Synthesizers From Yesteryear

Today begins “NAMM 2021”. NAMM is the “National Association of Music Merchants”. Each year they hold two Expos — “Winter NAMM” in January and “Summer NAMM” around June or July. The Winter version is typically held in California and the Summer version in Tennessee. Each Event occupies the Meeting Rooms of several very large Hotels. This year’s “Winter NAMM”, however, is “virtual” / online-only.
Both NAMM Events are aimed at Music Manufacturers and Music Retailers. This particular NAMM-happening is also open to the General Public and it’s free. Simply visit the NAMM website (link below) and Register.
Music gear manufacturers should be releasing new products all this week and will probably be dripped-out over the next few days. Today, though, two Synthesizers caught my attention. Both are from Korg:
  • The “miniKORG 700FS” (over $2,000). This one’s interesting for two reasons… 1) Korg went back to this one… they’re first mono-synth and 2) This was the very first Synthesizer I ever purchased. At that time, it was known as the “miniKORG 700” (without the “FS” in its name). This was in the early 70s. I was 16 or 17 and still in High School. I don’t remember what I paid for it but it was no where near $2,000. Probably around $200 brand new at that time.
Here’s the link to an article about the new version:
The other Synthesizer that caught my attention today is the “ARP 2600 M”.
Although I’m a Drummer, I also consider myself a “Synthesist”. I enjoy creating all types of sounds and I was attracted to Synthesizers shortly after they were widely available to the General Public, in the early 70s.
I like exploring all the possibilities a Synthesizer has to offer and, even though the miniKORG 700 was my first synth, I quickly discovered its limitations. As I started thinking about replacing it, I kept hearing a fantasticly-rich sound, in the many Rock, Heavy Metal and Progressive Rock songs I listened to every day. Doing some research (with no “Internet” at that time), I learned that this wonderful Synthesizer was the “MiniMoog”. So I saved up my money once again, sold the miniKORG 700 and purchased a MiniMoog. At that time, it cost me $1,495.

It took me quite a bit longer to feel the limitations of the MiniMoog but its sounds were some of the richest I have ever interacted with. Even today.
Many months later, I saw a photo of an “ARP 2600”. It was love at first sight. I just saw a sea of Sliders. Lots and lots of Sliders. It’s potential looked limitless. Especially compared to the MiniMoog. Ring Modulation, Sample & Hold and Patch Points were the biggest attractions for me.
So I saved my money once again, sold the MiniMoog and bought a used ARP 2600. It was the “all-black, with white markings” version. I think I paid about $600 for it at that time (mid 70s).
  • Shortly after this purchase, I became the Drummer for a Top-40 Band in the town I lived in — Jacksonville, Florida. I used that Synthesizer with my acoustic Drums for most of those Gigs. I actually invented a Switch Box so both could be used when I wanted to combine them. I would setup a Patch (sound) on the 2600 before starting the Song. I made sure the Synthesizer setting on the Switch Box was OFF. Then, while playing the Song on my acoustic Drums, I would use a Drumstick to hit a rubberized arm that I created and the Switches I placed under the Drumheads would send their Signals to the Synth. This would allow me to play a sweeping-down sound along “with” the sound of my acoustic Drums. (Hit each Drum and get both sounds.) Of course, I could also Trigger many other ARP 2600 sounds this way.
  • I met my first wife while playing with that Band. After we got married, I quit the Band, sold my Drums and my ARP 2600. At the time, I thought I was doing the “right thing” by “settling down”. It was my own mindset that did me in. That was a big mistake on my part because: 1) My wife married a “Musician” but I turned into an “every day guy” / a “non-Musician” and 2) That was a real working Band. Although we were only a “local” Band at that point, we were good. Very good and just starting to get a foothold to better and bigger opportunities.
  • Just before Sylvia and I got Married, we had heard (still not “Internet”) that the ARP company had just gone out of business. I told Sylvia: “They make the ARP 2600. That’s probably the most important Synthesizer we should have in our set up.” She agreed and we immediately called the ARP company. A man answered the phone and to “me” I always felt as through it was Mr. Pearlman himself. What an honor… not only to be talking to a Synthesizer Engineer “Legend” but to also be purchasing one of the last (or maybe it “was” the last) Synthesizers left in that company. The one we bought was the “all-black with orange lettering” version.
Here’s the link to an article on today’s release of the “ARP 2600 M”:
Here’s the direct link to the NAMM website, to learn more about what’s happening this week:

