My Roland System-1
IntroductionI bought a Roland System-1 in a quest to play pads in church as an "auxiliary keyboard" player. That is, I mainly play electric guitar. I was intrigued by videos on YouTube of the various pads others had programmed into it. My previous keyboard, an Akai Mini Play, was too limited and had too small a keyboard, even though it worked adequately enough.
The Roland System-1 is a two-octave digital (analog-modeling) synthesizer. It has 64 memory locations, and with a Plug-Out it adds 64 more, for 128 possible memory locations.
This article is my experience using the System-1. It also includes a Blog at the bottom where I will post new things as I learn them. I hope you find it useful. Also, please check out the System-1 Facebook Page and Subreddit and my Roland System-1 YouTube Playlist. As well, check out the recordings I have made of various System-1 patches.
So far, I have found the System-1 to be more than adequate for playing pads in church. However, I would like to point out that I took this route because, as I wrote previously, my needs and limiting factors are different than some. Will the System-1 work for you? Check out this article I wrote.
Finally, I wrote a review on the various Plug-Outs, here.
Keep in mind that, as I learn, I am going to add sections to this document starting at the bottom, extending it. So be sure to check the bottom for updates.
My reasons for buying it were as follows, in no particular order:
- Two octave, so should fit in a backpack (I was incorrect).
- A true synthesizer.
- The recorded
pads I watched on YouTube.
- Lots of knobs and sliders (I prefer manual1 controls over screen menus).
- Full size keys. I hated the keys on the Akai Mini Play.
UnboxingWhen I got the System-1, I was slightly unhappy that it didn't come with its own USB cable. However, it was packed well.
The manual that was included isn't bad, but it seems a bit minimal to me. I'm a newbie, so I'd appreciate more detailed instructions, or even a tutorial. Most notably, the manual does not specify what the Color knob in either OSC1 or OSC2 is controlling when using the various wave forms. Luckily, the internet was helpful.
The appearance of the System-1 is fantastic. And for the most part it's easy to understand where everything is. But the manual did not include the signal path information, which would've been helpful for me, because I'm a newbie.
The sound of the System-1 is very good, but I noticed that the headphone output can be peaky, at least with my cheap Sony earbuds.
Note that the power supply included is a PSD-120, in case you need to buy one.
This thing looks absolutely fantastic.
If there were DJs in The Matrix, they played System-1s.
The green backlight is both beautiful and functional. I would
prefer a way to change the intensity of the back-light, however,
or that it be varied by ambient lighting.
The System-1 does not have a screen, which is sad because I know the memory locations store the name of the patch. Knowing what I selected, even if it's only a very minimal screen, would've been nice. But what I've found is that if I want to write down what I have placed on each memory location, I can put a piece of painter's masking tape (non-residue) on the right side strip of black body near the right edge of the keyboard and write on it what each patch is.
The "screensaver" mode ("demo" mode) turns heads. It's almost like the keyboard is doing a little "happy dance" while it's idle. In church, it cannot be seen by the congregation, but the choir behind me can see it. During the church youth lock-in, several of the teenagers said it looked very cool. To be fair, if I'm engaged in doing something, like writing this document, it's very distracting. But in a live situation, it hasn't bothered me or distracted me enough from playing electric guitar
One slight annoyance is that even touching the octave up/down during live use results in the patch number button flashing (if I am using a patch). Sure, I get it, that "modified" the patch, but it can be a bit distracting. My mind wonders if I bumped some knob, only to remember that I changed octaves. And when you change octaves back to the one stored in the patch, it doesn't stop flashing, which is even more annoying.
Compared to the Akai
Mini Play I used to own, the keyboard feels SO
much better. I can understand, to a point, why some have
complained about the System-1's keyboard, but for me it works
great. An unexpected benefit of not having velocity
sensitivity is that when I switch to/from electric guitar, I
don't have to worry about hitting the keyboard too hard.
My Akai Mini Play translated hard playing as a need to shift
either the LPF cutoff or resonant frequency, which didn't sound
good. It made my pads nasal. And on top of that, the
keys were stiff and the velocity sensitivity very narrow.
