio, Korg, Roland, Steinway and Baldwin.

Casio championing new musical education initiative

January 23, 2014

Following our report that Yamaha has updated its Disklavier Education Network comes Casio’s announcement that it will be championing musical education across US schools and colleges.

First up, educators attending the 2014 NAMM event can register to win their own Privia PX-350 digital piano, meet the Casio team and pick up a Casio information package on Saturday and Sunday at booth #5900.

Leader in music education advocacy and former associate of PBS’ Sesame Street and NAMM, Ms Jordan, said, “With many areas in the nation prioritizing a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to STEAM (including the Arts) approach, it is acknowledged that arts in education are extremely important for brain development and innovation. And today’s music students deserve access to learning music fundamentals with the piano, even in elementary school. We are proud to assist schools in refreshing their programs to address these increased needs.”

It has long been acknowledged that piano instruction sets the stage for further musical learning and development. Casio is offering up its range of keyboards, which stand up to the heavy use endured in school keyboard labs.

As a first step in the new initiative, Casio has donated six WK-225 digital keyboards to the new arts-integrated PS 532 New Bridge Elementary School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY in order to assist in launching a keyboard program for the young students. The WK-225 portable keyboard is especially suited for education as it features a 76-Key Piano Style Touch Response Keyboard with 600 onboard Tones, 180 Rhythms, and Reverb plus Chorus Digital Effects. It also includes Casio’s famous Step-up Lesson System, a 5-track recorder, audio inputs for an MP3 player and a class compliant USB port for MIDI.

“Our goal at Casio is to make learning music more accessible for everyone and we are excited to continue to dig in and make a difference in music education,” said Stephen Schmidt, Vice President of Casio’s Musical Instrument Division. “With the addition of Sandra Jordan and our new programs for music education dealers, we are confident that Casio’s increased presence in music education will benefit teachers and students, who can now have access to our feature-rich, quality instruments that meet the standards of music educators.”

Yamaha Disklavier Education Network (DEN) launches

January 17, 2014

Just before NAMM13, Yamaha launched the Disklavier Network and now, just before NAMM14 the company has announced its Disklavier Education Network First Audition Programme.

The Disklavier concept is now 25 years old, and is used in many music schools and other educational establishments in order to allow students to practice and the instrument reproduce accurate, note-for-note performances.

The press release states, “The initial focus of the new website is on the world’s first online college piano audition program that replicates an in-person performance, which runs from early January through mid February. Working in partnership with 17 community colleges and universities along with 27 audition sites, Yamaha is now offering young pianists the opportunity to record video-synchronized auditions on Disklavier PRO reproducing pianos that are shared with college admissions and scholarship committees over the Internet. At their convenience, audition committees will be able to access these time-shifted performances via the cloud, watching the students play on a large screen while their own piano reproduces these performances as though the student was in the room.”

Read more via Digital Journal.

Roland introduces C-380 classic organ

October 28, 2010

Roland C-380 classic organFor those who are looking for an authentic organ experience at home, Roland announces its C-380 classic organ. Building on other organs in the series, such as the C-330, Roland has created a lightweight, compact instrument with a range of classical organ features including:

  • High quality sound from Rodgers/Roland library
  • Compact and lightweight body features a luxurious Dark Oak finish and a roll top with lock and key
  • Cathedral-size sound thanks to the RSS ambience system
  • Satellite speakers for creating the spatial dynamism of pipes
  • Two 61-note manuals with tracker-action; 30-note parallel concave pedalboard
  • Instant switching between classical tunings, baroque pitch, etc.
  • Six User MIDI couplers for ultimate flexibility in registration
  • USB Flash Memory connector to store performances and registration sets
  • Divisional Mute function helps your practicing

RSS (Roland Sound Space) offers the rich, ambient sound of a real pipe organ, and the keyboards feature authentic tracker touch.

Each speaking stop of the C-380 controls three alternative voices (Voice Palettes) covering a wide range of taste and styles, from the Baroque era, through to the large romantic organs of the 19th and 20th Centuries. The C-380 contains USER Coupler functions which combine your choice from a palette of organ and orchestral sounds with the C-380’s own stops. This allows you to create hundreds of different sound combinations and then store them on the organ’s memory pistons.

