a little delay

As I’ve written, earlier this summer a friend of mine gave me an old Boss DD3 guitar delay pedal. I’m a big fan of using delays and I’ve used them a lot in the stuff I’ve made in software over the last several years. But as with everything since I got into the modular thing, having a tactile knob to twist and buttons to mash is something else entirely, and creates “fun” where there was just “nice” earlier. So once I ran across the Flight of Harmony Sound of Shadows delay module, where the delay rate and feedback can be controlled with CV, I knew I wanted to go to there. I sold a few modules I don’t use much and ordered the SoS from Analogue Haven. It arrived Monday, and Monday night I spent several hours working out some kinks.
I hadn’t rtfm* yet so some of the controls and inputs were a mystery. And listening to these now two days later, I have no idea what I’m hearing in some cases. “sos four” for instance is repeating entire pieces of the clean phrase, but I don’t know how. [Edit: I figured it out. I’m modulating the rate with the Z8000 sequencer. When you don’t hear any delay effect, the sequencer has shut off the rate completely for those steps. It’s a four step sequence running slower than the main clock, so you get something like every other beat it’s on, then off again… or something like that] I do know that the frequent sucking sound on “sos one” is the rate being turned from on to totally off with an envelope, like an LFO.
As for other modules used, “sos one” was a Cwejman VCO6. Four five and six are a Hertz Donut. Some is sequenced by a Noisering, some with a Z8000 sequencer. I also think the last three were using my A134 VC panning module, which works as a crossfader as well, and is really nice for some pseudo stereo.
I realized this morning that I can route the delay signal into signal delay circuit and delay the delay, which with one in the right and the other in the left channel, will be loads of fun.
The SoS is a little noisier than I’d like at times, and since the delay chip was made for karaoke machines it’s got kind of a cranky glitchiness. But I can already see that this is going to be fun.

By the way, what was supposed to be sos two is explained on the previous post, and sos three was sucky so it didn’t make it up here.

*Read the effing Manual

not yet delayed

I’ve been loving my Boss DD3 delay pedal that my friend Greg gave me so much that I sold off some stuff I didn’t use or want, and got a Flight of Harmony Sound of Shadows module. Since this tune I’m posting here doesn’t use the delay at all, I won’t go into it much here. But while putting together some patches and sequences with which to test the SoS out last night, I stumbled across this little bit of goodness.
Basically it’s my two “normal” VCOs, the uLFO and the VCO6, sequenced by the Noisering. As I talked about in the previous posts, the EXT RATE knob is turned fully left so that while the CV output is random, the clock is straight. I’m sending the CV through a mixer to attenuate it a bit, then into a quantizer, then into my new Intellijel Buffered Mult, where I split it into two. With my previous unbuffered mults, this would have been less interesting because the signal would have dropped some. The buffer keeps that from occurring. Once it’s split, the sequence is piped into the VCO6 and the uLFO. The VCO6 is using the triangle wave, the uLFO is using its modified sine, with a LFO clocked every fourth beat adjusting that mod. That provides the slight buzz that rise each measure. The two VCOs are detuned, and it has a really nice organ feel. On some other patches I used a LFO to provide some wobble with the signals put through a filter which really added to that, but not here.
The result is quite pretty. The Noisering really knows how to sequence a bunch of random notes, and I’m loving that thing more and more. It’s random, but it allows so much control over that random. Oxymoronic, I know.

Enjoy. I’ll be posting actual results from several hours with the delay module soon. Including one that’s pretty similar to this.

donut and noisering and machinedrum

nightlife

This is basically part 3 in the series of doing stuff with the Noisering, the Hertz Donut, and the Plan B low pass gate. Go back and listen to that which is posted on 3 August and 5 August. This patch is essentially the same. The Noisering sends its random CV to the Hertz Donut, attenuated slightly. The Donut is in “Good” mode, and is connected to the Plan B Model 13 in “both” mode. The signal from the Donut is also attenuated somewhat, as it’s really easy to completely overdrive the Model 13. The envelope for the M13 is provided by Maths. Now the difference here is that the triggers for the whole thing are coming from a Machinedrum. The Machinedrum has a machine called GND IMP which is just a trigger pulse made for things like pre-MIDI drum machines and analog synths. I can sequence these triggers just like any other drum or sound on the MD. I have the track routed through external output F to the CLK IN of the Noisering. That triggers the random CV of the Noisering, and also sends through the clock out the trigger for the Maths envelope.

Now the interesting part here is in the first half of this track. You can hear kind of a little double trigger on each note. I couldn’t figure out what was going on here, thinking it was something happening with the Maths. But then realizing that the notes were changing between each of the little triggers on each beat, meaning that the Noisering was getting two triggers, I realized that the event was taking place on the Machinedrum, not the modular. I noticed that I had the wrong machine chosen for the Machinedrum. It was set to a ROM machine, which is meant for playing back samples, and not the IMP impulse machine. I don’t know — and I wish I’d checked — what the ROM machine was playing. I’m assuming that it had two distinct peaks, whatever it was, which created two triggers. In any case, it sounds great. Like it’s got this funky little swing going. At 1:04 you can hear it change back to single triggers as I swapped the machines out.

