Across all manufacturers, from Yamaha to Kawai, Roland to Korg, there are hundreds of proprietary features offered on the various models of digital pianos, but most do fall into a few feature categories or types. Here are a few of the most prevalent types of features, and their general descriptions.
Although this is one of the most complex features offered on some digital pianos, it’s also the one which has been offered the longest. In short, an arranger function gives the player the ability to add a ‘band’ to their playing, providing a rhythm track, bass, guitar, and sometimes additional instruments. You can normally specify a particular style (such as bossa, or jazz), and direct the chord choice with your left hand. Using this feature, players could simulate an ensemble playing experience, and “arrange” entire songs including changes in style, tempo, key, all the while having the electronic backing instruments follow you along.
Although there are variations in how this feature is offered from brand to brand, it generally has stayed the same since the early days of the Technic PR series and Kawai’s CP series.
The standard MIDI language allows for up to 16 tracks of music to be simultaneously recorded, edited and played back. Not all pianos are equipped with the functionality to take advantage of this, with some not offering any recording capability at all. Most basic home digital pianos offer 2-5 tracks, with arranger pianos or workstations offering up to 16 (or in some cases more). With the proliferation of inexpensive personal computing devices, such as iPad’s and other tablets, most savvy users have begun delegating the recording task to the peripheral, rather than demanding onboard capability.
The ability to blend 2 or 3 sounds together and play them at once is one of the most quintessential features of a digital piano. To pair a piano sound with strings, or a guitar and bass, is one of the simplest, but one of the most fun things to do with a piano, because it requires no pre-programming, recording, or editing…it can be done entirely in real-time, and on most pianos, a one-button setup. Depending on the piano, you may be able to blend 2 or more sounds together across the same range of keys, or split the keys in to two, three, or four zones each with their own sounds.
The proverbial ‘DEMO’ button! The industry has been pre-loading music onto digital pianos since the beginning, but there are some models which now come with literally dozens and dozens of hours of music just waiting to be played. For customers interested in using their instrument to help them entertain, this can be a fun feature.
More advanced models of digital pianos, particularly ones that utilize either partial or full modelling capability, will offer the option of editing the sounds and tones contained within the piano. This could be a very simple edit, such as an equalization setting, or a reverb setting, or a more complex one, involving oscillators, flangers, chorus, delay, or wave-shape options (tr/sin/square etc…). Full editing with complete parameter control is only found on the more advanced home units, or fully-professional stage products. For piano true fanatics obsessed with getting their perfect piano, this feature offers hours of endless fun. For example, an online community of CA95 users have compiled a PDF of more than 200 world-famous pianos which have now been successfully simulated using the onboard editor of that particular model.