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Electronic Musician - June 2018

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RECORD • PRODUCE • PERFORM
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MASTER
CLASS
Synth Soloing
Jens
Johansson,
Part 2
Doug
Blackley’s
Spectrum
Piano
Can You
Play These
Jordan
Rudess
Warm-ups?
Make
Your Own
Killer
Drum
Sounds
REVIEWS
ARTURIA
MiniBrute 2 and 2S
AIR
Loom II
More!
RME
Babyface Pro
AKAI PRO
MPC X
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46
ARTURIA
MiniBrute 2/ MiniBrute 2S
30
50
DOUG BLACKLEY
The Spectrum
Piano
AIR TECHNOLOGIES
Loom II
36
18
THE ART OF
SYNTH SOLOING
Jens Johansson,
Part 2
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10
COMMUNITY
JORDAN
RUDESS
2 Hands, Contrary
Motion
The key to getting studio-quality sound onstage is knowing
which microphones to use. In this roundup, we explain what
you need to look for when selecting a mic for vocals, amps,
percussion, and winds.
40
TOM COSTER
Blue Progressions
12
BILLY TAYLOR
Milt Buckner’s
Locked-Hands
Style
14
44
66
FIVE
QUESTIONS
Zane Lowe
on Adding
Community
to Streaming
Music
]
42
NEW GEAR
Products from
IK Multimedia,
Tracktion, and
others
MOD SQUAD
4ms
Tapographic
Delay
JUN E
20 1 8
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The German synthscape pioneer is back with a
new studio album, Silhouettes, a suite of works
featuring lush orchestrations and evolving
sequences. This month we asked the former
member of Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel
about his creative process, his studio setup, and
why he prefers early versions of AutoTune.
SOUND DESIGN
One-Shot LFOs
52
RME
Babyface Pro
54
WAVES
Scheps Omni Channel
56
AKAI PRO
MPC X
58
ACCUSONUS
Regroover Pro 1.7
ov~G{v
16
ELECTRONIC GUITAR
Crafting the Sounds
of Rafiq Bhatia
62
MASTER CLASS
Killer Drum Sounds
with Synths
60
O-G-SUS
Elastic FX
Electronic Musician (ISSN 0884-4720) is published monthly by NewBay Media, LLC, 28 East 28th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10016. Periodicals Postage Paid at New
York, NY, and at additional mailing ofces. Canada Post: Publications Mail Agreement #40612608. Canada Returns to be sent to Bleuchip International, P.O. Box 25542, London,
ON N6C 6B2. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Electronic Musician, P.O. Box 232, Lowell, MA 01853.
Electronic Musician is a trademark of NewBay Media. All material published in Electronic Musician is copyrighted (©) 2018 by NewBay Media. All rights
reserved. Reproduction of material appearing in Electronic Musician is prohibited without written permission. Publisher assumes no responsibility for return of
unsolicited manuscripts, photos, or artwork. All product information is subject to change; publisher assumes no responsibility for such changes. All listed model
numbers and product names are manufacturers’ registered trademarks.
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LISTEN
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“I got tired of having to update computers, OS’s, and software, and external hardware every few months,”
explains Klaus Schulze, our feature
artist this month. “That’s crazy.”
It’s usually someone who was musically active before desktop computers were involved that has the perspective to understand how much crazy we put up with today. Sometimes
it feels as if we’ve barely scratched
the surface of a virtual instrument or
DAW when an upgrade somewhere in
our system leads us into a rabbit hole
and slows our creativity to a halt.
“We were far busier getting the entire system to work than making new
music—not good,” Schulze continues.
“I need a fast and easy, reliable system
I can use blindfolded.”
What’s his solution? Read the interview on page 24 to find out.
For me, the biggest take-away is
that the focus should always be on
the music. Although Schulze has
owned an enviable number of awesome synths and efects over his
long career, they were merely tools
to make his musical dreams a reality.
And like any craftsman, he thoroughly learned how to use them, often
sticking with ones that ofer fewer
features because they already had
what he needed.
So, before you download the cool
new app or plug-in that shows up in
your social-media feed, consider digging a little deeper into the gear you
already have and challenge yourself
to finish a project. You’re likely to find
the results more satisfying.
The Harman Experience Center
> AN EXPO OF FUTURE TECHNOLOGIES,
AVA I L A B L E T O D AY
EM readers will be familiar with many of the legacy
brands under the Harman Professional Solutions
umbrella—AKG, Crown, dbx, DigiTech, JBL, Soundcraft, and Studer. Other names—such as AMX,
BSS, Martin—are less connected to the personal
studio and may be unfamiliar. What this remarkable portfolio provides Harman is a resource of
technologies that can be integrated into systems
that touch consumers at every level—from performance venues and recording studios to convention centers and retail stores.
To demonstrate the power of such integrations,
the company recently launched the Harman Experience Center, a multiroom facility in Los Angeles that
encompasses more than 15,000 square feet. This
spring, I was lucky enough to get a personal tour.
Divided into areas dedicated to various market
segments, the Experience Center serves as an
idea resource showcasing cutting-edge technologies such 4K video encoding, digitally controlled
lighting, AV over IP, and high-end collaboration
products. For example, visitors can see how lighting design and architecture can be merged in the
Architainment Solutions area, as well as interact
with room elements using voice commands in the
Voice Enabled Cognitive Hotel display.
