Roland-Ready Stratocaster

Around December 2004, I started playing every Thursday night at a Starbucks at the Long Beach Towne Center mall with my old friend Craig Saxon.  He had been playing there for about five years.  We played for tips, which ranged from nothing to about $50.  (On the nights there was nothing, I suspect that someone cleaned out the tip bucket while we weren’t looking.)  Craig is sort of a one-man band.  He knows hundreds of songs, takes requests, and arranges them on the fly.  He’s got a harmonica holder, a looper, and he switches from straight guitar to slide.  I was playing leads and fills on a blue Wechter acoustic-electric, but I wanted to add even more to the mix, so I bought a Roland GR-20 guitar synth.  The synth came packaged with a GK-3 pickup which I installed on a red Fernandes Strat copy that actually belonged to Craig.  The GK-3 pickup unit looks like something the Borg might have designed, but it worked just fine.

I went through the hundreds of installed patches, which ranged from glorious, to usable, to “What were they thinking?”  I copied the ones that I thought would work with Craig’s music into the user bank so I could get to them easily.  I created a cheat sheet of patch numbers so I could find them.  Now I could put a brass section on “Domino,” a Hammond B3 on “One Headlight,” cheesy Farfisa organ on “Personal Jesus,” spacey strings on “The Great Beyond,” cello on “Blackbird,” and even banjo on “American Pie.”  This was all great fun.  Some people thought we had pre-recorded backing tracks.  Others came up and said, “your guitar sounds funny.”

This weekly gig ended in late 2007.  Craig ended up moving to Camarillo, but we were just getting tired anyway.

I started using the guitar synth on home recordings.  I have a little M-Audio midi keyboard, but I am a terrible keyboard player.  With the GR-20, I could input parts with the guitar.  You can record the onboard sounds, or connect up midi cables and trigger computer-based softsynths.  However, I really wanted a guitar with the synth pickup built-in so I didn’t have the whole GK-3 unit hanging off the guitar.  I had tried to order a Rogue Violin bass from Musician’s Friend when they were closing out the Korean-made ones for $149, but Musician’s Friend was moving their warehouse and got everything all screwed up.  To make amends, they sent me a 20% off coupon.  I used it to order a white Roland-Ready Stratocaster.  Here it is, just out of the box:

2008 Roland-Ready Stratocaster

2008 Roland-Ready Stratocaster

Because the VG guitar is now the top of the line Fender synth guitar, the Roland Strats are  now based on the Standard Stratocaster, which is made in Mexico.  Fit and finish were quite good.  It was very playable out of the box.  I ended up making quite a few setup adjustments, but that was mostly because it came with .09’s on it and I like .10’s.  I left the bridge floating because I had been listening to some of James Wilsey’s stuff.  He’s the guy who played the lead on Chris Isaaks’ “Wicked Games.”  Tuning stability is excellent.   I don’t do dive bombs with the tremolo arm, just little wobbles, but it stays in tune.

The pickups were the ceramics that come with Standard Strats these days.  They were nice for playing rhythm, but I wanted something brighter, sweeter and more vintage.  I wanted something that sounded like my best friend’s candy apple red Strat in high school, back in 1968.  After a lot of research, I put in a set of Tonerider Pure Vintage pickups.  I cycle through the pickup positions from neck to bridge in this clip:

Tonerider Pure Vintage Strat Pickups

This set is bright, sweet, and complex.  The in-between positions are nice and boinky.  You can get tones like Mark Knopfler, David Gilmour, and Richard Thompson.

The GK-2A pickup system does everything that the GK-3 did, but the whole package is tucked away inside the guitar.  The audience will never know.  They will probably still say your guitar sounds funny.

It’s a keeper.

About guitarsophist

I'm a guitar-playing rhetorician professor.
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7 Responses to Roland-Ready Stratocaster

  1. James says:

    Great looking guitar. I’m seriously thinking of picking up this same model. White on white – looks nice. I was curious if you lost any control over changing your midi patches without the external GK2 controller?

    It seems there are extra buttons on the pickguard, are those doing the same features as the GK2? I like the idea of having that control at my finger tips if needed.

    I listened to the MP3 – great playing. The pickups sound sweet.


  2. guitarsophist says:

    Yes, the extra buttons move you through the patches in the bank you have selected. You can’t change banks from the guitar though, so I put all of the things I want to use in the user bank. The system works well. I think these MiM Roland-Ready Strats are great value for a synth guitar, and good guitars in themselves. You might like the stock pickups too!

  3. James says:

    Thanks so much for the information. I’m happy to hear there is that control directly from the guitar. I’m a huge fan of the strat but haven’t had one for about 10 years now so I think you helped me make up my mind. 😀


  4. Bill McFadden says:

    Just got the Roland-ready strat from SamAsh Online.
    Thanks for the demo. Really does have good sound just as a guitar. The midi out give a whole new world of sounds to choose from as well.

  5. Joaquín Reyes says:

    ¡Hola a Todos ,y gracias por la oportunidad de Participar!
    Yo tengo la Guitarra Carvin Fatboy ,con tecnología “Piezo”y “GraphTech”,con acceso a Sintetizadores tipo “GR Roland”;y Yo puedo hacer sonar los Pickups normales de Guitarra,solamente con el cable “GK” del Sintetizador,sin tener que usar el cable estandar de 1/4″.¿Puede ésta Guitarra “Fender Roland Ready Stratocaster”,sonar sus Pickups normales, sin tener que usar el estandar cable de 1/4″?;Me gustaría saber éso.Gracias…Joaquín reyes.

    • guitarsophist says:

      Yes, using the GK pickup you can switch from normal pickups, pickups plus synth, or synth only. You can get all of the sounds with the GK pickup.

      • Joaquín Reyes says:

        ¡Hola a todos,y Gracias a Dios por la diponibilidad de Páginas Web como “guitarsophist”.Después de agotar intentos varios en distintas “paginas”;inclusive en la misma casa “Fender”;no había recibido la respuesta precisa a mi pregunta.Asombrosamente “guitarsophist”,contestó mi pregunta,sin rodeos,con precisión técnica y profesionalidad!Dios les pague y ojalá sea ejemplo para otros sitios de Atención!.Sinceramente…Joaquín reyes.

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