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Friday 5 June 2015

Sounds and Patches from the Album "Roots and Leaves"

This article provides some information about the setup, sounds and patches that I used to record the album Roots and Leaves with the @-quartet.

General Setup

This album was recorded with my usual gear at the time: a Fractal Audio Axe FX II, a Roland GR-55, and this pedalboard for remote MIDI control. I used 4 different guitars: a Godin LGX-SA, a Godin Freeway-SA, a Godin ACS-SA and a Godin Multiac Nylon Fretless SA.

The album was recorded without any amplification. The Axe FX II was plugged directly into the console, and I used various amps and cabs simulations to get a realistic guitar sound. Note that this is also what I do on gigs nowadays (I don't use actual amplifiers anymore). Either there is stage amplification, in which case I plug my equipment into the mixer, or I use a couple of Matrix Q12a FRFR active monitors.

The GR-55 was used on several tunes for synth or COSM sounds only. I would be silly to use it for guitar sounds when you own an Axe FX II anyway! However, note that the GR-55 was not recorded separately from the Axe. It was plugged into the Axe's effects loop. This has two advantages: first, you get far better effects from the Axe, so even the synth sounds can benefit from those, and second, when mixing natural guitar and synth sounds (especially on lead and improvised parts), the whole output is much more coherent, as if a single source actually produced the sound in question. This, however, has an important consequence for those of you who will download the GR-55 patches provided below: all these sounds are "dry", meaning no leaking effects such as delays or reverbs. These are all generated by the Axe. There may be a slight chorus effect here and there, but that's basically it.

Sounds and Patches

Here are the Axe and GR-55 patches that I used on the album. Note that these patches won't necessarily work out of the box for you. Many parameters are dynamically controlled via MIDI. This includes Axe FX scene and effects selection, tempo, volume control, GR-55 PCM tone activation etc. The resulting sound also depends heavily on your input volume and the kind of guitar / pickup you use, not to mention the obligatory tweaks that took place in the studio. In general I find it silly to release patches without all that information, so I will try to be exhaustive. Also, for more details on my guitars, strings and picks, see this page.

Old Times and Monday Morning

  • Axe FX Patch
  • Godin LGX-SA, neck pickup, humbucker position

This is a Scofield-like sound with a slight overdrive (scene 4) or a more important distortion (scene 5). Amp setting is Y.


This one is based on the one above, with the addition of a GR-55 synth sound plugged into the Axe's effects loop.

Vert de Blues

  • Axe FX Patch
  • Godin LGX-SA, neck pickup, humbucker position

This is a very dark and dry, Metheny-like sound. Picture the Metheny / Holland / Haynes trio rather than the PMG. Very acoustic, not much reverb.

Coconette and Hints, Tips, Tricks'n Cheats

  • Axe FX Patch
  • Godin ACS-SA, flat EQ (Coconette)
  • Godin Multiac Nylon Fretless, flat EQ (Hints, Tips, Tricks'n Cheats)

This is a sound suited to acoustic nylon guitars, with very little processing.

Petite Mort

  • Axe FX Patch
  • Godin ACS-SA, flat EQ, for the first theme
  • Godin LGX-SA, neck pickup, humbucker position, for the chorus and the final theme

This is a double patch actually, since I use two different guitars on this song. It merges the acoustic nylon sound above with a Metheny-like, warm Jazz sound (think PMG this time). This is also a nice example of how to use scenes for making two very different patches in one.

Minor Nuisance and YYAB

This sound is in the vein of Metheny's mix of natural and GR-300 narrow sound. The natural sound is close to the dark Jazz one, and the GR-55 provides a trumpet background. MIDI controller #77 pitch switches the PCM tone on the GR-55.

Mister Crusoé

This is a classic Metheny-esque GR-300 Horn-like sound, although a pale imitation of it. The GR-55 is not very good at it, especially with piezo-equiped guiitars. And yes, I do have an embedded filter in the GR-55. Anyway, as this is a GR-55 only sound, the Axe is only here to provide effects. MIDI controller #77 pitch switches the PCM tone on the GR-55 and there's also a pitch shift block on the Axe (at some point, I was comparing both methods to shift by one octave).


  • Axe FX Patch as above
  • GR-55 Patch
  • Godin Freeway SA, bridge pickup, humbucker position

This is also a synth-only sound, with two different synth tones for the themes and the chorus. In fact, I think that I actually merged with the natural guitar sound slightly in the studio (on the themes, not the chorus), but I'm not sure that the settings here are up to date. MIDI controller #78 switches between the two PCM tones on the GR-55.

