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Bedroom music production, gaming and random shit

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sh-101

Minimal Bedroom Studio

As a consequence of scaling down my home studio, I sold two audio interfaces, Apogee Duet for iPad & Mac and Propellerhead Balance, to acquire an Apogee Quartet instead. (Yes I was checking out the newer Element 46 and even if the Element series audio quality and mic pre technology are a step above, the Quartet’s specifications are good enough for me, and more importantly I wanted/needed 8 outputs and a convenient front panel control.)

I decided for a 4-channel audio interface because I didn’t need 20+ hardware synths and drum machines up and running all the time. All that stuff took up too much space and I didn’t really use them. They were connected to a mixer – functioning more or less as a patchbay – and now that mixer is redundant. Remember, limitations drive creativity and all.

With the current setup, I’m able to insert outboard gear, not only to use Minitaur and Mopho as analog instruments, but also as signal processors/external filters. That is, with a little bit of routing in Ableton Live, I can send hardware and softsynths to the Moog ladder and Curtis low-pass filters.

Right now I got three analog monosynths (Minitaur, Mopho and SH-101) connected, and Analog Keys operating as an analog polysynth, master keyboard, sequencer and MIDI to CV converter. I can record all synths mentioned on separate tracks at once.

The plan is to switch gear depending on the project. It’s a clean, minimal setup which seems to suit me.

Recently, most time has been spent tweaking the setup, experiment with the gear, and programming and sound designing on the synths. I haven’t made any real compositions for a while though.

Next up could be a cassette tape recorder (to be able to make some lo-fi tape compression/saturation). And I think I’ll get the Strymon Deco pedal and put it in an effect signal chain.

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CV on Analog Four

If you got an Elektron Analog Four (or Analog Keys) and devices that can be operated via CV (control voltage) and Gate trigger connections, here’s how to do it, e.g. connect Moog Minitaur and Arturia MiniBrute to sequence, automate and processes them on Analog Four.

1. Connect a stereo ¼” (female) to CV Output A and B on Analog Four, and dual mono ¼” to Pitch CV (tip) and Gate (ring) of the Minitaur.
2. Connect Audio Out on Minitaur to Audio Input Left on Analog Four.
3. On Analog Four, select track Trk 1.
4. Select Osc 1 > IN L.
5. Pass all frequencies on 2-pole ladder filter: Filters > FRQ 127 and RES 0, and 2-pole multi mode filter: Filters > HP2 > FRQ 0 and RES 0.
6. Set the envelope on Amp > REL INF (if you don’t plan to use the Osc 2, sub oscillators or filter self-oscillation of the Analog Four).
7. Select track CV.
8. Set CV > CV A > TRK > TR1 and CV > CV B > TRK > TR1.
9. Select CV A configuration page, and set:

TYPE > PITCH V/oct
NOTE 1 > C 3
VOLTAGE 1 > 1.448 V
NOTE 2 > C 6
Voltage 1 > 4.634 V

10. Select CV B configuration page, and set:

TYPE > GATE
POLARITY > V-TRIG
LEVEL > 5.0 V

11. Connect a stereo ¼” (female) to CV Output C and D on Analog Four, and dual mono ¼” to Pitch (to VCO) (tip) and Gate In (ring) of the MiniBrute.
12. Connect Master Out on MiniBrute to Audio Input Right on Analog Four.
13. On Analog Four, select track Trk 2.
14. Select Osc 1 > IN R.
15. Pass all frequencies on 2-pole ladder filter: Filters > FRQ 127 and RES 0, and 2-pole multi mode filter: Filters > HP2 > FRQ 0 and RES 0.
16. Set the envelope on Amp > REL INF (if you don’t plan to use the Osc 2, sub oscillators or filter self-oscillation of the Analog Four).
17. Select track CV.
18. Set CV > CV C > TRK > TR2 and CV > CV D > TRK > TR2.
19. Select CV A configuration page, and set:

TYPE > PITCH V/oct
NOTE 1 > C 5
VOLTAGE 1 > 1.004 V
NOTE 2 > C 8
Voltage 1 > 4.004 V

20. Select CV D configuration page, and set:

TYPE > GATE
POLARITY > V-TRIG
LEVEL > 5.0 V

Set up the old king SH-101

If you got a Roland SH-101, the set it up like this:

1. Connect a stereo ¼” (female) to CV Output A and B on Analog Four, and dual mono ¼” to CV In (tip) and Gate In (ring) of the SH-101.
2. Connect Output on SH-101 to Audio Input Left on Analog Four.
3. On Analog Four, select track Trk 1.
4. Select Osc 1 > IN L.
5. Pass all frequencies on 2-pole ladder filter: Filters > FRQ 127 and RES 0, and 2-pole multi mode filter: Filters > HP2 > FRQ 0 and RES 0.
6. Set the envelope on Amp > REL INF (if you don’t plan to use the Osc 2, sub oscillators or filter self-oscillation of the Analog Four).
7. Select track CV.
8. Set CV > CV A > TRK > TR1 and CV > CV B > TRK > TR1.
9. Select CV A configuration page, and set:

