Roland S-50 Sampling Tips and Tricks

Roland S-50 Tips and Tricks
Roland S-50 Tips and Tricks

I have been working with my newly rejuvenated Roland S-50 sampler lately and thought I would create an article here about things I’ve encountered while sampling. These may or may not be tips or techniques of a special nature, but they may help those in trying to figure out a good workflow when using the Roland S-50 Sampler. I’ll start by writing some random thoughts about my experiences thus far with Sampling on the S-50. Please comment if you have any tips or experiences of your own that may be of use for either practice or in thought.

Lately, I have been skipping the WAV import using the computer directly to the Roland S-50. I find this to be time consuming and there doesn’t seem to be any software that works all that great. What works for me is to use one of my old Roland SP-808 samplers to store “one shot” sounds of various analog synths. For example, I have one 100MB Zip disk divided in banks with MOOG sounds. Each bank is title something like A-B-F#-G# where each letter represents a row of SP-808 pads with MOOG one shot key samples. This helps me to set the correct root key on the S-50. I then run the SP-808 out to the input of the S-50 and record direct. You could use virtually any sampler, but I have found my trusty old SP-808 to work well. Of course I have to use the WAV converter for the SP-808 to initially store samples, but then I can really fast play a pad and record onto the S-50. Note I don’t wish to tether a computer to the S-50 at this time.

Another thing I do a lot is record with 15kHz instead of 30. Beside getting more sampling time, I find the sound difference to be minimal quite frankly. This allows me to record lots of samples into the S-50 no problem. Of course I can use 30kHz or vary the sample lengths but I have found lowering the frequency to be very helpful. Also, since I mainly record one shots I don’t have to worry about looping or recording longer samples that much.

I usually set the gain and rec level as high as possible. When I dedicate my SP-808 to the S-50 I can keep all the volume settings the same which allows me to keep the samples similar in volume. I then just pop out the zip disk run to the computer and load more samples for recording if need be. I also find I like to record and create construction kits on the S-50. Thus I may have a series of zip disks categorized by drums, basses, guitars, synths, etc and then record the instruments I want to use for a particular construction kit or song. Basically I prefer S-50 disks to contain construction kits and my SP-808 zip disks to contain specific instruments. I find it takes me about 30 minutes to fully sample a new construction kit for creating a new song. I then save that kit onto a floppy disk for later use if needed.

I have found setting loop points on the S-50 to be rather difficult. I do find the auto loop function can work pretty well at times, but it’s often time consuming to bang out perfect loops so I mainly use the S-50 for one shots and then use the envelopes for tweaking. I first figure out whether a song instrument will require a long decay or not and then sample accordingly. If my Moog sound will be short and staccato like then I’ll sample 0.4 or 0.8 (x2 @15) and then just play my bass line. If I require a long decay I’ll simply record at .8 or 1.6 (x2 @15 ) instead of looping the sound. I have found that looping the end of a sound can also lower the tone or quality of the main sample for some reason. Thus if I don’t tamper with the sample and just play it, the sound is awesome. I do like to layer or use envelopes which works very well.

Sometimes I get the message “Not Execute” which took me a while to figure out that I was either missing a parameter under record or had an incorrect value. I found my sampling time was most often written incorrectly. If you get this error it simply means “carefully” check your entered values and correct the one that is not right.

All in all, I find sampling directly to the Roland S-50 to be rather painless and quite fun. If you sample to create a song construction kit then likely you’ll be able to enjoy the S-50 right away after you finished sampling your initial samples for the song. You can then quickly create your patches and then use Director-S to record the song. Then save the song and sound kit onto an S-50 disk and you can later use it for other songs. As mentioned I also find using an external sampler for storing samples to be very useful. You can then just hit record on the S-50 and press a pad on your external sampler with tons of samples available at your fingertips. On the computer I find myself “thinking” in terms of construction kits rather than filling up an S-50 disk with MOOG bass samples. It then becomes a fun and a rewarding challenge to use that sample construction kit to create a song.

I remember back in the day people having contests where a each person would have a floppy with the same construction kit on it. They then had a month to create a song and then everyone would vote on the song they liked. That used to be really fun because it put the song writing back into music rather than nowadays where people seem to want massive sample collections. The Roland S-50 is limited by today’s standard samplers, but I personally find these limitations inspire me more to create and play songs. The Roland S-50 “can” have plenty of polyphony and memory if you accept the limitations and just get down to writing a song with what you have. The old cliche “Simple is Best” can be true sometimes.

