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Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord

FAQ

What instruments are good for ensemble playing?

The harpsichord has an exquisitely delicate and beautiful sound. It's great for ensemble playing, as long as other solo instruments with high energy levels do not smother it. The harpsichord is best suited for soloing or for inclusion in small ensemble groups. It especially fits in well with the recorder, woodwind, and other quiet instruments. It can also provide effective accompaniment for the violin and chamber music.
What kind music is the C-30 best used for? During the 15th to 18th centuries, in the era before the piano appeared, the harpsichord was the pivotal keyboard instrument in Western music.
In much the same way as the piano is today, the harpsichord was used back then as a solo instrument in ensembles and for accompanying singing and various instruments. It is the ideal instrument for playing music up to the baroque period (until J.S. Bach).  On it's five-octave FF-f''' range, you can play anything written for the harpsichord, except for the Scarlatti sonatas and one Haydn piece that go up to g'''.
I teach the piano. Is the C-30 of any use for piano teaching?
When playing various pieces of music on the piano, it is very important to understand which phrases were used in which generation and on what kind of instrument. Consequently, the touch and sound produced while playing are liable to change depending on who is playing.
For example, the actual instrument the keyboard music of Bach or Handel was composed for was the harpsichord. If piano players have the opportunity to try and achieve legato expression on a harpsichord without using a pedal, or to vary the expressive strength of phrase units, or add trills and ornamentation, they will discover expressive possibilities that would not occur to them by practicing solely on the piano.
Used in conjunction with a grand piano, the C-30 will help students obtain a deeper understanding of expression, the ultimate goal of music
What kinds of temperament (traditional tuning) are available, and how are they used?

 

The C-30 has the following five types of temperament built in, and a button push is all that is required to switch from one to another.

[Selection and use]
Equal temperament
As with present-day pianos, each octave is divided into 12 tones. Free rein is given to transposition and, when used, transposition does not alter the harmonics.

Werckmeister
This well-balanced temperament enables use of all tones, and the harmonies of each tone are distinct. Relatively easy to use, this temperament was mainstream during Bach's lifetime.

Kirnberger
Similar to Werckmeister, but the harmonies are even more defined. Transposition is possible but quite difficult (after Bach's time).

Vallotti
As Werckmeister, it is close to equal temperament and does not restrict transposition. Vallotti is also often used with harpsichords.

Meantone
Commonly used for European pipe organs. While it produces beautiful thirds, the number of musical keys is limited. This restricts transposition.
Is it hard to operate the C-30? Sound selection, volume control, switching between different tunings, and other basic functions have their own dedicated control buttons and knobs on the operation panel. All the controls are logical and easy to understand. If you are unsure how to do something, a look at the Quick Manual will soon get you back on track.
What is the USB port for? It can be used for future internal programming (firmware) upgrades and function expansion.
Is a music stand included? A detachable music stand is included.
You can remove it when it is not required.
Can the tuning be changed? Can the C-30 be tuned to baroque pitch (415 Hz)? If you hold the Function button you can adjust the pitch using the Tone knob.
Using the Function button and Tone knob together, you can set up the C-30 to match the pitch of other instruments.
The function controls of the C-30 also enable one-touch switching. Beside the semitone lower baroque pitch (415 Hz, you can use Versailles pitch (392 Hz), which is nearly one whole tone lower. To accompany other instruments tuned to just about any other pitch, all you have to do is use the settings in conjunction with the tuning function.
How powerful are the speakers and what kind of space can they fill? The C-30 has two 13 W speakers.
The C-30 can produce a more powerful sound than an acoustic harpsichord. The built-in speakers have enough output to reach all the listeners in halls that seat several hundred people. The previous C-80 model has been used in the orchestra pit of an actual opera and has been judged to perform well alongside an actual orchestra.
How does the C-30 differ from the C-80? The C-30 is smaller and lighter than the C-80. Taking up less space, it can easily be moved around.

[Capabilities]
The C-80 has just a single (Flemish-type) harpsichord on board. In addition, it cannot provide an 8 + 8 + 4 string combination.

