Roland Juno-106 Beyond Effective Range

Roland Juno-106 – “Beyond Effective Range” Vocal – Retro 80’s Groove.

Had a lot of fun working with the AKai S3000XL this evening. I used Propellerhead’s Recycle to slice up a vocal phrase and send it directly via SCSI to the S3000XL. I have an old Windows 98 computer that that is connected to the AKAI S3000XL which is also connected to an MO drive. The Roland Fantom XF is controlling the S3000XL which I’m playing on the lower part of they keyboard. Everything in the video is improvised including the sequenced parts and drums which were put together this evening.

In the video I’m playing live:
Roland Juno-106 – Synth Lead ( Right Hand )
AKAI S3000XL Sampler ( Left Hand )

Roland MC-909 Sequenced:
Synth 1 – Roland D-550
Synth 2 – Roland MKS-50
Synth 3 – Roland SH-101

Drums were loop recorded with the Boss RC-300 Loop Station.

Akai S3000XL Sampler
Akai S3000XL Sampler

Korg Polysix Synthesizer Madness!

I’ve really come to enjoy the Korg Polysix Synthesizer. It’s such a joy to use each day and the attention it requires is amazing. I’m not sure why, but if I let the Polysix sit without playing it for more than a couple of days, strange things seem to happen inside the machine. It’s funny, I don’t even keep the cover screwed down anymore because I’m constantly lifting up the hood and cleaning something. The Polysix kind of reminds me of the daily repairs on my old VW Bug during my University days. That actually was a very trusty vehicle probably because I knew it inside and out. I feel the same with the Korg Polysix. I sometimes see double with the LEDS on the front panel. Occasionally a key triggers a few times too many, but sometimes it sounds kind of cool. Everyone so often, I also get a glitch or two which seems to be triggered by what I don’t know…laugh.

What’s interesting is that if I lift the hood and rub some alcohol cleaner around the circuits ( With the Polysix unplugged of course ), it then fires up on all cylinders just fine. It’s probably the cleanest Polysix I know of. I have another Polysix to the right which actually works perfectly yet, I keep migrating to this particular one which is older in serial number. For some reason it just seems to have quite a bit of character. I know a lot of people who get those KIWI mods, but I’m not quite ready to spend more than what I paid for this Polysix for the upgrade. The Korg Polysix sends me into madness sometimes but it can also transport me into another realm of sweet music and fun. I just love the modulation you can get out of the Polysix. I think the video posted above illustrates pretty well the effort in trying to tame the mighty machine and keep it running.

I feel extremely fortunate to not just have one, but two Korg Polysix synthesizers. However, the one in this video is special to me. I don’t know if I’ll ever sell it primarily because I have this strange feeling it won’t ever work again the minute somebody else turns it on. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of cars in my life and they’ve gotten nicer since my VW bug days. Yet, it’s that VW bug that I remember the most. The bond we had working together to get back home safely in the wee hours of the morning after a night at the club was amazing. The bug always came through for me just like this trusty, but mad, old Korg Polysix. Cherish those struggles in life I say, as they are the very things that define us.

Have a great weekend and happy jamming!

Note about the video: All tracks were looped with the Boss RC-300. I toggle between several patches on the Korg Polysix itself. I use a drum machine for the drum midi’d to the Boss RC-300.

Korg Polysix Synthesizer
Korg Polysix Synthesizer

Yamaha CS-10 Phat Synthbass Fun!

Yamaha CS-10 Synthesizer
Yamaha CS-10 Synthesizer

This week is Obon week in Japan which is a national holiday week for folks to come home and visit relatives. I noticed in the used music shops that more gear is coming through the door so it’s likely that people have free time to pawn their gear. Today I found a mint condition Yamaha CS-10 with case and two manuals for $150. One manual looks like a sound creation manual and the other is titled “Yamaha Rock Keyboard School” written in Japanese of course. Since getting the Roland SH-01 last month I have grown fond of these dynamic monophonic synthesizers of the past. The Roland SH-01 has been a blast to play with and I equally but differently had fun playing with the Yamaha CS-10 in the store.

One of the things right away that I liked about the Yamaha CS-10 was that it was built very solid and the keys were exceptional. I also found the knobs easy to turn and everything was laid out very nicely. Sound wise, the Yamaha CS-10 is phat “enough” that when you add effects such as delay, chorus, or other that it will fatten up nicely to expectations for sure. My thinnest analog synthesizer at the moment to my ears is my Korg Poly-61 which doesn’t mean it’s bad at all but with effects it’s awesome. The Yamaha CS-10 sounds different than the Sh-01 for sure but different is what I want when I have two kinds of similar synths. Seriously though, I don’t wish to compare the Yamaha CS-10 to anything that I already have because just having a different synth is one of my main goals of course.

