Posts Tagged With: synthesizer

Give Your Music Its Own Voice

Music has been a part of the Earth / 3D experience for a VERY long time. It could be said that “Nature” itself was the first “Orchestra”… the first playing of “sounds”, which, in turn, activated various Moods, Memories and Actions within the various Beings scattered around this amazing blue ball. Water droplets creating multi-textured Rhythms… The sonic variety of the Wind moving through the Leaves, Caves and other timbre-inspiring objects… all contribute to the character we’ve all come to know as Nature’s songs.

When “Humans” began creating Music, they mostly picked-up “Acoustic” or “Synthetic” instruments. Think about it… A non-electric guitar is an “Acoustic” instrument. An electronic Synthesizer is a “Synthetic” instrument. Wind moving through the Leaves of a Tree and Water bubbling in a Brook are “Organic” instruments.

As Music evolved, Humans continued to experiment with various Styles of Music and, for “me”, these boil-down to the following groupings (generally speaking):

  • Music that’s fun to Sing or Whistle to — “Melodic Music”
  • Music which makes your body want to move — “Dance Music”
  • Music which is fun to Perform — “Participation Music”
  • Music which engages your Logical mind — Baroque, Classical and some Contemporary Music
  • Music which was created simply by the idea of “look what “I” can do” — “Clever Music”
  • Music which is relaxing, soothing. Music which fills the ambient space around us with the comforting feeling of getting into that calm, restful feeling. — “Ambient Music”

As music-gear-technology evolved, Human Society has been gifted with some very powerful, very flexible Music-creation tools. These days, the simple Piano, Flute, Xylophone, Tuba, etc. can produce any type of sound. In fact, electronic Synthesizers can be Patched (setup) so they not only create “Music” without any Human interaction but that “Music” can also evolve (change) over Time AND it can have all the subtleties as though a “Human” were really “playing” it. However, this “ease of Music-creation at our fingertips”, means ANYONE can create interesting Music. Today, even the family dog can create a musical masterpiece.

…and this is where our world is today… over-saturated with “Music”.  Some “good”. Some “not so good”. Some of it is “bad”, but it makes it to the popular Listening Posts (radio, social media, etc.) Some of it is “absolutely great” but no one ever hears it.

In the “old days”, there were “Talent Scouts” — people who would travel the country looking for talented people — Singers, Actors, Musicians, etc. If someone was exceptional, that company would bring them in for an Audition. If they “had what it takes”, they were “usually” Signed to a Movie or Record company. If they “mostly” had what it takes, they may still be Signed but would be given some additional training, where they were lacking.

Today, however, the Music Industry is being crushed by the shear number of  “new Songs” they receive every day. According to the information at the link at the bottom of this article, Music-site “Spotify” adds over 20,000 Songs to its Site each day!!! Not “20”. Not” 200″… but TWENTY THOUSAND Songs!!! For a Musician or Song-Writer, this is very depressing. As you can see, even the major Record Producers have a difficult time getting their Artist’s Songs heard by the masses.

So how does the “little guy” compete? How does ANYONE get their Music into the right places, so it will be “heard” and then, maybe, “purchased”? Although I don’t have an answer for this, it’s always a good idea to “follow your Heart” because, if you’re in the Music business for the “money”, you may want to find another career. As you can see, even if you’re the next “Elvis” or “Adele”, today’s society is currently overwhelmed with Music.

FIND YOUR OWN VOICE

Being a Drummer and Synthesist, I do my best to look into new Music-Gear announcements, instrument techniques, etc. I’ve seen a lot of articles and videos on “how to create “that sound” in your favorite Song” or “how to play like your favorite Artist”, etc. At the same time, society tells us that the Musicians and Songs, which “get noticed” or even “go viral” are the ones that “find their own style”. So which is it?… Are we expected to sound like everyone else who came before us or are we supposed to follow our own Path?

When I was growing up, hearing those (now) old Rock Classics, I never thought:

  • “When I grow-up, I want to sound just like that.”

No. Instead, I thought:

  • “I’m going to have a Number One Song some day.” or
  • “I’m going to play in a successful Band some day.” or
  • “I’m going to be a Musician who’s so different, and creates such interesting Songs, that everyone will want to buy my Music.”

