Submitted April 3, 2018 by June Lopez in Philadelphia, PA
"The Roland SP-404A for creative performances"
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I am a musician, sound designer, composer, and an experimentalist of afro, latin, jazz, techno, and electronic music. The Roland SP404A & SP404SX (discontinued) are pretty much the same machines. I have been using Roland products as far as I can remember in the early 80's so I have seen the progression in their products. I am a sound art performer, I needed a piece a gear that I could carry in my backpack and that would allow me to be creative anywhere. I got tired of carrying my laptop, and controller and just needed something that I can pull out of my backpack and just groove. I am very proficient with programs like Ableton but I was always very curious about using a limited machine like the Roland SP-303 and SP-404 because of their distinctive sound. I watched countless of videos and decided it was a perfect marriage for my workflow and a great performance tool. The SP-303 isn’t the most advanced sampler, yet everyone from Madlib and Dilla to artists like Four Tet has used it. I had no idea so many people used it before I started researching for this piece. The learning curve can be a little steep for someone who doesn’t have experience with samplers or even the patience to read a book. Lucky for me I reached out to a couple of my young cats and they walked me through some of the basics functions and of course the best-kept secrets. I have to say, I was sold so I purchased my 404 from zZounds. (zZounds is not paying me to write this)
The Roland SP404A allows you to sample, record your own voice, instruments and arrange beats to your liking. Playing with laptops can become performative in conventional ways, just by adding instruments – voice, guitar, live drums, or whatever it is you play. But it can get really boring – the “press play” approach – or it can begin to embody an artist’s musical imagination. You can get a lot more interesting sounds using some simple techniques for sampling loops, and be creating some interesting compositions.
I needed flexibility in my sound so that I can get the response from my audience when I am performing. The SP404 does all the neat little tricks that you can do with a computer or a high-end sampler minus the screen. Personally, I like using my ears, imagination and paint a picture of what I am looking for in my performance. With all, it’s onboard effects and flexibility to manipulate samples. This makes a winner in my book.
Now my typical setup - I have my headphones, nothing bulky, AKG Samsung headphones do the trick, great bass and hi-end sounding but more importantly flat, I carry my iPad with me at all times because at any given moment thats when I am most creative. I also carry my Sony PCM M10 digital recorder, a stereo (y) adapter cable to connect from my SP404 to the digital recorder. I sample sounds from my own collection that I have on my recorder and my collection of music that I produced. On occasions I might sample stuff from youtube :0) or what other sound sources are available to me on my phone. I use sounds from my iPad IOS synths and drums. Don’t sleep. You can even take the 404 along with you to your local coffee shop and work on tunes. My recommendation is to have fresh batteries handy just in case you don’t have access to a power outlet. That’s one thing that sold me to the 404, battery operated, the ability to save my samples on an SD card, built-in microphone, a 1/4 inch adapter to plug in a mic and ability to plug in pair headphones. Don't let the lack of equipment get in the way of your creativity. Get the SP404 and see for yourself. Have fun and make music.
Over 25 years of playing percussion, production, and DJ.
I would say my musical style is world music primarily, but I have a strong background in Latin, Jazz, Funk, Hip Hop, House, and
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