That's not very appreciated when I'm playing supporting pads in
As expected from Roland, the knobs and sliders feel fantastic. The keyboard, to me, feels great. Maybe not "Steinway" great, but very good at least.
It seems to have plenty of features, but I'm
a synthesizer newbie, so I am not sure if my complaints are
valid. For instance, I would want a tap tempo or metronome
feature (or a knob with metronome markings) so that I can dial
in tempos more precisely, for use in a band situation. But
it doesn't have that. I'm not complaining, but I'm just
curious as to why it didn't come with one. But because
this thing also lacks a sequencer, maybe it wasn't intended to
fill that role, unlike the System-8. (To be fair, it
should be called a System-3 because it's like two System-1's
plus a third system: a sequencer.)
But I'm sort of glossing over all the cool features here. This isn't intended to be a full review: Keyboard Magazine and others have done a far better job than I could've done.
One feature to note is the arpeggio feature. While this keyboard claims to be four voice polyphony, keep in mind that this doesn't apply to the arpeggio when it's playing only one note. In theory you can press every key simultaneously and it will go up/down/up+down all of the notes one at a time. So that means you can play the intro arpeggio to Stranger Things, for example, and not worry about missing notes due to polyphony limitations.
I have come to agree with those who have complained about pitch bending on the scatter outer wheel versus a traditional pitch wheel: it's not adequate for solos. I can do some of the lead bends from Swoon (The Chemical Brothers), with difficulty, but anything more is just not really helpful, especially vibrato while playing lead. However, I have found that the mod button does a pretty good job compensating for this, giving me a nice vibrato during leads.
Initial SoundsThis thing sounds great! Everyone who hears it likes it. People use words like beautiful, fantastic, and impressive to describe the included Roland patches (mainly the pads). It has great flexibility. The oscillators sound great. The keyboard feels good to me. The sustain pedal works very well. All in all, I can't complain. But it's as if now that I am using it, I feel the urge to keep tweaking my sound to find that perfect sound that my mind imagines.
Here is how I have made some sounds, and some notes, before I started playing with factory patches.
I especially love how it sounds like a lot of the synthesizer (I'm guessing) stuff I hear on Hillsong's Zion and Empires albums. I'm a huge Hillsong fan, so being able to get close to their sounds this easily more than sells the System-1.
NOTE! I am a synth newbie, so keep in mind the first patches you see here were made by me when I didn't know a lot. They're still completely valid, but since figuring out how the factory patches work and why they do certain things, I realize my initial patches below are a bit mild. If you like them, cool, but if you scroll down, I have a new section, "Modified Sounds", where I take some of the available patches and modify them to suit my taste.
At first, I thought the System-1 only came with one bank of presets (so 8 total factory sounds). This is correct. However, Roland's free System-1 Librarian for your DAW (I use FL Studio free version) has 279 presets that you can, for free, click "send" to your System-1 and then save in memory anywhere you want. So probably the first thing you should do after you buy this is go download the Librarian. You can go load up all 64 patches (8 banks) with stuff. For my uses, this is more than enough.
There isn't a patch that sounds perfect for Van Halen's song "Jump", but "SY Classic Brs" sounded close.
When I started dialing in my own lead sounds, I fell in love with the unison mode (press the "MONO" button until it flashes). I think so far my favorite is square wave at 16 foot on OSC1 with multi-triangle on OSC2 at 8 foot. Note that this is a monophonic mode where the oscillators are on unison (almost like having two keyboards)
Using It In Church
I added this part to try and separate my
experience using the System-1 in church with its general
features. If you would like to download any of my patch
collections, or if you appreciate my help, please see the donate page.
Note that I am a church musician, so when I fired up the Roland Librarian and went through all 279 presets, I found only about 178 of them to have potential for church use. But I also ignored the sound effects (FX) class of patches, so keep that in mind. Honestly, nearly every pad (PD) class of preset sounded wonderful. As well, many of the synthesizer (SY) presets sounded great. There's a huge sounding patch called "SY Like A Juno" that sounds absolutely fantastic.
One thing to note, however, is that not all patches would sound great in church. In adapting these patches (even though I also like to build my own from scratch), one thing I did on all my patches is take them from the Librarian. So the first thing was to load the patch and see how loud the output was and dial that down using OSC 1/2 mixing. The Librarian has this amplitude indicator on the System-1 image. I simply made sure all of mine, at their max loudness, were all about the same volume level on screen, then saved to a patch memory.
