MC-50 and SP-808 step sequencing

Cool! MC-50+SP-808: Step Sequencing the synthesizer of the SP-808

When MC-50 meets SP-808

Before you start reading: You can watch the video of the MC-50 + SP-808 tutorial first.

The Step Modulator of the SP-808 is a very nice function. A good way to control the internal synthesizer. Only point is that you can’t sync it through MIDI with other gear. Well, only if you set the SP-808 to Master but then you have to create complete songs on it and that’s not what I want. I want to trigger the SP-808.

So I connected it to my die-hard MIDI sequencer, the Roland MC-50. Instead of playing/recording in realtime I used the Step Mode of the MC-50. This allows you to create step sequencer lines. A very nice feature for arpeggio-styled music.

The connection

The SP-808 is connected with MIDI-IN to the MIDI-out of my sequencer. Then I connected the MIDI-IN of the sequencer to the MIDI-out of my keyboard, in this case a Alesis QS7. You have to set the same MIDI-channels on the keyboard and the SP-808 to play with the sound of the SP-808. As the connection goes through the MC-50, the MIDI-signals will be recorded by it.

Realtime Controls

Unfortunately the realtime controls are not sending MIDI-data and thus will not be recorded by the MC-50. This means that the synthesizer is really a realtime synth. It is a Virtual Analog synth but this way it’s more analog than digital. But that’s fine by me. There are a lot parameters that can be changed, like Cutoff/Resonance/Delay/ADSR/ and so on. Also you can address 6 different parameters to the three knobs of the SP-808. With ‘Select Row’ you can change between 2 rows of 3 settings. Is that on-hands control or what!

The synth

The synthesizer is based on the engine of a JP-8000 and contains 2 oscillators. Also you can add a delay in stereo or mono, tempo based or time based. Also you can add a chorus or a flanger. This is nice because the synth of the SP-808 is already an effect. But lucky Roland put those two effect to make sure that the sound would not be flat.



I love the synth and I love adjusting the parameters. It’s a bummer you can’t control the Step Mod by MIDI and that the knob movements are not recordable by MIDI. But it’s okay. It’s fine. It’s no problem. No, the synth is still amazing and still worth a lot in these days where we see MicroBrutes and Monologues. This old synth is also monophonic and almost analog.

Keep on grooving!


  • Billy

    Hey roger i really like your tutorials, can you tell me, is step mode on mc50 only there to make arpeggios?
    I mean does it have any purpose other than the above ?

    • Roger, TMM

      Hi Billy!
      Sorry for the late reaction…I just found the comment-section in WP and there was yours waiting…
      Thanks for your positive comment. Really great!

      Yes, there are other purposes for the step mode. You can also create chords instead of just single notes.
      In fact, step mode is originally created to record complex musical pieces. You have the possibility to add rests, ties, chords, notes of all kind of lengths, velocity, aftertouch etc.
      When you have a piece of music in front of you, you are able to recreate that step by step instead of learning to play the piece.
      I hope this was the answer you were looking for.

      Thanks again!


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