Casio Grand Hybrid at The Trinity Proms 2018

The Trinity Proms 2018 took place on Saturday 7th July, marking the end of the School year. This delightful evening showcased both the best of Trinity School homegrown musical talent, alongside special guests Johan Hugosson (composer/pianist) and Hannah White (singer-songwriter)

During the evening we were treated to two remarkable performances from pianists Amiri Harewood and Johan Hugosson on our unique Grand Hybrid piano. Amiri Harewood on 16 years old, is the 2018 Trinity Musician of the Year. 

Johan Hugosson was born in Sweden and studied piano at the Royal College of Music. While at RCM he won a number of prizes, including the coveted Chopin and Beethoven prizes respectively.

The evening came to a close with an amazing performance by the Trinity School Big Band, playing under the direction of band leader Lewis Brito Babpulle.

We had the pleasure to talk to Amiri Harewood, Johan Hugosson, Lewis Brito Babpulle about their passion for music, music education and all things Grand Hybrid...

https://youtu.be/xdrSMJE8Qwk

Lorraine Liyanage reviews The Grand Hybrid Competition at the Dulwich Music Festival

The Dulwich Music Festival runs several events throughout the year for piano at various London venues. The festival was established in 2012 by South London-based musician Lorraine Liyanage to address the need for local music events in the vibrant community of South London. 

The Festival is always an exciting time for Casio. This year however, the Festival was even more stimulating than usual: Casio teamed up with Dulwich Music Festival for the first digital piano competition for amateur pianists of all ages.

We had nearly 60 performers participating in a free piano competition on Sunday 11 June 2018 at Kingsdale Foundation School in South London. Find out more about the event below, in the word of Lorraine Liyanage

DulwichMusicFestival_Photo-Matthew-Pull_163-768x512.jpg

This is the third year the festival has been sponsored by Casio but the first time we have offered a competitive music platform solely on digital pianos.

We believe this is the first-ever digital piano competition held in the UK (and maybe further afield!). The competition was adjudicated by Claire HarrisNikolas SiderisBen Norburyand Alison Mathews.

Casio have gone one step further than recreating the sound of a grand piano and that is making the digital piano  feel like a grand piano. They have incorporated C. Bechstein’s traditional wooden keys into the Grand Hybrid and it has also brought in a natural grand hammer action to enhance response and feedback, which in turn should enhance the expressiveness of playing. The Grand Hybrid feels satisfyingly weighty under the keys and I have not played another digital piano that actually feels like an acoustic piano.

DulwichMusicFestival_Photo-Matthew-Pull_160-768x512.jpg

We had nearly 60 performers participating in a free piano competition on Sunday 11 June 2018 at Kingsdale Foundation School in South London.

Wiktoria Cwik, student of the Womack-Banning Piano Academy in Bedford performed in the piano competition and has decided to order a Casio Grand Hybrid digital piano as she embarks upon a music career once she leaves secondary school:

WiktoriaCasioBenFeedback-768x454.jpg

Wiktoria says: “My teacher, Lorraine Womack, is a Casio Grand Hybrid Ambassador and suggested that I should upgrade my digital piano to a Casio Grand Hybrid Piano now that I am studying towards my Grade 7 exam. As I am looking to pursue my musical studies at university once I leave school, this instrument ticks all the boxes for me! I was delighted to have the opportunity to perform in the Casio Grand Hybrid Piano Competition at Kingsdale School as well as speak to Casio expert Andy Brown who gave us all the information to satisfy us that this is the right piano for us to purchase. We are ordering the piano this week and as I know it will greatly improve my playing to have such a beautiful instrument. I will be taking this instrument to University with me so it will accompany me on the next stage of my exciting musical journey.”

DulwichMusicFestival_Photo-Matthew-Pull_105-768x512.jpg

Many of my piano teacher colleagues are members of the new Casio Grand Hybrid Ambassador scheme info.casio.co.uk/pianoteachernetwork This allows us the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of the instruments and make recommendations to our students that are seeking a high-quality digital piano for use at home. One of my favourite features of the instrument which makes it ideal for learners is the Record and Playback function of the piano. I always encourage my students to record their performances and listen back to them to critique and review their technique and interpretation. The playback function lets you pause, fast-forward, rewind and A-B segment your performance during playback. This is a fantastic feature that lets you improve your playing skills by reviewing your own performance objectively afterwards.

I also love the Concert Play function that improves students’ listening skills by playing along with live orchestra audio. Very few pianists will have the option to play with a live orchestra but with the Grand Hybrid piano, it is entirely possible to bring the orchestra to you and for you to become the soloist! Listen to the Concert Play sample tracks online. You can also choose which acoustic setting you want your performance to take place in – cathedral, opera house or concert hall. The choice is yours!

