ROLAND SYNT GR-300 with original Roland GR-202 EX+ code Va788
The Roland G-202 guitar is the least known of all the vintage Roland guitar synthesizer controllers. The unusual G-202 is a bit of a Fender/Gibson hybrid. While the body shape and neck are the same as the Fender-inspired G-505, the G-202 has a fixed bridge with humbucker pickups. The knobs are the same ones as used on the G-303/G-808 guitars, but the Roland PU-120H pickups and TP-130 bridge appear only on the G-202. For people who like the Fender design, but do not want the issues involved with a floating, tremolo bridge, the G-202 is their "go to" vintage Roland guitar synthesizer controller.The Unique G-202 Electronics Card
Finishes available: Acrylic, red, white, blue, natural
Neck: Maple One Piece
Tuning machines: Gotoh
Pickups: Two Roland PU-120H humbuckers
Truss Rod: Single, Adjustable
Neck Width: 1 5/8"
Body Width: 13"
Body Depth: 1 3/4"
Overall Length: 39 1/2"
Weight: 7 lbs 3 oz
Three Simple GR-300 Mods
By Craig Anderton ~ Guitar Player Magazine ~ January 1984
For an encore to my two columns on guitar synthesis (July and August 1982 issues), here are three simple modifications that let you get more out of the Roland GR-300 guitar synthesizer system. You won’t have to drill any holes in either the GR-300 electronics or G-series guitar, or even remove any circuit boards. The only cautions are: Solder with a fine-tip, low-wattage soldering iron (no more than about 40 watts), use rosin-core solder, unplug the GR-300 before working on it, and finally, don’t forget that doing these mods will void your warranty. Now, on to the three mods.
Improving hex fuzz high-frequency
The hex fuzz section of a Roland G-series guitar (which is built into the guitar) mixes the fuzzed signal from each string into a single output. Note, though, that this hex fuzz mixer starts rolling off high frequencies around 2k Hz. To eliminate this roll-off, remove the metal plate on the back of the G-series guitar’s body (the one on the other side from the controls and switches). Next, orient the guitar’s circuit board so that the lettering is right side up, and look for the capacitor labeled C72 (470 pF). On my guitar, this cap is located a little to the right of center of the board, in the upper middle section. Once you’ve found the cap, snip one of its leads with a diagonal cutter - you will be rewarded by a brighter fuzz sound with more presence.
Separate hex fuzz out
This mod (which is particularly effective for studio work) taps off the hex fuzz output and routes this signal to its own output jack (the original hex fuzz signal path remains undisturbed). Thus, you can send the hex fuzz signal, VCO signal, and straight guitar all into separate channels and process them individually. The hex fuzz would come from the jack we’re about to add, the VCO output from the mix/synth jack (with the guitar’s balance control set for all synth and the dist/VCO switch set for VCO only), and the straight guitar sound from the guitar jack. With a little processing, you will get some absolutely incredible stereo effects.
To install the hex fuzz output, take off the bottom plate (12 screws). Orient the unit top-down, so that you are facing the rear panel. This jack connects to two ribbon connectors, which plug into matching sockets (B4 and B5) soldered to the circuit board. Fig. 1 shows a detail of the left side of B5. Note the designation "6 SG" just above the left side of the connector, "3 SG" to the right of that, and a solder connection to the right of "3 SG." A jumper wire goes from this solder connection to another solder connection directly above it. Both of these carry the isolated hex fuzz signal.
Decision time: It you don’t want to drill any holes in the GR-300, you will have to give up one of the jack functions on the back panel so that this jack can carry the hex fuzz out. I recommend giving up either the string select or sweep on/off jack. Both of these have three terminals; the ground terminal busses to the other jacks via bare wire, one terminal is unsoldered, and the remaining "hot" terminal (the one closest to the circuit board) has a colored wire going to it. Disconnect this soldered wire and tape up the end, so it won’t short to anything. Connect the "-" end of a 10 micro farad electrolytic capacitor and one end of a 100K resistor to the hot terminal. Connect the other end of the resistor to the ground terminal, and the remaining end of the capacitor to a wire whose free end solders to either of the jumper solder pads shown in Fig. 1. You now have an individual hex fuzz output.
I don’t like the GR-300’s vibrato touch plates, so I disabled them and added a foot pedal option where pushing down on the pedal increases the vibrato depth. The pedal must be a control voltage pedal,as described in my article in the February 1982 issue of Keyboard magazine (page 24). Otherwise, use a standard volume pedal, connect a 9V battery connector to a 1/4" phone plug (red wire to hot, black wire to ground), and insert the plug into the pedal’s instrument input. As you push down, the pedal output will go from 0 to 9 volts.
