Just because you can play an instrument doesn’t necessarily mean you have a great singing voice. For vocally-challenged musicians, Casio’s latest digital keyboard features a built-in vocal synthesiser. Basically, a musician can play a voice in the same way they’d play notes.
The Casio CT-S1000V is definitely not the first digital keyboard to allow voices to be incorporated into a performance. For decades, sampling keyboards have enabled players to record sounds and even short snippets of voices that can be triggered or played back in different pitches and with various effects applied using the piano’s keys. They were an especially popular way for kids to annoy friends and family in the late ‘80s when the technology was included on many of Casio’s budget-friendly, consumer-level keyboards.
The CT-S1000V also isn’t the first keyboard to include vocal synthesis capabilities. Competitors like Yamaha released products such as the Vocaloid Keytar a few years ago, but with limited capabilities and availability outside of Japan. The Casio CT-S1000V will not only be more widely available, it will also support vocal performances in either Japanese or English.
Because the CT-S1000V lacks an alphanumeric keyboard and relies on a fairly low-res monochromatic LCD display for making on-device settings adjustments, entering custom lyrics into the keyboard is done through a smartphone app where text can be either typed or pasted. Once the lyrics are entered, the app automatically breaks up the words into playable syllables and allows users to tweak the pronunciations to get a desired sound. Although the keyboard includes Bluetooth, that’s reserved for MIDI functions, so syncing lyrics from the mobile app to the CT-S1000V requires a physical USB cable connection between the two devices — an odd choice.
The keyboard comes preinstalled with 100 of these “Lyric Tones” based on phrases from popular songs with space for an additional 50 custom creations to be transferred from the lyric app, but the original 100 can also be overwritten when space runs low. The lyrics can be played automatically based on a specific rhythm as keys are pressed (with each key defining the pitch of the sung lyric) or a syllable at a time for a more nuanced performance with or without legato (a term used to describe direct transitions from note to note without any silence in between). Users also have a choice of 22 different vocalist types that include everything from robot-like talkboxes, to large choirs, to quiet whispers.
The CT-S1000V is also a very capable digital piano that features 800 different playable sounds covering “all categories of instruments,” 243 built-in rhythms for solo musicians wanting musical accompaniment, and 50 user-programmable rhythms. It also includes sampling capabilities with the ability to record up to ten seconds of “high-quality audio” or several three-second samples for creating drum beats through a 1.8-inch stereo input jack. The keyboard is also fully MIDI-compatible and can be connected (using a cable or Bluetooth) to a computer or mobile device for expanding its performance capabilities and has a built-in MIDI recorder with enough capacity to store multiple song performances.
More details on the CT-S1000V are now available on Casio’s website, where the keyboard can be preordered for $US680 ($944). For musicians who don’t need the vocal synthesis feature, Casio is also releasing a slightly cheaper version, the $US500 ($694) CT-S500, which can also be powered by six AA batteries for musicians wanting the performance freedom of a keytar and who don’t mind a 5 kg keyboard hanging from a strap over their shoulder.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.