Roland GR-20
Roland GR-20

GR-20, Audio/MIDI Converter from Roland in the GR series.

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heads on fire 10/21/2011

Roland GR-20 : heads on fire's user review

« Very nice entry synth for the money. »

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*Affordable guitar synthesizer with new sounds, easy interface, and GK-3 pickup

*Easy to use: select a sound category (Strings, Organ, Synth, etc.) and play!

*Quick editing via Attack, Release, Chorus, and Delay/Reverb knobs

*Digital pitch detection for lightning-fast tracking

*Includes Roland's latest sounds like sax, strings, flute, brass, bass and percussion loops

*Includes an adjustable curve design and pickup cable length, plus an attachment plate for Les Paul guitars

*Patch Link enables easy connection with MIDI-capable multi-effects such as the GT-6

*Includes built-in expression pedal

*Built-in effects such as reverb, delay


The synth is fairly easy to figure out, but one still needs to have the manual there to figure out all the extra functioning. The digital display only shows patch number information, nothing more, so navigating the deeper functions takes some reading. This is not a bad thing - it is a deep, technologically advanced unit, and should be treated as such. But it's not such a steep learning curve that one couldn't jump right in and make good sounds, provided that they have the proper pickup (GK3 or GK2A) installed properly.

It can be a bit annoying travelling from one patch to another, as you basically have just up or down with the secondary functions of the 2 stomp pedals or using the patch toggle on the GK pickup. One can get around this annoyance by saving useful patches to the User bank, next to each other, or by getting a seperate midi footcontroller to navigate the banks more quickly.


The first thing that needs to be done with this is to install the GK synth pickup on the guitar. The GR-20 will not track notes without one, so proper installation is necessary. It can be a tiny headache figuring it all out, getting the proper spacing to get the pickup height at the right setting, as well as deciding whether or not to mount permanently or use the double-sided tape. But once this minor inconvenience is hurdled, the GR-20 unit provides loads of fun, inspiring sounds.


The Roland GR-20 used to be one of the top line guitar synth units from Roland. It can be found now on the used market for a song, and provides an excellent variety of quality tones. The organ, synth lead, and pad sounds were the most inspiring to me. The piano sounded a bit tinny, and the brass sounded a bit "80s cheeseball", but the organ, pad, and synth sounds are absolutely enough to get me shredding on this for hours at a time.

One great feature is that one can use a midi out to a sequencer program, and just play the data in - no more tedious programming note by note! That right there is worth the price of admission if one likes to sequence, and the sounds are just the icing on the cake. I like this unit a lot, and I highly recommend checking one out if you can.