DSI/Sequential Prophet 6 Sound Design

May 15th, 2015

Once again, it’s an honor to have been asked to be on the sound design team for Dave Smith Instruments. Having regained the old “Sequential Circuits” moniker, the company is now DSI/Sequential! It’s only fitting that the new synthesizer is a six voice polyphonic instrument dubbed the Prophet 6! Synth legend, John Bowen, is also part of the sound design team and is recreating many of the classic patches that he created for the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. More information is available on the DSI/Sequential Website

Unlike the previous sound design projects for the Prophet 12 and Pro 2 which are based on digital oscillators, the Prophet 6 has an analog voice architecture with digital control over the various parameters. Like it’s original namesake, the Prophet 6 has two oscillators with saw, triangle, and pulse waveforms, noise source, as well as the remake of the classic curtis low pass filter. The P6 includes some variations of the old poly-mod of the Prophet 5 which allows for some FM and wave shape modulations.

Having spent so much time in the world of modular synthesizers where routing possibilities are unhindered, sound design on the fixed architecture of the Prophet 6 has been an interesting test of mod routings. At the same time, this is a keyboard instrument, and voicing patches should also respect the format for people who are great players. I’ve found myself first reverting to the sound of a classic six voice Roland Juno or the Prophet 5 as a base of inspiration, and then working with sequences to build up a voice that complements the envelope timings. Afterwards, I would apply the onboard effects to round off the patch. Actually Dave Smith’s philosophy is that a patch should sound good without effects so that the instrument could be tracked without fx cluttering a mix.

The following example is a recording of my programs (including the built-in sequences) being submitted to the project for consideration as factory presets:

Buchla 208 Music Easel - Slider Cleaning!

April 15th, 2015

While vintage synthesizers are amazingly good fun for the sound and historic value, they do require a lot of care. I’ve owned this vintage Buchla system for nearly 25 years, and it was finally time to take on the daunting task of servicing the sliders. The controls were sticking and at certain points and other points would lose contact, so the instrument was “partially” usable.

I missed the opportunity to get a set of new sliders from Luther, and I asked around the vintage easel network to see if anyone had spares. Unfortunately, none are available. As a last resort, I decided to take on the task of cleaning each slider individually.

I’ll tweet my progress:

DSI Pro 2 Patches

February 17th, 2015

Programming the Dave Smith Instruments Pro 2 synthesizer can be a fairly labor intensive task. While I am compelled to use the [Latch 1] + [Hold] patch reset shortcut and start a new sound from scratch, I find myself creating up the same types of patches. As a time saving measure I’ve made a set of templates that cover basic types of sounds including basses, leads, drums, paraphonic patches, sound effects, and sequences. These patches serve as a starting point for further tweaking and embellishment. The file (linked below) contains a sysex dump of User Bank 2 which contains 97 templates and a couple of extra patches. Documentation on each patch is also provided with recommended parameter changes and application of the sounds.

Pro 2 Patch Templates Archive

On occasion, there’s a request for a list of my patches included in the Pro 2 factory banks. The following file is a sysex dump of user bank 3 (99 Patches) which includes the patches submitted as well as new ones:


Tracking Session

February 4th, 2015

A rough mix of a tracking session from earlier this week. Tim Bulkley on Drums and Art Hirahara on Rhodes engaged in a jazz improv session. Placed a C12 VR out in the middle of the hall to capture the natural reflections of this big warm sounding space. There are 7 mics running through a Metric Halo into Reason. I’ve posted the track on propellerhead’s Discover service, primarily because the compression algorithm sounds better than soundcloud.

Reason Inducted into the NAMM TEC Hall of Fame

January 26th, 2015

While everyone was busy drooling over all of the new gear and modular synthesizers on the main floor of the NAMM tradeshow, A group of manufacturers were meeting upstairs to receive special honors, and this particular group included the crew from Propellerhead Software! The NAMM TEC Awards, “recognizes the individuals, companies and technical innovations behind the sound of recordings, live performances, films, television, video games, and other media.” In 2015, the TEC Awards have inducted Propellerhead Reason into the Hall of Fame, alongside with some other iconic bits of gear including: Scotch Magnetic Tape, The Fender Rhodes, The ARP 2600 Synth, Empirical Labs Distressor, and others (full list here). Below is a video of the introduction from George Peterson:

Remembering David Wessel

October 17th, 2014

It was deeply saddening to hear about the passing of David Wessel. Professor Wessel was one of the important pillars of the academic community for his contributions towards the advancement of computer music technology. During the 1970s and early 80s, he was involved with IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique), and eventually took a position as Director of the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies and Professor of Music at UC Berkeley.

