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
Keith Krause
August 11, 2011 @ 10:25 am
I have a GR 500 in need of some restoration. I'm less concerned about money than I am about seeing the instrument go to someone who would appreciate and be able to work with it. If anybody is interested or know someone who would be pleqse contact me at:
July 18, 2011 @ 11:58 am
"Is it possible to play it with keyboard?" It runs off of standard CV so you should be able too. It has CV gate and trigger outputs.
Mats Jonason
May 7, 2011 @ 9:16 pm
There actually is a 3 "patch" memory "floorboard" called the PC-50 that was available for the GR-500. You could save 3 presets and have a fourth sound in manual mode. It is extremly rare and fetches crazy prices. I actually bid on one for my GS/GR 500 last year but had to give at roughly 1000 usd.
April 15, 2011 @ 7:45 am
Is it possible to play it with keyboard?
Hed Dedwards
April 9, 2011 @ 2:05 am
Analog joy - can be beautiful and/or strange. Do not trust children with it. Its string pads, vocal bass and piercing leads can cause irreparable harm to the ozone layer. Do not trust it to talentless impatient animals. Roland was years and years ahead of other guitar synth makers. It has infinite sustain on all strings! Separate envelopes for VCA and VCF and six voice polyphonic... there was nothing else like it for years. Be careful if you buy one because many were damaged by fools with soldering irons.
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  • 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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