The Roland SYSTEM-8 PLUG-OUT Synthesizer, with its large variety of sound design capabilities, can be used for many different roles in live performance situations and studio set ups.  The multitimbral nature of it allows musicians to design layered patches or to be inventive with keyboard splits as well as separate sequencers for each part.  The capabilities are expanded even more by the PLUG-OUT engines available.  Here are some ideas for creative uses of performance mode and the sequencer.

Patches, Performances, Parts
Like some vintage Roland poly synths, the SYSTEM-8 allows us to load 2 different patches (Individual sounds using a synth engine) to create a performance program.  Once we do this we can play the patches (referred to as ‘parts’ when loaded in a performance program) together at the same time or designate each its own area of the keyboard.  There are numerous examples of these types of programs that come loaded in the SYSTEM-8 presets.

The performance program Celestial Pad features two SYSTEM-8 patches layered together, one with a string sound and the other with a sitar-like evolving pad.



Keyboard Split Ideas
When editing the performance, you can program a different sequence for each part or have a sequence for only one part.  Imagine this for a live environment, for instance, you can have a pad (lower) sound sequenced with the chords of your choice, and play overtop with your lead (upper) sound.  In this example, Fat Split, the lower part is sequenced with a bassline, and the upper part is played live overtop.

Listen to: FAT SPLIT

It is interesting to note that once you have entered the sequence information for the part of your choosing, you can adjust that part’s keyboard range to be essentially inactive, leaving the entire keyboard to be used for your second part!  Remember that you have to change the keyboard range back if you wish to enter any new information into the sequencer.

You can also choose to have arpeggiator settings independent for each part.  Check out this performance program Nicola Charms, where the entire thing is being played live, with a bass sound on the lower part and an arpeggiated sound on the upper.



Knob Recording
The sequencer’s knob recording functions allow you to vary a sound using up to 4 parameters per step on top of note, velocity, and gate length.  If you manually change a setting that you have sequenced, it will snap back to the sequenced value when it reaches the step with that info on it.  This means that you can tweak parameters live to get some interesting effects and be confident that your sequence will return to normal afterwards!  Here’s a heavy JUPITER-8 patch with some knob recording and twisting on the fly:

Listen to JUPITER-8


Taking The Sequencer a Step Further
The SYSTEM-8 can be used in some very creative ways, such as a very powerful drum synthesis machine.  With the knob recording feature, you can essentially create a brand new sound per step if you are savvy with your programming.  You can create a Kick and a Snare on one sequencer track if youwant, with hi hats and other synth drums sounds on the other!
Check out this Drum Sequence using one part to create the kick drum with the filter resonance of the SYSTEM-8, and the other part to create a Hi Hat/Percussion sequence using the JUPITER-8 white noise, oscillators, and filter.

Listen to: SYNTH DRUMS

You can hear how powerful the sequencer is when combined with live parameter tweaking to vary your tones even more.


Performance Powerhouse
When you start to combine all of these features you can imagine how powerful this synthesizer is – Sequenced chords over which you can play a lead part, two part sequences with different lengths and divisions per part, fully sequenced multitimbral synth arrangements, drum synthesis and sequencing.  The list goes on!

This last example uses one part to create all of the drums and synth percussion, using knob recording to vary the sound per step, and the second part is a sequenced JUPITER-8 part, both being tweaked on the fly.

Listen to: JUPITER + DRUMS

For more information on the Roland SYSTEM-8 PLUG-OUT Synthesizer, visit

Dustin Good, Keyboard/DJ Product Specialist, Roland Canada