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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » synths


Star Shepard is Legowelt’s insane hacked-together DIY synth

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 18 Jul 2018 11:37 pm

This is a serious Frankenstein’s monster: a DIY synth made of a 1981 Casio keyboard, an AM radio, stompboxes, and more – and held together with glue and tape.

Legowelt is somewhere between modding, circuit bending, and instrument design here, concocting a kind of wonky workstation of weirdness from the cannibalized bits of other stuff.

Essentially, it’s a Casio keyboard fed through a series of effects and circuit-bent circuitry, with a looper pedal thrown in and an AM radio as noise source. Maestro Legowelt explains:

Enter the STAR SHEPHERD a synth I Build/bent/hacked/modified from old guitar pedals FX and EQ boxes, a small AM radio and a 1981 Casio 403 keyboard. The oscillator section is made out of Pitchshifter/Harmonizers/Sub Octavers and a graphic EQ pedal to create complex harmonic tones – transmorphed from the simple keyboard sounds fed by the Casio. The sound then goes through a bunch of circuitbend Analog delays, reverbs, Tremolos & Vibratos (figuring as makeshift LFO sources) and Wahwah pedals as filters. The AM radio is figuring as a random noise source. There is also a very simple keyboard style ‘sequencer’ made from a looper pedal.

The case is made out of cheap plywood and everything is held together with screws, glue and tape. There are also some LED strips pulsating from the inside for some extra intense magic.

It is very noisey, crackly and sometimes starts doing its own thing like some sentient synthesizer being that is alive. This makes it quite an adventurous experience.

It has all the spirit of electronics pioneer Reed Ghazala’s original notion of circuit bending: it’s modification of equipment as a way to “evolve” it into some organic machine life. But that AM radio alone gives it some unique and scifi sounds. It sounds like a whole studio for some rich communist-era space epic. And the formants on the filters give you the impression it’s singing to you.

Listen/watch:

Oh yeah, and there’s a painting, entitled “The Star Shepherd guiding his flock through Palm Springs”. Of course:

Your store-bought synth is now way too new, too generic, and involves too little taped-together assembly.

More of this on the official site, which has an impressive 1996 Web design:

http://www.legowelt.org/

The post Star Shepard is Legowelt’s insane hacked-together DIY synth appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

From Japan, an ambient musician on solitude and views of the sea

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 10 Jul 2018 11:28 pm

As haunting, oceanic wells of sound sing achingly in the background, Tokyo-based ambient musician Chihei Hatakeyama talks in a new documentary about what inspires him.

The creative series toco toco follows the musician to the places and views that inspired the images of his music – including gazing into the sea. Of that view, he says:

“There wasn’t any gap in space, it was translating directly into music.”

Filmmaker Anne Ferrero writes to share her work, as she follows the artist “to the roots of his universe, in the Kamakura and Enoshima areas, where he grew up.”

And he speaks of the beauty in ambient music, and its connection to nature. And while solitude in computer music is often seen as something of a liability, here he talks about its importance – as he uses that laptop as a box for editing improvisations.

Being able to create music alone made it more personal. The music that I wanted to make could now express my mind – what I felt inside.

The film is subtitled in English, with Japanese audio. (Don’t forget to turn CC on.)

It’s a deeply personal film all over, and even talks about the journey from electronic sounds on dancefloors to the quieter, more contemplative world of ambient music. And he finds that moment of liberating himself from the beat – not by trying to copy what people would call ambient music on a superficial level, but by fumbling his way to this solution after eliminating obstacles to expression.

Hey, I love both modes of music, myself, so I can appreciate that balance. It’s just rained here in Berlin, and I’m reminded of that feeling of relief when it rains after long periods of sun … and visa versa. Maybe music is the same way.

Have a watch, and I’m sure you’ll want to pick up a guitar or laptop, or go to a beach, or take a personal field trip to the museum and stare at paintings.

Painting with colors in sound … filling the world with oceans of your own expression. What could be more lovely?

Now, an insane amount of beautiful music:

http://www.chihei.org

https://www.discogs.com/artist/440866-Chihei-Hatakeyama

https://chiheihatakeyama.bandcamp.com

The post From Japan, an ambient musician on solitude and views of the sea appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Don’t know how to use Ableton Live? These videos can teach you

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 10 Jul 2018 2:00 pm

Just because everyone you talk to may know Ableton Live in and out doesn’t mean you do. Ableton have quietly posted an official series of videos that covers the basics, quickly.

And yeah, it’s actually a bit funny that we’ve gotten to 2018 without an official set of Ableton videos like this. But here we are – and yes, the quality is a lot better than most of what you’ll find online. Paid training products may still do better on going in depth, but … for the essentials, you’d expect Ableton as the developer to come up with something fast, direct, and free, and that’s what you get here.

If you’re not a Live owner, there’s a fully functioning demo version you can try out so you can follow along with these without spending money.

I’m going to guess for some of you readers, this really is your chance to see how Live works – and for others, this will be an easy reference to point to so you don’t have to personally tutor all your friends.

The full playlist is some 59 videos:

But let’s work through some highlights. Note: you do not need white walls and IKEA furniture to use Ableton Live. 😉

First, I know the stumbling block for many people is just getting sound working and hooking up keyboards and controllers, so you can start there:

And there’s the requisite interface tour:

The soul of Ableton Live, and a big clue to its popularity, is Session View. This screen lets you try out ideas by combining loops, samples, and patterns in various combinations, which is useful for exploring musical materials and for live performance.

This also means you should understand warping – mastering this view will help you manipulate audio “The Ableton Way” – and the interface may not be immediately obvious:

Personally, I like using Simpler (a basic sample instrument), because it lets you quickly move to playing sounds, so don’t miss the tutorial about warping inside Simpler:

Session View is what Live is arguably about. But since the beginning, some Live users have stuck to Arrangement View, a more traditional, linear layout. And some even use this view for live performance. Understanding it together with Session View is the main task in getting comfortable with Ableton’s workflow.

Happily, after some years of users demanding the feature, you can use the two side by side. (I have to confess to not doing this as much as I probably should, partly because I got in the habit of switching as an early adopter of the software.)

There’s a lot more in there for you to explore depending on where your interests lie, but let’s highlight some of the Live 10-specific stuff, as well:

New in Live 10

Live 10’s changes to Arrangement View are really most useful if you learn the keyboard shortcuts, which can now allow you to edit ideas more quickly:

It’s also significant that Live 10 added multi-clip editing, which brings Arrangement View pattern editing more in line with some of Live’s competition:

There are a lot of sound capabilities tucked into the new Live 10 devices, but check out some of these in particular:

Oscillator effects in Wavetable are really cool.

Having Echo in Live 10 is a little like having a hybrid-Roland Space Echo toy with you at all times. But the far-out modulation of delay time is where things go wild:

Live 9 and Live 10, but let’s close out with a reminder that you can use Ableton Link to make it easy to sync other software and mobile apps and jam with your friends:

Got more stuff that confuses you? Software or hardware you’d like CDM to help you learn? Let us know.

The post Don’t know how to use Ableton Live? These videos can teach you appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Go inside Berlin’s synth heaven – and one of its top modular makers

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 9 Jul 2018 6:07 pm

Electronic music is understood by the general public mostly through artists – tech is just something in the background with knobs. But there’s more to the story than that.

And while it’s certainly well known in synth loving circles, Berlin has accordingly been techno capital and club capital, but is finally getting recognition as a mecca for technology.

These two films take you inside one retailer and one manufacturer that have each championed the return to boutique sonic electronics, to patch cables and modular synthesis, and that have resisted anything like mass market mentalities or commodification.

They could have easily been mistaken as throwbacks, but there’s some futurism to the visions of both Mark Verbos and Andreas Schneider. Schneider’s name is associated with Berlin, having established his shop as the hangout, wallet emptier, and community pillar of the synth scene. Verbos, who was himself once a Berlin resident, has only recently brought the modular business he established in New York City across the Atlantic. And even though their wares are unmistakably fetish objects, I’d say both brands make their value proposition through a commitment to adventurous sound. So yes, you get vintage-looking knobs and slightly anachronistic telephone switchboard interfaces. But the investment, their message says, is in exploring strange new worlds and undiscovered sounds.

Schneidersladen, toured by Synth Anatomy, is a clinic and community hub as well as a place to surrender to gear acquisition syndrome. And it retains the same personality and idiosyncracies that mark the larger synth loving scene.

Mapping the Schneider empire is getting tricky these days, but the short version: Schneidersladen in Kreuzberg is the new retail iteration of what was once Schneidersbüro (at Alexanderplatz, the old location)). ALEX4 is a distribution company. Superbooth, while once just an actual booth at the Musikmesse, is now an event series with its own production company.

At Verbos Electronics, Mark – who cut his teeth as a Buchla expert and repairperson – walks through the passion that drives his business in high-end modules. Side note: Mark is also a consummate live techno musician on his own instruments, having fired up these boxes in the likes of Berghain (and, back in the day, the old Ostgut and Tresor). Hearing him play should leave little doubt that these machines are for dancing, not just chin scratching. (You can, of course, attempt doing both at once. Full support.)

Check out the online presence of each:

http://www.verboselectronics.com/

https://www.schneidersladen.de/

Photo: Verbos Electronics.

The post Go inside Berlin’s synth heaven – and one of its top modular makers appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Modal goes from craft and boutique to sub-$300 SKULPT power synth

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 6 Jul 2018 9:26 pm

Modal Electronics have done ultra high-end boutique, and they’ve done cute, cheap craft synths. But now they’re gunning for a sub-$300 instrument that looks consumer-friendly – and packs some 32 oscillators and more.

If it’s successful, it looks like the first portable power polysynth that has an entry-level price tag – no exposed circuit boards, no cutesy features, no stripped-down sound sources. And it also has some parallels to IK Multimedia’s UNO, introduced at Superbooth Berlin in May. It even has a membrane keyboard like the IK piece. But whereas IK chose to go analog – and thus have just two VCOs – Modal have beefed up the architecture with by opting instead for virtual analog guts.

What you get, then, is a monosynth, paraphonic, or polyphonic instrument. You can route modulation into elaborate combinations. You get FM, PWM, tuning, and ring mod. And it has a built-in sequencer plus arpeggiator, which seems to be fast becoming a standard feature these days – but a lot of extras for each that definitely are anything but standard.

And with all that complexity, of course you’ll also be glad for the included patch storage and recall.

But it’s the pricing – projected under US$300 – that make this so aggressive. You can buy an iPad and load it with a powerful polysynth for that price, but there’s not anything I can think of that does this.

Full specs:

4 voice – 32 oscillator virtual analogue synthesiser
8 oscillators per voice with 2 selectable morphable waveforms
Mixer stage for osc levels along with FM, PWM, tuning and Ring Modulation options
Monophonic, Duophonic and Polyphonic modes available
Multi option Unison / spread to detune the 32 oscillators for a huge sound
8 slot modulation matrix with 8 sources and 37 destinations
3 x envelope generators for Filter, Amplitude and Modulation
2 x audio rate LFOs, one global and one polyphonic
Realtime sequencer that will record up to 128 notes and up to 4 parameters.
Fully featured arpeggiator with division, direction, octave, swing and sustain controls.
Resonant filter that can be morphed from low pass, through band pass, to high pass
Delay and distortion (wavehsaping overdrive, not bitcrushing) effects
Optional MIDI clock sync for LFOs and Delay
128 patch and 64 sequence storage locations
16 key touch MIDI keyboard
MIDI DIN In and Out – Analogue clock sync In and Out connections
Class compliant MIDI provided over USB connection to host computer or tablet
Headphone and line output
Power by USB or 6 x AA batteries
Optional software editor available for MacOS, Windows, IOS and Android
Portable and compact design

The design looks contemporary and stylish, too, if perhaps recalling 80s Frogdesign for Apple. And you might expect some compromises on I/O or something like that, but … there aren’t.

Sounds:

I’ll be curious to see how it’s received – while slick looking, the membrane keyboard and that diagonally oriented control panel may not be for everyone. But it’s hard to argue with the price and all that power underneath.

It certainly means Modal Electronics are game for any market segment. I can’t think of another maker that’s gone quite this quickly from “sell your compact car to buy our high-end synth” to “actually, maybe just fold it together yourself” to “let’s crowd-fund a slick, inexpensive design object.” (Okay, maybe Moog Music counts – but it took them some years to span from theremin kits to rockstar-priced modular reissues.)

The Kickstarter launches next week.

http://www.modalelectronics.com/skulpt/

The post Modal goes from craft and boutique to sub-$300 SKULPT power synth appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Meet the ultimate Scottish Eurorack module, from Expert Sleepers

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 28 Jun 2018 1:10 pm

The UK may be Brexiting, but Expert Sleepers is leaving England and moving to Scotland. And one special-edition module celebrates – and proves how just much one tiny spot in a rack can do.

Expert Sleepers began its life in 2004 (roughly around the same time as CDM, in fact), created by Andrew Ostler. They started in software, but entered Eurorack around 2008.

And now, they’re pairing up with Scottish music and equipment retailer/distributor Rubadub, who have a similar storied history and loyal fans, back to the store’s birth as a record shop in 1994. The distribution partnership was followed this year by the modular maker moving to Scotland. So what better way to celebrate than with a module faceplate emblazoned with a map of the Scottish highlands (as created by artist Andrew Beltran).

The module in question is the latest revision of Disting, a multifunctional module. In just a slim, single 4HP module, you get a ridiculous amount of features – a bit like having 80 modules in one. Here’s a really great walkthrough of the MK4 unit by synth vlogger loopop:

And I really do mean a lot of features. The Disting is an oscillator / envelope generator / modulation source, yes. But it can also be used with audio recording, sample playback, physical modeling, and effects. In short, it has a lot of the multitasking usefulness you associate with a computer, but you get to stay with something you can bolt into a rack and never have to boot and that isn’t constantly asking you for software updates. (Ahem. But yes, if you’re thinking “so this sort of is a computer,” then you’re right – albeit one that packs all this stuff onto a little CPU brain.)

All of that makes the price of £139 a steal… and the salvation of people with limited budgets or limited space in their flight case.

It makes me inspired on behalf of the fine Scottish people, so I’ve composed a poem to honor the occasion, starting with a stanza from their national anthem, yadda yadda beating the English in the 14th Century yadda yadda try to make that fit with current events even though I’m an American and don’t fully know the tune so it probably doesn’t fit:

“O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit Hill and Glen,
And stood against him,
Proud Edward’s Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

O in mine studio,
Thy gleaming bolt
That once were bare,
It now is filled up,
With modules fair,
And from yer chip,
that beating heart,
Does modulation
Spew with art

O sleeping experts,
Be Scottish brave!
Give us machinery,
Us bonnie lass and lad do rave!
And what sonic tools
We may now lack
Our wallets and credit lines salute thee,
Ye Eurocrack!”

Sort of lost the rhyme scheme there, but my heart was in it.

Expert Sleepers Disting MK4 Eurorack Module Rubadub Special Edition [rubadub]

Documentation, firmware [Expert Sleepers]

The post Meet the ultimate Scottish Eurorack module, from Expert Sleepers appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

How to make dirty sounds, in videos, with Novation Circuit Mono Station

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 8 Jun 2018 12:35 pm

Remember when we were sold on everything being clean and digital? Now it’s just about grime and filth. But if you were wondering where to start with Novation’s cute, dirty Circuit Mono Station, they’ve got a series of hands-on videos to get you going.

Some back story: the Mono Station is the follow up to the first Circuit. Like the original, it’s a square-ish looking box with a colored grid as its center. But whereas the original Circuit concealed a digital polysynth and drum machine (with the ability to load your own samples), the Mono Station is all about analog synthesis. That means it also has additional controls, and unlike the mysterious macro encoders on the first Circuit, the Mono Station’s knobs and faders and bits actually have labels. So you can read a label with words on it, and you know, maybe have a better idea what you’re doing. Or you can just ignore that and give it a try anyway.

The “How to filth” series runs through a set of fairly practical ideas to get you going.

It’s really rather a nice way to get a manual. There’s no lengthy explanation, no theory – and no sitting through a really long tutorial. Just watch a few steps, and then see if you can copy more or less what they’ve done. That should help you dive straight in. And if you’re on the fence about the Circuit Mono Station, this gives you some stuff to go try if you’re borrowing a friend’s hardware or going to the shops.

Here’s the full series:

This is a great one for summer, too, as Circuit and Circuit Mono Station are nicely portable.

What do you think? Is this sort of thing useful to you? Would you want to see more / something different? Let us know; it’s great to get feedback from readers on what’s making you musically productive. And if you make some tunes with us, send us those, too!

Here’s our story on the instrument, at launch. Some time later, it’s still holding up at that price point – and it’s not a clone or throwback, either, but a totally new instrument, designed by some nice people in England. (I know – I’ve met them! And they’re musicians, as well, of course!)

Novation Circuit Mono Station: paraphonic, feature packed, $499

The post How to make dirty sounds, in videos, with Novation Circuit Mono Station appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Ableton’s Creative Extensions are a set of free tools for sound, inspiration

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 6 Jun 2018 12:00 pm

On the surface, Ableton’s new free download today is just a set of sound tools. But Ableton also seem focused on helping you find some inspiration to get ideas going.

Creative Extensions are now a free addition to Live 10. They’re built in Max for Live, so you’ll need either Ableton Live 10 Suite or a copy of Live 10 Standard and Max for Live. (Apparently some of you do fit the latter scenario.)

To find the tools, once you have those prerequisites, you’ll just launch the new Live 10 browser. then click Packs in the sidebar, and Creative Extensions will pop up under “Available Packs” as a download option. Like so:

I’m never without my trusty copy of Sax for Live. The rest I can download here.

Then once you’re there, you get a tool for experimenting with melodies, two virtual analog instruments (a Bass, and a polysynth with modulation and chorus), and effects (two delays, a limiter, an envelope processor, and a “spectral blur” reverb).

Have a look:

Melodic Steps is a note sequencer with lots of options for exploration.

Bass is a virtual analog monosynth, with four oscillators. (Interesting that this is the opposite approach taken by Native Instruments with the one-oscillator bass synth in Maschine.)

Poli is a virtual analog polysynth, basically staking out some more accessible ground versus the AAS-developed Analog already in Live.

Pitch Hack is a delay – here’s where things start to get interesting. You can transpose, reverse audio, randomize transposition interval, and fold the delayed signal back into the effect. If you’ve been waiting for a wild new delay from the company that launched with Grain Delay, this could be it.

Gated Delay is a second delay, combining a gate sequencer and delay. (Logic Pro 10.4 added some similar business via acquired developer Camel, but nice to have this in Live, too.)

Color Limited is modeled on hardware limiters.

Re-enveloper is a three-band, frequency dependent envelope processor. That gives you some more precise control of envelope on a sound – or you could theoretically use this in combination with other effects. Very useful stuff, so this could quietly turn out to be the tool out of this set you use the most.

Spectral Blur is perhaps the most interesting – it creates dense clouds of delays, which produce a unique reverb-style effect (but one distinct from other reverbs).

And the launch video:

All in all, it’s a nice addition to Ableton you can grab as a free update, and a welcome thank you to Live 10 adopters. I’m going to try some experimentation with the delays and re-enveloper, and I can already tell I’m going to be into this Spectral Blur. (Logic Pro’s ChromeVerb goes a similar direction, and I’m stupidly hooked on that, too.)

Creative Extensions: New in Live 10 Suite

If these feel a little pedestrian and vanilla to you – the world certainly does have a lot of traditional virtual analog – you might want to check out the other creations by this developer, Amazing Noises. They have something Granular Lab on the Max for Live side, plus a bunch of wonderful iOS effects. And you can always use an iPad or iPhone as an outboard effects processor for your Live set, too, taking advantage of the touch-centric controls. (Think Studiomux.)

https://www.ableton.com/en/packs/by/amazing-noises/

https://www.amazingnoises.com/

http://apps.amazingnoises.com/

If you’re a Max for Live user or developer and want to recommend one of your creations, too, please do!

Want some more quick inspiration / need to unstick your creative imagination today? Check out the Sonic Bloom Oblique Strategies. Here’s today’s:

And plenty more where that came from:

http://sonicbloom.net/en/category/oblique-strategies/

The post Ableton’s Creative Extensions are a set of free tools for sound, inspiration appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

All the details on Moog’s new Grandmother semi-modular synth

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 15 May 2018 5:51 pm

Moog’s Mother line have all had patch cables. Now, the Grandmother adds something else – keys. Oh, and a heck of a lot of colors. We talked to Moog to get the inside scoop on the new Grandmother.

Patch-ability is all the rage these days. There’s the rack modular scene, of course. But then we’re increasingly seeing patch points on desktop synths and keyboards, too. The idea is, you can create different modulation effects and a wider range of sounds by changing the routing of signal through the instrument. And while that’s possible on some electronic instruments using switches or menus or other features, here you just plug a cable from one point to another.

Moog’s own Mother-32 brought that concept to their modern desktop rangorie, followed by its drum synth sibling, the DFAM (Drummer From Another Mother). Now, it’s the Grandmother’s turn. (Any bets on whether they’ll keep going with ‘mother’ names after this?)

The Grandmother moves the patch points out of the big matrix found on the side of the Mother-32 and DFAM, and distributes them across the hardware. That makes it a bit easier to follow where signal flow is – though you’ll also need longer cables.

And you get keys.

Plus this definitely comes in colors, as you may have noticed. The Grandmother plays up the modularity by color coding each section individually. At first glance, it appears as though the Grandmother is a rack of separate modules, but that’s just a visual flourish – it’s an all-in-one design. (If you do want a keyboard that lets you change modules, see products like Waldorf’s kb37, or Arturia’s RackBrute, which attaches to their MiniBrute range, or any number of boutique products.)

Full specs:

• Hardware Spring Reverb can be used to process external sounds
• ¼” External audio input for guitars, drum machines, and more.
• Semi-modular – no patching is required
• Easy to use Arpeggiator and Sequencer
• Store up to 3 sequences with up to 256 notes each
• 2 Analog Oscillators with selectable waveshape and hard sync
• Classic 4-Pole 10Hz-20kHz Ladder filter
• Patchable 1-Pole High Pass filter
• Analog ADSR Envelope Generator
• Analog LFO with audio-rate capabilities
• 32-note Fatar keyboard with velocity
• All normalized connections can be interrupted for full modularity
• DIN MIDI In/Out/Thru and USB MIDI
• Patchable bipolar attenuator
• Works with Mother-32, DFAM, Eurorack modular systems and more
• 41 patch points with 21 inputs, 16 outputs and a Parallel-Wired 4-jack Mult

That makes a really interesting instrument, though I think it’s worth noting that some of the competition comes from Moog itself – the SUB PHATTY has a pretty powerful architecture for roughly the same price, and while it lacks those patch points, still has some flexibility for routing modulation and analog I/O. It also has patch storage.

But I think there’s more to the Grandmother than specs, and the formula runs like this:

A semi-modular design + spring reverb = far out, man

Adrian Younge did this wonderful artist video that demonstrates that:

Sounds:

Grandmother price is US$899 street. (List is US$999.)

We talked to Moog Music about the thinking behind the Grandmother. Here’s what we learned:

Lots of space for patching. Moog emphasize that you can play this instrument even without patching anything if you want. But if you do want to take advantage of the semi-modular side, now there’s room to grow – figuratively and literally. Moog tell us:

In designing a keyboard instrument, we have more panel space than we do in the pure eurorack format (where space is always a consideration), giving us more room for the patch points. The patch point locations also make connecting cables to other devices, like Mother-32, DFAM or Eurorack much more convenient.

Having said that; Grandmother can do extremely complex things, particularly through patching. For seasoned synthesists, all normalizations can be broken and Grandmother can function as a fully modular instrument.

The Grandmother can be a modular gateway. You can patch the Grandmother, DFAM, and Mother-32 in various combinations – or it can be a gateway to Eurorack.

The origins of the Grandmother circuitry. There are some new sounds here – and they give you access to some Moog modulars from the past. Moog tells us: “All three instruments share the same oscillator genealogy, but the rest of Grandmother’s modules are based on classic Moog modular circuits. The Mixer is based on the CP3, the Filter is based on the 904A, the Envelope is based on the 911, the VCA is based on the 902, and the Spring Reverb is based on the 905.”

About those colors. Moog will definitely get your attention with that color coding. It’s obviously partly there for show, partly to make it obvious that the different sections have different functions. And back to the original Minimoog, our modern subtractive synths are essentially all derived from combinations of modules.

There is some history here. Moog points to their Sonic Six, the Concertmate / Realistic MG-1, and the Moog Source as instruments that all carried the Moog name. That’s actually a little surprising – Moog haven’t traditionally focused much on those chapters in their legacy, as they’re not connected with Bob Moog. (Not to be blunt, but that’s like talking to Ford PR and having them compare something to the Edsel.)

To me, the Grandmother really has the most in common with the Sonic Six. It used just one color, but the color overlay was meant to suggest the modular structure beneath.

I’m going to guess this design will inspire some love/hate reactions. But yeah, to be fair, there is some Moog history of “bold color choices,” as Moog tells us, other than, you know, brown.

The keybed. Moog: “It’s a Fatar TP-9 with velocity sensitivity, which is a really great and solid feeling keybed.”

You can gate the keyboard. Moog points out something else of interest:

“One other thing worth mentioning is the ( Envelope / Keyboard Release / Drone ) switch on the VCA. Envelope and Drone may be obvious, but the keyboard release selection is actually very useful. It works like Keyboard Gate on older Moog synths, where a pressed note immediately sets the VCA to maximum sustain level. The difference is when a note is released in this mode, the VCA will follow the release setting of the Envelope. This option opens up a lot of added possibilities while keeping the panel fast and easy to use.”

Built in the USA. Yep, these do get put together in Moog’s factory in North Carolina.

If you’re going to Moogfest this week: I’m not at Moogfest this year, but if you are, you get a special treat. Moog tell us:

For those near Durham, NC this week – Guitar Center will have Grandmother synthesizers available for play and purchase starting 10:00am this Thursday at the Moog Pop Up Factory (free and open to the public), where visitors can also watch as we live build the new instrument on site. Then at 3:00 on Thursday, Moogfest attendees can hear Grandmother used in a long-form Moog drone performance guided by Nick Hook and Gareth Jones of Spiritual Friendship.

https://www.moogmusic.com/products/semi-modular/grandmother

The post All the details on Moog’s new Grandmother semi-modular synth appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The $199 UNO is an analog synth from IK and some great minds

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 2 May 2018 12:49 pm

It’s portable, battery-powered, and a capable analog monosynth with a sequencer, at a low price. But it’s also worth noting IK Multimedia’s new US$199 UNO involves collaboration with some unique people.

Before the modular craze, before KORG’s volcas, before even the Minimoog Voyager, it was the Alesis Andromeda in 2000 that arguably signaled a return to analog circuitry and hands-on control for the electronic musician consumer. And that instrument was the work of synth designer Erik Norlander, who’s now the resident “synth guru” at IK Multimedia, and who IK says is the brain behind the UNO. IK have also collaborated with Italian boutique maker Soundmachines, who themselves have a bunch of wacky and wonderful ideas.

So put all of this together, and the UNO is something new – a familiar architecture, but not a clone of something you’ve heard before. It’s also an inexpensive instrument that involves collaboration with boutique makers (as Roland have done with Malekko and Studio Electronics) – rather than just undercutting those makers at low prices. And it’s made in Italy, proving that Europe can still make this sort of product.

Plus, it looks like a really fun bass synth with a built-in sequencer. Specs:

  • Analog audio path with two analog oscillators, noise generator, resonant multimode filter and analog amplitude
  • Saw, triangle, and pulse waveforms (with continuously variable shape and pulse width modulation), separate white noise generator
  • That filter isn’t the Moog ladder filter – it’s a smoother, Roland-style OTA filter, which you know from instruments like the Jupiter-8
  • Filter can be set to lowpass, highpass, bandpass, and has overdrive
  • 7 separate waveforms for modulation: sine, triangle, square, up and down saws, random, and sample and hold
  • Built-in delay
  • Instant modulation effects: Dive, Scoop, Vibrato, Wah and Tremolo

For arpeggiator/sequencing:

  • 100 presets, 80 user presets, each with an associated sequence and arpeggio (I think you can then store your own presets and patterns, making this ideal for live performance)
  • Arpeggiator with ten modes
  • 100-pattern sequencer, which you can program in real-time or step-by-step
  • Parameter locks! Set per-step modulation

And finally, I/O:

  • MIDI in/out
  • USB MIDI
  • Runs on 4 AAs or USB power

There’s also a Mac/PC software editor. (Helps to be a software company, too, as IK is.)

Sounds (though I do believe you need to go beyond just manufacturer demos):

Now, there are some questions I definitely want to answer when I get this hands-on. Analog synths with battery power — well, let’s hear if it’s noisy or not.

Multi-touch keyboard — that’s touch-based, so while they promise two octaves of sound, I want to see how precise it feels. Ditto those touch controls. You also get some pre-defined scales, which should help you … like, hit actual notes.

But this architecture looks great. That extensive modulation is already promising, and then the ability to set per-step modulation with the sequencer looks powerful, indeed. And it’s just 400 grams (under a pound).

US$/€199.99; shipping scheduled for July 2018.

http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/unosynth/

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The amazing touch-controlled synth made in secret in 1978 China

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 20 Apr 2018 4:18 pm

At the tail end of China’s Cultural Revolution, one inventor secretly created a futuristic take on traditional instruments – and it easily still inspires today.

I don’t know much about this instrument, but given CDM’s readership, I expect our collective knowledge should say something (not to mention some of you speak the language). But according to the video, it’s the work of Tian Jin Qin, a ribbon-controlled analog synthesizer first prototyped in 1978 and featured here in a documentary movie entitled “Dian Zi Qin / 电子琴” (1980).

There’s some irony to the fact that a simple touch instrument was something driven underground in China just one generation ago. Now, of course, China leads the world in manufacturing touch interfaces, has been the center of a global revolution in touch-powered smartphones (based loosely on the same principle, even), and even drives a significant portion of today’s technological innovation.

But… even without getting into that, this design is freaking great. It’ll make you immediately wonder why a single ribbon design is so popular, when the ability to finger multiple ribbons, fretless style, both relates to traditional instrument designs and allows more sophisticated melodic playing and expression.

Like… you’ll watch this video and want to go build one right now.

