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Understanding Parameters, Tones, and Scenes on the Roland RD-88 Digital Keyboard

Loretta began playing piano at age 7 and hasn't stopped. From the classics to ragtime, playing the piano has been one of her greatest joys.

Roland RD-88 Keyboard

Roland RD-88 Keyboard

Three Basics

The Roland RD-88 has three important topics to understand in order to make full use of this extremely versatile keyboard.

  1. Scene - Top-level sound entity. A scene is comprised of one or more tones. There are hundreds of delivered scenes. You can also create, name, and save custom scenes. Scenes are easily accessed by the square buttons, then scrolling by using the DEC and INC buttons.
  2. Tone - A huge variety of delivered musical tones: piano, guitar, brass, and many more instruments and sounds. 40 pages worth are in the Roland .pdf documentation. If that's not enough, you can import tones from other sources.
  3. Parameter - An attribute or characteristic of a scene, a tone, or yet another component of this keyboard.

These are the building blocks of making music on the RD-88 Digital Keyboard.

  • Parameters affect the scenes, tones, and other components.
  • Tones are chosen and possibly combined to create a new scene.
  • Scenes are what you choose to play in a performance—piano, strings, and many other instrumental choices, both delivered by Roland or created by you.


RD-88 parameters are somewhat analogous to an HTML tag because they both alter some attribute of your selected component.

  • <i>This text is italic</i>
  • <b>This text is bold</b>

The <i> makes the selected text italic. The <b> makes the selected text bold. Consider the RD-88 Parameter as a kind of HTML tag. Some characteristic will be applied to your selected item.

You will find the Parameter Guide in this list of owner's manuals. Download it and save it as a .pdf for future reference.

  • (Note: The mechanics of selection are covered in product manuals and are outside the scope of this article. In short, a display screen with available up, down, left, and right arrow buttons are available to make and save your choices.)

Let's look at two instances of parameters, one for individual scenes, and one for a system modification.

Display of Scene 001

Display of Scene 001

Parameters - Individual Scene

Let's look at Scene 001 Concert Grand.

Perhaps you want to play this all the time with a lot of vigor, but you never ever want it too loud because you would disturb the neighbors upstairs. You could use headphones, but then you couldn't hear your baby stir in the next room, so you always, always want this volume very low.

With Scene 001 Concert Grand displayed

  • press the MENU button
  • select SCENE EDIT with the ENTER button
  • use an arrow button and move into the parameter option ZONE EDIT
  • use an arrow button and move into the parameter option LEVEL

Volume levels are 0-127, with 127 being the loudest volume, and 0 being no volume. Maybe you will like 80, or 70, or 60 as your volume level. Press the DEC (rease) or INC (rease) button to go lower or higher. Make your choice and save the Scene, according to the owner's manual. (All other scenes will leave their default volume in place.)

From now on, when you choose Scene 001 Concert Grand, the volume will remain as you last set it. And, have no fear. When your neighbors move out, your child leaves home, and you grow hard of hearing, you can always revisit this parameter (or any other) and reset the volume to 127.


Parameters - System Wide

In addition to individually altering the hundreds of Scenes, 8 knobs and 2 wheels can be used to dynamically modify your performance. You can change an effect on the entire system, not just an individual scene.

Let's say you do not like the pitch bend of Wheel 1. It's too high for you and hurts your sensitive ears while you are rocking out.

  • press the MENU button
  • select SYSTEM with the ENTER button
  • use an arrow button and move into the parameter option ASSIGN
  • use an arrow button and move into the parameter option WHEEL1
  • choose PITCH BEND and modify the pitch

We've said you want to make it lower, so you will do that and save this system-wide setting. Now, as you play and alter the pitch of your current chord using WHEEL 1, it will be a lower sound than was originally delivered. Again, you can always revisit this system parameter and reset the pitch as it was.


The RD-88 is delivered with 40 pages of tones. In these two thumbnails, we can already see tones for organ, flute, accordion, harmonica, choirs, and strings.

Many tones are incorporated within existing scenes. Hundreds more are waiting patiently for you to choose them in order to create new scenes to play and perform. Sounds and tones from outside sources can also be loaded for even more options.

You will find the Sound List in this index of owner's manuals. Download it and save it as a .pdf for future reference. It is important to note that the first several entries are captioned as Scene List and the remaining entries are captioned as Tone List. Together these comprise the Sound List. These two sections have different columns describing the sound, so be aware of the distinctions.

It is important to notice that in this document, each Tone is described by two columns:

  • BANK - The tone is found in this BANK
  • CATEGORY - The tone belongs to this CATEGORY

Let's look at the last line in the first thumbnail. This Tone is:

  • Found in BANK PR-B
  • Numbered 0333
  • Named "Pan Pipes"
  • Belongs to the CATEGORY "29:Flute"

Knowing this distinction will help you find tones as you become more familiar with the keyboard functionality.


Now we come to scenes. This is the selection that you perform, the sounds that come from the speakers. Tones and parameters are defined within each scene.

You can see within the blue thumbnails the tones that are used within the scenes.

  • Scene 215 Nylon Guitar 1 is comprised of a single Tone, which is Nylon Guitar
  • Scene 011 ConcertGrd+Str is comprised of two Tones: Concert Grand 2 and Slow FullStr
  • Scene 016 Pno Pad Glimmer is comprised of three Tones: Concert Grand 2, SL-JP8 11, and Linear Synth Pad

Notice the printout in this section has different columns than presented in the Tones section above. Remember that the Sounds List has a section for scenes and for tones. This thumbnail print snippet is from the scenes portion of that document.

Notice the INIT SCENE entries starting at number 103. These are "blank scenes." You may choose any INIT SCENE, edit it with tones and parameters, and come up with something unique to you. When you save it, you can name it also. It may end up as "Scene 103 My_First_Scene."

There is also the ability to create shortcut buttons to recall frequently used scenes, whether they were delivered or whether you created them. The Owner's Manual has all the details for selecting, saving, naming, and recalling. The section named "Making Detailed Settings for Tones" has important information on these functions.

It's a Wrap

I hope this overview has clarified and unified some points that I found confusing in the manuals that are provided by Roland. If you purchase a Roland RD-88 or some other digital keyboard, I hope you will learn all of the features and enjoy it for many years to come.


© 2020 The Sampsons


The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on May 08, 2021:

Check out the companion piece regarding the RD-88 "Sound List":