More information is available on the C-380 product page.

Yamaha US hits 50

June 12, 2010

The US division of Yamaha Corporation has celebrated its 50th anniversary, having settled in a small office in Los Angeles in 1960.

For most of its time, however, the giant has been based at Buena Park, growing to become a top and instantly recognised name in the music industry and producing a wide range of musical instruments for a wide range of amateur and professional musicians.

In particular, certain Yamaha synths and keyboards have had a huge impact on the industry, from the sounds of the DX7 so prevalent in ’80s synth-based pop, to the Clavinovas found in so many schools, churches and homes.

“It’s an amazing product for the money,” musician John Mila de la Roca said. He manages the Keyboard Concepts Superstore, a piano dealer at the Tustin Marketplace. “I’ve sold all different brands of instruments. (Yamaha) is the first word out of everyone’s mouth, and everyone disagrees about who’s No. 2.”

Read more about Yamaha’s history in the OC Register article

Mellotron comes to iPad with launch of Mellotronics M3000 HD

June 12, 2010

I know we are going to see some incredible soft synths, emulators and simulators coming to the iPad over time, given its screen real estate and immense portability, and one of the first is Streetly Electronics’ and Omenie’s software implementation of the great Mellotron.

Mellotronics M3000 HD features 13 voices sampled directly from Streetly Electronics’ production tapes — those very same as used in classic tracks such as Strawberry Fields Forever, Nights in White Satin and Watcher of the Skies.

All 35 notes of each set have been sampled, and all keys are visible on screen and fully playable. There’s even a dozen programmable chord pads. See the demo video below for how these are used to good effect.

Martin Smith of Streetly Electronics, says “I was amazed to hear our classic sounds coming out of the iPad. This is the truest, most playable digital mellotron for iPhone OS, and it has to be heard to be believed.”

Apparently a version for the iPod Touch and iPhone is also in development, though I think it would be rather a struggle to play efficiently on such a small screen. You’d either need to select which keys to display on screen or perhaps use a stylus. Fat fingers beware.

The iPad version will be available from Monday 14 June priced $11.99. I’ll update with a link when it goes live in the App Store.


Patternarium: vote on computer-generated drum patterns for µTonic

June 9, 2010

I’ve just found this cool tool (via Synthtopia) that builds random, computer-generated drum and rhythm patterns for the µTonic VST/AU plugin.

Patternarium builds new patterns by mixing together two previous ones, creating a subsequent ‘generation’. Visitors to the site can vote each pattern up or down. Patterns with more positive votes have a higher chance of being used to create more patterns.

It’s audio evolution by public vote.

What’s more, all the patterns can be freely downloaded or copied for use in µTonic.

It’s a fairly simple concept but with a great interface and, most importantly, great sounds.

Check it out and see what you think.

Recommended Digital Pianos

June 26, 2009

Here is my current selection of favorite digital pianos that you can buy today.

Yamaha P-85 Digital Piano


More entry level digital piano with Yamaha’s realistic digital samples, realistic graded hammer touch, half pedaling and three pedal support, song recording, variety of other sounds.

Buy the Yamaha P-85 Acoustic-Like Touch Response AWM Stereo Sampled Tabletop Piano

Yamaha DGX630


Graded soft touch full size keyboard from Yamaha, featuring a 6-track recorder, DSP sound effects, a huge range of other sounds, virtual band, half-pedaling support.

Buy the Yamaha DGX630 88 Full-Sized Keys with Weighted Graded Hammer Action – AC Adapter Included

Yamaha P140


The digital piano I currently own. Has a great touch and good sounds. Though superseded by the Yamaha P155, still a recommended purchase. Half-pedaling support, graded hammer weighting.

Buy the Yamaha P-140 Portable Digital Piano

Yamaha CP300


This digital stage piano is specially built to withstand the rigors and requirements of gigging on the road. Authentic touch, a huge range of other sounds, 5-band equalizer.