We interviewed Roberta Wolff, pianist, piano teacher, adjudicator and owner of Music, Me, Piano about her thoughts on her Grand Hybrid Piano:

 

For more information about the Casio CELVIANO Grand Hybrid pianos, please email me. You can play the pianos at Musicroom in Denmark Street, WC2, open 7 days a week.

View the Casio digital piano range online:

GP-400 Celviano
GP-500 Celviano

" I love my Casio hybrid piano. It has enhanced both my piano teaching and personal music making opportunities.

The touch is authentic and the sound quality is great. Many pianists who visit comment on the quality of sound.

I enjoy having two pianos for teaching. With younger students the duet mode works well when playing in unison along side the student. This helps develop listening skills and rhythmic playing in a very intuitive way.

For older students it is comfortable to teach from one piano whilst the student uses the other. We also play together during the learning stages of a piece which is a very instinctive way to refine skills such as rubato, tone and shaping.

The various features like hall simulator, listener position, light to heavy touch options and different piano sounds are very useful, especially in the run up to a performance. I set the piano up differently each week and the student has to play on it and respond and alter touch in real time to create a balanced performance.  A particularly fun and informative setting is harpsichord with no touch response (this sounds terribly unmusical, I know) but I use this when a student is underplaying the bass lines, particularly in Bach. There is a light bulb moment when they suddenly hear balance between their own hands.

I use this piano along side my Steinway model O when playing two piano repertoire. It does a good job of holding its own against my grand. Sight reading concertos with the orchestral backing is a very rewarding way of improving this skill. There are also a range of other instrument voices to select which add colour and depth when we play in groups.

The record function is ever useful and just last week I recorded a set of backing tracks for a singer who needed a specific key.

The Casio hybrid is great value for money. It is easy to use and I wouldn’t be without it now.

Roberta Wolff

www.musicmepiano.co.uk –

Highly acclaimed practice resources for students of all ages and stages. Instant download available as well as many freebies.

www.robertawolff.co.uk –
Please check out my website for further details on what I offer in addition to piano lessons."

DulwichMusicFestival_Photo-Matthew-Pull_111-768x512.jpg

For more information about the Casio CELVIANO Grand Hybrid pianos, please email me. You can play the pianos at Musicroom in Denmark Street, WC2, open 7 days a week.

View the Casio digital piano range online:

GP-400 Celviano
GP-500 Celviano

What is a Hybrid Piano? 7 Things you should know...

In a world of modern tech, we're quite used to the word 'hybrid'. If something is a hybrid, it means that it's a mixture of two different ideas, which gives improved performance over conventional designs.

So, you probably know that a Hybrid car combines petrol and electric motors for cleaner emissions. But, what's about a hybrid piano all about?

1. No Strings Attached. 

 Grand Hybrid pianos have moving hammers, to make the key feel more authentic when playing.

Grand Hybrid pianos have moving hammers, to make the key feel more authentic when playing.

The keys of an acoustic piano are connected to hammers which hit strings to make the sound. A hybrid piano also has hammers but produces sound electronically. This means there are no strings to tune, and the instrument can be made smaller to fit into living spaces more easily.

2. Hammers make the touch more authentic.

Although there are no strings, it is important to keep the hammers. It's this moving mechanism attached to each key that pianists can feel when they play. If you remove this, as most digital pianos do, the movement of the keys is different (even though the keys themselves might look similar).

 Hybrid pianos have full-length, wooden keys

Hybrid pianos have full-length, wooden keys

3. Hybrids have real piano keys.

Most digital pianos have keys that are made of plastic, or a mixture of wood and plastic. This is not true of acoustic pianos, where the key is shaped from specially-grown Austrian Spruce. Casio's Grand Hybrid pianos have keys made from exactly the same wood, for an authentic feel.

4. Hybrids use the same key length as acoustic pianos.

82% of surveyed teachers said that the feel of the keys is the most important part of a piano. But, conventional digital pianos often don't measure up in this area: their plastic keys are shorter when compared to an acoustic piano. This compromises the key movement and the instrument feels less realistic. With a hybrid piano, the key length is the same as an acoustic piano, which means the travel and bounce of each key is much closer to that of a real Grand. 

 Grand Hybrid pianos have three different Grand Piano tones stored inside them, such as a C. Bechstein D282 (right). 

Grand Hybrid pianos have three different Grand Piano tones stored inside them, such as a C. Bechstein D282 (right). 

5. You can have three different Grand piano sounds in one instrument. 

Because the sound of a hybrid piano is produced digitally, without strings, you can make the instrument produce more than one traditional piano tone. Casio's Grand Hybrid range includes the tone of three of Europe's most finest brands of acoustic piano, including a £115,000 C. Bechstein D282 piano. 

