Roland Alpha Juno programmers part 1: software

My AJ1

The Alpha Junos are the last analog Juno synths made by Roland, and unlike their predecessors they are not blessed with a bunch of faders – instead, for sculpting the sound you have to rely on lots of membrane buttons and a single Alpha dial. That would’ve been a bad idea even in case of a simpler synth, and the Alphas are considerably more powerful and complex than their older siblings, even the envelopes are not your grandma’s ADSR. Combine that with a filter that doesn’t self-oscillate, unlike the older Junos, and no wonder the Alphas were a flop. As a result, they still aren’t even half as expensive as the more famous models, despite being able to cover 95% of their sound and then do much more.

If you’ve bought an Alpha Juno, you can commit to doing it the hard way with the buttons and the Alpha dial. Or you can use one of the numerous software or hardware programmers/editors/librarians/whatever that can ease your life. In this post I’m trying to make a comprehensive list of software editors for the Alphas (which should also work with the MKS-50 and HS-80). Part 2 will cover the hardware ones.

Free software

Personally, I’m using a free Ctrlr panel (Windows/Mac/Linux) to adjust every parameter from your computer. Configuration is a bit tricky, but still manageable even for someone as dumb as me. You can also export it to a VST plugin, but I haven’t had any luck with DAW automation. Overall it’s a bit ugly and slow, but it’s free and it works well, plus the randomizer is fun.

Alpha Juno Ctrlr panel

Another free option is the Alpha Juno Control (Mac only), but I’ve failed to make it connect to my Juno.

Alpha Juno Control

Finally, you can get the free Alpha Base Editor (Windows only) which some people seem to prefer over the Ctrlr panel.

Alpha Base Editor

Paid software

VST-AU Alpha JUNO Editor (Windows/Mac) costs $69.95 for a single OS version or $119.95 for both. Looks nice and seems to be structured well, but I’d definitely want to see a graphical envelope for that price.

VST-AU Alpha JUNO Editor

Roland Alpha Juno 1 Editor and Librarian included in the Patch Base app (Mac/iOS) is available for $29.99. It’s also included in the monthly and yearly subscriptions, along with a bunch of other editors. Despite the name, it should work with the Alpha Juno 2 and MKS-50 as well. It sports a touch-friendly interface that looks a bit alien on a Mac in my opinion.

Roland Alpha Juno 1 Editor and Librarian (Patch Base)

Alpha Juno Editor is a Max for Live device, which means it only works in Ableton Live (Windows/Mac). On the plus side, it’s only $9, which looks like a great price for something with a nice interface and apparently great DAW integration, even if that DAW can only be Ableton Live.

Alpha Juno Editor Max for Live device

Alpha Editor (iOS) seems to be a comprehensive iPad app with a touch-optimized interface, randomization and a nice price of just $5.99.

Alpha Editor

iPG-800 (iOS) is emulating multiple Roland programmers, including the PG-300 which was specifically designed to alleviate problems associated with not having faders on your Alpha Juno. For just $4.99 you’re getting a faithful recreation of said programmer, up to the absence of a graphical envelope unfortunately.


These are all the software Alpha Juno editors (correct me if I’m wrong), stay tuned for the hardware ones.

music synths

my first attempt at synth repair

Somewhere in the outskirts of Saigon this beauty was waiting for me

Snatched a Roland Alpha Juno 1 for $50 a couple weeks ago. The condition wasn’t exactly perfect, but the semi-busted screen and a bunch of dead functional buttons don’t really bother me, I’m going to set up an external controller for it, and the Alpha Junos are notorious for their poorly designed menu-divey interface anyway. However, the keyboard also needed some repair, the C3 key was misbehaving.

Double triggers? Thanks, but I’ve already got an OP-Z.

I found a very helpful guide on keyboard disassembly and took the synth apart.

Removed the faulty key and discovered that someone has modified the keyboard by putting cotton wool under each key. It may sound weird but I decided to leave it this way for two reasons: I like the way the keyboard feels right now (and I’m not sure it would feel better if I removed the cotton wool), and I’m too lazy to remove 60 more keys.