[Keyboard]
The C-80 has a click-action keyboard with the color of the sharp and natural keys reversed.
In the C-30, the keys have a longer distance to the pivot. Other differences include the shape of the sharp keys, the click sensation, and the weight of the keys. These and other fine details have been improved in this newly developed keyboard.
How much space does the C-30 need? Taking up less space than an electric piano, the C-30 will fit just about anywhere. It is not heavy and can easily be moved around. The compact dimensions are listed below.

External dimensions (including the stand)
[Lid open]
1,100 (W) x 450 (D) x 1,170 (H) mm/ 43-5/16 (W) x 17-3/4 (D) x 46-1/16 (H) inches
[Lid closed]
Width:1,100 (W) x 380 (D) x 830 (H) mm/ 43-5/16 (W) x 15 (D) x 32-11/16 (H) inches

Weight (unit and stand)
25 kg (55 lbs 2 oz) unit + 13 kg (28 lbs 11 oz) stand = 38 kg (83 lbs 13 oz) in total

At 38 kg (83 lbs 13 oz), the weight of the unit and stand is relatively light. No floor reinforcement is necessary. The C-30 can be placed on a carpet and other floor coverings, or even on tatami mats.

It can easily be placed upstairs in a child's room without the worry of excessive sound.

How much electricity does it use? The C-30 uses about 25 W of power. This is almost insignificant, less than a dim 40 W light bulb lighting a hall or stairway.
Is the C-30 likely to fall over if there is an earthquake?
The design conforms to stability safety standards. The cabinet will not fall over if tilted by up to 10. However, along with other furniture and household appliances, if there is a powerful earthquake, it may fall over.
The ideal solution, where possible, would be to use commercially available stays or fixing devices to lock the unit to the wall or floor.
Is the C-30 easily affected by humidity, dryness, and heat?
As with fine furniture, the C-30 should not be placed in direct sunlight.
As far as the sound is concerned, the pitch (tuning) and playability are unaffected by heat or humidity. The sound of the C-30 is much more dependable than the sound of acoustic instruments. However, the fine wooden cabinet does require the same care that you give to high-quality furniture. If kept in extreme environments, such as exposed to direct sunlight or in very damp or dry conditions, discoloration, surface deformation, and even warping of the lid may occur.
Is tuning necessary? Whereas guitars, violins, and other acoustic instruments have to be tuned before playing, the C-30 uses a digital sound source that provides perfect and consistent pitch. Tuning is not necessary.
Is the C-30 made of wood? The cabinet is made of wood.
Using an environmentally friendly process, the cabinet is finished in high-quality, attractive veneer made from Japanese wood. The finish is a luxurious mahogany grain.
What materials are the picture board and decorative panel made of? The picture board consists of a sheet applied to a wooden panel. A large industrial printer manufactured by Roland DG is used to print the sheet.
The decorative panel is made of transparent PET (polyethylene teraphthalate) and is printed by same Roland DG printer.
What do the Latin words on the picture board mean? This Latin proverb says, "Music is a companion to joy and a comfort in sorrow."
It is one of a number of mottos that are often found written on the inside of the lids of Flemish harpsichords.
How is the C-30 different than harpsichord sounds on electric pianos? While many electric pianos provide a harpsichord sound, it is just one sound among many others, and the piano keyboard does not do justice to the subtle expressivity of the harpsichord. Neither can you select or layer strings or change registration.
Compared to the C-30, the keyboard action is considerably heavier, and the piano action does not do justice to the harpsichord. Music played on the C-30 is significantly closer to the authenticity of the genuine harpsichord sound, feel, and expressiveness.
What sounds are onboard? What are the characteristics of these sounds? You can switch between six onboard instruments on the C-30: French harpsichord, Flemish harpsichord, fortepiano, dynamic harpsichord, positive organ, and celesta.

[Characteristics of each type]
The French harpsichord has a gentle, fluid sound that displays its charm particularly in solo playing.
The Flemish harpsichord has a crisp sound with enough presence for ensemble playing.
The fortepiano is the same early piano sound heard by Mozart and Bach.
The dynamic harpsichord lets you play the French harpsichord with more dynamic expression and also allows the use of the damper pedal. With this sound-set you can explore new territories of harpsichord expression.
For these four instruments, the following four buttons provide different sound coloration to chord and combination selections.

