Buying a new digital piano can seem like a bit of a daunting process. There’s so much conflicting advice out there and even more questions raised: “What digital piano do teachers recommend?” Or “which is the best piano to learn on?” Often these searches return vast amounts of opinions and replies from players, manufacturers and bloggers alike. Working on the shop floor of a music shop, I’ve been lucky enough to try many of the numerous models of digital piano over the years and I know first hand that people choose their instrument based on the following requirements; sound, feel, appearance and, of course, value for money!
In my 11 years of doing this, I’ve never encountered an instrument that has proved as popular, and engaged as many players, as the Roland FP-30. People have bought these in much larger numbers than I’ve ever encountered and, for the first time, I’ve had piano teachers actually bring their students in and ask for this particular instrument! Why is this? What makes the FP-30 so great? Let’s explore why we think the Roland FP-30 is the piano of the year and what makes it the best digital piano for around £500.
When learning piano, it is vitally important that your instrument feels right. All advice out there points to getting something with a weighted action which means it feels like playing an acoustic piano. The piano hammer action on the FP-30 is exceptionally good and it feels great to play. Using Roland’s high end “PHA 4” mechanism, it accurately recreates the feel and response of a traditional piano. If you or any budding pianists are getting lessons or doing exams on a traditional acoustic piano, there should be virtually no compromise when moving back to the FP-30 to practice. In this price range, this is quite unusual as often the weighted feel within instruments in the £500 part of the market isn’t as accurate as it should be.
So what are the real benefits of having a great piano action? Firstly, whether its for a beginner or an expert, having a great feeling instrument makes for a far more enjoyable playing experience. The player can express themselves fully which is not only more fun, but important for keeping them engaged and motivated to practice! Secondly, any technique or dynamics learned in lessons can be accurately reproduced on the FP-30, helping develop muscle memory, skill and expression.
Equally important is how the FP-30 sounds. While it may be ‘entry level’ in its price point, the FP-30 is high end in its sound quality, due to the advanced SuperNatural sound engine. In a nutshell, SuperNatural technology recreates not only the sound, but also the behavior of a fine acoustic instrument. Think about all the subtleties and nuances of an acoustic piano. What does it do when you play quietly or loudly? How does it resonate when you use the sustain pedal? All these characteristics are created as you play making it an incredibly expressive playing experience.
Unlike many other instruments in this price range, ‘touch sensitivity’ does not mean a louder or softer version of the same sound. It means natural dynamics, nuanced performances and more musicality from an instrument that responds naturally to the player. This amazing sound quality is only helped by the powerful built in speakers although, it can also be played on headphones.
Being a digital instrument, the FP30 has a few great features to help you learn, practice and perform at home or out and about. As well as the great piano sound, there are 34 other sounds to choose from ranging from lush electric pianos to organs and strings. Sounds can even be layered up to enhance performances with strings or synth pads. I like this because it makes me sound better than I am! There’s a recorder to capture performances or to assist with practising as well as metronome to keep things in time.
One of the most useful things is the ‘twin piano’ mode which splits the piano in two, giving you two pianos in one. This is an amazing feature if you have a teacher who comes to the house (or if you are a teacher yourself!) because two people can learn from copying each other. For those who like playing along with music or learning by ear, there’s even a USB stick input where you play back .WAV files of you favourite tunes as well as a regular USB port for connecting to the computer to record MIDI.
The icing on the cake is the built in Bluetooth connection which is really clever. When connected to a smart phone or tablet, the FP-30 gains even more features and functions to help you play, record and practice. While there’s a few apps out there to help you learn, Roland’s own Piano Partner 2 is great. This is an interactive practice and performance app which contains some great features to hep you learn and practice. It consists of some ‘Flash Card’ games which test your sight reading or listening skills, over 300 pieces of sheet music to play along and interact with and the facility to record, then share your masterpieces. To keep you on track, there is a practice log book which keeps a record of your progress and improvements as you learn. What’s more we can make the FP-30 even easier to use by using a smartphone as a remote control.
The FP-30 is available in black or white and can be purchased on its own with a basic sustain pedal, or as a set, with wooden legs and a proper pedal board. This makes it perfect for playing at home or even taking out live! Starting at £539 for the piano itself or £679 for the set, the FP-30 is phenomenal value for money. To get an instrument of this quality at this price is unprecedented. Packing many of the benefits and and the features of far more expensive models into a practical and simple instrument, it’s easy to see (and hear!) why it’s been so popular.
So, what are you waiting for? Get down to your local Red Dog Music and try one today or give us a call on 0131 229 8211 to speak to me, Red Dog’s Roland Product Specialist!
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