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Holy Bot

Bedroom music production, gaming and random shit

Month

September 2015

Analog Sound Designed

Here’s a breakdown of a song that you maybe can learn something from. It’s not that profound, but should give you some hints of the sound design.

But first, listen to https://soundcloud.com/johaneckerstrom/read-me, so you can follow the article.

The song itself is fairly minimal and only consists of a few channel tracks, and therefore easy to analyze.

Drums

For the drums I used an old Roland TR-606 drum machine sequenced to the tempo of 110 BPM. I also added Boss DR-110’s hand clap and a slightly downpitched snare drum for the drum roll.

I put rhythm first in most of my songs, even if this particular pattern isn’t that complex.

Bass

The pounding bass is created on the Korg volca bass.

There are two VCOs grouped, an octave apart, playing the main ostinato, and the third VCO is introduced later in the song as a live pitch. In this case the effect of the VCOs sharing a common envelope and stuff renders a nice effect, where the gate length sounds chopped while the rhythm is intact.

The filter cutoff is slowly modulated by the LFO to make some movement in the sound.

During the crescendo, the filter is manually opened up to two-thirds – and what a liquid filter it is.

A quite high resonance is applied to make the bass scream a bit.

The bass channel is side-chained (triggered by the kick drum) and duplicated to a parallel channel, with bass rolled off (using a high pass filter) and fed through a phaser effect to enhance the stereo image and add further movement.

Motif

The motif is a minimal, almost atonal, figure made on the Korg volca keys. The synth is best used for plucky shit, and set to poly ring voicing (square waves through a ring modulator). The noisy internal delay is bypassed, in favor of an external digital reverb with a plate algorithm.

Arpeggio

This is sequenced internally on the Roland SH-101. Mixed waveforms are used and noise modulation of the VCF for that gritty sound. Cutoff sweeps are manually made and pretty randomly so. Also with high resonance level to add an acid touch. There’s not much use of the sub oscillator here, because the arpeggiator shouldn’t collide with the bassline.

Accent

Only two notes where played twice on the Yamaha CS01, and they are almost unmotivated. Nevertheless, they sound good – yeah, it’s that notorious PWM sound.

Coda

This is the small but big Moog Music Minitaur producing a 8-bit colored sound. The synth is run by a software monophonic arpeggiator which makes these octave jumps when programmed with more notes that it can handle.

Upcoming Games

I thought I’d write something about gaming. While the posts on music production gain most of the attention on this blog, gaming is also a part of it.

For the time being I’m playing Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin on PS4. It’s okay, not half as beautiful as Bloodborne, but still deeper than most of them. I am, however, looking forward to Dark Souls III, which I think will be great.

I should be interested in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but right now I don’t have the time, and I know it will take some to get into. (By the way, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was one of my favorite games.) But I will get it eventually.

I hope Star Wars Battlefront will be good and that it will gather my online friends, but I’m not sure. I think the Star Wars saga is overrated and even if I grew up with the movies, the merchandise and all, I don’t get nostalgic about it.

I played the public beta of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 with some friends. It played pretty much as a typical Call of Duty game. I don’t think I’ll buy it. In that case it would be the first game in the series since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 from 2009, that I don’t get on its release date.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate could be fine, but I think they watered down the concept and lore, and I lost interest already on Assassin’s Creed III.

Fallout 4 should be good. I really liked Fallout 3 with all its expansions, but I thought Fallout: New Vegas was a lesser chapter. I rather get a new great multiplayer than another oversized single player RPG.

I can’t wait for the Bloodborne: The Old Hunters expansion though.

A Modern Day Home Studio

I had the same setup, more or less, for years. This year though, has been some kind of paradigm shift for my little home studio. I’ve bought, tried and sold stuff. I’ve also changed room in the flat.

For a long time, I mostly used software, but now I’m leaning towards hardware. The two main reasons for that are: I got space (even if it’s not much) and I find it inspirational to work with new and tactile gear.

Also, I had an ambition of switching from Reason to Live, but since I’ve acquired so much gear, I haven’t had time to dig into Live properly.

Some changes

I upgraded my studio monitors from the Yamaha HS 10W (with subwoofer HS 50M) to the Genelec 8030A. I got rid of a good MIDI controller, the M-Audio Axiom Pro 61, with semi-weighted keys and all, to make room for a full-size, real synth, in this case, the Roland Alpha Juno-2.

