Posts Tagged With: Pittsburgh Modular

Double Helix Oscillator

I’ve been wanting to fine-tune the image of the Double Helix Oscillator, that I used in the Patch Chart I created and, today, I finally got around to doing just that. This one is cleaner, more professional looking and contains less clutter… making it easier for everyone to indicate Knob and Switch settings as well as the Patch Cord connections routings.

So the updated Chart for this Pittsburgh Modular module is now in our “Downloads” area and is free to download.

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Modular MIDI-to-CV

Last week, Sylvia and I returned the Pittsburgh Modular “MIDI 3” Module. After 2-weeks of working with it, we found that it just wasn’t offering the features we needed.

A few days ago, we ordered the “qMI 2” by Vermona. Here’s a screenshot of it.

qMI2 Image small

Here’s the link to that Product’s page:

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Double Helix Oscillator – overview

Sylvia and I have only had the “Double Helix Oscillator” for a day and a half and we’re really enjoying it. The build quality in their “Stucture 270” Case is first-rate. The “care of design” that’s behind the Double Helix has infused this Module with more functionality than may appear at first glance. Each time we “just want to try a simple Patch”, “hours” just fly by. For us, that’s the sign of a versatile piece of gear.

On June 21st, I sent an eMail to Pittsburgh Modular, asking if there was a Manual for their “Double Helix Oscillator”. This is their reply:

  • The Double Helix is an excellent analog synth voice module. While we don’t currently have a manual for this item available, I’ll be happy to give you a brief walkthrough of its functionality.
  • The Double Helix contains two full range analog oscillators. They can sweep from subsonic LFO range, up past 20 KHz. The first oscillator has 5 waveform options (including a 1 octave down suboscillator and our signature Blade wave) while the second oscillator as 3 waveforms. They both track 1V/O and have various modulation options available.
  • The module also contains an LFO (with Sine, Square, and Random outputs) and an analog noise source
  • The Contour section is where the Double Helix shines. It contains two sections: Timbre and Dynamics. The Timbre section is an analog wavefolder. Basically, it continuously folds the peaks and valleys of the incoming waveform to add complexity and upper harmonics to the sound.  The Dynamics section is based on our Dynamic Impulse Filter module and allows for organic “plucked” percussive sounds
  • Finally, the CV router at the bottom allows for easy control and experimentation with modulation. You can route several modulation sources to various locations simultaneously, which adds even more complexity to the sound.

Although they don’t “technically” offer a “Manual”, they do provide some very helpful information on the Double Helix product page. Here’s the link:

Because Sylvia and I needed a “paper” version of that information, I pulled-out the content from that web page and reformatted it into standard pages… and I allowed for those pages to be on 3-holed paper. (So they could be placed in a 3-ring Binder.

  • Note: If you print those 4-pages as “double-sided”, the holes in the paper will not interfere with the text or images.

You can download this file from the link below.​

Double Helix Overview (pdf)

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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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“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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