Casio’s CGP-700: A Powerful Alternative to an Expensive Piano

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cgp-700Recently, I was given the opportunity to test out Casio’s new CGP-700, a full (88-key) electric piano. With a musician in the family (my wife) and a budding musician in the making (my daughter), we definitely put it through the wringer.

Take a look at this video we threw together, which should give you a good idea of how it sounds and compares to a “real” piano.

The CGP-700 (Compact Grand Piano) is Casio’s newest digital piano, and its most striking visual feature is the 5.3″ color touchscreen interface. This screen is the hub of the piano, and it’s where all of the unit’s tones, rhythms, and effects are accessed. It’s also incredibly easy to use. If you can use a tablet, you can navigate your way to countless instruments.

How many instruments? Casio claims 550, but many are variations on a single instrument (e.g., concert grand piano, bright grand piano, modern grand piano). Still, there’s an incredibly impressive variety of instruments available here, and you’d be hard pressed to think of something that’s not represented.

In addition to dozens of pianos, organs, stringed instruments, brass, woodwinds, and percussion, there’s an impressive slate of more than three dozen “ethnic” instruments (e.g., sitar, harmonium, tabla, erhu, pipa, kanun).

For example, take a listen to this audio, which was recorded directly from the piano. It represents many of the tones, and even this is still just a sampling.

But an electric piano is more than the instruments it can mimic (though, admittedly, that is a huge draw). And it’s more than just technical specs. The CGP-700 has a 6-speaker (40W) sound system that is a selling point by itself. It also comes with 200 ensemble rhythms, which you can have as accompaniment while you play and will react to the chords you play.

cgp-700_01

The keyboard also accurately recreates the touch and feel of a grand piano keyboard. Press down on the keys and you’ll feel the “weight” of the (nonexistent) hammer, the lower keys are heavier than the higher keys, and the texture of the keys mimics the feel of both ebony and ivory.

In our house, we do more teaching than composing, so we were particularly interested to see what features lent themselves to effective instruction.

First of all, it has a full piano keyboard. Anything less, and it simply wouldn’t be a viable substitute for a “real” piano. As I said, the touchscreen control is incredibly easy to navigate and both of my kids (4 and 6) are seasoned pros at this point. (One of their favorite activities is now playing the various rhythms at full volume. Boom! Instant dance party.)

Other student-friendly features include:

  • Duet mode, which splits the keyboard into two equal ranges so teacher and student can play side by side.
  • Classroom mode, which allows the output audio to work with third-party piano lab systems.
  • A built-in metronome whose volume can be adjusted against the keyboard volume.
  • Auto Harmonize, which lets you add harmony to melody notes you play with your right hand.
  • A MIDI recorder that utilizes internal piano memory and an audio recorder that uses a built-in USB port.
  • Two headphone jacks.

The piano by itself only weighs 26 pounds, so it’s fairly easy to transport when it’s disassembled from the stand. Keep it in the stand for home use; easily disconnect it and bring it to lessons or a recital.

For what it’s worth, my daughter also wholeheartedly gives the CGP-700 her seal of approval. She’s been playing piano (on an upright) for a couple years now, and I’ve never seen her as eager to play as she is when she (voluntarily) sits down at the Casio.

So, bottom line: is this a good substitute for a traditional piano? It depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for versatility, convenience, and something that goes above and beyond a simple piano, then you can’t go wrong here. And for the price (around $800), it’s significantly cheaper than an upright piano (not to mention a baby grand or grand piano). Plus, you won’t ever have to worry about tuning it.

cgp-700_stand2

However, what you can probably hear in the video is that a traditional piano still offers a much richer, fuller sound. The difference is even noticeable in the side-by-side comparison we did with the Chinese guzheng. If you were to place the CGP-700 beside a true grand piano, the difference would be even more remarkable. Traditional instruments have a richness that can never be replicated.

Would I recommend the CGP-700 for a casual player or student? Absolutely. Without a doubt. Not everyone has the room or the budget for a piano. This is an excellent alternative that saves you money and space. And it’s hard to argue with that.

(Disclosure: Casio provided me with a CGP-700 for review purposes. All opinions remain my own.)

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