Posts Tagged With: synthesizer

New Modules

Today, Sylvia and I received 2 new Modules for the Eurorack Synthesizer we’re creating.

  • A couple of months ago, we purchased the 1st piece… the Case.
  • Our 1st Module was the “Double Helix Oscillator” by Pittsburgh Modular.
  • A few weeks ago, we bought the “qMI 2” a “MIDI-to-Control Voltage converter”. Made by Vermona Modular.

After a lot of research, planning our budget, saving our money and talking it over, last Thursday, Sylvia and I bought 2 new Modules:

Granted, we eat fried potatoes for supper every night and a can of soup for Lunch, when we go to work, but I have no idea how we managed to “save” and “pay for” those items. I’m not really that good at this type of money-juggling. I have enough trouble remembering to deduct each day’s purchases from our Checkbook. “Sylvia” is the financial Wizard in OUR family! I do my best to continually stay tuned-in to her energies and to act-on any suggestions she provides.

As for the timing of this purchase… THAT was also interesting… We bought these from “Detroit Modular” (see links above), which is located in Michigan. We ordered them Thursday morning and the expected delivery was “by Monday”. (It was shipped through the Post Office.) Up until Friday night, their Tracking information showed that our package was still traveling through the various States, on its way to us, here, in North Carolina. When I checked their Tracking information this morning, Saturday, it showed that it was to be delivered “today”!

We used the website “Modular Grid“, in order to learn about some of the Modules available and to create this Synthesizer using their free software.

  • It’s a great website. You can search for Modules by “Manufacturer’s Name”, “Function” (Oscillator, Envelope Generator, etc.) and can see which Modules have been released recently and which are the most popular. You can also build your own “on-screen” Synthesizer. Their software will keep track of how much money the total System will cost AND whether or not the Modules you selected will actually fit inside the Case you used.

​This is a picture of our “Modular Grid” Synthesizer. It shows which Modules we currently have and where I placed them. (Of course, they can always be moved. If needed.)

Although we currently have 4 Modules, we don’t enough Synthesizer elements to make a complete sound.

  • If you’re building your own “Modular” Synthesizer, and don’t know which “types” of Modules to buy, look at the classic “analog” Synths of the past. Two of the easiest ones to use, to follow the signal flow (sound) from start to finish, are the “Mini Moog” and the “ARP 2600”.
  • There are no locked-in-concrete rules with this but “basically”, you start with a sound source, such as an “Oscillator” So you’ll need a “VCO” (Voltage Controlled Oscillator). (“Voltage Controlled” simply means its Pitch can be changed by a frequency which is produced by one of your Modules. Putting a parameter under “Voltage Control” will not only make changes faster than you can “manually” change them, but it also means “random” and / or “very fast patterned” changes can be produced.)
  • Next, the Oscillator’s sound get filtered. So you’ll need a “VCF” (Voltage Controlled Filter”).
  • From there, the sound moves to a “VCA” (Voltage Controlled Amplifier”), then to a Mixer and finally, out to Speakers, a recording system, headphones, etc.
  • Also, because you’ll be using a “Voltage Controlled” Filter and Amplifier, you’ll want a Module which is designed to control them and this would be the “Envelope Generator”. Just as we use our mouth, tongue, breath and Voice Box, to “form” and “speak” words, an Envelope Generator produces Stages of voltages which control the opening and closing of the parameters of the VCF and VCA. (Of course, with Modular Synthesizers, almost any Module can be used to change the parameters of almost any other.)

Right now, Sylvia and I have an Oscillator, Envelope Generator, a “MIDI-to-CV” converter (so we can play notes in this “Analog” Synth using our “Digital” keyboard) and a Multiple.

  • The “Warna II” is a “Multiple”, Mixer and Inverter.

To complete the “building blocks”, we still need a VCA and VCF.

What I can tell about these Modules, especially the new ones is…

In just testing the Envelope Generator, I had to use the Multiple several times. At one point, I used 3 of its sections and 10 of its 15 Patch-Points. More than once, today, I told Sylvia: “It’s a good thing we bought this Multiple.”

It wasn’t just “a multiple”. We did a lot of research, watched a few videos and read several pages of descriptions before deciding on this particular Module. It has:

  • two, 1-in-4-out Multiples,
  • one, 4-in-1-out Mixer,
  • and the two Multiples can be switched, to convert the incoming signal to its opposite polarity.
  • Plus, all of the Inputs on this Module are “DC” coupled. This means it will accept “Audio” sound sources AND “Control Voltages”.

As for the “Envelope Generator”…
I’ve been wanting us to have a “delayed Gate” feature in a Synthesizer for quite a while. We may still purchase a Module which only provides that feature but this A-143-2 Module not only has FOUR Envelope Generators, each can be Triggered (activate) separately from the others or Triggered when any of the others has completed its cycle.

I was able to create a 4-stage, one-after-the-other Envelope today. I was also able to create a looping waveshape. Sort of like a customized LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator).

Anyway, so far, we’re finding that both Modules were well worth the money.

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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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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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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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