I recently watched a "Talk" by an "Alternative Controller" pioneer, Roger Linn. Maker of the "Linnstrument".
Here's the link to the "Linnstrument" product page:
Here's the link to the Talk:
Lippold Haken, another Alternative Controller pioneer, was in the audience and contributes some very helpful insights into today's music, the world of electronic music controllers, etc.
One facet that I hadn't notice before was something stated by Roger Linn. Basically, he's noticed that today's music, especially "Electronic Music", has "ignored" or "remove" the "Instrumental" — the Soloing Instrument from those Songs.
There are two videos on the above web page and I found both to be interesting. These were held at "ContinuuCon 2019", which took place at the end of May 2019, at Asheville, North Carolina.
The following 45-minute Talk is by Lippold Haken and is also from ContinuuCon 2019 (I haven't watched this one yet but it promises to be very insightful):
Even if you're not into "Alternative Controllers", it can be helpful to keep your mind open to what exists within today's music world. Then, if you're working on a Modular System, or even a Complete Voice Synthesizer, if you can't get the "expressiveness" out of your mind and into your Instrument, you may remember these Controllers and how they bridge the worlds of "mind" and "machine"… and this may help you approach that sound a bit differently.
Yesterday, I was practicing my Drums with some Streaming music. At one point, Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On" started playing. Being a "child of the 70s", I've been a big fan of Led Zeppelin's music since their first album.
Although I've always wondered what that light "tapping" sound is, on the beginning of "Ramble On", I never through to explore it… until yesterday.
To "me", John Bonham was obviously playing a "Remo Practice Pad" but, when I did some research online, to verify this, I found a LOT of conflicting information. On this Forum Thread, there are comments of him playing:
…but no one mentioned a "Remo Practice Pad".
Here's that link:
I've never "owned" a Remo Practice Pad but I still remember what they sound like. Especially when they've aged and are a bit worn. So I searched for a video that had the same sound that is in my head. Here is the link to the closest "Remo Practice Pad" sound that I could find:
He plays it best from the "0" to the "8-second" mark. So it's not much… but if you listen to the actual Song (link below) and then compare that to the tapping in this video, to "me" THIS is what John Bonham is playing on "Ramble On".
Here's the link to the Song "Ramble On":
To "me", this also makes sense because John would have "probably" had a Remo Practice Pad with him when they recorded this Song.
If John Bonham is, instead, playing his "Drum Throne", then he'd have to have an extra one because he quickly goes back-and-forth between "that tapping sound" and playing his entire Drumset. This would have been very awkward to do in the Studio and, especially on Stage, when playing this Song live.
So listen to the different items I've presented above and make-up your own mind. Remember, although I'm a "Synthesist", "Drums" are my main instrument. I think it was my "Synthesist's ear" that made me question this sound in the first place. So for those of you who are Synthesists ("Sound Designers"), put your own ear to the test. The downside, of course, is… it seems that no one knows "for sure" WHAT John Bonham actually played on that Song.
I just wanted to pass along a few more resources which provide helpful information on "what" Synthesizers are and "how" the various components can be used.
Before I do that, I want to mention something I haven't heard anyone talk about… "Patch Cables" and, specifically, "how many" Patch Cables should you buy?
There is no mathematical formula to this question. However, the rule-of-thumb would be "more is better". My very loose guideline for "how many" to buy would be:
Again, this is not a locked-in-stone way of approaching this.
Yes, you can count the "Patch Points" (Cable-connection "holes" / "sockets") on each Module, and buy THAT MANY Cables, but that doesn't really work. In most cases, buying that many Cables would simply give you a LOT more Cables than your Synthesizer would ever be able to use.
Right now, we have 61-Patch Cables… BUT, combined, our 3 Synthesizers (ARP 2600, Behringer Neutron and a partially completed Eurorack Synth) contain 280-Patch Points. So, of course, we still have "Patch Cables" on our "buy more Eurorack items" list.
Patch Cable Length
In a previous Post, I included a link to a "helpful tips" video by Robin Vincent.
Here's that link:
One of the things he learned, when performing Live with his Eurorack Synthesizer, is that he used short Cables whenever possible. The downside to this, he discovered, was that these Cables not only blocked the Modules they crossed (which they always do) but their tightness made it difficult for him to easily get his fingers through to the Knobs and Switches.
Instead, it may sometimes be a good idea to use longer Cables and have them droop down and away from most of the Modules you'll be using in that Patch.
Patch Cable Colors
When I took Synthesizer Lessons in the 70s, Patch Cables were only available in "gray". (That's all "I" saw, anyway.) Today, there are LOTS of colors to choose from and there are 2 types of Synthesists, regarding which colors to buy:
This really comes down to "personal preference". For "us", even though Sylvia loves "Purple", we do our best to select as many different colors for each Patch as we can.