A lot of the things I'm going over here are mentioned in Hillsong's wonderful keys masterclasses part 1 and part 2.
Another couple things I did to adapt all the Roland Librarian patches for church are as follows:
- I dial down the delay on factory patches because this is the reason patches "squeak" as you switch. I don't want that to happen in church if I switch patches, so I saved them all with the delay all the way down. I can add delay live in church if I need it.
- I decreased the reverb if the patch was running more than about 50%, by changing reverb to be 50%. This is because the amount of reverb I need varies from song to song, but I never find that I need more than 50%.
- On patches with detune, I experimented with it. With some of the bell patches, there was too much detune, so reducing (but not eliminating) the detune made the patch more tolerable in church. I've heard people using keyboard default bell patches with too much detune in church, and the effect is rather ugly. For other patches like PD NOISE PAD, eliminating the detune in this librarian patch changed an unusable patch into one that is almost indispensable.
As for using it in church, one thing I heard Peter James of Hillsong state is that you should bring the filter down (LPF CUTOFF) when you're playing the beginning of a song and then slowly increase it as the song gets louder/faster. He also recommended not using the filter wide open when people are trying to sing or talk.
Note that in church, even if the System-1
cannot sound identical to some acoustic instruments with a lot
of nuance, like an acoustic guitar, a grand piano, or an
electric guitar through a tube amp, it can synthesizer new
sounds in the moment. Yesterday, I did this using my
System-8 (which is close to the System-1). Our worship
leader didn't like the bass patches the System-8 came with, so
he asked me to create a new one. Together we got a sound
that we both like that works very well with our church, in terms
of style and the sound it makes coming out of our bass subwoofer
and main speakers. Most your average cheaper keyboards you
find in churches can't create new sounds on the fly, if at
all. So my System-8 totally upstaged the Kurzweil PS-1 we
have. Most the more expensive, newer keyboards designed
for live music have more capabilities, and better sounding bass
samples possibly. And to be fair, the only reason we
needed a bass patch was that our music team was cut down to only
5 members due to COVID-19 concerns. But it's worth
pointing out because the main thing a synthesizer brings to your
worship band is flexibility (other than lots of pads).
With a synthesizer, you don't just play sounds (like on a
keyboard): you can shape sounds.
ControlsThe inadequate owner's manual is the strongest negative aspect of this keyboard. However, note that Roland Australia has an "Ultimate Guide" to the System-1. It helps quite a bit, but I don't think it really goes as in-depth as I would like. So I explored my System-1.
The main thing that I felt wasn't really "spelled out" (neither in the "Ultimate Guide" or in the manual) is how the OSC1 and OSC2 COLOR knobs work. So I took some time to slowly map out how this works. For some wave forms, the COLOR knob seems to control the brightness, others the phase, and still others, other functions like noise ratio. Here's a chart of what it sounds like this knob does, to my ears, between "MAN" and "F. ENV" on the MOD knob. By "depth" of F. ENV I mean the level to which the F. ENV modifies the tone. Sort of like changing how noticeable the filter modulation is.
To my ears, though, the filter envelope still modifies both oscillators, whether or not F. ENV is selected. To me, this is annoying, because I'd like to be able to specify which oscillator is using the F. ENV and which is not (i.e. if OSC1 is "MAN" and OSC2 is "F. ENV", then OSC1 shouldn't get modulated while OSC2 should). Maybe this is possible: if I'm mistaken, please contact me.
||MOD knob setting
||COLOR knob function
|Saw, Square, Triangle
||TONE of the wave form (brightness)
|Saw, Square, Triangle
||The depth of the F. ENV
||The phase of the multiple wave forms
||The depth of the F. ENV; the phase is set
to the most conservative setting
||The ratio of noise to saw
||The depth of the F. ENV; the noise ratio is
set to about 13%
||The ratio of the logic operation?
||Seems to control the COLOR knob via the F.
||The frequency of the wave form?
||Seems to control the COLOR knob via the F.
|FM + Sync
||Not sure; the amount of sync?
|FM + Sync
||Seems to control the amount of sync (?) (no
||Controls the formant (vowel)
||The F. ENV now controls the COLOR knob
(modulates the formant/vowel)
|Cow Bell (CB)
||The duration of the cow bell from almost
nothing (pluck) to pad-like
|Cow Bell (CB)
||No change: still the duration of the wave
After making this chart, I then tried selecting LFO instead of F. ENV. To my ears, the LFO position is moving the COLOR knob. So I guess it depends on what you have selected to modulate that knob? I'm still not sure.