Applied some Abro electronic contact cleaner under the membrane, and it works like a charm.

Now I have to set up my Roland A-01 to control it (which will take a lot of time), and this beast will join my setup.

longboarding longboarding gear

long distance longboarding gear

I’ve skated for a few thousand km and this is what my gear list has boiled down to:

Skating gear
  • The longboard itself, and I’m not going to give you any advice because you already have that.
  • A helmet. I prefer using cycling helmets as they have better ventilation, regular skate helmets aren’t designed for that. You can put extra reflectors on the back of the helmet.
  • Lights. Don’t skate in the dark without lights. There are two options: you can get a helmet-mounted flashlight (I’m using the ridiculously overpriced Cateye Volt 400 Duplex) or you can get a helmet with an integrated light: Rockbros has a great helmet (available at AliExpress) with a light that is even more powerful than my Cateye, plus extra blue and red lights on the sides and on the back. Why do I use the separate light? I’m a bit nervous about the integrated light compromising the safety of the helmet, perhaps there’s a reason only Chinese helmets have that feature. Another thing is that it’s nice to have a lighter helmet during the day, you only put the light on it as it’s getting dark. It makes a great difference on a bicycle and is less important on a longboard (due to the different stance) but still that means taking a few extra grams off your neck.
  • Safety equipment. A blinking light on the backpack and perhaps some reflective strips to put on your legs. Don’t be afraid of looking like a Christmas tree, there’s no such thing as too much safety. Also, speaking of other kinds of safety, some pepper spray may be a good idea (depending on the country), and a reflective emergency blanket weights nothing and may save your life.
  • A skate tool (I prefer the metal Paris tool, it’s compact and reliable) and bearing lube (I use Skanunu BCL).
  • Shoes, this is kinda individual and I guess most people will find my choice weird but I skate in ASICS Patriot running shoes. They are dirt cheap, quite durable, very light and flexible, and they boast good ventilation. They won’t fit people who like stiff shoes though.
  • A good backpack is extremely important. The first thing you want to consider is size. Do you need a big backpack? If you aren’t going to camp outdoors the answer is NO. I skated for a month straight with a 15 L backpack and it was big enough. There’s a 17 L backpack that is perfect for longboard trips, and that’s Deuter Race EXP Air. It has amazing snug fit (you can even run with it), a metal frame and a separate mesh back for better ventilation, a bright acid green reflective rain cover (which I recommend using all the time, even thought the backpack itself can withstand a moderate rain – it’s just very visible on the road), a retractable helmet net (which you can use for carrying your lunch), one big compartment and one flat compartment. I’ve upgraded to it from the old 15 L version which had served me for many years and still was in a good condition (gave it away to a friend who’s still using it). If you want to save money Decathlon has some cheaper alternatives I believe, but I don’t know whether they’re good.
  • Storage bags. I use a small Acteon cube for underwear and socks and a big one for t-shirts and shorts (optional). Actually you can replace it with a cheaper bag as you won’t have enough clothes for the packing cube to be useful. Just search AliExpress for “ultralight waterproof storage bag” and you’ll find a variety of cheap bags. One will house your underwear and socks, one will house your toiletries (I’m biased against toiletry bags as they are usually unnecessarily big and heavy), one will house your charger and cables… and that’s all, you are unlikely to need more.
  • A wallet. I use a Paper Wallet and it’s amazing, just big enough for a card and some cash. Don’t forget to store a second card and some backup cash deep in your backpack though.
