Roland SuperNATURAL – An Overview
Over the last few decades, Roland have been at the forefront of musical technology. In 1974 they created the world’s first touch sensitive piano with the EP-30 and since then, they have continued to impress players with their innovation and authentic replication of acoustic tones through digital instruments. Roland’s SuperNATURAL technology represents this perfectly. It’s one of the companies unique features and helps set them apart from their competitors. SuperNATURAL allows players to be a lot more expressive and dynamic when using a wide range of Roland instruments, whether that’s a digital piano, synthesiser or electronic drum kit.
What is Roland’s SuperNATURAL?
We’re not going to go into the technicalities of exactly how it works; our aim is to give you a basic understanding of what SuperNATURAL is and why it might help make a Roland instrument the right one for you. SuperNATURAL is the name that Roland have given to the technology that goes into their digital pianos, as well as some of their keyboards, synths and many of their electronic drum kits to help make the experience more like playing an acoustic instrument, whilst retaining all the benefits of it being digital.
When talking about SuperNATURAL in pianos, it’s easiest to split it into three sections: key range behaviour, velocity response and note decay.
Key Range Behaviour
Roland sample every single key of an 88-key piano. This is instead of sampling every other three or four keys and simply shifting the pitch, which some other manufacturers do. Each individual note on an acoustic piano not only has its own pitch but also its own tonal characteristic; the first C# on an acoustic piano isn’t just a semitone higher than the C before it, it has a slightly different tone to it due to the thickness of the string differing, and how all the mechanical parts of the piano react to the note being played. Thanks to SuperNATURAL 88-key stereo multi-sampling, Roland digital pianos faithfully recreate these tonal nuances to help make playing a digital instrument sound more like an acoustic one.
Playing music should be expressive; how you play should be reflected in the sound that comes out of your instrument. Roland’s SuperNATURAL technology helps achieve this; when you press down a key lightly, you’ll get a softer sound than when you press a key heavily. This is standard on all touch sensitive pianos, but what sets Roland apart is how smoothly the transition from soft/quiet to hard/loud is.
Many other pianos have three or four sensitivity levels so on each key, when you reach a certain threshold the note will jump in volume to the next level. Thanks to SuperNATURAL, Roland pianos have a smooth transition so how lightly or heavily you play a key will be directly represented by the sound that comes out of the speaker.
Not only this but Roland SuperNATURAL technology uses modelling to replicate the behaviour and response that would be typical of an acoustic instrument. As mentioned earlier, all 88 keys on a piano have slightly different tonal qualities; the same can be said of the same note played loudly and quietly. The sound engine in your Roland instrument detects how heavily you’re pressing down a key and not only gives you the right volume but also models how an acoustic piano would react and gives you a more accurate tone as well. This behaviour modelling technology works great in Roland synths and workstations as well, giving you accurate and detailed replications of a massive range of instruments including horns, strings, drums and more.
If you hold down a key on an acoustic piano, the note will gradually become quieter and the tone will change, slowly losing body and richness. Roland SuperNATURAL technology replicates this faithfully to create a natural and organic note decay, instead of using a piano sample that continuously loops, only dropping in volume.
All three of these components together make up Roland’s SuperNATURAL technology and help make playing your instrument more expressive and more enjoyable.
How does SuperNATURAL work with Drums?
Roland have put their SuperNATURAL technology in many of their electronic V-Drum kits. The same basic principals as above apply to drums. So whereabouts on the drum or cymbal and how heavily you strike it alters not just the volume, but tone too. Roland have sampled drum strikes at many different volumes so that you get a faithful representation coming through your speaker. The V-Drums also use modelling in a similar way; the module tracks how and where you’re playing and models how an acoustic drum kit would react to give you the right feel and sound. A good example of this is how it reacts to a snare or cymbal roll; the actual tone changes along with the volume, the harder you hit, the more attack the drum or cymbal has. SuperNATURAL ensures that there’s no sudden jumps up or down in volume or tone where there shouldn’t be; every strike is a smooth transition, like it would be on an acoustic kit.
Roland’s SuperNATURAL technology is all about getting a natural, expressive and dynamic response from your instrument. The time and money spent on the research into how acoustic instruments sound the way they do has meant that digital instruments can now replicate it more closely than ever. Playing any instrument is a very personal thing; everybody has their own style and Roland instruments help showcase this, partly thanks to their very unique SuperNATURAL technology.
All Roland digital pianos feature SuperNATURAL technology, including their brand new HP600 series, the new LX7 and LX17, their hugely popular HP500 series, the slimline DP90, plus stage pianos like the F20 and many more.