That's it I think. Enjoy!

Thursday 6 September 2012

How to rack-mount a GR-55

Plate.jpgThis article demonstrates a nice trick to rack-mount the GR-55 by Roland. The idea is to do this in a non-intrusive way, that is, without drilling any new holes in the GR-55 or even removing the rubber pads. In order to do this, we will first manufacture (thanks dad for the actual manufacturing :-) a small metal plate that will serve both for holding the GR-55 and for fixation on the flight-case rails. See the picture on the right. The plate need not be very thick, as the overall rigidness will be provided once everything is in place. This particular one is less than a millimeter thick.

Fixing the plate to the flight-case rails is pretty straightforward. What might be less obvious is how to fix the GR-55 to the plate, in a non-intrusive way. If you look at the GR-55's underside, you will notice that there are six screws on the border, but also two other screws more in the middle of the device. These are the ones we are interested in. Indeed, if you open up the GR-55, you will notice that contrary to the other screws, these ones provide a solid grasp right into the chasis. This is illustrated by the pictures below.


So we can just use those to fix the GR-55 to the plate, and that will be enough. We need to replace the original screws with longer ones though (4mm diameter). Here are some pictures of the GR-55 fixed on that plate, and a final one with the whole thing rack-mounted. As you can see, the plate is narrow enough to fit between the rubber pads. Pretty cool huh?


If you are interested in doing this, here is the schematics of the plate that I've designed. The exact dimensions should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt, as there were some variations when the plate was actually folded into shape. Enjoy, and happy tinkering !

Oh, one more thing. Maybe you're wondering why the hell we would want to rack-mount a pedalboard... here is the explanation.

Thursday 7 July 2011

The Roland guitar-synth con

Note: Godin Guitars (OFFICIAL) censored me on Facebook for this blog. I do not "like" Godin Guitars (OFFICIAL) on Facebook anymore.

Roland Canada recently launched a guitar synth challenge. The idea is to make a 5 minutes video exhibiting a Roland guitar synth product in action, and the top three winners get an admittedly neat price (Godin guitar + Roland GR + Cakewalk software product).

Even if I were a Canadian, I wouldn't participate in this challenge. This is not a challenge but a con (and this is not the first time Roland does something like this).

If you read carefully the contest regulations, you will find this:

By entering the Roland Guitar Synth Challenge, entrants agree to grant Roland Canada Ltd., its affiliates, partners, subsidiaries and authorized representatives worldwide the right to capture and use their video entry, name, likeness, image or voice in photographic, audio, video, digital or other forms of media (the Media). They also recognize that the Media shall remain at all times the sole property of Roland Canada. They understand and acknowledge that the Media may be used without restriction by Roland Canada Ltd., its affiliates, partners, subsidiaries and authorized representatives worldwide for commercial promotional purposes and acknowledge that they shall receive no compensation of any kind for the use or non‐use of the Media. They also acknowledge and hereby waive any right to inspect or approve the Media or the eventual use to which the Media may be applied.

So in essence, what this means is that every participant is kindly invited to offer Roland the best advertisement video clip they can come up with, for them, and for free of course. The first top three will get a modest compensation and the others will have Roland's eternal gratitude for their hard work (that they will be able to use aggressively without any restriction whatsoever). This is a hell of a marketing campaign. And a cheap one for sure.

The other contest regulations are just as aggressive as this one. For example:

Entries that contain prohibited or inappropriate content as determined by Roland Canada, in its sole discretion, will be disqualified.

Obviously. I wonder, for example, what would happen to an entry exhibiting the use of a clever pedalboard (such as the combination of a Beringher FCB-1010 and a Gordius LGM) instead of an FC-300. I wonder what would happen if in your video, you made a zoom on a rack containing not only a GR product but also an Axon 100 MIDI converter...

So thanks but no thanks. I won't be enrolled into free marketing for a company from which I need to buy products. And for those of you potential participants who think they could get some notoriety out of this, think again: in which circles do you want to be notorious? Amongst other geek musicians or amongst your audience that knows squat about musical instruments?

Roland is in fact well known for this kind of perverted "have your cake and eat it" trickery. Roland is also known for explicitly not doing endorsement deals (no surprise here). When you go to a concert and see a synth with its brand name blacked out, you can bet pretty easily which brand is hidden behind the rubber tape. Remember folks, Roland is not friend with musicians. Roland is a corporation. No matter what, Roland is, and always be... the BOSS. :-)