Situated in a blue freight container is the Experience Center’s project studio where musicians and
engineers can compare individual components.
The full line of AKG studio microphones hangs on
XW
JUN E
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the wall opposite the desktop shown in
Figure 1, ready for visitors to try. On the
outside, I was able to audition the entire range of AKG headphones; the A/B
comparison was simplified because
the same song played simultaneously
through every model (see Figure 2).
In another display, I was shown the
new JBL EON One Pro, a rechargeable battery-powered portable P.A.
with a linear speaker
array and an 8" sub
that boasts 6 hours of
playback. This portable,
lightweight system includes a 7-channel analog mixer (with 4 phantom-powered XLR/1/4”
combo jacks and hi-Z
switch, 3.5mm and RCA
inputs, EQ and reverb), Bluetooth
wireless connectivity for streaming audio (such as backing tracks
from a mobile device), as well as a
tablet stand, a USB charging port,
and even an accessory mount so
you can attach a video camera on
top to capture a gig. An audio passthrough connection is available for
hooking up a second P.A.
Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.
GINO ROBAIR
EDITOR IN CHIEF
grobair@nbmedia.com
I finished of my Experience Center visit in a clubsized room with a series of
demos that integrated sound,
lighting, and video systems.
These were scaled from the
relatively simple needs of theatrical and performing-arts
venues, to house-of-worship
P.A.s, and finally to dance and
concert venues with automated lighting, fog machines,
and projections mapped to
specific places on the stage.
The room is big enough (and
available) for events with a
live band or DJ.
Harman is opening other
Experience Centers in China,
Singapore and London. For
more information, visit pro.
harman.com.
—Gino Robair
ADVENTURES IN DIY
BY DAVID BATTINO
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G Recently, I had the chance to make the
music and sound efects for an iOS game
called Mushroom Mayhem (RocketLife.
com/mushroom; free). One of the most
interesting challenges was designing
sounds on my computer to work on the
tiny iPhone speaker. Producers recommend listening on a variety of speakers,
but where do you find woofers the size
of a fingernail? It turns out the perfect
monitors were already in my pocket.
Making game music has been a dream
of mine since the 1980s. In a happy coincidence, Mushroom Mayhem was inspired
by ’80s arcade classics like Centipede and
Galaga. Playing as Professor Frank Funguy, you fly your rocket-powered microbus through space, fighting of swarms of
mutant mushrooms (see Figure 1).
Fig. 2. Here Airfoil is streaming my battle
music from Ableton Live to the internal
speakers on two iPads and an iPhone.
the small iPhone speaker. Auditioning changes was tough, too: I
was endlessly rendering variations,
uploading them to Dropbox, playing them
back from my phone with the Dropbox app,
and then returning to square one.
That’s when I thought of using my
phone as a remote speaker. I installed
Airfoil (rogueamoeba.com; $29) on my
Mac and iPhone, set both devices to the
same Wi-Fi network, and chose Ableton
Live as the source and the phone as the
speaker (see Figure 2). After a two-second delay, I heard the computer’s audio
FUN(GUS) WITH LOOPS
I started by making a spreadsheet in
Google Docs so the lead programmer and
I could manage the sound files. Columns
included the sound’s purpose (“Boss battle
music,” “Bullet hits bufed mushroom”), file
name and notes. For looping sounds, I added “_lp” to the file name so the programmer
would know to loop the playback. Having
a spreadsheet we both could edit online
made it easy to track and update the assets.
To keep the download size small, we
used MP3 audio. MP3s are notoriously difficult to loop because most encoders insert
silence at the top of the file. Out of habit, I
used MP3Loop (compuphase.com/mp3/
mp3loops.htm; free) to encode them, but fortunately
our audio engine handled
looping perfectly. We also
tested Ogg Vorbis audio,
which game developers
recommend, but found it
wasn’t as compatible.
SOUNDS IN SPACE
I made the retro sound
efects with a funky
Flash app called ChipFig. 1. The basketball level in Mushroom
Mayhem was inspired by one of the first
computer games to use sampled sound, Dr.
J and Larry Bird Go One on One (Amiga).
Fig. 3. The Airfoil receiver app runs on devices as old as the original iPad (rear
right). Newer devices add remote control.
Fig. 4. Enabling these controls in Studiomux lets you hear sound from a computer over a Lightning cable.
Tone (sfbgames.com/chiptone) and some
Windows freeware called LabChirp (labbed.
net/software/labchirp). The square-wave
bleeps cut through on all types of speakers,
but testers complained that some sounds
weren’t scary enough. So I layered in sampled sounds, but they still wimped out on
through the iPhone speaker. I even added two iPads to the party (see Figure 3).
The delay was tolerable, but Airfoil also
warped the pitch to maintain the audio
flow. Then I discovered I could use the Studiomux apps (studiomux.net; $9.99) and a
Lightning cable to stream audio from my
Mac to my iPhone in real time. I installed
the Studiomux server on my Mac, Optionclicked the Mac’s speaker menu to set my
phone as the output device, and then enabled the iOS app’s monitoring icons as
shown in Figure 4.
