One of the exciting surprises of NAMM 2016 was the announcement of the Oberheim OB-6, a collaboration between Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith. Once again I find myself immersed in analog glory as part of the sound design team developing presets.
The profile of this keyboard is the same as the DSI/Sequential Prophet 6, and uses similar technology for the general interface and control architecture, however the voices are akin to the Oberheim SEM and have the inimitable SEM filter flavor. Because the 12db/oct filter architecture is different than say a moog ladder or the Prophet6 24db/oct filter, developing a diverse range of unique sounds poses a little challenge, but using oscillator detune approaches and frequency modulation (X-mod) opens up a really amazing range of timbral combinations.
Here is a demonstration of the patches I’ve contributed to the team. Some of these may or may not have been included in the final release:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.