As with the last mod, you will have to give up another jack’s function; I recommend the VCF pedal jack’s hot terminal (the closest to the circuit board), and resolder this wire to the ground terminal. Now, referring to Fig. 2 (which details the right side of B4), use an X-acto knife to break the circuit board trace where indicated. Next, follow along the right-hand side of the circuit board. As you move towards the foot switches, you will see the legend for resistor R179 about two-thirds of the way up the board and about an inch from the side. Move towards the foot switches from this point, and you’ll find a jumper wire (see Fig. 3). Solder a wire to the right of this jumper, and connect the other of this wire to the hot terminal of the VCF pedal jack.
Check your wiring over carefully, make sure you didn’t short out any adjacent traces (important!), and reassemble the unit. Plug a control voltage pedal output into the VCF pedal’s input to verify that the pedal vibrato function works, and also check that there’s a signal present at the new hex fuzz output jack. If all is well, play away!
These mods may be simple, but they’ve really perked up the sound of my axe. I hope you like them; give them a try and let me know what you think
The GR300 allowed you to decide which strings fed signals to the synth. Kakehashi viewed this as a natural stage in the evolution of the guitar, from its acoustic beginnings, through the rapid development of the electric guitar in the 1930s, '40s, '50s and '60s, to the next level, wherein each string can be treated as a separate instrument. Indeed, the GR300 featured a unique hexaphonic distortion that treated each string independently, which is very different from distorting the combined sound produced by all the strings. Sure, there was only a single filter in the GR300, and virtually no enveloping of the sounds, but the synth had an instantly recognisable character that elevated it to the status of an instrument in its own right.
The following year, Roland released two Fender-style controllers for the GR300, the G202 (with dual humbuckers) and the G505 (the most common GR300 controller, with three single-coil pickups and a tremolo arm). This was a good move because, like the GR500, the GR300 could only be controlled by Roland guitars with their dedicated multicore cables. However, unlike the GR500, you could also plug a quarter-inch jack into any of the '300' series guitars and basses, and play it as a conventional instrument.
Surprisingly, Roland's reputation and enviable success did not guarantee financial stability. The Yen had been increasing in value from ¥310 to the US Dollar when Roland were established in 1972, to a temporary low of about ¥180 to the dollar in 1978/79. Although it recovered briefly in 1980, it was soon to rise in value again. Unfortunately, the strength of the Yen had a near-catastrophic effect on Roland, because their European distributor, Brodr Jorgensen, had been unable to cope with the increased cost of importing Japanese goods and, in 1980, they unexpectedly declared themselves bankrupt. This meant that Roland — who had themselves only just become cash-positive — suddenly found themselves without a European distributor, with one third of their worldwide business evaporating, and their European stock — millions of pounds of product — in the hands of Brodr Jorgensen's liquidators. Furthermore, $1,500,000 of unpaid product was in transit for Europe, and all this would be lost if Kakehashi could not move quickly. For the first time since establishing the company, he faced a crisis. And it was a huge one.
Kakehashi immediately shut down all production of Roland products, and blocked delivery of the goods in transit. This didn't improve matters, but it stopped the situation from getting any worse. He then approached three banks for the credit necessary to continue trading, only one of which was prepared to help. Nevertheless, with a two-million dollar credit line from Daiwa Bank, the company was able to continue.
In many ways, this couldn't have happened at a worse time, because during the course of 1980, Roland had been completing their gradual migration from Osaka to Hamamatsu, coping with all the problems and disruption that this must have entailed. Kakehashi himself spent the autumn and winter of 1980 criss-crossing Europe in an attempt to save his distribution network. By the time the new year arrived, Roland were at a crossroads.
Download the G-202 Owner's Manual
Download the G-202 Schematic.
1982 Roland Product Brochure Featuring the G-202.
1982 Roland Product Brochure - Japanese - Featuring the G-303 and G-808.
1984 Roland Product Brochure Featuring the G-202.
History of Roland (German) Roland G-202 Page (with photo).
Sound-On-Sound Magazine article detailed the history of Roland Corporation during the 1980s.
More information on the origins of Roland guitars.
Peter Kulich's page on rebuilding a G-202 as a 13-pin guitar synth controller.
More information on dating early Roland guitar synthesizer controllers.