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Drummer, Lee Kerslake

I think I’ve mentioned in a previous Post that “Drums” are my main instrument. Yes, I’m also a Synthesist but “Rhythms” and “timing placements” of all kinds are interwoven throughout my energies.
While I was skimming through one of my nightly “news digest” sites, I saw a the following title:
  • “Uriah Heep and Ozzy Osbourne Drummer, Lee Kerslake Has Died”
Uriah Heep is one of my favorite Bands. Sylvia also likes them. They were a huge influence on my musical taste and Lee Kerslake’s drumming style still has a huge impact on the goals I’ve set for my own drumming character.
  • Was Lee Kerslake the best Drummer in the world? No.
  • Was he as good as the Drummers from the other great Bands that Sylvia and I admire (Yes, Rush, “Emerson, Lake & Palmer”, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, etc.)? Not from what I’ve heard.
  • So why did I immediately start crying when I saw that title?… It’s because Lee Kerslake has a “drumming style”, an “energy”, a “rhythmic character” that I have never felt from another Percussionist. Maybe I’m the only one who hears the subtle additions he’s added to many, many great Songs. It’s almost a “spice”. It’s a background ingredient which is almost not detected but without it those Songs wouldn’t be as great as they are. I can’t explain it

Maybe I cried because Lee Kerslake is more of my “Drumming Idol” than I realized and now that he’s on the other side of the “Veil’, I feel as though I’ve lost that direct connection I had with his energy… or maybe it’s my own laziness that keeps telling myself:

  • “Yeah, I’m going to work hard and sound just like him some day.”
…and now that he’s crossed-over, maybe, inside, I feel like my “goal” of learning his technique can never be achieved.
Lee Kerslake is one-of-a-kind.
  • “Rock-on, my friend. I know “I” will miss you.”
At least his inspirational drumming style has been captured in the many wonderful recordings that he took the Time to create.
Lee Kerslake, thank you for pointing the way.
(I’m still crying as I write thsi)
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Eurorack Modular Casual Info

I recently watched 2 videos which provided some good information on Eurorack Synthesizers. Both were over 3-hours long. These are just 2 of a 4-Part series.

The Presenter is “DivKid”, a VERY knowledgeable person in the Eurorack community. One of the other people in these Episodes is Kim Bjorn. He’s the Author / Producer of 3 books:

  • Push, Turn, Move
  • Patch and Tweak
  • Pedal Crush

The 3rd person in these videos is Chris Meyer, who also has a LOT of highly useful information on Eurorack Systems. In fact, he co-wrote “Patch and Tweak” with Kim and Chris also has his own YouTube Channel, called: “Learning Modular”.

These 4 Episodes are, basically, of Chris installing Modules into his newly-modified SEVEN ROW Eurorack case!!! That’s right… Seven, horizontal rows in a monster case!

As he’s installing them, he explains how he installed the massive power supply as well as why he chose certain Modules over others. All 3 share their Eurorack knowledge as his case is slowly filled-in. So, the information provided is not “step-by-step” but, as you pay attention to what they’re talking about, you’ll find some interesting nuggets.

Here’s the Link to Episode 1:

Here’s the Link to Episode 2:

There were only 2 Episodes available when I wrote this but here’s the Link to where you can find the others:

Here’s the Link to Chris Meyer’s “Learning Modular” YouTube Channel:

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The History Of ARP Instruments

ARP Foundation Logo

I just finished watching a 2-hour Documentary called: “Electromotive – The Story of ARP Instruments“.

Even though I grew-up through the initial Synthesizer explosion, in the 70s, this video was very informative.

