Thursday, July 4, 2013

REVIEW - Roland HPi50 Digital Piano - TEACHER RECOMMENDED with HPi-50 DigiScore Interactive Music Education & Piano Playing

REVIEW - Roland HPi-50 Interactive Digital Piano - RECOMMENDED - * UPDATE  June 20, 2014: The new 2014 model HPi50e has recently replaced the now discontinued Hpi50. Roland added the letter e to the former model because they kept many of the display screen software features but upgraded the piano in many notable ways, and it's less money too! Go to the following link for my review of the new HPi50e: Roland HPi50e Review!

 Previous HPi50 review here: The Roland HPi50 ($4999US and higher - approx store discount price depending on area - now discontinued) is the latest in a series of interactive educational digital pianos produced by the Roland piano company. This 2013 model is designed to do a number of things including motivating students to practice more often and more effectively through its built-in technology. The HPi50 is not available for purchase on the Internet in the US, but only direct at selected Roland piano stores across the country. The Roland company, which was founded in Japan in 1972, has produced high quality reliable digital pianos for many years and is recognized as a leader around the world for digital piano & keyboard technology which professionals and beginners enjoy playing. I have personally owned and played Roland pro keyboards and digital pianos and consider them one of the best brands out there.

Roland HPi50 digital piano
The new HPi50 is available in an attractive simulated dark rosewood finish wood furniture cabinet assembled in the US (believe it or not, Roland owns a US factory) with a sturdy matching bench. What makes this piano unique in the digital piano industry is a number of things including a large, easy to read built-in LCD computer monitor built inside the music rack (the only one of its kind from the major manufacturers), a vast array of intuitive piano instructional and practice software and songs accessed by a user friendly control panel just below the monitor, a full color menu of music lessons, 100's of popular play-along songs, auto digital sheet music page turner for sight reading music, younger & older kids fun interactive music theory lessons displayed in the large monitor, ensemble music styles for learning chord progressions and interaction, instant auto lesson correction telling the student what they did right or wrong displayed in the LCD monitor, and many other interactive learning and piano playing features.

Not only does the Roland HPi50 have hundreds of built-in songs and lessons, but the user can add their favorite General MIDI format songs from a USB flash drive and the HPi50 will instantly display the sheet music from that song.  There are literally thousands of these General MIDI format songs for purchase on the internet from all your favorite artists and music styles, and some of these songs can be downloaded for free. Many of the songs will playback the original parts of that song in a GM (General MIDI) multi-instrument playback mode and you can interact with it by playing live piano along with the song while you set the tempo at any speed you desire. It's like playing piano with a band or orchestra and seeing the sheet music right in front of you! So whether you are a basic absolute beginner or are an advanced player, the Roland Hpi50 is super fun and helps you learn music at the same time. For more info on General MIDI, please read my review of General MIDI here: General MIDI Review

The Roland company has been producing the HPi series for many years and has had the HPi6, HPi7, HPi6F, HPi7F, and others, and this new 2013 model HPi50 is the newest edition and after personally playing on this model, I really like it. It has a realistic 3-sensor graded (grand) piano hammer key action with an escapement-letoff function (like on a real grand key action), acoustic (grand) piano sound going through a very nice 4-channel 70 watt internal sound system, and continuous progressive pedal sustain with damper resonance. In other words, if you just played this instrument as a piano using no other functions, it would have a live, satisfying organic piano sound quality to it utilizing Roland's best key action with synthetic ivory keytops.

Roland HPi50 digital piano
When it comes to larger display screens in digital pianos, this Roland piano has the best there is right now using a Graphic color LCD 1,280 x 800 dots which Roland calls DigiScore. The DigiScore display can actually improve your playing. It doesn’t just display sheet music but can analyze your playing and assess how accurately (or not!) you are following the music. That feedback alone could help you to improve your timing and sight-reading which I consider to be the most difficult thing for most students to learn. I do like large display monitor screens such as what's in my iPad and laptop computer, so the larger they are with good resolution clarity, the better. This Roland HPi50 is beyond that of other large user display screens such as the one found on the new $10,000 Yamaha Clavinova CVP609 which has an 8.5 inch 800 x 480 dots (resolution) WVGA TFT Color Wide LCD display screen, although the Yamaha screen itself is a touch screen which is very cool...but at $10,000 approx discount price, the Yamaha CVO609 should have a nice touch screen for that price range. However, even without a touch screen the Roland HPi50 is easy to navigate from the control panel buttons and its monitor screen can also display up to 48 measures of music at one time in 32nd note resolution (small notes that are fairly easy to see on this kind of display monitor) which is quite impressive. The notation will also follow your performance and is synced to turn the pages at the proper time...how nice is that!:). The piano
Roland HPi50 digital piano
even has on-board piano exercises which helps make your playing and reading skills challenging and fun as well as other educational fun features for kids & adults such as a graphical (visual) metronome, onscreen keyboard, fingering number display, and the list goes on. It is worth noting that the monitor screen on the HPi50 is directly in front of you built into the music rack where you would normally put sheet music so the viewing position of the display monitor screen is where it needs to be...directly in front of you. The display screens in Yamaha CVP & Kawai CP pianos are down in the control panel which makes you have to look down at it and that angle is not good when it comes to reading music or seeing digital functions. The Roland HPi50 does not have this issue and that's a very good thing.

