Category Archives: Roland

Key Figure: The Piano Takes Center Stage

Music history is rife with piano-playing frontpeople of all kinds. There is, of course, the tradition of pianist singer-songwriters like Carole King, Billy Joel, and Fiona Apple. At the same time, the piano is the main instrument of arena act vocalists like Chris Martin of Coldplay and Queen’s Freddie Mercury. All these artists take advantage of their piano prowess to craft their songs. Yet they also command the spotlight because of their skills on the keys. Now, there’s a new generation carrying the torch, bringing the legacy of piano-playing frontpeople into new genres and formats.

The Piano Path

For many young people, the piano serves as an entry point into music. Its tactile, intuitive layout—from the lowest note to the highest without pitch repetition—make it a perfect first instrument. However, the piano’s familiarity sometimes overshadows its depth. This is why virtuosos who can multi-task on piano and vocals continue to dazzle audiences. Seasoned performers like Elton John and Tori Amos can croon effortlessly while pounding out a complex piano pattern.

Creating a Moment

Still, a frontperson needn’t sit behind the piano for an entire set. A well-placed piano number can create a standout moment in a live show. These dynamics give singers the freedom to abandon the center microphone and increase impact. For example, two-time GRAMMY-winning R&B artist H.E.R. performed her ballad “Sometimes” using the Roland Facet Grand Piano at the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards®. The sight of H.E.R. emerging from behind the prototype Facet to launch into a passionate guitar solo added to the show’s dramatic flair.

The Leader of the Band

And it’s not only solo artists who gravitate to the piano. The appeal of the piano-playing frontperson crosses all stylistic lines. Witness the way Josh Katz of hard-rocking hitmakers Badflower shifts from guitar to a Roland GP-609 grand for spooky flourishes on their song “Cry.” 

In this particular case, the instrument’s imposing presence onstage gives the tune an added sense of emotional gravitas. During a 2021 livestream, Katz performed from the piano bench while the rest of Badflower set the dark mood around him. It’s an intense, compelling performance—and at its heart is the piano.

Chance Inspiration

For Greyson Chance, there was always a lot of Ray Charles playing in his house growing up. At a young age, Chance went viral playing the piano and garnered millions of streams and music video views. He first began to plunk around on those 88 keys at four years of age.

He insists his family didn’t push him to play; it was something he wanted to do. His first memories include awe and astonishment for the instrument—and Ray Charles himself. Chance saw in him an artist who sat behind the piano to play, write, and perform his way to becoming one of the most important musicians ever.

While some associate the frontperson role with singers or guitar players, piano players have a long history as bandleaders. That legacy made an impression on Chance as a child. Inspired by Ray Charles, Chance decided to become a piano-playing frontperson.  

A Place of His Own

As Chance puts it, the stage is his happy place, a safe zone in a world that can otherwise feel chaotic and confusing. When Chance is on stage, singing and playing piano, he feels a responsibility to be proficient, entertaining, and welcoming. An eclectic performer, Chance plays several piano models including the RD-88RD-2000, and GP609 grand, but is partial to the LX708 upright. 

“In the moments of the set when I’m just playing the piano, there is a feeling of rootedness for me.”
-Greyson Chance

“I feel the most at home and the most in control when I am on stage,” Chance says. “It’s as if my entire world falls out of focus and I can be the most present with myself and my fans for that hour and a half.” The experience grounds him. “In the moments of the set when I’m just playing the piano, there is a feeling of rootedness for me,” he shares. “It feels as if I am letting the crowd into my own home, to let them watch the process of it all.”

Gaga for Gaga

At 24, the Oklahoma-born Chance has an innate connection to both his art and his audience. Still, he’s always looked to others for bolstering. First, it was Charles, and other players like him, as he grew up. Later, he discovered his all-time fave, the piano-playing Lady Gaga. He covered her song “Paparazzi” as a young teenager. This led to his online fame, including retweets from celebs like Ryan Seacrest, Ashton Kutcher, and Ellen DeGeneres. 

“Even at a young age, I remember seeing something that was intentional,” Chance says. “Everything that Gaga does has a purpose and a greater vision behind it, and that is something that I now apply to my own art. Every artist should study her, she’s perhaps the best living artist on the planet.”