The ARP company employed some VERY smart, “thinking outside the box” people. They were “in the zone” and the Musical Instruments they created had a HUGE influence on the world’s Music… even today. Some of the techniques used in the design of those Instruments were at the leading edge of that technology. Some of their ideas even influence the development of some modern Electronic Musical Instruments.

  • Thank You! Mr. Pearlman and your Team for creating those wonderful Instruments!

Here’s the link to the ARP Documentary:

Here’s the link to the Alan R. Pearlman Foundation website:

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6 Moog Models Compared

Here’s a link to a 21-minute video where Synthesist, Lisa Bella Donna, compares 6 Moog Synthesizer models:

  • Minimoog Model D,
  • Subsequent 37
  • Grandmother
  • Matriarch
  • DFAM,
  • and Mother-32


In the early 70s, when I was still in High School, I bought my first Synthesizer. A “Univox K1”, which was also produced as the “Mini-Korg” and “Mini-Korg 700” and a few other names.

Although I’m a Drummer, I enjoy the nearly-endless sounds that can be produced by Synthesizers. The biggest aspect of the Univox K1 was its Filer, which Korg called the “Traveller”. Whenever I swept that Filter, it produced some very rich Harmonics. This was a whole new world of sonic textures for me and I wanted more!


The more I immersed myself in the world of Pop Rock, Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal, Funk, etc., I kept hearing those sweeping Filter sounds as well as other textures that I just couldn’t create with the Univox K1.

Then I learned about the existence of the Synthesizer which changed Rock Music forever, the “Minimoog”. Of course, I HAD to have one!

Because I was still in High School and living at home with my Parents, I had LOTS of time to explore everything the Minimoog had to offer.

Arp 2600 & Keyboard

After a time, I found myself continually creating the same Patches (Sounds) with the Minimoog. I was getting increasingly frustrated with its limitations. Then I heard about a Synthesizer called the “ARP 2600”. When I saw photos of it in magazines, I was instantly caught in its Spell. I could see that it had unlimited potential for Sound creation.

Sylvia and I don’t really like to buy “used” equipment, for different reasons. The main reason is that we can sometimes feel the old energies which may still be attached to them. However, even though I was now in College, I still couldn’t afford the price of a “new” ARP 2600. So I bought one, used, from a nearby store. It was the Black & White one, seen above. After getting Married, for the first time, I had to sell it. However, many years later, afterMarrying Sylvia, we heard that the ARP company was going out of business. I explained to Sylvia that the ARP 2600 was the most complete and versatile Synthesizer of its time. She agreed. So we immediately phoned the ARP company. A man with a broken English voice answered the phone. My guess is that this was the “man” himself, Alan R. Pearlman. He actually took the order. Because we had read about the bankruptcy in a “magazine” (which meant this news was already old), Sylvia and I feel that the ARP 2600 we currently own is “probably” “the last” or, at least, “one” of the last ones ever sold by that company. (We bought the one with the orange “blocks” describing the functions.)

Here’s a great web page showing the many versions of this incredible Synthesizer:


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To Patch Or Not To Patch

I’ve been noticing people’s Eurorack-Patching habits for quite some time. Some people leave the Patch Cables connected when they’re finished working with that piece of gear. Others remove the Patch Cables and “Patch Fresh” the next time they use that Synthesizer.

I guess I’m more in the 2nd camp… No matter how complex a Patch is, I’ll remove all of the Patch Cables when I’m finished using that Synth for the night. However, I will leave them in, if I need to make a “paper notation” of that Patch — which Ports were connected to which other Ports, Knob, Slider and Switch settings, etc. Once I’ve drawn this out on a Patch Chart, I’ll go ahead and remove all the Cables.

I’ve always done it this way. It probably comes from taking private Synthesizer lessons on a Modular Moog System back in the 70’s. Although I had an ARP 2600 at home, I used the University’s Studio Moog, to work out any Patch ideas I may have learned that day. However, that Moog was in a standard “Practice Room”. This means ALL of the students taking “private” or “class” lessons on Synthesizers had access to that room. There was a monthly schedule posted on the outside of that door and each student was given so many hours per week to use that room. We would simply write our name in any slot that wasn’t already taken… as long as we didn’t exceed our allotted time for that week. So all Patch Cables had to be removed from the Synthesizer and placed back onto the Patch Stand.