Since March I’ve picked up and sold a microKORG and a volca sample. They had a few qualities, but didn’t quite fit my rig – neither sonically nor workflow-wise. I also got a BCR2000 MIDI controller this summer, for the microKORG and the Alpha Juno-2, but sold it because I didn’t needed it and it was too big and clumsy for my limited desk.

I understand this whole post isn’t that interesting. It’s merely some navel-gazing shit, totally nerdy. And to top this, here’s my hardware inventory of the home studio as of today.

Synths and drum machines:

  • Arturia MiniBrute
  • Boss Doctor Rhythm DR-110 Graphic
  • Gakken SX-150 Mark II
  • Korg volca bass
  • Korg volca keys
  • Moog Music Minitaur
  • Roland Alpha Juno-2
  • Roland Juno-106
  • Roland SH-101
  • Roland TR-606 Drumatix
  • Yamaha CS 01

Other stuff:

  • Fender Squier Bullet Strat with Tremolo HSS (Electric Guitar)
  • Genelec 8030A (Studio Monitors)
  • Mackie 1202VLZ4 (Analog Mixer)
  • Midiman Oxygen 8 (MIDI Controller)
  • Sennheiser HD 25-1 II (Headphones)
  • Shure BETA 58A (Microphone)

Many Mini-Keys

I’ve always fantasized about some small toy-like Casiotone with lots of sliders with good and usable sound, well at least in my younger days. (Actually, I think there’s a Casio SA series ToneBank keyboard laying around somewhere at my parent’s house.)

Anyway, now I’ve found one – the great sounding Yamaha CS01. It looks good too, it fits perfectly next to the SH-101.

The CS01 is an analog monosynth from 1982. The sound is much bigger than its tiny frame would suggest. The PWM is just great. It might not be the best synth for bass, but it would definitely produce competitive lead sounds.

The CS01 has an uncommon feature, a breath control, which is an optional mouthpiece controlling the VCF and VCA. I reckon it’s mostly a gimmick, but I don’t have it, so I shouldn’t really judge. Moreover, the synth has a built-in amplifier and speaker, it runs on batteries (or external power). There’s also pins to attach a shoulder strap like on the SH-101.

If I could decide, I’d trade the breath control and speaker for other features, like MIDI or CV gate, or the ability to mix the noise with any of the waves, or sample and hold on the LFO. I would also change the step-wise glissando to a regular portamento (however, it is nearly continuous with a short setting).

Some say the mark II of the CS01 is superior with its 24 db voltage-controlled filter and adjustable slider control over resonance, but I think the original version is good enough, and I usually don’t modulate peak level that much anyway.

I got it pretty cheap, although I had to repair the pitch lever (the pot was broken). Vintage analog synths on eBay can be overpriced, but this should be one of the less expensive.

My Favorite Synth

I bought another synth, a real classic, I got the monophonic Roland SH-101 sent to me from Japan. Now my rig is full (or is it ever?).

I think the SH-101 is my favorite synth, at least right now. It’s easy to lose hours messing around, and it’s almost hard to render a bad sound with it. I really like the noise modulation, which produce a warm, gritty tone.

The step sequencer is great for a scratch pad and the arpeggiator serves well by looping notes while tweaking parameters and testing different settings.

The SH-101 doesn’t have MIDI but there’s a few workarounds in a common modern rig, e.g. using the MiniBrute, one can convert MIDI (from the DAW) to CV. And by doing this, one can play and even send the MiniBrute’s sequencer/arpeggiator to the SH-101. Also, it’s possible to simply sync the clock from any volca module or drum machine with CV gate out or trigger out like the old TR-606.

On the downside, the LFO rate is shared with the sequencer/arpeggiator speed, although by connection an external clock, internal connections of built-in clocks are cut and detaches the LFO rate from clock speed.

Anyway, it’s a really fun synth to play – instant gratification and all.

image

I’ve come to prefer several gear, specialized (but limited) with their own characteristics, to my sound palette. I also value analog stuff above digital signal processing (DSP), because the omnipotent DAW and the versatile softsynths can handle digital just fine. And analog needs to be hardware by definition.

The idea is not to expand my rig too much, I wanna push the equipment as far as possible, not just solving the problem by getting a new device. But when the time comes, I will change gear, replace it, one at a time. I think that upgrading and rearranging gear can be inspiring.

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