TYPE > PITCH V/oct
NOTE 1 > C 3
VOLTAGE 1 > 0.986 V
NOTE 2 > C 6
Voltage 1 > 3.956 V

10. Select CV B configuration page, and set:

TYPE > GATE
POLARITY > V-TRIG
LEVEL > 5.0 V

Note that the voltage levels are roughly set. Also bear in mind that it seems that some split cables use left for tip and right for ring, while others directly contrary.

Tune Other Gear

If you got other gear, then connect a tuner to the audio output, select CV A configuration page and start with:

TYPE > PITCH V/oct
NOTE 1 > C 3
VOLTAGE 1 > 1.000 V
NOTE 2 > C 6
Voltage 1 > 4.000 V

Then just tweak the voltage settings – 1 V per octave in the mid range – according to the tuner, this usually works.

Lastly, don’t forget to check all four voices on the KIT > POLY CONFIG > VOICES to use Analog Four as an analog polysynth while using the two external sound sources of your choice.

P.S. I totally missed this, but this blog, Holy Bot, turns four years today, yay!

https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/266445111/stream?client_id=3cQaPshpEeLqMsNFAUw1Q?plead=please-dont-download-this-or-our-lawyers-wont-let-us-host-audio

Here’s something.

https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/250531818/stream?client_id=3cQaPshpEeLqMsNFAUw1Q?plead=please-dont-download-this-or-our-lawyers-wont-let-us-host-audio

I made this with an old friend. Angry German kid, hard synths and tripping drums. Deutsch Schwedische Freundschaft.

I made this with an old friend. Angry German kid, hard synths and tripping drums.

Smod (with Katrin Hesse)

In lack of a real article here’s the corner of the bedroom. Not much have actually changed sinced the last man cave shoot. (I’ve bought and sold some gear, such as another SH-101, another Juno-106 and a Kick Lancet.) The latest addition to the setup is the mighty Analog Four. I’ve also made a couple of tracks in this corner of the world. The item on the far left of the desk is a sewing machine – not mine though.

Analog Synth Filter Test

I’ve made a low-pass filter test of sorts. Very unscientific though.

I ran an old monosynth through three popular modern synths: Arturia MiniBrute, Moog Music Minitaur and Elektron Analog Four.

The sound source is the Roland SH-101 with both waveforms plus the sub-oscillator simultaneous triggered on C1. The gate signal controls the VCA, envelope and modulation are turned off, and key follow knob is set to 100%.

The audio signal is sent to the filter circuits of the different synths. The test pattern is defined as follows:

  1. A “clean” tone feeds into the filter for a few seconds, with frequency cutoff set to 100% and resonance at 0%.
  2. Manual filter cutoff sweep with resonance at 0%.
  3. Manual filter cutoff sweep with resonance at 50%.
  4. Manual filter cutoff sweep with resonance at 100%.

First off is the SH-101 internal 4-pole 24 dB per octave low-pass filter.

Next up is this unmodulated audio signal going into the MiniBrute and processed with the multimode Steiner-Parker filter, set to 12 dB per octave slope in low-pass.

On the higher resonance level, self-oscillation occurs and the volume peaks. (I had to put a limiter at -6 dB threshold to keep the volume at bay). The filter sweeps follow the same order as earlier.

The second external filter in this test is the Moog ladder filter (4-pole 24 dB per octave low-pass) of the Minitaur. Again the filter sweep follows the same order as above. The volume level drops noticeably on the higher resonance settings.

The last filter is the Analog Four’s ladder filter, another 4-pole 24 dB per octave low-pass.

The audio signal pass through the synth’s second filter unaffected (the 2-pole multimode filter is set to 12 dB per octave high-pass with minimum frequency and no resonance).

Maybe I’m doing something wrong here, because the audio signal seems to loose some decibels both in the treble and in the bass. Anyway, the flattest response is obtained when resonance is somewhere around 25, not 0.

On the last filter sweep, the resonance is set to 85 (out of 127), because the self-oscillation is going crazy over 85, and only the filter sounds. And the volume raises dramatically.

That’s the test for what it’s worth, I know the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The input level of the synths differ some, which makes a comparison hard. I should probably mention that the audio signal is running through a Mackie 1202VLZ4 mixer before being recorded using high-grade Cirrus Logic converters. This might have some affection and coloring on the signal.

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.

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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