Soon I’ll be creating some videos based on constructions kits that I sampled for the S-50 and how I use these to create fun songs or sketchpad ideas. The Roland S-50 sounds fantastic and is really fun to play. I also find that any sound I sample into the Roland S-50, I can easily convert to any other format such as the S-550, S-330, W-30, or S-760. That’s not always the case the other way around.

Stay tuned for more thoughts and updates as I dive deeper into the Roland S-50.

Sexual Healing TR-808 drum pattern – by SynthManiaDotCom

Sexual Healing TR-808 drum pattern - by SynthManiaDotCom
Sexual Healing TR-808 drum pattern - by SynthManiaDotCom

Sexual Healing TR-808 drum pattern – by SynthManiaDotCom

This is a GREAT transcription of the “Sexual Healing” Tr-808 drum groove done by Paolo at SynthManiaDotCom. I thought I would post it here in case anybody is interested in this pattern. Paolo also created a video and it’s pretty much spot on. Fanstatsic!

A tutorial on how to recreate the Roland TR-808 two-measure pattern from the classic hit “Sexual Healing”, by Marvin Gaye

It would be wonderful to own a Roland TR-808 by the way!

Here you go, friend. I originally programmed my TR-808 by ear listening to the song, so I can’t guarantee that it’s 100% (this pattern is so awkward and can play tricks on your mind, and also the heavy ’80s reverb and loud volume of the clap makes it harder to discern the single instruments) but it should be fairly accurate. I will also make a YouTube video with the step-by-step programming of the 808 since I’ve wanted to do it for a long time.

Yamaha SPX900 Digital Multi Effects Processor

Yamaha SPX900 Digital Multi Effects Processor
Yamaha SPX900 Digital Multi Effects Processor

Last week I found a mint condition Yamaha SPX900 Digital Multi Effects Processor. These effect processors are extremely difficult to find in Japan. The Japanese love guitar effects and so when you see one of these you really need to make a quick decision because it likely will be gone shortly thereafter.

Recently I also picked up a vintage Yamaha FX-900 and really fell in love with it. I’ve heard the Yamaha SPX-900 is similar but also different. I use these Multi Effect Processors mainly for keyboards and vocals, but of course they work well with guitar too. It is quite true that the effects in the Yamaha SPX900 are all outstanding with the exception of the distortion effect. Everyone I heard claims it really sucks and I must agree, however, for synths it’s useable. With that said, I also must admit I am new to the SPX900 and to get a decent distortion it’s likely with tweaking you can achieve this.

The Reverbs, Delays, Chorus, and Symphonic sounds are all fantastic. I also like the Freeze effect and all the different types of detailed reverbs you can get. There are many patches with multi effects and they are all very useable and quite good. The multi effects with distortion may require you to “turn off” the distortion part, but all in my opinion or very good especially with synths. As I mentioned the stock distortion may require lots of tweaking or replacement with an external effect. The distortion in the Yamaha FX-900 is much better to me in comparison.

A lot of old vintage synthesizers and keyboards do not have built in effects. I like picking up these old vintage processors because they really add a lot of spice and help to rejuvenate the sounds of these old synths. I remember pulling my Yamaha DX-7 into the Yamaha FX-900 and WOW! What a difference effects make on the DX-7. Effect processors are also very useful when using with the old Roland S-Series Samplers because I usually sample dry to conserve memory. You can then use the SPX900 to add effects and take the sound to another level. It’s great.

Here is a video found on Youtube showing different shots of the Yamaha SPX-900. Unfortunately there is no sound demo here but it’s a nice basic description nonetheless.

