What we think of the Roland C-30 harpsichord:
The Roland C-30 digital Harpsichord is a rather unique product and for historical performance and practice it has no equal. The action is incredibly realistic and all the sounds are very natural indeed. We have sold hundreds of these to chamber orchestras, choirs, choral societies and schools and the reception has been very warm indeed.Specification:
- 61 note F scale keyboard with harpsichord click action
- 128 note polyphony
- 6 sound groups, including 8 feet harpsichord I, 8 feet harpsichord II, 4 feet harpsichord, Lute, Organ I and Organ II
- 4 types of each harpsichord including French type, Flemish type, Fortepiano, Dynamic Harpsichord
- 8 levels of reverb
- Volume knob, reverb knob, tone knob
- Key transpose from -6 to +5 in semitones
- 5 types of temperament (Equal, Werckmeister, Kirnberger, Vallotti, Meantone)
- Baroque pitch setting, 415 Hz/392 Hz
- Adjustable master tuning, 440/415 Hz ±50 cents
- Supplied with DP-10 pedal which can be used for either damper or tone change
- 2 x 12cm and 2 x 8cm speakers
- 2 x 13 watt amplifiers
- 6.25mm stereo headphones jack
- L/Mono, R output jacks
- L/Mono, R input jacks
- MIDI In, Out ports
- Pedal jack
Roland C30 harpsichord – a reviewUsually on display in the Haslemere showroom click here to enquire.
When, in the 1970s, music synthesizers became available to performers, they were eagerly seized upon by pop musicians. The classical world was more cautious, though we certainly found them fun – Walter Carlos' Switched-on Bach was a delightful diversion, synthesized sound to enjoy at the same sort of level as the vocal gymnastics of The Swingle Singers. But, despite the technological wizardry involved, the sound quality was simply too artificial to be taken seriously by classical keyboard players.
The advent of digital sound-sampling and storing marked a quantum leap in the realism of the sound reproduced. For the listener, it was often hard to tell the electronic instrument from its acoustic source. For the player, though, the sensation was spoilt by a spongy touch with no sense of the physical feed-back provided by the 'kick' of a piano escapement. Once this was resolved, the electronic piano proved a real option for serious music. I was persuaded by both sound and touch to buy one 15 years ago for domestic use, and have it still.
Curiously, the harpsichord took longer to sample convincingly. The sound was rather hard and brittle – perhaps because harpsichords themselves were being made with this character. I've only now taken the plunge and invested in an electronic harpsichord, after experiencing the sound – the extraordinary range of sounds, in fact – sampled and stored on Roland's new C30 instrument.
The most important element is without doubt the tone-quality and here Roland have got it absolutely right. There are two harpsichords, each with two 8' ranks, one 4', and a lute stop. The two 8's are nicely differentiated, one significantly brighter and more silvery – plucked nearer the wrest-plank – than the other. The sources, in the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments, are clearly magnificent instruments. One is a modern copy of a Flemish harpsichord in the style of Ruckers, the other an original French harpsichord by Francois Blanchet II, Paris, 1765. With the volume control in its central position, the sound is very faithful to the models, the Flemish instrument bright and silvery (bar two curiously thin notes near the top of one rank), the French one rich and plummy. For practice purposes and in domestic chamber music the tone quality is remarkably satisfying, quite apart from the sheer convenience of never having to tidy up tuning, and having access to five temperaments from equal, through the gentle 1/6th comma option of Valotti, the bolder dissonances of Werckmeister and Kirnberger, to the extreme of Meantone, gloriously pure in some keys, virtually impossible in others. Overall pitch is also totally adjustable, providing the baroque conventions of a semitone down and a further semitone for French music, and also minor adjustments to match other non-adjustable instruments such as an organ tuned to Handel's tuning fork – about ¼ tone flatter than modern concert pitch.
Although it's totally unauthentic, the volume control is useful as it allows balancing with other instruments. This needs to be done subtly – too loud and the sound becomes unpleasantly aggressive, too quiet and the instrument retreats into the distance. A further option is to apply volume to touch – press harder and the instrument plays louder. It has no place, of course, in normal baroque repertoire, but could certainly be useful in the context of contemporary music.
Both reverberation and tone are adjustable. For domestic use, dryer sound works best – the extreme of reverberation puts you into a huge bathroom acoustic. Tone ranges from uncharacteristically mellow to aggressively bright – again the middle setting seems to reflect the true, sampled sound.
The touch is on the light side – that of an exceptionally well-regulated harpsichord, and not affected by the addition of a second and third rank. There is a clear (and audibly adjustable) release of pressure as the imaginary plectrum releases the imaginary string and, when more than one rank is selected, they sound momentarily apart from each other; depress a key very slowly, and the effect is of two or three plectra in succession. The overall effect is most convincing, if rather better regulated than I've ever found on a mechanical instrument – the touch is distinctly lighter than you'll find on most acoustic harpsichords. Another telling addition to both sound and finger-sensation is the clunk of jacks falling back and damping strings. (This too is adjustable to taste.)
