December 30, 2011

Just A few More Words About Elisha Gray

It seems appropriate to say something on the anniversary of the day (after) he gave the first demonstration of his wonderful musical telegraph device. I would classify this entry as historical fiction. Can't you just imagine being in that church on a dark, snowy December night in 1874? It must have been been so exciting! What if you were sitting there in a pew, and you were very young. You might not know exactly what's going on, but you'd know it was important, with all the reporters and photographers. Every one sitting and waiting in silence with batted breath as the machine is assembled, plugged in, turned on. The already dim lights flicker a little as the electricity of the building is redistributed. An eerie mood filling the sanctity with the lingering smoke of the camera flashes. And then…

...the sound. Like nothing you've ever heard before! Musical notes, but bright and pure with an unwavering pitch. The minister declares the invention a Christmas Miracle! The evening ends and you go home, but so excited that you can hardly sleep. So many ideas about racing through your head about how the machine could be used. Imagining the machine, being used to play a solo in an orchestra but from the other side of the world! The next day you find a photograph in the news paper from the night before. You tack it onto the wall above your bed. And for the rest of your life, you never hear about this marvelous instrument again.

Today's Project

My Dad found a really great deal on a Fender Rhodes. My little brother (the same one who punched the hole in the door) has been wanting one forever. We hooked it up today and messed around with it. One of the notes sounded kind of clunky so we opened it up and one of the little rubber pads was missing from one of the mallets. We got some super glue and fixed it right up. Anyone could have done it, but since I've never been able to fix anything in my life, I felt pretty accomplished. Now we just have to figure out how to get it to New York. It weighs a ton!

[The instrument in question, with special guest; Pete's hand!]

December 29, 2011

Things That Would Remind One Of The Roland RS-505 Paraphonic Strings

[Came across these yesterday while playing mini golf in Florida.]

[Saw these pool balls in Singapore last year.]

The greatest color palate of any synthesizer since the dawn of time. Is it Christmas? Is it Autumn? It is those rare, magical moments just between the two. And that's how it sounds too (for people who care about that sort of thing. Just Kidding).

Pauline Oliveros

Just discovered this synthesizer heroine. It seems as though she's more into the accordion these days though. But she had a great look, in the vein of Delia Derbyshire.

Here she is with Morton Subotnick at the San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1963:

And here's a nice shot of Jim Henson (unrelated):

December 27, 2011

Nice Studio Spaces Vol. I

This last one is my favorite. It sort of reminds me of my friend Jon's old place in Akron Ohio. Anyway, it comes with an interesting read (more photos and music also) if you're interested:

December 26, 2011

Data Cassettes

Data Cassettes have always intrigued me; storing digital data on analog, magnetic tape, seems like it should be impossible! I've had enough devices that support them but I've never bothered to make one. They always seemed like a pain to make and use. Why not just reprogram a sequence into your MSQ-700 or a new sound into your Juno-106? Isn't that more fun anyway? I'm sure if i did ever get around to making one I'd be really proud of it, and make cover art for it and all that. But I doubt that will ever happen. Never say never.

And, these days, can't you use an MP3 like a data cassette? You can right? I think I read that somewhere. Surely.

December 23, 2011

Love That Boy

Gosh, after not drinking anything for almost two months it didn't take much last night to completely destroy me! Ouch! Never again. But I'm not going to let that get the best of me. I've got a Christmas party to prepare!

I've been listening to this song a lot lately. Whenever I've listened to a little too much electronic music I usually turn to The Innocence Mission. This is one of a few songs of theirs that I just love. It reminds me of my dear friend Justin. When we lived together he used to play this song a lot. Maybe it was his favorite song? But anyway, Justin and his beautiful wife Joanna are on their way here now and that is so very exiting! And also, now this song reminds me of another boy I love. The line "Let him be safe there" gets me every time. It seems like such a nice, simple prayer.
Merry Christmas!

December 21, 2011

Current Obsession: Christian Gleinser

Throw around the phrase "campfire electronics" and I'm hooked. You can hear clips of all the songs here:

Still trying to figure out how to get the whole thing. Seems to be sold out of all the online shops that had it.

Look At This Cute Little Guy

Here's a picture of him with his "friend":

I used to really want a CR-78, but I'm not so into it anymore. Perhaps spending so much time with the Promars has made me less interested in Roland products from that era, with those buttons. Maybe someday...

Today, It All Came Together.

It took me a while but today I got everything synced up. Cubase sending a MIDI signal to my MSQ-700 which is controlling my TR-808 which is triggering my CSQ-600 which is sequencing my SH-09. Thank goodness!

By the way, this diagram is not how I did it, it isn't a legitimate visual aid, it's just a nice picture. In my life, the MSQ is going to that 808 sync DIN input. And the trigger AC is controlling the steps of the CSQ. I must say, besides all the other reasons the MSQ-700 is amazing, that it's able to connect MIDI with Roland sync devices is such a bonus!

Roland Chairs

These are from Roland's electronic music instrument catalogues; '78 and '79. I haven't been able to find any of these for sale, but clearly W-2 and P-1 where the popular ones in their day.

Do you think F-1H had a Roland logo on the back of it?

December 20, 2011

SH-2000 Presets

Roland SH-2000 Preset Sounds:

Singing Voice, Song Whistle, Pop Corn, Space Reed,

Planet, Frogman, Funny Cat, Growl Wow, Wind

I'd be interested to hear Space Reed, Planet and Funny Cat.

December 19, 2011

Tokyo Synthesizer Studio and Osaka Show Room

It's so hard to find pictures of these places. These are all I've got. Wouldn't they have been great to visit back in those days?

