Blog entry

Gigs, Blog entry, Synth Sounds

SynthJam - Friday 12th April - I'll be there with Moog...

If you’re in the Telegraph Hill area of south east London tomorrow evening, pack up your modular synth and bring it to SynthJam - an evening of jamming on Synths..! I’ll be there to jam, hope you can make it too!

SynthJam.png

Peter, the organiser says “Grab your modular, drum machine or synth, plug in and jam! Be part of an evening dedicated to live improvised electronic music (of sorts) Places will be limited so message me if you want to be part of the performance. I'm keen to bring as many different electronic textures to the group as possible including acoustic instruments manipulated through pedals or laptops. Spectators are most welcome and we'll hopefully have time for some hands-on audience participation. Message me if you have any questions, Lets Jam!”

Blog entry, Audio, Synth Sounds

Jarre & the Eminent 310

This is a must listen - Jean-Michel Jarre demonstrates how to create his classic ‘Oxygene pad sound’ by setting up an Eminent 310 string machine sound from scratch and then strapping triple-chorus and a StoneBridge phaser across it – instant Oxygene!

This is from the Planet Jarre podcast, hosted by Matt Berry.: https://planetjarre.podigee.io/8-neue-episode

All the episodes are vital listening to any fan of electronic music, but this one is the best!

Blog entry

Synth Legends of the Week: Yamaha, Akai, Kawai, Dave Smith

Here’s the quartet of Synth Legends I published on Instagram recently:

Synth Legend of the week:  Torakusu Yamaha  established his eponymous company in 1887 as a piano and reed organ manufacturer. He originally copied a reed organ he repaired in a local church before moving into piano manufacturer and toured the USA to learn techniques in the early 20th century. My first real synth was a Yamaha B200 from 1989 - a nice 4-operator FM machine.

Synth Legend of the week: Torakusu Yamaha established his eponymous company in 1887 as a piano and reed organ manufacturer. He originally copied a reed organ he repaired in a local church before moving into piano manufacturer and toured the USA to learn techniques in the early 20th century. My first real synth was a Yamaha B200 from 1989 - a nice 4-operator FM machine.


Synth Legend of the week:  Dave Smith  founded Sequential Circuits in 1974, designed the Prophet 5 in 1977 (the world’s first microprocessor based synth), and is known as the ‘Father of MIDI’, thanks to his role in the development of the MIDI spec in 1981. The Prophet 600 was also the first commercial synth to sport MIDI ports. Not only that, he designed the first software synth for a PC, and designed the Korg Wavestation whilst working for Korg R&D in the 80's. In 2015 he reclaimed the ‘Sequential Circuits’ name from Yamaha, after releasing several successful ‘Dave Smith Instruments’. Not bad going, eh?

Synth Legend of the week: Dave Smith founded Sequential Circuits in 1974, designed the Prophet 5 in 1977 (the world’s first microprocessor based synth), and is known as the ‘Father of MIDI’, thanks to his role in the development of the MIDI spec in 1981. The Prophet 600 was also the first commercial synth to sport MIDI ports. Not only that, he designed the first software synth for a PC, and designed the Korg Wavestation whilst working for Korg R&D in the 80's. In 2015 he reclaimed the ‘Sequential Circuits’ name from Yamaha, after releasing several successful ‘Dave Smith Instruments’. Not bad going, eh?

Synth legend of the week:  Koichi Kawai  was a neighbour of Torakusu Yamaha, and was his apprentice in early 20th century. He founded the Kawai Musical Instrument Research Laboratory in 1927. And I still have my Kawai K4 from 1989 - still a good synth.

Synth legend of the week: Koichi Kawai was a neighbour of Torakusu Yamaha, and was his apprentice in early 20th century. He founded the Kawai Musical Instrument Research Laboratory in 1927. And I still have my Kawai K4 from 1989 - still a good synth.