The sum of the transient opening sounds of plectrum stimulating strings added to the sustained sonority of fine models and the final exit sounds of falling jacks, creates a sense of almost uncanny realism. You quickly forget that this is a box of electronics, and can enjoy it no less than a real acoustic harpsichord.
The C30's versatility is enhanced by it also providing two contrasting but very convincing organ options. One is a delightfully 'chiffy' 8' Flute, the other made up of Principal 8'+ 4'. Between them,
they offer an authentic sound in sacred music, loud enough to support a choir or delicate enough for a continuo addition to solo voices. And a clever bit of wizardry with what is normally the sustaining pedal lets you select one sound, say from the harpsichord menu, and alternate it, as you play, with another, perhaps simulating a quieter upper manual or a completely contrasting organ. This means, for example, that for a choral concert, say a Handel oratorio, the complete range of keyboard continuo options – commonly harpsichord for arias, organ for choruses - is contained within this one instrument.
I had originally considered the C30 simply as a harpsichord and organ. But it comes too with a sampled fortepiano which has proved unexpectedly appealing. The sound is of a Viennese instrument from before or around 1800, ideal for Haydn for instance – and the keyboard compass to top F matches the extreme of his upper range. The fortepiano, of course, is touch-sensitive and the sustaining pedal becomes historically authentic.
And for good measure, there's a celesta thrown in – not simply a curio but invaluable for amateur orchestras needing such an instrument but otherwise faced with expensive hire charges. The C30 also has full Midi connectivity which I am using with Sibelius Music Software for composing and arranging at the computer.
There are a couple of issues which would be worth addressing. I think an opportunity has been missed (or, hopefully, deferred) by not adding the facility to split the keyboard at middle C. It would need little extra technology to do so, and would allow the impression of two keyboards – a right-hand solo and left-hand accompaniment – in harpsichord music. It was common practice in 18th century organs too, to facilitate 'Trumpet/ cornet Voluntaries'. Even lacking such exotic sounds as a reed 'trumpet' or a 'cornet' mixture, the contrast of sonorities would be valuable.
The second issue is simple. The control panel is set to the left of what is a relatively long (5 octave) keyboard, allowing performance of every genre including French harpsichord music's taste for a low bass and encompassing the normal range of the Viennese fortepiano around 1800 of 5 octaves from F to f''''. But the music stand is set in middle of the instrument overall rather than the middle of the keyboard. I almost committed the Grade One pianist's solecism of playing an octave low when I first came to it! If the music stand was centred on middle C it would suit the player much better, even though the visual symmetry of the instrument overall would be displaced.
For private practice and for public ensemble and accompaniment, and indeed solo performance in all but the most purist situations, this latest development by Roland is excellent for the serious early music enthusiast, professional or amateur. The C30 is currently a long way ahead of the rest of the field and, as such instruments are likely to continue to be a minority interest compared, say, with the pop industry's passion for new keyboard sounds, it is unlikely to be beaten in the near future. I'm delighted with mine.
[Emeritus Professor of Music
University of Huddersfield, UK]
Elegance and Class
The C-30 is elegant and classy, and suitable for any size room. It allows images, paintings, or other artistic elements to be affixed to the keyboard lid and side panels (see Accessories). Roland provides a variety of image patterns, including paintings and stained-glass-type panels. Together with its matching stand (included) the C-30 is a gorgeous addition to any home or music venue.
Not only does the C-30 look and sound wonderful, it’s a joy for the fingers as well. Roland’s newly developed “click action” F-scale keyboard provides the perfect, authentic harpsichord experience.
Four types of sound-sets are built into the C-30: French-type harpsichord, Flemish-type harpsichord, Fortepiano and Dynamic harpsichord. Each has four stop variations: 8’I (back), 8’II (front), 4’ and Lute. It also has two positive small-pipe organ sounds, and a choice of five temperaments with Baroque pitch support.
Classical Tuning & Temperament
Available tuning options include baroque pitch (415Hz) and Versailles pitch (392Hz), which can be switched instantly without changing the temperament (classical tuning). A total of five tunings are supported. In addition to equal temperament, there are Werckmeister, Kirnberger, Vallotti and Meantone. Best of all, since the C-30 is a digital instrument, it is unaffected by weather, humidity, or transport. It never goes out of tune!
Music students will appreciate the ability to play day or night without disturbing their surrounding environment. But when it’s time to raise the volume, the C-30 can fill every corner of a medium-size hall with its built in speakers (without the use of an external PA). For larger venues, the C-30 can be connected to an external amp or PA for high-volume performance.
Solid and robust, the C-30 is also portable and easy to move — great for travelling musicians or music schools and churches. Simply unplug and carry the C-30 from room to room.
Delivery is fast and free to all UK mainland addresses. Depending on your location we will select a courier - normally TNT, UPS or a Pallet service. We aim to deliver as quickly and safely as possible and do our best to keep you informed all the way. Delivery of digital instruments is to doorsteps however many drivers are happy to assist further although they are not contracted to do so. Your harpsichord will be delivered boxed and will require self-assembly.
Manufacturers warranty: 5 years