Many I have watched on YouTube describe an
"initial" patch or state for their synthesizer, such that they
get a raw, unfiltered synthesizer sound. I'll describe
this instead of picturing it:
1. When you place any or both oscillator "octave" switch (or
"feet") in 16, the middle C on this keyboard is the same as
middle C on a piano.
2. Set FILTER LPF CUTOFF to all the way off.
3. Set both oscillators to saw and the COLOR knob to the center.
4. Set the LFO to sine and all other LFO section knobs to the middle.
5. Set all FILTER section knobs other than LFO CUTOFF to the middle and all the sliders all the way down.
6. Set the AMP section TONE knob to middle, the CRUSHER knob all the way to the left, and then the AMP ADSR section to A all the way down, D and S to middle, and R all the way down.
Hammond B3 SoundI listened to a video by Oscillator Sink and tried to adapt his directions to my System-1. But it didn't work very well for me. A gracious person from Reddit helped me get closer to what a B3 sounds like (even though you can't really do that without literally owning a B3). Here's what he taught me. To change the "Leslie" amount, you can move the rate knob around. Note that all of the pictures below can be clicked to enlarge.
Note that after I made this patch, I thought better and added some reverb (knob at about the 9 o'clock position) and moved OSC 2 pitch knob to 4. Note that you can move OSC2's pitch knob back to 8 for more mellow sounds. Honestly, you can move both oscillators' pitches around all you want: you get a lot of cool sounds. You can move the rate knob around to (crudely) simulate the change in speed of a Leslie cabinet, and move the resonance knob on the filter section around to change the sound up slightly.
Here is a clip of the new sound (at one point I move OSC2 to pitch 4, like I said). I also recorded another clip later.
I later found the BS ORGAN BASS patch to be a better sounding B3 simulation, so I am using that instead.
Bell SoundAt first, I had programmed my own bell sound in. But now that I have Roland's Librarian, I found a bell patch that already sounded great, and adapted that. I also put several other bell related patches into other memory banks.
In my opinion, if you're making your own bell patch, the FM wave forms sound best to my ears. But other wave forms can be used, such as cow bell (on 8, 4, and 2 foot settings).
Electric Piano Sound
I was reading the Sound
on Sound Synthesizing Pianos article and realized I was
doing it wrong. And also realized that I'm not even making
use of the filter envelope properly. I set the filter
envelope to (ADSR) 0, 100%, 0, 100% and set OSC2 to a square
wave, then dialed OSC2's volume back.
Note that the System-1 does not come with an electric piano sound, nor does the Librarian include any electric piano type patches, so you will need to make one yourself.
In my mind, the target sound for this is
Just Never Say It Enough by Wayne Watson. Perfect
example of a beautiful electric piano. I literally dialed
this patch in while listening to this song's introduction.
I bought this synthesizer for pads. I
love pads. But now that I've figured out the factory
presets, I have all the pads I could ever want. Still,
when I first bought this, I didn't know about Roland's Librarian
software, so I did the research below to try to figure out what
I needed to do.
I first read Sound on Sound's article, which gives the following suggestions:
- Even though you can use "buzzy" oscillators like saw/square/pulse, sine and triangle oscillators are more appropriate.
- The author (of the Sound on Sound article) is not a fan of detune, filter sweeps, heavy PWM or inter-oscillator vibratos.
- One can use faster decaying, rhythmically repeated pads for more motion.
- Sometimes it's bad to add reverb and/or delay.
An article from Evanto
Tuts+, however, gave some slightly different advice:
- Try not to think too complex.
- Some of the best pads are simple.
- The author usually starts with a saw oscillator, low pass filter and basic envelope.
