Just when you think that there couldn’t possibly be any more instrument possibilities in the world, ROLI come along and surprise us with what they’re calling the Seaboard Rise. It’s as if one of those ‘old skool’ synthesisers came together with a traditional piano and had a rubbery covered baby. The ROLI Seaboard Rise definitely looks pretty funky, and maybe pretty alien to some musicians on first glance. I don’t blame you, we felt the same.
ROLI first came to light with their hefty Seaboard Grand, a whopping 88 key instrument that cost up to $9,000. They then followed it up with a 61 and 37 key versions, but the smallest of the three was still coming in at around $2,000. Quite inaccessible for most musicians. So ROLI decided to downsize their invention and come out with the Seaboard Rise which you can find online for around $600-700. A much better price point, especially for newer musicians to the music scene.
The Seaboard Rise has 25 keys, a much smaller and portable version of its bigger Grand brother. It still has the same functionalities which is great too. The keys are broken into several categories branded: Strike, Press, Glide, Slide, and Lift. These keystrokes can be combined to make some pretty interesting sounds.
I keep thinking of this as a piano, probably because I had piano lessons growing up and studied music practice during my education. But this is so much more. Yes you have the traditional keys, with white lines to highlight the black keys, but the fact that you are not committed to one note at a time makes a huge difference. For you music heads out there, say you strike a C note on the Seaboard Rise. Using a glide movement up and down the board in a horizontal fashion will create a pitch bend. Strike the same C key and wobble your finger will give it a wobbling sound. It’s crazy the options available here.
ROLI has used a number of ways to get their Seaboard Rise connected to a computer. The options are: USB, which will also charge the onboard battery for standalone use, Bluetooth, which works absolutely fantastically with extremely minimal input lag and finally, straight to your mobile phone using ROLI’s custom-built Noise app.
I’m in no way a great musician, but this seemed easy to pick up. After installing ROLI’s Equator software and connecting the synthesiser to my desktop, I was away, creating sounds and patterns that wouldn’t usually be heard from a traditional instrument. And as I said before, the possibilities seem endless.
One thing that I did find strange was the fact that ROLI’s Equator software doesn’t record. You would have to use some kind of external DAW for that function which is a shame. But still, they do explain that Equator is just a synthesiser engine and nothing more. I felt that the ROLI is meant to be a live instrument, meaning that you would play it in real-time, along with some kind of musical accompaniment or band. It wasn’t built to live in some dusky studio to be tinkered with. Turning up to a gig rocking one of these would definitely turn some heads though. Shame we never got to experience that, but I could imagine myself. If someone showed me their ROLI Seaboard Rise after a show, I’d be hooked. Take my money now ROLI, as a person with a background of piano playing and jamming in a band, I need one of these NOW!