The Harpsichord Makes a Digital Comeback

Today’s digital technology is giving classical instruments unparalleled exposure to increasingly younger generations of musicians.  In fact, with modern sampling technology, some instruments (like the Roland C-30 Digitall Harpsichord) can so closely replicate the authentic sound of a traditional harpsichord that the human ear can’t tell the difference.  As a result, music educators all over the world are delighting their students with authenticity – many for the very first time.

1765 Blanchet French double harpsichord 1765 Blanchet French double harpsichord on display in the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments

1765 Blanchet French double harpsichord 1765 Blanchet French double harpsichord on display in the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments

Imagine.  What would “The Well Tempered Clavier” have sounded like when Bach wrote it?  How different would Mozart’s early works sound if performed on harpsichord instead of piano?  How did the piano’s development change the way Western Music was written?  These topics and more – traditionally very difficult to teach without a 7’ harpsichord in your studio – are now returning to private piano lessons…thanks to Roland.

The Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord is a magnificently authentic instrument created at the Roland headquarters in Hamamatsu, Japan. Its compelling sound is sampled from a 1765 Blanchet French double harpsichord which resides in the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments (see photo above).  The instrument features two eight-foot stops, a four-foot stop and a lute stop on both a French and a Flemish harpsichord. These stops can be played either singly or combined on either setting.  Furthermore, the stops can be changed during performance by simply pressing the pedal.

Another exciting thing about the Roland C-30 is the variety of classical sounds it offers. It also serves as a fortepiano, (the Mozart-era forerunner of our modern piano), a classical organ, and a beautiful  celeste.  (See the video below for examples of these beloved, classical tones.)

This is the ideal instrument for someone who loves the harpsichord, but hesitates to purchase one because of the enormous amount of time required to maintain the tuning and quilling of an acoustic instrument.  With the Roland C-30, one can have the true harpsichord sound and touch without the constant maintenace problems.

land C-30

The Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord

The Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord is also very easy to adjust.  In the case of Baroque or Versailles music, where the instrument should be pitched at a half-step or whole-step below modern pitch, one does not have to retune the harpsichord.  The change can be made with a simple button push!   Similarly,  players can select one of five onboard temperaments with a simple push of a button.  On an acoustic harpshichord, these adjustments would take a trained technician hours and cost hundreds of dollars!

Probably the most popular feature of the Roland C-30 is its portability.  One can easily remove the keyboard from the stand, collapse the stand and place keyboard and stand in the back seat of an average size automobile.  It takes up less space than a digital piano and it sets up in minutes.  Just assemble and play – no tuning required.

Finally, designed to look like the 1581 Ruckers Flemish harpsichord, the Roland C-30 is as beautiful to behold as it is to play.

Fall in love with the Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord and enjoy all of the following features in one, compact instrument:

  • A magnificent harpsichord sound that never requires tuning or maintenance
  • A portable organ – perfect for outdoor weddings
  • A fortepiano for those Clementi Sonatinas that students love to play
  • A gorgeous celeste for that once-a-year Christmas performance of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite

by James Harding and Ruth J. Holmes, Ph.D.


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