- Choice of oscillator isn't important, but if you intend to modulate it live, sometimes more aggressive oscillators are more appropriate.
- Consider using a little detune for a slight chorus effect.
- Apply a long attack and long release for your filters.
- Try not to start off too bright.
- Apply a low pass filter and a slightly resonant model.
- If you need a little modulation, consider adding a simple, slow-moving sine wave.
- Add a little delay.
As a side note, my ideal pad sound is
Gateway Church's song Every
Breath. You can especially hear it at the beginning
of the song.
For the most part, the Roland preset "PD DEEP PAD" is everything I need for a pad. But I have in the same bank another patch from Roland called "SQ GLASS ARP" that I modified for use as a pad. I love pads so much that memory banks 3 & 4 are nothing but pads (so easily 16+ pads in my memory setup).
So anyways, back to my initial learning: I found that using a less abrasive setting for OSC2 (like vowel, FM, or triangle) with OSC1 on multi-saw (dial in the amount of difference between the saw waves using the COLOR knob) seemed to work well. I first tried both OSC1 and OSC2 on triangle, and that gave a very boring, almost organ-like sound. Also, I learned that using multi-saw worked great for simulating big string sounds, especially using both oscillators in multi-saw on different octaves. Just dial in the amount of "big" you want with the COLOR knobs. I find my ears liking pads that don't have lots of attack time (A in the ADSR filter on the amp section), but like all things, that can be adjusted for taste.
Hillsong, Heart Like Heaven, Empires
I patterned this patch after how the song
Heart Like Heaven (Empires album) by Hillsong sounds: mainly the
arpeggio motif. It's not a perfect copy but it sounded
good enough to me. Here's a clip
of me using the patch.
Hillsong, Rule, Empires
I patterned this patch after how the song
Rule (Empires album) by Hillsong sounds: mainly the arpeggio
motif. Note that I went back and added a bit more delay
and reverb to this patch. Here's a clip of what I came
Hillsong, Love Is War, Zion, Verse & Chorus
The song Love is War by Hillsong (Zion
album) is a bit difficult to play with just one patch.
This patch is close to the sound on the verses: a more subdued,
almost Tron-like arpeggio motif. The next patch is for the
choruses, more bright and prominent. Remember that you can
use the arpeggio at least the choruses. Because the
arpeggio motif on the verses seems to skip the first 1/16th, I
couldn't find an arpeggio system that works, and given the
octave at which it occurs, I couldn't access a note below the
motif so that I could use the arpeggio feature. The top
one is the verse, the chorus is the second one.
I'm sure that playing this in a live worship band would require tempo sync from the drummer over MIDI cable.
Here's a clip of the first part and second part of that song. Note that I am using the arpeggio. Also note that you can save the patches with arpeggio enabled. I chose to do that so I can switch back and forth. Whether the arpeggio and tempo get saved with the patch memory or not can be selected using the manual's instructions.
Stay & Wait
I recorded this clip of the
System-1 arpeggio function on my Stay & Wait patch (this is
the #2 portion because I'm trying to dial in the first part of
the song where a string-like arpeggio seems to be
playing). This clip is the very end of the song.
Basically, I feel like this song requires two different sounds. I did my best to dial them in. Here you go:
My Own Bass
Sunday morning, I couldn't find a decent bass patch that would work for church. Though EDM bass can sound great, I might be the only one at my church who will appreciate that sound. So I dialed in a quick bass patch that I think sounds good for church, and sounds reasonably close to an electric bass. Enjoy!
This is where I will periodically post new
things I learn about the System-1.
4/1/19 Aira Scatter Function
This morning, I took a few minutes to try to
map out the basics of the Aira scatter function on my
System-1. I didn't bother to fully map it out, like
getting staff paper or recording audio clips, but I figured this
list might help others. Note that in scatter modes 1-5,
the System-1 doesn't seem to alter what you already have
configured via the arpeggio section, but in 6-10 it does.