Irene Veneziano plays "Allegro de Concierto, OP. 46" by Enrique Granados on a CELVIANO Grand Hybrid GP-500BP in the beautiful gardens of Palazzo Gromo Losa in Biella (Italy).

6. You can play them in the garden.

Ok, not permanently, but the serious point here is that a hybrid piano is more resilient than its acoustic counterpart. This means it will live happily in spaces that wouldn't be suitable for traditional pianos, such as in direct sunlight, a conservatory or summer house, or next to a radiator. 

7. You can plug headphones in, for silent practice.

Even though hybrid pianos use a lot of acoustic piano principles for their feel, the sound is purely digital, so can still plug in headphones and get the best of both worlds: the touch of an acoustic piano with the convenience of digital sound. 

To find out more about Casio's award winning Grand Hybrid range, visit

 

 

 

 

Explore the Grand Hybrid Range:

What's the best digital piano for beginners?

ChristopherStanbury.jpg

Need some help choosing your first digital piano for 2018? 

Music teacher, Dr Chris Stanbury reviews two of the best digital pianos for beginners. 

 The CDP-130 is an ideal starter digital piano

The CDP-130 is an ideal starter digital piano

A digital piano can give you a great start in music, and they're ideal for home use. Not only do they fit into compact living spaces, but you can also plug in headphones and they don't need tuning. Many students ask me what is the best digital piano for beginners, and I’ve found two from Casio UK which should be at the top of your shopping list.

Casio CDP-130

As one of the most affordable digital pianos on the market, I was genuinely impressed with what the Casio CDP-130 has to offer. I’ve seen and heard quite a few other products that are available for a similar price, but I have to say that the CDP-130 offered the best in terms of sound and touch of all the starter digital pianos that I've tried. It's no wonder that this is such a popular instrument amongst beginning piano students and often recommended by piano teachers worldwide.

Above all, it’s really important that a digital piano has touch sensitive keys and a weighted keyboard. This means that the keys have a slight resistance to being pushed down, just like an acoustic piano. Learning to play against this key resistance is an essential piano playing technique.

 the cdp-130 is an ideal choice for beginner pianists of all ages

the cdp-130 is an ideal choice for beginner pianists of all ages

So, choosing a digital piano that reproduces this key weighting correctly is really important, as having something which sounds nice but doesn't really feel like an acoustic piano can do more harm than good. Thankfully, the touch and key weighting of the CDP-130 was great and ideal for beginners. I felt sure that piano students of all ages would be encouraged to play in the right way with this instrument. 

How a digital piano sounds is also very important, of course.  When you’re trying out a digital piano, try this: play any key quickly and with force, and you should hear a tone that is both loud and bright, with a clear, ringing tone. Then, play the same key slower and with less force. The resulting note should be quieter but also much more mellow in character.

Pianists call this ‘tone colour’, and it’s a very important area of expressive playing which beginners need to appreciate. In some digital pianos, doing this experiment just results in the same tone just at different volumes. This isn’t ideal, as it isn’t what occurs on an acoustic piano.

Thankfully, Casio tell me that the CDP-130 has something called ‘Dual Element Sampling’, which means the piano can tell if you’re playing loudly or softly and plays the matching ‘colour’ of piano tone. For the beginning pianist, this means that the CDP-130 helps them to develop good expressive skills as well as the proper playing technique. 

The touch and key weighting of the CDP-130 was really good, and I felt sure that beginning piano students would be encouraged to play in the right way with this instrument.
— Chris Stanbury, Music Teacher and LCM Music Examiner
 An affordable first piano: The CAsio CDP-130 (shown with optional stand)

An affordable first piano: The CAsio CDP-130 (shown with optional stand)

Overall, the Casio CDP-130 is a great digital piano for beginners, and would be ideal for a student of any age who is looking for something affordable but with all the essential features included. A quick look online shows that this instrument would suit anyone with a budget of £299 (in actual fact, I found the price to be even lower in my local music shop).

Casio PX-760

If you’re able to put a little more into your investment, you might be interested in my next choice: the Casio PX-760.

 The Casio PX-760 is one of the best digital piano for 2018

The Casio PX-760 is one of the best digital piano for 2018

The PX-760 is the first instrument in Casio’s very popular Privia range. They sound great and they're also some of the most compact digital pianos available in the UK. This means that they are perfect where you need an instrument that plays well but doesn't take up much room.

It’s a general rule in the digital piano industry that a higher price means a better quality touch and sound. But, Casio think about things differently. In recognition of a digital piano’s important place in music education, Casio has it's own rule: that every instrument they produce, including the PX-760, should have a first class touch and sound.

In fact, many important parts of the PX-760 (such as the weighted keys) are borrowed from instruments costing twice the price, which is why the PX-760 is really good value for money. 

