August 2010 Archives

Korg Digital Piano

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The compact and stylish SP-170 digital piano in either Black or White cabinet has now an additional model finished in vivid Red.

It provides 10 instrumental voices including concert grand piano, electric piano harpsichord and organ, NH (Natural-weighted Hammer) action, reverb and chorus effects, two headphone ports, powerful speaker system that delivers deep authentic sounds and 3-level key touch sensitivity control function.

It has a damper switch and music rack.

Further information is available from:

Pearl Snare Drum

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SG1460 ¥47,500
A signature snare drum of Shane Gaalaas, supporting drummer of B'z, is now available from Pearl. Featuring 1mm thick black nickel-plated brass shell with a center bead, it comes in 14″ by 6″ size for thick low and pleasant high ends.

Other features include master diecast hoops, tube lugs, an Ultra Sound Type C snappy, a heavy-duty REMO Emperor X drum heads, and a special emblem designed by Gaalaas himself, and a carefully designed air vent.

Further information is available from:

ESP Electric Guitars

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Moi dix Mois/Mana models
Jeune fille X Gips-Cross Ray ¥890,000
(photo left)
Jeune fille X Bronze-Cross Ray ¥950,000 (photo right)
The jeune fille X Gips guitar which is a gear of Mana of "Moi dex Mois" has a new addition with an LED-equipped Cross Ray design on Gips White body center. The jeune file X Bronze limited edition model in Mana Bronze finish has returned with the same LED-equipped Cross Ray design.

They feature hard maple top, alder back, 3-piece hard maple neck, black-painted maple fingerboard with "jeune fille" inlay, one EMG81 pickup on the rear, and Kahler tremolo system. The Cross Ray can be LED-illuminated by a switch control or flickered in designated intervals with the Speed Controller.

They come with a hard case.

Further information is available from:

Aria Pro II Semi-Acoustic Guitars

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TA-TONIC (photo left)
TA-DOMINO (photo right)
Two new models joined the slim body TA Series semi-acoustic guitar line much favored by guitarists with their remarkable playability. They are made in Japan featuring mahogany center block (photo) with Aria original slots to achieve light weight and excellent body resonance for warm mid and treble tone.

The TA-Tonic features maple body, a little slimmer neck grip, two Aria original APH-1 Classic Rock pickups for warm and clear tone, and mellow sustain. It's most suitable for rock and pop musicians. It's available either in Wine Red or Almond Burst.

The TA-DOMINO comes with mahogany body, a slightly thick neck grip to get warm crunch and clean sounds, two Aria original APH-2 Jazz pickups in reduced output power for increased tonal clarity. The Wine Red guitar is recommended for blues and jazz musicians.

Both models feature mahogany neck with 22 frets ebony fingerboard, GOTOH machine head, Switchcraft jacks, and reliable Aria original bridge and tailpiece. They have a classical and chic Aria logo on the headstock, and the lacquered body top gives them an attractive look.

Further information is available from:

Cakewalk by Roland Recording System

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V-Studio 20 for Macintosh

Cakewalk by Roland has introduced the V-Studio 20 PC recording package for Macintosh. Simply download Mac OS X driver, editor, Logic/Garage Band plug-ins from Roland website, it offers latency-free recording capability using latest Boss-powered effects and efficient surface control on the Mac Platform. (The Guitar Tracks4 software in the package only supports Windows machines.)

Further information is available from:

Steinberg DAW Packages

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CI1 & CI2+
Two new packages containing a USB audio interface and music production software are now available following the CI2s which came into the market last fall.

Both packages provide two mic/line inputs with LXR-combo sockets, two balanced line outputs with TRS, +48V phantom power and a Hi-z Switch on output 1 for direct connection of electric guitar and bass.

The CI1 comes with a Sequel LE, easy-to-use software for sound production, audio recording and mastering, and WaveLab LE for edit/mastering. More than 10 VST effect voices transported from the Cubase are provided. The Podcast function allows the user to share produced music files and sound source on the Internet.

The CI2+ with increased controllers for instrumentalists provides two high quality mic preamps with +48V phantom power, USB-powered audio interface, high precision AI knob to which parameter on the display screen can be automatically assigned by pointing with computer mouse. The parameter can be locked to the AI knob to retain control when the muse is moved elsewhere on screen.

