Roland Corporationis a Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments, electronic equipment and software. It was founded by Ikutaro Kakehashi in Osaka on April 18, 1972. In 2005, Roland's headquarters relocated to Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture. It has factories in Taiwan, Japan, and the USA. As of March 31, 2010, it employed 2,699 employees. In 2014, Roland was subject to a management buyout by Roland's CEO Junichi Miki, supported by Taiyo Pacific Partners.
Roland has manufactured numerous instruments that have had lasting impacts on popular music, such as the Juno-106 synthesizer, TB-303 bass synthesizer, and TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines. Roland 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 "arguably did more to shape electronic music than any other [company] in history".
1970sHaving created Ace Electronic Industries Inc in 1960, Ikutaro Kakehashi founded Roland in Osaka on April 18, 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, and would therefore 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 non-preset 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 semi-modular 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.
1980sDuring 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.