Both Studiomux and Airfoil work
with Windows, too. For low-latency
streaming to Android devices, I’ve
heard good things about SoundWire (georgielabs.net; free).
J UNE
201 8
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XX
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nlhy
1
4
3
2
2
1
I K M U LT I M E D I A
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Virtual instrument bundle
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HIGHLIGHTS 22 softsynths, including
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efects • instruments and multis will
open in SampleTank 3.7.2 or later
• 80 GB of content • 2,600 presets •
check out Syntronik Free, as well as
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TRACKTION
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viqlx
Physical modeling efect for iOS
$3.99
DAW and MIDI footswitch
controller
$229
Music production software
$109, $159, $259
HIGHLIGHTS Filters audio input
HIGHLIGHTS 10 programmable foot-
through modeled acoustic objects
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head, and beam • parameters include Pitch, Tone, Decay, Position,
Material, and Mix • mute button
• supports Audio Unit v3 and AudioBus3 making it compatible with GarageBand, Cubasis 2, and Auria Pro switches with LEDs • preset/navigation footswitch and push-button encoder • each control is programmable
with 6 steps, sent incrementally or
simultaneously • connect 2 expression
pedals and 4 external footswitches
• switch jacks work as relay outs for
amps that don’t support MIDI • 24
presets include MIDI Machine Control, Mackie Control Universal • USB
MIDI interface • preconfigured for
MIDI-guitar products (Line 6, Kemper) and many DAWs
TARGET MARKET Musicians, sound
designers, DJs, children, non-musicians
ANALYSIS An inexpensive and simple
designers
way to work with physical modeling; just tap next to your iDevice mic
or use audio from other apps.
collection of classic analog synth
models.
applied-acoustics.com
ikmultimedia.com
All prices are MSRP except as noted
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JUN E
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N E K TA R T E C H N O L O G Y
TARGET MARKET Keyboardists, sound
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• three price levels; the higher two
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TARGET MARKET Musicians, Produc-
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TARGET MARKET Guitarists, DAW
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ANALYSIS With its new features and
ANALYSIS A hands-free controller
ofering a wide range of uses.
low entry price, Waveform 9 is a
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nektartech.com
tracktion.com
BandH.com
The
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Warm Audio WA-87 Multi-Pattern
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Shop B&H, where you will find all the latest gear
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Check for Mono Even though it’s 2017
In the old days, one often checked mixes for mono compatibility due to technological constraints of the times. You should still do this today, since your
average listener won’t hear a mix in perfect stereo (think sitting in the driver’s
seat, or sitting on the left side of a couch).
3
We Buy, Sell, and Trade
You Don’t Need to Slam an Input at 24-Bit
In the analog days, it was often desirable to drive preamps as hard as possible,
for tonal purposes. The same held true in the 16-bit world, but for issues relating to the noise floor. However, neither of these issues apply to 24-bit, so give
yourself valuable headroom—you’ll need it later on.
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Cash in or Trade up
Used Equipment
Try Out a Manual De-Esser on Vocal Tracks
What is a manual de-esser? The answer is, you. Go through the track and manually gain down each sibilance, either by clip or pre-fader automation. Pretty
quickly, you’ll learn to recognize the football-like shape of a peaky sibilance,
which will expedite the process. Sure, it takes time, but it’s one of the most
natural ways to tame those ear-splitting “ssssss” sounds.
Consult a
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© 2017 B & H Foto & Electronics Corp.
tvkG
zx|hk
The Tapographic Delay
uses DSP (with 16-bit, 48
kHz resolution and 32-bit
floating point processing)
to do everything it does in
an affordable way behind
an 18 HP panel.
4MS/MATTIAS PUECH
{
Gk FSR is velocity sensitive, you can individually alter the amplitude or frequency characteristics of
each delay tap based on how hard you strike the
pad (using the built-in VCA, lowpass filter and
bandpass filter).
w|{G v|yGmpunlyGvuG{olG TAP AND SEQUENCE
and Puech refer to a rhythmic delay pattern
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(including the velocity level, velocity-controlled
BY GINO ROBAIR
I n addition to enhancing drones or
adding room-like ambience to your music, a delay efect can be used in a variety
of creative ways within a patch, particularly when you have CV control over its
parameter. And like most efects, every
delay—analog or digital—has its own
sound and playability characteristics.
Created in collaboration between 4ms and
Matthias Puech, the Tapographic Delay (TD)
combines a powerful mono-to-stereo, multitap
delay system with a uniquely performative interface to control it. By striking the module’s force
sensing resistor (FSR) with your finger (or using
CV input), you set individual delay taps to create
rhythmic patterns in real time. And because the
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JUN E
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parameter, and pan position of each tap, which I’ll
get to in a moment) as a tapography. For example,
if you tap a rhythm of three 8th notes on the FSR,
that counts as 3 taps in the tapography. The upper
row of buttons acts as a level indicator showing tap
velocity, while the Delete/Sync button flashes to
show the tapped pattern each time the tapography
repeats. In addition, the Gate jack sends a signal for
each tap.