The Project Assistant function offers the user matched templates for recording and score production. Since each template provides automatically assigned tracks and effect voices, it's easy to select desired ones with the AI knob controller.

The Interactive Recording mode enables the user to operate a sequence of 6 transports with the Action Pad or with separately sold Yamaha FC5 foot switch for hands free recording.

The 4 new transport control buttons, Play/Stop, Next, Previous and Rec, are provided for transport control of Cubase.

It also features Cubase 5-powered Cubase Essential 5 sound engine, Pitch Correct, Beat Designer and VST HaLionOne functions.

It supports Mac OS X, Windows XP (SP3), Vista (SPI) and 7.

Further information is available from:

Korg Ukulele Tuner

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AW-2U ¥3,800

The new model to the clip-on type AW-2 tuner line is specially designed for ukulele players. Standard/Baritone and 4ST/6-8ST buttons are provided at the rear for tuning soprano, concert, tenor and baritone size, and 4-, 6-, and 8-string models. It also allows the user to enjoy solo performance in Low-G tuning in combined use of the STANDARD and 6-8ST functions.

The clip finely fits headstock in various thickness and types of ukulele. It employs multi-angle double ball joint system for increasingly flexible control of the display screen for comfortable tuning.

The display shows string and pitch names in large letters easily visible for entry level players. The back light display provides Light-off mode, Soft mode in low brightness and Auto mode in high brightness which can handle versatile situations from sunny outdoor stage to dawn and night time performances.

Besides the built-in microphone, it has a piezo pickup for reliable tuning.

It provides LG to HC tuning range in STANDARD mode and 4D to HG in BARITONE mode in plus or minus 1 cent accuracy. It runs on a CR2032 lithium battery. As long as 150 hours of use is provided when back light function is off.

Further information is available from:


Retail Music Market Survey for 2010 First Half Period

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After one of the most challenging years, Japanese music products retail business is feeling some optimism. Japan Music Trades interviewed 42 music dealers throughout the nation asking first half business results ended in June. Many of them reported a sign of recovery though consumer spending still remains slow.

The impact of world-wide economic slump was felt in various aspects of business. One dealer commented that customers who buy music products in installment plan significantly declined from 40% to 20%.

They reported that demands were growing for used pianos; number of school has been reduced because of demographic change; profits were affected largely by lowered unit price; tighter school budget caused music dealers fewer replacement businesses; customers were more inclined to repair old instruments rather than trade-ups; Demands were likely to be divided into high-end and inexpensive lines with slim sales for the products in mid price range.

Severely affected by the recent recession, however, the music dealers looked to expect much in the future organizing in-store clinics, concerts, special sales campaigns, etc. to increase store traffics. Twenty five stores, or 60% of the responded retailers, replied that they were involved in community events teaming with local governments, housing makers, and child nursery schools. They provided the visitors with mini concerts at local hotels which helped attract guests to restaurants and coffee shops while the music dealers took the opportunities to recruit new students for their music teaching studios. One dealer reported that a new wellness program initiated in spring for senior citizens was well accepted in the community.

The survey revealed positive approaches of the dealers using latest information tools as smart phone and tablet computer. They see Internet website, twitter, blog and video are effective means supplying their customers with product and store information.

They were also concerned to grasp customer profiles through store events to know how the instruments they purchased were used. They reported better communication was built as the stores and customers shared information. As one retailer commented, closing sales doesn't mean the end of business. The first time purchasers can be loyal customers to stores if they feel well treated in shopping. 


Ikutaro Kakehashi, Founder, Special Execitive Adviser, Roland Corporation

Make out what we confront now
In 1879, Japanese Government initiated Music Education Bureau, an umbrella organization of the Ministry of Education to introduce music education into elementary and junior high schools. Pianos and organs played primary roles in teaching Japanese children Western style music. I say, it was a remarkable policy that built the foundation for today's music education and the development of the music products industry in this country. After the World War II, instrumental music rapidly grew at various levels of education. Our industry was fully benefitted from the burgeoning school business.

