11 May 2022
By Ellie Palmer
2022 marks five decades of the powerhouse brand
Roland Pianos is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2022.
In that time, the piano maker has established itself as one of the world's leading piano manufacturers – up there with the likes of Steinway, Yamaha and Kawai – and arguably the world's leading digital manufacturer.
The Japanese company was founded back in 1972 by Ikutaro Kakehashi (1930-2017), nicknamed 'Taro', who was originally a mechanical engineer and as a student worked in the Hitachi shipyards. He later worked as a surveyor’s assistant, a watch repairer, and an agricultural worker, before getting into electronics.
Roland has been leading the way with digital manufacturing since the very beginning. In 1974, in its very early days, the company introduced the first ever touch-sensitive keyboards. This gave its pianos the capability of replicating the dynamics of an acoustic piano.
In 1983, Kakehashi co-developed MIDI technology alongside Dave Smith, founder of the American synthesizer company Sequential. Roland was subsequently the first manufacturer to introduce digital pianos with MIDI in-built, with the Roland HP-300 and HP-400 series. These are just two examples of how the company has led the way in the digital manufacturing world for the last 50 years. A full breakdown of its successes can be found here.
In celebration of the anniversary, Roland will be releasing 'Inspire the Music: 50 Years of Roland History' anniversary book via the published Bjooks. The 400-page book will delve into the culture, people, and technology that has shaped the brand over the past 50 years. It will be released this summer, with a date yet to be confirmed.