Category Archives: Reviews

Teaching Special Needs Students on Roland Digital Pianos

Roland RM-700 Digital Piano

The Roland RM-700

I have often said that people think there’s “nothing new under the sun” in the piano business.  We’re dealing with an instrument that is over 300 years old and has changed relatively little.  Most teachers, technicians and private owners have chosen their favorite brands years ago, firmly plugged their fingers into their ears and begun to hum loud enough to drown out any new information that might contradict their traditional view of the piano world.  For those of us who work with current piano information on a daily basis, this is extremely frustrating.

One of the biggest challenges I face as a piano expert is finding others in my community who understand the value of modern piano tools.  It’s not easy to find someone who will ask their students to play along with a CD, record a MIDI file or – gasp – practice their scales with a drum rhythm instead of a metronome.  However, I occasionally have the fortune of encountering one of these enlightened souls and I want to share her relatively unique story with you. Continue reading


Shower Karaoke with Roland

Center Cancel on Roland Pianos

Turn your favorite CDs into karaoke CDs!

Come on. Admit it. There’s no shame in it. Lot’s of people do it. In fact, I do it myself. Some mornings when I get up and step into the shower, I can’t help myself. I grab my shampoo bottle, turn up the radio and start belting out “Friday” or “You Can’t Touch This” – whatever comes to my (admittedly groggy) mind. Hi. My name is James and I’m a Shower Singer. …and so are you.

Lots of us get up every morning, sneak into the bathroom, crank the radio, and sing to our hearts’ content. …and, though we hide our efforts from the “discerning” ears of friends and family, we take some comfort in the fact that – though he doesn’t know it – we can hear our next door neighbor doing the very same thing.

Well, fellow Shower Singers, the future is here! Introducing the all new HP-305 digital pianos from Roland.

Designed to reproduce the natural, expressive feel of a grand piano (right down to the characteristic “click” feel and the old-school “ivory feel” keys), the new Roland HP305 is so authentic you’ll forget you’re playing a digital instrument! …but, though it has a breath-taking SuperNATURAL piano sound (based on the Steinway 9′ concert grand), 3-track recorder, metronome, and iconic front leg cabinet design, the HP-305’s real appeal is for – yes, you guessed it – the Shower Singers!

Connect your iPod, USB flash drive, or USB CD drive to this piano and you can take pre-recorded songs (even your favorite CDs!), cut out the vocals, and sing your favorite music with CD accompaniment! You can even change keys! You’re shower can’t do that!

So, fellow Shower Singers, it’s time for us to step out of the shower, dry ourselves off, (put some clothes on!), and sing ‘till our hearts’ content with the all-new HP-305 pianos from Roland.

Stop in for a demo and I might even sing for you – just don’t tell anyone!


The Evolution of Theory

I often tell prospective music students that music is a two-part discipline. To truly become proficient at any instrument, music students not only have to develop the athletic skills associated with playing that instrument (finger independence and strength, breathing and proper posture to name a few), but they also have to understand the language of music (how to read, write and even think in musical notation). This musical language – called “Music Theory” by teachers – is an ever-expanding library of “rules” and “best-practices” that our musical history has given us and it forms the foundation for every student’s understanding of music as a whole. Thus, it’s critical that we find a way to motivate the Video Game Generation to study Music Theory with some of the same enthusiasm they bring to their Xbox.

In the Age of Instant Gratification, it seems harder and harder to keep a music student’s attention. Also, as music is removed for our schools, private music teachers find that they have less and less time in their 30-minute lessons to cover basic concepts that used to be “common knowledge” to beginning students. …so how do we find time in only 30 minutes a week to help our students unlock the power of the musical language? (Imagine trying to study Latin in only 30 minutes a week!)

Continue reading


Finding the Ultimate Worship Keyboard

[UPDATE] – It’s been YEARS since I wrote this blog.  Click here for the updated version.  Thanks for reading!

After four years of music ministry training in college and several years leading children, youth, or adults in worship at a variety of different churches, I have seen just about every worship keyboard out there.   …and, in all honesty, I didn’t like any of them. Arranger keyboards are hard to learn.

The commentaries were no help either.  Beyond “do your research, itemize your needs, and use a well-known local music store,” most articles I read had little meaningful advice.

To my dismay,  there were no good sources of information specifically geared towards worship leaders – so I had to learn the hard way.  Thankfully, I am a bit of an electronics geek and I also understand the importance of “good stewardship,” so I decided to pass my shopping experiences on to you.  I sincerely hope it helps you and your ministry.

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Gist Sponsor’s “Lights Under Louisville”

Drive your own car through this massive UNDERGROUND Christmas Lights display.

Just over a year ago, I moved to Louisville from Davenport, Iowa.  In that relatively short time, I have had the wonderful opportunity to explore some of this city’s amazing culture and – I can tell you honestly – nothing has done more to captivate my imagination than the Louisville MegaCavern.  If you haven’t had a chance to take the historic tour (offered January through October), I highly recommend it.  They lead you around in relative comfort as they explain the geology, the history and the development of this incredible man-made cave.  Beware, however, you will see some incredible things than you never believed could exist under The Watterson – underground lakes, garbage-eating worms and a 1950s fallout shelter to name a few.

…but during the Holidays, the Louisville MegaCavern transforms into one of the most incredible Christmas-light displays in the World.

Lights Under Louisville is a 30 – 40 minute ride through some of the 17 miles of underground passageways that wind beneath Gist, the Louisville Zoo and Interstate 264.  The best part?  You drive your own car through it.  My friends and I drove through it several times last year (I recommend you avoid the insane weekend crowds and go on a weeknight) and I can tell you from experience – it was amazing.

You’ll roll your windows down and enjoy holiday tunes as you snake through the darkness in a comfortable, year-round 58-degree climate.  You can even bring your low-light camera and take some of the magic home with you.

Grab your family, pile in the car and head down there this year.  Admission ranges from $25 for a small car to $75 for a full bus, but you can pickup a $5 discount coupon from 5/3 Bank or Wendys.    …and look for the Gist Piano Center sign.  We’re proud to support our friends at The Louisville MegaCavern for “Lights Under Louisville.”