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THE BILL HILLMAN GUITAR PAGES
~ Guitars I have known... and owned ~
... and lost!


Roland G-303 Synth Guitar
In the mid-í80s I had traded video equipment for the earlier version of the Roland synth the G-303 -- from friend and fellow-musician Ken Storie...but soon after I traded in this system for the "new improved" 700 series. The G-303 is the only guitar I have ever traded or sold, but the cost of the new system (well over $4000) forced me to part with it as a down payment. Before trading it in I removed the b-bender and Bigsby... and re-installed the Bigsby onto my Gretsch Country Club. Ever since this early experience with guitar synths I've had a fascination for them. I've put some of the info on the Roland systems into the following site which I hope will provide some reference for pickers sharing a similar interest.
 
See our special G-707 guitar section 
for much more information on the 700 system
 http://www.angelfire.com/trek/hillmans3/hillgt13.html 



HISTORY OF THE
ROLAND GUITAR SYNTHESIZERS

The Early Years
In the late '70s / early '80s  the Roland Corporation pioneered innovative developments in the field of guitar synthesis and they have been improving on this technology ever since. I entered the world of guitar synthsizers in the early '80s via the GR-300 system and have been intrigued by them ever since - so, even though there have been many attempts at guitar synthesis over the years, this website is devoted to those I am most familiar with: the Roland line.

Roland GR-500 Guitar Synthesizer

The GR500 system in.1978 was Roland's first attempt at guitar synthesis. It consisted of the guitar controller (GS500), a 24-way cable and the synthesizer unit (GR500). The Ibanez-made guitar was based on the Gibson Les Paul shape but with more controls and different pickups.

Roland GR-100 Guitar Synthesizer
Roland released a second generation of synth systems in 1980 - the GR-100 system. This included three types of guitar controllers in many different finishes: the G505 - a  Tele style with three single coils, the G303 - a Gibson SG derivative - and the delux version, the G202 with dual humbuckers was a Strat-shaped cross between the G505 / G303 and the G808. All of these controllers could operate the GR100 or the later GR300 synthesizer units via a 24 way cable.

This system generally did not track well, forcing the guitarist to play slowly, deliberately and precisely.



 
Roland GR-300 Guitar Synthesizer
Roland G-808 Guitar

Modified G-808 Synth Guitar from the
Ed Edwards Collection: Ezekiel's Wheel

The blue GR300 has six VCOs (one per string) that are controlled by the string pitches as well as hexa-fuzz plus an LFO, tuning presets and some control over the attack of each note. The decay of each note is controlled by the way you play the guitar and this makes the system far more versatile than it first appears. As one of the sound sources on this unit are now true VCOs then a few new techniques become available. First it is now possible to apply vibrato to open strings, secondly each string can now produce two notes (one from the divided pickup and one from a VCO). The pitch of the VCO's can be offset by two preset controls that can be selected by footswitches. Envelope attack can be slowed down and the strings that will have a synthesized tone on them can be individually selected. There is a compression on / off switch but unfortunatel the infinite sustain of the GR500 was dropped. Many of these functions can be selected by footswitches and the state of these are indicated by LEDs that flash if the function is off or steady if the function is on.

The guitar controllers for the GR300 were the same range that were offered for use with the GR100. The controls on the guitars now allowed control of VCF frequency and resonance, guitar / synth balance, oscillator / hexa-fuzz selection and LFO on / off through the use of two concealed touch plates. All this was achieved on guitars that looked very conventional, however examination of the back of the guitar shows that there is a large amount of electronics inside it.

Released at the same time as the GR300 system was a bass guitar synth, the GR33B, with G33 and G88 controllers. The system worked in a similar manner to the GR300, although the pitch presets were replaced with better envelope controls.

The improved tracking of the GR-300 combined with the GK1 and BK1 pickups offered clean and fast tracking which allowed guitarists much more versatility in their playing. The system is still considered one of the greatest guitar synths ever manufactured despite the limitations of the synthesizer engine due to its minimal filter and envelope settings. Both Andy Summers and Robert Fripp have praised the G303 guitar as a perfect marriage of the guitar with synthesizers.

One of the things that made the GR300 and GR33b guitar and bass units so playable and attractive to guitarists was the series of controllers Roland offered. Controllers include a number of models that were fashioned after popular guitars by major companies. All actual guitars were manufactured by Hoshino Inc otherwise known as Ibanez.

After the perfect tracking of the GR300/GR33b series Roland went on to create new floor units that were a huge leap forward in their synthesis technology. Unfortunately they also abandoned the tracking system that made the 300/33b such a useful and playable instrument. These silver monsters are great synths but the tracking systems inside them is mediocre compared to the previous generation.