The 3-position switch to the left of the FSR
helps you create a tapography. Use the Add setting
to lengthen the tapography as you strike the FSR
(or send the Tap input a trigger). The rhythm you
hear as the delay repeats will depend on the Time
setting, but as long as you’re in Add mode, you will
continue to extend the length of the tapography
until you exceed the memory. (The manual likens
it to increasing the length of tape in a tape loop.)
The TD provides delay times up to 172 seconds
( just shy of 3 minutes).
Next, you can set the switch to Of (disengaging
the FSR) or Ins to set the length of the tapography.
Using Ins mode, you can enter more taps within
the tapography, but it won’t add any length to the
loop you’ve captured. The red LED above the FSR
flashes each time the loop wraps around.
A tapography can have up to 32 taps. If you exceed
that number, you begin sacrificing the earliest taps
each time you enter a new one. The module can store
and recall 24 tapographies, which you access using
the upper row of buttons: There are 4 banks with 6
slots in each.
In Sequencer mode, the TD plays through the
stored tapographies within a bank, using either the
FSR or a trigger to change to the next one. There are
three directions you can move through the bank: forward from slots 1 to 6, which then wraps around and
repeats; jump randomly through the bank; or step
randomly to adjacent slots in either direction.
The Morph control sets the amount of time it
takes to transition into the new tapography, maxing out at around 12 seconds. You can further alter
the transition using the velocity level of an FSR
strike (higher velocity levels shorten the transition time) or based on the voltage level sent to
the Velocity/Morph jack (higher voltage levels increase the transition times).
The TD includes 18 presets within the first
three banks, which demonstrate some of the notso-obvious things you can do with the TD (such
as unusual bouncing patterns and rhythm bursts).
And you can use the presets to practice combining
Sequencer mode with the Morphing controls, and
the various tempo and sync features. In addition
to having the fourth bank open for your own tapographies, you can overwrite any of the presets.
IT’S ABOUT TIME
On its own, the setting of the Time control will
scale the tap times in your tapography (from 0.1 to
4), whereas in Sync mode it determines the multiplier/divisor based on the signal patched into the
Ext Clock jack. While you’re working with your
delay pattern, you can alter the Time level using
the knob or a bipolar CV input: As the Time value
changes, you’ll hear tape-delay-style pitch shifts.
Firmware version 1.1 adds a Quantization mode
that aligns your taps to an external clock input.
If you then change the external clock speed, the
new tempo will not afect the taps you’ve already
added; it will quantize the subsequent taps to the
new tempo. (Updating the firmware is as easy as
holding down two buttons when powering up
the module, then playing a WAV file downloaded
from the 4ms website into the Audio In jack.)
To further warp your sounds, the TD includes
built-in LFOs for modulating the pitch of each individual tap using a randomized, sine-like waveform.
The LFO frequency ranges from about 0.1 seconds
to 50 Hz, though the frequency amount is so low
at either extreme of the Modulation knob that you
don’t hear the afect. Turn the knob (or patch a CV
into the bipolar Mod input) to go from subtle wowand-flutter efects to severe pitch swoops.
And, as you would expect in a delay, the TD has
a Feedback control (with an accompanying bipolar CV input). Better still, the feedback has a maximum level of 120 percent: Use that power wisely!
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DYNAMIC FILTERING
4ms and Puech have put the the FSR’s velocity sensitivity to use in other ways of shaping the sound
of each tap. The intensity level of each finger strike
(or the combined signals going into the Tap and
Velocity/Sync jacks) can change the amplitude or
filter response of the delay taps based on how the
switch on the lower right is set. Amp mode is used
for adding dynamics to each tap, whereas the LPF
(lowpass filter) and Res (resonant bandpass filter)
settings alter the frequency characteristics of the
taps by changing the lowpass frequency cutof and
bandpass Q, respectively. This allows you to shape
your delay patterns dynamically and spectrally
from within the module itself. For example, feeding the module a quarter-note kick pattern, I was
able to create a groove with a wide range of timbres simply by using the filter settings.
How the filters and Amp behave depends on the
velocity-level setting. There are five velocity levels
to choose from, and they afect the Amp and LPF
diferently than the resonant bandpass filter. To get
the widest amp dynamics and lowpass filtering, velocity needs to be set at minimum, whereas the Q of
the bandpass filter responds best to higher velocity
settings. Unfortunately, this is a global setting, so a
Medium level is the best choice if you want to use
all three settings in delay rhythm.
Because the velocity level you tap is stored in
the tapography, you can change the velocity setting in the menu as your pattern repeats to alter
the dynamics and spectrum—a workaround that
can be used in performance (though it would be
nice to be able to set individual velocity responses
for each filter and the amp).
The TD also ofers three panning modes: Alt
mode alternates each tap between the left and
right output; Rnd mode places each tap randomly
across the stereo spread; and Sum/Repeat gives
you a summed mono signal at Output 1, and send
the final tap in the delay line to Output 2 without
filtering. You can press Rnd as your tapography is
playing and reassign the taps to diferent spots in
the stereo spread until you find your favorite; then
save the tapography to lock it in for later recall.
TAPOGRAPHIC OCEANS
If this seems like a lot to remember, it is. Like other 4ms modules, the TD is packed with so many
features that the buttons and switches do double-duty. Fortunately, the panel layout—with the
menu printed at the top—is logical, and the manual clearly explains what everything does: Read it if
you want to get the most out of this module.