 

When I played the PX-760, I was genuinely surprised by how good it was. The tone was very clear and it was nice to listen to. I’d happily recommend this to any beginning piano student.
— Chris Stanbury - Piano Teacher and LCM Music Examiner


The PX-760 uses a completely different technology to the CDP-130 that I mentioned earlier, and I could hear a big improvement in the sound quality. The instrument coped with everything I played, from starter tunes to professional pieces and beyond. 

 Casio concert Play makes the px-760 the best digital piano for beginners

Casio concert Play makes the px-760 the best digital piano for beginners

From a teaching perspective, there are a few extra details which I can imagine will make a big difference to piano students of all ages and abilities. Firstly, the song recorder is really useful, as it means you can record the pieces that you're learning and then listen back to them to spot mistakes.

Secondly, Casio’s brilliant Concert Play feature introduces the sound of an orchestra into your music learning. Basically, you can play along to some beautiful orchestral music and be the star soloist alongside Japan’s finest orchestra, the NHK Symphony. As a beginning piano student, I always dreamed of what it would be like to be part of an orchestra. With the Concert Play feature and the free included music book, Casio makes this possible and my students love it. 

The PX-760 is a great musical companion for many students, and it’s no wonder that it is one of Casio’s top sellers. Is it worth the extra £200 over the CDP-130? Definitely. As I found out, an PX-760 could cope with even top grade piano pieces, thanks to the impressive piano sound and great keyboard feel. What's more, its sleek cabinet design makes it look really impressive. In my view, it's one of the best digital pianos for beginners by far. 

Did you know?

Wondering which digital piano to buy for 2018? Try the Piano Selector tool and let Casio UK help find your perfect instrument.  


Explore the range

 
 

Cory Henry meets the Casio CT-X

IMG_7962.JPG

The Frankfurt MusikMesse show is always an exciting time for Casio. This year however, the atmosphere was even more electrifying than usual: the incredible new CT-X keyboards were making their European debut, launched by none other than Grammy award-winning artist, Cory Henry.

As expected, Cory produces a masterful set, wowing the thousands of visitors and putting the new CT-X keyboards through their paces.

After the show, Casio's Jack Terroni caught up with Cory to chat to him about the new keyboards.

"Cory, that was an amazing set. A lot of people here are saying how impressed they are with the quality of the new sounds. How authentic do you feel the CT-X range’s AiX Sound Source is?"

It felt good when I was tracking for the Casio video, the sounds I used in that shoot was really fun! For a starter keyboard you really get great sonic sounds that make you feel as if you are at a professional level, that’s really important.

"I noticed you took great care in adjusting the EQs and Effects on the Keyboard. How important is it to you to be able to refine your sound?"

Yeah, I like my sounds with a lot of low end and on the dry side, with the ability to build effects in if necessary. I like to hear how the tone sounds before effects are added. My boy Rich (Richard Formidoni, Casio US Product Marketing Manager), when he bought the board over, he was like, ‘You gotta hear this man!’ It was cool to hear the CT-X in the raw, you’ve got a good 'board there!

IMG_7963.JPG

"When choosing a Keyboard what are the things you look for?"

It’s kind of like a 5 point checklist: touch, sound, the ability to navigate smoothly through the keyboard, how many keys, the design… there’s a lot of the different things I look for.

"What music among contemporary artists are you currently listening to and where do you see the state of music at presently?

It’s in a good place, the music is in a good place - I’ve been digging recently Anderson Paak, Kendrick LamarEsperanza Spalding and Robert Glasper are amazing… they are really progressing the art form.

"What do you value more in a keyboard player, technical proficiency or ‘feel’?"

Feel, every time.

"Your epic keys solo in the track ‘Lingus’ from the Snarky Puppy, ‘We like it here’ LIVE DVD is often listened to here at Casio Music UK. What are your memories of that day and your time with Snarky Puppy?"

That day was cool, although I wasn’t really feeling that well - we had recorded two shows a day for 4 days that week!

I think they took the ‘Thursday’ (solo for the DVD). However, I think my best day was the second set on the Tuesday. I remember playing that solo and I looked at Mike and was like ‘THIS IS IT!’ and then when the record came out, we were out and I heard it and it was not the ‘Tuesday’ one! Mike said, ‘…well the band sounded better…(on the Thursday session)’. I got it, it was cool, no problem -because by the time I played the last solo on the Thursday I had already played it 7 times, so by the eighth time I just thought I’m gonna let this one hang! I picked some new sounds, I played totally different… I tried a piano track, a rhodes pad, lots of different tones and I’m glad I did it, because I was happy with the one that made the cut after the fact.

