« Pondering Along

My Roland D-50... a musical security blanket.

by Mark Cartwright

As most of you already know, I'm a musician as well as a radio host.  Last weekend, as The Cartwright Brothers and The Split Pea Band set up for our show, I turned on one of the two keyboards I travel with - my Roland D-50.  The displayed blinked at me and faded away.


It ends up that the battery, which makes sure all of my presets and sounds stay put when I power down had gone dead.  However, I didn't have time to run to the store and buy a replacement before show time, so I went without my D-50.  Little did I know how many times I would instinctively reach for  it that night.

The D-50 has been with me longer than any other keyboard I have ever owned.  I first played one in 1988, and I was completely blown away by it's sounds at the music store.  I had to have one, and bought one to team up with my Korg DSS-1 keyboard on stage.  I put the D-50 and the Korg in front of me, with a pair of Roland Juno 106s on my left side.  The Korg DSS-1 proved to be rather fragile on the road, as it was constantly shorting out on stage.  The vibrations from the long miles in the truck would rattle screws loose, and they would fall onto the circuit boards.  I finally gave it away after about seven years of service.  The Juno 106s were sold on eBay - some of the oscillators had gone bad.  I've since teamed that same D-50 up with a couple of Korg M1s, and an Alesis QS6.1, but there atop of each and every one of them, at the prime position on the keyboard stand my Roland D-50 stood guard for the past quarter of a century.  I've replace keys, I've replace batteries, I've replace screws, I've replace after-touch pads, but I've never really thought about replacing the D-50.  Heck, even the original sounds have barely been tweaked since the day I bought it.  I'm not the only one who thinks that way either.  I know a couple of other keyboard players from the area who can't fathom giving theirs up either.  They're too easy to control, and I know right where to go when I need a sound fast.

But after replacing the battery, I took a good look at the keyboard as I cleaned it.  The plastic square volume slider had developed a quarter-moon indent where my thumb had worn it away.  The actual lettering which was imprinted on the keyboard was fading away, and was actually completely gone in some spots.  The MIDI OUT port had a circular groove in it from simply connecting the MIDI cable so many times without looking at the pin holes.  I suddenly had thoughts about my old security blanket:  What if it totally breaks down on me?  What would I do?  How would I replace it?  So I did the only thing that made sense to me.  I went on Craiglist, and found a used one, cheap.  So now, I have two Roland D-50s, one on the road, and one at home.  However, I wouldn't bet against my old security blanket lasting longer. 


D-50 photo By Iixorbiusii (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons