Roland SH-101 | Ultimate Guide

The world of electronic music has been significantly shaped by the innovative technologies and iconic instruments that have emerged over the years. Among these, the Roland SH-101 synthesizer stands out as a timeless classic that has left an indelible mark on the music landscape. In this article, we delve into the rich history of the Roland SH-101, exploring its origins, design, features, and lasting impact on the world of electronic music.

Birth of the SH-101:

The Roland SH-101 was introduced to the world in 1982, during a period when synthesizers were becoming increasingly popular in various music genres. Developed by the renowned Japanese electronic musical instrument manufacturer Roland Corporation, the SH-101 was part of the company’s SH series, which included other iconic synthesizers like the SH-1000 and SH-09.

Design and Features:

One of the defining aspects of the SH-101 is its compact and portable design. The synthesizer featured a simple layout with a 32-note keyboard, a single oscillator with a sub-oscillator, and a basic but powerful signal path. Its user-friendly interface made it accessible to both seasoned musicians and those new to synthesizers, contributing to its widespread popularity.

The SH-101’s monophonic nature meant it could only play one note at a time, making it ideal for basslines, leads, and other monophonic sequences. Its sound engine was powered by a single voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO), which could generate a range of waveforms, including sawtooth, square, and pulse waves. The addition of a sub-oscillator provided rich harmonic content, adding depth to the sound.

Noteworthy Features:

The SH-101’s features extended beyond its basic architecture, incorporating several elements that set it apart:

  1. Modulation Section: The SH-101 featured a modulation section with controls for modulation depth and frequency. This allowed musicians to add vibrato and other modulation effects to their sounds, enhancing the expressiveness of the instrument.
  2. Built-in Sequencer: A notable feature of the SH-101 was its built-in 100-note sequencer. Musicians could create and store sequences directly on the synthesizer, making it a versatile tool for live performances and studio work.
  3. Portability: The SH-101’s compact design and the option to run on batteries made it a favorite among musicians on the go. Its distinctive carrying handle added to its portability, making it a common sight in both studios and on stage.

Legacy and Impact:

The Roland SH-101 left an enduring legacy, becoming a staple in electronic and dance music. Its distinctive sound has been featured in countless iconic tracks, spanning genres from synth-pop to techno. Artists such as Aphex Twin, Jean-Michel Jarre, and The Chemical Brothers have all utilized the SH-101’s unique sonic capabilities in their music.

Beyond its impact on music production, the SH-101’s legacy is also evident in its influence on subsequent synthesizer designs. The synthesizer’s straightforward interface and distinctive sonic character have inspired the development of numerous virtual synthesizers and hardware units.


The Roland SH-101 synthesizer remains a timeless icon in the history of electronic music. Its combination of portability, user-friendly design, and distinctive sound has secured its place in the hearts of musicians and producers worldwide. As technology continues to advance, the Roland SH-101 stands as a testament to the enduring power of innovative and well-crafted musical instruments.

Check out our full list of synths here!

Related News


Celebrating 65 Years of The Wurlitzer Side Man

65 years ago saw the release of the first ever commercial drum machine, let’s take a closer look at the Wurlitzer Side Man!

find out more

5 Compressor Types and Their Uses

Is this article we look at 5 types of audio compressors and some common uses for them.

find out more