The most challenging part is not in utilizing
the TD’s features, but in accurately tapping in the
rhythms you want. Fortunately, if you make a mistake, pressing the Delete/Sync button will remove
the most recent tap. And you can successively
undo each of the previous taps with additional
short presses of Delete.
Two of the most musically useful controls are
the easiest to miss: By playing with the Level and
Dry/Wet knobs, you can discretely change the
perceived rhythm in a tapography. The Level knob
only afects what enters the delay: It does not affect the dry signal.
After building up a delay pattern, I would be
surprised by the rhythm of just the repeats I’d get
when turning the output to totally wet. That can
lead to cool remix-like efects, such as turning
down Level when the mix is fully wet and letting
the repeating rhythm slowly unravel.
The TD is also fun to add into self-regulating
patches, particularly when you use the Gate output to afect, say, a clock somewhere else in the
signal path, or by stepping through tapographies
while putting the Time, Feedback, and Modulation under CV control.
The most important thing to remember is that the
Tapography Delay was designed for real-time performance. While it’s perfect for use as a traditional
delay, its unique feature-set will likely take you down
more unexpected paths each time you use it. Q
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BY MICHAEL ROSS
“T he first step in integrating electric guitar into electronic music is realizing
there isn’t a lot of electric guitar in it,” says Rafiq Bhatia, solo artist and member of the genre-bending, post-rock trio, Son Lux.
Growing up in North Carolina, Bhatia became aware of that even before picking up the
guitar, while listening to J.Dilla in elementary
school. But hearing Jimi Hendrix and Bill
Frisell revealed that, in addition to providing
harmony, melody, and rhythm, the instrument could be used as a pure sound source.
After thorough schooling in its traditional use,
Bhatia developed his nontraditional approach
playing in genres that didn’t normally use guitar, such as hip-hop and electronica.
“The second step in integrating the guitar
is to think of it diferently for the studio and
the stage,” he continues. “There are sections of
the Son Lux record where my guitar has been
chopped up, put into a Kontakt sampler, and
heavily processed. I have to figure out how to
perform that live.”
Bhatia uses two approaches to solve the
problem. “Sometimes, I process the guitar to
get as close as I can to the sounds on the record.
Other times it makes more sense to jettison the
original part and come up with something that
works better in a live show.”
The guitarist gets his sounds from a surprisingly small number of pedals. They include a
mild overdrive made by JHS and a ZVex Fat Fuzz
Factory, with a heavy bass boost (Figure 1). The
signal then goes through a volume pedal into an
Origin Efects Cali76, which is like an 1176-style,
studio-grade FET compressor. A couple of Eventide H9s are employed for reverb, delay, modulation and additional compression. “I like using
an expression pedal with the H9 because you
can program it like a plug-in with the iPad app to
control a number of parameters simultaneously,”
he says. “For example,
you can make the reverb
mix wetter, while at the
same time shortening
the reverb decay.”
Bhatia runs his guitar and pedals through a
Swart Atomic Space Tone
amp with a single tone
control perfectly voiced
for his needs. Because
Fig. 1. With a pair of Eventide H9s, an expression pedal, and a Disaster
the lows he creates with
Area Designs DPC-5 Gen3 (MIDI controller and loop switcher) among
the H9s and the Z.Vex
the effects on his Custom District pedalboard, Bhatia can craft the
are often too much for
wide range of sounds he needs for his solo work and with Son Lux.
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the Swart’s speaker, he
uses a speaker-emulator
D.I. to send the signal to
the PA, which is better
equipped to handle the
bass frequencies. “I also
use the Swart in the stu- Breaking English
dio to reamp other sonic
elements, like samples and keyboards,” he adds.
Bhatia’s brilliant solo record, Breaking
English (Anti/Epitaph), features guitar that
is largely sliced, diced, and processed to the
point where the original instrument is indiscernible. What you might swear is a kalimba
is actually a series of prepared-guitar tracks. A
few sounds that are more recognizable as guitar show up on “Hoods Up” and “Perihelion I.”
“I was using the Z.Vex fuzz on ‘Hoods Up,’
along with either an upper octave from the H9
or a Soundtoys Little AlterBoy vocal-formant
and pitch shifting plug-in,” he explains. “I
would often record the guitar direct and mix
that with the amp.”
On the final track, “A Love That’s True,” Bhatia tosses acoustic guitar into mix. It starts with
a parlor-sized Collings strummed folky-style,
but its accents are soon driving reverb stabs that
are increasingly processed through tremolo and
distortion to add emotional impact.
In figuring out how to represent his own record live, Bhatia has helped forge the electric
guitar’s future. Like his heroes, Hendrix and
Frisell, he is experimenting with sounds that
reflect his times, meanwhile using the uniquely
expressive nature of his instrument to inject an
extra dose of humanity into electronic music. Q
Character
The Sterling Audio ST169 Multi-Pattern Tube
Condenser Microphone provides a warm,
articulate and detailed tube sound, giving your
recordings a character all their own. With its
assortment of pickup patterns you can now
add authentic tube warmth to any recording
application — while the innovative shockmount
ensures perfect positioning and isolation.