  • A foldable toothbrush. The ones I used got old and I can’t find a worthy replacement though. I have a POLO but it’s kinda disappointing and the ones I got from AliExpress sucked. Pack some toothpaste as well, even if the hotel has some it usually sucks.
  • A 60 ml silicone bottle with shampoo and shower gel (2 in 1). Incredibly convenient, easily refillable. Guess where I got mine? Yep, AliExpress.
  • A travel towel. I use a Naturehike microfiber towel (40×80) which is very compact and light, yet big enough for me to get dry, though you may want to buy a bigger one if you have long hair.
  • A small roll of toilet paper in a plastic bag. You will be thankful one day.
  • Nail clippers if you’re planning a longer trip.
  • A box with a piece of soap. You will use it for washing clothes in the hotel sink, or just for washing your hands (many hotels don’t provide soap).
  • Optional: a small hairbrush, a razor (I just let my beard grow), some Melatonin pills (I used 2 or 3 of them in a month when I had problems sleeping because good sleep is vital, 3 mg was more than enough for me), a bottle of sunscreen (believe me, you don’t need sunburns when traveling).
  • You only really need two pieces of underwear, and in my opinion Uniqlo AIRism boxers nail it. As soon as you get to the hotel, you wash the boxers you were wearing, take a shower and put the other piece on. The wet ones will be dry by the morning. However you may take one or two extra pieces for those lazy days.
  • Two or three pairs of socks will be sufficient.
  • If you’re traveling in hot weather (it was +42º in Daegu when I skated across Korea) you only need running or cycling shorts and one t-shirt. Again, you are supposed to wash your clothes as soon as you get to the hotel.
  • Cycling sleeves will protect your arms from sunburns and somehow make it seem cooler. They are very light and compact. Must have when traveling in summer.
  • Colder weather complicates things a bit. I prefer using layers, that allows me to skate even when the temperature drops below 10º. First this longsleeve, then a t-shirt, then a warm longsleeve, then a jacket. Almost everything I wear in a trip in colder weather is from Decathlon’s winter running gear list, it’s good and relatively cheap. You may also want to use a beanie when it gets cold, just put it under the helmet and you’re warm again.
  • Speaking of a jacket, this is a great option.
  • Your smartphone is vital. You may even want to have a cheap backup phone somewhere in your backpack. Don’t take tablets or laptops (I did once and that was a mistake).
  • A powerbank, 10 Ah is the perfect size. Make sure it has at least two USB ports.
  • A charger with at least three USB ports, I use either a cheap Chinese 3-port charger or Zendure Passport. Always charge all your tech, especially the powerbank. Take enough cables. Keep one at hand in case you’ll have to charge your phone on the way.
  • If you want to shoot videos, a dedicated video camera like DJI Osmo Pocket will be so much better than a phone. You can use a phone gimbal of course but it’s really inconvenient – believe me, I’ve tried it.
  • Optional: a BT speaker (I put my JBL Clip 3 on my chest for navigation, calls and music), a heart rate sensor (be careful with your heart and don’t skate with high heart rate for prolonged time; you can use an expensive brand model or a cheap Chinese one, they are more or less the same in terms of accuracy), a sports watch (Garmin Fenix watches are the best ones ever, you can buy a used Fenix 3 to save money, or get a cheaper Garmin, but don’t waste your money on Google Wear watches or Apple Watch, they won’t last long enough), it will be convenient for controlling your heart rate and for scheduling switch. If you want to make music on the way, you can pack a portable synth like a Pocket Operator or the OP-Z but in my experience I had no energy for music after skating for the whole day.

