“ Brand: Roland „
We have a Roland ep.7 IIe that's been in the family for nearly twenty years now.
My dad played a lot and when our old upright gave up the ghost he wanted something more portable. He chose this rather than a regular keyboard as this has weighted keys so has the feel and control of playing a piano.
The Roland moved to Portugal with him for a while, and when he died his widow parcelled it up and sent it back to us - and it's still playing as well as it ever did.
My children both learn on it now, and it's been perfect for them. It doesn't have the hundreds of contols that some modern keyboards have, for which I'm grateful.
Instead there's a volume control (invaluable! Especially when one's in bed and the other's practising a bit late) and eight voice options: three pianos, vibraphone, harpsichord, organ, strings and choir, which adds a bit of novelty to liven up a practice session.
There are Chorus and Reverb buttons which can be selected to give extra depth of sound, and we have a plug-in sustain pedal too which works very well.
There's a facility for recording your own playing: four tracks, officially, though my sons's worked out that if you tweak the slider between the track numbers you can fit in a few extra songs. When playing these back you can accompany yourself at the same time, and use two buttons to adjust the tempo if needed. Pressing the two tempo buttons together also lets you temporarily select the pitch of any note, so you can use the C Major fingering, for example, to play a song in a different key.
At the back of the keyboard there are sockets for connecting the Roland to a computer or other equipment, though I've never used that - the only socket we use is for a set of headphones. It's big old-fashioned socket but I bought an adaptor really easily from an electrical shop for our ordinary modern headphones.
I'm no expert but I've found the sound quality to be really good, and it's been a big asset in our lives. May it carry on for another twenty years!
Some of you will know that I am a professional musician and instrumental teacher. You might also know that I got married last year to a fellow opinionator and moved to Devon, which is where he lived. For the first year I still had to "commute" to Hampshire to teach a couple of days a week. This meant that I had to leave my beautiful Bechstein upright piano behind.
This meant that I needed an instrument to practise on in Devon but it had to be something on which I could teach on for eighteen months whilst separated from my "real" piano.
John, not long after we became engaged bought me a lovely present. It was a Roland HP 137R digital piano.
Obviously any electric, digital piano is not going to compare to a really good upright or grand acoustic piano but there are times when it isn't possible to have a "real" piano and these can be a very useful alternative or back up.
Speaking as a teacher ,if a parent can't afford or does not want to spend lots on a reasonable piano then I would prefer the child to have a good digital piano rather than a honky tonk pub type piano that doesn't work properly.
However that is only of any use if you buy a full sized 88 key digital piano with weighted keys. More of that later...
There are several good makers of digital pianos, the most popular being Yamaha, Roland and Technics. These are the ones that professional musicians tend to choose between.
John bought my Roland from a friend who was selling one which was only 6 months old but I researched them fairly thoroughly and shortly afterwards bought a brand new Roland for one of my daughters.
I had experience of Roland and Yamaha at the school where I was Director of Music for a time , and had found them to be reliable.
On to my particular model:
Roland no longer make the HP 137 but it has only recently been discontinued and so will almost certainly still be available on the second hand market. Therefore I think it is still worth reviewing.
I was not in the market for a keyboard, a very different piece of kit. I needed a piano which could do the work of my "real" piano although I wasn't averse to one or two extra functions.
The 137 has sound sampling so that you can sound like a piano, harpsichord, church organ or electric piano. These are very handy and add a bit of diversity so that even when my real piano arrives ( oh please hurry!) I will still have a use for it. My pupils particularly like it when I switch to harpsichord mode to accompany their baroque pieces as it sounds authentic and they can imagine what the music would have sounded like when it was originally written.( Composers like Bach and Handel)
There are one or two other features which are unique to an electric instrument. It is possible to alter the amount of reverb ( echo) so that you can sound as though you are playing in a small room, concert hall etc. I must admit, I tend to turn it off as I prefer it not to sound echoey but some players love this facility.
The Roland HP137 has a sampled grand piano sound, as do most digital pianos. On the whole it sounds pretty much like an accoustic piano, but it has a slightly uneven sound across the range, the middle octave is a bit woolly and lacks oomph.The rest of the keyboard seems powerful enough for most of my needs and sounds very good.
It has a hammer action keyboard and weighted keys to make it feel like a real piano. The difference with weighted keys is that they respond in volume according to the amount of pressure applied to the key. Keyboards don't do this usually, which is why I won't use them for teaching the piano. It has to be one of these beasties.
I must admit, it is nice to play and does indeed feel very like a real piano in its action and responsivity.
It is possible to set the touch to light, medium and heavy. I usually play on heavy as that feels most like my own piano. However, I recently had a terrible hand injury and cannot play a real piano at all for some time. My physiotherapist allows me to play the digital piano set to light so that I don't hurt my injured finger and the others don't get rusty! You would not believe how this is helping my sanity!!
The case is in a rosewood effect and makes an attractive piece of furniture, not too cumbersome.
The instrument has two pedals as would a "proper" piano. The "soft" pedal on the left has two functions. It can be used as a conventional una corda pedal, ie to make the instrument quieter whilst playing something gentle for instance.
It can also be set to play as a sostenuto pedal.
For those who don't know what a sostenuto pedal is, it is complicated and technical so I shan't bore you with it. If you look at some pianos and most grand pianos you will see that they have three pedals.Tthe sostenuto pedal is the middle one.
Underneath the lefthand side of the keyboard close to your knee is a control knob. You have to use this to control the master volume and set the other functions. I had never encountered this sytem before and it is the weak link of the instrument I feel. The idea is that you press the knob below and simultaneously press a designated key for each effect to take place.
Fortunately the model which has superceded it has gone back to having the controls on the top. I can see that the under instrument controller would be handy in school so that irritating kids can't tamper with the settings whilst you are demonstrating things with them round the piano!
It is a nuisance to operate though, if I want to change something mid piece I have to stop and fumble about whereas with the other system you can keep playing and lurch with one hand for the appropriate button. This is particularly vital with the volume control in case you have mis -set it! Play up Mrs Van der Kiste you are being drowned by the children's singing!! Er, singing?
The other features on this particular model are the ability to slightly alter the pitch, helpful if you are accompanying an instrument that can't be brought to the correct pitch ( A 440hz). You can also transpose ( change key) which is useful if you have a singer who can't quite hit the high notes....
If you are into technology there is midi interface and you can connect to your computer or to other midi instruments, sound samplers etc.To do this you have to purchase the midi cable separately.It costs about £20 but is useful if you want to play music into your computer.
One advantage for me is that the piano has a headphone socket so I can practice at ungodly hours without disturbing anyone.Very useful!
If size matters to you ( and whoever said size doesn't matter is fibbing!) then this little beauty won't take up too much room in your sitting room. It weighs 36kg without the stand so is fairly reasonable to move around. When erected it is 1390mm wide, 440mm deep and 820mm tall.
The piano is not supplied with a stool. You can pick up a Roland adjustable piano stool for about £80 or there is a good chap on Ebay who does super adjustable piano stools for £50. I bought two and they are terrific.
On the whole I am very happy with this digital piano. It isn't the same as my accoustic piano, but no electric piano is going to be. For what it is it is one of the best I have tried, barring the slightly woolly middle octave and the inconvenient control button. These are things I can live with and I have derived much pleasure from playing it.
I would recommend Roland digital pianos if yoiu are not in a position to have a nice accoustic instrument.
If you want loads of gismos there are models that will give you far more, but that is a different market!