Long Run

I bought five new bits for the littleBits Synth Kit, three of them to give me some interface other than the teeny-weeny keyboard – a button, a slider and a bend sensor. The other two are the inverter and logic XOR bits. I found a video showing how to emulate ring modulation with the XOR, so I thought I’d try that.

The arpeggio sequence is one littleBits oscillator driven by the SQ-1. The lead sound I’m playing is two oscillators sending through filters to the XOR bit. I have the bend bit modulating the frequency of both filters. Depending on the filter cutoff and peak settings, it’s possible to get some seriously screaming distortion going. I tried attaching the bend sensor to my index finger with elastic bands. That was fun, but difficult to control accurately enough. So I fixed it to the board and I’m just bending it with my left hand.

This series of doodles with the littleBits kit is to find out how much useable music I can get out of it. I thought I’d do ten in all before moving on to the next thing. So, six down four to go.


Noodle on Friday, refine on Saturday, record and up on Sunday, forget on Monday. The best thing about doing music this way is that you needn’t spend weeks (in my case years) with an idea trying to make it perfect. Once it’s presentable, you can let it go and you’re free to move on to the next thing. Nobody’s going to listen anyway! Who cares!!

Actually, I do care a little. For the first time ever I feel like I belong to an online community, although no one has taken notice yet. There are loads of people doing the same thing, many with similar equipment. It’s interesting to see how they use it and what kind of music comes out.

The Volca Beats for drums and Volca Bass for bass. No effects on those. This time I’m splitting the output from the SQ-1 all over the place. It’s going to drive the arpeggio sequence on one littleBits oscillator, and to trigger the envelope of the melody line I’m playing. I also have it triggering filters on both the sequence and the lead, although in the end I left it as a subtle effect rather than ramping it up to squidge level. The melody I’m playing is two oscillators. One is tuned, but the other I’ve turned all the way to the right. That’s what’s giving it the percussive tone you can hear especially on low notes. LittleBits is running through a Strymon Big Sky set on room reverb.

Everything into an Alto ZMX52 mixer and aux out to a Tascam DR-07MKII recorder. Single take. No dubbing or processing. Video recorded on a Pentax Q.

I Am Not Ashamed

It’s not easy to escape musical roots. For me, everything veers towards the eighties. Ten years ago, that would have been embarrassing. But as far as I can tell, previously uncool eighties-style musical elements have been sort of welcomed back into the fray in the same way that fifties was in the eighties and seventies was in the …. I’m struggling to think. Sixties in the nineties? It’s a funny business, music and fashion. No absolutes. Everything resurfaces. Everything comes around for a second try.

I am not ashamed.

I bought another oscillator and a fork module and I was planning to do some big orchestral sounds but this is what came out. Three voices from the littleBits Synth Kit …. the main arpeggio driven by the SQ-1, a bit of percussive dirt using the random module (also driven by the SQ-1), and the plucked lead sound. These are all going through the BigSky on shimmer again.

The Volca Beats is providing drums, the Volca Bass the bass. No effects on those. The Sync Out on the SQ-1 is connected to the In of the Volca Beats, but for some reason I’m only getting the first eight steps cycling. I tried testing the Volca Bass and it ran the whole sixteen step cycle. Something to solve.

Everything into an Alto ZMX52 mixer and aux out to a Tascam DR-07MKII recorder. Single take. No dubbing or processing. Video recorded on a Pentax Q.

Debut on bass for my left index finger!

Up A Gear

Exactly what I need to do in 2016 – go up a gear.

This is the littleBits Synth Kit again. It’s amazing what this thing can do. I’m putting it through the BigSky and a Behringer RV600 for a bit of presence, but even without effects the patch sounds pretty impressive.

There are three sounds coming out of littleBits. I have the keyboard module pushing one oscillator. The output of that oscillator I’m splitting. One channel goes to the filter and the other to a further oscillator. The filter is being modulated by the Korg SQ-1. That’s the main sound of the piece. I’m not using the SQ-1 for pitch modulation this time. The other channel is basically the first oscillator modulating the second. That’s the big sound that comes in at 1:20. From the modules left over – a Random module and a filter – I set up a bit of percussion, the snare-like sound you can hear from the beginning. That’s also being driven by the SQ-1.

The BigSky is in shimmer mode, but with a very short delay. Shimmer mode allows you to double, actually triple up the pitch at various intervals. So it’s producing an extra voice one octave lower and one an octave higher.

The Volca Beats is doing the drums. More Volca next time.