Roland 61 note keyboardRoland has been producing a wide variety of keyboards for decades now. These target a wide variety of users, from people picking up the instrument for the first time to seasoned professionals that need reliable gear every time they step on the stage. With the GO:KEYS 61, though, the manufacturer crafted a very versatile model that builds interesting features on a beginner-friendly platform. The result has many different applications that may interest the newcomer as well as more experienced players.

Here is a video documenting my initial impressions and featuring many different sound samples. I’ve also included examples of the drum kits included in the library, as well as the very fun Loop Mix mode.

Great, well-designed features

Portability

Straight out of the box, the portability of the GO:KEYS 61 is put on display. It is very light, and you can easily pick it up with one hand. The colour scheme focuses on the red of the body—and definitely means business. Although there is an adapter included in the box, the keyboard supports batteries, which will definitely increase its use. You’ll need six AA batteries to power the unit. I can see this model being carried by families on weekend getaways, or to a friend’s house for a little jam session.

Being a portable keyboard, the keys themselves are light. There is no weighted sensation to them, but, as we’ll see later, this model is focused on a variety of sounds that require a lighter touch, so light keys are appropriate here. They feature touch sensitivity, so your dynamics will be reflected in the activated samples. Also, they are slightly textured, with an ivory feel. This provides a great action—especially with the tones that aren’t piano sounds.

Mod and Pitch pads

Great tones

Speaking of sounds, there are over 500 of them. While there are plenty of piano variants, the synthesizer tones are numerous. You also get many organs, strings, brass, basses, and drums/percussion. While you can access the reverb setting, there aren’t any other effects to tweak.

Under the hood

Other notable features include a pair of 2.5 W stereo speakers. There is also a dedicated headphone jack for silent practising or for hooking up to a PA system outright. There are no traditional pitch and mod wheels. Replacing these are two rows of five individual pads that control those parameters (and others, depending on the mode of play you’re in). A recording function allows you to store song ideas, and the internal memory is large enough to save 99 songs. Also, the Loop Mix function enables you to create fun arrangements in 22 different styles with the keyboard’s internal loops. A red backlight LCD screen clearly indicates the tone, setting, or mode you’re in.

Finally, the GO:KEYS 61 features a 128 note polyphony, representing the number of simultaneous sounds possible. This is more than what’s usually available in this range of price. The nice advantage of having this much polyphony is that with the recording and Loop Mix features, the keyboard won’t struggle to keep up with added layers and live playing.

Excellent overall quality

It’s no secret that Roland manufactures quality products, no matter the price point. This standard is definitely apparent in the GO:KEYS 61. What I noticed immediately was the quality of sounds. While you can’t edit them in depth, the stock settings offer well crafted and very usable tones. This model weighs heavily into synth territory, and I found that quite enjoyable. The Japanese company has many reputable synthesizers to draw from, and it’s great to have access to some of these tones for such an affordable price.

The feel of the keys is great, and I didn’t find them too plastic or bouncy. The textured finish really helps with the general feel. The buttons take a while to get used to, though. They do not feature any sort of tactile feedback, and being flush with the keyboard’s shell, it’s sometimes hard to tell if you’ve activated the button or not. The learning curve on the mod and pitch pads is less steep, though, and they are quite fun to use.

The Loop Mix feature is a great way to get beginners arranging songs and understanding what the building blocks of music are. I can imagine children spending a lot of time in the mode, and that’s a good function to have to keep them interested in the instrument. For more experienced players, it’s easy enough to fire up a musical section and try your hand at improvising. This type of practice can do wonders for your technique, rhythm, and general musicality.

Mod and Pitch pads

Attractive to beginners, but also experienced players

If you are a beginner, the quality of the GO:KEYS 61 is undeniable. There are plenty of piano sounds to cover acoustic tones. But if you already know that you are interested in pop, synths, and arrangements, this great product will help you to build some knowledge. Beginners that already have a console-style piano might be interested in this model also. It is highly portable and covers a lot of ground that a console model might not—at an attractive price point.

For experienced players, this might be the perfect tool to get your creative juices flowing. The recording option enables you to stack multiple layers, letting you create an incredible amount of textures and soundscapes. The portability is convenient and will let you experiment with drawing inspiration from various locations. If you are concerned with editing, it’s easy to record a demo with the great built-in sounds and then plug into your computer and use the keyboard as a midi controller to further enhance your compositions with your favourite plugins.

With many interesting features, I think that Roland really taps into very different markets with the GO:KEYS 61. It doesn’t feel like a one-trick pony like some of the models aimed at beginners do. If you are in the market for a first keyboard (or for something that will make you see the instrument a bit differently), make sure you check this one out!

Check out the Roland GO:KEYS 61 on Best Buy’s website.

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