Ten Great Things about the Roland SH-101
Computer Music|September 2021
The 101 made quite an impact both in music and culture. Here are our favourite ten SH-101 moments

01 PORTISHEAD SUBTERFUGE

Portishead were an era-defining band; their debut album Dummy is a suave and sophisticated collection of trip hop grooves, synthesis and beautiful vocals from singer Beth Gibbons. The first track from the album Mysterons is credited as having a Theremin playing the lead melody, but band member Adrian Utley later admitted that it was in fact an SH-101, with a large dose of portamento.

02 COOL COLOURS

After the initial release of the SH-101, Roland decided to produce two additional colours. Apart from the default grey, you could also buy the classic 80s stylings of bright red and mid-blue. This gave rise to the urban myth that one colour was better for basses while another was better for leads; there was no truth to this at all, as all three models adopted the same form, functionality and electronics, but it didn’t stop a typically 80s accompanying advertising campaign, playing up the stereotypical colour sets.

03 STRAP IN

In-line with its reissued 80s colour scheme, the SH-101 could also double as a keytar. This would require the addition of the MGS-1 mod grip, as a separate purchase, which was in turn available in three different colours. The kit contained the mod grip itself, which provided a convenient place to hold the 101 while cavorting around on stage, with a button for modulation and small wheel for pitchbend, but only in one direction. Potential purchasers were also treated to a Roland branded guitar strap!

04 GO WEST TO OMD

The 101 was a very popular choice for many bands in the 80s with two pop bands utilising the 101s enormous bass potential. The Go West hit We Close Our Eyes features a mega-huge 101 bass riff, which opens the song, and closes each chorus, while Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark utilised the punchy attack and decay of the envelope, for their looped-riff in Locomotion.

05 SEQUENCER 101-STYLE

While the 101 provides a great set of sonic features, it also hosts an onboard sequencer which has become something of a referenced classic. Operating in step mode, the sequencer could retain up to 100 notes, as ordered. We’re not sure why 100 notes was the upper limit, but the concept of this quick and easy sequencing process has now occupied the music tech psyche, with manufacturers referring to their own similar designs as ‘101style sequencers’. That’s quite a homage for a cheap little synth from the 80s…

06 SUBSONIC!

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