Roland FA-08 Keyboard Workstation Overview

At the 2014 NAMM Show, Roland introduced new Roland FA-08 keyboard workstation.

As a keyboard workstation, the FA-08 puts an emphasis on performance and production, with an 88-note piano style keyboard, 16 tracks of sequencing and DAW integration.

In the video, Roland product specialist Ed Diaz gives an overview of the workstation, talks about some of the new features and addresses some Synthtopia reader questions.

More info on the Roland FA-08 is available at the Roland site.

43 thoughts on “Roland FA-08 Keyboard Workstation Overview

  1. The meaty part kicks in around 2:00, when demos the sequencer and automatic stem generation.

    I still use a Kurzweil for my workstation keyboard, because it’s so damn deep, but this has me tempted.

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    1. Torgood, I’m in the same position. I also am a user of Kurzweil, PC3LE8 to be exact, but the sequencer on this thing looks to be too much fun that I’m considering some possibilities.

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    1. Korg did that a few years ago with their mini keyboard workstation, but it had a mini keyboard instead of two octaves of full-size keys. What is with all their mini keyboards?

      Some guys down in Austin Texas did a keyboard workstation that only had a few octaves on it, but the workstation was still huge!

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    2. I think the main point of keyboard workstations, though, is they ARE big, they’re hands on, they feel like instruments and not fiddly!

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  2. Roland should have Diaz do a complete video tutorial for this. When I see workstation keyboards at Guitar Center, I don’t have any idea where to start and the sales guys usually don’t know anything mire than I do.

    I like the idea of workstation keyboards and working out songs away from a computer and mouse. But how do companies expect us to understand what these workstations can really do?

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  3. I think Ed did a fantastic job giving a nice little over-view of the features. That was a decent little track he started.

    I’ll assume he’s reading this thread (“g’morning Mr. Diaz!)

    Does the built-in sequencer support any kind of meters (any numerator, and 2, 4, 8, 16 in the denominator)? Does it support tempo & meter changes throughout the sequence? What other sequencing processes does it provide (does it provide tuplet quantizing? X notes in the space of Y?) does it have reference quantize or any other snazzy functions?

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    1. Hello Stub and good morning to you,

      Yes, the FA does support many different types of tempo meters and can also recognize changes in meter and tempo with the sequence.

      The FA also has different options when referencing to quantization (say that 3 times fast), so you will definitely have fun with that.

      We are currently starting to determine what how-to video to shoot, so I will definitely add your questions and make sure and cover these topics shortly.

      Thanks and take care,
      -Ed.

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      1. Thanks for the reply! No.. i just want to see how it works in that keyboard from choosing oscillators, to making modulations in the mod matrix and everything between… just a short video will be ok!

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  4. I think brushing off the ‘no aftertouch’ concerns with the suggestion to ‘just use an expression pedal instead’ is a little disengenuous. He’s right in that most piano guys are probably going to be more comfortable with a pedal, but everyone is used to performing in their own way. Aftertouch won’t make or break the product, but it will still be a tick in the ‘cons’ column for plenty of guys.

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    1. Especially since some of us don’t play sitting down and/or don’t want to bring any more gear to a gig than is necessary. Somehow Roland has convinced itself that people don’t want/need aftertouch. I think they are very wrong.

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    2. I think aftertouch is one of those controllers that is hard to get right. I’ve disabled it on my keyboards only because I’d end up with sequence tracks full of unintended AT messages. If you want a keyboard that people can play assertively on, getting the AT to only respond to post-note pressure and not a good solid fff chord with both hands is pretty tricky. Still, keyboard manufacturers have been including it for decades and for some folks it does something quite useful.

      Suggesting a foot-pedal as a work-around is fine, but it is not a solution. On the other hand, we’d all piss and moan a little less if there were a couple ribbons on it.

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      1. With workstations, the people buying them are much less focused on the ‘synthy’ side than with performance, playing traditional keyboard parts and arrangements. For those types of things, the closer that you get to a traditional piano keyboard, the better.

        With synth keyboards, though, I don’t get why nobody is offering a keyboard with polyphonic aftertouch. It’s such a powerful tool with synth sounds, yet I’m not aware of anybody offering a synth with poly aftertouch.

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    3. Hi Brenda,
      I’m sorry if you felt that I was brushing off the no aftertouch concern, but it is sometimes so frustrating to be involved with a fun product and have something like aftertouch be a sticking point when there are so many cool features inside.

      I have personally thought very long and hard about the aftertouch issue and really looked at how I play and have asked my other keyboard friends how much they use aftertouch and was surprised how little we use it. Obviously I do think there is a place for it and I know how to program it, but I just don’t want it to be the main negative focus of an otherwise great piece.

      I also think that people don’t take into consideration that when manufacturers are coming up with new keyboard products that a lot of discussion, some of it heated, is had as to what features should be or not be inside the product. We look at variables as who is this product for, what is its musical purpose, and the most important, how can give the user the most features without making the price skyrocket. In my explanation I just wanted to give everyone an option or work-around so they can fully enjoy the keyboard.