When using a single color for an entire Patch, it can be continually frustrating, when you have to keep following and re-finding where each Cable goes, just to tweak something "quickly".
It's "sometimes" possible to use one color for "Modulation" (Envelopes, LFOs, etc.) and another color for "Audio". Let's say "Red" for Modulation and "Green" for Audio. However, there are 2 problems with this approach:
Here are a few articles and videos where you can find a lot of helpful information on understanding Synthesizers (in no particular order):
This article is titled: "What are CV, Gate and Triggers, and how do they relate to semi-modular synthesis?"
The following article is titled: "Synth Terminology And Basics for Beginners". It covers:
Here's the link to that article:
Here's the link to a Robin Vincent video titled: "Molten Modular 15 - Discovering oscillators with the Make Noise STO".
Here's another good video by Robin Vincent. This one's titled: "Molten Modular 24 - Discovering Envelopes featuring TINRS Edgecutter".
Here's Robin Vincent's main YouTube Channel:
Modular Grid: The best place to go for "all things Eurorack related".
Of course there are LOTS of other sources of information online. Even with all the information and links I've provided here, there are still a few facets of Synthesizers which were not mentioned in the above articles and videos, such as:
It looks as though Synthesizer pioneer, Alan R. Pearlman, "crossed-over" on January 5th 2019.
Although more people, especially non-Musicians, will have heard of "Moog" Synthesizers, Mr. Pearlman founded the "ARP Instruments, Inc." in 1969 and contributed quite a bit to the Music industry. This is what his daughter Posted, regarding his crossing:
My father passed away today after a long illness.
Here's the link to the Synthtopia website, where I first learned of his crossing:
Here's a link to a short, video interview with Mr. Pearlman, from 2006:
Electronic Synthesizers helped shape Music, in every genre, since they were first invented. According to this Wikipedia article, that would be 1876:
Most Synthesizers have a very unique or slightly different sound. The "Moog sound" is probably the most recognizable — especially for those of us who first began listening to Music in the '60s and '70s. During those early years, the biggest companies, still known today are:
Of all the Synthesizers, up to about the 1980s, the original "minimoog Model D" was the most popular. Although I'm a "Drummer", while I was still in High School, I bought a very basic "Korg" Synthesizer. (I don't remember its name.) Hearing more and more about this "minimoog" thing, in the early '70s, I saved-up and bought one from a local Music Store ($1,495). The sounds were rich and the various combinations of sonic textures were easy to pull out of it. It was an amazing experience.
Then I heard about something called an "ARP 2600". After seeing some images and reading several articles on it, I knew I had to buy one. This thing was a monster! It had features none of the Moog Synthesizers, at that time, offered (especially on their "non-Modular" Synthesizers, like the minimoog):
Many, many Musicians have used ARP Synthesizers in their Music… and, even though the ARP company hasn't existed for decades, many Musicians continue to use those Synthesizers in their Music. Here's a link to the song "Frankenstein" by Edgar Winter. You can see him play the ARP 2600 in this video:
Here's a page where you can see the different variations of the ARP 2600 over the years:
Although ARP released several different Synthesizers over the years, my ARP 2600 could not only imitate most of their sounds but also added a bit more… that is, until I heard about the "ARP 2500"!
In its day, I really wanted an ARP 2500 but Sylvia and I could never afford one. It was a big powerhouse of its time.
Here's the link to an "ARP 2500" web page, which explains some of its capabilities:
Jimmy Page, of Progressive Rock band "Led Zeppelin", has (or had) an ARP 2500. Pete Townshend, of the Rock Band "The Who", also used an ARP 2500. You can hear that instrument's "Sequencer" Module on their song: "Baba O'Riley". It's right at the beginning. Here's a link where you can hear that song:
Here's the Wikipedia page for "ARP Instruments, Inc.":
Probably the most popular "ARP" Synthesizer was the "Odyssey".
My notes here don't do enough to explain the impact Mr. Pearlman and his instruments have had on me, Sylvia and this entire world. Thank you Mr. Pearlman!
I uploaded several blank "Patch Charts" to our "Downloads" page. (You can get there from the menu at the top of this page.)
These are "blank" Patch Charts. Each contains a clear, uncolored image of one Eurorack Module. Each can be printed or used on-screen.
There's no real "right or wrong" way to use these.
I first learned about "Patch Charts" during some private Synthesizer lessons at a University in the '70s and from the Patch Charts that came with our ARP 2600 Synthesizer from the mid '80s.
This is how "we" use Patch Charts…
For the "old school" Synthesists: Adjust all of the Eurorack Modules involved with your final Sound.