The track loops a lot with most of the change coming from the notes played by the Noisering. But closer to the end I’m punching in random steps on the Machinedrum’s sequencer, keeping everything quantized to 16th notes. (In case you want to try this at home, I’m using generic 1/4″ to 1/8″ mono cables I bought at Radio Shack for $5.99. Don’t forget to set the routing for whatever track you’re using for triggers to one of the four external outputs rather than the main output…)

more about donuts

The Hertz Donut VCO has become my favorite source of noise and tones. At one moment nice and calm and soulful, the next minute with a few tiny knob-twists or introductions of voltage, it rips your head off. That’s a good thing, and surprising to me since the main reason I like synthesizers is distinctly not for the head-ripping-off that they’re capable of (re: blinky boopity subtractive synths).
I spent an hour the other night working on variations to the church donut sequence I posted previously. The main difference is in the use of the Noisering as the clock source, and to a lesser extent, modulation of the FM index of the Hertz Donut’s second oscillator. These three sequences were outtakes from that hour of recording. On a synth forum I frequent, I was informed by James Cigler that when nothing is plugged into the clock-in jack on t he Noisering, the randomness of the clock is controlled by the EXT RATE knob, which leaks the random signal from the 2nd output into the clock. The EXT RATE knob basically attenuates this signal, allowing for full-on crazy clock, or when turned counter-clockwise, barely any random signal. This is great, and turns the Noisering into a very useful clock source for me. The only problem with it that I see is that the randomness isn’t voltage controlled, and when something is plugged into the CLK IN jack, it breaks the connection. It would be the monkey’s uncle if somehow the source plugged into the CLK IN somehow controlled the amount of that randomness. Instead it’s the other way around, the EXT RATE attenuates whatever signal is plugged into the CLK IN. Both are useful, but I suppose it would take a second jack and knob to make this work.

In any case, this first sequence is the Noisering clock being rate-controlled by a slow LFO sine wave into the CLK IN jack. (When a trigger source is plugged into the CLK IN, that becomes the source of the clock. This merely controls the rate of the internal Noisering clock).

This next one has nothing plugged into the CLK IN jack. About halfway into the sequence I start turning the EXT RATE knob which adds the random signal to the clock.

And this last sequence is longer at eight minutes. It’s also clocked by the Noisering, with some randomness in the signal. In this one there are a lot of different kinds of tones with various modulations being applied to the Hertz Donut and to the Maths, lengthening and shortening the envelope (which for you non synth-heads, means shortening and lengthening the note itself). Near the end the Plan B model 10’s ramp output is all over the second Hertz Donut oscillator, which adds that audible rise in the tone behind the decay of the sound itself. I love that.

All the delay is provided by the Boss DD-3 pedal. It’s convinced me that I need a voltage controlled delay like the Flight of Harmony Sound of Shadows real soon…

church of donut

You know how you can spend all day tweaking and patching and after hours you got nothin. Right? Then you decide, after dinner, after tv, just before dropping off to slumberland, just to try one little thing you have in your head. Say, one little thing like driving your Hertz Donut with CV from the Noisering, kinda attenuated a bit with a Plan B mixer so it’s not bouncing all over the place. The Donut sounds great through the low pass gate, so you plug the Maths into the Plan B m13 clocked by a basic LFO pulse, which also clocks the Noisering. So just something simple like that.

And luckily you were still awake enough to push ‘record’ on the laptop so as to save the result. And damn if that’s not the best patch you’ve made in a long time. I’d been told that the Noisering is a musical kind of random, but this was the first time I really attenuated it down without quantizing it, and it’s just lovely, isn’t it? Kinda spooky lovely. The FM tones of the Donut work perfectly with the notes that the Noisering is spitting out, and then I had it all go through a Boss DD-3 delay guitar pedal with a really fast delay, so it’s more of a reverb, and then to the computer for recording.

