At Sam Ash, we have always been big fans of Casio for their commitment to creativity and technology. They constantly bring innovation to their product categories to help further the enjoyment of keyboard players, pianists and others who use their products. Dealing with musicians who are so strongly connected to their instruments, it is always great to see brands like Casio go that extra mile. That is why we have teamed with the product specialists at Casio to give you this comprehensive guide to understanding Casio’s product line so you can make an informed decision about your next Casio purchase.
Casio Computer Co., Ltd. was founded in 1957 by Tadao Kashio and his three brothers with a goal to make the world’s first all-electric compact relay calculator. Today, almost 60 years later, Casio is known not only for having accomplished that original lofty goal, but also for a diverse product lineup that includes watches, digital cameras, electronic cash registers and…musical instruments!
Casio moved into the musical instrument market in the 1980s. This move was natural for Casio given their experience with electronic and digital technologies. It was also smart since digital keyboards were becoming extremely prominent in popular music genres at the time.
Casio’s affordable portable keyboards quickly became ubiquitous. Exploring new markets, their first Casio digital piano appeared in 1986. Casio also launched its first professional CZ-series synthesizer in 1984, featuring its Phase Distortion synthesis method.
Casio’s affordable instruments resonated with non-professional consumers who wanted to make music and simply needed access to the right tools. That said, Casio realized there were other opportunities on the horizon.
Throughout its 35+ years, Casio has leveraged their electronics expertise into several types of instruments, including digital drums, guitars, and even horns. 2003 saw the launch of the first Casio Privia 88-key digital piano, which shocked the music industry with a yet-unseen combination of realistic piano sound and feel, light weight (25 pounds), and affordability. Privia has since evolved into a full and varied line of instruments.
Today, the success of the Privia and other lines has established Casio as a worldwide leader in digital pianos. Recently Casio has also introduced a new series of professional synthesizers, in response to a resurgence of interest in synthesizers and the popularity of electronic dance music (EDM). Casio’s new electronic and digital music instruments are now held in high regard by professional musicians, but they still retain the core values of affordability, accessibility, portability and user-friendliness for which Casio is known. And recently, some musicians have even showed a renewed interest in collecting and customizing Casio’s early keyboards, looking for retro sounds.
Casio Portable Keyboards
Casio’s ever-popular portable keyboards resonate with all types of musicians. Many of us remember their first keyboard being a Casio. There have been dozens and dozens of variations on the portable Casio keyboard, but they all share three important traits: Light weight, portability (in most cases with battery power), and affordability. These traits make Casio portable keyboards perfect for young students, anyone for whom portability is a concern, or anyone with budget constraints.
For example, the Casio CTK-3200 is a perfect solution for a young piano student. Most teachers will require their students to have a practice instrument of some kind. It needs to have full-size keys, just like a real piano, so that fingering positions can be practiced properly. This basic need can even be fulfilled with the even more affordable CTK-2400. There is one other benefit to the CTK-3200, however, that will allow it to be used further into the student’s learning process. In addition to knowing which keys to play with which fingers, a student will learn playing dynamics- That is, playing keys at varying strengths to achieve different volume levels. The CTK-3200 adds this benefit, which Casio refers to as “touch-sensitive keys”.
Most Casio portable keyboards have 61 keys, or 5 octaves. This is usually more than enough room for early learning. Once a student becomes comfortable with two-handed play, and depending on the genre of music they want to play, they might find themselves needing a few keys that aren’t there. For this reason, Casio makes 76-key portable keyboards as well, such as the popular WK-245. The WK stands for “Wide Keyboard,” while CTK stands for “Casio Tone Keyboard.” There is a third designation, the LK series, which are easily identifiable thanks to their light-up keys. These keys give visual feedback when being pressed, and they can also prompt you to play the next key in a song.
Nearly all of Casio’s portable keyboards have the Step-Up Lesson system that makes it easy and fun to learn to play dozens of included songs. While not a replacement for proper piano education, this serves a very practical function for parents of younger students: If a student plays the songs via the Step-Up Lesson system, it’s almost certain that they will benefit further from piano lessons. While students are having fun playing songs with their keyboard, they are also demonstrating a desire to learn more.
Over the years, like any technology, Casio’s portable keyboards have improved substantially. Where the original CT-201 had a small handful of sounds, the newer portables have hundreds. Where touch-sensitive keys were previously found only on very expensive keyboards, you can now get a Casio with touch-sensitive keys for well under $150. Recent Casio models include more realistic sounds, more detailed rhythms, and more music production features than ever before. A high-end professional keyboard with the impressive features of the CTK-6600, for example, would have cost several thousands of dollars 20 years ago. For this reason, professional keyboardists often purchase Casio portables for use as a backup, or even a primary stage instrument.
Professional Arranger Keyboards
Recently, Casio introduced the MZ-X500 and MZ-X300 Music Arrangers, its most advanced and powerful keyboards to date. Casio Music Arranger keyboards are loaded with incredible Tones and Rhythms to match any style of music, and include plenty of hands-on controls such as drawbars, knobs, and pads. The MZ-X500’s 16 pads are backlit, touch sensitive, and can play user samples, phrases, articulations, and more. Both MZ-X models feature the same color touchscreen that is found on the CGP-700 and Privia PX-360/560. These instruments are an ideal choice for a professional musician who is playing solo gigs, due to their ability to create a highly-realistic ensemble of music based on chord input. Songwriters can also take advantage of the MZ-X’s production capabilities, including a 16-track sequencer, USB audio recorder, and extensive MIDI capabilities.