Playing with Snarky was great, it was wonderful to be with those guys and travel the world. Everyone in that band was a genius in their own right, it was cool to be in a situation where no one wanted to overstep each other and just play together. It was wonderful.

IMG_7964.JPG

Exploring the new AP-270 and AP-470 Celviano Pianos

New Year, New Piano: Dr Chris Stanbury looks at Casio’s brand new AP-270 and AP-470 Celviano digital pianos.

As we’re well into January, you might find your New Year’s resolutions might need a bit of help along the way by now. If buying a new digital piano was on the top of your list, I’d recommend you look at Casio’s new Celviano pianos.

Casio has gone through a huge renaissance recently, and a massive investment in research and development has produced some incredible products that have really caught the eyes (and ears) of the music industry.  With this in mind, I was really interested to see what innovations Casio had put into the new 2017 range of AP series digital pianos. The previous range of Celvianos were so successful, surely no designer would want to change the winning formula?

 The new AP-270 Celviano 

The new AP-270 Celviano 

New Designs

At first glance though, it’s obvious that both instruments (the entry-level AP-270 and the larger AP-470) have been completely redesigned. Casio are definitely aiming high here: everything has a quality feel and even the ebony and ivory textures on the keys have been refined.

Casio say that the control panel has been completely redesigned following customer feedback. The whole panel has now been moved to the far left of the keyboard, giving both models a sleeker, premium look. It’s also possible to control these new Celviano models with the Chordana Play Piano app* (for iOS and Android), where you can select different sounds, record your performances and even read musical scores in PDF format.

 Chordana Play Piano lets you control the piano functions from your phone, learn new pieces and view PDF music files (iOS & Android*).

Chordana Play Piano lets you control the piano functions from your phone, learn new pieces and view PDF music files (iOS & Android*).

 

Two New Concert Grand Piano Tones

Less obvious, but just as important, are the big improvements that Casio have made to the sound. I had the chance to hear the old models of Celviano next to these new instruments while I was at Casio’s head office, and the difference is huge.

Both the AP-270 and AP-470 now have two new Concert Grand Piano tones. Why two piano sounds? Well, the answer is in the variety and interest that it gives you as a performer. Grand Piano 1, a majestic European grand, is perfect for classical pieces, whilst the resonant sound of Grand Piano 2 is perfect for jazz and pop songs. Having two pianos for the price of one is brilliant - you’ll always find a tone that suits your style.

 

AP-270WE_8.jpg

Features

Whilst we’re talking about useful features for students, Casio’s Concert Play (available on both models) is definitely worth a mention. These are recordings of favourite classical pieces played by a real symphony orchestra which you can play along to thanks to the included piano score.

As well as being great fun, Concert Play really inspires you to improve your music reading skills and hone your abilities in playing along with an ensemble.

Usually, entry level digital pianos leave me rather uninspired, as most piano manufacturers use basic key mechanisms which don't feel as good to play as the more expensive models. With the Casio AP-270 however, this isn’t the case: the key action is the same as in larger instruments in the range. This makes the AP-270 fantastic value for money: you’re getting a premium key action that will support music learning for years to come, even up to the highest levels of performance. For me, this alone makes the AP-270 one of the best starter instruments available today and one that I would definitely recommend to students of all ages and abilities.

AP-470BK_casio102.jpg

What more does the AP-470 offer?

Put simply, it’s an improved sound and some very useful extra features. When I moved on to the AP-470 after playing the AP-270, I immediately noticed that the piano tone seemed 'bigger'. Casio say this is for two reasons: the speaker system used is nearly three times more powerful than the AP-270, and this larger instrument also has extra string resonance (a computer recreation of all the extra harmonics that an acoustic piano produces) which gives it a warmer sound. The opening acoustic lid, which lifts up just like a grand piano, gives the instrument that extra finesse (not to mention a bigger spread of sound, too). 

Also, there are some really useful extra features on the AP-470, such as the ability to customise the piano tone to your own taste. The best feature for me though was USB Audio, which means you can record your performance straight to USB memory stick as digital audio, ready to share with friends and family.

Overall, I was really impressed with both the AP-270 and AP-470. I was expecting some small improvements, but these two instruments represent a giant leap forward in terms of quality and value for money.

EXPLORE THE AP-270 & AP-470

Have you heard about Casio CT-X?

Dr Chris Stanbury reviews the new range of CT-X keyboards from Casio and explains why this latest series is the best yet.

CTX_AIR_BANNER_596x300.png

Casio’s name has long been associated with some great innovations in keyboards for well over thirty five years. In fact, the Casiotone CT-201 was the first ever electronic keyboard, launched in January 1980. Other notable keyboards include the SK-1 sampling keyboard (a firm favourite amongst electronic musicians), the iconic VL tone (as used by Human League, Thomas Dolby, Robbie Williams and Lady Gaga) and the extraordinary CZ-101 synthesiser.