…but I never imagined that “copying” another Musician or their Songs would be my “goal”… my “pinnacle”. I always wanted to create my owns Songs… to tell the world “my” message. To make a statement.

MAKE YOUR POINT AND MOVE ON

So, if you ever get the opportunity of creating a piece of Music, please GIVE IT A VOICE… make it say something. Time and again, when Sylvia and I are in Public Areas we hear Music which is “sonically” (melodically and harmonically) un-interesting AND the Lyrics will usually repeat… for EVER. In our opinion, if your Guitar Lick or Piano improvisation repeats more than 4 times, you’re not being creative and you’ve lost the very short attention span of your Listeners… AND if your Lyrics repeat more then 4 times in a row, then you’ve lost your message — if your Song ever had one.

  • Let’s say you and your friends go to a restaurant you’ve never been to. You place your order and it turns out that the entire experience was WAY over the top. You now have a new “favorite meal” and can’t wait to get back there again. You can’t stop talking about it.
  • Let’s say you get a bonus at work and decide to go back to that restaurant for your “favorite meal” every day. By the end of the 10th day, your feeling about that Dish is: “Well, it’s ok.” (It’s no long SO GREAT that you can’t live without it.)

So, repeating an element of a Song is similar. Yes, you’re trying to make a point with your Lyrics or Performance but you don’t have to beat your Listeners over the head with an idea.

There’s a Saying:

  • “Less is more”

However, this isn’t telling you to use fewer words that are “different” from each other. It means select each word carefully and allow each to contribute to the overall listening experience — your message. Think of the Notes you select for your Composition and the Words you choose for your Lyrics as the ingredients of a very tasteful meal… too few “interesting Notes” and your Words won’t be supported by the Music. Too many repeated Words will sour the taste of that great Guitar or Piano solo we just heard.

LET THE MUSIC GUIDE YOU

I’m not saying you shouldn’t play “Cover Tunes”. Sometimes it can feel good to Perform a Song which was created by someone else. It can stir some good memories inside you or help you, as a Musician, make a little more money.

So what I’m saying is… listen to the Music. As you’re sculpting your Song, listen carefully to what “IT” wants and needs… and pay attention to your own Feelings and Memories, as your Song comes to life. Allow your Song to guide you. If you want to test this, the next time you create a Song, make two of them. With the first one, listen to the Song and let it influence which Words, Notes, Rhythms and Textures you sprinkle into it… and keep your Logical Mind out of it. With the 2nd Song, let your Logical / Clever Mind loose. When both Songs are finished, play them for your family and friends. Don’t tell them how you created them. You may even tell them “someone else” created them. Just to get their honest reactions.

Here’s the link to the Spotify statistics:

https://expandedramblings.com/index.php/spotify-statistics/

 

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Neutron

Behringer has been making audio equipment and electronic musical instruments for many years. The few pieces of information Sylvia and I had heard about them was mostly from some of their unhappy customers, who let their complaints be known on various Forums.

Around 2015 or so, company Owner, Uli Behringer, commented about Moog’s extremely high prices and said he could manufacture and sell similar Synthesizers for around $300.

  • This was at a Time when Moog’s “lower-priced” Synthesizers were Retailing for around $1,500. (Of course, these contained “Keyboards”.)

Later, Behringer’s Synthesizers, which were “copies” of popular Synths decades before, would become known as “Clones”. The first “Clone” Behringer made was of Moog’s famous “Mini Moog Model D”. Granted it didn’t have a Keyboard but it IS currently selling for $299! A few months later, Moog decided to release something “new”. So they created the “Mini Moog Model D” and placed a Retail price of $3,500 on it!!!

  • The original “Mini Moog” was released in the early 70s. I was still in High School but, after hearing it’s awesome sounds on various Rock recordings, I just had to have one. So I saved all my money and bought a brand new Mini Moog from the local music store… for $1,495!!!

The new Mini Moog does have a Keyboard and, although Moog added “MIDI” (digital technology, which the Behringer “Model D” also has), they added a few Patch Points (interconnection Jacks) for Control Voltage and other benefits when working with other Synthesizers. (The Behringer version also has MIDI and several Patch Points.)

