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ROLI Seaboard RISE 25

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The ROLI Seaboard is a MIDI controller, or a digital keyboard designed to trigger or "control" sounds. MIDI is short for Musical Instruments Digital Interface. It is a protocol, a language, a series of instructions allowing interaction between digital devices like synthesizers, sound modules, sequencers, interfaces and computers. The MIDI standard was adopted by the musical industry around 1983.

The first MIDI controller keyboards had smallish, plastic keys triggering pre-programmed sounds and thus offered few means for artistic expression while playing. Early synthesizer music often is described as being cold, machine-like. Soon enough multitimbral models appeared that were able to measure in real time the velocity, pressure (aftertouch) and displacement of the keys. Together with the pitch these parameters could be exchanged and stored through the MIDI protocol. Finally digital keyboards had achieved a level of artistic expression already attained by analog keyboards like the clavichord or the piano(forte) in the 18th Century: shaping the character and the volume of the sound by applying more or less pressure on the keys. Soon more features like pitch bend, vibrato or other effects were added. These were controlled by knobs, levers, wheels or even the human breath. Digital synthesizers were beginning to surpass analog ones, in terms of the sheer range of sounds available.

Around 2010 Roland Lamb started ROLI in London. Their first major achievement was the development of a new musical instrument - the Seaboard GRAND - which featured a pressure sensitive silicone surface that is soft to the touch. With the Seaboard, ROLI took real time control over digital music and sound to a new level. Their Seaboard RISE model offers 5 different ways of controlling sound: the way any key is struck, the amount of pressure applied, sliding up and down the key or side to side on the key, and the lifting off. All parameters are programmable and assigned to and controlled by faders during performance. An extra XY pad lets the player modify the sound itself. Although the classic keyboard layout is still recognizable, the black silicone gives this instrument a quite unique look and feel.

This 'organic' digital keyboard not only allows for very realistic renderings of sampled string instruments or wind instruments. Thanks to the new playing techniques sound worlds that until recently would have taken hours of tweaking on a computer screen can be created on the spot.

The RISE model with 25 keys can be considered the little one of the family. It is clearly intended for mobile use, offering battery operation and a wireless MIDI over Bluetooth connection. Seaboards come with dedicated Equator (for pc) and Noise (for mobile) software, allowing the artist to get the most out of this extraordinary piece of musical engineering.

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ROLI Seaboard RISE 25
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