Sterling Audio specializes in high-value
studio condenser microphones that capture
every performance nuance. Carefully
integrating traditional and modern microphone
technologies, Sterling has created a collection
of mics that cover a wide array of studio
applications. Now you can benefit from our
latest line of premium studio microphones that
offer bold new looks, unmatched versatility, and
advanced tube, ribbon and FET designs.
ST169
MULTI-PATTERN TUBE
CONDENSER MICROPHONE
SterlingAudio.net
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BY STEVE LA CERRA
No matter how far technology advances, you are going to need
microphones to capture acoustic instruments. The variety of mics
available for live sound is staggering, both in terms of the available
technology and the variations in price. This month, we help you
navigate that field and zero in on what you need to make your live
performances sound great.
We are limiting this roundup to wired mics
only, and all of the listings use standard 3-pin, XLR
connectors for the output. Keep in mind that some
of these microphones are equally comfortable on a
variety of instruments.
The mics, below, are organized by instrument
type and presented in alphabetical order by company name.
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Without a doubt the most important microphone
on a stage belongs to the lead vocalist. We could
spend a few pages discussing how to choose a vocal mic, but the basic idea is that you need one that
reproduces the voice with clarity, rejects unwant-
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ed sound, and flatters the vocalist.
A cardioid pattern will generally have a wider
sweet spot but that means it will also pick up bleed
from other instruments. Hyper- or supercardioid patterns tend to have better side-rejection but require
that the singer stay on-mic for consistent results.
To get an idea of a mic’s rejection properties,
speak into it and move the mic so that the sides,
and then rear of the mic face your mouth. The volume level should drop of considerably.
High SPL capability may be an issue for a death
metal band, but probably not for a breathy singer.
Generally, dynamic mics tend to be more rugged
and handle higher SPLs while condenser mics have
greater sensitivity and may be more suitable for subtle voices. Don’t be afraid to try diferent options.
Audio-Technica
AE4100
Earthworks
SR40V
AUDIO-TECHNICA AE4100 ($189)
Part of Audio-Technica’s Artist Elite Series, the
AE4100 is a dynamic mic with a cardioid pattern
and a response extending from 90 Hz to 18 kHz.
The capsule is internally shock-mounted for protection from impact and a 3-stage grille reduces
popping without compromising the high-frequency response. I’ve found that the AE4100 helps
vocals cut through a dense mix without need for
much EQ, and it has a rugged build quality, overall.
AUDIX OM5 ($195)
The OM5 is a hypercardioid dynamic mic employing the company’s VLM (Very Low Mass) technology to produce accurate response with quick
transient response. This mic is designed for use at
close range; its frequency response is attenuated
at 120 Hz to control proximity efect. A broad peak
from 2 to 10 kHz improves clarity, and the OM5
can handle SPLs up to 144 dB.
BLUE ENCORE 200 ($149)
The enCore 200 difers from most handheld dynamic microphones in that it requires phantom power.
An onboard preamp helps the capsule maintain low
noise and consistency in sound regardless of cable
length, while producing a higher output level than
most dynamic microphones. Featuring a cardioid
pickup pattern, the enCore 200 exhibits a smooth
frequency response across the range from 50 Hz to
16 kHz. In use, I have found that the enCore 200’s
definition allows vocals to cut through crunchy guitars, loud drums, and busy arrangements.
EARTHWORKS SR40V ($999)
Earthworks SR40V is a hypercardioid condenser
microphone with a response that reaches out to 40
kHz. It was designed to capture subtle details of
ElectroVoice ND76
a performance, and its internal circuitry is handtuned to each capsule. The SR40V’s tight pickup
pattern is maintained across the frequency range,
and the mic is extremely accurate in the time domain for accuracy and low distortion. It runs on
phantom power from 24 to 48 VDC.
Neumann
KMS 104
Shure KSM8
Dualdyne
without afecting high-frequency response. Both
mics are available in silver or black finishes.
ELECTRO-VOICE ND76 ($183)
E-V’s ND76 is a large-diaphragm dynamic mic that
can be used for vocalists ranging from singers and
rappers to screamers and crooners. It has a cardioid pickup pattern for rejection of feedback and a
shock mount to protect the capsule from impact.
The ND76 is also available as the ND76S, which
features an on/of switch.
SHURE KSM8 DUALDYNE ($499)
Cited as the first handheld vocal microphone to
use two diaphragms in the same capsule, Shure’s
KSM8 was designed to combine the sound quality
of a condenser microphone with the durability of a
moving-coil transducer. The KSM8 features a cardioid pattern with a wide sweet spot: I find that it
sounds consistent across a wide angle, at distances
from a few inches to a foot away. This is an especially valuable trait when used with singers who
have poor mic technique. A hardened carbon-steel
grille protects the KSM8’s capsule from damage.
MXL LSM-9 POP ($99)
There’s no mistaking MXL’s LSM-9 POP dynamic
vocal mic; it’s produced in eye-popping colors including fluorescent blue, pink, neon yellow and
neon green. The microphone has a capsule engineered for clarity, presence, and reduced handling
noise, and its supercardioid pattern helps reduce
feedback and controls bleed from stage sound.
