Ikutaro Kakehashi
Ikutaro Kakehashi
Born(1930-02-07)7 February 1930
Died1 April 2017(2017-04-01) (aged 87)
OccupationEngineer, entrepreneur
Years active1947-2017
Known forFounder of Ace Tone, Roland, Boss and ATV
Notable work
Electronic musical instruments, MIDI, amplifiers, effects units

Ikutaro Kakehashi (? , Kakehashi Ikutar?, 7 February 1930 - 1 April 2017), also known by the nickname Taro,[1] was a Japanese engineer, inventor and entrepreneur. He founded the musical instrument manufacturers Ace Tone, Roland Corporation, and Boss Corporation, and the audiovisual electronics company ATV Corporation.

Kakehashi founded Ace Tone in 1960 to produce electronic organs and drum machines. He founded Roland in 1972 and was involved in the development of several influential electronic instruments, including the TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines and the TB-303 bass synthesizer. He also was key to the development of MIDI, a technical standard that connects a wide variety of electronic instruments, in the 1980s; in 2013, Kakehashi received a Technical Grammy Award, shared with Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits, for the invention. His inventions are credited with shaping popular music genres such as electronic, dance, hip hop, R&B, rock and pop music.[2][1][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]


Early life

Kakehashi was born on 7 February 1930 in Osaka, Japan.[2] His parents died of tuberculosis during his early childhood,[11] and he was raised by his grandparents.[2] Much of his childhood was spent studying electrical engineering and working in the Hitachi shipyards of Osaka.[11] During World War II, with no music lessons, Kakehashi became interested in radio as a way of listening to music,[2] and his home was destroyed by American bombing.[2] Following the war, in 1946, he failed to get into university on health grounds, and moved to the southern island of Kyushu.[11]

In 1947, aged 16, Kakehashi founded the Kakehashi Clock Store, a watch repair shop. He soon began repairing radios.[11] He later returned to Osaka to attend university. During a mass food shortage, he contracted tuberculosis and spent several years in a sanitarium, where he became a clinical trial test patient for an experimental medicine antibiotic drug, Streptomycin, which improved his condition.[2][11] In 1954, Kakehashi opened the Kakehashi Radio electrical appliance store, in his spare time, he repaired electronic organs and created prototype organs throughout the 1950s. At 28, he decided to devote himself to music and pursuit of the ideal electronic musical instrument.

Kakehashi had no musical training, and wanted musical instruments to be accessible for professionals as well as amateurs like himself. He also wanted them to be inexpensive, intuitive, small, and simple. He constructed his first 49-key monophonic organ in 1959, specifically designed to be playable by anyone, with no musical skill necessary. The focus on miniaturization, affordability and simplicity later became fundamental to product development at Roland.[2]

Ace Tone

In 1960, Kakehashi founded Ace Electronic Industries Inc. In 1964, he developed a hand-operated electronic drum, the R1 Rhythm Ace. It was exhibited at Summer NAMM 1964, however not commercialized.[8] Kakehashi patented the "Automatic Rhythm Performance Device" drum machine in 1967, a preset rhythm-pattern generator using diode matrix circuit, a drum machine where a "plurality of inverting circuits and/or clipper circuits are connected to a counting circuit to synthesize the output signal of the counting circuit" and the "synthesized output signal becomes a desired rhythm".[12]

Ace Tone commercialized his preset rhythm machine, called the FR-1 Rhythm Ace, in 1967. It offered 16 preset patterns, and four buttons to manually play each instrument sound (cymbal, claves, cowbell and bass drum). The rhythm patterns could also be cascaded together by pushing multiple rhythm buttons simultaneously, and the possible combination of rhythm patterns were more than a hundred (on the later models of Rhythm Ace, the individual volumes of each instrument could be adjusted with the small knobs or faders). In 1968 a joint venture was established with Hammond USA, The FR-1 was adopted by the Hammond Organ Company for incorporation within their latest organ models. In the US, the units were also marketed under the Multivox brand by Peter Sorkin Music Company, and in the UK, marketed under the Bentley Rhythm Ace brand. The unique artificial sounds characteristics of the FR-1 were similar to the later Roland rhythm machines, and featured on electropop music from the late 1970s onwards.[8]


In 1972, Kakehashi founded the Roland Corporation, and led it for four decades.[1] While rival companies Moog and ARP targeted professional musicians and academics, Kakehashi, who had no musical training, wanted to appeal to amateurs and hobbyists, and focused on miniaturization, affordability, and simplicity.[2]

