|Founded||18 April 1972|
|Products||Electronic musical instruments, synthesizers, digital pianos, electronic drums, guitar amplifiers, guitar synthesizers, effects units, mixing consoles, digital recorders, DJ controllers, vision mixers, accordions|
Number of employees
Roland Corporation (ローランド株式会社, Rōrando Kabushiki Kaisha) is a Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments, electronic equipment, and software. It was founded by Ikutaro Kakehashi in Osaka on 18 April 1972. In 2005, its headquarters relocated to Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture. It has factories in Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, and the United States. As of December 2022, it employed 2,783 people. In 2014, it was subject to a management buyout by its CEO, Junichi Miki, supported by Taiyo Pacific Partners.
Roland has manufactured numerous instruments that have had lasting impacts on music, such as the Juno-106 synthesizer, TB-303 bass synthesizer, and TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines. It was also instrumental in the development of MIDI, a standardized means of synchronizing electronic instruments manufactured by different companies. In 2016, Fact wrote that Roland had arguably had more influence on electronic music than any other company.
Having created Ace Electronic Industries Inc in 1960, Ikutaro Kakehashi founded Roland in Osaka on 18 April 1972. While rival companies Moog and ARP targeted professional musicians and academics, Kakehashi, who had no musical training, wanted to appeal to amateurs and hobbyists, and focused on miniaturization, affordability, and simplicity.
The "Roland" name was selected for export purposes, as Kakehashi was interested in a name that was easy to pronounce for his worldwide target markets. The name was found in a telephone directory, and Kakehashi was satisfied with the simple two-syllable word and its soft consonants. The letter "R" was chosen because it was not used by many other music equipment companies, so would stand out in trade-show directories and industry listings. Kakehashi did not learn of the French epic poem The Song of Roland until later.
With seven employees from his former company, a rented shed, and $100,000, Kakehashi built on his experience at Ace, introducing a drum machine, the TR-77 or Rhythm 77, as Roland's first product, followed by the TR-33 and TR-55 released that same year. In 1973, Roland introduced the first compact synthesizer produced in Japan and the first synthesizer produced by Roland, the SH-1000, as well as their first nonpreset synthesizer, the SH-3.
The company was also manufacturing effects pedals, introducing the RE-201 Space Echo in 1974, and expanding into guitar amplifiers the following year with the JC-60 and JC-120 Jazz Chorus, whose chorus circuit would become the first Boss Corporation product, the CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, the following year. In 1976, Roland introduced the semimodular System 100 and the modular System 700 synthesizers.
In 1977, the company introduced one of the earliest microprocessor-driven music sequencers, the MC-8 MicroComposer, and the first guitar synthesizer, the GR-500. Just one year later, they introduced the CompuRhythm CR-78, the first drum machine that enabled users to program and store their own drum patterns.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Roland released several instruments that have had a lasting influence on popular music. After Kakehashi realized microprocessors could be used to program drum machines, Roland launched the TR-808 drum machine, its first programmable drum machine, in 1980. Although it was not an immediate commercial success, the 808 was eventually used on more hit records than any other drum machine and became a cornerstone of the emerging electronic and hip hop genres. It has been described as hip hop's equivalent to the Fender Stratocaster guitar, which dramatically influenced the development of rock music. The 808 was followed in 1983 by the TR-909, which, alongside the TB-303 synthesizer, influenced the development of dance music such as techno, house, and acid. Roland released the Roland Jupiter-8 in 1981.
Roland played a key role in the development of MIDI, a standardized means of synchronizing electronic musical instruments manufactured by different companies. Kakehashi proposed developing a standard with representatives from Oberheim Electronics, Sequential Circuits, Yamaha, Korg, and Kawai. He and Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits unveiled MIDI in 1983. It remains the industry standard.
In, 1991 Roland released the JD-800, a digital synthesizer with many sliders. In 1993, they released the JD-990, which is the rackmount version of the JD-800. In 1994, Kakehashi founded the Roland Foundation and became chairman. In 1995, he was appointed the chairman of Roland Corporation. Roland instruments were also featured in the "There Goes A . . . " series of videos by Dave Hood.
In 2001, Kakehashi resigned as chair of Roland Corporation and was appointed as a special executive adviser. In 2002, he published an autobiography, I Believe in Music. His second book, An Age Without Samples: Originality and Creativity in the Digital World, was published in 2017.
In 2018, Roland launched a subscription service called Roland Cloud. Users of the service can download and emulate a number of Roland synthesizers (modelled through a proprietary paradigm called ACB) and drum machines in audio plugin formats. This collection also includes orchestral modules (namely the Roland SRX racks) and new additions such as original sampled instruments.
Throughout 2022, Roland celebrated their 50th anniversary by releasing two new editions of their Space Echo tape delay through their Boss brand, along with selling commemorative merchandise and clothing through their online streetswear shop Roland Lifestyle. Later on, a collaboration with Dais Records was announced on 8 June ahead of the release of the JUNO-X synthesizer the following month. A new Jupiter-4 emulation for Roland Cloud and an NFT collection also materialised in the summer and autumn respectively.
Roland markets products under a number of brand names, each of which is used on products geared toward a different niche.