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tr-606

On the Kitchen Table

That modular thing, that escalated quickly.

It’s like building a character in a role-playing video game. You distribute endurance, strength, dexterity and such to make the avatar/modular reflect your play style. Some builds will render an East Coast synth voice, while others are suited for a more experimental kind of noise.

My first iteration of modules was based on dedicated, no frills core functionalities, such as Doepfer’s essential modules. It was good to start with the basics. By doing this I was able to test different routings, patch them in how I wanted and learn the signal path.

I did want to build a complete system, made entirely from one manufacturer’s modules. Because part of the beauty with modular is putting together an own rack made of different modules from different places and with different approaches.

From the beginning I decided for a quite small system, a limited case of 6U, 84 HP. But one or a few function per module demands more space, so after a while I began to replace some with functionally dense modules, in other words, I levelled up. Still I didn’t want to go to far; I don’t want a computer-like module that solves everything – I reckon that would be contra-modular.

For the time being, I run sequencer/clock outside of the system. Maybe it’s a little bit cheating, but this way I save space in the case. Anyway, I’m using my Analog Keys, and with it I can drive two separate sequences, process the modular signals through the synth’s filters, envelopes, effects and so on, and trigger my TR-606. And using all four voices of the synth itself at the same time. The Rosie output module has send and return for external effects, so I’ve my BigSky plugged in there. All in all, it’s quite a powerful and portable little setup.

As for the case, I just cut up a cardboard box and gaffered it together to fit the Happy Ending Kit rails. It’s very slim, very light, maybe not so stylish though.

And the housing is really a project. It’s like a doll house that is defragmented, partly from an interior design thinking. Well, I want it to look nice and neat. Then again, most time is spent researching which modules go in and out, based on functionality and compability with the ecosystem.

Nevermind the patch in the picture, I just needed something so sound and didn’t want to clutter the image too much. The photo is from the kitchen table.

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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.

Drum Versus Drum

Here’s a short demonstration and comparison of two analog drum machines from the early eighties – Roland TR-606 Drumatix and Boss DR-110 Dr. Rhythm Graphic.

The same patterns are programmed on both devices and then cross-cut. The tempo is roughly 110 BPM. Both drum machines were recorded on mono, using high-grade Cirrus Logic converters, via a Mackie 1202VLZ4 mixer. The signal is otherwise dry, no effects or EQ were used.

All individual controls of Instrument Mix on the TR-606 are set to the center, and so are Balance (between drums and hihats/cymbal) and Accent on the DR-110. Accent is only used on step 13 of each 16 steps on both drum machines. Moreover, the closed and open hihats are sometimes played at the same steps, which makes a third hihat sound.

Other than that I strived for a not too muddy, slowish beat so that you’re able to hear the individual sounds, but still in context of a beat.

The TR-606 has seven sounds: kick drum, snare, low tom, high tom, cymbal, open hihat and closed hihat. It has DIN sync and two trigger outs. A cool feature of the TR-660 is the ability to switch between Pattern Play and Write mode while running.

The DR-110  has six sounds: kick drum, snare, open hihat, closed hihat cymbal and hand clap. It also has a trigger out that emits a pulse at such intervals as Accents have been written. The DR-110 has a LCD with a grid and showing other information – graphic.

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.

I’m ready now.

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