The synth is essentially two connected designs. An main synth console features organ-like push-button timbre controls and rotaries, plus four touch plates that respond both to being depressed and to continuous control vertically along the surface. (That arrangement, in turn, closely resembles the ROLI Seaboard keys, as well as having some lineage to the Buchla modular’s touch plates. In fact, a couple elements of the design suggest that the creator may have seen something like the Buchla 112 keyboard.)

The Chinese twist, though, is really the upright, fretless touch interface. This instrument is as subtle and sophisticated as Keith Emerson’s ribbon controller for the Moog wasn’t. Zithers are among the most ancient of instruments across a range of cultures, as antecedents what we’d now consider both southeast Asian and European musics. Someone following the narration here or with background in Chinese instruments (which I largely lack) could say more, but it seems inspired by instruments like the guqin. That family of instrument can be plucked or fingered with glissandi (or played with a slide). The electronic rendition here simplifies a bit by using 4 metal strips whereas Chinese classical instruments can feature more strings.

So I will indeed put this out to CDM readers. Anyone out there who’s done research on this creator or knows about this instrument?

Anyone built something like this?

(Apologies, I’d normally do the research first and then write but … as Ted Pallas who tipped me off to this promised, I indeed wanted to share it right away.)

For all the turbulence of our modern time, one thing I believe can keep us out of a Dark Ages is the fact that we are more connected globally than ever, or at least potentially so. From the walls around China and the east to the former Iron Curtain, we’re discovering that a lot of the people kept unknown to those of us in the West were pretty ingenious. And maybe we get a second chance to learn from them and share.

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Valkyrie is a 1200-oscillator synth you’ll want to play with your forearm

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 16 Apr 2018 5:09 pm

With some 128 voices, the Valkyrie packs dense sound and effects that never let up. The all new UK-built synth was available to try in prototype form at Musikmesse – and it’s seriously impressive.

When I say “play with your forearm,” I’m not kidding. I got my hands on the prototype. Glancing around, I noticed people were cautiously plucking a note or two there and noodling some melodic lines.

No.

With that much polyphony, I wanted to hear a cloud – a doomsday-sized swarm – of oscillations. And this literally involved cranking up various parameters, dialing up portamento, and then playing the keys with… my fist… my arm… I decided sticking a leg up there might upset someone, but we’re talking a serious amount of sound.

The heart of this machine is an FPGA. You don’t need to care about that if you’re not an engineer, but suffice to say the idea of the thing is hardware that can be “re-wired” on the fly. So you get the power of dedicated hardware, without the enormous investment of time and money to create something so inflexible. That means the Valkyrie has horsepower DSP chips – or your high-end laptop – can’t reliably deliver.

And it’s not just about having a bunch of voices, though that’s already formidable. The Valkyrie drives 10 oscillators for each voice, and all those real-time effects keep up, even when using multiple parts. That sets it apart from the Access Virus Ti, to which it bears a definite visual resemblance – this has way more power under the hood.

It probably really is the synth Richard Wagner would have bought, were he alive today, so… nice brand name. Now, ride:

Multiple synthesis methods: FM, dual wavetable, hard sync
4096 different waveshapes, ring mod, hypersaw
Dual 2- and 4-pole ladder filters
128 voices
10 oscillators per voice (double to 20 by combining voices)
8-part polytimbral
Dedicated outs: four balanced outputs, 32-bit/96kHz each, or separate parts streamed over USB2 at 24/96
32x oversampling
9-unit dedicated effects, with shelving EQ on each part

The interface for all of this is a lovely high-res OLED. There are quick, slick animations to help you navigate. With that many parts/voices, of course, some menu dialing is a necessity – otherwise, the thing would take up a city block. But that navigation is quick and effortless, so you feel like you can dial up hands-on control easily. The menus were pretty logical, too, once you understand the structure of parts navigation. And everything is kept reasonably flat, which is stunning for an instrument of this complexity.

And the key is that you turn on this firehouse of sound and it never skips or steps – including with all the effects running. It’s a bit like having a Vangelis/Hans Zimmer-sized electronic studio, in a compact unit. It sounds utterly epic.

Pricing: expected under two grand (Exodus said that was their main purpose at Messe, to talk to dealers and figure that out)
Availability: Expected at volume early Q3 2018

And do have a listen:

Patches only:

I have to say, if you’re going to spend nearly two-grand on some hardware and want it to sound futuristic, this could be the one. It seems to be just the right kind of crazy for the job. Hope we get to try one more.

Plus, if trance music really is making a comeback, this could be the hardware to ride that wave. I’m just happy to make weird noises with it.

No Website yet …

Hands-on report round up:

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Urs goes Eurorack: Plug-in maker U-HE is readying hardware modular

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 5 Apr 2018 2:48 pm

Following entries from Eventide to Soundhack, plug-in maker U-HE seems to be next to be bitten by the modular bug. A teaser image reveals new gear is coming at Berlin’s Superbooth.

No clue what it is, other than… it’ll have jacks. But U-HE (the shop run by lead developer Urs Heckmann) is known for lush, feature-laden synths, melding vintage soul with lots of new bells and whistles and modern functionality. They’re also not known for being terribly merciful to older CPUs (though newer machines should be fine) – but that means dedicated hardware has some appeal.