One FrontpersonMany Keys

About 2,000 miles from Oklahoma, Seattle-based artist, Julia Massey, fronts her Emerald City band, Warren Dunes. The group has performed live on the famed radio station KEXP and enjoyed features in national magazines. Warren Dunes’ songs blend several melodies simultaneously, many of which emanate from Massey’s two keyboards. As the frontwoman, Massey sings, plays synth bass and traditional electric piano all at once, both arms outstretched. 

“Because I’ve always had the piano as my main instrument, I never wondered if it was strange that I was leading projects behind a keyboard.”
-Julia Massey

For Massey, it was never odd to front a band as a keyboardist or piano player. “Because I’ve always had the piano as my main instrument, I never wondered if it was strange that I was leading projects behind a keyboard,” Massey admits. “Players like Tori Amos and Elton John lodged in my brain that piano players could also be pop stars, but I was never conscious of it. It’s always felt like, ‘This is the instrument that feels most natural to me, so let’s stick with it.’”

One player, in particular, left a strong impression. “I was specifically inspired to play more than one instrument by a Medeski, Martin, and Wood show I attended years ago,” Massey says. “John Medeski was surrounded by a bazillion keyboards. Although he didn’t sing, his performance bewitched me.” Her keyboard collection, including her beloved JUNO-DS synthesizer, speaks to Medeski’s influence. 

Piano in the DNA

For Chance, his rise to success was the result of others seeing what he did, valuing it, and sharing it. The praise he received was a testament to his artistry. It also revealed that music fans appreciate piano-playing singers. Perhaps it’s in human DNA. Before mics and amps, distortion pedals, and Elvis Presley shaking his hips, people gathered around the family piano. 

For a rising star like Chance, his career as a piano-playing singer is now surpassing his childhood dreams. “My life changed overnight,” says Chance. “I took my first plane to Los Angeles from Oklahoma after the video went viral,” he recalls. “Within weeks, I was in a studio signed to a major label. 12 years later it all feels like a blur.”

“Writing music and performing is the only way I know how to get through my own life.”
-Greyson Chance

Future music fans may look to Chance’s work with the same reverence he had for Ray Charles and the great Lady Gaga. “Writing music and performing is the only way I know how to get through my own life,” Chance says. “It’s the only consistent roadmap I have, and at this point, I will always stick to it.”

Like piano-playing frontpeople before him, Chance uses the 88 keys to connect with audience members and inspire others. He’s not alone. With artists like himself, Massey, Badflower, H.E.R., and others out there, the cultural resonance and relevance of the piano will continue to thrive. 

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Roland LX

Incorporating a Piano into Your Home’s Interior. Will Balance, Harmony and the Unity of the Space Be Lost?

If you have young children at school, they most probably will have learnt to play the recorder.  What’s wrong with the recorder? It’s small, inexpensive and, of course, it doesn’t sound that bad does it? Whilst it’s easy to dish out a little hate on recorders, they do serve a very good purpose. They are a great introduction to playing a musical instrument and this can often lead to a desire to play other instruments.

The piano just happens to be one of the most popular instruments to learn these days and for good reason. Generally, children and also adults will progress quite quickly as there is no need to “create” the sound, unlike say on a violin. The keys are all there for you and will create the sound. You just need to learn to read the notes, and the fingering (which fingers go where) and away you go!

Contributed by Rudi Zarka for Roland Corporation Australia

The Modern Digital Piano – Aesthetically ‘Sound’

There is also so much available these days in terms of quality modern technology. Digital pianos have mostly become the norm in the home due to the quality and authenticity of their sound and touch.

If you have worked hard to create a comfortable, stylish and harmonious interior space in your home, the last thing you want to do is upset that balance with an aesthetically unsuitable piano.

Musical instrument manufacturers have been making excellent digital pianos for a while now but there aren’t too many that tick all the boxes when it comes to design aesthetics.

If you spend time looking at design magazines and websites, or you work in the design industry, then you might just find what you are looking for in the Roland LX-700 series of digital pianos.

The cool and rather unique thing about the LX-700 series of pianos from Roland, is that Roland contracted renowned European design agency GBO to take care of the design process for the look and style of the piano.

The Evolution of an Instrument

The brief was to create an attractive and beautiful design that embodied the soul of a traditional piano but with a more modern edge. The idea was for the look of the piano to also invite you to want to play it. Of course, Roland provided all the latest digital piano technology with exquisite sound and playability, along with app connectivity for enhanced learning.