Today, we see a picture of the industry totally different from the early period. For example, China has taken over the position as the world's largest piano supplier from the Japanese piano industry. In peak times, more than 300 thousand pianos sold annually in the Japanese market. The production has declined to one tenth today.
Every industry is seriously damaged when 20% or 30% of its manufacturers close their doors. Half lost, there will be a panic. With less than one tenth piano production today, it can be a horrific disaster. No, the reality is growing demands for piano music at home. The music teaching studios organized for decades throughout Japan are saving the dwindled piano industry. Backed by this long tradition and history of promoting music, music dealers are more enthusiastic in maintaining music lesson businesses than selling products. They are not much involved in selling, but the business keeps afloat.

Another change in music retail business is what they sell for making piano music. While sales of acoustic piano wane, digital piano came into the market. We see increasing number of advertisements seeking used piano instead of promoting new instruments in retail business recent years. It was unlikely decades ago, but has become a familiar trend today.

As we see many changes prevailing over the piano industry, no one seems to be concerned about the industry future. The most effective way to know present situation is to focus on the conditions we confront. I think manufacturers and dealers can share concerns.

The industry doesn't stand on the old ground
The manufacturers take diversified strategies for survival whatever industry they belong to. When it comes to Roland, we have ventured on overseas markets, concentrating in digital products and are challenging inexperienced fields. We know traditional musical instruments and digital instrument share equal size of business in the market. It was not 50 years ago as the digital instruments hardly existed. Along with advancement of digital technologies, digital product lines significantly explored to be well comparable with the traditional acoustic instruments.

What do we expect to see in the future? So far, I haven't heard of prospects that can answer the question in the industry. The environment involving the industry has greatly diversified, and we provide the customer with unprecedented scope of products. What do consumers expect in our industry? I really want to hear comments inside and outside of the industry.

We used to say that the music products industry is consisted of the manufacturers, distributors and retailers. These days, hands full firms are involved in all of products manufacturing, distribution and retailing businesses at the same time. The old saying has lost its ground.

I don't mean to humiliate the traditional styles of business in the industry. It's just there are no boundaries among the three. Some dealers buy used instruments for sales to consumers. Which business group do they belong to? Those companies that sell fixed or re-tuned products are definitely manufacturers, but they can be called distributors as well, as they have substantial inventory of products to distribute. They also sell their products to consumers directly. They are retailers in this respect. One single firm does all the businesses of manufacturing, distribution and retail sales. The business styles are mixed in many cases not sorted with the old criteria.

Piano exhibits have significantly declined at the NAMM Show and Frankfurt Music Fair since the year before last. What happened to the piano business, and why? Can you tell the future of the piano industry? Well, some people may say, "We will keep our business go on purchasing used pianos for sale to consumer." The point is, piano production has diminished. The pool of fine used pianos will disappear some time. We see more dealer advertisements seeking used pianos than ever before these days. It's apparently not a normal condition for the piano industry that business for used instruments is flourishing.

Develop new tools with different materials
Looking back to the history of musical instruments, cembalo was replaced by forte piano and advanced to piano in modern age. Bellows of pipe organs were refined to motor-driven type. The advent of talkie opened the new age of total entertainment involving music, sound and image. Recording industry emerged from Edison's invention. The recorded music brought joy of listening to music to broader walks of people. Live music is provided at huge venues not imagined in the middle age. But musical environment has remarkably changed as 80% of people enjoy music with portable player or car stereo today. One thing that we enjoy listening to music remains unchanged. In course of time,packages of recorded music have lost their popularity as alternate devices and media such as mobile phone and internet came up. It goes the same with movie. 3D films are now in fashion. We live in this time of changing technology and society. 

Our industry has grown providing performing musicians with tools for music. It has been our responsibility to offer them innovative sounds, expression, and music production never existed in the past using newly developed materials of times. Apart from natural materials such as wood, membrane, string, we have developed ICs capable of producing musical sounds. Digitally controlled keyboard instruments come in much more compact cabinet than acoustic counterparts. They are also tools designed for musicians. However, they have never changed basics of music. It's just we have come to have new types of sound generating systems.

Digital technology shares main part of Roland's businesses. The Roland harpsichords are designed after acoustic harpsichords built 300 years ago. They have the same structure as digital piano except voicing system. In one way, electronic organs are also built similarly, but with different sound systems.

Synthesizer, an only innovative instrument
A myriad of musical instruments were introduced in the past 200 years, but only a few deserves the name of new arrival. Saxophones, accordions and harmonicas are among them. In my opinion, synthesizer is the only truly new and original musical instrument developed after modern age, because we have no instruments with their roots related to synthesizer in the past.

