GM2 Sounds

VR: the two Sound engines: ‘Keyboard engine’ and ‘GM2 engine’

The VR has two distinct ‘sound engines’:

  1. the VR Keyboard Engine: this is the sound engine that you access on the VR front panel (Tonewheel, piano/synth-sounds, DRUM section etc) and what your normally hear when you play the VR.
  2. the VR GM2 Engine: this is an additional ‘hidden’ sound engine that can ONLY be accessed by external midi controlers, sequencers, computers, etc. The GM sounds cannot be directly played on the VR keys (but in the following sections we see some tricks to overcome this)

    The GM2 engine is also used by midi song files played from a VR usb-stick.


The ‘GM2 engine’

‘General Midi’ (‘GM’) is a midi specifiation standard. For example, GM contains 128 ‘standardized sounds’ (natural instruments, synth sounds, effect sounds…) and a handfull of ‘midi controllers’ (e.g. ‘volume’, ‘sustain’, etc)
‘General Midi 2’ (‘GM2’) is the extension of GM (mainly pushed by Roland corp). GM2 contains 256 ‘standardized (Roland) sounds’ and a lot more ‘midi controllers’ (e.g. pitch bend, envelope and filter, vibrato, etc etc) for heavy modifying of sounds

The GM2 engine of the VR consists of:
– the 256 standardized Roland GM2 sounds (which are listed in the VR09 midi implementation manual)
– plus ca. 500 ‘undocumented’ sounds, e.g. very fat analogue synth patches.
– a series of GM2 midi controllers (documented in MIDI) that can be used to modify the sounds in a live performance.

‘Midi song files’ (e.g. for Karaoke) are usually using the ‘GM’ standard. If you play a midi song file via the VR usb drive, it interacts exclusively with the VR GM2-engine, with 128 GM sounds and GM/GM2 controllers (e.g. a ‘vibrato’ on a guitar sound)

How to find & select the GM2 sounds on the VR:

The most comfortable way is to use the CTRLR V-Combo EDITOR: it has a ‘[GM2]’ section that allows to load any GM2 sound into a ‘VR midi channel’ and has ‘controllers’for modding the sounds. In the Editor, switch to ‘SOUND’, then [GM2] Tab
You can also use the ‘program change data’ for the 256 GM2 standard sounds listed in ‘VR midi implementation manual’ (from Roland website).
Note that the EDITOR knows the 256 GM2 standard sounds PLUS additional sound banks for ca 500 unindentified sounds – and offers modding (filter, envelope, etc) and saving of modded sounds.

To load GM sounds there are several methods:

  1. use the VR registrations to load GM sounds. For each registration only one GM sound can be loaded and it’s not possible to add mods
  2. use the EDITOR to load GM sounds (VR factory GM sounds or a saved GM sound). This allows layering of GM sounds
  3. setup an external keyboard (midi controller) that is capable of sending bank select + program changes with GM2 sounds and eventual mods

To play GM sounds there are several methods

  1. playing on the VR key by using a ‘midi bridge cable’ and sending proper notes back to its GM banks. This will allow only ONE GM sound (no layering)
  2. playing on the VR key by attaching a tablet/laptop running a ‘midi router software’  that routes VR notes back to its GM banks. This will allow layering GM sounds.
  3. playing on an external keyboard (midi controller) attached to the VR: depending on the controller you can layer GM sounds and/or use zones

We’ll discribe the ‘VR registration method’ for sound loading and the ‘midi bridge cable’ for playing on the VR as this can be used ‘on stage’ without additional gear (tablets, laptops, midi keyboards etc)

Using VR registrations for loading GM2 sounds

The VR registration program changes can be used to load a GM2 sound to the VR. For this purpose, the VR needs to send the program changes ‘to itself’. This is possible by:
   a tablet/laptop and a ‘midi-router’ software
   the ‘midi bridge’ cable between VR MIDI OUT and IN

The loaded sound can then be played by on the VR keyboard itself.

