Guys, I got a new toy. A brand new keyboard!
After much deliberation, I got a Roland FP-50. It is replacing my old Kawai MP5.
This is why. After moving interstate, and leaving my grand piano behind, my digital keyboard became my at-home piano. While this particular piano has served me well as a gig work-horse, it’s limitations quickly became apparent as a home instrument. I begun to hate playing on it because:
It sounds awful. It took me a long while to work out whether it sounded bad because of the keyboard itself, or the amp it was running through. Because it is a digital stage piano, it has no in-built speakers, so it must run through an amp. The answer is a combination of both the keyboard and the amp. Piano really needs to be heard stereo, or else it sounds quite flat and hard.
It’s uncomfortable. Not the keyboard’s fault per se. My knees bump into the double braced keyboard stand. The stool, which I bought for its smallness and lightness, is uncomfortable to sit on for long periods of time, and doesn’t go high enough. The stand for the sheet music is made of hard wire, so if you have individual sheets you need to prop a book behind. And the sustain pedal always slides away from you as you use it, even though it’s a “nice” one, not one of those cheap plastic foot switches that ship with some lower-end models.
The MP5 has tons of features that I never use. It’s quite heavy. I can lift it, but not easily. I decided that I wanted a do-everything digital keyboard. I wanted something I could use at home and at gigs, that could tick the following boxes:
- Best possible piano sound
- Decently realistic piano touch
- In-built speakers
When you buy a digital piano, you always compromise on something. Lots of people can’t deal with the fakeness of the touch on digital keyboards, but I actually don’t mind too much. It’s always going to be a compromise. However, I’ve always been impressed with the touch on Roland digitals. They come closer to that grand piano feeling than any other keyboard I’ve tried.
The piano sound is best I’ve tried of any brand too. My main criticism is that it is difficult to control the gradient of loud to soft tones – it’s a bit too sensitive to be completely realistic, it doesn’t take much for notes to “pop” out too much. This suits jazz and contemporary piano playing quite well, but makes it more difficult to play classical music with control. However, like I said, compromise is key, and the Roland does very well. It’s certainly still much better than playing an old and poorly-maintained piano.
The in-built speakers allow for stereo sound without needing 2 amps. This is compact, and sounds decent, but not amazing. The speakers in this particular keyboard are built into the back (presumably to save space). I notice a big difference in sound when using headphones – the sound is rich and clear. I imagine that if I had the keyboard set up against a wall, so that the sound bounced off the wall, it would sound a bit better. And of course there are line outputs so I can run the keyboard through a PA or desk at a gig.
The Roland is light enough for me to move around easily. This is the only reason I went with the FP-50 rather than the higher model, the FP-80.
It’s comfortable! This is due mainly to me buying a new keyboard stool that is larger and higher. It was also cheaper than my old one, it’s actually just the most simple, basic model of portable keyboard stool you can get. I also have on order a new Roland keyboard stand that won’t bump into my knees (the same one as in the picture at the top). It is heavier and more expensive than the X-shaped stand, but still easily portable, and will be much better for extended home use. Also! the sustain pedal that comes with the FP-50 has an extendable rubber mat that the heel of your foot sits on, so the pedal doesn’t slip away from you! Such a small detail, but makes such a big difference to playing comfort. Unlike the music stand of the Kawai, the music stand of the Roland is a solid piece of clear plastic, much easier to prop bits of manuscript paper on when writing new music.
I’m super pumped. I’m excited to play piano again. Whatever instrument you play, you should want to keep playing it for hours at a time. I’m spending today practising and writing new music.
Do you play a digital piano? What are your thoughts on it?