Technical notes index


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A keyboard is not a piano

An obvious statement: fewer keys, many voices, trick facilities - but the important point is that playing them is a different experience. With a piano you are, obviously enough, on your own - you provide your own accompaniment. With a keyboard you can simply play using the whole keyboard, choosing from a wide range of sounds: or you can use your left hand to drive an automatic accompaniment by simply playing one, two or three notes. Not only is the experience different, the result is also different. This recording was made to illustrate that difference. This little waltz* is first played on a piano (a Yamaha Clavinova CLP-50 but it's a pretty good imitation of a real piano) and then using the 'French Waltz' auto-accompaniment on the Casio. Though the use of the accordion with drums and bass is interesting, the rhythm is of course fixed, so that the slight rubato (speed variations) and the expressiveness of the piano version is lost. The recording finishes with an automatic ending, without which it would rather lurch to a stop. (Click the play arrow to play: duration 1.11)


Keyboard description

The keyboard is 94.5 cm wide by 37.8 cm deep and 13.2 cm high, and weighs 5.8kg (without batteries) - these things are always bigger when you get them home than you thought they were going to be. It has fair quality speakers and output jacks for connecting to headphones or hi-fi ( inch jacks, not phono/RCA). You can connect a pedal (optional extra) for sustaining, or starting rhythms. There is a power unit included (well hidden in the packaging - complaints on Amazon that there isn't one are from people who haven't looked hard enough): it can run on batteries (6 D cells which last about 4 hours, so an expensive exercise).

There are 670 instrumental sounds ('Tones') and 200 rhythms with or without auto accompaniment, a pitch bend wheel ( one tone by default but configurable to an octave), 32 available registrations (8 banks of 4) for saving sounds and accompaniments, and various configurable effects. An impressive array of buttons and a thumbwheel control all this, and a display shows you what is set.

The included manual is reasonably detailed, and a separate large sheet lists all the tones, rhythms, drum kit allocations and preset chord sequences.

You can select one of the auto-accompaniments for the left hand, choose any tone (or two at once) for the right: you can set the tempo, change tones or accompaniments as you go, add preset openings and closings if required, start automatically as soon as you start playing, transpose, and have a metronome sound if required. You can record the result (without the metronome); once recorded you can change the tempo (of course this doesn't change the pitch as an audio recording would) or the instrumentation: you can record more tracks to build up a complex result (see page 5). There are five 'slots' for your recordings but you can copy them to an SD or SDHC memory card and play them back directly from there. You can edit your recording right down to changing individual notes, though inevitably this is a fiddly business.

The keyboard is of course basically positioned for pop music, and there is a wide range of suitable sounds and backings, but you can also produce convincing jazz and middle-of-the-road results - I don't much like pop so my interest is more with these latter. Classical - not so suitable though you can forget the auto-accompaniments and simply use the keyboard as it stands (though for a pianist the 61 keys, with only two octaves below middle C, is going to result in trying to play the casing quite frequently).

This video shows a sample of a quiet small-group jazz piece: I pre-sequenced the backing so that I could concentrate on the melody lines - the short introduction was pre-sequenced and is not one of the built-in ones.

The first thing anyone is going to do with it once it's switched on is to try out the various tones, and the next page examines some of these.

*The waltz is my own composition, a pastiche of German cabaret music: you can hear the complete GarageBand version here.

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Roger Wilmut. This site is not associated with Casio.