Buy the Yamaha CP300 Digital Stage Piano

Casio Privia PX120


88-key piano keyboard with weighted keys, touch response, 128 note polyphony, various effects, Auto Accompaniment.

Buy the Casio PX120 Privia Digital Piano

Roland RD-700GX


88 keys PHA II Ivory Feel Keyboard with Escapement, Stereo Multi-sampled Piano Sound, range of other sounds, synthesizer capabilities, sound expansion cards.

Buy the Roland RD-700GX 88-key Digital Piano

Nord Stage EX 88


I love Nord’s range of keyboards, as much for their look as their capabilities. This 88 note stage piano offers both weighted keys and aftertouch, so it’s great for synth work too. Nevertheless, it’s lightweight, and comes with a range of sounds and effects.

Buy the Nord Stage EX 88, 88-Key Stage Piano

Disclaimer: I receive a small percentage of the sale price for anything you buy here, which goes towards maintaining this site. However, I fully endorse these digital pianos regardless of that, as I believe they are of high build quality and offer a great playing experience.

Steinway announces Q1 2009 results

May 6, 2009

Finances are pretty boring (to me, at least) so I’ll keep this brief.

Piano manufacturer Steinway has announced its 2009 first quarter financial results.

Sales dropped 26% to $70m, gross margin decreased to 26.6% from 29.1%, and the company had a net income of $1 million, down 49%.

Steinway’s CEO, Dana Messina, noted, “In the second quarter, we anticipate continued softness in band instrument sales. We expect our back-to-school season in the third quarter to be better and are building inventories to meet the expected customer demand. Our new products are gaining traction in the marketplace; we are excited about their prospects and expect them to do well for us beginning in 2010.”

“Piano sales have been dismal as dealers struggle with low traffic, a general lack of affordable financing and excess inventories,” said Messina. “We expect continued soft sales during the next few quarters until dealers gain more confidence that consumer demand is improving. Given the conditions, we have further reduced factory headcount, lowered production rates and reduced production days at both of our piano plants. We have aggressively reduced staff headcount and salaries to keep our expenses in line with sales. Looking forward, we believe that we can adapt to this new expense structure and increase profitability as demand recovers.”

Yamaha P155 digital piano: Complete specifications and gallery

April 25, 2009

If you want the lowdown on Yamaha’s new portable digital piano, the P155, then look no further. Here are complete specifications, pictures, and comparison with Yamaha’s earlier P series instruments.


  • The Yamaha P155 features samples taken directly from the CFIIIS 9-foot grand piano
  • Uses Yamaha’s Pure CF sampling technology with minimal audio post-processing
  • Dynamic Stereo Sampling (DSS) technology features 4-level piano sample
  • Key off and open strings samples
  • Graded Hammer technology – lower keys are heavier
  • 128 note polyphony
  • 12W x 2 speakers

Detailed Specifications

P155 Specifications
Keyboard88 keys, Graded Hammer (GH)
Tone Generation4-level AWM Dynamic Stereo Sampling
Pure CF SamplingYES
Key-Off Sampling/Stereo Sustain SamplingYES
Damper ResonanceYES
Polyphony (Max.)128
Reverb4 types
Brilliance3 types
Effect4 types
Scale Tuning Types7 types
Song Recording2-track recording/playback, 3 User Song
Preset Songs7 Demo Songs, 50 Piano Preset Songs
Jacks & Connectors
Headphones2 (stereo 1/4″ jack)
PedalsSustain Pedal, AUX Pedal
AUX OUT (Variable)L/L+R, R (1/4″ jack)
USB TO DEVICEYES (song data storage)
Amplifiers12W x 2
Speakers(12 x 6) cm x 2
Dimensions (W x D x H)52-1/2″ x 16-13/16″ x 5-1/2″
Weight18.6 kg (41 lbs.)
ColorsP-155: Black with Mahogany top-board
P-155B: Black with Ebony top-board
P-155S: Silver with Cherry top-board



  • Step up in (doubling) polyphony from P140 / P120
  • Return to P120’s variable output level 1/4″ audio jacks
  • USB output options
  • More scale tunings available
  • More advanced sampling

Buy Yamaha Digital Pianos at Amazon

Roland launches DP-990R digital piano [Musikmesse 2009]

April 2, 2009

roland-dp-990-digital-piano.jpgRoland updates its DP-990 digital piano line with the introduction of the DP-990R.

