Roland GR-1 FAQ

Started by Headless68, April 15, 2015, 02:23:09 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


There is no GR1 section in the 'GR' bit of the forum (admins)

This was on midi guitar yahoo group
New GR1 web site - looks really good - loved my GR1

More info here:

The GR-1 user manual can be downloaded here

The GR-1 can also send patch change midi to an external MFX too.

Tony Raven

I must be getting old: the search engine is defying me today. :(

What does the "Expanded" version add to the GR-1?




The GR-1 has 200 built-in waveforms and another 200 are available via the SR-GR1-01 expansion board, which comes with the PN-GR1-01 memory card.

SR-GR1-01 Expansion Board manual

Tony Raven

Surprising amount of info stored up thanks to someone in a band named LLAMA (1986-1994)... though I've not yet found anything like an index.
I tripped over this while scrounging about for info on the U-110; thus far I've found pages for the U family, JX-10/MKS-70, & Alpha Juno family (with a few tips that will help me keep the JU-2 alive).

Found a thorough listing of the GR-1 expansion-board's tones, & those that arrived on a companion Sound Library ROM card (which I must say I'd never seen before) --

Tony Raven

This is the only time I have ever spotted a document titled The Roland GR-1 Application Guide

Though not the standard format, it apears to be a Roland US product (LA CA address). Was this just a different (earlier?) version of the Owner's Manual? or a distinct guide?

Digging (with multiple search engines) gets me exactly TWO hits. Therefore, ANY first-hand info vastly increases the extant fund of online knowledge!

(If the item being sold were an Expanded... or lower-priced... or included a GK-3 or EV-5 or something, I'd snag it just to look at the book.)


Those were popular back in the late 1980's - mid 1990's

Roland UK used to have a FTP link to all those

Might try

Tony Raven

Good thought! Yah, secondary sources are next on the list.

Rather than begin another thread, here's some close-related thoughts --

Was there a manual issued for the Expanded version?

Was there an official Guide sheet or something for the expansion kit?
UPDATE... A-hah -- answered THAT one by rephrasing the search. Here's the Expansion Kit one-sheet:

Tony Raven

Someone at the Suono Elettronico was kind enough to input -- in English, yet -- what appears to be the helpful hints from the Quick Start.

Another site offers up the Factory Reset procedure as well as the GR-1's specs.

One cavil from me, though. We're told that
QuoteThe pitch tracking circuitry in the GR-1 is the same as those used in the GR-09, GR-50, GM-70, and GI-10 and note response will be at the same speed as in those units.
but in digging through, I found
QuoteTracking Speed Comparison

The GI-10 has identical tracking to the GR-1/GR-09/GR-50/GM-70. However, 2 extra parameters were added to the GI-10 that allow for some improved MIDI response:

1. Thin Pitch Bend data - When playing pitch bends on the guitar, several thousand messages are sent out the MIDI out. These messages can slow down the MIDI stream and cause problems. This function thins pitch bend data and therefore speeds up the transfer.

2. Attack Noise Filter - When playing a guitar near the bridge, a high pitched noise is produced. This noise can be misinterpreted by a guitar synth to be high pitched notes.

This noise filter takes away this noise before the pitch detection circuit to allow for more accurate tone detection.
so while latency may be the same, improved response might give the impression of reduced delay.
{AUGH -- sorry, meant "tracking" sted "latency," but the first pot of coffee is wearing off.}


Great info.  The GR-1 was my first synth.  I used to gig with it all the time.  Then one day it started to smell funny when I used it, kind of like fried fish, really.  It finally quit.  When I called Roland they said that they could not get parts for the GR-1 and recommended that I buy something newer.  I sent it to a repair facility in Texas and they too, after much money spent, could not fix it.  I told them to keep it and bought another GR-1 from ebay.  Five minutes after I turned on that GR-1 it too started to emit a strange fishy odor.  I unplugged it and never tried to use it again.  Wasted cash.  Went out and bought a GR-33, which I still use from time to time, but mostly use a GR-55 with a recent addition of the GP-10.  I never could figure out what was burning in the GR-1s.  I guess these things were never designed to last forever.


