Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord

Thoughts from an Educator


Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord

Dr. Ruth Holmes, Ph.D. is a member of Roland Corporation U.S.’ Education Clinician Staff.  Recently, Dr. Holmes was asked to share her thoughts on the Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord.  Here are her musings…

Roland Corporation U.S. is marketing a magnificent digital electronic harpsichord created at the Roland headquarters in Hamamatsu, Japan. Its compelling sound is digitally sampled from a 1765 Blanchet French double harpsichord which resides in the Hamamatsu Musical Instrument Museum.

It has been my privilege to travel for the Roland Corporation and demonstrate this incredible instrument in the context of giving a PowerPoint history of the 700-year evolution of the harpsichord.

The exciting thing about the Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord is the sound and variety of sounds that it incorporates. I launch my demonstration by playing a recording of an acoustic harpsichord followed immediately by playing the same piece of music live on the Roland C-30. One would not know which instrument they were hearing had they closed their eyes.  Realizing that one cannot tell the difference by listening, I am considering asking the audience to close their eyes at the beginning of my next presentation and guess which is live and which is recorded.

If you love early music and the sound of the harpsichord, or if you are a pianist who would like to know what Bach’s harpsichord music sounded like to him on a harpsichord instead of on the modern piano, check with your local music store about acquiring a new Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord.

Other amazing features of the Roland C-30 are that it also serves as a fortepiano, the forerunner of our modern piano, and as an organ with two beautiful stops available, as well as a celeste.  As a harpsichord, it features two eight-foot stops, a four-foot stop and a lute stop on both a French and a Flemish instrument. These stops can be played either singly or combined on either instrument.  Furthermore, the stops can be preset as one would preset organ stops, and then changed during performance by programming the pedal with which to alternate sounds.

This is the ideal instrument for someone who loves the harpsichord, but hesitates to own one because of the enormous amount of time that is required to maintain the tuning and quilling of an acoustic instrument.  One has the true harpsichord sound and touch on the Roland C-30, without the constant maintenance problems.

Additionally, the Roland C-30 has accomplished the wishes of the builders in the 18th Century to compete with the piano by adding a pedal for sustaining power when desired, and by creating a dynamic harpsichord, which allows for the crescendi and decrescendi of a touch-sensitive instrument like the piano when needed. Roland’s dynamic harpsichord succeeds in allowing expressive qualities to be achieved without the distraction of the experiments of the 18th century builders who attempted to create changes in volume by the performer’s raising or lowering of the lid, or opening or closing louvers with a pedal while playing.

When you have the opportunity to play on the Roland C-30, you will discover what fun it is to play not only the traditional classical music of the Renaissance and Baroque eras but also ragtime and jazz, all of which became quite popular in the 60s and 70s when played on the harpsichord.

If you have friends that enjoy playing authentic early instruments with you, and need Baroque or Versailles pitch at a half-step or whole step below modern pitch, you do not have to retune your harpsichord to accommodate them; merely push a button. Similarly, in addition to equal temperament, there are four other temperaments available on the Roland C-30.

Friends often ask how portable the Roland C-30 is, and are delighted to note that they 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.  And, the best part is that when you have arrived with the instrument and are ready to perform, it does not need tuning – ever.

Despite its portability, the Roland C-30 looks like the 1581 Ruckers Flemish harpsichord after which it was designed and is therefore aesthetically pleasing from the visual as well as the aural standpoint.  With the one-time purchase of the Roland C-30 with sampled sound that costs absolutely nothing in maintenance and tuning, one also has the celeste for that once-a-year performance of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite at Christmas time, a portable organ for outdoor weddings, a fortepiano for those Clementi Sonatinas that your students love to play, and a magnificent harpsichord sound that will not have to be tuned after you have turned on the spotlights for a performance!

I hope you will see your local dealer regarding the purchase of one of these wonderful instruments. You will be delighted with the authenticity of the sound, the variety of historic sounds available on a single keyboard, the portability, and the aesthetic appeal of the Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord with sampled sound.

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