The “Double Helix Oscillator”

Over these last several months, after buying 3 small Synthesizers, Sylvia pointed out that I wouldn’t be satisfied until we got a “Modular”.

  • I thought about it for a while and she’s right. My experience with Synthesizers started in the 70s, when Synthesizers themselves were still evolving. There were only a handful of companies making Synthesizers and “Moog” and “ARP” were the most popular.
  • My first Synth was a very basic Korg. While in High School, I saved-up and bought a “Mini Moog Model D”. About the Time I was getting bored with its limits, I read about a much more flexible, more powerful Synth: the “ARP 2600”. Again, I saved-up some money, sold the Mini Moog and bought a “2600”.
  • In 1972, I took 1 Semester of private Synthesizer lessons from a local college. The Professor in charge of the Music Department told me he went to school with Bob Moog. The Synthesizer in the Electronic Music Lab was a “Studio Moog”, similar to the “Moog System 55”. Here’s the link to that model:
  • My point is, Sylvia’s observation is correct… Since I came up through “old school”, analog, one-function-per-button, Synthesizers, I wouldn’t be happy until we bought a Modular Synth.

So, after doing a lot of research, we decided to jump in. About a month ago, we bought the 1st piece — the “case”. It’s a “Structure 270”, made by Pittsburgh Modular. Here’s the link to its product page:

Last Saturday, Sylvia and I drove to our local Guitar Center store and bought our 1st Module — the “Double Helix Oscillator”, also made by Pittsburgh Modular. Here’s the link to it’s product page:

When we brought it home, I was just going to try out a few simple things and… almost 4-hours went by… Whoosh! Now THAT’S a sign of an interesting piece of music gear.

  • The keyboard on our ARP 2600 doesn’t work right and we don’t have another keyboard that will send “CV” (Control Voltages) out. So we couldn’t play this new Oscillator with a regular keyboard. However, since we have a “BeatStep Pro” (by Arturia), I was able to connect its “Pitch” output to the Double Helix (to change notes) and the BeatStep Pro’s “Gate” output to the ARP 2600’s “Gate Input” (to fire the Envelope Generators / open and close the sound to the speakers).

Knowing that the “Double Helix” doesn’t have any way of Storing Patches (saving its settings), I spent almost 3-hours today creating a Patch Chart for it. I’ve uploaded it to this Blog and you should be able to download it from the link below. So if you own a “Double Helix”, this Chart may be of some help in keeping track of the sounds you create.

  • A contrasting pen color, such as “red”, works best.
  • For “Knob” settings: simply place a line where the “white line” on the real Knob should be turned to.
  • For “Patch Points” (Jacks): just draw a line from any Patch Point to any other. It’s better if you don’t draw those lines over any other Jacks, Knobs or Switches. If you need to indicate that a Patch Point on the Double Helix is connected to another Module, just end the line below the diagram and add some text explaining where the other end should be connected.
  • For “Switches”: since the Double Helix Switches can be moved to 3 positions, I illustrated those positions with 3 small circles for each Switch. Just fill-in the appropriate circle or draw a line through one of them.

Click the link below to download this Chart…

Double Helix Patch Chart

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Plexiglass Synthesizer Shelf

A couple months ago, the company Sylvia and I work for was throwing out some old Retail Display Cases. Some of them had Plexiglass (Acrylic) sides.

  • Some were 3-foot by 4-foot. Others were 2-foot by 4-foot. All were 3/8-inch thick.

They were also throwing out some other Display Cases, which had thinner sheets of Plexiglass. Some of those pieces were “corners” (right-angles).

So we took home a few sheets and some smaller pieces.

We didn’t know what we were going to use these materials for but we’ve always liked the clear, revealing state of Plexiglass.

After we got everything home, Sylvia mentioned that I’ve never like our current Synthesizer setup. Although it’s a simple, “3-boards held up by some bricks” arrangement, we keep everything covered with a bedsheet, in order to keep the dust off of our music gear. So Sylvia suggested we build a clear, Synthesizer shelving unit.

It took about 5-weeks, a LOT of work and a handful of trips to our local Hardware Store, to buy some tools that we needed.

  • ​Two of the things we purchased were “power tools” — a cordless drill and a cordless “multi-tool”. A few decades ago, my Dad, who’s been a Carpenter for most of his life, gave me an old Jigsaw. That was my 1st “power tool”. I did try to cut this Plexiglass with it but its speed was WAY too fast and the Acrylic simply melted.

