Roland GR-1 Guitar Synthesizer

How the GR-1 Is Structured

The GR-1 guitar synthesizer/MIDI controller contains both a Performance Module and a Multi-timbral Module. You should note that both of these modules can be used simultaneously, making it a unique tool for sequencing.

The Performance Module works purely as a polyphonic synth (no Multi-timbral capabilities). This Module is really meant for live performance and employs Roland's analog pitch-to-MIDI conversion technology (more about this later). The Multi-timbral Module is four part Multi-timbral with part 4 dedicated to drums. The total polyphony of the synthesizer is 24 voices. The GR-1 has a Partial Reserve option allowing the user to define how many voices each Part will use, including the Performance Module.

The Multi-timbral Module's default channel assignments are 2, 3 and 4 for Parts 1 -3 respectively, and channel 10 for the Drum Part. The Performance Module uses a basic channel (11 by default) plus the next 5 channels to follow. Most guitar controllers operate using a separate channel for each string (Mono Mode). The Performance Module assigns the Basic channel (11) to the first string and claims the next 5 channels for each of the following strings respectively, (i.e. second string is ch.12, third string is ch.13 etc.)

GR-1 Default Channel Layout

Channels 11-16, Guitar Performance Module (Basic channel 11 and the remaining strings on 12-16 in Mono Mode).

Channels 2-4, Multi-timbral Module parts 1-3.

Channel 10, Drum part.

Setting Up The GR-1

Proper Installation of the GK-2/GK-2A Pickup

The GK-2/GK-2A pickup can be installed on a wide variety of guitars, but there are a few guitars it won't work on:

Proper installation of the GK-2/GK-2A pickup is essential to make the GR-1 work properly. Consult the GK-2/GK-2A manual for instructions on how to install the pickup.

Importance of Proper Tuning

Roland lets you minimize the inherent glitches by adjusting the converter's string sensitivity and the hex pickup height. The string sensitivity setting is accessed by pushing the System button on the front panel and entering the Sensitivity menu. Consult the GR-1 manual for instructions when setting the pickup height. Additionally, there is an on-board tuner in the GR-1. The proper instrument tuning is important in order to achieve accurate controller tracking and pitch-to-MIDI conversion. Make sure your instrument is in good playing condition (action is set properly and frets are in good shape).

Setting the Bend Range

The Bend Range is the maximum amount of pitch bending produced on the sound module by MIDI Pitch Bend messages. It must be set to match the maximum Pitch Bend range on the receiving sound module for best results.

For some sounds you want to turn pitch bend off (Piano, horns, percussion, etc.)

Difference Between Poly Mode and Mono Mode

In Poly Mode, the GR-1 transmits all of the notes over just one MIDI channel. The downside is that you can only send a controller message on one string at a time. Poly Mode is the preferred mode when recording the Multi-timbral Module parts.

In Mono Mode, the GR-1 can transmit on separate MIDI channels for each string, and you can do very guitar-like things, like unison bends, slides, vibrato, etc. Mono Mode is the preferred mode when recording the Performance Module parts.

Local Control On or Off?

Cakewalk will record exactly what arrives at the MIDI In port. With the Local control set to Off, the GR-1 is your average guitar controller, exhibiting the usual idiosyncrasies. Additionally, the Patches and Tones will not be triggered locally or rather internally, but will be triggered via MIDI by echoing the data back with Cakewalk's Auto Thru feature (Auto Thru mapping). The real point is that with its Local control Off, the GR-1 exhibits the usual glitches and delays associated with guitar controllers. However, you will hear exactly what's arriving at the sequencer's MIDI In port.

With the Local control set to On, the GR-1 uses analog pitch-to-MIDI conversion technology, making the triggering faster. However, this isn't what is transmitted at the MIDI Out port. In reality, the data being transmitted (yes it transmits MIDI data with the Local On) will more than likely contain the usual glitches (excess data) and delays, only now with it set to On you can't hear them. The preferred way to sequence is with the Local control set to Off. This way if the data contains glitches, you can adjust your playing technique or adjust the converter's sensitivity and know how much of an editing job is in store for you.

Setting Up the GR-1 for Sequencing

Make sure Local Control is OFF, and that your guitar is tuned (very important). Adjust "Transmit Bend Range" to fit the parts you are recording.

Configuring Cakewalk for Use With the GR-1

Assign Instruments

In the Settings | Instruments section, assign the GR-1 to the designated port and channels. If you use the default GR-1 channels, and the GR-1 is connected to port 1 on your MIDI interface, then it should look like this:

Port/Channel: Uses Instrument:

1: <Your interface> /1 <Any instrument>

1: <Your interface> /2 Roland GR-1 Multi Module

1: <Your interface> /3 Roland GR-1 Multi Module

1: <Your interface> /4 Roland GR-1 Multi Module

1: <Your interface> /5 <Any instrument>

1: <Your interface> /6 <Any instrument>

1: <Your interface> /7 <Any instrument>

1: <Your interface> /8 <Any instrument>

1: <Your interface> /9 <Any instrument>

1: <Your interface> /10 Roland GR-1 Drumset

1: <Your interface> /11 Roland GR-1 Guitar Module

1: <Your interface> /12 Roland GR-1 Guitar Module

1: <Your interface> /13 Roland GR-1 Guitar Module

1: <Your interface> /14 Roland GR-1 Guitar Module

1: <Your interface> /15 Roland GR-1 Guitar Module

1: <Your interface> /16 Roland GR-1 Guitar Module

Note: If you don't see the Roland GR-1 Instrument Definition, click on the Define Instruments button. Next, click on Import, and select the SRC.INS file. You should now see a list of many instruments. Select all of the Roland GR-1 instruments, and click OK.