      Best regards,
      -Ed.

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  5. While many of these boards have special features and interesting sounds, their existence still baffles me. Do people still buy dedicated word processors?

    If this was the pre-DAW late 80’s, early 1990s, the prospect of composing on one of these things would be very exciting. A band in a box approach – great for producing commercial sound design and music quickly.

    I think they confuse people like me because they look like instruments, they sound like instruments, but they are actually workflow systems designed for antiquated notions of what you need to keep yourself out of an expensive studio, and they don’t account for the fact your computer is a far deeper open ended system.

    Do the people who buy these produce entire tracks of orchestral music, fusion jazz, and techno rock for TV shows? Or are they convinced they represent the highest incarnation of a synthesizer – reproducing realistic sounds with mind-boggling multitmbrality? Use them live for string and piano and organ sounds?

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    1. Workstations are for player/performers. If you’ve got piano chops, you don’t want to jam on a terrible synth keyboard.

      Also, if you know what you’re doing with a workstation keyboard, they’re much faster than working on a computer, because everything is laid out in front of you and you don’t have to navigate through screens.

      It’s the same as MPCs – you can make beats on your computer, but it’s way easier to work with hardware, if you know your gear.

      The Achilles Heel of workstations, though, has always been integration with DAWs. The FA’s look like they have a pretty good solution for that, thiough.

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    2. >>> Do the people who buy these produce entire tracks of orchestral music, fusion jazz, and techno rock for TV shows? Or are they convinced they represent the highest incarnation of a synthesizer – reproducing realistic sounds with mind-boggling multitmbrality? Use them live for string and piano and organ sounds?

      Yes to all of those and more, because that’s what they’re for. The “curse” of creating a workstation is that some people will dislike it BECAUSE it isn’t just one thing like a Nord Lead. You speak of a workstation as if its a throwback, but its not; its a specialized, self-contained DAW that won’t go belly-up in 5 years when the OS becomes obsolete. It can be an orchestra, a new YMO or a jazz trio. I think the FA has ample juice, so mind-boggling is in the hands of the player. I can easily envision 4 or 5 differing types of musicians who would love one of those. Don’t let a misapprehension about the form undermine the pluses.

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  6. I use a Korg TR61 as a front end a lot. Its become more of a controller since I became more familiar with Logic, but it has pluses I appreciate. The keyboard isn’t exactly ideal, but it sounds crisp and has a pretty passable AT. It works with me. The FA is clearly a big step up within that framework. Workstations always seem to draw unfriendly fire, but if you configure one for 2-way talk with a DAW, you start seeing the gains quickly. The FA sequencer looks good and the color screen doesn’t hurt a bit. Its pretty illuminating to dump sequences back and forth casually. If you play live a lot, that’s an added plus. Just dump your DAW work into it for the show. It takes some assignment work, but its worthwhile sweat. It makes me think in new directions at times.

    You sort of “have to” use more than one synth/controller to reap the differing benefits, so I don’t see the FA as lacking. I see it as a great nerve center. I suppose if you are more of a Push user, you might be less thrilled with the endless EP demos, with no serious synthing in sight. Same here, some, but the current 3-part Roland synth that’s basically a Gaia is no slouch. Don’t dismiss it, even though its rarely shown off with any depth. Layer it and create a beast. If you prefer separate devices, DJ-style, okay, nothing wrong with that, but step back a little and consider the gain of having so much in just *one* spot, too. It helps me to F around less and play more.

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  7. Did I understand it right?: “you can the SRX-expansions download for free…[…]…one a month”, so when you’ve the Roland Fa, you’re able to download all the SRX one a month….)-: I’ve Sonic Cell with the quite expensive SRX-06…too bad.

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  8. This is much better than Korgs Krome! But I already have a Fantom G6. So it’s not a must have. I think an Integra 7 is better for those who already own a workstation esp. one with aftertouch and a real sampler inside.
    What’s the price tag of aftertouch by the way? It’s primitive technology that should be standard by now. Cutting corners just to go beneath 1000,-$ is a bad idea.

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  9. Message for Ed

    I’ve pre-ordered an FA-06 here in the UK (mainly on the strength of your excellent demos!), but I still haven’t seen the manual/guide available online for download. Tell me, I currently play live with a Korg PA500 keyboard – it uses a registration memory system which remembers EVERYTHING for a particular song – key transpose, splits etc. Does the new Roland Live set do the same thing, remembering arpeggio/chord memory/rhythm patterns for each song? Also, how many Favorites can be stored?

    Thanking you in advance

    Bob
    from Welsh Wales!

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    1. Hello Bob,
      At this time the manual is still being translated from Japanese to English, but it will be available for download shortly.

