Category Archives: Roland

Battlestar Synthetica

"Bye bye baby, baby goodbye."

Last week I sold my Yamaha CS-15. Yes, the exact same CS-15 you can see as the wallpaper of our synthblog. I was in desperate need of some cash and even though I really loved the CS-15, I thought that it’s sound and features were too similar to my Korg MS-20. It had some physical deficiencies (The pitch bend was missing the slider-hat and the portamento and brilliance slider had been broken off, although the little stumps still worked), so the asking price for it was a measly 450 euros. Usually a CS-15 in perfect shape goes for about 600 euros here in Finland.

Anyways the first one to give me a call about the CS-15 was none other than my old friend Jori Hulkkonen. He’s been in the business of re-acquiring the same set of equipment he had when he made his first album Selkäsaari Tracks and the CS-15 was the last piece of puzzle missing. At the time Jori was in Helsinki for his record release party for the Stop Modernists 12″ single Subculture, but he promised that he’d pick up the synth first thing on monday. I received a pile of e-mails during that weekend about the now reserved CS-15. Soon I had three or four guys in line waiting for Jori to pull out of the deal. On monday I saw a facebook -link concerning a demonstration of the new Roland Jupiter 80 -synth in the local SLSX -music shop and felt the need to go there. As Jori’s studio is right around the corner from that music shop we arranged to meet there and I took the CS-15 with me.

When I got there and parked my CS-15 somewhere in the shop corner, I noticed that basically I was there by myself. Jori was supposed to meet me there in 20 minutes, but until then I had to be the sole customer to take part in the demonstration of the Jupiter 80. I’m not a guy who goes to a synth-shop to play the solo to some Emerson, Lake & Palmer -song. I’m embarrased by my lack of skills and I’d rather watch a Youtube-video of a synth at home than go to a shop to try it myself. So I wasn’t too happy when I was left alone with the music shop guy and the Roland salesperson as he booted the JP80. Fortunately, as the demonstration got on it’s way, an older guy entered the shop to see the new Roland workhorse too, and soon after that a second one. Both of them laid their eyes on my CS-15 too and asked the shop clerk if that one was for sale.

I was not too impressed with the Jupiter 80. It seemed to be the same exact workstation-synth Roland has been doing for the last ten or fifteen years. Only this time they had given it a retro look and a legendary name. The Roland sales-dude was a talented player and an experienced sales person and he showed the three people there how the new Jupiter could sound JUST like a violin or an accordion. In my opinion that’s the whole problem with these workstation-synths. If I’d wanted to sound like an accordion player, I would’ve bought an accordion and not an MS-20. I don’t want a synthesizer that realistically mimics “regular” instruments. I want a synth that sounds like a synth. I want my synths to sound like melting plastic armour in a laser-infested space-skirmish, not like a guy blowing a flugelhorn in a white t-shirt. There’s a difference right there.

Enter Jori. After the Roland-guy showed the new customer Jori some of the tricks the J80 was able to do and even demonstrated the machine’s shortish boot-time after powering up (Basically all of my synths start instantly when I turn the power on), Jori asked the guy bluntly: “Who is this synth made for?” My thoughts exactly! Who needs a synth that’s teetering on the edge of serious analog-modelling power and being a multi-purpose kitchen appliance for schlager musicians? The Roland-guy had trouble answering Jori’s questions and Jori kept annoying him with comments about the synth’s menu-driven nature and “ease of use”. Basically almost every aspect of synthesis in the J80 is accessible only through the touch screen. The sliders and pots on the machine surface give access only to a couple of parameters for the machine’s 4 different “channels”.  Personally, if I wanted to control a synth with a touch screen, I’d buy an iPad and download a couple of Korg synths for it. I’d also save about 2400 euros in the process.