Rugged construction ensures that the LSM-9 POP
can survive the rigors of the road.
SHURE KSM9 ($699)
Unlike all of the other handheld vocal mics we’ve seen,
Shure’s KSM9 has a switch underneath the grille enabling the pattern to be changed from cardioid to supercardioid. The electret condenser capsule contains
two low-mass Mylar diaphragms for controlled LF
response, and its high-frequency response extends to
20 kHz. A Class A, transformerless preamp ensures
low self-noise and a wide dynamic range. The KSM9
is available in charcoal gray or champagne finishes.
NEUMANN KMS 104 AND KMS 105 ($699)
Neumann’s KMS 104 (cardioid) and KMS 105 (supercardioid) microphones employ condenser capsules with low self-noise (18 dBA) for use in critical applications. A built-in highpass filter at 120 Hz
helps maintain articulation even when the singer is
on the grille, and its transformerless output is relatively immune to signal loss when used over long
lengths of cable. The capsule used in the KMS 104
and 105 was designed for uncolored reproduction,
and a series of internal filters safely remove plosives
SHURE SM58 ($99)
Though it was originally designed for studio use, the
SM58 is arguably the most successful vocal mic used
for live sound and has been in constant production
since 1966. The SM58 features a cardioid capsule
with a pneumatic suspension, and its iconic round
grille was designed to dent on impact as a means of
protection for the capsule. Its frequency response
has a gentle rise in the midrange from 2 to 6 kHz for
increased intelligibility, and a low-frequency roll-of
to reduce handling noise, wind noise, and plosives.
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AKG D112
MK II
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The starting point for choosing drum mics is the
style of music and the preference of the player. A
traditional jazz drummer may want mics only for
kick, snare, and overheads, while an R&B drummer will probably want a mic on every drum, plus
a high-hat microphone.
Drum mics have a unique set of requirements
due to the nature of the kit’s components. High
SPL handling is an important asset not only because drums are loud but also because the mics
will be so close. Compact microphones are easier
to place on crowded kits, so beware of bulk!
Condenser microphones typically have a wider
frequency range and greater sensitivity than dynamic mics, but that sensitivity can result in an increase
in leakage, especially in tom microphones. Tight
pickup patterns (hyper- and supercardioid) help
control leakage from other elements in the kit. Manufacturers have developed mics for specific applications so use that information to narrow your search.
AKG C451 B ($499)
The C451 B owes its heritage to the C451 EB/CK1
capsule, which became a standard in condenser
microphones before it was retired in the mid-1980s.
The reboot is faithful to that design except for a
more reliable fixed capsule.
Featuring a transformerless output, the C451 B
has a built-in pad for use on loud instruments and
a 12dB/octave highpass filter for reducing wind or
mechanically transmitted noise.
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Audio-Technica
AE2500 Dual-Element
Instrument Mic
AKG D112 MK II ($199)
Anyone who has set foot on a stage is familiar with
the D112’s unique look: a cross between an alien’s
head and a garlic masher. The D112 MK II preserves
the distinct appearance but updates the dynamic
capsule’s SPL handling to greater than 160 dB. The
combination of a large diaphragm and a low resonant frequency produces extended low end, while
a presence boost around 4 kHz enhances articulation. The D112 MK II’s cardioid capsule maintains
directionality below 250 Hz, reducing leakage from
nearby low-frequency instruments. An integrated
stand-mount simplifies setup and placement. Try
it on electric guitar: You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
AUDIO-TECHNICA AE2500 DUAL-ELEMENT
INSTRUMENT MIC ($549)
Recognizing that many engineers like to use dynamic and condenser microphones on kick drum
simultaneously, the AE2500’s body contains two
capsules—a small-diaphragm condenser and a
large-diaphragm dynamic—arranged for phase coherence. The condenser element provides the air
at the top and whump in the bottom, while the dynamic captures the attack and low-mids. A stroke
of genius! And you won’t have the hassle of trying
to place two separate mics on two separate stands.
A breakout cable is included.
AUDIO-TECHNICA AT4041 ($299)
Housed in a pencil-style package, the AT4041 is a
fixed-charge (electret) condenser mic with a cardioid pattern and a subtle peak at around 12 kHz
Beyerdynamic
M 88 TG
Beyerdynamic
M 201 TG
for presence. This mic works great for overheads,
ride cymbal and hi-hat, and an 80Hz highpass filter helps eliminate mechanical noise. It can handle SPLs up to 145 dB (at 1% THD), and here’s a
dirty secret: It’s a really cool snare drum mic.
AUDIX D6 ($255)
The D6 was built to complement instruments with
a lot of low-frequency content. The frequency response of the D6 includes a bump around 50 Hz,
a dip in the midrange, and another bump around
10 kHz, providing the mic with a “pre-EQd” sound
that works great for kick drum. Maximum SPL
capability is 144 dB, so it has no problem with being placed close to a raging bass cabinet. The D6 is
machined in the USA from a solid block of aluminum and is available in black or silver.
