Roland JD-Xi Digital/Analog Synth: Sonic Origami

So last week a really cool keyboard showed up on my doorstep from Roland. It has been a very long time since I felt compelled to purchase a new keyboard; in 2009 I bought a Juno G and it’s still running strong (and I haven’t even barely utilized it’s full potential). However, my tennis elbow has returned with a vengeance, and the doctor told me I need to get a smaller keyboard. So after doing some research I discovered that Roland just came out with a new keyboard that is super small and light weight, but it’s loaded with tons of cool synth tones and drum sounds. After perusing the manual online and seeing the vast array of cool drum kits on board this mighty mite, I immediately ordered one. When it showed up, I laughed because it’s really small:
It’s just about the same size as the Yamaha PSS-140 I received for my 12th birthday:
However, this definitely isn’t the toy keyboard I got 30 years ago so I could play the opening lines from “Jump” by Van Halen to impress my older sister’s friends. No, this is the toy keyboard I got last week so I could sequence some massive sounding hip-hop beats to impress my older sister’s hip-hop impresario friends.
When I turn this thing on, I instantly find myself getting lost in it. There are a ton of things to play with, lots of amazing sounds with infinite tweak-ability. What makes it fun and exciting is the sequencer. It’s a simple 4 track sequencer, one track for each of the sound engines. To some, this may seem like a serious limitation. To me, it’s like origami. In origami, the name of the game is to make a beautiful sculpture out of one piece of folding paper. The limitations become the inspiration. Often, artists need to be fenced in to focus their energy. Often times, being given a million options causes one to freeze up not knowing where to go. Sometimes, you need to rein it in and just simplify. The 4-track sequencer does that.
I haven’t had enough time to really dig my teeth into it yet, but I am looking forward to using this thing on my next album. I was looking for something that I could program beats on for use with my analog 8 track recorder. It has all the classic drum tones, along with some cool new ones. Plus, I just needed something that was real, not just some software plugin. I want to record with something that I can use on stage with as well. I want my next album to sound as close to it’s live performance as possible. And perhaps most importantly, I want a keyboard on stage that has a bunch of pretty blinking lights, and this one has them!


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