After Jori had harrassed the Roland guy for long enough we both asked him why has Roland taken this approach and direction in the noughties. Even though Korg has made the Kronos and all the other shitty workstations for schlager-music-one-man-bands, it has also made a lot of interesting products for people who are still interested in real synthesis. At the same time Roland has completely forgotten it’s great legacy and concentrated on workstations and “pro-audio”. Roland has forgotten it’s strengths and started to mimic a small swedish company that makes red coloured keyboards for musicians who play on the Turku-Stockholm ferry. That’s a weird niche market, but Roland is going to conquer it with it’s workstations. Nobody at Roland seems to realize how much money there is to be made by making new versions of the classic X0X-series drum-machines etc. In the past Roland catered for dance-musicians, nowadays they make gear for dansbands. There’s a difference again.

After we had had our say, we took the CS-15 and walked to Jori’s studio. As a downpayment for the Yamaha, Jori gave me the amazing battery operated Boss DR-55, forefather of the Dr. Rhythm -series and one more example of the style of equipment Roland should be making today instead of these 3000 euro moulinexes. But more about the Boss in a later post.

Sorry if I have offended someone. I just can’t see the point in these modern “synths”. The newest synth in my own collection was made in the year 1985.

Tomi / Turku Synth

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Filed under Drum Machine, Roland, Synthesizer, Yamaha

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

The missing key, a 4 euro fix.

Not a month goes by without at least a minor change in my synth setup.

Yesterday I sold my beloved Korg Dw-8000 to a new enthusiastic owner and it’s place was instantly filled with a beautiful Roland JX3P. I even managed to make small profit in the process. I originally found the DW-8000 in a recycling center for a hundred euros (actually it cost only 80 euros, because I cunningly used my girlfriend’s student discount card). It was in quite a bad shape at the time, with missing screws, a fucked-up power connector and most importantly the memory battery needed changing. I gave the synth my usual TLC+CRC -treatment, replaced a couple of parts with new ones and gave it a new lease of life. Yesterday I sold it for 260 euros and bought the JX3P for 300.

It’s a peculiar feeling when there’s a new synth in the house. You try to do your work, read the paper, watch tv or wash the dishes, but every once in a while you have to turn the new synth on, fiddle with the knobs, program a new sound or just play a couple of licks. Then turn it off again and return to whatever you were doing before. You can’t really keep your hands away from the keys and the same tingling feeling kept me awake this morning when I tried to sleep a little longer.

The beauty of JX3p, besides it’s sporty good looks, compared to other Roland/Korg synths from the same period is that it has a 16step step sequencer built in. I love the arpeggiator in all it’s different disguises as much as the next nerd, but you can’t really write songs with an arpeggiator. It’s a little too arbitrary. With a sequencer you can program exactly the notes you want in exactly the order you wish and even have notes with different lengths. I instantly programmed some italo-style basslines and then played a melody on top in the upper register. Just lovely. On top of that, the sequencer can be synced to an external trigger-signal so I can get my basslines in sync with the aforementioned arpeggios. Beautiful!

After a few minutes of furious fiddling, the sound programming also started to make sense. There’s no display in JX3P and I had doubts on the functionality of sound programming without any visual feedback, but the ingenious Roland engineers from 1983 have decided to use all the leds on the unit to display edit-data. Surprisingly it works and looks cool too.

As the DW-8000 was in a little rough shape when I got it, so is the JX3P too. The highest C is not playable as it scratches against the metal case and gets stuck. The synth is missing one of the sequencer buttons too. I already checked, and you can order those silvery buttons for the price of $3,95 each. I’ll order two or three just to be on the sure side. And some of my other synths could use a few spare parts too, I’ll order those too. The stuck c-key seems also to be a quite easy fix. I wish I only had the time to open the synth and do my magic. Maybe I’ll wait for the spare parts to arrive first.

One of the many sympathetic things about this synth is the way it says “Enverope” on top of the ADSR-charts painted on the synth’s metallic top surface. Supplies, supplies!!!

