January 8, 2013

Autobend and the Roland SH-1

I recently acquired a Roland SH-1, mostly because I wanted another synthesizer in the studio with CV and Gate. It's hard to believe, with how much I go on about it, that the SH-09 and System 100m were the only two synthesizer I had that possessed it. This is why the 09 and 100m make up the bulk of my recordings thus far. 

The SH-1 is a bit of a step up from the 09. It has an extra envelope (just attack and release), a high pass filter, keyboard and external signal / envelope follower controls for the filter and an extra slider in the mixer section to control the noise generator independently (on the 09 the oscillator must be sacrificed for noise). It also has a feature I rarely come by called Autobend.

Autobend is sort of like portamento but rather than gliding to your note from the distance of your previous note, you set the distance to whatever you want -- with the depth slider, then you set the time you want it to take to arrive from that set distance or depth -- with the time slider. Where are we coming from? Always below. I suppose that's why they call it depth. Autobend, at least on this machine and the Roland RS-505, always bends upward. I would imagine that is the most useful anyway. 

It can sound a lot like portamento and is probably often mistaken for it. It's most notable different when the same note is played more than once in succession. If it were done with portamento the gliding effect would be heard only once and then the note would sound uneffected. With autobend we would hear the gliding effect each time. 

It is a nice effect and I think I like it more than portamento, at least for practical purposes. And I am quite happy with my SH-1. Anyway, here is my favorite bendy-note song:


  1. Sounds like a pretty cool idea, so that the note-bending is always there.

    That song, especially the vocals & synths, reminds me of this band called The Promise Book. Just a little!

  2. hello, i own an sh09 and it has an issue with double triggering when pressing a key. also, the keys make a clicking noise, but the issue isn't the vco. do you experienced/have a remedy for this? do you have a contact cleaning method?

  3. No idea. I just play them.

  4. I got an SH-1 after we had a chat in Mexico City about the Minitaur. You told me about how great the SH-9 was for the money, and suddenly, I found an SH-1 lying around for about the same price. Beautiful sound, very versatile monosynth. It also taught me a lot about the assets of VCO drift, and why it's so important for me. Now DCOs are just too stale for my taste. Also got my Polysix fixed shortly afterwards. I'm in heaven. Greetings from Mexico!

  5. That's so cool you got an SH-1! They're great! And yes, it's hard to deal with (or go back to) DCOs after you've used voltage controlled oscillators. ...I may just have to get me a Polysix someday, or go full blown and get a Trident. Hope all is well in Mexico!

  6. The thing with the Polysix is that being VCO, when you play chords, it's so nice to hear all of the 6 voices together, drifting around a little bit before nailing the pitch. It's very choir-like because of that. I played a Juno 106 and a Prophet '08 shortly afterwards and I couldn't get the same sensation, unfortunately. Everything cool down here!! see you guys soon!!