The Pros and Cons of this approach
First, the Pros… Because I was learning what each Module was designed for, I could easily Patch and adjust the most predominant Module of the Sound I wanted to move from my mind to that Synthesizer. Usually, this meant starting with the Oscillator or Filter. If I had a Rhythm idea, I would go right to the Moog’s Sequencer. From these starting points, I would have to think about what my Sound needed and which Modules could perform that function. Of course, there was a LOT of trial and error.

Now the Cons… Let’s say you’re using your own Modular Synthesizer. Removing all of those Patch Cables may make it much more difficult to achieve “all” or “part” of that great Sound you discovered the day before. Especially when you’re starting out with even a small Modular System, it can be very frustrating to spend many, many hours creating a great Sound, only to stare at a blank set of Modules the next day. Even if you leave the Knobs, Sliders and Switches in the exact same position, you may never achieve that same great Sound. Not that the Patch Cables will change anything on their own. It’s just that we might think the Sound needs just a bit more of this Knob and a little less of that one.

Unless your Modules are “digital”, containing a simple computer you adjust with its Knobs, Sliders and Switches, getting a multi-Module Patch to sound the same every time is a task for Magicians. Sometimes “modulation signals” (Control Voltages) can modify other “modulation signals”.

  • For example: Connect a slow-moving (low-frequency) Sign Wave to the “Control Voltage Input” of a Filter’s “Cutoff” and then connect another low-frequency Sign Wave to the first one. This causes the first Sign Wave to move slower and then faster and then slower, repeatedly. In turn, this produces a Filter “WOW” Sound which is irregular.

As you can see, both Sign Waves must be set to the proper speed, in order to get the same “double-wobble” the next day.

Helpful Tips
All is not lost, however. Some “digital” Modules can store their own settings. There are also “paper” Patch Charts. This is what I learned to use… and still use them. These days, you can also take a photo of all the Modules. However, if you’ve used a lot of Patch Cables, you may not clearly see every Knob, Slider and Switch setting.

Another tip is to use color-coded Patch Cables.

The image below is a Roland System 500 Eurorack System. As you can see, the black & red appearance may look really cool but this is not a Patch “I” would want to troubleshoot… or even adjust. Yes, you know where all your Oscillators and Filters are located but it’s the “interaction” between every Patched Module that makes it difficult to keep clear in your mind.

Modular with all red cables 2

Some people use specific Cable colors for specific Patch connections:

Colored Patch Cables 2

Although this is a good method, deep in mind that you may have LOTS of Modulation connections, many Pitch connections, tons of Gates, etc.

My approach is to simply grab a different color each time I reach for a Patch Cable. Yes, this could mean that you’d be looking at something like this…

Modular with colored patch cables

…but following different colored Patch Cables is much easier than working with all Cables of the “same” color.

These are just “my” thoughts on this. Of course, “your” mileage may vary.

I found the above image here:

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Learning What Synthesizers Can Do

I’m sure there are LOTS of “free” and “pay” websites where you can learn what “Synthesizers” are and how to use them. The following two links are websites that I recently found.

This first web page allows you to learn about Synthesizers by interacting with some of their main components. Sure, this “interaction” is simply on a computer screen and not turning Knobs, flipping Switches or moving Sliders like you would in a typical “Hardware” Synth… and it’s not the same as interacting with an on-screen “Soft Synth”. However, the confusing aspects of Synthesizers is removed, allowing you to focus on the one, two or more parameters you’re learning about.

If you’re new to Synthesizers, going through these pages can help you gain an understanding of how they create and modify various sounds. Most of what you are changing on each page is explained. However, see if you actually “understand” the difference between a “Pitch” and a “Filter” change… a Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO) controlling a sound and an Envelope Generator controlling a sound, etc.

Don’t take this too seriously, though. Synthesizers are a lot of fun to experiment with.

This next web page builds on “what Synthesizers can do” and shows how they can be used to modify sound created with other Instruments, such as Guitar, Violin and Saxophone. The three short videos on the following page provide examples of this.