Note that during this exercise, I had ARP TYPE set to 1 OCT UP
and ARP STEP at 1/8.
||Modifies LPF CUTOFF + CRUSHER + HPF CUTOFF
||Modifies CROSS MOD + LPF CUTOFF + HPF
||Modifies LPF CUTOFF + RESO + HPF CUTOFF
||Modifies LPF CUTOFF + RESO + HPF CUTOFF|
||Modifies the swing/syncopation of the
notes, less of it
||Modifies the swing/syncopation of the
notes, more of it
||Faster arpeggios. At max, modifies
PORTAMENTO + CROSS MOD
||More sparse arpeggios, and down an octave
||More notes, faster, and up an octave
||Block chords with different syncopations
||Faster block chords with different patterns
||Becomes a different pattern ("Days Go By")
||Becomes different faster pattern ("Teenage
||Different, more sparse pattern (at max: 1
||Different faster pattern (at max: 2 block
||Modifies OSC 1 & 2 COLOR + LPF CUTOFF +
RESO + CRUSHER
||Modifies OSC 1 & 2 COLOR + LPF CUTOFF +
||Modifies LPF CUTOFF + RESO + HPF CUTOFF
||Modifies LPF CUTOFF + RESO + HPF CUTOFF|
Today I figured out, while experimenting,
how to direct oscillators to the various envelopes. Yes,
I'm a synthesizer newbie.
I found that if I send, say, OSC1 to the filter envelope (F.ENV), and OSC2 to A.ENV, I can turn OSC1 to saw type (or multi-saw) and set the F.ENV to a more pad-like arrangement, while I can turn OSC2 into triangle type and send it to A.ENV for a more bell-like filter type. This seems to have the effect of doing cute things like you see on keyboards where it's as if you can add a "pad" to other instrument types. However, so far I haven't figured out how to make them sound more distinct and separate as "instruments."
5/11/19 Modified Sounds
So after discovering the patches Roland has
for the System-1 via the Librarian, I realized (like I said
above in "Initial Sounds") that I was being a bit mild, and
that's why what others were doing with the System-1 (that I
watched on several YouTube videos) seemed more extreme. I
was wondering how they did that, but being a newbie, I wasn't
sure how. Now after seeing how factory patches are laid
out, I know how. So I will detail, below, how I modified
some of the factory patches to make them more palatable for
church. Keep in mind that these patches are owned by
Roland, so I am not sharing what Roland made, because I respect
their creative and intellectual rights. But this is more
"How to make the System-1 work for church."
5/17/19 ProgressSo today I replaced all the pictures, above, with Librarian screenshots. That looks a lot better.
Also, yesterday I noted that the Librarian shows a volume output bar at the top of the image in the VST. I used this to go over all the factory patches I had adapted for church use and set up their level of output so that they were all the same.
Thank you, Roland. You rock!
5/23/19 COLOR Knob
Today I mapped out the COLOR knob, made my
own lead sound, fell in love with the Unison mode, and fooled
around with RING mod. I was trying to experiment with
mixing white noise with pitched tones. I made a patch I
call "Weed Wacker Choir" or "Edger Choir". If, from an
ant's perspective, multiple weed whackers decided to start
singing, this is what it would probably sound like.
6/1/19 Piano Patch
Recently I had wanted to learn to synthesize
a proper piano (not electric piano) patch for use in
church. I went searching on YouTube for a good video and
Following his instructions, I came up with something very
usable. It doesn't perfectly sound like a piano
(especially because the man in this video has 3 oscillators and
the System-1 has only two) but nonetheless it sounds convincing
enough. I hope you find this useful! Note that the
filter section is used to give a bright attack that gets warmer
as the keys are held.
This blog entry is more of a performance
note. I was practicing "Before The
Throne of God Above" today for church. I noticed
that there really aren't a lot of "airy" pads for the System-1
among the Roland Librarian patches. I was flipping through
the pads I've stored in mine, and found PD NOISE PAD. I
played it and noticed that it's sort of detuned, or atonal,
depending on your ears. But when I looked at how it's laid
out, that's because this patch is using CROSS MOD. So I
just turned the CROSS MOD knob all the way down and suddenly
this patch was much more useful in church.
Listening to this pad at work, however, you might notice that there's a lot of almost robotic movement going on. This is because OSC2 is being modified by the LFO which is in sample-and-hold setting. The advantage here is that you can save the patch (like the previous paragraph) with the CROSS MOD off, then keep the OSC2 COLOR knob (which determines how much of that robot-like movement you hear) where it is. During performance, one could dial the OSC2 COLOR knob down to temporarily remove it, then if there's a part of the song where it is desirable to have this movement going on (like the introduction or the ending, for example), simply dial the knob back up.
