After starting my first after-school job, I was disappointed to find how hard it was to save money. My $3.85/hour wasn’t exactly accruing the kind of cash I would need to buy my dream studio. But I would still ride my bike half of my weekdays and usually one weekend day to the neighborhood pizza shop and work towards my first real synthesizer.
The day I could finally afford my first synth arrived in 1990. Some of my friends could drive by then, and we made a habit of checking out music shops and pawn shops to see what gear they had around. Even one of the mall stores then had a great selection. I remember playing an Oberheim Matrix-12, Matrix-6, Roland Alpha Juno, JX-10, and a JX-8p all in one sitting there. I didn’t even look at the price tags, though.
There was one pawn shop that tended to have a great selection of old gear on Westheimer in Houston. We walked in one day, and right in front of my eyes was a Roland Juno-60. I had never seen one before, but the price seemed somewhat reasonable at the time: $425. I asked for some headphones and began to put the Juno through its paces.
I instantly fell in love with the Juno. It is a single oscillator synthesizer with an analog self-oscillating filter, a heavenly chorus, and an arpeggiator. Even though the oscillator was digitally controlled, to me it sounded rich and warm. The sub-oscillator could also give the impression of a two-osc synthesizer, and to make things even better that sub-oscillator has a woody, open square wave sound to it that complements the saw and pulse waves on the regular oscillator. Plus, that chorus! I did not have $400 at the time, but I was getting close. I had to find a way to make the Juno-60 mine.
I remember a Sunday afternoon after seeing the Juno, my family all went out for burgers with my grandfather who was visiting us from the Texas valley. The hamburger restaurant happened to be very close to the pawn shop, so I begged my parents to let me see the synth just for a few minutes while we were nearby. I think my mom told my grandfather I almost had enough money to buy it, and he offered to pay the rest of the bill right then and there. The Juno came home with me.
I wonder how many hours I spent in my bedroom with headphones on playing that Juno. I still love the way it sounds and use it practically every time I fire up my studio. The Juno was a little torn up and rough, but everything worked perfectly on it. I still am amazed at how great it can sound; you just don’t find many single-oscillator synthesizers that can cut through a mix like the Juno-60 can. I’m glad it’s still with me.
Even though my grandfather is no longer with us, the Juno is. I still think about him every once and a while when I play it.Posted: March 21st, 2010 | Tags: synthesizers | 1 Comment »