And of course we’re going full circle. Software emulates analog hardware, then software maker starts making new hardware, and even analog hardware. (See also: Arturia, for one.)

We’ll be sure to catch up with Urs and team at Superbooth.

https://www.u-he.com/

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Open music gear: Bastl Instruments schematics on GitHub

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 3 Apr 2018 8:00 pm

Music gear and modular maker Bastl Instruments have been dedicated to DIYers and open source hardware since the start. But today they’ve done a major dump of circuits that tinkerers will want to check out.

Open hardware is in Bastl’s DNA. The founders from Brno, Czech Republic got their start with the Standuino, an Arduino clone, some years ago, and some assorted projects they built atop that. Using those boards, they presented workshops and jam sessions, teaching electronics, sound, and improvisation. Standuino was followed by Bastl Instruments and new desktop products, then modular, and worldwide recognition followed.

The thing about doing open source hardware, though, is that it forces you to clean house – a bit like inviting somebody over to dinner. So while Bastl Instruments have always been committed to open source hardware, this week we get not just code, but schematics, too.

Here’s their announcement:

Attention to all nerds & designers ! We did put a vast majority of our schematics to one repository on gitHub 🚀 all under CC-BY-SA license. We believe in the power of open source – all our code is on git already. At this point, we do not want to publish HW production files (eagle or gerber) since there is a vital ecosystem in place here in Brno that lives by producing our instruments. End of message.

https://github.com/bastl-instruments/bastlSchematics

This doesn’t quite qualify as open source hardware under a strict definition, as that requires production files. But those definitions aren’t really meant for the music tech community, specifically, who are used to deriving their own modifications from schematics. (I’ll update the CDM guide to open source hardware and software and content soon, just as I get asked about it a lot. I think what matters isn’t so much abstract ideals as helping people to communicate effectively and apply licensing that suits them.)

I spoke to Václav Peloušek from Bastl about the move.

“I actually feel really lucky that I could look at other people’s schematics online,” he told me. “And through that, I learned most of what I know, so I always felt obliged to give the knowledge back.”

Schematics are enough to learn from or even make your own modified versions, while still supporting Bastl’s hardware makers and employees by buying their products, made in Czech.

(If you’re wondering why they qualified that with “a vast majority” of the schematics, Václav explains that they left out the messiest ones!)

Back when Bastl/Standuino got started, schematics looked… like this. Courtesy Václav Peloušek at Bastl.

Apart from those primitive examples, putting together a repository like this takes a lot of time. Peter Edwards, creator of the softPop synth for Bastl (and a long-time hardware engineer), echoes this. “All of this free info takes real work,” he says. “Good schematics look good because someone spent time and made decisions on absolutely every aspect.”

So it’s a pleasure to have all this in one place.

By the way, I’m still totally committed to our own MeeBlip open source hardware project. We’ve discontinued existing synth models, but we’re hard at work on something new. And this illustrates something, too – the discontinued models will never really die, so long as our code and schematics remain online. You can also take a look at this to see how you would release completely open hardware, including production files and associated licensing:
https://github.com/meeblip

And go follow Bastl, as more is coming!

https://github.com/bastl-instruments/

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Korg’s Monopoly board game crossover isn’t even an April Fools’ joke

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Sun 1 Apr 2018 8:54 pm

Happy 1st of April! Mono/Poly synth, Monopoly board game – get it? Oh, wait. Actually, they’re serious. KORG are doing a complete reskin of their Mono/Poly synth for iOS to look like the classic board game.

Here’s the intro video, featuring the tycoon mascot of the classic board game:

The 1935 board game Monopoly has certainly seen all kinds of branding, transforming it into the most-played modern tabletop game. But this has to be a first. Most of us pronounce the name of Korg’s Mono/Poly synthesizer as “Mono, Poly,” not one word “monopoly,” because of the slash in the title and the fact that the name refers to monophonic and polyphonic operation. But the connection was always clear.

Now, what that synth app on iOS has to do with the board game – not a whole lot. But what you do get is some very cute and clever UI imagery, including the signature pieces from the board game repurposed as knobs, the layout of the board (including on KAOSS Pad-style X/Y controllers), and references to the GO space (here signifying signal and sync). It looks adorable – they’ve even reproduced the crease in the board itself, which should take people back.

I suspect a lot of musicians these days feel like they’re losing the game of real-world global market capitalism, but… well, this is a free app update.

And whether you think this is ridiculous or not, it shows us KORG as always ready to partner and collaborate, building on past experiments with modular hardware learning platform littleBits, Nintendo game consoles, artists like OK Go, and more. However silly this venture is, that seems to keep an image of KORG that’s playful and open to new ideas.

Most importantly: you can randomize the settings with a roll of the “dice.” Now that’s a good feature to borrow from games of chance.

Tragically, the Monopoly edition Mono/Poly is no good for jam sessions. The sessions take forever, one person dominates right from the start, and pretty much everyone else has to try to devise some way to cheat just to get back in the game. (Sorry, I had to go there.)

More:

The popular board game Monopoly as a synthesizer!? The updated KORG iMono/Poly brings you the collaboration you weren’t expecting. [KORG News]

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