- This Roland Entry-Level Digital Piano may be $499, but it's worth it to get your kid to practice.
- The realistic sound quality and the feel of the keys create an authentic piano-like experience in a compact size.
- This isn't just a keyboard. It has all sorts of added bells and whistles that make practice educational as well as entertaining.
- Our favorite element is that the Roland FP-10 is also smart. Roland offers the Piano Partner 2 app that can be downloaded to an iPhone or iPad.
I have a confession: When we enrolled our daughter in piano classes and needed to purchase a practice keyboard, we went cheap. In our defense, we weren't sure how long she'd stick with it and didn't want to invest more cash into something that could turn out to be a passing phase. In hindsight, this was a huge mistake.
While her music classes took place on a standard upright acoustic piano, she came home to practice on a tinny-sounding, 61-key entry-level keyboard that we bought for about $100. The sound of this off-brand keyboard did not inspire her to practice.
After trying out the Roland FP-10 Digital Piano, we not only heard the difference in sound quality, but our daughter was a far more engaged budding pianist as well.
Roland has been a trusted company in the digital music game since they came on to the scene back in 1972. You can hear their keyboards and synthesizers behind such big-name artists as Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Green Day. While their top-of-the-line pianos can run into the thousands, they also make entry-level keyboards like the Roland FP-10. The particular model is currently available at Amazon for $499.99.
The Roland FP-10 is ridiculously easy to set up. All we had to do was unpack the unit, plug it in, turn it on, and start playing. The keyboard doesn't come with a stand, but you can buy one separately, whether a simple stand or a dedicated stand that's more sturdy and mimics a more traditional piano setup.
It's also an ideal scenario for a piano student to have a practice keyboard that has all the keys, not just some. The Roland FP-10 has all 88 keys, not 61 or 54 like some other practice keyboards, and it comes in a compact form, measuring about 50 inches by 10 inches.
This piano is lightweight enough (approximately 20 pounds) that it can be moved wherever you need it for practice. My daughter practiced in bed, on the living room floor, and during a particularly lovely afternoon, in our backyard. Having that kind of flexibility is a big plus and helps keep a young student - like mine - interested. If you're planning an extended family road trip, your child can bring the keyboard with them so they don't fall behind in their progress. And when I say road trip, I mean in a car. The unit is far too big to bring on the plane.
What makes it stand out
One of the first things my daughter noticed was the feel of the keys. The hammer action feels like a real piano. There is less of a disconnect when switching between an acoustic piano and this digital one. Our last keyboard had a more toy-like quality to it; it didn't possess that full key quality and action. The Roland FP-10 keys are responsive whether she plays hard or soft and feel similar to those of a standard piano, with the same tactile sensation.
While my daughter noticed the quality of the keys, I keyed into the quality of the audio. It sounds like a piano should, although it doesn't have the depth of sound a grand piano or quality upright has, it is pretty darn close. Roland uses what they call the SuperNATURAL piano sound engine. If one were to close their eyes, they likely wouldn't realize that it is merely a keyboard rather than a standard piano.
One of my favorite aspects of the Roland FP-10 is that there is an output for headphones. Not to disparage my daughter's playing, but you probably understand if you happen to have a piano student in your home, too. Yes, we love that our children are learning and practicing, but the learning curve can strain the ears. If you do choose to listen to the dulcet sounds of your child tickling the ivories, the onboard speakers are quite impressive with a clear and crisp sound quality.
My daughter, always one for experimentation, really enjoys the additional tones you can select. If she wants to change it up from the classic piano style, there's an array of different sound genres she can choose from, such as church organ, jazz organ, and vibraphone. Selecting these different tones is as easy as pressing the "piano" key with one of the designated keyboard keys. She also had a grand time dancing around to the internal songs programmed into the keyboard.
High-tech additions with Bluetooth
Besides the feel, perks, and quality of sound, our favorite element is that the Roland FP-10 is also smart. Roland offers the Piano Partner 2 app that can be downloaded to an iPhone or iPad. It was very simple to pair the Bluetooth on my phone to the keyboard, and the setup was completed in just a couple of steps. The app itself is very intuitive with a variety of options. Along with the Bluetooth connectivity, there's also a USB MIDI output for a one-cable connection to a computer or mobile device.
Beginners can benefit from the Flash Card option on the app that gives cues to match sounds and read notations. More seasoned players can find a more challenging experience with the average and expert levels.
The DigiScore tool on the Piano Partner 2 displays the score and plays classical pieces by Chopin, Liszt, and Debussy so that pianists in training can play along (and learn while they're at it). There's even a remote control to set the volume, tone, and brilliance of sound and a metronome to keep the beat on track. For more options, users can connect with Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) and a variety of other apps like Apple GarageBand.
Beyond all these bells and whistles, the tool my daughter had the most fun with was the Recorder function. With one touch, she could record anything that she played on the piano. The Recorder is a useful bonus for those who write their own music or want to give a listen, more objectively, to what has just been played.
The bottom line
If you're looking for a practice keyboard for yourself or your family, this portable piano is an excellent option. While the price may be a bit daunting, the additional bells and whistles justify it, especially the recording function. I found that it's a good investment that can help encourage my daughter to practice.
Pros: The sound is fantastic and clear. Different musical styles options, Bluetooth connectivity, and recording function are all useful extras.
Cons: The piano, with its full set of keys, could be a bit too large to lug around depending on where you're headed. Pricier than other entry-level pianos.
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