GR-33 "tracking" tips

Some tracking questions.

Based on my experience and some knowledge gained through theory, as well as from various discussion groups, here are a few tips for people concerned about GR-33 (and similar equipment) tracking.

  1. The single most important piece of advice is: play clean! No matter how good the equipment, if you play notes that are impossible to tell apart, badly articulated, they won't sound good through any synthesiser. If you are into grungy, dirty type of sound, you'd better stay away from MIDI and synthesisers altogether. Obviously, you can play cleanly and add any amount of grunge later, that's OK. But if you start with indistinguishable harmonic mess, you'll end up with nothing.
    I have found that the best synth guitar players are those who can either play classical guitar or finger-picked jazz or acoustic guitar. This is obviously due to the fact that such players are used to controlling both the articulation (the "finger-on" part of the sound) and the duration, i.e. they don't leave sounds "on air" any longer than it is necessary.
    In fact, this tip applies to any guitar-synth equipment. It worked for me also with Casio guitar synthesisers (far worse at tracking than GR33 + GK2).
  2. The second tip might be a bit costly, but it's often a change from hopeless to brilliant tracking: buy a GODIN guitar, especially the ACS series. It has a pickup of a special type (RMC), built into the bridge. This pickup doesn't pick any non-musical noises, resonating sounds from the guitar body or other strings. If you don't like or can't afford Godin, you can buy a Poly-Drive RMC pickup and fix it to your favourite guitar.
  3. Buy good strings and adjust them. Good strings are not necessarily the best-sounding strings. What guitar players call "rich" or "good" sound is usually the thing that will ruin tracking. "Rich sound" means lots of harmonics. Lots of harmonics means much more work for the synth! It has to analyse the sound and find the base tone. The more harmonics and the more complex ones, the more difficult it becomes for the synth to get things straight. Basically, the more round a string is, the cleaner the sound.
    String adjustment is a bit complex task:
    Start with a good vertical distance from the pickup (you don't need this step with RMC pickups). About 2 mm is probably the most sensible distance, although you might try a bit less or more. Horizontally, the pickup should be placed about 1 to 4 centimeters from the bridge. "Too close" to the bridge would mean there is not much sound to pick. "Too far" would mean the amplitude is too big and the string might touch the pickup.
  4. Find the right setting on your GR33. The next stage is adjusting your GR33. Go into the system settings (Press SYSTEM, Press PARAMETER 3 times), use your manual and make sure that when you play each string, the level gauge shows about 3 bars when you play the weakest sounds and only occasionally touches the "empty square" symbol when you play the loudest ones.
  5. The last adjustment stage is different depending on your playing style. That's why each patch in GR33 has a separate sensitivity setting. You can only change this if you are sure the previous steps worked. This last step can also make a lot of difference, but it won't compensate for a badly mounted pickup, badly adjusted strings or badly adjusted system settings on GR33.
    Understanding the patch adjustment requires a bit of imagination: first of all imagine if this patch will be used to play solo (trumpet, distorted guitar, violin etc.) or will be a "backing" patch (clean telecaster, pad, soft brass, strings etc.). A solo patch will usually require a "normal" or "finger" Play Style (Press COMMON, press PARAMETER once). A backing patch might require a "normal", "soft" or "hard" style. With some sounds you may experiment with "envelope" (especially for guitar and e-piano tones). "Accelerated" comes useful only if you really play lightingly fast, but don't use "accelerated" with lower E and A strings, or you'll have tracking problems.
    The last setting to possibly change is chromaticism. If you play a solo instrument, you may want non-chromatic sound (so that you can do all the glissandoes, slurs, bends etc.). If you play a backing patch, you most definitely want a chromatic sound, so change it accordingly to ON/OFF (COMMON, PARAMETER 3 times).
    Don't forget to save (or rather in Roland's language: write) the patch after you're done!
That's all, folks!