Like most digital electronic gear that sits unused for years,  the electrolytic capacitors in the power supply that dry up  - cease to function and then allow AC current where it does not belong and it smokes

In all modern electronic devices , there is a well known phenomena of the bulk electrolytic caps in the power supply drying out and cease functioning after 10 years. This is the main reason old camcorders die.

A good tech can diagnose a fault in the power supplies -  but good luck finding one in 2015!


Would powering up old unused gear, like my roland mc-300 sequencer, help to keep the caps from drying out?


Yes - it helps to turn them on once every year - as opposed to just sitting in a box non powered and unused for 10 years.

But if you keep your gear  in a hot tin shed - that will shorten the life significantly.


I already felt pretty old, my GR-1 was not my first Roland guitar synth and I did own a VG-8 for a while; I even bought the switch that controls the two. I'm only chiming in here because my GR-1 is slowly dying. I saw that someone mentioned Roland has no parts for the GR-1. I didn't realize how incredibly old this unit is. I recorded with it in 1993-4 and played live quite a bit.
However, these days, when I turn it on, it sometimes takes a while to output both guitar and synth sounds.
Long story short, I landed here because I am hoping to take delivery on a GR-55 this coming week. As someone who has been playing the GR-1 for decades, I'm expecting a huge difference in the GR-55. One major thing I've always wanted was assignable stuff in patches instead of only sys (like hold modes, etc) which seems to have happened in the GR-55. There were over 20 years between the GR-1 and the GR-55, so I expect a night and day difference!

Dams, good thing I saw the 13-pin reference recently or I wouldn't have known!
Hopeful GR-55 convert from GR-1
Twitter @randulo
Medium @randulo

Tony Raven

The biggest fail on the GR-1 seems to be the driver coil for the display -- when it's dead, the only choice is to scavenge from another GR-1. (Kinda like the Commodore 64's power supply -- wow, does THAT thought date me.)

Grain of salt, but maybe there's some similarity to older Roland synths. I was told that common causes for them to fail are (1) dirty membrane switches & (2) aged electrolytic capacitors. It's possible that your problems are something so simple as a failing cap in your power supply.



I got lucky and located a gently used GR-1 with Expansion Memory Board $137

Package arrived , open the box and I see it also included a J.L.Cooper Nexus Plus 2x8 MIDI Merger


The GR-1 Guitar Synthesizer puts synthesis within reach of any guitarist in a compact floor design with a wide variety of sounds created by guitarists for guitarists. Simply install the GK-2A pickup on the guitar of your choosing and attach it to the appropriate ports and start playing the sounds of tomorrow.

200 PCM tones, expandable to 400 with optional expansion board

Digital reverb, delay, chorus and flanging

Four-part multitimbral via MIDI / 2000 note internal sequencer

GK-2A Divided Pickup mounts on virtually any steel-string guitar

The Roland GR-1 is the guitarist's guitar synthesizer. The user-friendly, floor-module design with lightning-fast tracking allows performers to take advantage of the 200 CD-quality sounds – designed exclusively for guitarists. The onboard digital reverb and chorus add the professional touch whether playing live or using the 2,000 note sequencer.

