I’ve made a synthesized sountrack-like suite this summer. I’d a different approach to composing and presentation than my usual routines; the new tracks are more melodic, less aggressive. I also had to manage the suite on micro sessions, in the corner of the apartment, due to family and raging kids. Anyway listen.
The first volca I got was the bass, and it was the last of the modules I sold. I’ve had three volcas – bass, keys and sample – and I’ve owned two of them for over two years.
While they had their own ecosystem they never quite fit in my particular, DAW-driven, workflow.
The three detunable VCOs of the bass, and the ring modulation of the keys, are great features, but in practice, when I wanted a bass or a lead sound for a track, I sometimes tried using a volca first, but then ended up designing those sounds on other synths. Like always. While the volcas sound fine for the money, they are not on par with my other synths, well that’s just me.
Anyway, I recently acquired the discontinued monotribe, and oh man, that timbre is golden!
Its sound might be clicky, noisy and dirty, but I do prefer this tone over the analog volcas’. To my ears, the filter is so much better on the monotribe, and the LFO is wild and really dope.
I still have to test run it in context of a full track though.
I didn’t expect much of the drumpart, but it’s cool enough it turns out.
So yeah, try to get a monotribe if you haven’t already. I got mine to 70 USD, meaning it’s the next cheapest gear I’ve got.
The Korg monotribe is a desktop analog monophonic synthesizer with an additional three preset drums sounds. Its sound is warm and rich but quite clicky and noisy – although I think I prefer this timbre over the newer volca series. The monotribe was released in 2011 and is now discontinued.
How to Silent the VCO When Processing External Audio
The synth has an audio in port to feed external audio into 12 dB/oct lowpass filter (which uses the same circuit as the classic MS-10/MS-20). The crux is that the synth engine must be triggered to run the filter, meaning it’s not possible to process external audio solo (without being modded). But the LFO can modulate the oscillator so that it becomes nearly inaudible. The workaround below is not exactly neat, but should do the trick. On the monotribe, do as follows:
Press PLAY button and then REC.
Set RANGE select switch to WIDE and press the highest key on the RIBBON keyboard during the whole sequence.
Set EG to GATE.
Switch TARGET to VCO.
Set MODE to 1SHOT.
Set WAVE to SQUARE WAVE.
Set LFO RATE knob to minimum speed and INT. to maximum depth.
Select TRIANGLE WAVE on modulation waveform WAVE.
How to CV Control the monotribe with the Analog Keys’ Keyboard
OS version 2.11 allows the SYNC IN connection to be used as a pitch CV/gate input. This makes it possible to control the monotribe with an external keyboard or sequencer (which is great because the ribbon keyboard is almost impossible to play). There are many ways to do this, but the theory is the same: send CV and gate via a TRRS 4-pole mini jack – where gate is tip and CV the second ring.
Now I got an Elektron Analog Keys which can send both tip and ring from the same CV output, but to do that to the monotribe I’d need a special cable (sort of TRS to TRRS) and I haven’t soldered any yet. So until then, I hacked a workable cable with many different pieces I found laying around (e.g. the composite video cable was provided with a TV I acquired last year). Again, you can build this patch cable more streamlined, but here’s my solution:
Connect a composite video cable to SYNC IN on the monotribe and connect a RCA connector, white male to white female and red male to yellow female. On the other end, connect a pair of adaptors, RCA female to mono 3.5 mm mini jack male and then another pair of adaptors, 3.5 mm mini jack female to 6.3 mm jack male and plug white in CV AB and red/yellow in CV CD on Analog Keys.
While this setup only uses the tips, and demands both CV ports on Analog Keys, set CV A to Gate, V-Trig, 5.0 V and CV C to Pitch V/oct, C 3, 1.000 V, C 6, 4.000 V. (CV B and D are not used.)
Prepare the monotribe as described in the documentation that came with the download package. Activate CV/GATE mode, set the Pitch CV curve to V/oct and GATE polarity to high.
P.S. It’s also possible to create a feedback loop by feeding the headphone output back into the monotribe’s audio in. This will render a mild thickening, and if you have some kind of attenuator on the feedback signal path, you can dial in some overdrive too.
I got a reasonably priced Oberheim Matrix-1000, originally released 1987. It’s a polyphonic synth with six voices, two DCOs per voice, fully analog signal path and extensive modulation routing options – and its sound is beautiful.
But yeah, it’s a rack module and without editing options via the front panel, and it has a thousand presets and only 200 of them are editable remotely via MIDI.
The trouble with this particular item was that the fifth voice chip was broken (which I found out after buying). Moreover, the firmware running the synth was slow and contained bugs.
Fortunately someone on the internet has updated the code and they have made it available on a EPROM chip, so I ordered that. I also found a replacement voice chip and got that as well. Installing the new firmware and voice chip into the old machine was easy enough – the chips are just sitting in sockets. The voice chips counts from right to left (one to six) and are marked U101-U601.
Here’s something for you synth programmers to try out: Modulate certain aspects of an envelope with itself.
For example, set the modulation destination of the filter envelope to affect its own parameter, such as its (linear) attack or decay time, by a positive or negative amount. This should render a concave or convex shape, respectively.
This effect is referred to as recursive modulation.
Now try to set filter envelope attack to 32, and envelope amount to 48. Then go to the modulation matrix and select the filter envelope as source, and modulate the destination filter envelope attack by 48.
It’s also possible to use this method on a LFO. Modulating its own level will also affect the shape of the LFO. And by modulate its own rate, will affect both the overall rate and the shape.
Yesterday I went to the world premiere of Depeche Mode’s latest tour in Stockholm.
I’m not a big fan – although I do regard Violator as one of my absolute favorite albums of all time.
In the eighties and early nineties the band was exceptionally good, but post-Violator the band took a different, rockier path and was at the same time electronically outrun by others.
Needless to say, I wasn’t too happy with the new material or the choice of songs yesterday. Also, the band played David Bowie’s Heroes, and whilst it’s a good song, it’s not like Depeche Mode needs to fill out its show with covers of other artist’s songs.
This isn’t a review, so I stop here with the setlist, and next to it, a list that I’d have liked to hear:
Setlist: 1. Going Backwards 2. So Much Love 3. Barrel of a Gun 4. A Pain That I’m Used To 5. Corrupt 6. In Your Room 7. World in My Eyes 8. Cover Me 9. Home 10. A Question of Lust 11. Poison Heart 12. Where’s the Revolution 13. Wrong 14. Everything Counts 15. Stripped 16. Enjoy the Silence 17. Never Let Me Down Again
Encore: 18. Somebody 19. Walking in My Shoes 20. Heroes 21. I Feel You 22. Personal Jesus
My preferred list: 1. Agent Orange 2. World in My Eyes 3. Walking in My Shoes 4. Behind the Wheel 5. It’s No Good 6. Dream On 7. Personal Jesus 8. Stripped 9. Everything Counts 10. Master and Servant 11. Strangelove 12. But Not Tonight 13. Photographic 14. Policy of Truth 15. Wrong 16. In Your Room 17. Enjoy the Silence
My preferred encore: 18. Black Celebration 19. Higher Love 20. Clean 21. A Question of Time 22. Never Let Me Down Again