Tag Archives: Synth

Review – Korg ARP Odyssey

Korg ARP Odyssey

I just picked up the Korg recreation of the classic analog synthesizer, the ARP Odyssey.  I first started playing with the instrument on Friday and it is Monday morning, so this is more of a “first impression” than an actual review.  Before that first impression, I should talk about the instrument a little.

A Brief History of the Odyssey

Back in the early 1970s ARP released the Odyssey as a direct competitor for the Mini Moog.  The Mini had the famous big, phat sound, but the Odyssey, besides being less expensive, had a lot going for it.  It was duophonic (you could play two notes as opposed to the Mini’s one), it had a ring modulator (creates complex harmonics), you could synch the oscillators (forces them in tune with each other, even when you try to force them out of tune), you can put an envelope on pitch, there was sample and hold (S&H), there was a simple high pass filter, and you could do some more complex modulation routings. Continue reading

Higher Ground – Video

Modular Synth - November 2017

Some of you may know that one of my interests is building a playing a modular analog synthesizer.  This is an “Old School” instrument where sounds are created by patching different modules together with patch cords.  Well, more to it than that, but the idea is that it is a very hands on type of instrument.

An issue with this type of synthesizer is that if you like a sound, oh well, you will eventually have to tear it down.  At that point it is gone.  You can make a drawing of the patch, a quick schematic.  A photo, well, that would be so complicated you will get nothing.  Or you can learn the instrument well enough to be able to recreate it later.  That’s my goal. Continue reading

Dark Jingle Bells

Earlier today I posted about recording a dark version of Jungle Bells.  I said I wasn’t going to post it, but I changed my mind :)  I’ve had zero views in about 3 hours, so I think it’s safe that nobody is going to see it anyway, so this isn’t a big risk…  The big bass sound I talked about in the first post is hard to hear in the video – making it into a video takes out all of the heft.  But it should stillbe dark.  and i hope fun!

Click here if you don’t see the video

I hope you enjoyed that bit of analog modular synthesizer madness….


Lost Star – Music Video

Lost Star

In the past I have put up a few posts about my modular synthesizer.  Here’s a very, very quick recap – a modular synth is created from different modules, each one with a specific function that are patched together with patch cords. They are, or can be, very “old-school”, like 1960s and early 1970s.  As technology and needs moved on they quickly became dinosaurs.  Except nothing else is as flexible or can get that sound, so they have made a comeback and have even been seen in “mainstream” music.

OK, So I have posted a handful of videos, from a funky version of “The Munster’s” theme, to a two part, modern classic work to a fun rap.  In each of these videos there are photos or videos of the modular synthesizer.  Those who are observant can see that there was a lot of empty space in the cabinet and that empty space grew smaller with each video. Continue reading

The Anti-Rap Rap (Music Video)

Trent Grin

A few weeks ago, when I was still dong my A Smile a Day, I wrote a silly poem as my smile.  A few people thought I should make it into a rap, so I did.  I hope you enjoy!

(Click here if you don’t see the video)

A few words.  Yes, that is me trying to rap and sing background vocals :)  All of the other sounds are also me playing a modular synthesizer.  There are some shots of the synthesizer in the video – the thing with all of the cables/patch cords.  Thinking of cables, I wore a few patch cords as “bling” when I took the pictures, but they were cut off.  When patching, it is convenient to have a few around your neck so they are readily accessible… Continue reading

Modular Modulations

(Click here if you don’t see the video)

Just 25 second, that’s all.  The story takes much longer to tell then the song lasts.

Simply put, in music a modulation is a change of keys.  There are several main ways to do a modulation and when I was studying classical music, I studied many of them.  You see, modulation is the grease that keeps classical compositions moving, that moves them from place to place, makes it a journey instead of a song form.  When I was doing studies I usually did block chords with proper voice leading and such.  I once did a very short study with several different types of modulations, just looking at the actual change, not the set up or anything – tonic  chord -transition chord – new tonic chord – etc.  It was pretty boring on its own, but was an exercise like the thousands of others I did.  Literally thousands.

Later I entered a challenge to write a meaningful modern composition using 100 notes or less.  I dug out the modulation exercise and wrote a quick melody for clarinet with a bassoon bass line.

Great.  Skip ahead a few years to today.  I wanted to make a very short demo of my modular synthesizer, or the few pieces I currently have.  Digging through some printed out music I found something called “Modulations”.

So, quick lesson here: never throw anything away.  You never know when you’ll use it again.  And again.  And, well, you get the picture…

I think this sounds like incidental music for a show aimed at very young children. Perhaps when a character moves from one activity to another.  What do you think?

Modular Madness – Old School Synthesis

New Studio

When the term “music synthesizer” first made the rounds people were talking about “Switched on Bach” and, usually, Moog.  The synthesizers back then seemed to be as big as a house and cost almost as much.  For the most part the synth world was ruled by modular analog synthesizers.  In the 1970s these were replaced, for the most part, by portable synthesizers, like the ARP Odyssey and Moog Minimoog.  In the early 80s even these went away to be replaced by slick, mass produced digital synthesizers like the Yamaha DX7.  By the mid 80s the old modular synthesizer was a dinosaur, a relic of the distant past.  Sure, digital synthesizers still called a set of parameters that make a sound a “patch”, named after the telephone switchboard like patch cords of the modulars, but most people didn’t understand the reference. Continue reading

Arturia Microbrute – Review

microbrute-image(Here is a little demo you can play as you read – more about it towards the bottom)

Back in the day the term “synthesizer” usually referred to a monophonic analog synthesizer. In the 1980s digital synths became the norm. There was no more worrying about oscillator tuning drifting, you could store hundreds, later thousands, of sounds without having to figure it all out every time you touched a dial, and they could play many notes at once. In the 1990s people began to long for that quirky, vintage, retro sound of analog instruments. Some true analog synths were created at huge price. And then there was the digital synths that modeled analog. In the 2000s and 2010s analog for the masses, or at least the keyboard playing masses, started to appear. Arturia, known more for their modeling software reproductions of vintage gear, came out with the ground breaking Minibrute. Later they lowered the price bar even more with the Microbrute. I picked one up at Christmas, though I started playing with it in mid-December. So after a month and a half I’ll let you know what I think.

Continue reading

Greensleeves – (un)Traditional Song

Snow Tree

Greensleeves is my favorite Christmas song. OK, technically Greensleeves is not a Christmas song, it’s a song about somebody’s lover or a prostitute, but somebody once wrote religious lyrics to the tune and called it “What Child is This?” 90% of the time you hear the tune it is an instrumental and called Greensleeves.  So yeas, I guess I like listening to songs about illicit love at this time of year. Continue reading

New Music – Flashback Now

Trent's studio

I just made a little recording for fun. Don’t take this music, called Flashback Now, too seriously. Don’t expect anything like the symphony, orchestrated art song or the piano sonata I’ve posted. Don’t even expect the twisted pop song I put up a while ago. This might remind you more of background music to a science TV show from the 1970s. Continue reading