Early this week I found a used Roland GM-70 Midi Converter and GK-1 Kit sitting on the shelf labeled as “junk” in a nearby used music store. The GM-70 is just like the one in the attached photo along with the GK-1 synth pickup. The guy at the store said he didn’t know if it would work which is why they priced the GM-70 and GK-1 together for $30 bucks. I’ve seen the Roland GM-70 on Ebay sell for a much higher price and I’ve also only seen the GK-1 a few times. Also, in addition to the GK-1 24-pin cable, another regular 24-pin cable on each end came with the setup so for the $30 price tag I figured it was a pretty good deal.
Currently on my Fender Strat I have a GK2a pickup that runs into a GR-33 or GI-20. When I was younger I started out as a guitar player and then eventually moved over into keyboards. Thus I have a fascination for synth guitars although I find it lately to be much easier to simply use the keyboard to play in the parts. I kind of wanted the GM-70 because I often see Roland G-707 guitar controllers in Japan but they require the 24-pin cables. I now have a GK-1 with a 24-pin cable attached and a regular 24-pin cable that could be used to attach a Roland G-707 to the Roland GM-70. This would be kind of cool provided I find another G-707 shortly.
I was able to attached the GK-1 pickup right in front of the GK-2a pickup which surprisingly they both fit nicely together on my Fender Strat. I didn’t have to fiddle with the string height very much at all. I then stuck the GK-1 on the back of the Strat and then connected the mini guitar cable from the GK-1 to the Guitar output jack. The Roland GM-70 supposedly was marketing along with the Roland GP-8 effects processor which I also have so I was able to connect them both. The Roland GM-70 started right up beautifully and for testing purposes I midi’d up the GM-70 to a second Yamaha TX81z FM Tone Generator. Right away I was able to get sounds and the tracking was about 90% right on. With some minor adjustments to the volume screws and adjusting the strings a tiny bit more I was able to get some pretty good results mainly with synth oriented sounds and pads. Some sounds are just not meant for synth guitars but most sounds I test on the TX81z were pretty good.
So like most used gear I find here in Japan, the Roland GM-70 and GK-1 pickup worked fantastic. Yes it’s older technology and a tad bit slower on the Midi, but again to me it all depends on the synth voice you are using and how you are using the guitar synth. For those not familiar with playing a guitar synth, you have to find common ground between playing like a guitar player, keyboard player, and coming up with a new picking style. With limited experience I have with guitar synths I was able to get some decent results that could be improved greatly with additional practice. The 24-pin GK-1 cable worked great and I’m sure the regular 24-pin cable I can use with a Roland G-707 will work just as good.
I don’t play guitar synths all that much to be honest, but for the price of this hard to find old gear, I felt it would be nice to have in case I did want to fiddle with guitar synths more. Of course there is quite a bit of newer technology around that likely works much better, but it’s also pretty expensive for stuff that I find still exhibits the same issues like tracking and funky notes being heard. If I think about it, I think I actually found myself fiddling less with the Roland GM-70 and GK-1 than I usually do with the GI-20 and GR-33. I won’t go so far as to say which unit is better, but I will say that the Roland GM-70 and GK-1 setup is still a decent solution for anyone wishing to experiment with Guitar Synth Technology. Just try not to think too much like a guitar or keyboard player. You need to create your own style and that to me is the fun part of guitar synthesizers. Enjoy!
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