Yamaha RX7 Digital Rhythm Programmer

Yamaha RX7 Digital Rhythm Programmer
Yamaha RX7 Digital Rhythm Programmer

Yesterday I picked up a “MINT” condition Yamaha RX7 Digital Rhythm Programmer for cheap from a used music store here in Nagano-city, JAPAN. It came with the original adapter and manual. The Yamaha RX7 was absolutely in perfect condition so I couldn’t pass it up. I was originally thinking of picking up an RX5 if I ever found one, but then settled on the RX7 and I’m glad I did. The RX5 is great with the individual outputs, individual mixer, and additional sound cards, but ultimately the Yamaha RX7 will work just as good. I currently have the Yamaha DX7 MKI and DX7IID. The RX7 Drum Machine obviously goes very well with those two synths and it’s fun to create retro 80’s jams now. I actually grew up in the 80’s so not only is it very nostalgic for me, but it’s also satisfying to be able to pick up a lot of this gear in great shape for a great price.

The Yamaha RX7 drum sounds are actually very good with respect to capturing that 80’s sound obviously. It blends nicely with the DX7 sounds and I find it very easy as well to program. Sound Quest also has a software editor for the Yamaha RX7 that can be used to tweak the settings which I find to be very useful. The RX7 can also take RAM4 cards like the DX7IID so any modifications can be saved. Some people complain about the lack of memory, but honestly it’s pretty easy to dump data to and from the computer. Plus for me I usually work mainly in pattern mode rather than song mode. Thus I have plenty of patterns and space to work with. I tend to change up my keyboard grooves over a handful drum patterns rather than program a unique pattern for every single keyboard groove. I also have a tendency to use drum machine patterns as a sort of metronome for practicing complex keyboard parts, so the Yamaha RX7 memory is more than sufficient for that.

The Vintage Yamaha RX7 drum machine is a fun “large” device that works well for creating any sort of drum pattern for practicing your grooves with. If you like the FM digital sound and are a fan of 80’s music like I am, then the Yamaha RX7 will surely fit nicely into your nostalgic music rig. Indeed you likely can get sampled sounds and use a sampler, but the ease of use with programming your own beats and the cheap price tag, make the Yamaha RX7 hard to beat. It’s is a rather large box, but once you find a place to put it, then it’s actually quite nice to have the larger buttons. You can also midi this up to anything and work with the sounds via midi.

Fun with the Roland Sh-01 Gaia

Roland SH-01 Gaia Synthesizer
Roland SH-01 Gaia Synthesizer

A little over a month ago I picked up a brand new Roland SH-01 Gaia Synthesizer at Shimamura Music Store in Nagano City Japan.  It was the very first model they received and the owner whom I know well was kind enough to hold it for me.  Why did I buy it and what do I think?  Here are some initial thoughts.


1.  The Sh-01 is compact, lightweight, sleek, and battery powered which means it will be the synth I pack with me to my daughter’s dance and skating events.  I can sit on the bleachers and jam away for a couple of hours.

2.  You can save all your work on a USB stick plugged into the back of the unit.  Data can be transferred to and from the computer.  This is great.

3.  There are knobs and sliders for everything on this synth.  Much like my Juno-6 and Juno-106, I’ll be able to adjust all the needed parameters three fold!

4.  The three tone layers are fantastic.  I can layer motion sounds over static synth pads and then even have a third layer for additional elements over that.  Getting a nice thick and layered sound should be easy.

5.  The on board effects are outstanding thus far, especially the Bit Crusher effect which I use quite a bit.  There are reports that Chorus is missing, but I should be able to create that by other means.

6.  The sound DOES live up to the hype.  It’s a great sounding synth which is why I’ll definitely be keeping it despite the many CONS written below.

7.  Has an audio Ext In which is great for attaching my iPod with backtracks and audio tutorials.

8.  The D-Beam Controller is surprisingly good and usable on the Gaia.  I really like it so far, especially when use with effects.

9.  Easy to shift the keys down an octave or two, so having only 37 keys is not that bad.  The keys are full size and great by the way.  You can definitely “run” fast when soloing.


1.  The SH-01 is Polyphonic BUT not multitimbral.  This sucks in that I really wish I had at least two to split sounds with.

2.  There is no way to split the keyboard probably due to point #1 above.

3.  You cannot create user arpeggios or save them as there are no user slots.

4.  You can create and save real time phrases using the built-in recorder, BUT, once you change the patch, the sound in the phrase changes too.  This really sucks because it means you can’t layer a solo over a background patch.

5.  USB storage capacity is fixed which means you can’t go any higher than 1GB.  This is ok, but you would think it would be possible for more, but nope!

6.  Roland still has not released the CB-37SY case for this synth yet.  They’re late!!  I have one on order at Shimamura but no word yet on it’s release.

7.  No software available for the Roland SH-01 Gaia yet.  Is there one in the works?  Not sure, but I think a librarian will be needed with how easy it is to create new sounds on the Gaia.

8.  Some might not like that fact that the board is only 37 keys.  See my “Pro” point #9 though.

9.  Despite the nice feel and sound, I do think Roland over priced this unit a little bit.

Overall, I am happy I purchased the Roland SH-01 Gaia.  It is hard to get one where I live and not many appear to be arriving in stores.  I would like to see Roland support it more with software, extra sounds, and perhaps some additional sound creation tutorials.  In the end though, I am very happy with the board for the main reason of being able to carry it around and playing it while on the go.  Ultimately, the Roland SH-01 Gaia makes for an excellent synth to create new sounds, but also as a lead solo synth on top of your other gear.

Glimpse Underneath

A Glimpse Underneath captures a different perspective of a lantern in Japan. I often shoot lanterns because they are so fascinating, but I all too often get bored with them as well. So I like to try and photograph lanterns in different ways as much as possible. This was actually a difficult shot to do with regards to framing and keeping my camera still. The location was a bit tricky but I thought it turned out as planned.

Glimpse Underneath

Midori Japan

A nice chilled out HipHop track set to a collection of photographs that fall under the theme category of “green” here in Nagano City, Japan. One of the things I often do in photography is to shoot with a specific theme in mind. This could be a color, object, motion, texture, etc. I find shooting for specific colors to be a joy and especially in collecting the photographs over time. Most of the photographs taken in this collection were photographed sometime in the summer or late Spring. I hope you enjoy they slideshow as much as I have enjoyed photographing the scenes within. By the way, “Midori” means “Green” in Japanese. “A Midori Summer in Japan” is by Jim Atwood Photography at http://jimatwood.net.

More Jim Atwood Photograhy videos can be found on my Youtube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/jimatwood