Kit Session - Roland Jupiter-50

Two amazing artists, Amir Amor - a top Producer who is also in the blisteringly hot band Rudimental - and acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Laura Kidd from She Makes War, launched our Kit Session video series with a visit to Roland UK and a good look round the new Jupiter-50 synth. Gareth Bowen from Roland, who also plays with Tricky, showed them all its special features for studio and live, and they asked the questions - finding out the things that artists need to know.

We met up at Roland’s UK showroom in the legendary Metropolis Studios in West London, for our demo of the Jupiter-50. Metropolis is a hive of musical activity and Jimmy Page was hanging out in the canteen. Amir had taken time out from rehearsing for Jools Holland’s Later show, and told us that Rudimental’s album is being mastered at Metropolis. With 12 people in his band, there’s lots to think about both artistically and logistics-wise, so he was keen to see just what the synth could do. His band is huge at the moment and the video for new single Not Giving In, has had two million hits before the track is even released.

Innovative ‘Gloom pop’ artist Laura is demoing her new album. She plays guitar and bass among other instruments, is an expert looper and also a session musician. She wanted to find out more about the synth’s many voices and effects. Laura and Gareth were excited to see each other - it turned out they had been on tour together as part of Tricky’s band - with Laura on bass, and Gareth on keys.

The Jupiter-50 is designed to be a performance synth, but one that’s at home in the studio too. It can play up to six different sounds at the same time. It’s editable with 1900 sounds built in to the unit, including classic analog synth tones from the SH series, and 117 acoustic sounds. Amir wanted to hear the synth and piano sounds as Rudimental use several different keyboards when they perform. Laura is about to set off on tour with The Penelopes who are supporting The Human League at top venues such as the Royal Albert Hall in London. She is keen to expand her keyboard skills and wanted to see how the synth would work for live and for writing on.

There are around 400 synth solo sounds on board and some nifty bass sounds that impressed Laura, and Amir who plays bass too. “Petty realistic” was Amir’s verdict. “Great. It’s so hard to get a good bass,” added Laura.

They were particularly interested in hearing piano sounds, as they are notoriously difficult to get right. Gareth played them grand piano and upright, and showed them the sustain pedal. Two controller pedals can be plugged in for swells and more. The Jupiter has enough weight on the keys to get a bit of feeling to it, but is not weighted like a piano.

“Gone are the days of 24 keyboards on stage”, quipped Gareth. “That’s what we’re doing!” said Amir.

The 76-note keyboard has performance controllers such as D-Beam, pitch/mod lever, and control input jacks, which Laura tried out later with gusto. The interface is really user-friendly and it’s easy and quick to get a great sound.

Laura wanted to know how heavy it is and after lifting it was amazed at how light and portable it is. “Designed to sling over your shoulder”, said Gareth.

Another key feature he pointed out is Harmony intelligence which creates a musical chord out of any inversion. The display even shows the name of the chord.

“That’s really good for songwriting”, was Amir’s verdict.

Gareth explained more about the options that make it a good bet for rehearsing and songwriting. You can plug a USB into the Jupiter-50 and have your songs as backing tracks, and store MP3s, AIFFs and WAVS. There’s an input and you can plug a guitar in and use the simple onboard recorder to record your ideas.

So what was the artists’ lasting impression?

Amir said, “It’s got really good piano sounds which is good and is hard to find. We use a Juno-60, SH-09, a piano and an organ live, so you could do all of that with this which is really useful. The synth sounds are good so I could see myself using it in the studio definitely. Not a lot of keyboards have upright piano sounds as well.”

Laura was very taken with it too. “I think I might need two!”, she said. “One for at home and one for taking in the car or on the megabus for touring as it’s so light. I could totally see myself using it. The sounds are incredible, the piano sounds are really good.”

It was time for Laura to let rip. She took it for a spin and explored the sounds - it’s a good watch!

There’s extra technical information from Roland here.

  • We’ve also got a video and blog of Amir and Laura finding out about Roland’s INTEGRA-7 rack synth.