I remember spending hours on these instruments at school and at home, creating some great sounds that weren’t available on any other keyboard at the time. Ever since then, I’ve always admired the way Casio have produced their products, with an emphasis on innovation and usability.

So, when I got the call to visit Casio Music UK and try out the new CT-X range, I couldn't wait!

 
 
AiX_logo_red-02.jpg

There are three instruments in the range: the CT-X700, X3000 and X5000, which replace the CTK-4400, 6100 and 7200 models. The outgoing models were some of the best selling keyboards in the industry, not just for Casio, so their replacements are eagerly awaited by the industry and musicians alike.

Casio CT-X700

All New Sound Technology

Casio say the CT-X series is all new, featuring a new sound chip (called AiX), new case and panel designs, many new sounds and accompaniment styles together with some incredible new speakers (more about this later).

“We’re incredibly proud of the new AiX sound chip” says Neil Evans, Divisional Manager of Casio Music UK, “It’s the result of a huge investment in research and development, and it means that CT-X can produce some stunning sounds that, frankly, change expectations of what instruments in this price bracket can achieve”.  


As part of my visit, I’m allowed to try pre production samples that have just arrived from Tokyo. I try the CT-X700 first, and am immediately struck by how detailed the stereo grand piano sound is. Neil explains: “AiX stands for Acoustic Intelligent Expression, and it’s an incredibly powerful processor. Not only have we increased the quality of the new sounds, but the processor now adapts to your touch.”

I put this to the test on the CT-X700 and try the new Acoustic Guitar sounds, which sound fantastic. Playing gently produces some gentle string tones, whilst playing forcefully produces effects such as hammer on and slide. Straight away, I can see the potential of this new sound chip: it can produce some incredibly expressive performances, the type of which I’ve only managed to produce on keyboards costing over £500. To be able to do the same thing on something that is half the cost is incredible.

My other favourite tones are the Electric Pianos. Not only does the CT-X have some great new sounds in this category, but I can also hear  effects such as phaser, delay and panning being added automatically. “That’s another advantage of AiX” say Neil, “we can now have much more detailed effects added individually to each part, which really brings the sounds and styles alive”.

 The CT-X700 has a stand for a smartphone.

The CT-X700 has a stand for a smartphone.

New Sleek Designs

As well as the sound, Casio have clearly spent a great deal of time looking at the design of each instrument. Each of the three models has an all-new case design, which looks really distinctive. One innovative feature on the CT-X700 is the inclusion of a built-in stand for a smartphone or mini-tablet. This is great if you use music apps, as the stand places your device's screen at the ideal angle for viewing. Connecting your devices to any CT-X is really easy, thanks to the built-in audio input and USB connection.

CT-X3000



Moving on to the CT-X3000, I notice that the chassis and panel design is different. There are a few added features, such as the Phrase Pads, where you can add extra guitar riffs, piano arpeggios and more when performing. The speakers now use Bass Reflex technology, giving a wider dynamic range, which is really noticeable. 

There are some much bigger changes on the CT-X3000 to talk about though. As well as a USB Audio Player, which means that you can play along to any standard WAV file (and cancel out the vocal part so you can play it live), I was really impressed to find that the CT-X3000 has something that I've long been looking for in affordable keyboards: an expression pedal input.

As a teacher, I've noticed the lack of expression pedal inputs in affordable instruments. Although all the major music exam boards require the use of expression pedals, you could only use them with keyboards costing nearly £700, which is too expensive for most students. I am genuinely pleased to see expression pedal connections now included on the CT-X3000 and CT-X5000. 

CT-X5000

On the flagship CT-X5000, you can even plug in a microphone and put your vocals through the effects processor too.   An exceptional dual 15W speaker system, the largest I’ve ever seen on a keyboard in this price bracket, transforms the sounds and styles. With features like this, it's clear that this is the model designed for the ambitious performer. It really has to be heard to be believed. What's more, you'll find standard Line Output connectors on the back of the CT-X5000 which will plug into a mixer or PA speakers. 

There are lots of small details that Casio have included on the CT-X5000 that make performing just that little bit easier, such as every instrument category having its own shortcut button for quick access, LED indicators to show which of the 128 registration memories you have selected and a controller wheel that can switch from pitch bend to modulation with the press of a button. 

I’m really excited by the potential that the CT-X range offers. Put simply, these are the best mid-range keyboards I've ever played. Casio have included some features that have never been seen before on keyboards in this price range.  

I can’t wait to try them again soon in my local music retailer.

EXPLORE THE CT-X RANGE:

Get playing and stay motivated with CASIO and Rockschool!

