Back in 2016 I was playing around in the studio, noodling on synths with rhythmic support from my Boss DR-110 “Dr. Rhythm”, a very simple drum machine from 1980. After about 5 minutes of riffing on a simple little syncopated 4/4 pattern I had programmed, I had to hit “STOP” when I realized my beat was almost exactly the same as Fade to Grey by Visage. This inevitable moment, when you realize the riff you’ve been working on is actually something from someone else’s song, is something that happens periodically in every songwriter/producer’s life. When it happens to me, I usually just try to remain cool and start over from a clean slate, or delete the stuff that sounds like the other song and keep exploring.
But in this case I started thinking about that lovely, ghostly melancholy of Fade to Grey, and instead of erasing my work, I decided to trudge onward and see if I could make an instrumental version of the song that would sound great as part of my modern techno set. Within a few hours I had largely recreated the original tune, without vocals, but it took just a few more days of sporadic work before it took on the Steve Coen fairy dust. Continue reading →
Does this look familiar? It's a 2015 realization of the iconic JX-3P user interface. All they need to do is make it sound good.
A week ago Roland teased us with their new “Boutique” line, which appeared to be miniature recreations of their Jupiter-8, Juno-106, and JX-3P.
A major American instrument reseller recently posted photos of the new products on their site, and then promptly took them down – not promptly enough it would seem, as images of the new Roland JP08, JU06 and JX03 (pictured here) are now circulating around the synth community like crabs.
They look good. Really, really tantalizingly good. The Juno and JX modules were listed for Continue reading →
Keyboard Setup Based on Vintage RMI 300B “Electra-Piano”
Remember me saying that Tom, the guy who sold me the Pax tape echo chamber is pretty cool? Well … periodically he texts me links to good local deals on second-hand gear. He seems to know exactly what kind of equipment I’m interested in, and he has a real nose for good deals. I have added him to my contact list as “Tommy Tape Echo”.
A little over a month ago, he tipped me off to this really cool vintage keyboard from RMI (“Rocky Mount Instruments”). I picked it up from a guy in Oakville that day for a couple hundred bucks. Then, a few weeks later, when I finally got together with my experimental jam band, I put together a setup that looked like this (click the image to enlarge):
Korg MS-20 (Kit), Arturia Microbrute, Mackie 402 Mixer, EHX Small Clone Phase Shifter, Boss RE-20 Space Echo Pedal. All supported by the monstrous RMI 300B "Electra Piano"
Issues: the lowest E flat key is missing (I’ll probably never find a white one, so I think I might carve one out of hardwood or something). You can’t shut off the internal rhythm unit. There is a stuck note. Some keys are out of tune.
I also plan to take the hinges off of the keyboard lid so that it can actually be removed. Then the keyboard enclosure will become a good place for small keyboards and other gadgets. The Poly-800II seems to fit the space rather perfectly, but I could imagine some combo of a drum machine, the MS-20, the Microbrute, perhaps an fx pedal or two – this is actually the first self-standing keyboard I’ve ever owned and the possibilities excite me more than they would probably excite a normal person.
Some of the world’s most respected, coveted synthesizers went through production revisions that audibly impacted the instruments’ sonic character. Here are four such synths that come to mind:
Korg MS-20 (to quote Korg’s MS-20 Kit press release: The original MS-20 used different VCF circuits depending on the date of production. Units produced in the earlier period used a filter noted for its distinctive distortion and self-oscillation, while the filter used in later units was a low-noise design with a more mellow character.) The earlier filter is known as the “Korg 35″, while the later revision is a more conventional OTA-based filter.
ARP Odyssey (The Odyssey is notorious for bearing three different filters in its lifetime. The first Odysseys shipped with a Moog-style ladder filter. ARP was threatened with legal action so they quickly replaced it with a buzzy 2-pole filter, which was quickly replaced by a unique, aggressive sounding 4-pole filter.
Rev. 1 and Rev. 2 Prophet 5s used SSM ICs for their VCOs and VCFs, while the Rev. 3 Prophet 5 used CEM ICs. Some say the Rev. 3 Prophet 5 sounds weaker as a result.
Roland MKS-80 Super Jupiter
The infamous Supe Jupe rack’s filter had an agressive, high-resonance character (IR3109, same filter as the Jupiter-6). But Rev. 5 units (serial number 511800 and up) used Roland’s new IR3R05, the same silky smooth filter that would find its way into the JX-8P, Super JX, and MKS-70.
I have ponied up for Korg’s new MS-20 Kit. The vendor in California tells me he has the much-publicized limited edition vintage analog semi-modular synth reissue-as-a-kit in stock, so I expect it to find its way into my grimy clutches within the week.
Upon receipt of the kit, I shall immediately join forces with the “Love”-ly and talented DJ Güber for an evening of kit assembly and frivolity. Watch this space for one of the first ever customer MS-20 Kit unboxing / assembly / test / MS-mayhem videos.