Tomi / Turku Synth Club

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A couple of vintage synths for sale

Sometimes I wish I had continued my childhood hobby of collecting stamps instead of synths.

Stamps take so little space and you can get shitloads of them from fleamarkets for basically no money at all. Then again there’s no real use for old stamps. My synths I use every day. Well it’s once again time to sell a couple of synths to make room (and money) for new ones. Just 10 minutes ago I put up a classified ad in muusikoiden.net, which is the best website in Finland if you want to buy or sell second hand music gear. It’s not an auction, the prices are fixed and I like it that way.

This time I’m trying to get rid of my erratically working Juno 6 synth which I just can’t seem to have the time or energy to get fixed and then there’s the Korg DW-8000 analog/digital hybrid synth which I just don’t use anymore. It’s just sitting there gathering dust, and it would be better off in a new home with a new excited owner. On top of those two beauties there’s a really rare and beautiful Yamaha TA-60 solid state amplifier from early 1970’s for sale. I just don’t seem to have any use for it although it’s easily the most beautiful guitar-amp I’ve ever seen.

Here are links to the ads I just put up. If you’re interested in any of them, just e-mail me.

http://muusikoiden.net/tori/nayta.php?id=506563

http://muusikoiden.net/tori/nayta.php?id=506573

Tomi / Turku Synth Club

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Filed under For Sale, Korg, Roland, Yamaha

Roland Juno-60 sounds

I recently acquired a Roland Juno-60, One of the most legendary budget analogue polyphonic synthesizers. In the 1980’s those who wanted that sweet and liquid Roland sound, but couldn’t afford a Jupiter-8, often opted for the Juno-60. It has the same filter and envelope circuitry as it’s “bigger brother”, and it compensates the lack of a second oscillator with a super sweet chorus effect. When you switch the chorus on, you’re instantly back in the 1980’s.

One of the most fun features on the Juno-60 (and Juno-6, which is exactly the same as 60, except it has no patch memory) is the arpeggiator. Press down a bunch of keys, and the arpeggiator plays through them automatically at a set speed. But the real fun starts when you synchronize the arpeggiator to your sequencer or drum machine with the help of a click / trigger track. I put together a couple of demos where I did just that, just because it was so damn fun.

In these demos  I used a  TR-909 rimshot sample sequenced in Cubase to drive the Juno’s arpeggiator. Besides for the drum tracks, these are all Juno-60. Musically these are just pure sillyness, but hey, I was in a silly mood 😉

Matti / Turku Synth Club

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The Roland Rap

A rare 7" on top of it's inspiration.

As a synth collecting record collector I’m always happy to find 7″ singles with synths on the cover or similar stuff but this is even better. Years ago I found this mysterious single from a second hand record shop for a couple of euros. With no mention of the performer the single only has the track’s title “The Roland Rap” with writer credits on it’s label and the texts “All instruments by Roland & Musiikki Fazer 1984”. Instantly when I saw the title I wondered if it could be a Finnish advertisement jingle for Roland synths. And that’s exactly what it was.

A cheesy soft electro track goes on for well over a minute but then the long wait is rewarded. As the lyrics go on about the benefits of midi and the amazing sounds of Juno- 106, you can’t help but wonder, who was this track made for and why? Soft spoken vocalist rambles on and on about Roland’s 1984 synth and music gear line-up but the real treat comes at 1:53 when he tell’s about Roland’s new guitar synth. “Try the guitar synth, play a note and see, it will blow you off, just wait and see.” Hahahah! Personally, I’ve never owned a guitar synth and am not aware of their sexual abilities, but that claim seems just a little bit exaggerated. None of my synths have unfortunately ever blown me off.

The chorus is just pure amazingness. A high pitched voice singing “Roland! We design the future!” All in all, surely the best synth advertisement I’ve ever heard. Made in Finland.

Tomi / Turku Synth Club

P.S. Don’t forget today’s Synth meeting at 17 in Bar Kuka.

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