So, you're thinking of buying a new piano or keyboard. Imagine it’s unwrapped, out of the box and switched on. You’re ready to go, but how do you know where to start? Wouldn’t it be great if your new instrument came with some music that actually made you want to play and, more importantly, inspire you to keep practising and learning? 

With selected models of Casio keyboards and pianos, that's exactly what happens. Their new collaboration with Rockschool, one of the UK’s leading music exam boards for Rock and Pop music, has produced a free downloadable digital sheet music book that starts you playing some of your favourite pop songs straight away. Forget having to begin your keyboard journey with dry technical exercises or tunes that you don't recognise: for the first time, you can begin by playing songs that everybody knows and loves, which means it's much more likely that you'll carry on playing. 

Not only are there some great arrangements of songs by Coldplay, Ray Charles and Alicia Keys, but the backing tracks to each song are included as well. This means that you can hear the drums,  bass and other parts of the song as you play the keyboard.

This is such an inspirational feature, as you’re no longer practising ‘on you own’ and instead have a whole band to accompany you each time you play .

Casio_2017_28.07.17.jpg
Casio_2017_28.07.17.jpg

Every arrangement is produced by some of the UK’s top educators at Rockschool, which means the challenges and musical techniques used are cleverly designed to inspire but not frustrate beginning players. The music is easy to follow, the presentation looks great and every piece offers an exciting challenge which keeps you coming back for more. Having a structured, properly-designed series of pieces is so much better for learning than struggling with YouTube videos, which are often over complex and not always straightforward. What’s more, you can even use these songs in a Rockschool music exam if you wish.

Whatever style of pop music you’re into, you’ll find something of interest in the downloadable pack, which is included with selected models of Casio keyboard and piano*. From Alicia Keys’ No. 1 Falllin’, Coldplay’s The Scientist or Ray Charles’ Hallelujah I Love Her So,  there’s a variety of styles on offer together with some specially-commissioned original pieces written by the Rockschool team.

If you’re thinking of buying a keyboard or piano for you or someone in the family, but have been put off because you worry they won’t stick to it, it’s definitely worth giving a Rockschool-powered Casio instrument a go. As any music teacher will tell you, music practice should be fun and inspirational, and this new downloadable pack does just that.

RSL_CASIO_904-x-624.png

 

*Free downloadable digital sheet music book available with the purchase of the following models: CTK-3500, CTK-6200, CTK-7200, WK-7600, PX-160.

view the product

Going Digital: Why Grand Hybrid is the perfect education instrument.

Buying a piano for a school or college can often involve a compromise: do you go for an acoustic instrument, for the authenticity of touch and tone, or choose a digital product which can be more versatile but perhaps lacks the same performing stature or integrity?  Dr Chris Stanbury investigates how the new Casio Grand Hybrid piano offers the best of both, and finds out that these pianos already have a loyal fan base in education.

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 10.29.43.png

When I’m asked to recommend a piano for a classroom or music studio, I often have to ask further questions to find out exactly what the priorities are. For example, if it was an instrument intended primarily for advanced performance and piano teaching, I would probably recommend a good model of acoustic upright. On the other hand, if it turns out that the school needs an all-round instrument for classroom music and ensemble performance, a bit of recording, and maybe the ability to connect to other studio equipment, I’d usually recommend a digital piano.

However, I’ve always felt uneasy that schools are presented with this buying dilemma: by buying a really good acoustic piano, you get the necessary touch and performance dynamic, but you have to accept that your investment isn’t the most studio or classroom friendly (once you realise that acoustic pianos need regular specialist maintenance and shouldn’t be placed next to radiators or direct sunlight, plus they need extra equipment to record them if required).

What is really wanted is the best of both worlds: a twenty-first century piano which marries the true refinement of touch offered by an acoustic instrument with the benefits of a digital keyboard. Step forward, Casio’s Grand Hybrid series of hybrid pianos which are co-developed with C. Bechstein, my new first choice when it comes to choosing a versatile classroom instrument without compromise.

First and foremost, the keys are made of the same Austrian spruce wood as those found on C. Bechstein acoustic pianos. In addition, and unlike most digital pianos, Grand Hybrid pianos feature a real, moving hammer mechanism developed in collaboration with the Berlin-based piano company. This produces a playing action that is far ahead of any other digital piano (in my view) and genuinely comparable to an acoustic instrument. Casio say that this action solves the problem that many schools and colleges face: the need for the resilience and versatility that a digital piano brings, but with the authenticity of action that only an acoustic instrument can provide.