I hope you like this as much as I do.

mixing, matching

Recently on the Muffwigglers modular synth forum, the subject of making “finished songs” was brought up. The idea is that it’s easy to spend hours and days with a modular synth creating noises and short loops of music, but it’s very difficult to put things together in a way that has a beginning, middle and end. It’s similar to making pages of sketches but never being able to make a finished painting. Or writing paragraphs but not completing a story. This problem isn’t only with modular synthesizers. I find that it’s a problem with music in general. I’ve likely written here before that when I first entered the hole that is electronic music, it seemed simple to make “songs.” I had Reason, I had a little keyboard, and I didn’t know what I was doing. I used presets for the most part, and just strung loops together with drum tracks behind them. SInce then, my tastes in the sounds I make have become more complicated, and I have many many more choices to make when working. Not only do I have literally hundreds of ways to make sounds for the songs, both in software and hardware, but I have a lot more understanding as to how these tools work, and sitting down fiddling with sounds in these tools is in a lot of ways the more interesting endeavor.
Thinking about this issue after reading and contributing to the thread on the forum, I came up with a couple of thoughts. One is that in many ways and most of the time, it’s just more fun to turn knobs and record sounds. Conforming these results to a 4/4 beat at 125 beats per minute with verses and chorus is just kind of silly. Moreover, it becomes work, and I don’t make music as work. This is a thing I do to not be working. Secondly, a lot of what I do with the modular, as well as with some of the software like Reaktor, is done with changing speeds, no real musical keys, and a real lack of structure. The way I’ve been using my main software sequencer and DAW (Ableton Live) for years is with very rigid grids and loops. After the freeform music-making with the modular, attempting to put it all together in the confines of Live is a royal pain. I just lose interest.
So I brought this up, and immediately got some replies with suggestions. They spanned from simple ideas like merely quantizing the un-sync’d sequences to bars so that at least they “reset” at common points, to the more complex, like somehow sending out a “click-track” from the modular to a track in Ableton so that I can lock up Ableton to the recorded sequence later on. Last night I tried the more simple ideas, just using pieces of a thing I recorded the day before as samples in Ableton’s drum racks and lining some bits up in Live’s arrangement view, but rather than trying to quantize the loops, I just let them run free, unwarped. I like the results, and while it’s pretty tame, I can see the possibilities.

Everything you hear here comes from The Harvestman Hertz Donut, which is really an incredible module. The bass/drum line is made up of simple samples from the Donut, and the more gurgly chaos bits are small sequences. Here are some of the samples.

[audio:hertz-animals_beat.mp3|titles=”Hertz Donut weird rhythms”|artists=Dance Robot Dance] [audio:hertz-waters.mp3|titles=”water from a rock”|artists=Dance Robot Dance] [audio:hertz-weird-rhythm-also.mp3|titles=”strange sounds”|artists=Dance Robot Dance]

I plan to put together a downloadable package of sounds from the modular. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, let me know.

this bird has issues

I was reading the other day on Stretta’s website that people often complain that music from modulars, at least that on YouTube and the like is too blippy-beepy-boopy and not actually “melodic” or something like that. I realized that I am almost always attempting to make something normal out of that which pours forth from my modular. SO in response I just set up a patch using the Plan B Model 10’s cycle input as the heart and pressed ‘record.’ This is one the more favoriter things I’ve eeked out of this machine.

Dance to it, kids.

how kids draw synthesizers

I recently was asked to drop by the third-grade science class of a local elementary school and show off/explain my modular synth. The class was studying sound and it seemed like a perfect fit. Modulars are graphic, in that they have the shapes of the sound waves printed right there on the VCOs, and they are easy for kids to understand since everything is right there and accessible. This is opposed to, say, digital synthesizers where one knob might do eleven things and everything is hidden beneath multi-layered menus. The visit was a bunch of fun and as I expected the kids just loved pulling cables and turning knobs and hearing the immediate results. I’m sure that the subtleties of the way a four-pole filter resonates vs a vactrol filter was lost on them, but they seem to grasp some of the fundamentals.

In return for my visit, I later received a pack of thank-you cards that the class made. This is one of the perks of visiting schools (which I do often in my “real” job as a children’s book illustrator). Kids love writing and drawing thank-you notes. The cool part of these particular thank-you notes is that many of the students drew modular synths on their cards. Some of the drawings are fairly accurate representations, but most of them are more abstract. It’s wonderful to see what the kids took away from this — matrices of dots and lines representing the knobs, jacks and cables.

So here for your viewing pleasure, I’ve scanned my favorites. I posted a photo of the synth as it looked when I took it to the school at the bottom. Just to show what the kids were looking at.

100215_modular with seq02_006

a good Z8000 video

I’ve been planning to sit down and write a post about some of the new additions to my modular synth. One of these is the Z8000 sequencer by Tip Top Audio. It’s a matrix sequencer and while incredibly simple in concept and design, it’s incredibly rich and complex in practice and use. Just the two or so hours I’ve spent with it made my head spin, and I’ve been jotting down all sorts of patching ideas in my notebook when I’m away from the synth. One thing I’m really looking forward to working on is clocking the Z8000 with my Machinedrum’s triggers at different intervals and steps.
I acquired this sequencer with having seen only a couple of decent videos, and after reading a long thread on the Muffwiggler’s forum about it. Today I noticed a new video from Tip Top with Stretta putting the Z8000 through some paces, with a good explanation. Take a gander.