Technical Specifications
Type: Digital
Synthesis: ROM
Oscillators: 2
ROM Resolution: 16 bit, 44.1 kHz
Osc Modulation: Continuous Controller, Envelope, Glide / Portamento, Knob, LFO, Pedal, Sequencer, Velocity
Envelopes: 1
Evelope Paramerters: Attack, Decay, Sustain, Hold, Release
Filters: 1
Types: Low Pass, Resonance
Filter Modulation: Envelope, LFO, Pedal, Sequencer
LFO: 1
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 24
Modes: Mono, Polyphonic, Split
Patches RAM: 64
Patches ROM: 64
Storage: Internal, RAM Cartridge, ROM Cartridge
Editing: MIDI
+Chorus, Flanging, Delay Reverb
+4 part sequencer
+2,000 events
Case: Pedal
Keyboard: Plastic
Controls: Velocity, Buttons, Knobs, Mod - Wheel 2, Modulation 1/4" Jacks, Modulation 1/8" Jacks, Pedal - Control, Pedal - Filter, Pedal - Sustain, Pedal - Volume, Sequencer
Display Type: Vacuum Fluorescent
Dimensions (WxDxH): 426 x 290 x 70 mm
Weight: 3.2 kg
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Mono Out, Stereo Main, Stereo Headphone
Audio Output Count: 5
CV Ports: CV IN
Power: DC 9v
Year Released: 1992
Used By
Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew
Manuals & Documents


QuoteIf I can discover what the GR1 needs from the FTP and what the FTP cannot output, it looks like it could be what is needed in a real-time PC-less rig.

Read the Roland GR-1 OWNERS  Manual with the MIDI Implementation in the rear

Hint  - Download the PDF and many PDF Reader apps  ( Adobe Acrobat Standard)
have "OCR (Optical Character Recognition) Translation" tool - which aids in allowing text searches within the old image scanned Roland manual PDF files.

PAGE  6-12 " Using the GR-1 as an Expansion Module for an External MIDI Device 

PAGE 6-22 - LOCAL Control =OFF MODE

PAGE 9-29 Complete GR-1 MIDI Implementation

And Every GR-1 owner needs the

Roland GR-1 Service Manual

ALSO the internal GR-1 memory relies on a CR-2032 Coin cell Battery which Must be renewed every 10 years - else many data error problems


If anyone needs to scavenge a GR-1 part, reach out to me. I used to do in-store demos for them while in music school, and I still have three of them, all working. I still use the old granddaddy from time to time, but the others I kept around for parts, if needed.
"By the time I learned I couldn't tune a guitar very well, I was too rich to care." -Chet Atkins



Custom Multi‑Bank RAM Cards
This amazing custom multi‑bank RAM card is made in Germany. It's the equivalent of having 16 Roland M‑256 RAM cards on one device. It has switches on top so you can easily choose between the 16 different banks. There's no battery and everything is stored on an MRAM chip. The cool thing is that this card works on my GR‑1 and also works on other synths I own like the U‑20, JV‑880 and D‑110. It has a lengthy compatibility list including the Roland A‑90, D‑5, D‑50, D‑550, D‑10, D‑110, D‑70, JD‑800, JD‑990, JV‑1000, JV‑1080, JV‑2080, GR‑50, PM‑16, TR‑626, R‑880 (GC‑8), R‑8M, Akai MX‑1000, VX600 and others. The ability to move this card between different synths is convenient and a real money saver


There are two RAM card models to choose from: M‑256 or M‑512. Both RAM card models will work exactly the same. However, using the M‑512 Card is overkill because the extra memory on the card is not accessed by the GR‑1 (and most other Roland synths). Your best bang for the buck it to get the M‑256 RAM card model which will give you the equivalent of 16 Roland M‑256 RAM cards, not 8 Roland M‑512 RAM cards. I was on a wait list for more than a year but it looks like production has ramped up again. I received mine at the beginning of 2021

For the DIY crowd, there are some interesting modifications discussed in the User Manual to emulate PCM ROM cards or increase the bank sizes anywhere from 16 x 256Kbit, 8 x 512Kbit, 4 x 1Mbit, 2 x 2Mbit or 1 x 4Mbit simply by adding some solder bridges. More specs and ordering info is available at the Saga Musix website

          U-20_HOMEPAGE Custom Multi-Bank RAM Cards From Germany  (External Web Link)


Update - January 2022: Fantastic News! The designer of this multi-bank RAM card has released the BOM and schematics into the DIY community for free. KiCAD PCB and Gerber files are available at github -or- you can oder PCB's from OSH Park and build your own now for half the price of a brand new card