      The FA-06/08 is organized by Studio Sets. There are 512 studio sets and within these you can save your splits,layers, transpositions, arpeggio, chord memory and rhythm patterns as well. Also, when you save a Song inside the FA it will call up all of these settings.

      Now as far as Favorites, you can also save up to 100 favorites inside the FA and quickly access them through the buttons.

      I hope this helps and thank you for your support and kind words!

      Take care,
      -Ed.

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      1. Thanks for the prompt reply Ed – that makes me feel A LOT better! So, I can create Songs or Studio sets and then create a gig set list to call these up from Favorites?

        Another question – the pad utility menu has empty “slots” for future features – how about a simple “chord memorise” function, allowing complex chords to be memorised and assigned to the pads for complex progressions to be played with 1 finger, allowing soloing with the other hand? Cheating I know, but on the Korg Karma and M3 keyboards this feature was simply brilliant!

        Thanks again for your help

        Bob

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        1. Hello JR,
          The FA-06/08 is currently arriving, so once it clears customs, we will start shipping to stores. Expect to start seeing it in stores by late-February or early-March. It is coming and is just about here, so you will not have to wait much longer. 🙂

          Take care,
          -Ed.

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  10. They keep slipping it out on the various sites. Do we have a real estimate when the 08 will be available to purchase?

    Thanks and thanks for the great info, Ed!

    JR

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  11. Hey I preordered mine last night. I’m very excited to get the unit in.

    I do have one question. Is there a way via usb (since there is no digital out) to split out the parts into their own channels? I see how to play each part from my DAW, but not how to capture anything but the full mix of it. Is there a way? As I read it if I want to mix them in the DAW I’ll have to record the arrangement in passes. Hope I’m wrong or there is a driver feature enhancement on the way.

    I have to say with units this advanced it would be cool to see an optical out or even an Ethernet out that carried the digital channels (or a subset) of them separately. Assignable to pre/post FX would be sugar on top. Just put that into the ADAT in on my recording interface, oh that would be sweet.

    Now I’m just rambling. I can’t wait to get the board in.

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  12. Hello Mr. Ed, not refering to the talking horse from the T.V show back in black in white television era. (SMILE)!! The Roland Fa will it ever cut you short on the use of effects and articulations in the use of several patches maybe even all 16 midi channels in a sequence? how many arps are we dealing with. can u also create your own? Also does this Board deal with a note capacity on sequencing not everyone is into the looping thing, however that is a great feature.
    signed arch, thank you for any reply p.s are drums only confined to mide ch. 10

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    1. Hello Archard,
      Let’s see if we can answer some of your questions.

      Question #1
      The Roland Fa will it ever cut you short on the use of effects and articulations in the use of several patches maybe even all 16 midi channels in a sequence?

      Answer: You have 16 midi parts available, so each midi part can have it own arpeggio and effects. Although, you must keep in mind that you have a limit of 128 notes of polyphony. Polyphony means how many notes can play at any one time simultaneously.

      Question #2
      How many arps are we dealing with. can u also create your own?

      Answer: The FA has 128 Preset arpeggios and each arpeggio has many options available within. You can import 16 User arpeggios through the SD card.

      Question #3
      How does the FA deal with a note capacity on sequencing not everyone is into the looping thing, however that is a great feature.

      Answer: The loop recording is just a way to help you create, but is not the only way you are able to record. The FA is a Linear based sequencer, which allows you to record like you would a traditional tape based system. However, you can access any section of your song at anytime.

      The song length limit on a FA is 998 measures. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but let’s break it down. If we create a song at 120bpm, then it would take 30 measures to equal 1 minute. Therefore 998 measures equal slightly over 33 minutes of continuous midi recording.

      I hope these answers help.

      Take care,
      -Ed.

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  13. Helloo! As a beginner i wanted to ask if the fa 6 can change from minor
    to major when playing a pattern, as in old school casio products
    ie. Some kind of style functions? My xw p1 cant shift from minpr to major
    so tvats why i asked. Thank you, greetings from Finland.

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  14. Ed Diaz
    I just went out and got the Roland FA 08 I play in a cover band Im trying to sample keyboard
    sounds from other bands so i can play there sounds on my FA 08 for (Example Bon Jovi Runaway and White Snake here I go again ) so how do i copy there sounds and put it on to my FA 08

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  15. Hi Ed, I was looking into buying a keyboard that could do everything the Roland FA08 can do. I ran across your utube videos and they convinced me this is the keyboard for me. I purchased tutorials from the only company I could find offering them and wanted to use them on my ipad because of the compact size and portability. Unfortunately, I have not been able to open them because of the file type…etc…. I saw in an earlier post someone suggesting that you do tutorials… Have you made tutorials for this workstation? Or do you know where some can be purchased? Any help would be appreciated…..but tutorials by you would make this a dream come true..

    Thanks
    Jill

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  16. I would like to know if we can use the arpeggio , if I can record it in the sequencer. If yes
    How? Thank you for your answer.

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