For the "new school" Synthesists: Adjust all of the Eurorack Modules involved with your "foundation" (or "starting") Sound.
Then, no matter which approach you start with, select a Patch Chart that's included with the flow of your Sound. Here, I'm showing the Bastl "Quattro Figaro" quad VCA as an example.
Notice that any Knobs, Sliders and Switches will be blank. This makes it easier for you to indicate where it should be set. Typically, if there are no marks on a moveable part of a Module, it means that particular parameter is not used. (It will have no affect on any part of the Sound.)
Use an easy-to-read, colored Pen, Pencil or Marker. We use a Red Pen because it's very easy to see lines and notes against the gray and black design on most of these Patch Charts.
We marked-up the following Patch Chart in the computer. If we had printed this, all of our notes would also be in Red Pen.
When drawing your lines, be sure to make them easy to understand. If someone else uses your Patch Charts, or if you look at them in the future, will all of the markings make sense?
If lines, representing your cables, need to cross each other, either keep them at right-angles or draw an "arc" (a "hump") where they meet.
Music Columnist and Synthesizer explorer, Robin Vincent, has created a video titled: "25 - Top tips for performing live with Eurorack".
A day or 2 before, he had performed with part of his Eurorack Synthesizer in a local restaurant in England, where he's from. During that performance, he realized several things which he hadn't planned for. So he created this video, in order to pass this valuable information on to others.
Here's the link:
Recently, I saw 2 videos of an excellent Drummer. His name is "Aric Improta". Not only is he an accomplished Drummer but I've never seen anyone use more of an acoustic Drumset to produce sound.
The following web page, contains an article and 2 videos. The first video shows his showmanship. The most outstanding part is when he "back-flips" from one Drumset to another!
The second video shows him using every part of his Drum setup for various sounds.
Just thought I'd pass this along.
Here's the link:
In June, Sylvia and I traded-in our "Roland System-1m" ($600) for the "Behringer Neutron" ($300). It finally arrived last week.
There's a very good Review of the Neutron over at SonicState. Here's the link:
Because I learned Synthesizers the "old school" way, with "Patch Charts", I wanted to be sure there was one available. The User's Manual does have a handy Patch Chart on page 27 but I fine-tuned it just a bit for our purposes. I have included it below for anyone to Download.
If you've never used a Patch Chart, there are no real "rules" of how to draw-out and explain a Patch. So, for what it's worth, these are a few things I've learned over the years on how to write-out a Patch so you'll understand it years from now:
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):
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:
No. Instead, I thought:
…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.
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:
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:
I had been thinking about Alternative Tunings for Music for several weeks. I even did a lot of research to see if any of the current Eurorack, Modular Synthesizer Modules would allow me to actually pick my own "Frequencies".
Several weeks ago, I was thinking about the "A equals 440Hz" (Cycles-Per-Second, Frequency) and that some say "A" should really be set to 432-Hz.
As I was looking at those numbers, I noticed that they are "8" numbers apart from each other. Since I used to do some very basic programming, a few decades ago, my mind instantly thought there might be something to that relationship…
From there, I did something "thinking" and some "math" and settled on the number "32". Computers are based on multiples of "2", which are "zeros" and "ones". Home computers in the early 80s had 8-bit Processors, which is a multiple of "2". I settled on "32" because "2", "4", "8" and "16" Cycles were too close to each other for my note-building exercise. 32 seemed to be the smallest number of Cycles-Per-Second which the Human ear could distinguish a difference in Pitch AND it would take-up an entire Music Keyboard, just to have at least 2 "Octaves".
I left "A" at 448, as a starting point. I then "added" 32, to find higher Notes or "subtracted" 32, to find lower Notes. This gave me these Frequencies:
Since I couldn't find any "easy-to-use" Synthesizer Modules, which would allow me to enter the "Frequencies" I wanted, I did some testing. A few days ago, I used "Audacity" (audio manipulation software) to produce those 13-Tones. I was going to load them into Apple's "GarageBand" software, in order to move them around and stretch them, just to see if this new "Scale" would sound good… or not.
That quickly became a bit complicated so I stopped.
Today, Sylvia reminded me that our Korg Krome Keyboard offers Tunings and Scale creation. So I checked the Manual and turned it ON. It was a bit tricky and did take me a few hours but I was able to set those Frequencies.
So, other than "I just wasn't happy with what I was hearing", I began to wonder… "why"? Is it because those are simply Frequencies which work against each other or is it that my brain is programmed to identify certain sound combinations as "good" and others as "bad"?
Here's the link to the "Disting Mk4":
Here's the link to the "µTune":
Here's the link to the "Audacity" software:
In doing my 1st calculations, I took used the "Note-to-Frequency" Chart on this page:
I then plugged those numbers into the Frequency-Semitone calculator on this page:
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