With other words: you can prepare ‘registrations with a GM sound’ and use them on stage

Midi Router software

Windows & Mac: a mighty (free) software is “TransMIDIfier”: it can re-route any channel, filter midi messages etc.
IOS: probably keystage?
Android: nothing discovered yet

The midi bridge ‘ring trick’

or: how to play a GM2 sound without external arms 🙂
The Trick is to plug a 5-pin midi cable from VR midi-out to midi-in (the ‘ring’ – or ‘bridge’). This will enable you to:
1. use a VR registration to send a program change message to a ‘GM2’ midi channel for loading a GM2 sound
2. send note on/off messages from the VR keybed to that GM2-channel for playing the GM sound by changing the ‘TX’ (send) channel of a manual to that channel

As long as the midi bridge cable is connected, the keybed will send midi notes to the ‘TX’ channel of the manual. Switching to another registration with default TX channels (e.g. channel 4 for upper manual) will result into ‘double-playing’ of the VR manual sound.
The trick is to set the TX channels of ALL non-‘GM2’-registrations to the ‘deaf’ control channel 16 with the VR being in Midi ‘Mode 2’ or ‘keyboard’ (Channel 16 does not receive midi note messages)
As long as the midi bridge cable is connected, the usage of the Expression Pedal is not allowed! It will instantly cause a permanent disruption of any sound and the VR has to be rebooted

(A) AT HOME: prepare the VR registration using the editor

Before first use of ‘VR GM registrations’  all TxMidi Channels for all registrations must be set to ‘dead channel 16’: TX (‘transmission’) midi channels are the channels on which the VR sends midi note on/off messages through its midi out jack.
With the bridge cable in place, the VR will send note on/off signals to itself
This means that registrations with default TxMIDI channels (e.g. channel 4 for upper manual) will receive the same note on/off twice (directly from keybed + via bridge), re-triggering each note and resulting in awful sound artefacts.
To avoid this all non-GM-registrations have to be modified by setting the TX channel of each manual to channel 13.
In MIDI MODE 2, channel 16 is a ‘dead channel’ and all note on/offs send to it end in Nirvana.
You can change all registrations by hand using the VR-menu ‘MIDI’ – or use the CTRLR EDITOR special feature introduced in  version v1.12.12: export your registrations to an upg-file, load the file to the EDITORs  ‘upg editor’ tab, treat each registration with the new ‘[GM2] sil’ button, save the file back and reload it into the VR (this might sound complicated but it’s done in 10 minutes)

  1. prepare the VR:
    – connect its midi-out to its midi-in jack with a 5-pin midi cable
    – open VR-menu ‘MIDI’:
       set ‘MIDI IN Mode’ to MODE 2
       set TxMIDI Channel of the manual you want to use for the GM sound to a channel ‘C’ of your choice
            C must be 5-10,12,14,15. Channel 10 is reserved for ‘GM drums’
    – mute the keyboard sound by the ‘parts volume knobs’
  2. Now look for a nice GM sound:
    If you can use CRTLR V-Combo EDITOR (e.g. Windows and Mac users):
    – connect editor and VR, switch to SOUND-EXPLORER tab ‘[GM2]’, set Midi-Mode 2 and SEL-ect channel ‘C’
    – Load GM-sounds to channel ‘C’. You can test the sounds by playing on the VR
    – If you found a nice sound note down its PRG MSB LSB values shown on the [GM2] LCD

    If you cannot use CRTLR V-Combo EDITOR (e.g. IOS users):
    – fetch VR midi manual, goto GM sound list with program numbers and msb-lsb bank select
    – use a midi app to send PC#/MSB/LSB of a sound to channel ‘C’. Test the sound by playing on the VR
         Important: The ‘program numbers’ (PC#) in the VR manual are listed in ‘1-128’ counting scheme.
         If your midi app uses ‘0-127’ counting scheme, substract 1 from the values given in the manual

  3. Open VR-menu ‘MIDI’:
    set ‘Send PC Switch’ to ON
    set ‘PC Number BankMSB’ to the MSB value of the GM sound
    set ‘PC Number BankLSB’ to the LSB value of the GM sound
    set ‘PC Number PC Num ‘ to the PRG value of the GM sound + 1 (e.g if PRG is ‘6’, PC Num must be set to ‘7’)
  4. Save to a registration


  1. On VR, connect its midi-out to its midi-in jack with a 5-pin midi cable (see picture below)
  2. Load the ‘prepared’ VR registration: it will send the registration program change to channel C loading the GM-sound and set the TX channel of the keybed to C
  3. Play 🙂