Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Wed 8th Oct, 2008

Look Out Eddie Van Halen

Back in the days when Icehouse was in, Crowded House was big and I was getting deeply hooked into Yello, I had a Roland Juno 6. It was my Dad's, but I played it a fair bit. One of the leaders in the analog synthesis days between full-on knob-for-everything setups like the Moog and the start of MIDI and digital control, it is still legendary for producing huge bass lines and stunning synth leads. Then our house burned down and took the Juno with it, and though I often thought of getting another synthesizer I never did.

Until now. It started with playing the piano at friends and relatives houses; then Kate suggested I could accompany her violin playing. As I got more into LMMS I started realising that having a keyboard to record lines and work out notes and melodies on was going to be very useful. So I did some research and found the Roland Juno G, which sat between the full-on knob tweaking of Nords and Moogs (all digital, now, of course, but still faithfully emulating the analogue sound synthesis process), the 'play the demo song' integrated-speaker cheap synthesizer market, and the 'it has 4096 patches, all pianos' professional keyboard. This may sound like a no man's land, but the market segment is for people who want a range of instruments, the ability to fiddle with how they sound, and don't need heavy 'piano-action' keys. Unfortunately, they don't make the Juno G anymore.

Fortunately, it's successor is the Juno Stage, which is basically version 2 - all the features of the G but without the confusion between it and the Juno D. You get knobs to control attack and release, low and high frequency rolloff, and cutoff and resonance of the filter - which you can twiddle on the fly. It comes with 1024 different patches, a variety of modes including split keyboard (SuperSaw on the left and piano on the right is a favourite) and lots of nice features that I haven't truly discovered yet. So I bought it, brought it home, and started practicing again.

Gradually my fingers are warming up again, playing scales and old tunes I used to know. But what has amazed me is the amount of pure inspiration I'm getting from the sounds. A new patch will make me start writing new melodies out of thin air, and when I find that some presets consist of an arpeggio and drum rhythm on the left hand, new mystical tunes will flow out of my right hand and almost amaze me in the process. That and the joy of working out the chord progressions (the title of this post is a nod to the classic synth line of 'Jump' by Van Halen - I hit the first two chords (C, F in my playing) and then had to figure out the next (B) later by experimentation - I don't know what the actual song used but it's easiest to play on G, C, and F) for songs I remember. Playing the Doctor Who theme or the theme to "Axel F" or "Fletch" (yay Harold Faltermeyer) is always a blast, and it all came right back to me.

So I'm now doing regular practice of my own devising, before I seek out someone to teach me how to play more. I'll report how I go plugging it into the computer (yay USB MIDI interface) in another post.

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