I need some money.
Leaning against the white wall just to the right of my desk space was my Roland Juno 106 analog synthesizer. It’d been there since I last used it back in… you know what, I don’t even remember. And that says a lot right there.
Without getting into a whole thing about how I treat my various musical instruments as a kid does toys in sandbox (randomly strewn about, played with intermittently, collecting dust), I can say this synth has been on my mind a lot when it comes to its use and value. I paid $100 for it almost a decade ago, and have used it quite a bit – on and off, but still – over those years. The past couple years however have left it relatively untouched, leaning against the wall with an even older Slipknot flag-poster draped across its backside to theoretically protect against dust.
I do like the unit. That’s not in question. But one does reach the point of reconsideration when enough disuse is realized. And when money is tight, the reconsideration increases.
Then it becomes a matter of pro’s and con’s, in terms of keeping the synth.
CON: On one hand, I don’t use it very much anymore. PRO: On the other hand, when I do use it I enjoy the heck out of it. The synth is capable of a lot of sounds both conventional and irregular to what it’s technically designed for.
There’s the question of analog vs. digital sound quality as well. PRO: This is an oldschool analog synthesizer from the 1980’s, and although it’s a bit more common and affordable it is still sought after for its quality and capabilities. CON: That said, I barely have the ear for noticing “superior” analog sound over “flat” digital. And to that end, CON: I have a full digital recording software studio on my laptop, fully capable of creating any sounds the Juno 106 has (mini-PRO: it’s still up to me to approximate those sounds digitally, which is not always easy – hence the plethora of software plugins that emulate specific brand synthesizers to the digital T).
CON: I’d be holding on to a big physical object (about four feet long and not too light) that, while it makes cool sounds, takes up physical space. That said, PRO: it’s the physicality that appeals to me. I’m a tactile person – I would much rather twiddle knobs with my hands than click endlessly at a screen that burns out my eyes.
Speaking pragmatically, PRO: it doesn’t take up that much space. But a more pressing concern is that I really need some money right now. A bit of research shows that Roland Juno 106’s in top working order and condition go for an average of $1200 these days. My 106 is only in mostly working order (there’s some channel noise, and the VCF Envelope slider needs to be reconnected – don’t ask me how). And given the fact that I’ve (carefully) hauled this thing around without a travel case to perform at shows a few times, it’s got some generous wear-and-tear. But otherwise it’s still pretty solid and still plays and sounds great. As such I should be able to get at least $600 for it – a pretty tidy profit on a $100 investment.
And therein lies the last consideration, the last PRO: my history with the unit. In short, I’ve made a fair amount of music with this synth. I consider synthesizers to be the epitome of musical creativity, and this unit has lived up to that reputation. Not really being a piano player, I’ve used the 106 for anything but standard melody. Mainly experimentation. A lot, lot, lot of noise and experimentation. I’ve created a 5 track EP using entirely this synth, and I’ve performed at local noise concerts with it. It’s done me well.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit to a little feeling of pride whenever someone is impressed to see that I own a Roland Juno 106 (shameless PRO or shameful CON? You decide!).
I still have a bit of time to decide if I’m going to sell my 106. To be honest, a big part of me feels absolutely okay with selling it, if not eager. But of course I played with it today for the first time in who knows how long, to go over what all is wrong with it (not much). And of course I eventually remembered what I liked about it – and still like. A weird irony: my noodling presets evolved into creating simple keyboard tones that sound like 70’s/80’s Italian zombie b-movie soundtracks. And that’s a sound I really like, and I could and can see myself making my own music along the lines of films like Zombi 2, Contagion, John Carpenter’s The Thing, etc.
Will I make that music? Probably. When? Not very soon. Can I pull it off using digital software? Undeniably.
Am I better off selling the 106 than keeping it?
Not today, anyway.
© 2016 Andrew Hall Writes