A traditional piano consists of a total of 12 notes. However, Roland Lamb, the CEO of technology startup Roli, felt that it wasn’t sufficient. He felt a need for more options. Hence, three years ago, he set out on a mission to reinvent the piano. Through his effort and hard work, Seaboard came about. It is a touch-sensitive, silicone keyboard that allows one to slide between, bend and vibrate notes.
“As a keyboard player, I love the piano and think it’s the most logical instrument. But I was always interested in extending its power. I’d play gigs and be slightly envious of the musicians who could bend the pitch and volume and timbre of the notes — guitar players can be very expressive with just a few notes. You can’t do that with a piano,” he explained. According to him, the Seaboard is “a new instrument that gets you one step closer to the experience of touching sound.”
The 34-year-old, who is also a graduate of the Royal College of Art, initially thought about a mechanical solution. Eventually, he didn’t feel that “it would be intuitive enough — it had to build on the skills and muscle memory a piano player has.” He also rejected the idea of touch screens as they didn’t offer sufficient tactile feedback. He finally got his solution during a literary festival in Jaipur, India. “Over the piano keyboard I started to draw sine waves that showed the keyboard becoming a wave. And then it just made sense. By striking the wave, you could play it discretely, like a percussive instrument. By moving over the waves, and gliding, it can become a continuous sound. And once I had that I could hear the music,” stated Roland.
Finalising the Seaboard was an extremely tedious process. In all, it took about 50 prototypes of the Seaboard, and 58 versions of its software and notation system before finally arriving at the production-ready Seaboard. In fact, it was also showcased in public for the first time last month. The Seaboard is only the start of an entire new range of musical products for Roland. His team of employees are currently working on other spin-off projects such as Seatara, a guitar that enables players to sustain notes by bending the instrument instead of using a pedal, and a handheld, modular drum machine. For more of the story, do check it out here.