Roland SH-101 Analog Monophonic Synthesizer

The instrument

The Roland SH-101 is a monophonic analog synthesizer – meaning it can only play one note at a time. It is renowned for its portability, ease of use, and distinctive sound that is now indispensable in the history of electronic music.

Upon its release in 1982, its creators expected instant commercial success. The SH-101 was marketed at a particularly affordable price for its time (initial price of $495 USD or £249 GBP), could be battery-powered, and could easily be converted into a keytar using the modulation handle and optional guitar strap. Despite these advantages, the instrument never resonated with the 80s pop generation it was intended for. Instead, it found its place within new emerging electronic scenes, such as the early Detroit techno movement.


One of the key features of the SH-101 is its simple yet powerful architecture. It includes an oscillator capable of producing different waveforms, a 24dB per octave low-pass filter, an envelope generator, and a versatile LFO capable of modulating several parameters simultaneously. Its limited but carefully chosen options allow for quick creation of powerful basses and piercing melodic lines, corresponding to the ongoing aesthetic explorations of the acid house, techno, and electro scenes from the eighties to today. In terms of playability, the SH-101 has intuitive arpeggiator and sequencer tools, still widely used in production studios, allowing non-keyboardist musicians to easily produce complex melodic and rhythmic ideas.

Although production of the SH-101 ceased in 1986, its legacy endures. Enthusiasts and collectors continue to seek out the SH-101 for its authentic analog sound and streamlined design. Its influence is evident in numerous software emulations and hardware clones that attempt to capture its unique character.