The end result is a piano that totally satisfies all your musical and pianistic needs. It also portrays a strong presence in your living space without crying out for attention. The balance, harmony and unity of your interior can be retained. There are also 3 models in the range, of differing sizes allowing you to choose according to your space.

This marriage of excellent aesthetic design and high-end digital piano technology has also resulted in Roland receiving the highly prestigious Red dot award for the LX-700 series in 2019.

The benefits of learning on a Digital Piano…

(via Roland)

The piano can excite, move, and inspire; whether you’re playing Chopin’s Scherzos or the intro to “Clocks” by Coldplay. The only obstacles are learning how to play in the first place and practicing enough to play well. Enlisting a qualified piano teacher gives you a strong start in establishing good techniques and avoiding bad habits. Digital pianos can make learning more enjoyable.

The Benefits of Learning on a Digital Piano

The benefits of learning on a digital piano are significant. Below we discuss some of the standout features that make a digital piano the perfect fit for most homes.

Before we begin, note that a modern digital piano is designed to accurately simulate an acoustic piano. Instead of hammers and strings, there are strategically-positioned speakers which produce a convincing and organic piano sound. Weighted keys recreate the feel of an acoustic keyboard for realistic playing experience. Also, the ability to change the sounds keeps learning varied and interesting. Some digital pianos even let you create your sounds to suit your taste.

Practice in Peace with Headphones

Most digital pianos let you plug in headphones. This can benefit both the learner and the people they live with. As well as avoiding distraction, headphones can block noise nuisance leaving you free to concentrate on private practice. Twin headphone sockets allow students and teachers to listen closely, spotting mistakes more accurately.

Develop your Sense of Rhythm with a Metronome

Timing is essential to playing the piano well. This is often an issue for beginners as they are still developing muscle and mental memory. It is useful to slow down or speed up depending on the level of difficulty.

Metronomes help develop your rhythmic and timekeeping skills. For instance, you can flick between settings and tempos on the metronome and slow pieces down to learn and master them. They can also be useful for more advanced time signatures.

Record and Listen to Your Performance

Recording your performance helps analyze exactly what’s going on in your playing. This will help identify your strengths and weaknesses. Digital pianos allow you to play back, perfect, and pick out any problems, nipping bad habits in the bud before they become ingrained.

Listening back to a recording can resolve issues with timing and performance. If you have a good memory, but struggle to read music, you can learn a piece by ear and study the music while listening back to your recording.

A digital piano allows you to transfer your performance to a computer, edit it, and print out a score. This allows others to read and play it too. Sheet music is useful if you’re interested in composition. You can quickly record ideas as they come to you.

Keep Practice interesting with Different Sounds

One of the benefits of learning on a digital piano is the variety of sounds available. For example, there are typically five to 10 types of piano, electric pianos from the ’70s and ’80s, strings, harpsichord, church, and electronic organs. Some even have synth sounds for even greater versatility.

It’s great to be able to learn Scarlatti pieces using a convincing harpsichord sound. A change in tone can inspire you and help recapture the passion if those fingering drills are becoming tiresome. Younger children also love experimenting and mixing sounds to make learning more exciting.

Use Apps to Improve Ability

A key advantage of learning on a digital piano is the access to online apps. Apps can help liven up practice and improve your playing. For example, Apps for sight-reading skills ask the pianist to identify written notes. Flashcard-style apps help with understanding music theory. Aural training apps develop abilities such as listening for particular scales or intervals.

A tablet device is particularly useful here as it allows quick access to electronically stored sheet music. When linked to your digital piano, some apps display a piece of music and listen to you play, before moving to the next page when you reach the last bar. Kids apps include fun games to learn a song, play together or freestyle to make practicing a pleasure rather than a chore.

Set Time Aside to Practice

It’s always difficult to learning something new. So, it’s crucial to put in dedicated time and effort. Just 20 minutes of piano practice a few days a week can help develop your skills and techniques. If you’re struggling with motivation, playing with others—even making mistakes together—is a great way to stay motivated. Digital pianos are packed with features that maximize your practice. You’ll achieve more in a shorter time.

Taking the Next Step

Learning the piano involves dedication and discipline. However, once mastered, the rewards are endless. A digital piano can offer a variety of sounds, useful practice features, and integration with the latest apps. Most importantly, you’ll get all of this without the worry about ongoing tuning and maintenance costs.