Setting Up a Template for the GR-1

It can be a real time-saver to create a Cakewalk Template for the GR-1. The template can include Track/Channel assignments, Channel Table information, Patches, Sysx, etc.

Next, you should set up the Channel Table (Cakewalk Professional only) as discussed in the Use Of The Channel Table section of this document. To save the file as a template, go to File | Save As, and set the Save File as Type option to Template (.TPL). Give the template a name, and press OK. The next time you want to sequence with the GR-1, you can just open the template and start recording right away.

Note: You only have to set up tracks/channels 11-16 if you use Cakewalk Professional and the Channel Table. Those tracks are only used when using the Channel Table.

Use of the Channel Table (Cakewalk Professional Only)

When you record the Performance part, you might want to have each channel on a separate track. This might be useful if you want to adjust the timing of each "string" individually, to compensate for the different pitch-to-MIDI delay of each string.

To enable the Channel Table, go to Settings | Channel Table. For this example, we will map channel 11 to track 11, channel 12 to track 12, and so on. Any channels that are not in use are mapped to a high track number, to avoid accidentally recording over a recorded track.

You only want to enable the Channel Table when recording the Performance Module parts, not the Multi Module parts. When you are finished recording the Performance Module, it's important to disable the Channel Table.

Using Auto Thru with a "Dummy" Channel

Considering that the GR-1's two modules can be used simultaneously, Cakewalk's Auto Thru feature assumes an important role when sequencing. If Cakewalk's MIDI Thru is set to Auto, the incoming MIDI data is echoed back on the MIDI channel assigned to the current track (Auto Thru mapping).

If we use the template in this document as an example, you would go to track 5 in Cakewalk when recording the Performance/Guitar Module parts, but leave the channel parameter unassigned (dash -- in the Chn column). In the absence of a channel assignment, Cakewalk will echo out MIDI data on the original transmission channel(s), in this case channels 11-16 simultaneously. Keep this in mind when using the GR-1 in Mono mode.

At playback, leave track 5's channel unassigned. This will ensure that Cakewalk transmits the track's MIDI data, using its original channel parameter(s), to the GR-1 Performance Module. These channel parameters reflect the data's original transmission channel(s) and are actually part of the MIDI data stream.

Recording Multi Module Parts

A Multi-timbral part consists of one of 200 tones (400 if you have the SR-GR1-01 expansion board). When recording a Multi-timbral part, the GR-1 should be in Poly Mode. Again, set the desired "Transmit Bend Range". Select a track that is set up for a Multi-timbral part, and start recording.

Recording Performance Module Parts

The Performance Module (Channel 11-16) lets you record guitar-like performances, such as slides, bends, vibrato, etc. The Performance Module uses the Patches in the GR-1, as opposed to just one tone. A patch can use one or two tones, and can be edited. Set the Transmit Bend Range to 24 for the most realism. When recording the Performance Module part, the GR-1 should be in Mono Mode. An important thing to remember when recording the Performance Module is that you don't assign a channel in the track you are recording to in Cakewalk. The reason for this is that if you assign a channel, Cakewalk will only receive information transmitted over that specific channel. If you leave a dash (--) in the channel column, Cakewalk will record from all channels being transmitted. Since we want to record channels 11-16 simultaneously, we only leave a dash in the channel column. This will put all six channels (11-16) on one track. If you want each string/channel to be on a separate track, you have to use the Channel Table. Go to Settings | Channel Table, and select "Enable Mapping for Recording". This splits out each channel to a seperate track for you. Use the Channel Table only when you are recording the Performance Module part, and disable it when you are done recording. In either case, use track 5 for recording the Performance Module part (when using this template). You should now be able to record successfully with the GR-1.

Using Sysx with the GR-1

Adding A Line To The TTSSEQ.INI File

You can modify the [Options] section of the TTSSEQ.INI file from the Windows Notepad, or from the Settings | Initialization Files section in Cakewalk. Every time you add or change a line in TTSSEQ.INI, you have to restart Cakewalk for the change to take effect.

The following is a description of the various TTSSEQ.INI parameters:

TTSSEQ.INI Parameters

The GR-1 will have problems receiving System Exclusive messages from Cakewalk unless you add the following line to the [Options] section of the TTSSEQ.INI file:


If you are still having problems sending Sysx to the GR-1, you can try adding the following lines to the TTSSEQ.INI file also:


This setting causes Cakewalk to delay <n> milliseconds if it encounters an F7 in a System Exclusive bank.

n = 60 Default value (in milliseconds)


System Exclusive bytes are transmitted in packets, with a 1/18 second delay between each packet. Setting this value smaller will help slower synthesizers avoid overflowing their internal buffers. This line sets the number of bytes between each Sysx transmit delay.

n = 1024 Default value (in bytes)

Note: You will have to restart Cakewalk for any changes to take effect.


Instrument Definition Doesn't Include the Expansion Board

The Roland GR-1 Instrument Definition that comes with Cakewalk does not include the SR-GR1-01 expansion board. If you have the expansion board, you can modify the current Instrument Definition (by adding banks), or create a new one from scratch. Consult your Cakewalk manual for instructions on how to create an Instrument Definition.

Note: A GR-1 Instrument Definition that includes the expansion board can be downloaded from CompuServe (type GO MIDIAVEN, and select Library 3). The name of the file is GR-101.INS.

The GR-1 Can't Receive Sysx From Cakewalk

In order to send Sysx successfully to the GR-1, you have to add the following line to the [Options] section of the TTSSEQ.INI file:


Note: You will have to restart Cakewalk for this change to take effect.

Read the Using Sysx With The GR-1 section of this document for more information.

Back to index of technical articles.

Last Updated Tuesday, November 17, 1998

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