[Sound characteristics]
8-foot pitch I: Known as the "back eight," the tone is gentle and thick, and provides an underlying sound. Often called "front eight," the bright and distinctive sound results from plucking the string near the end of its sounding length.
4-foot pitch: An octave above 8-foot, it is usually played together with 8-foot.
Lute: When a buff of felt or similar material is applied to 8-foot strings, the sound resembles the lute, the ancestor of the guitar.
To vary the positive organ sound, the following two buttons are used for selecting the pipes. These can also be used layered.

[Sound characteristics]
Organ I: Wooden pipes (lower flute, 8-foot)
Organ II: Metal pipes (principal, 8-foot plus 4-foot)
The organ button is also used for selecting celesta.
Celesta: The charming sounds are made by hammers hitting metal plates.
What kind of harpsichord has been used as the source for the sound? The harpsichord in the C-30 was sampled from a French Blanchet instrument. The charm of its gentle, fluent sound is particularly apparent in solo playing.
The other instrument, a fine Ruckers Flemish harpsichord, is already familiar from the C-80. However, the onboard memory has been expanded so you get a set of new high-quality sounds that are responsive to playing technique. The new sounds provide more vivid reality with richness in the mid-range and a high-end that is crisp and penetrating, with enough distinctiveness even for ensemble playing.
Are the keys of the C-30 responsive to different key pressure? Does the tone and expression change according to how the keys are pressed? In the development of the C-30 keyboard and sound source, Roland's engineers gave the highest priority to improving the way that touch affects sound and musical expression. In particular, by implementing the points described below, you can both subtly change the sound depending on touch and let your playing sparkle with articulation and nuance.

How hard you press the keys subtly affects the resulting sound. A heavy touch produces a thick, strong sound, while a lighter touch brings out brightness and beauty in the tone. Forceful pressure on a key also changes the wooden-box sound of the jack rail being struck by the jack, which holds the plectrum. The mechanics of pressing a piano key and pressing a harpsichord are different, and the difference in touch is reflected in the way the sound is produced. When playing multiple choirs of strings with the harpsichord, the timing of the plucking of each string is slightly offset (staggered) to prevent the need for extremely heavy pressure.

This staggering is reproduced, so that pressing the keys in subtly different ways allows delicately nuanced changes in the way sounds are produced. The slight lag that occurs after the jack is raised is also reproduced. This enables a more cohesive sound during trill and legato playing. When the key is released, a distinctive noise is made when the plectrum scrapes the string on its return. You can immediately release the key or, before release, you can pause and wait for the string to stop vibrating. This decision affects the character of the noise that is produced. Paying attention to even key release timing raises expression to whole new level.

All these fine details of the harpsichord's action are important features that have been realized to enable you to play with authentic technique and expressive articulation. The C-30 is a particularly effective means of developing a subtle and accurate feel for the way the harpsichord is played.
Does the C-30's keyboard feel the same as an acoustic harpsichord's keyboard? Differences in the mechanism mean that the feel is not exactly the same.

Keyboard features that strongly resemble the acoustic harpsichord:
Key travel (stroke)
Click feel (the sensation of strings being plucked)
Initial weight (the resistance when a key is first pushed)
Shape and size of the sharp (black) keys

Keyboard features that differ from the acoustic harpsichord:
Octave pitch same as the piano, wider range than traditional harpsichords
Length of natural (white) keys similar to piano and organ, longer than most traditional harpsichords
Change in key resistance when multiple strings are plucked with the C-30, key pressure remains the same and playing is easy regardless of how many strings are played. For each key, large acoustic harpsichords have multiple choirs of strings. When more than one string is plucked, resistance increases and playing feels heavier.
When the key is pressed past the plucking position, the click sensation lingers a little, owing to the response of the mechanism.

No standards were agreed upon for the keys and keyboards of acoustic harpsichords. Different instruments may have keys of different form and feel. Normally, once a player gets used to a particular instrument, a different instrument feels strange and it takes practice to get accustomed to the special characteristics of the keyboard. To become an assured harpsichord player, it is necessary to become familiar with the peculiarities of a number of instruments.