Digital Piano Advantages
  • Maintenance-Free: A digital piano doesn’t use hammers and strings to produce a sound so no tuning is required
  • Headphone Support: Practice any time of day, perfect your performance, and keep the neighbors happy
  • Touch and Sound Quality: Speakers are strategically positioned to recreate an acoustic piano sound
  • Record and Edit: A useful way to analyze your performance
  • Built-in Metronome: Helps develop rhythmic ability
  • App Integration: Helps develop ability and performance skills, keep you motivated and make learning fun for kids

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Tips for singer songwriters

Piano Self-accompaniment Tips for Singer-Songwriters

Backing yourself up as a singer can be a daunting task. Here are a few strategies to help improve self-accompaniment skills. Photos of Jordan West by Oscar Genel

Accompanying yourself as a singer can be a daunting task. The main challenge is dividing your focus between playing and singing. The secondary challenge is to keep the performance interesting and engaging for the listener. In this article, I’m going to share a few strategies that helped me improve my self-accompaniment skills.  

Practice Scales in All Keys

Running through major and natural minor scales is a great place to start. At the beginning of each practice session, play major and natural minor scales in every key. For added benefit, try practicing with a metronome in different tempos.   

This is a great exercise to warm up your fingers, boost your muscle memory, and improve ear training. It will also help you pay attention to rhythmic flow. Once you feel comfortable doing so, try practicing without looking at the piano.   

It’s worth noting here that apps like the Roland Piano Partner 2, which you can use with your Roland digital piano, make this particular task extremely easy.  

Start with Simple Grooves

A great place to begin is with simple grooves using the left hand. There are so many grooves you can play. But simple whole note, half note, and quarter note variations are standard in most accompaniments—especially ballads.   

As you get used to playing standard rhythmic patterns in time, start incorporating different combinations into your routine. For example, you can play quarter notes with your left hand, while you’re playing whole notes with your right hand.  

Roots, Power Chords, and Octaves

Try using your left hand to play root notes, power chords, and octaves. In most cases, you’ll feel inclined to play the root and the fifth degree of each chord more than anything else. This is especially common in genres such as pop and folk. But even for jazz and R&B pianists, it’s a solid starting point.

“By changing the order of notes, you can express different colors and emotions.”

Inverted Chords

You can also add variations by playing inverted chords with your right hand. Most piano players who are self-taught learn chords online and assume that there’s only one way to play them. But by simply changing the order of the notes, you can express different colors and emotions.   

For instance, there are three ways you can play a C major chord: root position, first inversion, and second inversion. Likewise, there are four ways you can play a C major seventh chord, with the added third inversion option.   

The more you practice playing inverted chords, the better. In situations where you want to improvise on the spot, you can rely on inversions to avoid panicking about playing the wrong note.  

Incorporating Arpeggios 

Arpeggios can save a performance from becoming stagnant. In fact, well-placed arpeggios will bring rhythmic excitement to almost any piece of music. Instead of playing the chord tones altogether, play them one by one, in the order and rhythm of your choosing.  

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Roland LX 708

A great performance by Justin Timberlake and Ant Clemons with a Roland LX-708 digital piano…

Roland was chosen to provide an LX-708 digital piano for Justin Timberlakes’ performance with Ant Clemons as part of the Inauguration Performance series!

Jordan Kitt’s Music is proud to represent Roland in Virginia, Maryland & DC, and have this model in stock today for you to see, hear and play for yourself.

Visit here to see the Roland LX-708 in action…

Live Mother’s Day Celebration Webcast with Jim Brickman!

Live Webcast with Jim Brickman — Mother’s Day Celebration

Live Webcast with Jim Brickman
Mother’s Day Celebration
Friday, May 11, 2018, at 12pm PDT / 3pm EDT

Make Mother’s Day extra special this year with a free, live concert from Jim Brickman. Invite all the moms in your life and join us online for this free webcast featuring songs, stories, giveaways, and video dedications.

When you RSVP, you’ll be entered to win a brand-new Roland RP102 Digital Piano! Plus, you’ll receive a link where you can share a personal video message to your mom which may be selected to air during the webcast.

Click the button below to register, send your video, and let Jim make this a Mother’s Day to remember.

Register Now

Registration closes May 10, 2018.