OT - Roland Midi Guitar pickups

Hi guys,

OT but thought some of you may have some experience to share…

I was at my parents yesterday and dug out my old Roland GR-1 midi guitar synth module and thought I’d muck around with it and see if I could get it working to use to sequence midi as an alternative to my keyboard (I play guitar well, keyboard very badly)

Only problem was I couldn’t find the GK-2 pickup… (can’t remember if it was the GK-2 or GK-2A)…

Reason it has been gatheing dust was that I could never get it to track very well before and was always getting incorrent or extra notes being recorded in the midi track.
I though I’d see if I could get it working with bit more effort and possibly a different guitar…

Now my dilemna is … do I keep trying to find the GK-2 pickup or I noticed on the Roland site there is now a GK-3 pickup.

Anyone had any experience with these and know if they are significant;y better than the GK-2’s?


IMHO, it is not nearly as important the pickup as the midi converter and the playing. You have to be very distinct on the playing and you can’t fudge much. And with 13 pin to midi conversion, you need a good piece of hardware. If you can afford it, the Yamaha G50 rocks. If you can’t I do recommend trying to find a copy of the owners manual (maybe online?) and read the playing tips.


Will the Yamaha G50 track any better than the Roland GR1?

Once you have it set up properly, like night and day. Yamaha has made some good strides in the conversion dept.

But, correct me if I am wrong, didn’t they borrow some technology from Axon?

Don’t know. shrugs

One trick that worked for me was to replace the 3 lowest strings with strings pitched an octave higher and then use the transpose function to drop them back down an octave. It feels a bit weird under your fingers but the tracking improves so much (it tracks higher notes better than low ones)

unless, of course, you want to actually use your guitar for a guitar, and not just a midi input device. :)

I am a newbie to midi guitar and I have only been playing my GR-20 with the GK-3 for two days, but I am not having any real tracking problems. If I don’t play clean I will get some extraneous squawks and chirps, especially with saxophones, but if I play clean I get the note I want. I am no speed demon though. I am not playing 1/32 notes at 140 bpm. I am playing a Strat copy with 10’s and pretty low action.

By tracking problems do you guys mean getting a Bb when you hit an A and stuff like that? Or totally wrong octave?


JeffM - can you pitch shift each string separately before it gets converted to midi?

If not if you play the bottom E how do you differnetiate that from the E 1 octave higher (2nd fret D string)? when you got to transpose it?


Well I haven’t played my GR-1 for about 8 or 10 years (I think… been so long can’t really remember)

The reason being I never got it set up properly the first time round.

Now I need to find the pickup to try again…

The problems I had (from memory) were wrong notes being triggered, extra notes being triggered and lag between playing and where the midi note appeared in the sequencer.

Some people reckon they can get the GR-1 tracking fine though. So I think I may not have had the pickup setup properly or the guitar may have not been suitable

That’s why I want to try again… Will try Peavey start copy and then if that is no good might try it on my Wolfgang (don’t really want to put any double sided tape or anything on the Wolfgang though…)



The GR-20 lets you set the sensitivity of each string. You hit the “sens” button, and then hit a string, and it gives you a number. You turn a knob until a strong stroke of the pick goes all the way to the top of the led’s. Then you move to another string and set that one. This really helps with the tracking. It may be that it is not the pickup so much as the processing that makes it track better.



Yeah, it can. Again, a lot depends on the quality of the equipment and how you have it set up. If you don’t have the pickup placed right, or the equipment settings set up to fit your playing style, your music will sound like a cross between an awnry, overeager child banging on an Ensoniq keyboard and a very drunk coldplay. shudders


Thanks Stringer.
I remember adjusting the sensitivity way back when.
I think I may have had the action a little low on the guitar I had it on and that may have resulted in other tones being generated…

I just gotta find the bl**dy pickup so I can hook the thing back up!!


Quote (RichLum @ Feb. 21 2005,20:03)
JeffM - can you pitch shift each string separately before it gets converted to midi?

If not if you play the bottom E how do you differnetiate that from the E 1 octave higher (2nd fret D string)? when you got to transpose it?


Rich - I guess it depends on what hardware you are using to do the conversion (the GK pickup on its own doesn't send out MIDI) but on my ancient GR-50, you can adjust the pitch of each string separately (you can even simulate open tunings). I'm sure that later hardware will also allow this. The pickup sends out a different signal from each string so the hardware knows which string you are playing which is why it doesn't get confused by the same note played on different strings. You can even have split patches where each string triggers a different synth sound. Most of the built-in sounds are pretty hopeless so I just use mine as a MIDI converter. To answer the question raised elsewhere - I use a dedicated guitar as my MIDI controller - an old Fender Musicman (I have been told that the shorter scale length can help the tracking but don't know if that's true - I used the guitar because it was cheap!!!). As someone else said, the sensitivity can be adjusted for each string and this is an important part of the setup process. I mostly use the MIDI guitar for inputing chord sequences (I've never really mastered keyboard chords).

I found using velcro or double sided tape frustrating as small changes in the pickup position can make huge changes in the response. I finally took one strat and cut away a section of the pickguard to make a place for the pickup to nestle near the bridge. I then screwed it in place using some hardware I had laying around from an old GVox (allows me to remove the pickup using thumbscrews). I’m sure some standard screws and washers would serve just as well to secure the pickup and adjust the position.

If I ever want, I can take it all off and replace the pick guard to cover the two additional screw holes.


“By tracking problems do you guys mean getting a Bb when you hit an A” No, the tracking problems are what you experience Stringer. Other problems used to be with bass notes…there used to be a noticable delay.

Nergle, most, if not all, of the current crop of guitar synths do have pitch bend and can do slurs.

One thing they do lack is REAL programming unless you have it patched to a dedicated synth via MIDI.

I have the old GR700, a real dinosaur. It does have bending but does not send out bend info via MIDI.