I had the pleasure of taking a summer course at CNMAT where I met Professor Wessel in 2001. This was about the time when Open Sound Control (OSC) was being developed, and I vividly recall his presentation on gestural control systems and the musical application of expressive real-time control of computer generated audio. At a time when most people were still working with traditional systems of sequencing, recording and synthesis in computers, CNMAT, under Wessel’s direction, was pioneering the future of electronic music technology.

Professor Wessel had a natural gift of explaining rather complex concepts of max/msp and his pedagogical technique inspired the methodology behind the many bits of content I’ve developed over the years. For this, I will be forever grateful. Thank you Professor Wessel for pushing the weirdness envelope, and showing us the way.

Dave Smith Instruments Pro 2

July 14th, 2014

The Pro 2 Synthesizer is part of the new generation of keyboards from Dave Smith Instruments. Partly inspired by the classic Sequential Circuits Pro-One, and using the technology of the DSI Prophet 12, the Pro 2 is a monophonic instrument that can be a center of a synth production studio, but also has the capabilities to integrate with an analog modular synthesizer system. It’s been an honor to be asked back to the DSI sound design team to work on the Pro2. Over the course of the week of work, I archived some of the sounds to instagram and have collected the snippets here.

I couldn’t really wait to try the CV/Gate i/o features of the Pro 2, and hooked it up to the Make Noise system with triggers coming off maths. Not surprisingly, the integration is pretty tight. There are some calibration controls on the Pro 2 which had to first be adjusted, but then it was nothing but pure fun routing to and from the modular system.

The Pro2 has four oscillators and two analog filters. There’s a feature to route two of the oscillators to the Prophet 5 style low pass filter, and the other two oscillators to the Oberheim SEM style State Variable Filter. Using this routing feature, i’ve recreated a classic synth riff and sweep effect from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

The Two Filter sections can run in series or parallel or mixed in-between. Series is when the oscillator is routed first to the Low Pass filter and then into the State Variable Filter, Parallel is when the oscillator output feeds equally to both filters and the outputs are mixed.

The four digital oscillators can be used as modulation sources or targets. In this patch, amplitude modulation and frequency modulation are intermixed to create tones that resemble classic Buchla tones.

The Oscillator is digital and modulating the wavetables and processing it with the digital and analog distortion sections will get you some very brash and punchy bass tones.

FM modulation of oscillators is initiated when you hit the pitch bend on this patch… that adds the growl to the screaming cat tone. Otherwise it’s just a funky filtered lead sound.

The 32 Step Sequencer is pretty powerful and with some careful programming, you can make drum loops. The Reset button on the sequencer is used as a loop retrigger while various parameters are tweaked in real-time. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to tap the full power of this feature.

The four oscillators can be split out in Paraphonic Mode. You can play four different notes on the keyboard but all four voices share the filter bank section. A bouncy part like this New Order riff sounds like it’s coming from a true polysynth.

Most people would expect the Van Halen, Jump synth riff… sorry to disappoint. After a week of non stop patch programming the brain does weird things…

The internal feedback routing from the Prophet 12 is also available in the Pro 2. Along with some non-standard key tracking modulation and synced filter effects rendered this IDM fill sound.

Gotta Have More Cowbell! This patch uses the Roland TR-808 approach of specifically tuned pulse waves to create the ringing effect.

In this video, the Pro 2 sequencer is sending CV/Gate signals to the Moog Werkstatt. The Audio from the Werkstatt is routed back to the Pro 2 audio input and processed with the bit crusher effect and filters.

The Pro 2 Sequencer tracks can be routed to four different CV out sockets. Here the minimoog model D is being triggered and sequenced by the Pro 2. Users of Propellerhead Thor Polysonic Synthesizer will notice that the modulation matrix looks very familiar!