Roland MC-909

My first piece of hardware for electronic music production. To this day, still my all time favorite hardware interface for musc production. Here are a few reasons why:

  • tempo and pitch slider – user can choose to control the tempo and/or the pitch with a vertical slider. I have never seen another piece of hardware with this capability. It allowed me to create some truly unique sounds.
  • infrared sensors – these could be used like a theramin or to modulate other aspects of a sound
  • labels for the controls
    • labels helped the user identify what to look for; the ADSRs had visual representations for the user (supplemental, arguably more effective than words)
    • intuitive grouping of controls – any wave controls on the left side, sampling on the right. enabled the user to efficiently use two hands. waveform controls were grouped sequentially – the logical way.
  • Durable – solid metal casing meant it was able to take a lot of abuse after traveling. Now, some of the keyboard pads dont work, but that can be remedied with an extrenal midi controller. Still, I bought mine in 2004 and it still works today.

There are also unique features about the software which I have not been able to find recreated.

  • custom arpeggio patterns – the user could create an arpeggio pattern and save to the arpeggio library. the pattern could have n number of notes to the arpeggio and would apply the pressed notes to those patterns. This means a rythmic pattern could be applied to any scale/chord that the user presses.
  • granularity – it is incredible how well a user can position notes off the grid with this simplistic interface.

These are the main reasons this is one of my favorite pieces of equipment. In my opinion, it is the best all-in-one production tool and midi controller. It makes me think about designing something new based on this controller to be used with Ableton. Maybe sometime in the future 🙂

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