I’ve been busy working on factory programs for the upcoming Sequential Prophet REV2 synthesizer. This is an update to Dave Smith’s popular Prophet 08, but features a 16 voice polyphony along with new effects and improved features. It’s an incredibly versatile performance instrument. I’m posting snippets over on my IG feed.
I’m one of the lucky participants of the Moogfest 2017 Engineering Program who had the opportunity to build something a little extra special this year, the DFAM - Drummer From Another Mother. The workshop is a great experience, and the DFAM is simply a fun unit for synthesizing a wide array of drum and percussion tones. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s going on with this unique bit of kit.
The DFAM is a monophonic drum and percussion synthesizer with an eight step sequencer. The voice is comprised of two oscillators, a noise generator, filter section, modulation envelopes, and patch points, all housed in a skiff friendly 60hp 3U Eurorack panel (the same footprint as the moog Mother-32).
DFAM’s two oscillators have selectable square or triangle wave which can be hard synced, making it possible to create pulse or sawtooth timbres. There is also a linear FM routing between Oscillator 1 and Oscillator 2 to generate ringing bell tones. The Noise Generator is a third source which can be added on the mixer section.
The Filter section features a switchable resonant low pass filter/high pass filter, and the ladder filter is calibrated for an extended low end that can be tuned down to 20Hz. The filter can be modulated by an envelope generator as well as the noise generator. Connecting a signal to the VCF Mod input jack bypasses the noise modulation of the filter, making it possible to apply frequency modulation of the cutoff. For example, you can patch a VCO output to the VCF Mod input to apply audio rate modulation of the cutoff frequency.
DFAM has three envelope generators, each with a variable decay stage. One EG is dedicated to the Oscillator pitch, One to the Filter Cutoff, and one is dedicated to the VCA. The VCA envelope has can be switched between a “Fast” exponential curve and a “Slow” linear mode. Each of the envelopes can also be modulated from external sources through the patch points.
The DFAM Sequencer has two controls: Pitch and Velocity. Pitch controls the oscillator tuning at each step, and Velocity controls the intensity of the Envelope Generator modulation at each step. The implementation of variable velocity controls makes it possible to create dynamic changes to rhythm patterns.
The CV patching section is populated with inputs and outputs for most of the controls on the front panel, including clock input/output for easy synchronization with other devices. There are Sequencer output and V/Oct input jacks for control with other devices, and direct outputs from the envelope generators to trigger other modules.
Here’s a hands on video that will give you some idea of the various tones DFAM can create. It’s pretty easy synthesize a wide range of sounds like Bass Drums, Kick Drums, Snares, Hi Hats, Blips, Toms, Bells, etc.
For several months now, I’ve been involved with Rossum Electro-Music and have been testing their new eurorack module, the Control Forge. This is a programmable 8 stage control voltage generator that can be use in a variety of applications. It can act as a waveform generator or an LFO, an envelope generator, a step sequencer, and many other applications.
Dave Rossum is one of the founders of E-mu… yes that E-mu… and has created many important electronic instruments including the Emulator samplers and the SP1200 drum machine. The first E-mu instrument was a modular synthesizer system, and history comes full circle with Rossum’s new line of eurorack modules.
The 8 Stage envelopes are stored as “Presets”, and 500 Presets can be saved internally. Presets can be chained in a sequence, and this is where things get interesting. Structuring Preset envelope curves as rhythmic elements then sequencing these elements into a greater arrangement breaks away from repetitive loops in traditional step sequencers. The response is incredibly fast, so you can develop modulation textures when scaling up the time factor.
The following video is a handful of modules being driving by the CV out/ Inverted CV out and the two trigger outputs. The control forge knobs have been programmed to act in a variety of functions as the sequencer steps through different presets:
It’s been a few weeks since the sad announcement of the passing of Don Buchla, and I’m still processing the weight of this news. In the history of electronic music there are a handful of pioneers who unarguably, have been pivotal in the development of synthesizer technology, and Don is one of the most significant figures in this category. In recent years with the renaissance of the modular synthesizer, many people now appreciate the importance of Buchla’s contributions and realize the genius of his electronic instrument designs. It’s incredibly heartening that the legacy of Don Buchla will carry forward for another generation of synth fanatics.
It’s been years since I considered changing out my studio monitors (like 20 years!), but i’ve finally taken the plunge and switched to Meyer Sound Amies. The transition from my old monitors to the Meyers is a lot less shocking than I had anticipated, and even though I work without a subwoofer, mixes seem to translate incredibly well to larger systems as well as mobile formats.
It’s strange that I’ve wanted HD-1s for a long time after having worked on them in different studios, but I think i’m pleasantly satisfied with the Amies.
I’m quite happy to finally announce that i’ve finished an album of ambient/electronic pieces that I’ve been working on for a few years now. Velomne is now available on pretty much every streaming platform and sales portal:
Class Photo from Group C of the Moogfest Engineering Workshop where we built the Brother From Another Mother Synthesizer. Thanks to Steve Dunnington and the Moog engineers for their efforts in making this another great event!
Minutes after stepping into the Moog Pop-Up factory set up at Moogfest, Emmy pulls me aside and asks me to compose a little bit of backing music for the Minimoog Model D Reissue, promotional video. Naturally, I tell her that i need to do it using only the new Model D! They pulled out a unit that was still burning in, and we got to work. I set up a rhythmic patch that uses the newly added second LFO to pulse the filter. Having the patch set to play fifths, I just improvised a performance around Bob Moog’s dialogue track and the demonstration sounds from the archival footage.
The Cassette Recorder Audio Processor Rack Extension is back and better than before! This time we bring you the more Pro Version with L0-f1 Dolphonics™ Processing! We listened to everyone who loved the classic tape sound of the original C.R.A.P.Re, and added more controls for even worser tones. It’s guaranteed to make things sound warm and fuzzy and buzzy and hummy and munchy. It’s like the Original Crapre, but with more Number Two!
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: