ROLAND
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ROLAND
Instruments previously built in Japan by Fuji Gen Gakki between the late 1970s and the mid-1980s. Distributed in the U.S. by Roland Musical Instruments in Los Angeles, CA.
The Roland company was founded in Japan, and has been one of the premier synthesizer builders since its inception in 1974. By 1977, the company began experimenting with guitar synthesis. Traditionally, synthesizers have been linked with keyboards as their key mechanism is easier to adapt to trigger the synthesized voice. As synthesizers continued to evolve, the keys provided more information (i.e. how hard the key was struck, held, or released - just like a piano).
In 1977, Roland introduced the world's first guitar synthesizer that included a guitar controller and a separate guitar synthesizer. The first series, produced between 1977 and 1980, included the GS-500 guitar controller and the GR-500 guitar synthesizer. This system featured a Les Paul-style guitar with numerous knobs and switches, and the synthesizer utilized sounds from the then-current Roland keyboard synths.
In 1980, Roland introduced their second series of guitar synthesizers, which were a huge improvement on the first series. The guitar controllers were designed to look and act more like regular guitars, the synthesizer boxes were designed to be used like a pedal on the floor, and the units responded better. The actual series was expanded as well to include several guitar models and two bass models. The second series was produced between 1980 and 1984.
In late 1983, Roland introduced their third and last series of guitar synthesizers. Unlike the first two series, these guitars featured totally unique designs with a stabilizer bar that ran parallel to the bass side of the neck connecting the body and the headstock. According to Roland literature, these guitars were designed to the basics of "synthesizing by guitar." These are definitely the most eye-catching and popular Roland guitars today, and they bring the most in the used marketplace. Unfortunately for Roland, the synthesizer "craze" had died down by the mid-1980s and these guitars were only produced until 1986.
All of Roland's guitar synthesizer's featured a standard 1/4 in. jack for regular output and Roland's proprietary 24-pin cable that connected it the guitar to the synthesizer unit. Keep in mind that this bulky 24-pin cable is necessary to use the synthesizer features and is very hard to find today as nobody produces replacement cables. The complaint of nearly all musician's was that they liked the idea of a guitar synthesizer, but they wanted to use their own guitar. Also, the guitar controller and synthesizer were very expensive as the G-707 controller and GR-700 synthesizer cost nearly $3,000 in 1984! Several other guitar manufacturers during the mid-1980s took note of the synthesizer craze and they made some of their own models with technology that could drive the Roland synthesizer units. Gibson offered a Les Paul and Explorer with synthesizer drivers and Hamer, Modulus, Pedulla, Steinberger, Aria, and Zion all offered one as well.
In 1989, Roland introduced the industry standard 13-pin cable that was much smaller and managable than the 24-pin. At the same time, they introduced the GK-1 and GK-2 synth drivers that could be installed on other guitars. In the mid-1990s, Fender introduced a Stratocaster with Roland's GK-2 synth driver and it is still currently produced today. Since the discontinuation of Roland's guitar synthesizers in 1986, the company has continued to move forward with the technology. They currently produce a wide array of products including keyboards, guitar amplifiers, electronic drum sets, guitar effects pedals, and several other synthesizer products. For more information, visit Roland's website or contact them directly (see Trademark Index).

From Blue Book Publications:


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