Tag Archives: synthesizer

First Impressions – Sequential Prophet Rev 2

I picked up a Sequential (DSI) Prophet Rev 2 polyphonic analog synthesizer a couple of weeks ago. After two weeks of playing, I decided to make a recording and talk about it.

First a few terms. “Analog” means that the sound is created by electronics as a continuous electrical signal which is then manipulated by other electronics. I know,obtuse, but that definition is a contrast with “digital”, which means the sound is created and manipulated by a computer. Most of the first commercial synthesizers were analog.

I said it was a polyphonic synthesizer (poly-synth). In this case “polyphonic” means more than one note can be played at once, sort of like a piano, with each note being distinct. The distinct note is called a “voice” – my Prophet Rev 2 is an 8 voice synthesizer (16 voice Rev 2s exist – more about this later). The way this works is that each voice is played by a completely different synthesizer! In the late 1970s, Dave Smith perfected a way for a computer to store values for a synthesizer so that all of the different voices (synthesizers) could have the same sound though the user only has to set up the sound once (one set of controls). It also let the user save sounds. This instrument was the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. It helped to revolutionist the music industry and, actually, music itself.

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Child’s Play – Music Video

beach-sunset-02a

Last week I created a new music video.  Before we go any farther, just start it up.  It is only a little over a minute long (1:17 to be exact).

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

OK, is it playing in the background?  Great.

I took two of the miniatures from my composition “Child’s Play” and rearranged them a little.  Actually the biggest rearrangement is making the super simple starting piece, “Happy Feet”, a little more complex by having it modulate from the key of G to the key of D.  When you hear it again at the end, that is how it is in “Child’s Play, Book 1”.  Actually, that piece, “Happy Feet”, is based on one of the first things I ever wrote, back when I was a Freshman or Sophomore in college.  I broke a few counterpoint rules at the time, which were fixed when I added it to “Child’s Play, Book 1”. Continue reading

Some Fun With Echoes… Video

Korg ARP Odyssey

I just picked up an Echoplex effects pedal.  A what?  OK, I know, something only hard core music geeks have heard of.  I will give a quick explanation, but I won’t blame you if you skip down to the video ;)

(start of technical part…)

An “echo” (AKA, “delay”) is just what the name implies – you put in a sound and you get a repeat of the sound.  You hear it all of the time in “modern” music (post-1950s) without hearing it.  In the late 60s and 70s a lot of artists pushed it so you did hear it – it became part of their sound (Pink Floyd) or was used on special occasions (the weird synth solo in the Styx song “Come Sail Away” starting about 3:15 in).  Continue reading

Video – Winter

Snow field

One of the reasons I have been off line for the last few days is that I have been working on some music.  I now have something to share with you :)

Quick background – I studied classical music composition in the mid naughts (00s).  To hear the music I was composing, I used a product called GPO. You can hear this on some of the videos on my video page.  Sounds pretty realistic, if not exactly like a live orchestra.

As some of you may have seen, lately I have been playing with old-school analog modular synthesizers.  What?  OK, that sounds odd, but this is the type of synthesizer they used in “the old days”, synths that sounded like synths.  The “modular” part means that I pretty much create a new instrument using patch cords every time I make a sound.

Lately I have had the idea to recreate some of my old music using this even older technology.  It won’t sound as realistic, but perhaps it will add something. Continue reading

The Coventry Carol – Video

Notre Dame

I have always like The Coventry Carol.  I’m into dark, medieval music, particularly Christmas music, which seems like it should be bright, not dark.  So I decided I wanted to record it.  But I needed a little research first.  I was surprised at what I found, and this led to the video (hint, read this before listening)

The carol was part of a “mystery play” that went back to the 14th century.  The words were written down in the early 16th century and the music in the late 16th century, some believe in a bid to try to get it performed again (it wasn’t).  This song is about the slaughter of the innocents.

Yes, The Coventry Carol is a lullaby sung by the women of Bethlehem to try to calm their frightened babies as they wait for Herod’s men to murder the babies. “Bye bye, lully lullay.” Nice, right? So “the little tiny child” in the song is not the baby Jesus, but some poor, doomed child.

The words and music survived as much by accident as anything, as such things do, and was revived again in the 20th century.During The Battle of Britain in WW2, the Germans bombed Coventry on the 14th of November, 1940.  On Christmas, 1940, the BBC played The Coventry Carol live as it was being sung from the bombed out ruins of the Coventry cathedral.

So the song went from the poor woman resigned to their fate when brought up against powers beyond their understanding to the women shaking their fists at the sky when brought up against these powers.  You may bomb us and kill our children, but we will rise from the ashes. Continue reading

Review – Behringer VC340

B VC340

Last week I received a Behringer VC340 that I ordered a few months back.  This is a recreation of a classic synthesizer, the Roland VP-330 Vocoder Plus, which was made in 1979 and 1980.  Although the production of this synthesizer was short, it, along with the rackmount version, the SVC-350, is found all over music of the early 80s, including artists as far apart as Vangelis and Laurie Anderson.

The VC330, like the original VP-330, instead of being a general synthesizer is divided into three main parts: a string synthesizer, a “human voice” synthesizer and a vocoder.

The string synthesizer is just what it sounds like, a synthesized string ensemble sound that uses simple analog technology of the day.  String synths were very popular in the late 70s and the Roland version can be heard on a lot of music by a wide variety of artists.  It offers a simple tone (brightness) control, attack (how quickly the sound starts) and release (how quickly the sound fades after you take your hands from the keys). Continue reading

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
https://youtu.be/cwdr7IRg4Ys

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

 

Another Victim of 2016 – Throwback Thursday

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

At the tender age of 6 I became a synthesizer fanatic.   My first exposure was Wendy Carlos’ epic album, Switched on Bach.  After hearing that I tried to find anything and everything that had synthesizers, particularly the big Moog modular synthesizer.

At about 12 I saw an album cover with the coolest synthesizer on the back.  I had to have it!  But at that age I really couldn’t afford it.  Now the stories differ.  I remember buying it for my brother for Christmas while he says he bought it himself, the first album he actually paid for.  Whichever way, that cool looking album ended up in my brothers hands.  Of course at 12 that meant it is almost mine forever.

I was totally blown away when I first heard it.  Although I was a synth-fanatic, I had never heard sounds quite like it.  There was lush soundscapes, complex textures, shimmering glides, ethereal voices and surrealistic instruments.  Sure, there were some quirky, silly and novelty sounds mixed in, but as a kid I loved it.  More than anything I’d heard created by synthesizer, this sounded living, organic.  And yet it sounded spacey and futuristic. Continue reading