So if you need an airy (or "noisy") pad, consider using PD NOISE PAD. I found that it works very well for me.
Today I discovered Hillsong's Peter James's
keys masterclass videos part 1
2 on YouTube. I recommend them: even though he
mainly uses software synthesizers, a lot of what he has to say
will teach you not only using synthesizers but also how to play
synthesizers in church.
Today I was playing around, trying to imitate some of the sounds I hear on Chillwave. This is what I came up with. Enjoy!
Today I got my Novation Backpack Case 25-key
model from Sweetwater. This backpack case for the System-1
will also hold my ME-70!
Today I also learned how to make a patch that sounds like a string section using tremolo bowing. Basically you use the LFO section: you turn up AMP and FILTER because this type of bowing results in volume spikes (AMP) and brightness peaks (FILTER). Then you dial in the RATE to taste and you turn the FADE TIME to zero so that it works instantly. What I did was take PD STRINGS 1 and save it to two memory locations. I modified the first one to sound like tremolo bowing and saved it. So on songs like Psalm 46 (Lord of Hosts), I can play the strings in the beginning that are using tremolo, and then without lifting my right hand off the keyboard, I can press the second memory location button with my left hand and the tremolo bowing stops, but the strings are still playing, similar to the recording.
Some more performance notes on this song: I like switching to pad as soon as the verse begins. And during the interlude before the Bridge, I like to switch to Roland preset SQ GLASS ARP that I modified by turning off ARPEGGIO and DELAY. It results in a bright shimmery effect that is a fantastic contrast.
This weekend I worked on Great Things by Phil Wickham. I generated a few custom patches that I have included at the bottom which sound close enough. Note that Phil Wickham's band probably has a keyboard player using some crazy complex Ableton + Omnisphere stuff, so you may not get perfectly close to his sound, but you can get plenty close for worship. I made a separate "Lead" patch for the leads. I initially played these on the keyboard in church, but I found the lead patch I made to be too much like a bell, so instead I started playing the leads with my electric guitar. However, the lead patch, if you hold down the MOD button, can play some of the "spinning" sounding stabs or pings you hear on the recording.
This weekend I also got help from DuderinoSaurusRex
on Reddit to build a harp patch. I had been working on the
sound of a harp for a while, but I could never get close.
This patch sounds a
tiny bit like a harp you'd hear in a video game, but it is
beautiful and works well for church (the recording is live, and
the pianist is playing the same notes with me). To get
something that sounds perfectly like a harp you'd either need to
spend a lot of money or get yourself a real harp.
Today I figured out that I can play a G pad
on "O Come To The Altar" during the entire chorus because all
the chords have a G note in them. So what I mean is I play
two G notes on the keyboard (an octave) and press KEY HOLD and
go back to playing guitar. That way I can continue playing
my guitar. I don't recommend this if you are mainly a
keyboard player, mainly because you will be changing
chords. Also, I don't recommend keeping pads running
during an entire song because that could end up clashing at some
Today I called Roland tech support and
asked a few questions about my System-1. First, does velocity on
an external MIDI controller trigger vibrato, as some online rags
have suggested? The answer from the tech was "I'll go plug one
in and try it, then I'll call you back." That's absolutely
awesome of them, by the way!
Second, I asked, does an external MIDI controller "take over" the keys on the System-1 or do the native keys still work?
He called me back 10 minutes later. First, he said he plugged it into a MIDI controller and velocity did not trigger vibrato or mod or anything: it functions identical to any other synth, in that velocity changes dynamics (sound level). Win, win.
Second, he reported that the external MIDI controller did not "take over" the keys of the System-1. I could hear him playing the very distinguishable factory presets of the System-1 (that one bank of 8 it ships with). So in essence if I wanted to be cheap and get a 2 octave MIDI controller and plug it into the System-1, I could do that and have four octaves (if I set the MIDI controller two octaves down, obviously).
So in theory, if you want a cheap synth with a full size keyboard, you could go the System-1 + controller route. It would be cheaper than a System-8 (but have fewer features, etc).
