Senior General Manager, Electronic Musical Instruments Business Division
Casio Computer Co., Ltd.
Years with Company: 24
Clients: Millions of satisfied keyboard players all around the globe
A native of Tokyo, Japan, Takaki Maeda first joined Casio in 1986 immediately after graduating from university. In 2012, he became General Manager of the electronic musical instruments business strategy department in the global marketing headquarters, partially the result of helping to develop new markets alongside their compact Privia line and backlit portables. In 2017, he became General Manager of the product planning department, where he oversaw development of their EMI product line. Now Senior General Manager, Maeda continues to explore new ideas that will expand upon Casio’s keyboard offerings.
Growing up, there was an acoustic piano in my home. I started classical piano lessons at the age of four, but lost interest and stopped. I began playing keyboard again in junior high school when my friends and I formed a rock band. Synthesized sound really made an impact on me and I bought a Roland monophonic synthesizer when I was fourteen. Since then, I became hooked on rock music and have owned many electronic keyboards. In terms of synthesizers, I have used Casio CZ, FZ and VZ, as well as Roland, Yamaha, Korg, and Chroma. I also love the sound of electric pianos and still own a Rhodes and a CP-80. However, whenever I go out to play I always carry a Casiotone and have done so ever since I was a university student.
A Keyboard Player’s Perspective
The fact that I am one of our target users and have many friends who also play keyboard greatly helps in the planning and decision-making process of product, sales and promotion. Also, having experience with the analog synthesizer UI [User Interface] and sound emitting system is very useful when talking with our engineers. I use my experience and knowledge for sensitive decisions, not only in hardware development but also with software. As part of a team, I bring my experience as a piano player to ensure that our instruments will be continuously enhanced and any issues with our products will be resolved prior to launch.
We are a global organization and music is loved by every country, although it’s different in each area and trends change. Musical instruments, scale, rhythm, purchase intent and income are different with every country, so it becomes difficult to develop one product that satisfies global demand. Designing hardware for each market is not a viable economic solution, so we address [regional differences] by developing software to meet local needs.
We’ve developed custom LSIs [a type of sound source similar to ZPI or AiR], unique sounds, rhythms and accompaniment patterns that we’ve honed over the past 40 years and [these have] assisted us in developing products that are optimal for our target users. Our strength lies in our ability to create high-quality instruments at affordable prices. Casio’s precision mounting technology makes it possible to design lighter, thinner and more compact instruments while also updating the cosmetics to be more in line with today’s standards. Long gone are the days of large and heavy acoustic pianos and keyboards.
Newer and Lighter
Last year, we introduced two new keyboards to our Privia line, the PX-S1000 and PX-S3000. The real hammer action key technology in the newly developed super compact body combines form and function like never before. This has been achieved by what we refer to as “Casio uniqueness”––our commitment to offering original, useful products. We believe many musicians who carry their instruments for gigs will appreciate these new keyboards, for sure.
Keyboards of a Different Color
At the beginning of product development, various colors are possible. Our customers and target markets are the ones who determine the final color for future products. To ensure we’re on the right track, we use a system which collects and analyzes distribution, customer feedback and sell-through data from all over the world and review it on a [regular] basis. Additionally, we encourage our product planning and marketing teams to [understand] not only musical instruments but also the latest trends in daily life and identify how we can incorporate them within our product development.
We discovered through exhaustive research that there was a large number of potential users who were interested in playing piano but had not committed to learning. We investigated why these users had not taken the time to learn and resolved that their dissatisfaction was with the piano itself.
The results of our findings led us to the creation of the Privia line. Privia is a compound word [formed from] Private and Piano. We applied the notion that it is not one [keyboard] for each family but one for each person. The appeal and freedom of playing the Privia is backed by its purpose and appearance. Privia is overwhelmingly compact and styled to inspire elevated creativity over previous electronic piano offerings.
Not a Toy
There is a common misconception that Casio instruments are toys. Although we strive to make products that are safe, familiar, enjoyable and easily understood, our instruments are equipped with state-of-the-art technology far beyond a product that would be considered a toy. Casio’s standards for musical instruments are [the reason why we’re successful]. By utilizing Casio’s advanced digital technology, precision packaging technology and production cost competitiveness capability for musical instrument development, we’re able to deliver high-quality electronic musical instruments to people around the world.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
[Our long-term success] is truly the [result of the] teamwork behind all members of Casio’s musical instrument business. With the commitment of our members, we’re able to implement our philosophy of spreading the enjoyment of playing musical instruments to people all over the world. The best teams work by meeting face-to-face and communicating frequently, from engineers to salespeople. To uphold our philosophy and goals as a company, we have in-person meetings on a semi-annual basis.
Keys to the Future
Casio will continue striving to increase the number of people who begin playing a musical instrument by developing new playing styles and functions designed to inspire. Also, among the assets that Casio has refined, I pay special attention to the advanced technology of digitally controlling sound. By developing it further, we will commercialize products and services that can stimulate the passion for music in daily life.
As a manufacturer, Casio will continue to launch new products year after year, learning and addressing the needs of modern musicians. Our latest introductions within our Privia and Casiotone lines are examples of how Casio creates products that are current with today’s needs––lighter and more portable without sacrificing quality in the process. With this objective in mind, our hope is to inspire people and have them start creating and making music a part of their everyday lives.