Roland MC-8 Micro-Composer

Vintage Roland MC-8 Sequencer Archive

Creating swing feel on the Roland MC-4b

From the video description:

A demonstation of how to create swing on the Roland MC-4, you could also apply the same technique to the MC-202, MC-8 or other similar device, if this video proves popular I may do some more tutorials.

This is not a musical performance just a demonstration of technique so I have kept it to a simple 16 step sequence, of course you can use any length of sequence depending how patient you are.

First set the timebase to 48,12,6, this gives you 48ppqn so each 16th note will last for 12clocks, and enter your notes as normal. in the first part of the clip I am playing the sequence straight – so all step lengths set to 12.

Next we enter step time mode (shift 2) and change each alternate step to an offset of 12 but so that each 2 adjacent steps add up to 24, for example 14 and 10 as in the second example, or 13 and 11 (third example), higher difference = heavier swing feel. You can have the smaller number first or second depending on whether you want a rushed or lazy feel, also you can experiment with more complex timings for different types of groove, such as a pattern of 4 – 14,10,13,11 or whatever, just make sure that your total measure length is equal to 192 so that the sequence cycles correctly when synced. That’s pretty much it, hope you find it useful and thanks for watching.

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February 20, 2010 Posted by | Technical, Tutorials, Videos | Leave a comment

YMO Programming the MC-8 in the Studio, 1979

Thanks to Zilog Jones and PinWizz for pointing me to a video of YMO in the studio in 1979:

PinWizz says:

There is a video of YMO members programming [“Behind The Mask“] on MC-8 back in the day! Album credits say “Computer programming by Hideki Matsutake“, so it must be him pushing the buttons in this video as well. The second (moody) piece which they code in video is “Insomnia” from the same album. Third song featured here is called “Solid State Survivor” as the album itself. Perhaps the best known song of YMO is “Rydeen,” but it is not in this video.

You can also see YMO here a couple years later, programming the MC-4:

As a side note, Matsutake also had his own recording project called Logic System. Here’s one track from Logic System’s 1981 LP, which featured lots of MC-8 sequences:

February 20, 2010 Posted by | Interviews & Articles, Music, Videos | 1 Comment

Early use of MC-8 by Chris & Cosey

Also, view this interview w/ Cosey, wherein the MC-8 gets a passing mention.

January 27, 2010 Posted by | Music, Videos | Leave a comment

Yellow Magic Orchestra / Hideki Matsutake MC-8 Demo

Ralph’s friend Akiko translated this for us:

Hideki Matsutake is explaining what is MC8 and how it was used in the Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO)’s concert tour in ’80.

In this video, he says as follows
0:00 “Is there anyone who has this?” (laugh)
0:06 “There’s someone raising his hand….must be our staff.”
0:12 “This was VERY expensive in those days….as much as you could buy a car.”
0:17 “You could have bought two Carola.  ‘Cause it was 700000 yen then.”
0:24 “We’ve experienced many things with this…”
0:27 “As for YMO, it was MC8 and the combination of units after all.”
0:31 “Ah yes…it was… really….. beyond human power.”
0:38 “But it wasn’t perfect.”
0:39 “Yeah.”
0:40 ” As you know, it sometimes became out of control.”
0:50 “Today, it has data in it.  In those days, the data was transferred from cassette, but since it is not stable, I used MD.”
1:03 “We went to Masayuki’s office to test it the other day.”
1:15 “We worked on the original data cassette at that time.”
1:20 “That’s right.”
1:21 “And then, we really had a hard time.”
1:25 “The cassette, this one as well as the other we brought, the pinch roller was gone. So it didn’t read data…and it was hard after that too.
1:33 “But we were able to read it anyway.”
1:35 “As for *****, did it take about 3 minutes to read the data?”
1:39 “Well….yeah, it did. It took as long as the playing time.”
1:50 ” From here, automatic playing is sent.”
1:55 “Now, let’s listen to the sound in it”
2:06 “Which tune is this?”
2:10 “You don’t know, right?  It is playing backwards.”
2:22 “Today you’re going to run this MC8 here.”
2:28 “Right.  With this one called Immu(???) and sequencer, I will play ****(a song title?) live.”

That’s it.  I couldn’t understand completely what he was saying.  Those I didn’t understand was probably song titles and names of instruments.  Anyway, there must be the video in which he plays/runs MC8 following this, but I haven’t looked for it yet.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Interviews & Articles, Music, Videos | 4 Comments

Quick MC-8 Tutorial in Japanese

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Tutorials, Videos | Leave a comment

Giorgio Moroder Promo

You can see the MC-8 in action in this classic Giorgio Moroder promo spot!

And you can briefly catch a glimpse of the MC-8 at the 2:32 mark in this video:

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Interviews & Articles, Music, Videos | Leave a comment

Roland MC-8 Sequencer Demo Song – ODD RHYTHMS

This is one of the demo programs supplied in a supplement to the Roland MC-8 manual. It’s a piece called “Odd Rhythms,” written by the “godfather” of the MC-8, Ralph Dyck. I decided to spend a couple of hours punching this thing in to see what it sounds like. The lead, bass and chords are playing back on a Roland SH-101 (overdubbed via the MC-8’s tape sync one monophonic line at a time), and the cymbal and conga are playing back on a SCI Pro-One. For the cymbal, I had to use VCF accents instead of the VCA accents the score calls for, because the Pro-One doesn’t have a CV in for the VCA. I didn’t spend much time on the sounds or on the mix, so it is what it is. But as you can see, you can get as musically complex as you want with the MC-8.

Here’s an mp3 of just the music:

Here’s an excerpt from Ralph’s recording of his 1974 piece that that “Odd Rhythms” was based on, called “The Babylonians:”

And here’s an mp3 of the MC-8 data for this piece for those of you who have an MC-8 to load it into:


January 22, 2010 Posted by | Files, Images, Music, Technical, Videos | Leave a comment

Roland MC-8 MicroComposer Unboxing & Demo

I just bought this old beast on eBay. Since it came complete in the original box in essentially unused condition, I thought I’d make an unboxing video. After spending an hour or so getting familiar with its arcane operating system, I made a quick programming demo. A couple revisions to points made in the video:

1) you don’t need to hit “time base” just before “tempo.” you just need to make sure you set the time base just before the tempo, otherwise the MC-8 thinks you want to start programming dynamic tempo changes.

2) you don’t need to hit “meas end” after entering step time and gate time data.

A bit of extra info since I didn’t explain it clearly in the video: the time base is basically the resolution of a quarter note. Most sequencers either have this set in stone, or you can choose between 2 or 3 different resolutions (ie 24, 48, etc). On the MC-8, you have to program this number, which can be anything from 4 to 255. You then use this number as a reference for determining the step/gate times for all the other note durations (ie at time base 32, an 1/8th note is 16, a 16/th note is 8, etc).

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Tutorials, Videos | Leave a comment