You should be easily able to fit it all in the backpack (and don’t forget your passport), and it will be 4-6 kg without water. If it’s over 6 kg or if it doesn’t fit, reconsider your equipment, you may conclude you don’t need some of the things you tried to cram in it.

music pocket operators synths

po-33 cheat sheet and resources

I have finally updated the ultimate cheat sheet. It’s much prettier now, plus I’ve fixed some mistakes and added even more useful stuff (and perhaps some new mistakes as well, please tell me if you find any). If you miss the old ugly version, you can get it here.

Note: this is not a guide. You’ll find way better guides in the resource list at the end of this post. This cheat sheet is merely a support material that is meant to be printed and stored with your K.O! so that you can always refresh what you’ve learned. It’s not very useful for learning the tracks of your K.O!, it’s useful for actually playing it.

PO-33 cheat sheet
My graphic editor of choice is Microsoft Excel. Please don’t laugh at me.
Some clarification of the cheat sheet
  • Green squares in scales mean the root note. If you’ve got a sample of note C and want to play in C Major, you need to move it to button 7 (it’s the root for Major). To do so, lower the sample by 3 semitones (that’s what +3 in the name of the scale means). Now your sample is A (on button 5 as always) and button 7 has C.
  • Grey squares are the notes that don’t fit in the chosen scale.
  • M in Major scale is useful for chords. If you’ve got a sample of a major chord at your root, then only the buttons marked with M will have major chords in this key. Same goes for m in minor key obviously.
  • Numbers (+1, -2 and so on) on the blue rectangles mean the number of semitones (aka half steps or half tones) between buttons. Your original sample is on 5, and button 6 is 2 semitones up from it. If you’ve got a melodic sample of A, it’s played “as is” on button 5. The “+2” on button 6 means that if you press it it plays sample + two semitones (half-steps). In this case that’s B. Button 7 plays +1 semitone from button 6, and that’s C. You don’t have to press any extra buttons for that, that’s just how the KO automatically changes the pitch (and the length) of your melodic sample to lay it out on the keyboard.
  • As the K.O! is a sampler, there are no absolutes, all the buttons are relative to the note of the original sample. The semitones on the buttons are relative, so they stay the same. If you’ve got a melodic sample in A, the scale of your K.O! will be A minor with a root on button 5 or C Major with a root on button 7. The numbers on buttons represent semitones between them, so button 7 is +1 semitone away from 6, button 6 is +2 semitones away from 5, so 7 is +3 semitones away from 5. Button 13 is -12 semitones (an octave) away from 5. Your sample is on button 5, everything else is pitched up or down accordingly.
  • The cheat sheet includes a picture of a piano keyboard (with note letters for those who aren’t familiar with music theory at all) to make it easier to wrap your mind around. There’s always a semitone between two neighboring keys. So from A to A# it’s 1 semitone, from A# to B it’s 1 semitone, that means that from A to B you have 2 semitones. But there is no black key between B and C (so no B#), and that means that there’s just 1 semitone between B and C.
  • What makes it even simpler, you’ve got two octaves of your scale (plus the odd buttons 4 and 12 that are out of scale) laid out on your button pads. So if you know the notes of the scale, you don’t have to count anything, you just know that the next button is the next note in the scale. For example, if the original sample is in A, your scale is A minor. You could count semitones from button 5, but if you remember that A minor is all white keys, you can just tell immediately that buttons 5/13 are A, 6/14 are B, 7/15 are C, 8/16 are D, 1/9 are E, 2/10 are F, 3/11 are G and 4/12 are out of the scale.
  • If you want to pitch your sample up or down, look at the black bars on the bottom of the screen, 2 bars = 1 semitone. So if you’ve recorded a sample in C and want to move it to button 7 to play in C Major, pitch the sample down until you’re 6 bars to the left. Button 5 will obviously become A (-3 semitones from C), and C will move to button 7.
  • If you still have no idea what I’m talking about, read a better explanation written by a smarter person here.
  • The orange rectangles are effects that are applied to all the samples being played (both melodic and drum). They can be permanent or temporary depending on the write toggle. Either way you hold the FX button and hold one of the number buttons to apply the corresponding effect.


Here are the highly recommended resources for the PO-33:

Other resources:
Other resource lists:
music op-z synths

op-z guides, cheat sheets, apps and other materials

I’ve decided to compile everything that can be useful for beginners (and even advanced operators perhaps), and I need your help at that.

Firmware downloads and change logs

Guides and manuals

Cheat sheets

Compact cheat sheets (meant to fit on the back of your OP-Z)

Apps, web services, other OP-Z development

Web apps and web services


Discussion boards

You can also find this list on op-forums and reddit.


i’m back

My website is back (though it’s not anymore, I’ve lost that domain). Hopefully this time I’ll put more effort into it.

You can access the old posts here.