My experience today with Roland tech support was absolutely fantastic!
Today I got a few more clips of the System-1
in church. One of these is of the bells lead in the song
Every Praise; one is using the unmodified SY_ORGANIC (organ) Roland patch during
the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy; and the other is of PD_DEEP_PAD, my favorite factory pad,
during Build My Life.
Today I spent some time trying to emulate some of the keyboard/synth sounds of White Heart's song Montana Sky. The airy pads at the beginning can be done using Roland's factory preset PD NOISE PAD with the CROSS MOD, OSC 2 COLOR, and SUB OSC knobs all the way down. Then this patch, I call "Montana Sky", is for the second keyboard that comes in half way into the introduction. Enjoy!
Today I borrowed a friend's M-Audio
KeyStation 61 MIDI controller because I wanted to plug it into
the Roland System-1 and test some of the things I've read in
passing on various internet groups.
First, once I plugged everything in correctly, the System-1 worked (without configuration) with this MIDI controller. So the System-1 is definitely easy to use with MIDI controllers, at least this one.
Second, the System-1 detected key velocity from this MIDI controller and flawlessly interpreted it as change in dynamics (loud notes versus soft ones, etc). I had read some random things on the internet saying that the System-1 incorrectly interpreted velocity as modulation. That is not true. I didn't even need to configure it: it's like suddenly I had a larger keyboard with velocity sensitivity!
Third, the mod wheel worked without needing configuration. But unlike the MOD button on the System-1, moving the mod wheel only a little bit only added a little modulation (usually, as pitch vibrato), and the level of modulation increased as I moved the mod wheel. It's almost like there's this hidden full-fledged synthesizer beneath the System-1's housing that is just begging to be plugged into a full size MIDI controller!
For some reason, this controller didn't seem to respond correctly to octave +/- keys, but I had enough keys that I really didn't need to use them. But this seems to be the controller's fault, not the System-1.
Polyphony didn't change: I still had only four note polyphony to use.
Overall, I was very impressed by how the System-1 responded properly to plugging a MIDI controller into it. The things I read on the internet were completely unfounded. Maybe it was the MIDI controller they were using.
It's almost like there's half of a System-8 buried inside this System-1. And given what people have said about the System-1 and System-8's shared architecture, I think those who suggest the System-8 has two System-1 engines in it are probably right.
Today I had quite a bit of fun in church,
and several of my patches were a bit more pronounced. Our
church has been working on the mix, and I can see the fruits of
that labor. First, we performed Hear The
Call Of The Kingdom and I was asked to play using the
modified BS_ORGAN_BS patch, which I named "BEE 3". Here's a clip of
how it sounded in the mix. My patch isn't one of those
complex Hammond B3 simulations, but it works for this song.
Then we dissolved into a rendition of the hymn Where He Leads Me. You can hear the PD_DEEP_PAD Roland factory preset a lot better. This preset is so awesome, it almost completely justifies buying a System-1!
Today I discovered that, when using the
System-1 as a MIDI controller, the System-1 transmits every note
you press. This means 4 voice polyphony doesn't change its
ability to fully transmit all 25 keys over MIDI, if you want to.
Note that FL Studio does not have a dedicated MIDI controller driver for it. You'd have to map any knobs.
By the way, I wanted to drop a review for the Roland Cloud. This service is absolutely worth every penny! It works great!
01/28/20 Ask And Ye Shall Receive
So I recently asked Roland to send me some stickers. I told them I'd offer them "free advertising." They delivered, so I put the stickers on my car and my laptop (because I'll be running Concerto from my laptop for an upcoming gig).
So in the midst of staying mostly at home
due to the Corona virus scare, I thought about my philosophy on
using the Pro Mars PLUG-OUT. I realized that I mostly
selected this PLUG-OUT because of the Timpani patch Roland
provided for it. So I set about synthesizing my own
Timpani patch for the System-1, so that I was less dependent
upon the Pro Mars PLUG-OUT. Here is the result. I
basically "copied" the Pro Mars sound and then fine-tuned it
while listening to sounds of real Timpani drums on
YouTube. This is what I came up with. As usual,
click on the icon to see the image in full screen.