Regarding Synthesizer

Yamaha KX76 + Alesis Micron

Recorded on August 8th, 2016

Why have I not been using my MIDI controller all this time?

Yamaha KX76 is back on the scene! My 14-year-old self would have loved this setup.

A video posted by Phil Nunnally (@twelvety) on

 

More Keyboard Homework

Recorded on July 20th, 2016

More homework. Every day is a battle.

A video posted by Phil Nunnally (@twelvety) on

 

This one is three oscillators doing 50% duty cycle square waves. Spent an hour on the sound, 10 minutes practicing notes.

Tonight’s Droney Moog Experiment

Recorded on July 6th, 2016

Every time I play with GarageBand on iOS, I learn a new trick. Tonight, I discovered that this meager app on the iPhone now has programmable automation. Very handy for making tracks fade in and out. Wish I had known that the other night. This is another 4-track collage using the Moog Mother-32.

First Test of iRig Pro Audio Interface

Recorded on July 4th, 2016

I got an IK Multimedia iRig Pro iOS audio interface last week. You can use it to get sound into the Lightning port on an iPhone/iPad. Here’s something I worked up with it and the Moog and Garage Band on the iPhone tonight.

Replacement Moog Mother-32 Works Fine

Recorded on June 4th, 2016

#moog #mother32

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The first Mother-32 with the faulty VCO SAW output jack went back to Guitar Center and this one arrived to replace it the other day. All systems check out fine.

Photos from MoogFest 2016

Recorded on May 31st, 2016

MoogFest 2016

Mutable Instruments Modules

Recorded on May 29th, 2016

Like the rest of MoogFest, the Modular Marketplace was totally overwhelming, in the best way. A dozen, or dozens, of modular manufacturers crowded their display tables into the narrow, deep left half of the Power Plant at the American Tobacco Campus. I could have spent an entire day in there, just getting familiar with what each company had to contribute. I’ll know a lot more when we go next time, but this time, the demo units from Mutable Instruments were my favorite. First, they are drop-dead gorgeous. Here’s “Elements”, which almost made me walk out with it, except I had to pick between that and the Moog Mother-32, and I figured the Mother-32 was a better starter module:

photo of Mutable Instruments Elements module Elements, from the Mutable Instruments website

Second, they’re really weird, and not based on typical subtractive synthesis like I’m used to. Lots of physical modeling and resonating going on with them. I see the knobs and switches and I don’t automatically know what they do, which is exciting. Third, they sound so musical. For being software-based, they sure do manage to coax some organic, lifelike sound out of their electronics. Here’s what “Rings” sounds like:

Here’s “Clouds”:

That’s crazy!

I have many of their modules on my want-list.

Full Inspection of Modular Synthesizers

Recorded on May 29th, 2016

Note to self: If you buy a modular synthesizer (or just a module to add to an existing synthesizer), make sure to immediately test every single jack to make sure it feels right and it does what it’s supposed to. I only found out after returning from MoogFest that the VCO SAW output jack (one of the 32 I/O jacks) on the Mother-32 wasn’t as grabby as it should have been. The other 31 jacks were fine, but that troubled one didn’t have enough spring in it, so the plug would pull out really easily and would lose its connection if jostled by other patch cords.

I emailed Moog and they were very cool about giving me the option of an RMA or returning it to the local Guitar Center. And Guitar Center was very cool about taking it back and re-ordering a new one on the spot. So now I’m temporarily without the Moog, but I’ll pick up a replacement one in a few days and will be back in the business of posting annoying clips from it to SoundCloud. It’s worth it in the long run to have a piece of equipment that will really last for years.

Close Encounters “Tones” Sequence

Recorded on May 26th, 2016

How can I have an analog synthesizer with a sequencer in it and not want to recreate the timbre and notes from “Close Encounters”? The audio on this is rough because it was my phone’s mic pressed against the headphones plugged into the Moog. Too lazy to do anything fancier.

Using iOS GarageBand Live Loops

Recorded on May 25th, 2016

screenshot of iOS GarageBand

I’m continually astounded by the power of our phones. I’d been looking for sampler software, live looping apps, anything to record a bunch of snippets from the Mother-32 and layer and play with them in real time. I didn’t find anything free I liked for the Mac, and figured our iPad was too old to run anything good. And then I realized my phone had already downloaded the recent version of GarageBand (the one that introduced Live Loops). The Lifehacker Beginner’s Guide to Making Music with GarageBand Live Loops was immensely helpful in getting up to speed.

I have no audio interface for the iPhone, but you can easily record sounds in Audacity or whatever audio app you like on a MacBook and then export them to iCloud Drive. iOS GarageBand can import those custom sounds all day long and you can turn them into one-shot sounds or loops. The genius of the Live Loops grid lets you stack a bunch of sounds that complement each other, but then you have the power to trigger any of them whenever you like.

After I recorded five tracks of bleeps and bloops I liked from the Moog, I sent those over to the phone and started playing with combinations of them in GarageBand. This is the kind of stuff that early electronic music composers would have killed for. And it’s in our pockets! (Aside from the crazy modular equipment that acts as the sound source.)

First Test of Moog Mother-32

Recorded on May 24th, 2016

I downloaded the JACK Audio Connection Kit and SooperLooper and I quickly found out I have no idea what I’m doing. Jack is riddled with places to mess up, and getting it to work with SooperLooper and Audacity is just comically hard. Anyway, I layered up five crude tracks tonight and did some nonsensical sound bits which all started in the Mother-32. Here!

University of Iowa Moog Synthesizer Demo

Recorded on May 24th, 2016

I may not write about anything else this year, there was so much inspiration from MoogFest. Somewhere in all my hotbrained-ness, I saw a link to this U. of Iowa page with a list of dry explanations and sound examples from Moog modules. My favorite is the one about the sequencer.

More Justification for Buying the Moog Mother-32

Recorded on May 22nd, 2016

photo of Moog Mother-32 synth

One day into owning the Mother-32 I can hear that there is so much more sound in it than I first suspected. It looks deceptively diminutive, but it’s extremely flexibile. It’s also got time on its side.

From the Mother-32 owners manual:

REMEMBER: Experimentation and learning will reward you with a lifetime of rich synthesizer experiences.

As much as I love Apple gear and having (occasionally) the latest iOS device, you will never see that sentence written in the manual for an iPhone or iPad. The Mother-32 was not cheap, but it was also no more expensive than a new 64GB iPad mini 4. Unlike an iPad, this Moog will still be usable in 20 years. It’ll even work long after I’m gone, assuming its capacitors are still good by then. How many decent years will you get out of an iPad before it’s a pain to use? Three, maybe four.

Another plus for the synth: you don’t typically get rid of modular gear — you just keep adding to it. Every new module you add makes all the other old modules that much more valuable because they all feed off of each other. Yeah, in the end it’s just buying into a different kind of upgrade cycle, but it’s one that gets better and deeper over time.

LED Patch Cables for Modular Synths

Recorded on May 22nd, 2016

There’s a world of crazy modular gear out there. I bet Wendy Carlos would have appreciated light-up cables to let her know which signals were going where in her 1968 Moog system.

Also, the person behind this patch really gets it. Great ear.

Moog Mother-32 Synth

Recorded on May 21st, 2016

photo of Moog Mother-32 synthesizer

They do a sneaky thing at the Moog Pop-Up Shop. They let you play with the gear, and then you see other people walk out with these under their arm. And then you accidentally buy one.