Providing a sense of freedom and a more enjoyable playing options to reach people who used to play
The Privia PX-S7000, launched in 2022, is a Casio digital piano designed for skilled players who hope to enjoy playing popular music. Inspired by the concept of “Style, Reimagined,” it combines a striking 360° design that looks beautiful from any angle to suit modern lifestyles with full-fledged performance capabilities. The story of its development is shared here by Ikeda Akira, Section Manager of the Product Planning Department in the EMI Business Unit, and Nakamura Shuhei, Assistant Manager of the Product Design Department. They touch on the many challenges that had to be overcome in the development process.
Product Planning: Ikeda Akira; Design: Nakamura Shuhei
Planning: Development of the Privia PX-S7000 was sparked by the voices of people with piano playing experience and advanced skills who had stopped playing
Ikeda: Following the favourable reception received by the slim, stylish Privia PX-S1000 (launched in 2019), we thought of expanding our lineup to suit modern lifestyles by trying to create even further advancements across a range of different elements, including acoustics and construction.
One day, I heard Maeda Takaki, Senior General Manager of the EMI Business Unit, who had many years of piano playing experience, mention that the next step he hoped to see in further developing the Privia line was a brand-new digital piano that would make even people who had stopped playing classical music on the piano want to take up playing once again. That comment prompted me to conduct a global survey, and the survey showed that there were definitely many people out there with advanced performance skills who used to play the piano but don’t anymore. I made a proposal to Mr. Maeda, suggesting that we create a digital piano that would make experienced and skilled players who don’t play anymore want to re-engage with the piano, while simultaneously redefining the ways people incorporate pianos into their lifestyles in a contemporary fashion. I got the go-ahead right away, as he responded, “That describes my persona precisely. By all means, I hope you will make this happen.”
Nakamura: Right around that time, I was in London on about a six-month stay for a research project as part of refining the unique character of Privia. The ideas of Mr. Ikeda and Mr. Maeda resonated with me, and I interviewed some people locally who had experience playing the piano but were not currently in the habit of playing. Investigating the factors that might inspire them to pick up the instrument again, I heard comments suggesting many had originally given up playing because pianos didn’t fit well with their lifestyles or living spaces: “Pianos with satisfying performance quality are too large” ... “A classical piano wouldn’t match our interior design” ... “I feel lonely playing all by myself facing the wall.” Frank comments like these from target users showed the path to the creation of a digital piano with a design tuned to users’ lifestyles that would offer free performance styles and highly advanced performance quality.
Concept: Development begins with careful consideration of the design concept
Ikeda: In order to maintain globally uniform branding, we established “Style, Reimagined” as the concept phrase for the new piano. This expresses the idea of creating a piano in tune with users’ evolving values by reimagining existing styles of piano use in people’s lives. The concept captures our vision of working together with users to create a new mode of being for the digital piano.
Nakamura: Since this model was oriented to new target users, we put particular effort into hashing out the concept before delving into the work of designing the actual form. In the interviews conducted in London that I mentioned earlier, our team first freely pitched ideas for new products, then laid out several suppositions about what people who used to play might be looking for in an instrument. We had the interviewees take a look at these and from there worked out a vision of the ideal digital piano for them. Then back in Japan, we worked to draw up a range of different patterns —from miniature prototypes to full-scale mock-ups — and refine them further.
The one we finally selected for the basic design concept was designed around the key phrase, “Liberation from the wall.” We managed to create a design that does indeed free users from the image of a piano placed up against a wall, practicing all alone as they might with a traditional piano, and that instead suggests a scene where the piano is in the centre of a room and they can enjoy playing it together with friends and family, as well. The design also looks great from 360° around, with a minimalistic style that nicely complements room interiors.
Design / Exterior Design: Giving concrete form to design ideas
Nakamura: With the concept established, we embarked on the process of fleshing out the concrete design. We made sketch after sketch to create a form with linear, straight lines and a light, minimal feel while incorporating the three pedals and a built-in stand that would satisfy our target high-skill users. By adopting a furniture-like four-legged stand and a transparent acrylic music stand, we reduced obstructions of view as much as we could, making it easier for the piano to harmonise with the space and look great in the middle of a room.
