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Clearing up the Roland “MIDI” guitar / synth / modeling confusion.


We seem to encounter a good deal of ongoing confusion about Roland’s guitar synthesizers, in particular the hex pickup (GK2A), and how it relates to other products, including some of Roland’s more recent modeling products. Here’s a brief overview.

The Roland GK-2A pickup is NOT a MIDI pickup. It simply contains six humbucking pickups – one per string.

A Guitar with a GK-2A or a “GK Ready” 13-pin output equipped guitar is NOT a MIDI guitar.

Any guitar with a 13-pin output (Godin, Brian Moore, Fender, Ibanez, etc.) is NOT a MIDI guitar. They are “GK ready” guitars. Meaning they can be used with GR-33s, VG-88s, VGA-7s, and other 13-pin compatible products. There have been some guitars made over the years with actual MIDI outputs (meaning they had to convert the signal to MIDI in the guitar), but for the most part they haven’t worked that well or been very popular. They cannot be used with modeling products like Roland’s VG-8s, VG-88s, VGA-7s, etc.

The GR-33 guitar synthesizer converts the GK-2A’s analog output to MIDI. Remember the GR-33 makes it MIDI, not the GK-2A. In the old days (older products) this conversion was somewhat slow, but it has dramatically improved over time. When you hear people refer to “triggering time,” they are talking about the speed with which the pitch of the string is converted to MIDI data or a data format that can trigger a synthesizer. When you listen to the output of the GR-33 synthesizer you are hearing sample based synthesis triggered directly by what you are playing/triggering on the “GK ready” guitar.

The VG-8/88 and VGA-7 are modeling products and require no type of conversion to use the output of the GK-2A or any GK ready instrument. This means there is NO triggering and there is no MIDI note data. The VG’s use the output of the GK-2A and then filter any harmonics other than the fundamental frequency. The VG’s then use Roland’s C.O.S.M. Modeling to construct various guitar sounds, alternate tunings, amplifiers, speakers, effects, etc. based on the actual string sound coming from the instrument. When you listen to the output of the VG-88 & VGA-7 you are hearing COSM Modeling applied to the output from the GK-2A pickup. There is NO conversion to MIDI. Consequently it is actually possible for different guitars to sound slightly different in terms of the modeling features due to inherent differences in their sound, and how it reacts with the specific modeling being applied. In most instances, however, these differences are very subtle.

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