The C-30 does not try to emulate the murkier aspects of the harpsichord keyboard. Putting effort into getting an authentic touch and genuine harpsichord expressiveness, Roland designed an original keyboard especially for the harpsichord. Rather than blindly copying the features that make some harpsichords difficult to play, the designers looked at things from the player's point of view and chose to enable easier phrasing and articulation. Because of this, if you come to the C-30 from the piano, you should find it much easier to play than an acoustic harpsichord. Conversely, once you get used to playing the C-30, you should not expect to be able to sit at an acoustic harpsichord and casually play with the same level of skill. After all, the feel when strings are plucked, the shorter length of the white keys, the different key width, the increased resistance when a single key press plucks two strings, and other characteristics will not be the same.

Compared with other keyboard instruments, such as piano, organ, and electric keyboard, however, the C-30 lets you practice the most important techniques of phrasing and articulation with a keyboard that very closely approximates the traditional feel of the harpsichord. After playing the C-30, playing an acoustic harpsichord will also feel much less strange than after practicing on one of the other keyboard instruments.
So, as a step on the road to playing an acoustic harpsichord, practice on the C-30 is exceptionally beneficial.
How large is the C-30 keyboard? The dimensions of the C-30 keyboard are listed below.
White key pitch (edge-to-edge width of adjacent white keys): 23.6 mm/ 15/16 inches
White key size (visible part): width 22.0 mm/ 7/8 inches, length 120 mm/ 4-3/4 inches
Black key size (visible part): width 11.2 mm/ 1/2 inches, length 70 mm/ 2-13/16 inches

Acoustic harpsichords that are made today have narrow keys. This is traced back to the 18th century remodeling (grand ravalement) of esteemed Ruckers Flemish-style harpsichords, which were made in the previous generation. To extend the pitch range, more keys had to be added, and it was necessary to reduce the width of each key. In one way, this was beneficial: in the absence of a damper pedal, it is better to keep the keys as narrow as possible to facilitate legato playing, which is more effective if keys can be spanned and held more easily. At the same time, narrow keys can make playing harder for people with large hands or thick fingers.

Harpsichord makers were unable to agree on standard dimensions. From generation to generation and from place to place, workshops used different dimensions and color schemes for keyboards. This gave the instruments a great deal of individuality.
To make it possible to enjoy playing the C-30 expressively both as a harpsichord and as a piano, the keys have been made the same width as conventional piano keys.
Why, even when the lid is down, are the keys visible from the front? Most harpsichords were made so the front remained unenclosed and visible. The C-30 has a similarly open design that reveals, even with the lid down, that it is a musical instrument. Using a lid that completely enclosed the top posed design problems, and it was found that a simple, overhanging lid yielded a simple and elegant look.
On the C-30, why hasn't the color of the black and white keys been reversed as in the previous C-50 and C-80 electric harpsichords?
Harpsichord keyboards were never standardized. The colors and materials of the sharp keys (ebony on the piano) and natural keys (ivory on the piano) varied depending on the maker and instrument.

Using black for the natural keys was a very distinctive feature of certain harpsichords, and is found in late-period French harpsichords and on many Flemish instruments. Various reasons have been given for this. At the time, women were the primary players of harpsichords, and some say that a dark background accentuated a woman's hands. Others say that precious ebony wood was used to increase the luxuriousness of the instruments. On the other hand, Italian harpsichords almost always followed the light and dark pattern of the piano. Even so, the materials and coloration of the keys of different instruments was often very distinctive.

In the current development of the C-30, as a statement that the sound and expressivity of the instrument are equal to the piano, the color pattern of the keys has been made the same.
On the C-50 and C-80 the key colors were reversed, but the keys did not have a great feel. This time, using the conventional piano coloration, the black keys have also been made matte and have an improved feel. The styling of the instrument has also been redesigned in a virginal format. To go with the simpler design, a simple, conventionally patterned color layout was adopted.
How does the keyboard of the C-30 work? A special harpsichord keyboard was developed for the C-30.
The keys sensitively reproduce the feeling of plectrums working against strings. The depth of travel (stroke) when you press a key and the initial weight (resistance to being pushed) are also faithfully reproduced. Moreover, great attention has been paid of the sharp keys (black) their length and form is true to the harpsichord and this provides improved playability, particularly of sharps.
Why does it look different than a usual harpsichord?
The form of the C-30 is borrowed from a small, rectangular type of harpsichord known as the "virginal." To reduce the size of the larger triangular harpsichord, the virginal was designed with the strings arranged parallel to the keyboard. This enabled a more compact design that was suitable for personal and home use. For the acoustic instrument, however, the size and design restrictions made the instrument even quieter and reduced the range and variety of sounds.

