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.

Something Simple

I’ve dabbled in music for years. I was hitting teenage when synthesizer music took off. My first electronic instrument was a Casio VL-Tone. My first monophonic synthesizer was a Teisco 60f. My first polyphonic a Casio CZ-101. I had a ROMpler workstation in the nineties, and switched to Sonar on the computer in the noughties. The last year or two I’ve been building a setup so I can move away from the computer again. But even now, I never get anything finished. Doesn’t seem to matter what I use.

So I thought I’d do something similar to my animation project – simple stuff first and build gradually. I have a littleBits Synth Kit. It seemed a good place to start.

I’m cheating a bit. I ran it through a Strymon BigSky reverb. You could put nails down a blackboard through the BigSky and have it come out sounding like heaven. But still, littleBits is fun. Too bad it’s so expensive here, especially with the weak yen. The kit is divided into components – oscillator, envelope, filter etc. – that snap together using magnets. The pink bits you can see are the magnetic connectors. Because you can order the components in any way you like, there are many many possibilities for sound synthesis. Maybe next week I’ll try something a little more ambient or ethereal.

Korg MS2000R

I’ve made music on and off since my teens. For a long time I used Sonar on the computer, but over the past few months I’ve become tired of looking at a screen for both work and play. I decided to move back to a hardware setup.

I bought a new synthesizer last year, a Waldorf Blofeld. And I was searching for tutorials on programming the Blofeld when I found this fellow’s music. He sequences on an Akai MPC500 and produces those wonderful rhythms with an Elektron Machinedrum. It inspired me to buy a used Akai MPC1000 and start linking equipment. The latest addition, an old MS2000R, came the other day.

There are one or two more things I need to complete the setup, but I hope to have it ready this month. It’s good to be pushing buttons and turning knobs again. It doesn’t matter how good the software is, it’s always nice to get your hands on a good piece of equipment.