  • Although Moog recreated the “Model D”, they did add a few improvements. So, in order to save everyone a lot of confusion, why didn’t the call this new version the “Model D+” or “Model D Plus”?

Since that first Behringer Synth, they have created their very own, not “Cloned”, Synthesizer called the “Deepmind 12”. This one does have a Keyboard, has MANY more features than Moog’s Mini Moog and Retails for just $1,000!!!

  • Behringer has also stated that they have assigned several of their Engineering Teams to Clone many more of music history’s popular Synthesizers.

Several years ago, Behringer began building a new Factory in China. The manufacturing building will be about 3-MILLION SQUARE FEET in size!!!

A new, “Behringer original” Synthesizer which has been talked about since it was “leaked” in January 2018, is called: “Neutron”. Although it doesn’t have a Keyboard, it does have a very flexible set of features, a great sound and will Retail for $299!!! I told Sylvia, the Neutron needs to be on our Music Gear List.

  • About 8-months ago, I was working with our “incomplete” Modular Synthesizer and wanted to create a sound that was in my mind. the Function I needed was inside our “Roland System-1m” Synthesizer but it didn’t offer any way to access it from another Synth. So I told Sylvia “The System-1m isn’t as flexible as we need it to be. So we should trade it in at our local Guitar Center store and get something else.” That “something else” is the “Neutron”.

Here’s a link to an article on the new Behringer Factory:
www.synthanatomy.com/2018/03/music-tribe-city-get-an-insight-factory-behringer.html

Here’s an older article, which provides a few more details:
www.prosoundnetwork.com/business/music-group-city-moves-forward

Here’s a link to a very good Review (video) of the Neutron:
www.synthtopia.com/content/2018/04/05/behringer-neutron-analog-semi-modular-synthesizer-review/

  • On that web page, I was surprised by some of the Comments. Everyone had something good to say about the Neutron (and Behringer). There were even 2 or 3 people who said, in the past, they would not buy anything from Behringer… but were now considering purchasing this amazing Synth.

The Review (in the link above) of the Neutron was done by Nick Batt of “SonicState”. If you’re not familiar with “SonicState”, here’s the direct link to their website:
www.sonicstate.com

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Plexiglass Shelves, Covers, Drumstick Holder and a Drumstick Painting Box

Yesterday, I Posted some information on the Plexiglass shelves and dust covers Sylvia and I created for our Synthesizers. I added this information to our mirrored Blogsite on “Weebly” but there are too many images to also add them here. So if you’re interested in seeing how we used 3/8ths-inch-thick Plexiglass / Acrylic sheets, to build these items, please visit this link:

https://infinitysong.weebly.com/blog/plexiglass-shelves-and-covers

Here’s the link where I Posted information and photos on how we created a “Drumstick Painting Box”:

https://infinitysong.weebly.com/blog/drumstick-painting-box

Here’s the link to the “Drumstick Holder” we made:

https://infinitysong.weebly.com/blog/drumstick-holder

 

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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:
www.vermona.com/en/products/modules/product/qmi-2/

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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:
  • www.moogmusic.com/products/modulars/system-55
  • 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:
​​pittsburghmodular.com/structure-270

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:
pittsburghmodular.com/lifeforms-double-helix-oscillator

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

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:
pittsburghmodular.com/news/2017/1/11/introducing-the-lifeforms-foundation-4-and-lifeforms-foundation-evo

For more information on this crowd-funding project, please visit our Patreon page:
www.patreon.com/infinity_band

To hear our album, “Perfectionately Yours” for free, visit our BandCamp page:
infinity4.bandcamp.com/releases

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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:
www.sonicstate.com/news/2016/04/22/sonic-lab-korg-volca-fm-dx-in-a-box/

Here’s the link to the review by Cuckoo:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFfdOq9rvLc

Here are 2 more Cuckoo reviews on the Volca FM. This first one explains “FM Synthesis” in general:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJrTk4cgFiQ

In this video, he lets us hear the Volca FM “Patches” that he created:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6D9jafo5_I

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