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Exploring Casio’s 40 Years of ‘Creativity and Contribution’

Victoria Wasylak • AnniversarySeptember 2020 • September 8, 2020

Brothers Toshio Kashio, Kazuo Kashio (standing), Yukio Kashio, and Tadao Kashio

There comes a period in any long-lasting company’s life when it’s appropriate to tackle, impress, and astound a new generation of players. For Casio, the timing couldn’t be better than the 40th anniversary of their branching out into the musical instrument world.

The formal reintroduction started last year, a little shy of the notable milestone, when the brand went back to their roots to show young players the magic model that started it all: the Casiotone 201. Adjustments were made to the Casiotone to showcase it as “reborn” for a new generation via the CT-S200 model. Strategically, it set the metaphorical stage for the brand’s special anniversary, and reestablished the Casio legacy with young players in a major way.

“Being able to share the ‘my first keyboard was a Casio’ with today’s younger players provides a source of pride for those of us who remember how crucial those first steps are,” says Mike Martin, general manager of marketing, EMI Division, Casio America, Inc.

“Casiotone was the very beginning of our venture into musical instruments, starting with the CT-201. It was a first for the market, a polyphonic keyboard with full-size keys at an affordable price, it launched Casio’s portable keyboard business. That legacy is important, not only to Casio, but the industry as many artists began their musical journey with a Casiotone.”

The Casiotone CT-S200 marked a special moment for the company, of course, but also the music world as a whole. After all, most players have based their entire musical careers around their formative years with a Casio (and many still do).

Casio’s story begins in 1946, when engineer Tadao Kashio established Kashio Seisakujo in Tokyo. After creating the world’s first compact, all-electric calculator, the Japanese company tinkered with cash registers, scientific calculators, and Typuter, an electronic inkjet typewriter, all while expanding their footprint overseas in Europe and North America. It wasn’t until 1980 that Casio would venture into producing electronic musical instruments, starting with the Casiotone.

Namely, Kashio wanted to create an instrument that would allow musicians to play multiple instruments – or at least their sounds – though one medium, allowing pianists to “play” other instruments though via their keyboard. Kashio started by reproducing the sounds of other instruments using a system of vowel-consonant synthesis. As the Casio website explains, “By modifying and combining the ‘vowel’ and ‘consonant’ elements that sound is composed of to create a single sound, he succeeded in recreating the sounds of 29 different instruments, making them playable on a piano style keyboard.”

From the start, Casio made waves in the MI world with their affordable keyboards, opening up music-making to people with smaller budgets for instruments and gear.

“Our keyboards have been a great introduction to playing music because we provide the best possible value, encouraging the possibility of playing for those who otherwise couldn’t afford to learn an instrument,” Martin explains, reflecting on Casio’s long-lasting impact. “Casio’s first introductions to the market were definitely milestones [through which] a number of people, myself included, were introduced to the concept of a portable keyboard that could provide so much more to music study.”

The pattern repeated again in 2003 when Casio debuted its first Privia digital piano (PX-100), a much more economical choice for many people who wouldn’t be able to afford a digital piano otherwise. The new model found its way into bedrooms and living rooms across the globe due to its status as a “private piano” – a model that was simple to move and could easily be stored in players’ rooms.

“Casio changed the market with the first Privia pianos, which were not only smaller and lighter than most other pianos, but also more affordable,” Martin elaborates. “The latest Privia PX-S digital pianos are even more amazing in that regard and it has been incredible to see them being embraced by musicians of all skill levels.”

Now, Casio has over 11,000 employees worldwide and with offices in 20 countries, operating on an enduring “corporate creed of creativity and contribution.” Their history is captured in a new video called “Regeneration,” which highlights various Casio keyboards and digital pianos from the last 40 years.

In recent years, their innovation-driven motto has yielded tech like USB class-compliant models and the Privia PX-S, a remarkably slim and compact keyboard. Actually, the Privia PX-S boasts the title of the “world’s slimmest digital piano.”

“We’re constantly looking for ways that new technologies can help us provide unique products that not only provide fun, but will help develop a lifelong skill,” Martin says.

The Privia PX-S in particular came from witnessing somewhat of a standstill in the digital piano market, he explains. “The digital piano market became stagnant, they all looked the same, bulky, angular, cumbersome; we wanted to make one that pushed the boundaries of portability without sacrificing sound quality or playability,” Martin adds. “Casio’s decades of electronic expertise include many milestones involving miniaturization – calculators and watches today are small and lightweight due to the pioneering of our engineers.”

Most recently, Casio debuted new Celviano models at the 2020 NAMM Show, including two new Grand Hybrid pianos and the AP-710. While the COVID-19 pandemic has halted many of the company’s anniversary celebrations (or forced them to go digital), the current situation has also demonstrated a trend amongst piano players that was already in-progress: more and more folks are starting their musical journeys from home.

“One important trend is that more and more people are playing at home, especially during the current pandemic,” Martin explains. “Our offerings line up very well with this, especially our Casiotone and Privia lines. Families are making music together, and many more musicians are getting their start while being stuck at home.”

Still, even after 40 years of technological innovation in the MI industry, certain sonic hallmarks from their early days of Casio still find their way into modern music of all genres. It’s not uncommon for records and songs to feature the same tones that first stemmed from Casio’s first keyboard models, adding a vintage and nostalgic touch to 21st century tunes. For some artists, the choice is purely sentimental; for others, it’s more of a tribute and sign of respect.

“There’s a sonic identity as well; the classic sounds from Casio’s vintage portable keyboards continue to be used in music today,” Martin says. “We’re very proud that today’s musicians find ways to incorporate sounds from the keyboards they’ve had for decades; that encourages our engineers to go further and continue developing groundbreaking features for the next generation of Casio keyboards.”

While the company’s next product rollouts remain under wraps, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Casio continues to fuel music-making by supporting non-profits like Notes for Notes, which gives more children access to create and record music from their homes.

Because sometimes, “creativity and contribution” takes its best form in philanthropy.

“What we can say is that we are committed to providing the best experience for musicians, students and teachers,” Martin concludes. “Casio’s mission is to provide fun, stimulate exploration of music study and inspire musicians everywhere.”

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