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A Music Technique Of Alessandro Cortini

On the following web page, there is a very short article and a 10-minute video. The information presented is from Keyboardist for Nine Inch Nails, Alessandro Cortini. He explains a music production technique he sometimes uses, which involves an old, 4-Track Cassette Recorder.

In an Age where the goal, sometimes, is for Manufacturers to create the most pure-sounding Musical Instruments… and even adopt Digital technologies to accomplish this, it’s refreshing to see someone “think outside the box” — even if this means using old, not-so-perfect gadgets to accomplish this.

Partially dirtying, or even destroying, a sound (a Musical “Voice”) CAN work in an entire Song. Most of the time, however, this can be used as a “Spice”, here and there, throughout a Song, to give the Listener added surprises.

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A Tiny Overview Of Synthesizer History

This first link will take you to a very short article titled: “The Women Who Pioneered Electronic Music“.

This second link is to a 1-hour video which contains a couple of interviews of Electronic Music Pioneers. One of them is Walter Carlos. This was recorded before the above article, which interview the same person, this time going by the name “Walter” Carlos.

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Some Thoughts On Electronic Drums

Around 2006, Sylvia bought me a “Roland TD-6” Electronic Drumset for my Birthday. It came with all “rubber” Pads. Later, we bought a “Roland PD-85” 2-zone, Drum Pad. So I could have at least one “Mesh” Pad and use it for my Snare Drum. This setup has been very durable and the more than 1,400 sounds in the Drum Module are interesting to explore. Other than “Pitch”, “Stereo Field Placement” (Panning) and one or two other options, this Module doesn’t offer any real drum-sound modifications.

In the last several months, I’ve been thinking about buying a “Yamaha 700-series” Electronic Drumset and merging it into what I current have. While slowly saving-up money for this, I thought Yamaha would have released a newer series. Maybe an “800” series. (Yes, Yamaha does have a “900 series” but it contains technology which is even older than their “700” series… and seems to be even more difficult to use.)

The white Yamaha Pads ARE “rubber” but they have created a unique, firm “foam-type” of rubber which seems to have a bit more rebound when playing them and seem a bit quieter than standard “rubber” Pads.

While waiting for Yamaha to do “something” new in the world of Electronic Drums, a few other companies have released more advanced products…

About 24-months ago, Pearl Drums (hardware) partnered with Steven Slate Drums (software) and released a $2,200 “Mimic Pro” Drum Module, with a 7-inch touch screen.

There’s also a new Electronic Drum company that’s about to release its products for the first time. The company is called: “Gewa Music”. They’re based in Germany. (I think the company name is pronounced: GAY-vuh)

Their Drum Module is called: “G9” and has a 10-inch, touch screen! This Module does not use a “Cable Snake”. Instead, it uses 1/4” (quarter-inch) jacks to connect the Drum Pads.

  • Although a “Cable Snake” can keep the many cables under better control, than several individual wires, it also means you’ll be limited on exactly “where” you can place all of your Drum Pads.

For the Shells of their Drums, they have partnered with DW (Drum Workshop). So the Drum Shells, Hardware and Electronics should be high-quality.

With that said, I’m one of those Drummers who would rather have shallower Drum Shells, so I can place more of them in my Drumset. This will also make the Drums take up less space when they’re being transported. Plus, Acoustic Drum Shells are easier to scratch, when storing and transporting, than Electronic Drum Pads.

So, as long as the Gewa G9 Module is sold separately, and is not outrageously expensive, this is what I’m currently thinking of doing (which could change, of course):

  • Purchase the “Gewa G9” Module. (Price unknown as of this writing because it hasn’t been released yet.)
  • Purchase the “ATV EXS-3” Electronic Drumset ($1,799) and “maybe” sell the included “ATV D3” Drum Module. (I’ve heard that the “ATV” company was formed by former “Roland” employees. So they “should” have some knowledge in this area.)

Here’s the link to the Gewa website:

Here’s the link to the ATV website:

Here’s the link to the “ATV EXS-3” Drumset on the Kraft Music website:

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