The G33 and G88 bass controllers had exaggerated double cutaway bodies. An actual Fender P-bass type body was also available for a while. Roland GR-808



 
Circuits using the most advanced electronic technology.
The main circuits are compactly structured using printed circuit boards and high-quality components of unexcelled stability and reliability. This ensures accurate treatment of the signals from the pickup and filter-related control signals.
A single-coil pickup for the G-505
Produces brilliant sounds-crisp highs and warm mid-range.
A humbucking pickup for the G-22
An open-covered humbucking pickup which produces powerful, fat sounds with plenty of brilliance.
A humbucking pickup for the G-808 and G-303
An outstanding humbucking pickup characterized by its sweet, lustrous, clear, long-sustained sound.

A few famous users of the GR300/GR700 guitar synthesizers include: Andy Summers, Jeff Baxter, Pat Methany, John Scofield, Robert Fripp, and Adrian Belew.



 GR-700 GUITAR SYNTHESIZER (1984)


PROGRAMMABLE GUITAR SYNTHESIZER UNIT
The GR-700 the highlight of the GR Guitar System-was developed by concentrating Rolandís experience and technology gained producing synthesizers. It is a compliantly new instrument, which combines the advantages of both the electric guitar and the keyboard synthesizer. It ensures the expressiveness of the electric guitar plus the flexibility of the keyboard synthesizer. The GR-700 features all the elements for sound creation that a keyboard synthesizer should have. The DSG (Digital Sound Recognition) system allows the GR-700 to convert the guitar sounds into the synthesizer sounds without losing delicate picking nuance, which only the guitar can produce.
Sound Memory
The GR-700 can memorize up to 64 different sounds (eight sounds in eight banks). Memorized sounds can easily be recalled by simply pressing pedals. It is much easier to operate than an ordinary effects board. The number of the recalled sound is indicated on a large display and can be easily seen even on stage. In addition, the accessory M-16C memory cartridge provides 64 more sounds and is convenient for data editing. You can rearrange the sounds in the order you want for on-stage or studio performances. The Cartridge touch pad selects the GR-700unitís memory or the M-16C cartridge memory. Thus the GR-700 provides a total of 128 different sound which can be fully used even during performances. The M-16C memory cartridge can also be purchased separately so that you can form a library of you own sounds.

Creation and Modification of sound
The Edit function allows you to create new sounds. It also allows the memorized sound to be temporarily modified even during a performance. A modified sound can then be memorized as it is. To modify a memorized sound, first choose the parameter you wish to modify using the Edit Map. Then recall the parameter by pressing the proper Number pedals, and change the value or status of the parameter using the knob on the guitar controller. When the optional PG-200 Programmer is used, it allows you to quickly modify the memorized sound or to easily create a new sound.

String Selection
The String Select function makes the most of the GR-700¨s advantages. By using the Voice, Hold, Pitch Bend, and String Select (1 to 6) touch pads, each of synthesizer sound, hold function, and pitch bending can be assigned to any individual sting. The Voice touch pad is used to select the strings to which synthesizer sounds will be applied. For example, you can assign the synthesizer sound to only the fifth and sixth strings and apply normal guitar sounds to the other strings. The Hold touch pad is used to select the strings to which the hold function will apply. The hold function operates while the Hold pedal is depressed. By applying the hold function only to the fourth, fifth, and sixth strings, you can play solo on the first, second, and third strings accompanied by chords played with the fourth, fifth, and sixth strings. The Pitch Bend touch pad is used to select the strings whose pitch will be controlled by the FV-200 Volume Pedal connected to the GR-700. The functions provide you with completely new playing styles that have never been realized using only a keyboard synthesizer or electric guitar.

Dynamics
The Dynamics function allows the guitarist to control the synthesizer sound by his picking force. The volume and tone color of the synthesizer sounds will change in proportion to the picking force. When the DOCís are controlled, the depth of the modulation, achieved by controlled one DCO with another will change to create more impressive sounds. When the VCFs are controlled the depth of the ENC. Modulation will change. In other words, the depth of the "auto wah" effect will change, When the VCAs are controlled the volume of the synthesizer sounds will change according to the picking force. You can preprogram whether the dynamics function works or not individually for the DCOs VCFs and VCAs.

A Complete Chromatic Scale
The Chromatic function enables the GR-700 to produce complete chromatic scales that only keyboard instrument can produce. The pitch of the synthesizer sounds shift chromatic mode. So even when you play phrases using guitar techniques such as bending, sliding, and vibrato, these phrases will sound as though they were play on a keyboard instrument. The Chromatic function can be turned on and off by simply touching a touch pad. You can enjoy call and response of the keyboard sounds and guitar sounds by yourself. The GR-700 also features a Chorus effect that produces thick, broad sounds. By combining the Chromatic function and the Chorus effect, an extremely realistic organ sound can be obtained. Both the Chromatic function and the Chorus effect can be individually programmed for each memorized sound.