As the name tells, synthesizer produces synthesized sounds transforming electrically or electronically controlled waveforms into electric signals and amplifying them through speakers.

Musicians have two different approaches in music making; one is to play instruments themselves, and another is pre-programmed music. We know computer music is the latter. In either way, musicians can deliver music. It's just produced by different tools. Sound presence is another subject, though. The key issue is players' artistic sense for music. 

The first synthesizer I designed took the form of keyboard instrument. Then, I explored my ideas further into synthesized guitars and drums. What I did, however, was just expanded the category of synthesized musical instruments. In terms of musical instrument, synthesizer represents one single category. I understand Roland produces synthesizers with some extended applications.

Synthesizers have dramatically changed style of music making. They offered players and composers broader and innovative approaches. Isao Tomita explored his world of music in "clair de lune" of Claude Debussy using synthesizers. Musical environment has diversified than ever as we have wide array of digital musical instruments, devices and computer today.

Business is bypassing music retailers
Music production came into a new stage after Isao Tomita's spectacular "clair de lune". A host of advanced devices allow musicians versatile music production at studio, or private home. Where do they buy digital musical instruments and devices? They go to specialist stores, not music stores in town. It happened probably because ordinary music stores don't have experts at computer and peripherals, nor have substantial product lines in inventory. We see music retailers can no longer serve the requirements of musicians these days.

Music retail business was brisk when there were substantial demands for any type of musical instruments. In today's matured market, the shape of the industry is totally different. Consumer preferences have varied. Musicians used to perform live on stage. A host of players of the time enjoy music with help of computer, or even finds pleasure in more integrated link of music and image.

David C. Mochella wrote in his book, "Waves of Power", as computer-related businesses would go to contents-oriented from times centralized on system (super computer) to PC, and network. He is right, and I'm very much impressed with his prospect. His words can be well applied to the music products industry.

So far, the industry revenue depended largely on sales of musical instruments (hardware) and music lesson. They fit the times of acoustic musical instruments. Nevertheless to say, they served the purpose, but we are entering in contents age.

As hardware is greatly integrated and much advanced network is available, contents business has a bright future. I think there is a huge potential for the music industry in this new field. Artistic sense for music is the key to success in contents business. I call it "artware". Well designed artware bridges hardware and software, integrates their capabilities and presents the user valuable solutions.

In 2005 when I was 75 years old, I launched Atelier Vision, a new company specialized in sound and image digital contents because I believed the combination of the two worlds would explore new type of pleasure in music making. Display device and computer are commonly found at every household today. So does video recorder. Music can be more exciting when image and graphics are linked. What we see is a new market that is worth to explore for the industry. I believe it offers a next stage for music and tools for music making.

Ikutaro Kakehashi, Roland Corporation founder, Special Executive Adviser  
Born in 1930 in Osaka, he graduated from Nishi Noda Engineering High school in 1946. Kakehashi Musen was established in 1954. In 1960, he founded Ace Electronics, manufacturer of digital musical instruments. Left Ace Electronics in 1972, he launched Roland Corporation and took the position of CEO. In 1995 he was appointed chairman of the company and has been serving as Special Executive Adviser since 2001. He also serves as president of Roland Foundation which was founded in 1994, and has been president of Atelier Vision, manufacturer of digital contents since 2005.

Hirotaka Kawai Honored from Poland

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On April 26, Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland presentation ceremony to Hirotaka Kawai, president of Kawai Musical Insts. Manufacturing Co., Ltd. took place at embassy of the Republic of Poland in Tokyo. Kawai serves as president emeritus for The Frédéric Chopin Society of Japan.

Jadwiga Maria Rodowicz, Polish ambassador to Japan, bestowed on Kawai the medal in cerebration of his decades of contribution to Japan Chopin Association, dedication to promote Chopin's music to Kawai concerts and supporting concerts held in Poland and International Chopin Piano Competition as an official piano supplier.

The Cross of the Order of Merit is the highest level commendation awarded to industry members. Kawai commented, "I'm greatly honored joining the prestigious recipients of the medal for what I have done in the past years. I will further make my efforts to increase recognition of Chopin's music and promoting friendship between Poland and Japan."