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.

Angela Hartman is a member of our Partners In Education outreach program.  She has a large studio in her home and she is well-known as a very successful – and very active – teacher in the Louisville area.  Recently, Angela purchased a Roland RM-700 digital piano from me and it has changed the way she teaches.  (We’re going to leave the “digital vs. acoustic” argument on the sidelines for this blog, btw.  Bear with us.)

Here’s what Angela had to say about her recent experience teaching special needs children on her new Roland: 

I purchased the RM700 in November 2010 and now I can’t imagine my teaching career without it. I have been blessed this summer with the opportunity to teach several students with special needs. One of my four year old students has significant hearing loss in both ears.  If I just had an acoustic piano in my studio, lessons would not be as easy or enjoyable for him.  Since the RM700 has such a wonderful sound system and headphones, he is thriving.  Due to the touch screen, he can also see pictures of all of the different instruments he is hearing. The Roland is also a great tool for ADHD and autistic students.  When a student is losing focus, we can easily switch to another sound or game.  Having students compose their own songs or sounds is an awesome way to connect on a more personal level with them.

Music has always been a language that everyone can understand.  The RM700 just makes it so much easier and exciting for those students who face different challenges.  Thanks to Gist and Roland for introducing me to this career changing instrument!

This is exactly the kind of thing that digital pianos are becoming famous for.  It’s not about whether or not the digital feels just like a grand piano.  The question is – how can you use the tools available to you (whether digital or acoustic) to enrich a student’s learning experience and motivate him or her to make piano study a lifetime passion.

I congratulate Angela on her innovative use of Roland technology for special needs education and I am proud to know more and more teachers who are headed in the same direction. 

The future of piano education is changing.  We need to change with it.


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