Synth Legend of the week: Akai was founded by  Masukichi Akai  (pictured) and his son, Saburo Akai in 1929. Akai also means 'red' in Japanese, hence their logo colour. Akai helped revolutionise modern music in the late 80’s with the S900, S950 and ultimately the S1000 samplers. Hip-hop, rave, jungle all have a lot to thank this guy for!

Synth Legend of the week: Akai was founded by Masukichi Akai (pictured) and his son, Saburo Akai in 1929. Akai also means 'red' in Japanese, hence their logo colour. Akai helped revolutionise modern music in the late 80’s with the S900, S950 and ultimately the S1000 samplers. Hip-hop, rave, jungle all have a lot to thank this guy for!

Blog entry

My Dr Who Cover Version..

I composed and performed a version of the Dr Who theme for the Design & Engineering department of the BBC at their end of year conference in Dec 2018, at the BBC Radio Theatre, Broadcasting House, London. Helping with the performance were Jim Simmons (keys) and Des Griffiths (bass).

Good fun to compose and perform.

Should note - for avoidance of any doubt - that I’m more than happy for the producers of Dr Who to approach me regarding the 2020 series of the programme. The door is always open, lads! ;-)

Salient synth related info is that the lead and bass were done by the Arturia Arp 2600 and the synth stabs are the Arturia Oberheim SEM. All lovely kit!

Blog entry

SynthFestUK - new poster & fun times

SynthFestUK was a blast! Held in Sheffield, UK in October 2018, our stand was up near the entrance of the upper level. Had a great view of the Novation stand and Erica Synth opposite, and was sandwiched between KMR Audio and Tubbutec.

This was how the stand was looking after set-up on Friday:

Synth Evolution stand at #SynthFestUK 2018

Synth Evolution stand at #SynthFestUK 2018

Picture doesn’t include the iPad I had with the SynthSounds.net website on so visitors could check out all the vintage synth sounds on that site.

The day was a great success - many happy visitors leaving the show with Synth Evolution posters, mugs and t-shirts. Would definitely love to do it again. The best thing was meeting people and ‘talking synth’ for eight hours! Tiring, but fun. Was great to find out about people’s set-ups and synths. And how far some people had come - Germany, Sweden, Belgium for some.

I walked past Will Gregory (Goldfrapp, WG’s Moog Orchestra) and Martyn Ware (Human League, Heaven 17). (Did I ever mention that I’ve supported the Human League with my band Cassette Eletrik in 2007? Probably.) It was also great meeting writers and editors of Sound on Sound and Electronic Sound, both magazines I’ve been a fan and reader (and occasional writter) for years.

The only thing I’d do differently next time is to bring a buddy to share shift duty on the stand. I literally only had 10 mins break all day and didn’t actually get to see any of the synths or talks. HIGHLY FRUSTRATING!!! :-)

Blog entry

Synth Sounds: update

A regular series of posts charting the development of www.synthsounds.net - the website which aims to have ALL the sounds of ALL the synths at the click of button

Current status: beta
Number of synth sounds: 42 of 375

June 29th 2018
Have been able to upload a large number of great synth demos, thanks to Jexus of http://www.syntezatory.net.pl/

So we've got some of the classics already - DX7, D50, some ARP, Moog, Korg and Roland...but no TB-303 yet! Come on guys - someone's got to claim that one for their own! :-)

I've also listened to feedback and am working up an updated version of the site with a play button so you can tell that you've triggered a sample playback and can pause it, etc. Will be a couple of weeks before it goes live as there's a fair amount of hacking around in code to get the correct mouse behaviours, etc.

Blog entry, Audio

Chapter 2: Berlin. Tracks from Rave On by Matthew Collins

Following on from Chapter 1, here are the tracks mentioned in Chapter 2 of Matthew Collins' excellent 'Rave On' book. As noted before, there's no point just reading about the music of a scene - it kinda helps to hear it as well!

