The Guitar Link
Roland launch their most advanced guitar synth module yet, revolutionise guitar design with a new controller, and link the guitarist in to MIDI.
Roland have pioneered guitar synthesis for some time now and a series of recent breakthroughs have resulted in the most spectacular products yet — a module with synthesis potential on a par with the world's finest keyboard synth, and an amazing guitar controller which makes a historic contribution to guitar design in general.
Together, the G-707 guitar controller with its high-tech design and distinctive tie-bar, and the GR-700 MIDI synth module are an unbeatable combination. At a time when some guitar companies are beginning to install Roland guitar controller pick-up systems and there's a Roland authorised custom service to have your own guitar adapted, more guitarists than ever are crossing over. But now that the GR-700 can compete sound for sound with the best keyboard synths around, the incentive for going electronic is irresistible.
The GR-700 is, in essence, a JX-3P adapted for foot operation in conjunction with a single 'edit' pot on the guitar. The JX-3P has been slightly adapted and incorporates dynamic sensitivity and chromatic glide to handle the full range of expression of a guitar. But essentially the voice module is that of the JX-3P. For guitarists to whom that particular string of code letters means nothing — just ask the nearest keyboard man because if he hasn't got one he's probably saving up for it. The JX-3P is a really powerful synthesizer using dual DCO's for the strongest, fattest and spaciest sounds and effects. All the brass and orchestral ensembles, the shreikings and the rumblings and other outlandish and off-worldly sounds that have hitherto been the domain of the ivory-tinkler, can now be controlled from six strings and a fretboard. There's even a built-in Chorus unit.
Okay, but how do you work it? As supplied to you the GR-700 is a robust metal box with rubber foot switches and an LED display you can't make head or tail of without using the manual. When the guitar unit is plugged in, you will find a series of preset sounds — 64 in all — which you can select using the foot switches. In terms of their range and their tonality these sounds are everything you'd expect from a top flight keyboard synthesizer. But the 64 presets are just for starters.
The GR-700 is fully programmable and that means you can 're-write' any or all of the presets, altering it as much or as little as you wish. The method of altering a sound is to touch the 'edit' footswitch, select the parameter you wish to change by touching the numbered footswitches, and alter the parameter using the 'edit' control on your guitar (on pre-G-707 Guitar Synths the Resonance control functions as the edit control). All synthesis parameters can be altered in this way. An example might be that you need more vibrato on the strings. Vibrato is usually influenced by the LFO, so you can look up LFO in the manual, key in the number you find there, and turn up the edit pot the desired amount.
Most people will find 64 voice programmes prepared and edited at leisure will be ample for all purposes. For more speedy editing, DCO and VCF (oscillators and filters) can be controlled independently by separate volume pedals. If you want instant real-time programming, use the £210 PG-200 programmer which is entirely compatible with both the GR-700 and the JX-3P. This clamps on by magnets and consists of a full set of conventional synth controls.
The G-707 Guitar Controller is a radical departure from Roland's previous series of guitar controllers, although completely interchangeable with them. It is also a radical departure from anything previously offered by guitar manufacturers. Axe innovations from the Explorers and the Flying V's to the starfish-like creations seen fairly commonly in the last couple of years have one thing in common. The design changes are primarily for show and very often counter-productive.
The Roland G-707 with its striking body shape and distinctive tie-bar is new and functional. It has a maple neck and an alder body while the tie-bar is a synthetic material. Critical acclaim has already greeted the new instrument purely as a guitar design: the unique ball-race tremolo arm system is singled out for comment because it gives tuning stability.
Three factors determined the configuration of the G-707: playing ergonomics, stability, and the special demands of the synth system. All three are served by the addition of the tie-bar above the neck.
The guitar synthesizer is triggered through a fretted note. But on most solid guitars the note you hear is the result of a single frequency — the fundamental — plus a series of other frequencies called harmonics. A phenomenon connected with this is known as 'dead spots': areas on the neck where interacting resonances can have a cancelling effect suppressing the fundamental signal but still allowing overtones to ring out. All this is pretty bad news for the synth module, which like all computers likes things clear-cut and would prefer to be triggered by a single frequency.
Hence Roland's tie-bar. Connected above the neck it has a stabilising effect which eliminates unwanted harmonics and delivers the pure, even tone that the GR-700 needs. As a spin-off, this feature gives the instrument its own characteristic guitar sound when used as a conventional solid.
The controls on the G-707 are similar to those on other guitar synths with two refinements. First, you get a choice of trigger sensitivities. This allows different settings: if, for example, your solo playing is a little untidy you can set the guitar to its less sensitive mode so that a string touched accidentally, for example during bending, will not sound.
Secondly, there's the 'edit' control. As previously outlined this allows you to select any synth function and control it from the guitar. This in fact corresponds to the resonance control on previous guitars and when these are used with the GR-700 their resonance controls function as 'edit' pots.
When you buy one Roland product, you've bought them all. In the important sense that the company has a policy to ensure complete compatibility for expanding, updating, and just plain exploring. The GR-700 was developed in parallel with the JX-3P and the result is that guitarists have access to sounds only previously possible for keyboards. The two instruments even use the same programmer — the PG-200. More than that, the GR-700 has a MIDI interface for use with sequencers such as the MSQ-700, drum machines such as the TR-909, extra keyboards and modules.
As well as providing the guitarist's gateway into electronic multi-instrument rigs, the guitar synthesizer system is internally compatible. Any guitar controller will function perfectly with any synth module. With the least expensive guitar controller priced at £355 and the least expensive synth module at £600 this makes guitar synthesis a very practical proposition. And not only for the lead guitarist. The versatility of the GR-700 is such that it will deliver an amazing range of bass sounds from bass guitar to tuba or tuned drums and through all the permutations imaginable. So — hook in a G-33 bass guitar controller and you have the world's first MIDI bass guitar synth.
Gear in this article:
Feature by Roland UK
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!