Designing the C-30, Roland gave priority to making the instrument easy to move around and install. So the form of the virginal was chosen. Even so, it provides two large manuals for the full variety of harpsichord sounds (registers) and a full 61-key range. If you want to play more loudly, it has power to spare.
Is there any difference between the cembalo and the harpsichord? These are different names for the same type of instrument. The Germans have used "cembalo," the name that originated in Italy. The English-speaking world knows it by the name "harpsichord." Meanwhile, the French know it as the "clavecin." These names all apply to keyboard instruments that make sounds with a mechanism for plucking strings when keys are pressed.

Roland uses the English name "digital harpsichord" on the control panel, but the instructions and other literature use whatever name is appropriate in the local language.
Why develop an electronic harpsichord now? In terms of both form and sound, the harpsichord is an exceptionally attractive instrument. Acoustic harpsichords, however, are prohibitively expensive. Owners also have to constantly adjust them to ensure that they stay in tune. Because acoustic harpsichords require so much care, only the most dedicated musicians have been able to regularly experience the joy of playing the enchanting instrument. Even then, there is another drawback: The acoustic sound has limited dynamic range. There is no great difference when notes are played quietly or loudly. Because it is quieter than other modern instruments, the harpsichord fell out of favor with mainstream music. Nowadays, it is used almost exclusively for playing baroque and earlier pieces. Most people rarely get a glimpse of a harpsichord or get to hear its wonderful sound.

While preserving the sound, intact with all its charm, Roland has overcome the drawbacks of the acoustic harpsichord by creating the C-30, an instrument that can be enjoyed as conveniently as an electric piano. The electric harpsichord was made especially for people who relish a different kind of musical challenge. Providing fascinatingly authentic sound and creating a special atmosphere, the C-30 will let you find your way deep into the heart of music.
A classical instrument, yet utterly new: The C-30 provides what today's discriminating music lovers have been waiting for.
What kind of musical instrument is the C-30?
The C-30 is an electronic version of the harpsichord, which has given pre-classical music a new lease on life as a more accessible musical instrument.
The harpsichord is also known as the "cembalo" in German and Italian. Until the development of the piano in the late 18th century, the harpsichord and the pipe organ shared honors as the major keyboard instruments. In the baroque era, up to the time of J.S. Bach, and even in the early years of Mozart, the harpsichord was a mainstream instrument for composing and performance.

Be aware that the C-30 is an electronic instrument and must be plugged into an electrical outlet.

Just as with an electric piano, the C-30 can be played any time once it is put in place, plugged in, and turned using the On/Off button on the control panel. When you play, the built-in speakers produce an authentic harpsichord sound. Moreover, you can adjust the volume. This means that, better than an acoustic harpsichord, you can play loud enough to fill a large hall. Or, for practice at home, you can plug in headphones. That way, only you can hear what you are playing, and you won't disturb others.

Another advantage of using a digital instrument is that pitch and tone remain stable. You can confidently move the C-30 around or transport it, knowing that it will always stay in tune. It is also not adversely affected by changes in temperature and humidity. Because it needs no more care than a piece of furniture or an electrical appliance, you can enjoy playing the harpsichord at any time.
I only have a piano. Will I be able to play the C-30? While the feel of the keyboard is different than the piano, the musical notation for the keys is the same.
Coming to the harpsichord from the piano, you have the great benefit of being able to read music and to properly use both hands. You can use these skills to start playing the harpsichord. Soon, you will become aware that the harpsichord demands a different touch to do justice to the sound, and that the phrasing and playing techniques are different from the piano. Once you start exploring this new instrument, you will discover a deeper level of musical satisfaction and creativity.

Practice on the C-30 will enable you to acquire the touch, release timing, special legato techniques, and other skills you need for playing the harpsichord.