Monday, July 1, 2013

REVIEW - Tradtional & Ensemble Digital Pianos...What's the Difference? - Roland KR115M, HPi50, RP301R - Yamaha YDPV240, CVP601, CVP605, CVP609, CVP609GP - Kawai CP119, CP139, CP179, CP209 - Casio PX780 - Samick SG450 - Omega LX505, LX802

Kawai CP2
UPDATED REVIEW - July 1, 2015 - Ensemble or traditional Digital Pianos...what's the difference? 88-key digital pianos in furniture style cabinets come in two basic technology forms which are called traditional and ensemble. A traditional digital piano is one that has technology which can for most people (on the better brands) reproduce the touch and tone of an acoustic upright or grand piano along with a handful of other instruments that you can play on the piano keyboard. In reality, no digital piano currently made can actually reproduce the entire spectrum of acoustic piano sound and key action (especially acoustic grand piano), but many of the newer digital cabinet pianos come so close that only a seasoned pianist or pro could tell the difference, and even at that point. So traditional digital pianos are for people who want to play piano the "traditional way" meaning using both hands playing bass clef & treble clef, or using left hand chords and melody line (aka: fake music style) which many pro players use from jazz to rock, pop to Latin, and country to oldies.

Ensemble digital pianos (above left pic and left pic) have everything traditional digital pianos have and allow you to play traditional piano style but they take technology a step further by giving the player not only a lot more melody instruments to choose from, but also providing the ability to play music with "backing track styles." Other names for this type of technology are as follows: arranger, interactive, music styles, auto accompaniment, ensemble, interactive music styles, backing tracks, multi-track arrangements, and so on. Listening to live musicians playing music together in bands or orchestras is great entertainment and to be able to play along with such music would be fun for most people! Whether it be Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller in their Big Bands from the 40's, Elvis or Frank Sinatra with their bands from the 50's, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, or Simon & Garfunkel in the 60's, Stevie Wonder, Santana, Chicago, and Elton John and their bands in the 70's, Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston in the 80's, and up to current music today including Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, and Kelly Clarkson with their bands, all of this music is rhythmic, moving, and include various instruments being played at the same time by different musicians.  Also included in ensemble music is recognizable film scores including music from Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, Jurassic Park and a host of others, many of them written and conducted by John Williams of the Boston Pops. That music is far more complex with many more instruments being played at the same time that are obviously impossible to duplicate by just one person on one instrument. Therefore an ensemble digital piano can allow to sound like there is an entire band or orchestra coming out of the piano.

Samick SG450 ensemble B Grand
Ensemble digital pianos have the ability to reproduce the sound similar to live musicians playing together in a band or orchestra like the ones I mentioned (backing you up - hence the term backing tracks) by allowing that style of music to play along with you in backing tracks automatically on the digital piano, depending on what chord you (the player) are playing on your left hand. It is all about the style you choose and the chord you play as to what the backing track arrangement will do and how it will sound. It is a very interactive playing experience and one that takes some getting used to. However, once you do, then you can sound like you have the entire band or orchestra playing along with your music while having "real
Roland HPi50 digital piano
time" control over what they'll be playing and what you'll be hearing. Music style categories on an ensemble digital piano can include Jazz, Latin, Rock, Big Band, Oldies, Country, Western, March, Honky-Tonk, Soft Rock, Classical, Blues, Motown, Folk, Broadway, and just about anything else you can think of. You can also find music styles accompaniments of the world including Asian, South American, German, African, Russian, Jamaican, and others.  It is super fun and I have played interactive auto accompaniment digital pianos & keyboards for many years and enjoy the experience very much. It allows you to experience and play music in ways that are not possible on traditional format digital pianos. BUT, it's a way way of playing that you need to develop and because it's rhythmic and you set the tempo for how fast or slow you want the backup band or orchestra to go, you have to stay up with it...it will not wait for you! Some people who have poor timing and rhythm skills may find using this technology a bit frustrating because of that reason. However, it can also be a good way to learn various types of music and improve your timing by interacting with this technology. It just depends on what you want and what your musical goals are.

Interactive ensemble digital pianos usually cost more money than digital pianos without that technology, especially when shopping within the same brand. There are currently around 40 different ensemble digital pianos on the market spread out amongst various brands. Some piano brand and model examples for furniture cabinet style ensemble digital pianos are as follows: Roland FP80, HPi50e, RP401R - Yamaha YDPV240, CVP601, CVP605, CVP609, CVP609GP - Kawai ES7, CP1, CP2, CP179, CP3 - Casio PX780 - Korg PA588 (portable, does not come in a traditional cabinet but worth mentioning) - Samick SG450

Casio PX780
As you can see, the top digital piano manufacturers produce many models of the ensemble type digital pianos and consider them to be an important part of what they offer to the general public. They even produce some of them in mini and small baby grand style cabinets and they look very attractive & stylish that way too! There are other brands that I do not recommend who also offer ensemble type digital pianos but those brands are very low in quality and and won't mention them here. However the ones that I have mentioned are all great fun, all higher quality, look great, sound great, and add lots of entertainment value to the piano playing experience.

The realism in the band and/or orchestra accompaniment backing tracks in most of these pianos is pretty cool and it sounds like at times you've got the "real thing" right in your living/family room. And I suppose buying one of those pianos is still cheaper than renting and feeding all those people that you would otherwise have to hire to come over to your home to play live music along with you!:) Whether you purchase a more traditional technology digital piano or an ensemble arranger digital piano from one of the many good brands, you will enjoy your new piano and be able to use it in new ways that will increase your ability to make good music.

If you want more piano info and LOWER PRICES than internet or store discounts (including the Kohler digital grand), please email me at tim@azpianowholesale.com or call direct at 602-571-1864.

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