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In-depth Feature:  Roland VariOS
Albert Potts writes: .

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VariOS and Solo Parts
One of the great features of the Roland Vari-Phrase technology is the ability to take a sampled musical phrase and play back that phrase with a completely different melody. Or add harmony to an existing melody.

Pitch information is removed from the sample with a single click in the Sample Edit window. Under the heading "Sample Switch" is the word "Robot" along with a cute little robot icon. Next to that is an On/Off switch, which turns pitch information on or off. In the On position the sample will play back normally, while in the Off position the original pitches of the sample are removed, and the user can play back any melody or harmonies desired. Again, operation is in realtime. This feature alone sold me on the unit, as I have found it incredibly useful in working with arrangements. In writing a song with my brother, I found one of his guitar licks to sound too much like something from "Inna Gadda Na Vida", so I simply removed the pitch data and replayed his guitar line with different notes. In other words, I played his recorded guitar line, with his articulations and tone, but with my pitches. Priceless, I love it!

You can play back the phrase from your keyboard via MIDI, although you could program it via a step sequencer as well. This can be done with whatever external sequencer you are using. You can also program the pitches in the V-Producer software by dragging the slices in the editing window. Very easy to mess with your tracks, and again it's all in realtime. I made a flanged drum track that went in and out of flanging rhythmically based on where I dragged the pitches. Unison created the flanging and the various other pitches gave the loop a movement beyond what it had originally.

It is worth noting though that the VariOS nearly eliminates transposition artifacts like you would get with a typical sampler when playing a sample out of range, i.e. "munchkinization". The sample in the VariOS will also not speed up or slow down when playing at a different pitch that the original, either. In many cases, samples can be played far out of their range with little or no noticable effect on their tonal character. There are limits to this, and some samples seem to be more forgiving of transposition than others. Samples will tend to sound increasingly artificial the further one strays from the original pitch range. Although in most cases, one can stray quite far from the original sample.

Recording ones original melody into an available track in the Vari-Track is simple, just record enable the appropriate track and hit record then play your MIDI source.

Sample editor parameters include the obvious things like fine tune, portamento, LFO, pitch control, and panning. However, there are other quite interesting functions like "robot". "Robot" is not vocoder! When you enable "robot" you remove the sense of pitch from the sample. So in the case of a phrase sample, like a sung phrase with words, you can remove the pitch and play a different melody to the same words. This is of course very familiar to anyone who has worked with Roland's VP-9000 Vari Phrase processor.

More Resources              Articles - full listing
  • VariOS Tips and tricks (pdf)
  • VariOS @ ww.zzounds.com
  • Watch the NAMM 03 VariOS video demo

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