The Berlin chapter focuses on the import of techno to Berlin, the free parties of Love Parade and the sex parties of Berghain, Snax and others.

As a result the playlist is early 90's techno and artists like Westbam, Jam & Spoon, Spiral Tribe, etc.

Enjoy!

 

Worth a watch - Free Tekno documentary about the current incarnation of the free party scene, a la Spiral Tribe:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7MUlimHYx4

 

Blog entry

Tracks from Rave On by Matthew Collin: Detriot TECHNO

I recently read Rave On by Matthew Collin - an excellent tour of global and historical dance music styles and I thought it'd be interesting to gather up the tracks mentioned into YouTube playlists to give a flavour of the music under discussion. 

51uZ6y7ziPL._SY346_.jpg

(There's no point just reading about music if you don't then listen to examples!).

Typical synths and drum machines (as if you didn't know!): Roland TB-303, TR-808, TR-909
(buy the mugs here:
https://www.synthevolution.net/shop/any-synth-rz?category=Mugs)

So, here's the overarching playlist:

 

And here are the individual tracks and links, with the relevant introductory quotes:

Chapter 1: Detroit

Chapter one covers the birth of arguably the most influential and mature dance music styles - techno. With it's roots in Detroit of the early 80's, it's sound is raw and it expresses the feelings of the people of city in tragic decline (at that time).

"When you hear tracks like UR's, 'Riot', that's Detroit screaming from the pressures of a racist society surrounding the city and bleeding it to death from the inside out" - Robert Hood. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vx4mjEfCe58

"Because of the elegiac chord sequeneces and wistful melodies of some early Detroit techno, it has sometimes been interpreted as pure head music, but many of the original tracks were actually hard-pumping machine funk purpose-built for the dance floor, which is why tunes like May's 'Nude Photo' and Saunderson's 'The Sound' became anthems at British clubs like the Hacienda." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIx32rZdENM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiQFME5bym8

"(Derek) May sold a Roland drum machine to (Frankie) Knuckles, which he used to make the emotive anthem 'Your Love' with Jamie Principle'." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPrGnh7QUDo

"We played [May's classic track] 'Strings of Life' to one A&R guy and he was just on the phone. He didn't even look at me. So we just left.'" - May https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjdmPALLna0

Underground Resistance, ‘Has Good Left This City?’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0Eao-8ikqo

Was (Not Was), ‘Wheel Me Out’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScviwFh6T3M

"When Kraftwerk headlined Movement in 2016, it felt like a kind of homecoming. 'When they dropped the beat on Trans-Europe Express, I shivered’" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMVokT5e0zs

 

Notes:
--------

The Belleville Three / Detroit Trio: Derek May, Frankie Knuckles, Juan Atkins

First wave: Atkins, May, Saunderson, Eddie Fowlkes, Blake Baxter, Anthony Shakir

Second wave: Stacey Pullen, Carl Craig, Mike Banks, Jeff Mills, Robert Hood, Octave One

Canada: Richie Hawtin, John Acquaviva, Kenny Larkin

European influenced artists: 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, Baby Ford, LF

Notable labels: Transmat, Metroplex, KMS, UR, Submerge, Planet E

Blog entry

Submit a synth sound!

Send sounds to:  info@synthsounds.net
(pref via Dropbox / WeTransfer / etc)

SynthSounds.net is a 100% crowd-sourced project so if you have a vintage synth which hasn't yet got a soundfile, we'd love you to send one in.

The dream is that on this page all synths will have a short demonstration of it's sound...compare a MiniMoog to an Arp Odyssey. Compare a TB-303 to a MC-202. Or even a Con Brio ADS 200 to a PPG Realizer...