During the 1980s and 1990s, Roland released several instruments that have had a lasting influence on popular music.[1] After Kakehashi realized microprocessors could be used to program drum machines,[13] Roland launched the TR-808 drum machine, its first programmable drum machine, in 1980.[14] Kakehashi deliberately purchased faulty transistors that created the machine's distinctive "sizzling" sound.[15] Although it was not an immediate commercial success, the 808 was eventually used on more hit records than any other drum machine[16] and became a cornerstone of the emerging electronic and hip hop genres.[17] It has been described as hip hop's equivalent to the Fender Stratocaster guitar, which dramatically influenced the development of rock music.[18][19][20] The 808 was followed in 1983 by the TR-909,[21] which, alongside the TB-303 synthesizer, influenced the development of dance music such as techno, house and acid.[22][23]

In 1994, Kakehashi founded the Roland Foundation and became Chairman. In 1995 he was appointed chairman of Roland Corporation. In 2001 he resigned from the position and was appointed as Special Executive Adviser of Roland Corporation. In 2002, Kakehashi published an autobiography, I Believe in Music. His second book, An Age Without Samples: Originality and Creativity in the Digital World, was published in 2017.[24]


In the early 1980s, there was no standardized means of synchronizing electronic musical instruments manufactured by different companies, [25] which Kakehashi felt was limiting the growth of the industry.[26] He proposed developing a standard with representatives from Oberheim Electronics, Sequential Circuits, Yamaha, Korg and Kawai.[25] Kakehashi favored the name Universal Musical Interface (UME), pronounced you-me,[27] but the protocol was named Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI).[28]:4 Kakehashi and Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits unveiled MIDI in 1983;[29][30] it remains the industry standard.[27] In 2013, Kakehashi and Smith received Technical Grammy Awards for their work.[31][32][33]


In 2013, after a clash with management,[34] Kakehashi left Roland and founded ATV Corporation, an audiovisual electronics company.[24] His final project at ATV was the aFrame, an "electro-organic" percussion instrument played like a hand drum.[24]


Kakehashi died in April 2017, aged 87.[6][35][10] Tributes came from musicians such as Tommy Snyder of Godiego,[34]Chris Carter of Throbbing Gristle,[34]Samantha Ronson, Matthew Herbert, Marc Almond of Soft Cell, Martyn Ware of the Human League, and producer Paul Epworth.[1]Moog Music described him as a "model of resilience and a genuine trailblazer",[1] and Dave Smith of Sequential wrote that he was "just an amazing man, a good friend, a very good competitor of course, and just innovative continually all that time".[1]


Kakehashi's handprints at RockWalk, Hollywood, California

In 1991, Kakehashi was awarded an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music for his contribution to the development and popularization of electronic instruments. The Bentley-branded Rhythm Ace inspired the 1997 Birmingham band Bentley Rhythm Ace when a model was found at a car boot sale.

In 2000, Kekahashi left his handprints at Hollywood's RockWalk in Hollywood. In 2002, Kakehashi published an autobiography, I Believe In Music,[36] and was featured as a biography in the book The Art of Digital Music. As of 2002, Kakehashi was awarded about 50 patents, since the 1960s.[37] In 2005, he was awarded the title of professor emeritus of the Central Music College of China and the University of Glamorgan.

In 2013, Kakeashi received a Technical Grammy Award, shared with Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits, for the invention of MIDI.[2] The 2015 documentary film 808 documented the impact that his Roland TR-808 drum machine had on popular music and popular culture,[38] describing it as the "rock guitar of hip hop".[39] In 2017, Electronic Musician magazine listed thirty of his instruments and innovations that have influenced popular music over the course of fifty years.[30]