Beyond the instructive fun interface and proprietary Roland educational software in the HPi50, this piano has some other interesting & useful features including 50 interactive ensemble rhythm style arrangements for playing rhythmic chords to give you the feeling you are conducting a live band or orchestra and interacting with them which is also great for adults who do not have time to learn traditional piano playing. This also helps with understanding how arrange and conduct music which can be lots of fun for both kids & adults. There are 348 instrument sounds (just about anything you can think of) on this piano and most of those sounds (I have played them all) are of higher quality. There is a 16-track MIDI recorder-player, an audio wav file recorder-player with the capability of playing back CD quality audio songs and even slowing them down so you can play along and learn your favorite music. This system even has a "center part cancel" feature so you can mute out the vocal or melody line and play along without hearing it. You can also write music on this piano and the notation that is created can be exported and then printed out on a wireless printer!

As far as connectivity, the HPi50 connects wirelessly to an iPad so you can use a wide variety of piano music educational apps in addition to the learning system software in the HPi50. There are MIDI inputs and outputs, audio ins & outs, USB flashdrive input and USB computer output, DC input jack, and 2 stereo headphone jacks. Although the HPi50 does have a 70 watt 4-channel internal sound system, if you really wanted to fill up the house with huge grand piano sound, you could connect the piano to a good set of powered stereo monitor speakers or even to your home stereo. I have done this before and the results are amazing...your neighbors will think you just bought a 9' concert grand piano! Beyond all of this connectivity, the piano has a number of ways to use the piano sounds and recording functions so that you can come up with your own variations while editing and then saving those changes.

No matter whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, I believe the Roland HPi50 has something for everyone to enjoy and can satisfy a lot of musical tastes from Classical, to Jazz, to Pop, and in-between. In my opinion the primary reason why a person should buy any digital piano is, first & foremost, for the best piano key action and acoustic piano sound in the price range they can afford. Coupled with that are digital features which can help make the playing experience even more enjoyable. Depending on the kind of music you like, your playing skill level, your musical tastes, and your musical goals, this new Roland piano may be the perfect choice for you. However, if you just want a piano that has realistic piano touch & tone with a minimal amount of features and you do not want or need the interactive educational system on the HPi50, then in the Roland line of pianos, the HP507 ($4499 store discount price) would be a better choice. I have done a review on that model here: Roland HP507 review.

Roland HPi50 digital piano
Other "interactive" digital pianos in the $4000-$5000 price range that I like are the Yamaha CVP601, Yamaha CLP480, and Kawai CP139. There certainly are some fine new digital pianos from Yamaha, Roland, and Kawai, that do not have any or many interactive features in the $4000-$5000 price range but instead are more traditional piano replacements with fewer features that would have none of the major functions and features of the HPi50. The Roland HPi50 is certainly unique and a one of a kind model that you will think is either really cool or a waste of money. For those who would think it's a waste of money, then as I already mentioned, there are many good alternatives without all the fancy interactive educational features. However, the interactive digital sheet music monitor on the HPi50 that automatically turns pages for you utilizing 100's songs that you can download into the instrument is pretty cool even if you already know how to play piano

For the average beginner or family who wants a super nice piano they can grow with, likes technology, and can use all the help they can get (including having fun interactive kids & adult music games to keep everyone motivated and interested), the HPi50 stands in a class all by itself. There is no other digital piano that I know of that comes close to what the HPi50 offers as a complete package while still offering a very satisfying piano playing experience with realistic acoustic grand piano sound and responsive grand graded hammer style key action. The only downside I see with this piano is that it is offered in just one color and one style. I wish Roland had offered it in other color finishes (black, white, polished, etc) but for what it is and what it does, that's just a relatively small complaint. It looks good, sounds good, plays good, has tons of cool stuff in it, and makes you feel good, and that's what it's really all about...feeling good when you practice and when you play...and the HPi50 can really do that which I can tell you from personal experience:). Below is a video produced by the Roland company that briefly shows some of the unique features of this piano along with hearing the sound of the piano itself.

If you want more info on new digital pianos and LOWER PRICES than internet discounts, please email me at tim@azpianowholesale.com or call direct at 602-571-1864.





7 comments:

  1. I like this concept, but it seems like the apps that come with this piano will be out of date in two years vs an iPad with a well executed midi interface and apps that improve over time. My understanding is that iPad/midi interfaces today are lacking, but perhaps not?

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  2. I appreciate your observation and iPad apps do help with music education, no question about that. However the HPi50 is an all in one solution that does many other things and multi-tasks in ways the iPad cannot when it comes to learning and playing music. All things improve over time so there is no question about that either, but for now the HPi50 does offer distinct advantages for families/students who are playing a variety of music at various skill levels

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  3. I absolutely LOVE this piano as I always struggled practicing on regular basis as a child. I was looking for ways to get my kids to be interested to start learning and motivated to do their daily practice. THIS IS THE ONE! This piano is perfect not only for a beginner but for pianists like myself. I get to compose my music without having to stop few sec. to record, etc. The touch of this piano is grand and cannot be happier with the HPi-50!

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  4. Is the touch sensitivity at this piano similar to an acoustic?

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  5. Yes, specifically with regard to the new Roland HPi50e which is a big upgrade in playing realism over the discontinued HPi50.

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  6. This indeed is a great piano for piano learning family members at different skill level.

    After so much research, I placed an order for HPi-50e in July'14 but dealer hasn't been able to deliver it as there are production backlogs. Estimated delivery date given in sometime in Nov'14. 4 months delivery cycle for product being actively marketed does not seem meaningful. I am based in India. Roland India - needs to hear us ; economy and market demand in India is changing and something needs attention.

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  7. Thank you so much for this review. I'm interested in the HPi50(e) if I can get it here in Western Australia.. I don't play piano but used to be a scholarship music student back in high school (a decade ago now) and would love to pick up on my music reading and learn the piano. The interactive games and lessons make this the piano I want (and so my future children can also learn). Your review was really helpful, thank you

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