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 10.29.16.png

As part of the initial product launch, educators from some of the UK’s top music schools and colleges were invited to evaluate the new instruments. The reaction was unanimous: a very enthusiastic endorsement and genuine excitement. Conor Doherty, director of London’s BRIT school was amongst many senior members of music education that were genuinely impressed with the touch and versatility of the Grand Hybrids. Conor commented that "many of our students who come from a more traditional piano background dislike the feel of using stage pianos that we’ve often had to use, and have warmed to the Casio Grand Hybrid far more quickly, and several actually prefer it to the acoustic grand piano that we have!" 

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 10.17.02.png

Ryan Hepburn, Head of Academic Studies at Brighton College was similarly enthusiastic about the unique keyboard action in the Grand Hybrid, saying that “it felt like you could immediately connect with the instrument. You didn’t have to compromise in any way.”

In addition to the authenticity of touch and tone, the Grand Hybrid has many important and useful features. First and foremost is its comprehensive MIDI and audio recording facilities. This means that, not only will the instrument link seamlessly to a PC or Mac running Sibelius, Cubase or Logic, but the Audio recording facility enables quick recording to USB memory stick making the audio recording of performances for assessment and archive quick and reliable. No additional leads, microphones or recording devices are required, which will no doubt save costs, not to mention time!

There are other connection options too: it’s also possible to plug the Grand Hybrids into a separate PA system if required. For school productions or concerts, this means that the sound of the piano can be amplified further with additional speakers if required. In addition, the other tones available, such as organs, strings and electric pianos make the instrument more flexible than it’s acoustic counterpart for contemporary music.  On the other hand, you can also use the built-in speakers of the Grand Hybrid to amplify music from other devices, such as ipods, CD players or computers. This means that backing tracks, musical examples or students’ work can be played from a laptop or media device without needing additional amplifiers or speakers, which can be a real lifeline in a classroom environment where equipment can be difficult to come by, or if the Grand Hybrid is located in a studio which is different to the usual listening area.

If you are looking to buy an acoustic or digital piano for education, I would recommend the Grand Hybrid wholeheartedly. It is fair to call these pianos unique, as they offer a long sought after combination of touch authenticity and versatility, with the added advantage of being very reasonably priced indeed.

view the product

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 10.15.56.png

Connect to Chordana: What are the main features of Casio's new app?

Chordanatitle.jpg

This year, Casio launched a new app called Chordana Play, which is available for both Android and Apple iOS. Dr Chris Stanbury looks at what it offers both the beginner and established musician.

 

Thinking back to my earliest memories of Casio keyboards from the early nineties, they’ve always had some pretty interesting education features that can teach you how to play. Casio’s famous lighted keys system, where the keys light up to show you which notes to play was a major development in home keyboard playing, and they’re still as successful today as when they were introduced over twenty years ago.

Today, the idea of using a phone or tablet to learn has become much more mainstream, with lots of online courses, podcasts and apps to help you do anything from learn a new language to improve your cooking skills. However, the apps available to help you play the piano have been few and far between up till now.  So, is Chordana the answer to using a smart device and a digital instrument together?

Firstly, Casio have made Chordana accessible to a wide range of their instruments. From a CTK-2500 electronic keyboard to the PX-870 Privia piano, it’s possible to connect many of their current products to the app and get started straight away. For the keyboards, this can be done with a 3.5mm audio cable (the type that you often use to connect your music player to a car stereo). Once you’ve connected up your smartphone or tablet, you can hear the sound of the app through the speakers of your keyboard and, if you have lighted keys, you’ll see the keys light up as you play any of the built-in songs.

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 09.09.26.png

There are 50 songs included in Chordana, ranging from favourite beginner’s pieces to popular classics such as Beethoven’s Fur Elise, all with a simulated orchestral accompaniment. Once you have selected a song, you can see the piano part as either traditional music notes, or what Casio calls ‘Piano Roll’. Piano Roll is proving very popular on YouTube, where there are thousands of piano tutorials using this same format.

Chordana4.jpg

However, one of the main advantages of Chordana Play over video tutorials is that, if you’ve connected it to a digital piano such as a new Privia model (via a USB cable), you’ll find that it is much more interactive. This means that you can slow down the performance, repeat difficult sections and even ask the app to wait until you find the rights notes before continuing. Overall, this is so much better than watching tutorials, as you’re directly involved from the start and will learn much quicker.

Chordana play isn’t just for beginners, however. Advanced players will appreciate the ability to load in any standard MIDI file. I’ve tried it with a range of repertoire, including electronic versions of Chopin, Beethoven and Debussy and was very impressed with how clear straightforward the score was presented. The ability to listen to Chordana playing one hand, whilst I played the other was very useful and helped me gain an overall insight into the music much more quickly that if I was playing alone.

Overall, Chordana promises to be a great addition to your home practice.

 

view the product

 

As a free download, it’s defintiely worth trying. For more information, see http://web.casio.com/app/en/play/function.html