That was 1 of the 1st things we learned… Cutting Plexiglass too fast will melt it. We also learned that if you cut it while too much vibration is being created, by “hand tools” or “power tools”, it will crack.

After spending about $230 for the following tools, our “free” Plexiglass turned out to be not so “free”… and that’s not counting our Time and labor:

  • Cordless drill
  • Cordless multi-tool
  • a set of standard drill bits
  • a special, diamond drill bit for cutting the 1-inch holes into the back panel
  • a set of special drill bits for cutting holes in Acrylic
  • nail polish remover. Used to “chemically weld” pieces of Plexiglass together. (Actually, we used this on the “Drumstick Painting Box” we made out of a rotating Display Case. This stuff wasn’t as good as it could have been. We should have bought the better product, which was “Acetone”.)
  • A special, thin-blade, “full contact with the cutting surface” saw. (I used this when the multi-tool’s battery was charging… which was a lot.
  • a Scoring Tool, used to “scratch” or “etch” the cutting-edge into the Plexiglass. Score the Acrylic at least halfway through and it will snap-off with a very clean edge. The problem for us was the thickness of these particular sheets.
  • 2 “C” clamps. These were probably the best $10 we spent on this project. They came in handy for lots things… clamping 2-pieces together for cutting or drilling, etc.
  • nuts and bolts for holding everything together.

While designing and building everything, I did remember the Saying:

  • Measure twice. Cut once.

In my case, though, this didn’t help a lot. My Dad still laughs at me (in a good way) for not being able to cut a straight line or hammer a nail properly.

So after everything was cut, drilled, filed (for large sharp edges), sanded (for smaller rough edges), we disassembled the old shelves from the top of my desk and disconnected the 60 or more cables.

  • ​Most of our Synthesizers have 5 CABLES coming out of them!
  • 1 is for electricity
  • 2 are for “MIDI” (“MIDI Out” and “MIDI In”) (MIDI sends and receives computer-music information between computers and music gear which have this feature.
  • 2 are for “Audio” (1 for the left side of Stereo and the other for the right)

So, after the new shelving unit was assembled and ALL the cables reconnected… the shelving unit is about a quarter-inch off. The top of the back-right corner of the back panel is about a quarter-inch higher than the side it’s connected to. (I just checked and the back of the side-piece is not touching the desk.)

We didn’t discover this until everything was finished. Since it took over 6-hours to assemble everything, we’re not about to take it all apart, just to fix a quarter-inch slant. (If you look carefully, you can see the curve in the center shelf, just under the black & green Synth that’s sitting on a purple board.)

  • My “guess” is that this entire shelving unit, with nothing on it, weighs about 50-pounds!

The top shelf has a large empty area on its left side. This is where our new Modular Synthesizer will be placed. (Sylvia and I went to our local Guitar Center last week and ordered the “case” for the Modules but it’s on back-order.) The case we bought is the “Structure 270”, made by “Pittsburgh Modular”. Here’s the link:

These are the pieces of music gear we currently have in this new shelving unit:

  • (top-center) Korg Volca FM
  • (top-right) Roland Cube 30 (CM-30) amp
  • (middle shelf, left) Arturia BeatStep Pro
  • (middle shelf, right) Roland System-1m
  • (bottom shelf, left) Samson “SM10”: 10-channel, stereo mixer
  • (bottom shelf, right) iConnectivity “MIO 10”: 10-channel MIDI Router
  • (sitting on my desk, “under” the shelving unit) Roland SH-201 Synthesizer

Anyway, for those of you interested in this, here are some photos of what Sylvia and I created and how we’re using it:

