The Quest for a Keyboard That
Invites Everyone to Play
First of all, could you tell us
how the CT-S1 project came about?
Product Planning Department
EMI Business Unit
Hamura R&D Center
Hiroshi Sato: We had two main reasons for taking this project on. First, we hoped to create a definitive keyboard that anyone could just pick up and play. We didn’t feel there were many good options for getting started with a keyboard, and we wanted to design something that we could see ourselves playing. Not wanting to create something too unconventional, we started by looking at a new standard keyboard that would fit naturally into people’s lifestyles. Something that everyone would just want to start playing.
Second, we wanted to rethink the keyboard as a musical instrument in its own right, not just as a substitute for the piano, which is what it sometimes felt like. Our aim was to create an easy-to-use Casiotone that was designed for playability, while also putting lots of different instruments in the same unit. When the first Casiotone 201 was released in 1980, the concept was “an enjoyable world of beautiful and diverse tones,” and we embraced that same idea this time around. Looking back at the first Casiotone, we realized this concept was just what we had in mind—more than 40 years later, the original Casiotone should still inform how Casiotone exists today. That was how this project really took off.
How did you begin the process of turning
that initial concept into a product?
Hiroshi: Well, it’s not easy to communicate your idea at first. We began by getting the product design team to create concept images of the Casiotone in harmony with different living spaces. We agreed on a target image for the product and then started thinking about how we could realistically mass-produce it. Communicating this in a tangible form helped the people around us to understand it, too.
Advanced Design Department
2nd Design Headquarters
Shunsuke Oka: In terms of timing, it felt like we were dealing with a request from the Product Planning Department, but actually the momentum was coming from the product design team.
Hiroshi: The product design team’s vision was pretty close to ours, so we spoke to them on a daily basis. Sometimes it was hard to know where the ideas came from first.
Was there a reason why the planning team and the product
design team were working on the same idea at the same time?
Hiroshi: As I said before, we hadn't been able to create the kind of keyboard that we really wanted. We’d made a wide range of products for kids, older players and other groups of people, but wanted to develop something that would appeal to music lovers of all ages, including people of our own generation. We talked a lot about going back to the basics while we homed in on what we were looking for.
Shunsuke: Originally, we were pretty focused on a keyboard for performers, but we kept thinking we didn’t yet really have something that captured the initial concept of the Casiotone—that anyone could enjoy playing it. The product design team made some proposals with this in mind, and after a few other departments took a look, we started to move towards a consensus.
Hiroshi: It's easy enough to come up with a concept. But we weren't initially able to turn it into something concrete in terms of cost and other practical considerations. People were ready to walk out of meetings, exasperated because there was just no way that the designs could be realistically built. Despite these challenges, our structural engineer Kouji stayed on board as a key player.
Where does the structural design
process usually begin?
Mechanism Development Unit
Kouji Oshima: In the structural design process, we need to communicate not only with the design team, but also with the team that develops the acoustics. In order to produce sound, a certain amount of space is needed inside the body of the instrument, but if that’s too large, the product will end up looking unbalanced. The product design team came up with a really slim-bodied product at first, right?
Shunsuke: Yeah, they did.
Kouji: It was like they steamrolled it! I wondered where the speakers would actually fit. It looked cool, but I was pulling my hair out trying to make it happen.
Hiroshi: The biggest challenge was to balance the sound and the design. The design might be great, but it also needs to sound good.
Kouji: When Shunsuke saw our drafts he was like, “Oh, couldn’t you just get rid of this part?” You’ve got to be joking! (laughs)
Shunsuke: I’d keep coming back, saying “I found another part we don’t need!” (laughs)
How did you balance a slim design
with a proper internal structure?
Kouji: With the bass reflex system, you need the biggest enclosure you can get. The speaker box in this keyboard is shaped like a boot, which was a new design. Also, the main speaker and the bass reflex port face different directions. With tweaks like these, we managed to get enough space for the speakers while keeping the keyboard really slim. Of course, in reality it was way more involved. I had the data that showed the reduced speaker space, and I remember just handing it to the acoustics team without saying anything. After about a week, they came back to me saying “You made it smaller, didn’t you!” They found me out. (laughs)
Hiroshi: Normally, bass reflex speakers are mounted vertically, but this design puts them in a new horizontal structure. Also, the product design team wouldn’t budge on the speaker nets because they really wanted them to look a certain way. (laughs)
Kouji: They just wouldn’t let up on those, would they? (laughs)
Hiroshi: We also had to deal with issues like sound loss and cost. Kouji was looking for new suppliers, something that’s usually not possible in such a tight time frame. In the end, thanks to him going the extra mile, we were able to get the project done just under the wire. We made it because we shared this vision of perfection from the beginning. Everyone knew it would all be for nothing unless we achieved what we’d set out to do.