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Seaboard RISE 2: A brief history of reinventing the piano

To celebrate Piano Day 2023, we take a look at how the latest version of the Seaboard pushes the traditional instrument with cutting-edge technology

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Since the 1700’s the piano has sparked the imagination of millions of music listeners and allowed musicians to turn expression into music. To celebrate Piano Day 2023, we look back at the history of this iconic instrument and explore how the latest technology in hardware, software, and the invention of MPE has led to the creation of Seaboard RISE 2 – the piano, reimagined.

"The Piano and Beyond"

To showcase just how much RISE 2 can do, ROLI's own Sound Team Content Lead Marcus Levy-Chance has written "The Piano and Beyond" on the Seaboard. Taking the conventional piano sound from Kontakt plugins (Una Corda and The Giant), Marcus has used Equator2 to add cinematic soundscapes and an array of instruments from all over the world - including Sitar, Flute, Horns, Hammered Dulcimer, String Quartet and more - to perform the track with the full force of 5D expression.

The first piano

The first piano was invented in Italy in the early 1700s by Bartolomeo Cristofori. At the time, the most popular keyboard instrument was the harpsichord, which produced sound by plucking strings. Cristofori wanted to create an instrument that could produce a wider range of dynamics, from soft to loud, and that could also be played expressively, with the ability to vary the volume and tone of each note. The result was the piano, which used hammers to strike the strings and produce sound.

The piano quickly gained popularity in Europe, and by the end of the 18th century, it had become the most popular instrument. It was used in classical music compositions by composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin, and it continued to evolve and improve over time.

Contemporary keys

In the centuries since its invention, the piano has been a staple of music-making, inspiring countless musicians and composers with its rich, expressive sound. However, as technology has advanced, so too has the way we think about and interact with musical instruments. MIDI keyboard controllers have played a significant role in the evolution of the piano, particularly in the realm of electronic music. MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a protocol that allows electronic instruments to communicate with each other and with computers, and MIDI keyboards are designed to provide a way for musicians to play and control electronic instruments using a piano-like keyboard.

By connecting a MIDI keyboard controller to a computer or other electronic instrument, musicians can access a virtually unlimited range of sounds and effects and can control those sounds using the techniques of piano playing. MIDI keyboards have become a staple of electronic music production, and have allowed musicians to push the boundaries of what is possible with traditional piano sounds.

Enter MPE

MIDI and MPE are related technologies, but they serve different purposes. MIDI is a protocol used to transmit musical data between electronic instruments and is commonly used to control things like note pitch, velocity, and duration. MIDI messages are transmitted on a single channel, which means that all notes played on a MIDI keyboard controller will be affected by the same set of parameters. MPE, on the other hand, is a newer protocol that was developed to provide greater control and expression over individual notes in a polyphonic context. MPE allows for each note to be independently controlled in terms of pitch, velocity, timbre, and other parameters.

This means that musicians can use a range of expressive techniques, such as vibrato or pitch bends, on individual notes, and can create more nuanced and dynamic performances. MPE is particularly well-suited to instruments like the Seaboard RISE 2, with its unique playing surface and advanced software that allows for a high degree of control over individual notes. Overall, MPE represents a significant step forward in terms of expressive control over electronic instruments and has helped to pave the way for new and innovative approaches to music-making.

[Learn more about MPE]

RISE 2: The piano refined, and reimagined

At its core, the Seaboard RISE 2 is an evolution of the piano, combining the best of both acoustic and electronic instruments to provide a range of features that musicians can use to express themselves in new and creative ways. Building upon a long history of innovation and experimentation in the world of piano — from the development of the sustain pedal in the 18th century to the use of electronic amplification in the 20th century — these advances in technology have meant new innovations for music-making on the piano.

But the RISE 2 goes beyond these recent adaptions: For one, it is more expressive than a piano, with touch-sensitive keys and advanced software that can produce an almost infinite range of dynamic and expressive sounds. It is also more versatile than a traditional piano, with the ability to be used with a range of software and plugins that allow musicians and producers to explore different sounds and styles. Using MPE technology, each note on the RISE 2 can be independently controlled in terms of pitch, velocity, timbre, and more, allowing for more nuanced and expressive performances.

The black and white piano keys on the RISE 2 have been transformed to a unique playing surface made up of soft Keywaves that respond to the player's touch, which we call 5D Touch — based on the concept that touch can be expressed in five dimensions: strike, press, glide, slide, and lift. Each dimension can be used to control a different aspect of the sound, allowing for more expressivity than ever before.

RISE 2 represents a significant evolution of the piano, offering musicians a new, deeply intuitive way to create music. With its unique playing surface, advanced software, and versatility, the Seaboard RISE 2 is a powerful and innovative instrument that is sure to inspire musicians for years to come. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced piano or keyboard player, the RISE 2 is an all-new instrument that is well worth exploring.

Find out more about how we made the RISE 2

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