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Roland Newslink — Frankfurt Report

Roland Digital Percussion

Article from International Musician & Recording World, April 1985

For ten years Roland have made the finest electronic rhythm machines in the world. Now, at last, Roland sounds and technology are available in a full scale digital drum kit.

A digital drum kit you can customize.

The Roland digital drum kit represents the convergence of various kinds of technology, all of them pioneered by the Roland corporation. First, there is the reconstruction of drum sounds through electronics. All the sounds in the new kit are digital PCM recordings as in the TR-707 and the cymbal sounds of the TR-909. But where the Roland product scores over others is with the variety of sounds available and the extent to which they can be controlled and edited.

Another area where Roland have led the field is the incorporation of user-friendly dynamic response systems. The most important aspect of an electronic drum kit, apart from its basic sound, is 'playability'. How responsive is it to the playing techniques of the drummer: can it capture every tiny inflexion of technique as an acoustic kit would? Naturally, Roland have had wide experience of this 'interface' between player and instrument with dynamic sensitive keyboards and, even more usefully, the touch response system of the guitar synthesizer. Roland have greater experience and wider expertise in this critical area than anyone else. When you play the new drum kit, it shows.

Additionally, the Roland kit is a MIDI electronic drum kit so it succeeds not only as a product in its own right but as part of a continually expanding electronic system. The creative permutations of a drummer being able to call up any MIDI instrument or sound without leaving his drum stool have yet to be explored.

A basic Roland kit (although the components will be available separately) might be the bass drum pad, five Snare/Tom pads, and the DDR-30 electronic brain. With six pads and using digital rather than synthesized sounds, it might be reasonable to expect six drum voices. But the Roland system offers very much more. To start with, there is a choice of four PCM recorded sounds for each voice, that is, four bass sounds, four snare sounds, and sixteen tom sounds. These sounds can be edited. Amplitude, Decay, Gate Level, Gate Time, Release, Pitch, Bend Depth, Bend Time, Dynamic Sensitivity, Attack, Bass Equalisation and Treble Equalization can all be altered using an Edit Wheel on the front panel. Once edited, up to eight versions of each voice can be stored in the DDR-30's memory and in addition the DDR-30 can memorize 32 combinations of the sound of each voice. A 16-digit display gives information on patch, programme, and editing parameter. This provides an unprecedented degree of control over the digital system. With some electronic kits you're given a series of drum sounds and you like them or lump them. With Roland, you can make your own.

To add to the kit's capacity for expression there's the sophisticated Roland touch system. Not only the loudness but also the attack and the tone are linked to the dynamic sensing and change according to how the kit is hit. Pads are made from laminated particle board, rubber and film to give a natural resilience of feel.

The Roland digital percussion system has been, in some people's opinion, a long time coming. This is because Roland took time to get it right. All the resources of the R&D department that gave keyboard players the JX-8P and guitarists the GR-700 have been concentrated into giving drummers something that's a step beyond anything else on the market. Roland digital percussion will be in the shops from September. And it will have repercussions among drummers throughout the world.

Eight Ways to MIDI Percussion

The Roland Octopads should be in Britain within the next two or three months. The design has been undergoing some further development since the prototypes were seen at the Roland Roadshow in Autumn, mainly aimed at achieving the best possible combination of 'feel' and control. It was, in fact, a matter of deliberate policy that Roland exposed the original product to musicians attending the roadshows. Nobody has ever built a percussion controlled MIDI assign system of this type before and the comments and feedback from those who saw it were valuable. So if the product that finally appears in the shops is billed as the one you designed, you'll know why!

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Publisher: International Musician & Recording World - Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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International Musician - Apr 1985

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Roland Newslink — Frankfurt Report


Previous article in this issue:

> Cube Boost

Next article in this issue:

> Perfect Timing

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