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
January 7, 2011 @ 8:35 am
I have a Roland GR-500 hardly ever played on, i might sell it if the price is ok .
Darryl Ebbatson
July 22, 2010 @ 6:35 pm
I bought one a few years ago - always wanted one after hearing 'The Bells' by Lou Reed! - It tracks really well and sounds totally unique! - The guitar weighs a ton but well worth the effort! - One of those things I will never sell!
Eelco van Vliet
June 23, 2010 @ 8:15 am
You can see it in action on "Its gonna get better" from genesis. Check out the live show from the genesis album, mike is atually using it on stage.
Jenko Nashorn
May 27, 2010 @ 7:47 am
I've seen a Norwegian Roland ad from around 1977 with Terje Rypdal playing one of these, too.
Steven Clements
February 3, 2010 @ 10:40 am
I just bought a GR-500 and GS-500 last night. It took me about 15 minutes to get an understanding of the system but then it was pure bliss, very cool very fun. I'll fire it up again tonight and start listening to the beast with some added effects.

The tracking is quite good almost as good as my GR-300 with the Ibanez XING IMG2010.

fun fun
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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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