The MZ-X Music Arrangers can be categorized as professional arranger keyboards, since they have such extensive Rhythm and accompaniment capabilities. Selecting a Rhythm is basically like hiring a band of musicians that play in the key you want, at the tempo you want, and react to the way that you play. That said, there are many reasons to see the MZ-X as a versatile gig instrument for use in a band. For example, the built-in Virtual Tonewheel Organ is a faithful recreation of a classic tonewheel organ, one of the most essential instruments for a gigging keyboardist. You can control the timbre of the organ with nine physical drawbars, and add details like percussion, tonewheel leakage, overdrive, and rotary speaker control. This is a feature not often found on keyboards near its price range. There is also a wide variety of gig-ready electric pianos, strings, and synthesizer sounds driven by Casio’s Hex Layer technology. You can very easily split and layer the various Tones together, and save your settings as Registrations, which can be accessed by a series of buttons right on the top panel. When you’re playing a live show, having quick shortcuts to the sounds you need is essential. The MZ-X-series makes it incredibly easy to do this.
Casio Digital Piano Options
With Casio’s Privia, Celviano and CGP-series instruments, those musicians that started with a Casio, can now step up to a Casio Digital Piano.
Privia Series Digital Pianos
Casio’s Privia series debuted in 2003 with the PX-100. It featured a scaled hammer action keyboard that looked and felt like a real piano, along with an advanced sound engine capable of producing realistic piano sounds. It was lightweight, authentic, and affordable. This instrument created quite a stir in the digital piano market, and it was only the beginning. Since then, the Privia line has expanded, providing musicians with great-feeling, great-sounding piano solutions that anyone can own. They deliver all the great benefits of a digital piano- No maintenance or tuning, portability, quiet practice, authenticity, and much more- at a fraction of the cost of an acoustic instrument.
While playing a current Privia model, several things will surprise you. First, the physical keys use what Casio refers to as the Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action II. The “scaled” portion refers to the fact that just like on a traditional grand piano, the keys in the lower register are a bit heavier than the keys in the upper register. The “hammer action” part refers to the fact that the keys simulate the resistance (or weight) of a grand piano’s hammer mechanism, by using precisely-cut weights connected to the keys. These features can also be found in other high-end digital pianos, but the “tri-sensor” portion is important. Each key uses three sensors, not one or two, to determine when a key is pressed, how quickly/firmly it is pressed and released. This enables a level of precision that doesn’t exist on other digital instruments. Nearly every digital piano on earth uses 128 steps of resolution- On a Privia, there are over 16,000 steps. This means your playing dynamics will be conveyed more naturally, and with a greater degree of realism.
The keys also feature unique simulated ivory and ebony textures on the keys. When you first touch them, you’ll notice that they feel similar to a vintage grand piano, as opposed to being 100% smooth. There is a very useful reason for this. Since Privias are so lightweight, they are often carried to gigs in varying climates. If you are playing in a hot or humid scenario, these simulated textures give your fingertips a very confident grip on the keys. You’ll notice less slippage, and your performance will be better as a result.
Another important aspect of the Privia series is its sound engine. The current models use a Multi-Dimensional Morphing AiR (Acoustic and Intelligent Resonator) sound source. The grand piano Tones have four dynamic sample layers, which can be heard by playing the keys at varying strengths. On many other instruments, the point at which you can hear the change between samples is obvious, and it takes away from the expression you’re able to convey. The big difference between Privia and other digital pianos, though, is that there is no audible transition. This is the “morphing” aspect of the sound source. One sample layer blends smoothly into the next, allowing you to get the exact timbre you would expect when you touch the key.
Privia pianos also feature high polyphony, which refers to the number of notes that can be played at once. This specification is very important for classical performance, especially when the damper pedal is being held down. Some Privias have 128 notes of polyphony, which is generous enough for nearly any performance. High-end models such as the Privia Pro PX-560, which can play many different tones at once, have 256 notes of polyphony. This is useful if you are creating layered sounds (such as piano and strings), or if you are recording using its 16-track sequencer.
If your goal is purely to reproduce the sound and feel of an acoustic piano, the Privia PX-160 is an ideal choice. It includes an extremely detailed grand piano sound, complete with simulated damper resonance. The controls are extremely simple, allowing you to focus on your playing or practice without distraction. There are 18 sounds, which can be layered together to create new textures. A built-in metronome is great for practicing, and dual headphone jacks will allow you to practice quietly, either alone or with a teacher. A USB port is provided to connect easily to a computer, letting you interact with your favorite music software. It also provides some extra features that are uncommon at its price range: Two track recording, professional ¼” outputs, and a Duet mode which splits the keyboard into two equal pitch ranges. Duet mode makes the PX-160 ideal for lessons at home, but also for music labs and other educational settings.
For deeper exploration, the Privia PX-350 adds many more Tones (250 in all), plus 180 built-in Rhythms with full auto-accompaniment. There’s even a 16-track recorder which allows you to produce an entire song right on the keyboard. Upgrading to the Privia PX-360 provides a full color touchscreen which makes it easier to adjust settings and recall presets.
CGP Digital Pianos
The new CGP-700 has quickly become a popular instrument, and it’s easy to see why. It’s got an incredible set of features for any musician, and costs far less than you’d imagine. You get 550 Tones, 200 Rhythms, a USB audio recorder, and all of the other features of the PX-350, controlled via a beautiful color touchscreen. Plus, it comes with its own matching wooden stand, which houses part of its 40-watt, six-speaker sound system. It sounds great on its stand, but when you’re ready for a gig, simply remove the top and use the ¼” outputs to connect to any amplifier or PA system. This is an instrument that is at home in any musical situation.
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We sincerely hoped that you liked learning about Casio’s current product line of portable keyboards and digital pianos. If you have any questions or want to try something, Visit a sales associate at any of our Sam Ash Music stores and come try some instruments. . Not near a store, not to worry, we have experts standing by at 1-800-472-6274 who are always ready to help.