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.