Plexiglass Shelf - 2 front

front -1

Plexiglass Shelf - 1 front-right


Plexiglass Shelf - 5 back

back – 1

Plexiglass Shelf - 9 front-left

front-left corner

Plexiglass Shelf - 8 front

front – 2

Plexiglass Shelf - 10 front-right

right side -2

Plexiglass Shelf - 11 back

back – 2

Plexiglass Shelf - 4 back-left


Plexiglass Shelf - 3 front-left


Plexiglass Shelf - 7 front-right

right side – 1

Plexiglass Shelf - 6 back-right


Shelf closeup - 1

shelf with screen – 1

Shelf closeup - 2

shelf without screen – 1

Shelf closeup - 8

closeup of front-right

Shelf closeup - 6

shelf with keyboard close

Shelf closeup - 9

closeup of keyboard out

Shelf closeup - 5

shelf with keyboard back

Shelf closeup - 4

shelf with screen – 2

Shelf closeup - 3

shelf without screen – 2

Synths - 2

drums & synth wall – 2

Synths - 1

drums & synth wall – 1

Synth cables - 1

synth cables – 1

Synth cables - 2

synth cables – 2

Synth cables - 3

synth cables – 3

Synth cables - 4

synth cables – 4

Synth cables - 5

synth cables – 5

Synth cables - 6

synth cables – 6

Synth cables - 7

synth cables – 7

Shelf closeup - 7

screen rest – 1

Shelf closeup - 12

screen rest – 2

Shelf closeup - 13

screen rest – 3

Shelf closeup - 14

screen rest – 4

Shelf closeup - 10

synths activated – 1

Shelf closeup - 11

synths activated – 2

Synths - 3

synth wall – 1

Synths - 4

synth wall – 2

Synths - 5

synth wall – 3

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Drumstick Coatings

A few weeks ago, I bought a pair of “bamboo” drumsticks. I bought the “Boso Natural 7A” drumsticks. They’re:

  • 15 7/8-inch long,
  • .530-inch in diameter and
  • weigh 1.3oz. / 36.85g.

Although I have a pair of “Zildjian Anti-Vibe”, a pair of “Vater Sugar Maple”, as well as sticks made from other woods, I wanted to find Drumsticks which were even lighter. Since I only play “electronic” drums, I don’t have a need to use wooden sticks which are as indestructible as steel. Plus, I’m concerned about damaging the mesh heads, rubbers pads and various sensors which make-up these drums.

Here’s the link to the Boso drumsticks:

Drumstick Coatings
Last week, we bought a can of:

  • “Rust-o-leum Metallic Finish” (Chrome, 7718830) spray paint.

and a can of

  • “Rust-o-leum LeakSeal (265495): flexible,clear, rubber coating” spray paint.

Using 2-coats from each spray can, sprayed a few days apart, I painted my Boso Drumsticks with the Chrome paint and my  “Vic Firth: American Classic, hickory, 7A” sticks with the rubber.

The Chrome coating feels slightly grippier than the rubber. Both are better than the clear “Plasti-DIP” coating I used on another pair of sticks a few months ago.

  • (At that time, I sprayed-on too thick of a Plasti-DIP” layer and this made them “spongy” feeling. Plus it contributed to that coating tearing only after playing with them a few times.)

My goal with all this was to have a consistent grippy coating on all of my drumsticks, no matter which “brand” or “model” I purchased. I thought about, but never purchased, drumstick “tape”, “wax”, and other “designed-for-drumsticks” coatings as well as drummer’s gloves. I even experimented with some tacky “lip balm” that Sylvia and I have purchased, which does work but it leaves too much residue on my hands. I want something which will provide the tackiness while I’m playing but affect my hands when I set those sticks down.

Yes, some drumstick manufacturers do offer rubberized coatings on their sticks and they are pretty good. However, besides wanting grippy sticks for “playing” I also want grippy sticks for “twirling”.

  • When I was first teaching myself about drumming, I intensely watched the drummers at each concert I went to. Back in the 70s, when I was doing this, you could easily go up to the higher levels in the concert hall and stand either next to the stage or slightly behind it. I would head for that “watch the drummer” sweet-spot every time. I could see almost every drum-strike and pedal-press they made. Whenever they would “twirl” their drumsticks, it went by so fast, I couldn’t really tell what they were doing. I “thought” they were “twirling” their sticks end-over-end, around their Index Finger. So that’s what I taught myself. (I’m still not very good at it.) To do this, it requires that your Index Finger be at the balance point of the stick. Most drumstick manufacturers stop their “grip coating” just before this point. This means… when I twirl a stick, even with a rubberized coating on it, my finger starts at the non-grip area and then the sticks usually slip away from me.

Right now, I’m still experimenting but the “Chrome” coating seems to work just a bit better than the “LeakSeal” rubber. Neither is as grippy as I need for twirling but the sticks ARE tacky enough to remain comfortably in my hands. (Keep in mind, I’ve only been testing these coatings for 2-days.)

Besides ending-up with a consistent grippy coating, I prefer to have that coating be “clear”. This will allow me to paint my drumsticks “purple”, Sylvia’s favorite color or a gradient of “blue-to-purple”, which is our band’s colors — Sylvia’s “purple” and my “blue”. Plus, I can then print out our band’s logo on clear, self-sticking paper, cut them out and attach it to my drumsticks. When finished, each stick will be colored, show our logo AND be tacky.

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Although I talk a lot about “synthesizers”, I’m really a “Drummer”. (However, I also like doing Sound Design.)
About a week ago, I was doing some research on the different ways Drummers keep their drumsticks from slipping in their hands when their hands begin to sweat.
I looked through ideas on:

  • drumstick tape,
  • spray-on rubber coating,
  • roughly-sanded drumsticks,
  • and the various tacky liquids that companies make for this purpose.

At one point, while in the middle of all this confusion, Sylvia mentioned: “Why not use that extra tube of “lip balm” that’s on your desk?” So I put some on my hands and then coated the drumsticks with it. It’s a bit too tacky but it does work.
Today, when I started to practice my drums, I noticed that the lip balm coating had worn off. Since that tube had been finished, I used another tube from a different manufacturer. However, this brand didn’t work at all. It almost made the drumsticks slippery. I even tested a 3rd brand that we had and it didn’t work either. So here’s the score:

  • Badger (brand) lip balm is what I used first and worked the best.
  • Biggs & Featherbelle (brand) almost made the drumsticks slippery.
  • Alaffia (brand) also didn’t work.

So the next time Sylvia and I are shopping, we’ll pick-up another tube of Badger brand and I’ll do a little more testing with it.
Just thought I’d pass this along, in case it helps others in the same situation.

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Novation Ultranova

Although Sylvia and I have owned a Novation “Ultranova” synthesizer for several months, I was having a difficult time wrapping my head around its various sections and how they interconnect with each other. My synthesizer background has been with the:

  • Mini Moog (purchased “new” back in the 70s and later sold),
  • the Vako Polyphonic Orchestron (purchased “new” back in the 70s and later sold. Not really a “synthesizer” but a “reproducer” of recorded sound),
  • the ARP 2600 (purchased “used” back in the 70s and later sold. In the mid-80s, Sylvia and I purchased a “new” one when we heard ARP had just announced they were going out of business)

Thinking I needed to create a type of “overflow chart”, showing “what” connects to “what”, I printed out several pages of the Owner’s Manual and brought it to work. For the last few weeks, I looked through it during lunch.
After reading through it more closely, I discovered that one aspect of my confusion was from the cryptic titles printed on the screen, indicating the different functions. For example: “01WTInt” stands for “Oscillator 1, Wave Table Interpolation”. Then, reading its details helped me understand that this feature adjusts the movement between certain Wave Tables from “Stepped” to “Smooth” when activated.
I also more-clearly understood that certain functions are not as complicated as I thought they were. They’re simply “routed” or “accessed” in a way that’s different from what I’m used to with other synths. For example: the Ultranova does offer “Ring Modulation” but there is no dedicated “button” or “knob” for this. Instead, it’s selected in the “Mixer” — because it’s a mixture between Oscillators 1 and 3 or Oscillators 2 and 3. Your choice.
At first glance, the Ultranova seems to have a lot of “menu diving” but after my recent working with it, I now see that most sections only have one or two “screens” worth of adjustments.
At a retail price of just $600, this synthesizer is well-worth the money.

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“Lifeforms Foundation Evo” made by Pittsburgh Modular

For March, Sylvia and I have selected a very powerful Modular Synthesizer, for this month’s “Review” and “Drawing”, on our crowd-funding page.

For details on this very capable, musical tool, visit its product page:

For more information on this crowd-funding project, please visit our Patreon page:

To hear our album, “Perfectionately Yours” for free, visit our BandCamp page:

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Korg Volca FM: in-depth

A few days ago, we watched a video-review of the “Korg Volca FM” synthesizer by someone we didn’t know much about. He goes by the name of: “Cuckoo” and the review we watched was very good.

  • Sylvia and I have owned a Volca FM for a few months now. We purchased it because I told Sylvia it would provide us with a good source of (create-from-scratch) “bell” and “metallic” sounds. The Retail Price, at $160, is very reasonable for what this small box offers.

