Create Goa-style effects using a free Roland SH-101 plugin
The Roland SH-101 is a classic synthesizer, it’s capable of creating everything from soaring leads to quirky “alien sounds”.
The synth was incredibly compact and versatile for the time which made it very popular, it was also relatively well-priced considering what else was available.
The accessibility meant that the synth made its way into studios all over the world, and soon became essential parts of an Acid-House, Techno or Goa Trance home studio.
The Roland SH-101 is just as iconic in the Goa Trance sound as the TB-303, although without its distinctly recognizable sound it didn’t become as much of a cult icon.
There are various plugin emulations of the Roland SH-101, Togu Audio Line make a great free version called TAL-Bassline which is capable of almost all of the sound design aspects of the SH-101, with the added ability to quickly sync it to your project (without MIDI, the original SH-101 can be a pain to sync).
The sync is very simple and slightly limited, but I think this presents a great format to really get comfortable with, learn the inner-workings of the synth and learn to harness it’s quirkiness and it can be incredibly powerful synthesizer.
What makes the Roland SH-101 synth so special?
Apart from the raw sound just sounding good, it’s got some quirky features that may not have been very “musical” but were certainly great ways of creating something unimaginable and psychedelic.
The modulation section has a Sample & Hold setting which can be applied to the pitch or the filter of the synth, this is a stepped random modulation – meaning there’s no chromatic pitch tracking or anything – just pure random.
When coupled with the resonant, almost musical nature of the filter – the result is quite awesome. Especially when coupled with delay and reverb.
When learning the ins and outs and becoming comfortable with a limited synth, it forces you to push the boundaries in terms of the approaches you take to create sounds.
Simply recording the output while playing with the parameters is a great way of capturing those “happy accidents” and often sounds a lot more “lively” than automated modulations.
Here’s a video discussing some of the basics of TAL-Bassline, alongside some techniques for creating all sorts of weird sounds with this seemingly basic synthesizer:
You can grab TAL-Bassline for free here.