This full-size, 88-note keyboard boasts new realism in feel and look, with Ivory Feel keys and high-gloss polished ebony finish.

Playing the piano is as much about the feel as the sound, and Roland has put its PHA II Ivory Fell Keyboard with Escapement technology onto the digital piano, ensuring the lower range keys are heavier in touch than the higher ones.

Each key has been sampled multiple times for a more realistic sound, and that’s complemented by a range of natural effects including reverberation and realistic resonance, emulating an acoustic grand piano.

The inclusion of USB ports means it’s possible to load up digital audio into the piano and play along with it. A novel additional feature is twin-piano mode which splits the keyboard in two, each half covers the same octave range. The left and right pedals can also be reassigned as damper pedals for their respective split keyboard. Nifty.

Full specifications as follows:



88 keys (PHA II Ivory Feel Keyboard with Escapement)

Touch Sensitivity

Touch: 5 levels, Fixed Touch
Hammer Response: 10 levels

Keyboard Mode

Whole, Dual (volume balance adjustable), Split (split point adjustable), Twin Piano

Sound Source

Conforms to GM2/GS/XGlite

Maximum Polyphony

128 voices


306 tones (including 8 drum sets, SFX set)


8 types, selectable tonic

Stretched Tuning


Master Tuning

415.3 Hz to 466.2 Hz (adjustable in increments of 0.1 Hz)


Key Transpose: -6 to +5 (in semitones)
Playback Transpose (with Audio CD/Audio File): -6 to +5 (in semitones)


3D (4 levels)
Dynamics (3 types)
Reverb (10 levels)
Damper Resonance (only for piano tones, 10 levels)
Key Off Resonance (only for piano tones, 10 levels)
String Resonance (only for piano tones, 10 levels)


Tempo: Quarter note = 10 to 500

Beat: 2/2, 0/4, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 7/4, 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, 12/8

Volume: 10 levels

Metronome Sound: 8 types


Tracks: 3 tracks

Song: 1 song

Note Storage: Approx. 30,000 notes


Song Select
Track Mute (Mute level adjustable)
Tempo Mute
All Song Play
Song Volume
Center Cancel (only for Audio playback)

Tempo: Quarter note = 10 to 500

Resolution: 120 ticks per quarter note

Internal Memory

Songs: Max. 99 songs
Save Song: Standard MIDI Files (Format 0)

External memory

External Storage:

USB Memory
Floppy Disk (when using optional floppy disc drive)

Playable Software
Standard MIDI Files (Format 0/1)
Roland Original Format (i-Format)
Audio File (WAV 44.1 kHz/16-bit linear format)
Audio CDs (CD-DA) (when using a commercially available CD drive)

Save Song:

Standard MIDI Files (Format 0)

Internal Songs

65 songs + 7 Tone Demo Songs


USB connector
External memory port

Other connectors:
Output jacks (L/Mono, R)
Input jacks (L/Mono, R)
Headphones jack x 2 (Stereo)
MIDI connectors (IN, OUT)
DC inlet
Pedal connector


Rated Power Output: 12 W x 2

Speakers: 12 cm x 2 (with speaker box)

Display: 7-segments, 3 characters (LED), Beat LED

Control: Volume, Brilliance (21 steps)

Pedals: Damper (half-pedal recognition), Soft (half-pedal recognition, Function assignable), Sostenuto (Function assignable)

Other Functions: Panel Lock, V-LINK

Power supply: DC 12 V

Power Consumption: 48 W

Accessories: Owner’s Manual, AC Adaptor, Power Cord (for AC Adaptor), Headphone Hook

Options: USB memory, USB Floppy Disk Drive, USB CD Drive, CD Drive Holder,

Size and Weight ( lid close )

1,398 mm (55-1/16 inches) W x 344 mm (13-9/16 inches) D x 781 mm (30-3/4 inches) H

48.0 kg (105 lbs. 14 oz.)

Pricing and availability to be confirmed.

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