Roland GR-500

Roland GR-500 Image

Thanks to Roland, guitars and synthesizers have had a long working relationship together. The GR-500 is a vintage guitar controlled synthesizer - before there was MIDI too! It was the first synth of this kind that Roland had ever produced, back in 1977. The synthesizer module itself was a simple analog affair with Bass, Solo Synth, and String sounds based on previous Orchestral and analog mono-synths from Roland. There are plenty of sliders to adjust the VCO, VCF, VCA, and LFO sections, but no memory to store your edits.

The synth module is controlled by a "highly modified" guitar. Notice all those knobs on the guitar pictured above. It utilized a special pickup system that connected to the synth module via Roland's own 24-pin interface and controlled it using CV/GATE signals generated by the guitar's pickup system while playing the guitar. In addition to the modified pickup, there were magnets under the face of the guitar that could increase its sustain. Performance accuracy was "iffy" but good for 1977 and pre-MIDI. As a piece of guitar-synth history, the GR-500 makes an excellent collectors item and may come in handy for the occasional growl or a strummed analog sound effect. It has been used by Tangerine Dream, Mike Rutherford of Genesis and Alex Lifeson of Rush.

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22 Visitor comments
April 29, 2014 @ 7:20 am
The 24-pin connector is not wired the same way. And probably there is some controls that will not be able to use if ever you think to convert the GK-1 cable that connects to the GR500. Wayne Joness might help you to see if there is a possibility somehow.

The other thing that might be interesting is about adding INPUT CV/GATE ports on the GR500. But this is more complex to do that only technicians can think of.
March 18, 2014 @ 11:33 am
Hey, since I have a GR 500, and since I find the guitar controller way too expensive, I was looking for an alternate option: can you use the GR 500 with the Roland GK-1 Synthesizer Driver + pickup?
March 14, 2014 @ 2:53 am
So w/o the controller, it's basically useless? Can you hook up a standard guitar & get anything out of it?
Herr Mats
January 5, 2014 @ 2:07 pm
There is an extremely rare external box called the PC-50 for the GR-500. It lets you save 3 settings plus the one you're currently editing. I did bid for one in a Japanese on-line auction a couple of years ago but i had to give in at $1000.
Terry McNiven
October 3, 2013 @ 9:11 am
I have a near mint GS 500 guitar controller , I am looking to buy the GR 500 synth unit . To complete my set up
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  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Memory - None
  • Filter - Resonant Low pass
  • Effects - None
  • Arpeg/Seq - None
  • Keyboard - None
  • Control - CV/GATE - Roland 24-pin interface to modified guitar/pickup system
  • Date Produced - 1977
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from a Roland brochure.

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