  • I Believe in Music (2002)
  • An Age Without Samples (2017)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g McKee, Ruth; Grierson, Jamie (2 April 2017). "Roland founder and music pioneer Ikutaro Kakehashi dies aged 87". Retrieved 2017 – via The Guardian.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i The life and times of Ikutaro Kakehashi, the Roland pioneer modern music owes everything to, Fact
  3. ^ Pareles, Jon (3 April 2017). "Ikutaro Kakehashi, Engineer Behind Revolutionary Drum Machine, Dies at 87". Retrieved 2017 – via NYTimes.com.
  4. ^ Creative Media (2 April 2017). "BBC World Service tribute to the founder of Roland Corporation". Retrieved 2017 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ Ikutaro Kakehashi, Founder of Roland and Developer of the TR-808, Has Died at Age 87, Vice
  6. ^ a b "Roland Founder Ikutaro Kakehashi Has Died". Synthtopia. Retrieved 2017.
  7. ^ Ikutaro Kakehashi, Roland Founder and Music Pioneer, Dies at 87, Spin
  8. ^ a b c Reid, Gordon (2004), "The History Of Roland Part 1: 1930-1978", Sound on Sound (November), retrieved 2011
  9. ^ Anderson, Jason (27 November 2008). "Slaves to the rhythm". CBC News. Retrieved 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Tribute: Ikutaro Kakehashi and Roland's Impact on Music". reverb.com. Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ a b c d e "The 14 drum machines that shaped modern music". 22 September 2016. Retrieved 2017.
  12. ^ US patent 3651241, Ikutaro Kakehashi (Ace Electronics Industries, Inc.), "Automatic Rhythm Performance Device", issued 1972-03-21 
  13. ^ Kirn, Peter (2011). Keyboard Presents the Evolution of Electronic Dance Music. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-61713-446-3.
  14. ^ "Everything you ever wanted to know about the Roland TR-808 but were afraid to ask". Fact. 16 January 2014. Retrieved 2017.
  15. ^ Norris, Chris (13 August 2015). "The 808 heard round the world". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2017.
  16. ^ Wells, Peter (2004), A Beginner's Guide to Digital Video, AVA Books, p. 18, ISBN 2-88479-037-3, retrieved 2011
  17. ^ Anderson, Jason (27 November 2008). "Slaves to the rhythm". CBC News. Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^ McKee, Ruth; Grierson, Jamie (2 April 2017). "Roland founder and music pioneer Ikutaro Kakehashi dies aged 87". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018.
  19. ^ Baldwin, Roberto (14 February 2014). "Early hip-hop's greatest drum machine just got resurrected". Wired. Retrieved 2016.
  20. ^ Richards, Chris (2 December 2008). "What's an 808?". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2016.
  21. ^ Reid, Gordon (December 2014). "The history of Roland: part 2 | Sound On Sound". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2016.
  22. ^ "Nine Great Tracks That Use the Roland TR-909". Complex. Retrieved .
  23. ^ "9 of the best 909 tracks using the TR-909". Mixmag. Retrieved .
  24. ^ a b c "Ikutaro Kakehashi, Engineer Behind Revolutionary Drum Machine, Dies at 87". Retrieved .
  25. ^ a b Chadabe, Joel (1 May 2000). "Part IV: The Seeds of the Future". Electronic Musician. Penton Media. XVI (5). Archived from the original on 28 September 2012.
  26. ^ Kirn, Peter (2011). Keyboard Presents the Evolution of Electronic Dance Music. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-61713-446-3. Archived from the original on 1 February 2017.
  27. ^ a b "The life and times of Ikutaro Kakehashi, the Roland pioneer modern music owes everything to". FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music. 2017-04-02. Retrieved .
  28. ^ Huber, David Miles (1991). The MIDI Manual. Carmel, Indiana: SAMS. ISBN 9780672227578.
  29. ^ Chadabe, Joel (1 May 2000). "Part IV: The Seeds of the Future". Electronic Musician. Penton Media. XVI (5). Archived from the original on 28 September 2012.
  30. ^ a b The 30 Top Instruments and Innovations of Roland's Ikutaro Kakehashi (1930-2017), Electronic Musician
  31. ^ "Technical GRAMMY Award: Ikutaro Kakehashi And Dave Smith". Archived from the original on 22 August 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  32. ^ "Ikutaro Kakehashi, Dave Smith: Technical GRAMMY Award Acceptance". Archived from the original on 9 December 2014. Retrieved 2016.
  33. ^ Vail, Mark (2014). The Synthesizer. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-19-539481-8.
  34. ^ a b c "Synthesizer pioneer Ikutaro Kakehashi, founder of Roland, dies at 87 | The Japan Times". The Japan Times. Retrieved .
  35. ^ "Ikutaro Kakehashi: Roland founder and music pioneer dies aged 87". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2017.
  36. ^ ISBN 0634037838
  37. ^ Ikutaro Kakehashi (2002), I Believe in Music: Life Experiences and Thoughts on the Future of Electronic Music by the Founder of the Roland Corporation, page 283
  38. ^ Watch a Trailer for a New Documentary About the Roland TR-808 Drum Machine, Spin
  39. ^ "SXSW Preview: New Film Looks at the 808 Drum Machine – 'The Rock Guitar of Hip-Hop'". Billboard. Retrieved .

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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