Sound files should be relatively short - a couple of mins maximum with no other instruments - this should be a 'one instrument' demo - what it sounds like by itself, pure and simple. It could be a couple of juicy basslines, a searing lead or two, maybe some arpeggiation, plus an illustration of what the filter sounds like and what the LFO can do. But most importantly, try to show what makes that synth unique, what it's especially good at, or what makes it distinctive. Maybe even show what it's *bad* at! No external FX and no layering (except for naturally multi-timbral instruments, of course).

Files should be high quality mp3 / wav / aiff / etc, and all submissions will be credited on the credits page, along with a link to a URL of your choice (Bandcamp, official website, whatever!). In addition - sounds that make it onto the site will get a 20% discount on a Synth Evolution poster or mug.

Full copyright will be retained by the producer of the file and will be taken down within 7 days if requested. Note that this being the internet, there's nothing we (or anyone else) can do to prevent people downloading your sound file(s) and doing what they like with it. Sound files must be submitted on this understanding.

Submitted soundfiles will be used at SynthSounds.net's discretion. Submission does not guarantee usage, but we will do our best to make use of everything sent in!

All images are copyright (c) synthevolution.net 2017, 2018.
All sound files on synthsounds.net  are the copyright of their owner.

FAQs

- Why on earth are you doing this?

I love synths and thought this would be fun! AKA seemed like a good idea at the time.

- But most synths can be made to sound like most others, so what's the point?

Well...I would argue that every synth has something unique about it (check out the hard sync on the  Moog Prodigy sample on the site - beat that!) and that's what I'm hoping people will try to bring out in their samples of it. Plus, a FM synth is going to sound very differnt to a mono analogue, and let's see if we can really hear the qualities that make up the 'Moog' filter sound compared with a Roland one or an Arp one (Did Alan R Pearlman really copy the Moog filter ladder for the Arp 2600 and cover it with epoxy resin to hide the fact?*) *Yes.

- What if a synth already has a sample and I want to do one for it as well?

Feel free to send it in; if it's good enough or shows something interesting I'll append it to the existing one and credit both / all contributors. Can't promise, but will do my best.

- That's not nearly all synths, what a swizz!

Ok - so the first iteration now is analogue synths from 1960-90(ish). It's a lot of illustrations and sounds to handle, so am starting small, but I do have plans to:
- Increase the date range to include the 90's synths like Nord Lead, Access Virus, etc.
- Create a drum machine page
- Include more string synths and orchestral synths (but I never quite believe they're real synths...except for the Eminent 310 which is the sound of Jarre's Equinoxe 1, swoon)
- I can't quite bring myself to do electric organs, electric pianos - that would be too samey, right?
- I don't know if it's even possible to cover the modern renaissance of modular synths - there's so many being released all the time!!!
- Maybe I'll do all the Russian synths one day - there's loads of those. I do have the minimoog clone, the Altair Estridin 312
- Maybe I'll do all the old and very weird electronic sound generation instruments pre-analogue one day.
- Samplers seem a bit pointless to include, though it'd be nice to cover some of the classic libraries of Syclavier, etc. Copyright issues though?
- I may have missed out some of the more boring Korg workstations of the 90's, sorry!


Back to synthsounds.net

 

 

Videos, Blog entry

Me demostrating the Prodigy used a Korg DS-8

Quick video on me comparing the synth stab on The Prodigy's 'No Good (Start the Dance)' and patch 68 on the Korg DS-8. I'm pretty sure that's the sound they used - perhaps a couple of minor parameter tweaks (there are two 'timbral' slders on the front panel that could well have been altered).

See what you think:

If it's not the DS-8 (and I think it is), then the quality of the sound suggests that it could be another FM synth, like DX7, etc.

Blog entry, Videos

Photosound experiment

Daphe Oram was a 20th century composer who experimented with her own method of sound synthesis back in the 1950s using images to generate tones. Lots of interesting facts here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oramics

I did a similar sort of experiment with a Bridget Riley picture - the x-axis is time, the y-axis is frequency. I think the resulting sound compliments the painting quite well actually!

Let me know if you agree...