Roland Super JX programming tips

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max badwan
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Roland Super JX programming tips

Post by max badwan » Wed Aug 07, 2013 2:08 am

I realised that I've owned an MKS 70 for 25 years now, and I'm surprised at a general lack of enthusiasm for this classic. I know there is a lot of bad press re the "crippled sysex" and the dual tone file system, but it is what it is, so you either learn to tame the beast, or give up.
I didn't give up, and I won't claim to have tamed the beast, but I can get it to back into a corner and roar on command.
Before 1978 or so, most patch memory was a: in your head, or b: written down on a patch chart, so it's a habit I've (somewhat) kept up. As a result, I've got a book of notes that I've made over the years of playing the JX, most of it is boring, but I've noted all my little Eureka moments, and I thought they might be of help to some. Most of the tips are specific to the Super JX and how to approach programming, rather than general synth technique. Once I had the mental approach down, programming became a h**l of a lot easier.

When I first got the MKS70, I was excited to have two 8Ps in a box. Error #1.
The Super JX is a six voice, four DCO poly - if you treat it like two 8Ps, you will fail. Forget about it being a 12 voice analog.
Do not program from the tone up to a patch. Error #2.
Always start with from the patch, and program up to the tones, and always program the two tones in tandem.
The Super JX is in effect an LA synth prototype, so think in terms of binaries for your tones, A and B didn't cut it for me, Upper and Lower is pedestrian, attack tone and sustain tone too limiting and literal, so I ended up calling A "strange" and B "charmed" (anyone get the Hawkwind reference?). So patches became a mix of "strange" and "charmed" tones. So the patch becomes the basic work unit, with tones treated as "partials". If you treat the tone as the basic work unit, when you move to the patch to improve on the tone it rarely seems to work out.
Practice writing patches before you twiddle your PG. In fact, I spent time practicing patch editing only using preset tones, that way, it didn't matter where the tones were stored. The preset tones are actually pretty good, and it's quite surprising how many very excellent sounds can be created by blending (Dual mode), mixing (V-Mix) and switching (V-switch) using only the stock "dated" tones.
Remember that the memory is "balkanised", internal tones can't be used on cartridge patches and vice versa, annoying today, but sensible. You need a M16C for moving tones from internal/cartridge and vice versa.
If it flashes, save it. If I had a dime for every time I've forgotten to save a tone or a patch, I'd have a couple of hundred dollars. Don't move memory slot till you have saved the tones and the patch. So, if it flashes, save it.
Keep a pen and paper handy, copy the preset tone list and keep it near you, and make spreadsheets of your patches/tones. Unless you truly have an eidetic memory, you will never remember the tone name of 27, used in patches H4 and F2, so write it down. It really will help.
If you've got a JX10, get the sysex mod, just do it.
If you don't have a PG, get a BCR2000 (recommended for a wide range of uses) or the iPG800.
Write a patch, store to A1 (tone 1,2). Next A2 (3,4) repeat till you get to D2 (49,50). Do a sysex dump. Patches D3 to H8 are reserved for variations of patch, and you now have a starter bank with 50 tones in internal memory, and 64 patches. Only Edit tones on A1 to D1 (your 25 "original" patches).
The benefit of this is that the tone numbers follow the patchs - even if you duplicate tones, it doesn't matter anymore memory being what it is today. Using this as your "cartridge template" makes subsequent editing easier, with patches and tones that are linked (albeit manually). Then program banks based on themes and styles. You'll have a large library soon enough.

And that's the end of my notebook, well, the publishable bits anyways. Hope the insights help.

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Re: Roland Super JX programming tips

Post by madtheory » Wed Aug 07, 2013 9:36 pm

Those are great tips. Kinda similar to how I used to use the Casio CZ-1. Having spent years with a CZ-5000 (mainly) I had a great set of tones to make patches out of (to use Roland speak). It's a great way to make sounds. The strange and charmed thing is what I used to do too! :)

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Re: Roland Super JX programming tips

Post by nathanscribe » Wed Aug 07, 2013 10:08 pm

The JX-10 is super-underrated. One of the most lovely analogues I've owned, I think. Always keep a notepad handy, I agree. Some of my fave JX patches are very slightly differed versions of the same patch detuned and layered. Nice stuff.

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Re: Roland Super JX programming tips

Post by wjmwpg » Fri Jul 24, 2015 6:30 pm

In celebration of the SuperJX's awesomeness I'm resurrecting this thread.

I've long been frustrated by the Patch/Tone saving architecture of my JX10. Not too long ago I wrote this on the FB SuperJX page:

It drives me crazy that every time I'm working with the JX and I get the inspiration to alter a Tone parameter to make the Patch I'm using "better", a part of my brain screams "Woah! Wait a second! Don't forget that altering this Tone parameter while in this Patch will change (possibly degrade) any other Patch you've saved that uses this same Tone". Okay, that's not exactly what goes through my head - more like, "oh s**t, wait a second, does another Patch use this Tone?" - but it is the full, extrapolated extent of my thinking while programming the JX10 on the fly. I'm sure the SuperJX is not the only synth whose Patch and Tone programming (and saving) works in this way, but it's the only synth I've ever owned where saving all the parameters of the sound I'm currently working with can (and will) ultimately alter the sounds created by other saved Patches.
This constant mental caveat to my programming instincts and whims takes me out of my creative flow when I'm making music - and there's nothing I try to avoid more than that. I really want to be able to make any parameter alteration on the fly and save them as I go without a second thought as to how I might be destructing the sonic integrity of other saved Patches in the process.
For me, a synth like the SuperJX, where potentially (and usually), two Tones are used per Patch, the number of saveable Tones should be double the number of saveable Patches. I realize that a large part of why Roland proceeded as they did with regard to the SuperJX Patch / Tone saving scheme would have been due to a desire to maximize the limited amount of memory space affordable. However, I personally would have much preferred a Patch saving structure that only had 30 Patches, but all 30 of those patches had two dedicated Tones per.

The GREAT news now is that Fred Vecoven has developed a cartridge upgrade that creates the equivalent of sixteen M-64c cartridges in one (16 "banks" of 50 tones and 50 patches). So from now on I'm simply going to only use the first 25 Patches from each of those 16 available banks, and each of those 25 Patches will have two of the available 50 Tones always prescribed to it. So Patch 1 of Bank 1 will always use Tones 1 and 2 of Bank 1 ... Patch 2 of Bank 16 will always use Tones 3 and 4 of Bank 16, etc. After the initial configuration of these Banks, Patches and Tones I'll only ever have to use the Save Voice function when saving my work. With 16 available Banks I'll have 400 Patches that all have dedicated, not shared, Tones in one cartridge. This way I'll never have to worry about what I described above.

And for anyone here who doesn't already know, Fred Vecoven's SuperJX PWM 4.00 upgrade is absolutely fantastic. It revolutionizes the SuperJX, and is very affordable to boot. :yahoo:

I don't believe this page has been updated since his 3.00 OS upgrade became the 4.00 PWM upgrade, but you can certainly get a gist the upgrade here and on the other pages under the Roland JX menu:

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Re: Roland Super JX programming tips

Post by gs » Thu Jul 30, 2015 6:22 pm

I am a former owner of JX-10 and the PG-800 programmer. For sure it was a very nice analog, very good 76-key keybed action, nice build quality, and the PG-800 made creating new tones dead easy. But it had that characteristic Roland "politeness" in its sound... you could never really get it to sound as aggressive as a Prophet, Memorymoog, OBXa or other powerhouse American analog polysynths. It did silky drone pads and string synth pads very well. And analog brass was good, but again a very refined sound compared to the American beasts. It was just not good at leads at all, IMHO. There was something about the filter that lent itself better to pads/strings/brass, but it was just not a "juicy" enough filter for moog-ish style leads. But hey, it's an analog polyphonic, and was probably designed with that in mind.

After the VA craze took off, I found the VA's best suited to my needs, and sold the JX and PG-800. I'm not an analog purist. I'd rather have a VA with the right sound and interface than an RA that I don't get along with very well. And I'm a live player, not a studio cat. RA (especially vintage) tend to break down and have problems more than VA.
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