The main features of the Yamaha CS-10 that I really like are first the LFO SPEED and LFO MOD functions. You can get some great grooves going that with a skilled player can allow you to create some nice arps and bass lines. Note that the CS-10 does not have an arpeggiator but the LFO does nicely as an alternative for those wishing to get some automation out of the synth. If you couple the LFO with the “Hold” function you can add to that experience very well. The LFO can be switched to either “Saw-tooth” or “Sine” waves which both are very musical. I prefer the Saw-tooth wave for that punchy arp synthbass sound ala 1980’s synthpop.

I also really happen to like the “Portamento” slider which is very smooth and glides really well. I tend to use the third notch from the bottom to give it a nice bit of character to basslines. The bass grooves come alive and flow well. Anything higher than that will create more unexpected portamento results which are also good if you like that much unpredictability. Next to the Portamento is the Pitch Bend which is actually a slider and not the more popular wheel or joystick on other synths. While I prefer a wheel or joystick like on my Roland SH-01, the fact that it’s different on the CS-10 provides for additional creative uses. The pitch bend is not as smooth or I should say it’s harder to move in a fast smooth fashion, but if you slide it from the bottom up it creates some fantastic synth rise sounds.

Another great feature on the Yamaha CS-10 is the Mixer which combines the EXT in and NOISE functions of the synth. Adding a touch of noise really creates character and there are some great ways to modify the sound here. I haven’t experimented with the EXTERNAL INPUT yet, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about it.

So far I haven’t experienced any tuning issues or scratchy pots. The Cutoff and Resonance are all good. The Time x5 button is cool and seems to “phatten” up the sound a bit more as does the PWM button and knob. As I mentioned the three octave keyboard is excellent and the overall size of the Yamaha CS-10 is quite small so you can stick it pretty much anywhere in your setup.

I’ve heard pretty consistent “good” reviews about the Yamaha CS-10 and the CS line as whole. Of course there are some more popular models out there such as the Yamaha CS15, CS30, and CS80, but like with all my gear I buy it if I see it and only if it’s a bargain price which granted is pretty easy in Japan. So far I have not seen a CS15, CS30, or CS80 around my neighborhood. The Yamaha CS-10 however is a nice “basic” synth that will work great particularly with analog synthpop basslines from the 70’s and early 80’s that I’m particularly fond of.

As I’ve said before, it’s amazing the quality, condition, and prices of vintage music gear you can find in Japan. You just never know what you’ll find next when you walk into the doors of these used music shops scattered along the countryside of Japan. Have a great week!

Boss RE-20 Space Echo Synthesizer Effect

Boss RE-20 Analog Syn Effects
Boss RE-20 Analog Syn Effects

I recently picked up a used Boss RE-20 Space Echo for my analog synthesizers. I spent quite a bit of time researching this twin effect pedal and finally decided to give it a try. I actually quite like it so far when used with my Korg Poly-61, Roland Juno 106, and other synths. the reverb is very usable and the delay/echo is excellent. I particularly like how the effect trails when playing which is one of the main reasons I bought it. You can also change synth patches and the trails will continue and not get cutoff.

I usually have my analog synths on an Ultimate Stand and I found that I could easily velcro the Boss RE-20 near the top of the stand propped up above my top synth. The knobs are tilted perfectly so I can tweak while playing any of the synths. I must say that the Boss RE-20 sounds really warm. I usually set the reverb in the low 25% range and up the bass a bit. You can also back off on the treble which can fatten things up a little bit. This pedal effect really enhances my analog synths tremendously and when bypassed I hardly notice that much tone loss. I know there is some, but I don’t really hear it that much.

The reverb I suppose can be tinny with a lot used, BUT, this can work well depending on what patch you are using in your synth. I also like the tape nuances in the pedal and the echo really compliments nicely with sounds from my Korg and Roland synths. After reading mostly excellent reviews of the Boss RE-20, I felt it would work nicely with my analog synths adding some delay, reverb, and a bit of extra flavor that the Boss RE-20 provides. I also like the input volume and the distortion you get when cranked which is pretty cool on some gritty synth patches. I feel there is much more to learn about this pedal and I’m happy with the purchase. It’s definitely a lot of fun and like others have mentioned, it does sound nice with analog synthesizers for sure.

Note that the Boss RE-20 is not an analog effect, rather I use it on analog synthesizers. The Boss RE-20 is all digital, but sounds very warm with my analog synths. It’s actually quite a popular twin pedal for analog synth enthusiasts and for the dub crowd which I recently discovered. I’m not particularly into Dub Music, but it’s pretty useful for that genre. The Boss RE-20 is also popular among guitar players of course and I’ve even heard vocalists us it for creating a unique sound for their voice. You can use this for Dub vocals too.