December 18, 2011


So, you see stuff like this all the time. Funny interpretations, "engrish" and all that. Well, here is a little from Roland's MSQ-700 manual. It isn't engrish per se, but I find it rather humorous. I've highlighted the parts I'm talking about, with a blue highlighter, in case we don't have the same sort of sense of humor and you don't know what I'm talking about.

I'd also like to say that I think the Roland MSQ-700 is the perfect sequencer. It's just a breeze to use, and these days if you're not using software you'll probably want something so tangible. There's a knob, button, switch or slider for every function. Here is a great article about it from Sound on Sound:

and if you're looking for a specific roland manual, they're hosting just about everything on their website:

December 15, 2011

MIDI Cables

Ok, I just wanted to show you this (since this is what I'm doing right now, I got kind of excited). When I was hanging out with my friend David in Chicago about a month ago, we went into this junk store and I found all of these old fashion MIDI cables. They are the most wonderful colors. You can't really see how great the colors are from this photo, but maybe you could imagine. Blue, Yellow, Green, White. The perfect shade of each. And this is my last post for today!

I'm Home!

Today is my first day home after a little over a month in Europe. I've got my Christmas tree, and I've only just started but I'm already working out some kinks. I was having trouble getting my Roland MSQ-700 to send a sync signal to my TR-808. I've figured that out. Now I'm just trying to figure out how to get my CSQ-600 (which took a while to figure out how to convert American voltage to Australian -- my 600 is Australian you see) communicating with everything. And implementing my (only just arrived!) Garfield Electronics Mini Doc into the whole thing. And if you knew me you'd know; this is the most fun I've had in a long time!

MB-142 Part II: Getting A Little Carried Away

I got a little carried away and combined my simulation with the computer so we could get the full effect. Wouldn't it be exciting to be up late at night in a dark studio hunched over this? Sure it would!

Roland DG MB-142

I touched on this a couple posts back, but I'm so fascinated by these elusive things that I thought it deserved it's own post. Of course I'm interested in finding any Roland computer monitors (including the color models featured in the previous post), but the Roland MB-142 is the one I'm most interested it. It presents black characters on a "paper-white background", that is; off-white, or vise versa. I think it would be so inspiring to use in the studio. But alas, this ad is the only evidence I've ever found of it's existence. I'm beginning to wonder if Roland only made a handful of monitors for use in their own demonstrations and ads. Below is a simulation I've made of what The Roland S series sampler's software might look like on an MB-142.

In Other News:

My little brother just punched a hole through our bedroom door because of rage. Just kidding. it wasn't because of rage, it was a joke that just went a little too far. Could have happened to anyone.

But also, I can't really blame him because, about six months ago I tried to hang up a shelf and it went horribly wrong. So, we just had a bunch of holes in our wall. I bought some old fashion sports pennants to cover those wholes. They worked like a charm.

Eric Persing and S Series Samplers

I was reading an interview of Eric Persing, who was Chief Sound Designer/consultant to Roland Japan in the 80's, and he said about Ikutaro Kakehashi: "I've always thought of him as the "Walt Disney" of synthesizers". I would have to agree.

Here is a photo of Eric introducing the S-50 sampling keyboard in 1986, at a NAM show I suppose:
I'm very intrigued by the Roland S series of samplers. As far as I can figure, if you get a compatible mouse (they are rare, but I did find one… so, I have that ready to go) or the DT-100 tablet and you hook it up to a video monitor you basically have a fairlight type system for a fraction of the price! As a side note; there is a Roland DG computer monitor in both of these pictures. I've been keeping my eye out for one for almost a year now with no sign. But I am still hopeful.
And if you're interested in reading that interview (it is quite good), here it is:

December 13, 2011


This is the last thing I'll say about it (for a while). Those buttons are just such wonderful colors. Smart, sensible, autumnal colors. I bet it would look quite nice with a Roland RS-505, and coming from me that is quite the compliment! Anyway, that is all for tonight. Goodnight.

Elisha Gray

Considered to be the father of the modern music synthesizer. Born into a Quaker family in Barnesville, Ohio, Gray was brought up on a farm. He spent several years at Oberlin College where he experimented with electrical devices. Although Gray was not a graduate of Oberlin College, he taught electricity and science at Oberlin and built laboratory equipment for Oberlin science departments. He was a charter member of the Presbyterian Church in Highland Park, Illinois. At the church, on December 29, 1874, Gray gave the first public demonstration of his invention for transmitting musical tones and transmitted "familiar melodies through telegraph wire" according to a newspaper announcement. This was one of the earliest electric musical instrument using self vibrating electromagnetic circuits that were single-note oscillators operated by a two-octave piano keyboard. Read More:


I suppose I should show you what a 33 looks like before it's been modified. It's just a little thing that has a kind of strange shape. It was meant to be mounted under organs and things like that. Here, see for yourself:

So, as you can see, it's fairly limited with it's preset beats. Being able to trigger those nice little sounds externally and individually would certainly be nice.

I do like the color palette of those buttons.

Modified TR-33

I don't usually get into this sort of thing, but I thought this was nice. Someone has modified a Roland Tr-33 to be a little bit more like the 808. Some sound editing capabilities and external control. He goes into the details a bit on this forum:

I think it would help if he stained those wooden sides a little darker but maybe he's planning on doing that.

The Beginning

Welcome to my new blog. I don't know if anyone will find this interesting or not, but what will happen here is that I'll be posting things mostly about electronic instruments made by the Roland Corporation between the years 1977 and 1985 (approx.). I think there are right ways and wrong ways to go about making electronic music. I believe in simple, wholesome control voltage and gate signals. And, the very beginnings of MIDI don't offend me either, but everything that came after seemed lacking in the interface department. But I'll probably go off on tangents about other things too; Quaker Meetings, EPCOT Center, being in love. Things like that. If any of this interests you stick around and see what happens!