MIDI
The GR-700 features a MIDI Out jack. By connecting the GR-700 with another MIDI-equipped instrument, such as Rolandís MKS-10, 30, or 80, you can control the connected instrument by playing a guitar controller.

OPTIONS
 

PG-200 PROGRAMMER
The PG-200 allows you to easily and quickly create new sounds and modify memorized sounds. It can be connected to the GR-700 with a 6-pin DIN cable.  M-16C  MEMORY CARTRIDGE
The M-16C Memory cartridge provides the GR-700 with 64 more sounds and is convenient for data editing. It is supplied as an accessory for the GR-700 and can also be purchased separately. You can form a limitless library of the GR-700 sounds with it.

SPECIFICATIONS
 Internal Memories: 64 sounds (battery backup)  External Memories: 64 sounds (by one M-16C memory cartridge)  Edit: 32 parameters  Pedals: Number (1 to 8), Bank, Edit, Hold  Touch Pads: Dynamics (DCO, VCF, VCA), String Select (Voice, Hold, Pitch Bend Up/Down, 1 to 6), Chromatic/Load, Chorus/Save, Memory Write/Copy, Cartridge  Input/Output Jacks: XLR Output x 2 (600 Ohm


ROLAND G707 SYNTH CONTROLLER GUITARS

The G707 was noticibly different from the others as it added a stabilzer bar running from the top of the neck to the bottom. This was created supposedly to defeat "dead spots" on the guitar where a neck might not send full tracking info to the floor unit. The G707 came in three colors: Silver, Red, and Black. The G707 was a great guitar in it's own right and I often use my Silver model on stage with or without synthesizer.

See our special G-707 guitar section for much more information on this system
http://www.angelfire.com/trek/hillmans3/hillgt13.html

Roland GR-77B Bass Synth and G-707 Guitar

 The G77 was the bass equivilent of the G707 guitar and
also had a stabilizer bar and came in Silver, Black, or Cream.


 
Related Links:

1000 Great Guitar Sites
Alternative MIDI-Controller
Edirol Corporation (Roland Multi-media)
Essential Guitar Guide ~ Practical Music Theory
Fender Guitars
Fender Set-up Guides
Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine
Gibson Musical Instruments
GR-1 Guitar Synth Tech Page
GR-300
Guitar Digest - For Players and Collectors
Guitar dot Com: Your Guitar Guide
Guitar dot Net
Guitar Links: Building ~ Wiring ~ MIDI ~ Electronics ~ FAQs
Guitar Magazine
Guitar Notes
Guitar Tricks
Guitar World Magazine
Links ~ Reference
Martin Guitars
Midi Guitar List
Online Rock
Peavey World
Rodgers Instruments (Roland)
Roland Groove Products
Roland GR Series Guitar Synths
Roland Guitar Synths (Early)
Roland Guitar Synth Leaflets
Roland Guitar Synth Resources
Roland Specs & FAQs
Roland Synthesizer Picture Archive
Roland US
Synth Museum
Tablature from Midi software
Tab Links
Tablature: Links to 100 Top Sites
Vintage Gear
Vintage Guitar Magazine
Yamaha Guitars


MORE RECENT ROLAND GUITAR SYNTHESIZERS
Roland GK-2a Pickup for MIDI GuitarsRoland GR-50Roland GR-1Roland GR-9Roland GI-10Roland GR-30

Model MIDI-outs Polyphony Tones/strum Extra MIDI ins Extra Analog In
GR-50 2 32 partials 12 2 inst - 1 drum 0
GR-1 1 24 2 3 inst - 1 drum 0 +Sequencer
GR-9 1 28 2 0 0
GI-10 1 0 1 0 1
GR-30 1 28 2 0 +arp & harm - pedal
GR-33 1 +arp & harm - pedal
See our special G-707 guitar section 
for much more information on the 700 system
http://www.angelfire.com/trek/hillmans3/hillgt13.html
Other Hillman Music Sites
Bill & Sue-On Hillman:
A Musical Odyssey
Favourite Guitars I Have Known...
...and own
On-Line CD Catalogue
Hillman CD Song List
Telecaster Journals
New CD Release - Vol. 12
Brandon Folk Festival '99
Photo Gallery
Sue-On:
A Photo Mosaic
Hillman Bio on CBC-TV
CD 10 Lyrics & Vignettes

Original Material Copyright 2000 Bill Hillman

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