Roland S-760 Sampler with OP-760-1 Video Output and MU-1 Mouse

Roland OP-760-1 and MU-1 Mouse
Roland OP-760-1 and MU-1 Mouse

Last weekend I struck GOLD finding “two” mint condition Roland S-760 samplers for $20 each! One of the Roland S-760 samplers had the Roland OP-S760-1 Video Output expansion board installed. When I walked up to the counter to purchase the two S-760 Samplers, the sales clerk went into the back room and came out with a plastic package. Inside were two original Roland OS V2.0 disks, power cords, manuals, and a mint condition Roland MU-1 Mouse!! I couldn’t believe it. The ever elusive MSX MU-1 Mouse was a part of the package. I had been looking for this Roland Mouse for ages and never could find one. I currently own a Roland S-50, S330, and W30 but always had trouble finding a MU-1 compatible mouse that had a “reasonable” price tag on it. So for $40 bucks I found two Roland S-760 samplers and all the goodies included. It was obvious the sales staff had no idea about how much accessories can run for these old vintage Roland Samplers. I brought home the Samplers, plugged them in, and they both worked beautifully. The Roland MU-1 mouse was a dream to use and if you don’t have one already, they are extremely useful.

About a month ago, I bought a used Sotec computer in Japan with Windows XP SP2 installed. The Sotec computer had an S-Video and regular RCA Video input jack in the back. I was able to easily connect the Roland S-330, S50, or S-760 to the computer and get a really nice looking display of what’s going on inside these samplers. Attached is a video found on Youtube of another gentleman doing something similar with the Roland S-760. The catch though is that you need the Roland MU-1 mouse to really navigate more easily through the menus. Plus the Roland S-760 does not have the Video Output or the Mouse Jack without the OP-760-1 expansion board installed. The Roland S-330 and S-50 have it by default but you still kind of need the mouse for easier navigation.

I also picked up an old casio portable analog LCD TV that had video-S and regular video connections. Portable analog LCD TVs are very cheap in Japan since they converted 100% to digital in 2011. Now is a great time to find and buy these TVs as many are dumping them in used stores. They work great for small portable screens that can be connected to these samplers. They are just big and clear enough to view the data perfectly. Plus they are rechargeable and easy to carry with you or put in a gig bag. I use one especially for the Roland S-50 and it’s awesome.

The Roland S-series samplers are really fun to work with despite some of their drawbacks. Finding that MU-1 mouse was huge for me because it now makes working with these samplers on computers much easier. I’m now on the lookout for a Roland DT-100 and RC-100 controller. I also have the Roland S-330 SYS-333 Director-S software, but am in need of the Roland S-50 SYS-503 Director-S. If anyone out there has one they’d like to sell, please contact me. I’d be very interested in buying it if possible. Thanks! I also may pick up a Roland S-550 one of these days if I ever find one in Japan.

Korg Wavedrum Mini cheap in Japan

Korg Wavedrum Mini
Korg Wavedrum Mini

Today I along with the Michael Schenker signature I found posted in an earlier article, I picked up a used Korg Wavedrum Mini for really cheap … $100 bucks! The only thing missing was the adapter but it looks like a standard Korg DC9V so it shouldn’t be a problem finding one around here. This is the third Wavedrum Mini I’ve seen for that price at used music stores here in Nagano-city, Japan. I am not sure why people are giving them up and why they are going for so cheap but I thought it would be kind of cool to work with so I picked one up.

My thought is to initially use the Korg Wavedrum Mini along with the Boss RC-300 loop station as a way to create grooves on the Wavedrum and then record onto the RC-300. I could then save the loops onto the computer from the RC-300 since the Wavedrum mini will not allow you to save patterns. Loop recording these days is pretty good so you can create whatever you want on the Wavedrum Mini and dump it onto a sampler quite fast and easily. You also can’t edit the sounds but you can add effects and you can also vary the sound with how you play a little bit too.

The Korg Wavedrum mini is still new and I’m sure when I think outside the box a little more it will be quite cool to keep hopefully. I also thought the Korg Wavedrum mini would be a good addition to the drum set I already have as well. Another nice thing about the Wavedrum is that it takes batteries so you can create patterns on the go. You will need to bring some sort of portable sampling device to record your newly created loop patterns, but that shouldn’t be too difficult to find with the current sampler gadgets out there. I actually have a Boss Micro BR recorder that would work well most likely and is very small. With the Boss RC-300 Loop station or something equivalent, I think the Korg Wavedrum mini will work very well. Currently I’m developing a music school in Nagano, Japan and the Korg Wavedrum mini I’m sure would work well in that environment. There are lots of possibilities.

Here’s a promo video from Korg which talks about the sensor clip, sounds, effects, rhythm patterns, overdubbing, and looper.