We leveraged the CMF (colour, material, and finish) design for the stand, pedal unit, and speaker fabric, referencing trends in European furniture, to harmonise with diverse life spaces, as well. For the main unit, we selected three colours from a long menu of candidates: black, white, and “Harmonious Mustard.” While high-impact yellow may be an exceedingly rare colour for a piano, the “Harmonious Mustard” hue harmonises nicely with diverse room interiors and adds a feeling of elegance as well, especially with the grand-piano-style finishing process of painting and polishing
When it came to the UI design, we sought to achieve a design with a textural feel fitting for a piano that harmonises nicely with room interiors, using touch buttons that are illuminated with light only when needed and hardly show at other times. We made countless trips to the partner manufacturer to fine-tune the ink used to keep the lettering from showing, as much as possible, when the power is turned off.
Looking forward, my hope is that the Privia PX-S7000, which we designed to harmonise with people’s lifestyles, will serve to transform the ways people interact with pianos and that the piano will come to be incorporated into people’s ways of living and communicating in more natural ways.
Ikeda: As the overall design became fairly solidified, we turned to computer-aided design (CAD) tools to draw up plans and computer-aided engineering (CAE) techniques to run simulations testing strength and durability. Using these types of software, we ran stress tests from various different angles on the computer to check for any design defects. Wherever we found deficiencies, we would revise the shape or construction and re-evaluate the strength and durability. We coordinated with designers to work out a construction that would satisfy the necessary criteria without detracting from the aesthetic design.
One feature that presented a particularly high hurdle was the new stand unit with three pedals. It was extremely challenging to balance providing a sufficiently strong, sturdy structure to support the weighty main unit with achieving a design projecting an air of lightness. We had to run simulations with dozens of patterns before we pulled that off. The designer in charge of the mechanism also confidently concluded, “We found solutions to a range of challenging issues to succeed at creating a finished product that embodies the ‘Style, Reimagined’ concept.”
Working concurrently to create mock-ups, we conducted one assessment after another — not just of the main unit’s strength, but also of details such as the feel of the hue and paint finishing, right up until the mass production stage.
Acoustics / Mechanism Design: Leveraging digital technologies to deliver professional-approved playing comfort and free performance styles
Ikeda: The engineers faced new challenges with all different facets of the design — from the keyboard and acoustics to the casing, UI, stand, pedals, and so on — to achieve an advanced form matching the product concept. For example, while advantageously maintaining a compact size achieved with high-density mounting technology honed in the development of the PX-S1000, they incorporated a newly developed hybrid body of housing made with a combination of wood, to deliver enhanced acoustic clarity, and resin, to enable free shape-ability. Leveraging high-density mounting technology using resin to deliver the low-distortion acoustic clarity inherent to wood, the design achieves a compact size comparable to the PX-S1000.
Furthermore, in order to offer richer sound expression, the new model replaces the original speaker pair with a set of four speakers, each individually driven by an amplifier. To create a sound field with a natural sound spread and cohesive presence, the Spatial Sound System was developed, leveraging digital technologies to produce separately adjusted sound elements — such as frequency, volume, and sound spread — and ensure they combine optimally to offer a beautiful sound no matter where the piano is placed in the space.
The Piano Position Function was also newly developed, using this system to offer a choice of acoustic settings optimised to match the placement of the piano, such as against a wall or at the centre of a room. These settings for fine-tuning the output of the sound offer a further demonstration of the engineers’ advanced skills. To accomplish this, they engaged in an extensive process of making minute adjustments to ensure the piano would produce a nice sound field no matter where it was placed. In addition to acoustic tests conducted at the company’s testing facilities, we actually rented a whole house to assess performance in a wide range of placement settings.
The white keys feature a hybrid construction made from a mix of spruce wood, which is also used in grand pianos, and resin. The new Smart Hybrid Hammer Action Keyboard developed for the piano employs a combination of physical hammer-weighting to produce a tactile response like that of a grand piano with digital technology that controls the sound response for each key individually. We had professional pianists test out the sound and playing feel, and the process of development was continued until we obtained their mark of approval.
I hope that anyone who might be interested will have a chance to enjoy playing the Privia PX-S7000, a digital piano with an authentic keyboard, a grand piano-like touch, and a powerful, spacious sound — all delivered in a beautiful, compact design that looks great in any space.