We’ve always enjoyed the thorough reviews by “SonicState” but “Cuckoo” brings a slightly more hands-on, and exploring, approach.

Here’s the link to the SonicState review of the Volca FM:

Here’s the link to the review by Cuckoo:

Here are 2 more Cuckoo reviews on the Volca FM. This first one explains “FM Synthesis” in general:

In this video, he lets us hear the Volca FM “Patches” that he created:

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The “ARP 2500”

Ever since Korg introduced their version of the 1970s “ARP Odyssey” synthesizer, many Musicians (Sylvia and I included) have been wondering when Korg would reveal their version of the “ARP 2600” synthesizer. They had former ARP Engineer, David Friend, give a Talk during the Odyssey’s unveiling and, I guess, Korg obtained special permission to manufacturer this new instrument. So I assumed they would move to the next plateau in the ARP lineup and build the “2600”.

Now that it’s been at least 24-months since the Odyssey’s release, we still have no “ARP 2600”.

The other day, I was thinking about this and then I thought:

  • Maybe Korg hasn’t released the “2600” because they don’t have any plans to release it. Instead, what if they knew from the beginning that they would re-introduce the world to one of ARP’s “popular” synths (the “Odyssey”) and then re-make the ARP “2500”? Because more and more Musicians and more and more manufacturers are embracing the world of “Modular” synths, it makes more sense for Korg to skip the 2600 and go right for the pot-of-gold… and the reason the “2500” hasn’t been released yet (if any of this is true) is because the ARP 2500 is a large, Modular synth, powerhouse and would probably take much longer to not only recreate all of its components but to also have each facet of that synthesizer faithfully reproduce the sonic textures of the original “2500”.

Just some thoughts.

Here’s the link to the “Korg ARP Odyssey”:

Here’s the link to an “ARP 2600”:

Here’s the link to an “ARP 2500” page:

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Music-Gear Drawings

Ok. We did it. We just finished tearing down our “Patreon”, crowd-funding page, for our album, and created our new “Monthly Music-Gear Drawing”, crowd-funding page.

  • We’re asking for $5 contributions, in order to reach that month’s Goal. When it’s reached, we’ll purchase that piece of Music Gear, examine it, review it and then hold a Drawing of those who contributed and give it away.

For March, we’ve selected the “Korg Volca FM” synthesizer. Although we already own this $159 product, we thought we’d start off small and with something we’re already a bit familiar with.

Keep in mind that Sylvia and I, and our Band (“Infinity”), are currently unknown. This means “getting the word” out is an uphill job for us. So if you or someone you know is interested in Music Gear, and would like a chance to win one, please give them the following link.

More details can be found at the link below.

Here’s the link to our Music-Gear Drawing page:

Here’s the link to the Korg Volca FM page:

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New Music Gear

Since Sylvia and I had to work today, but only for a half-day, we went to the local “Guitar Center” store when we left.

Almost 2-weeks ago, we came up with a new idea on:

  • how to do something we love — play music, create interesting electronic music sounds and teach,
  • “possibly” raise enough money to quit our job and work on the many projects we have on our list,
  • help those who “would like to have” or “need” some new Music Gear (but can’t afford it) to get it for almost nothing,
  • and more.

So far, the very few people we’ve described this to, including the Music Store Manager, have expressed positive Comments about it.

I don’t want to release any more information than that, until we’re closer to Launching this idea.

  • I’m a little hesitant to do this. Mostly because it involves a “change” and I have to rely on my “Reasoning” braincells, in order to be sure I do everything correctly. Sylvia does help me a lot, throughout the day but if I’m stressed, I don’t receive her communications correctly. Plus, any final decision Sylvia and I make on THIS side of the “Veil” have to come from “me”. Just as… any final decisions we make, regarding the OTHER side of the “Veil” have to come from “Sylvia”. We’ve talked about this, months ago, and both of us understand how this has to be this way right now.
  • I’m also walking carefully into this new project because it means putting Sylvia and my “Band”, as well as our personal image, on the line. Another idea behind doing this is to call attention to our album. We still need crowd-funding, in order to get some CDs manufactured and Distributed. If this new project doesn’t unfold properly, we may damage our image and any possible funding for that album.
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