BEYERDYNAMIC M 88 TG ($399)
Is it a vocal microphone or a kick drum microphone? We may never know. Legend has it that
Beyerdyamic’s M 88 TG was initially intended for
use as a vocal mic, but engineers took to using it on
kick and bass amp and never looked back. The M
88 TG’s high SPL capability and pronounced proximity efect at close distances make it flattering
both to kick drum and vocals. It has a hypercardioid pattern with greater than 23 dB of attenuation
at 120 and 240 degrees of-axis.
BEYERDYNAMIC M 201 TG ($299)
The M 201 TG was my best-kept secret for toms
until someone let the cat out of the bag. Featur-
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2011C
Granelli
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ing a low-mass, moving coil transducer with a hypercardioid polar pattern, the M 201 TG is easy to
place around the kit without getting in the way of
cymbals or flying drumsticks. It can also be used
for snare, or on hi-hats or guitar.
DPA D:DICATE 2011C ($829; $1,739.95
MATCHED PAIR WITH CASE)
The 2011C Compact Cardioid Microphone brings
DPA quality to a manageable price point. The 2011
capsule utilizes DPA’s Twin Diaphragm technology whereby two small capsules facing opposite
directions are combined into one transducer,
delivering the transient response and wide frequency range of a small diaphragm with the high
output of a large diaphragm. The dynamic range
of the 2011C is 117 dB, and maximum SPL is 153
dB. And because the 2011C is very small, it’s easy
to place just about anywhere. I’ve used 2011Cs for
drum overheads and they produce crisp cymbals
without harshness and a beautiful stereo image.
EARTHWORKS DK25/L DRUMKIT
SYSTEM ($1,699)
The DK25/L DrumKit is a package of three SR25
cardioid condenser microphones, a set of windscreens, and Earthworks’ patented KickPad. The
system is intended to capture the entire kit with
just the three microphones, as opposed to closemiking the drums. Two overhead SR25s—placed
carefully per Earthworks’ instructions—plus the
third on the kick drum yield startlingly realistic
results. The KickPad is intended to be patched in-
Shure Beta
98AMP
line with the kick mic, where it “pre EQs” the kick
and pads down the mic’s hot output, thus avoiding
overload of the mic preamp. The DK25/L ships in
an aluminum briefcase with a padded interior. GRANELLI G5790 ($154.99)
Did someone take a pair of pliers and bend the
back end of a ’57? Not quite. The G5790 is a real
’57 that has been transplanted into a body with a
90-degree bend, making it easier to place in tight
spaces. A total “I coulda had a V8” moment!
NEUMANN KM 184 ($1,019; $1,919
STEREO SET)
The KM 184 cardioid condenser mic is an excellent
microphone for a variety of uses. For a crystal-clear
piano sound, place a pair of KM 184s in x/y stereo,
6 to 10 inches above the hammers, roughly twothirds of the way toward the high keys. The mics
will cover the entire range of the keyboard, producing plenty of low end while capturing the impact of
the hammers on the strings. The small-diaphragm
KM 184s are also at home as drum overheads, on
hi-hat or underneath a ride cymbal.
SENNHEISER E 602-II ($159.95)
The e 602-II is a cardioid dynamic mic that excels
at capturing low-end instruments, such as kick
drum, bass amp, or tuba. The e 602-II is housed in
a lightweight aluminum body that won’t tip boom
stands; the XLR connector is inset at the end of the
body for easy connection. A midrange dip in the
region of 150 to 1,000 Hz reduces boxiness, and
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a peak above 5 kHz adds clarity. Place the e 602-II
inside the hole in the front head of a kick and stand
back.
SENNHEISER E 604 ($139)
Sennheiser’s e604 is an excellent dynamic mic for
rack and floor toms. Its small body stays out of the
way of flying sticks and the integrated clip attaches easily to most rims. The e 604 has a cardioid
pattern that rejects cymbals very well, and is built
into an impact-resistant glass-fiber case. Point the
e 604 toward the center of the tom head to capture
the body and resonance of the drum: You won’t be
disappointed.
SHURE BETA 98AMP ($269)
The miniature condenser element of the Beta 98
AMP is mounted on a gooseneck connected to
the preamp tube, making for easy placement. Its
electret capsule features a cardioid pattern with a
frequency response tailored for use on drums and
percussion. It can run on phantom power ranging
from 11 to 52 VDC and ships with Shure’s A75M
Universal Mic Mount.
SHURE SM81 ($349)
The SM81 is one of the most popular condenser mics
in live sound. A small-diaphragm condenser with a
cardioid pattern, the SM81 excels for use on overheads, high-hat, ride cymbals, percussion and (on
quiet stages) acoustic guitar or piano. The SM81 has
a 3-position highpass filter and a 10dB pad, and it can
run on phantom power from 9 to 52 VDC.
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Audix
i5
CAD
D82
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Microphones for guitar and bass amps have a
slightly diferent requirement. Most likely you’ll
want low-frequency extension for a bass amp mic,
but that could be dependent on the bass player. If
there’s distortion on the amp treat it more like a
guitar amp and get the clean bottom from a DI. If
you’re looking for low end, think “kick drum mic”
and beware of wind noise from speaker movement!
Amplifier mics will usually be placed close to
the speaker grille, so a flat profile may help to keep
the mic from being bumped. A guitar amp is really
not a high-fidelity device. We’re talking about paper cones that probably roll of around 4 or 5 kHz
so you don’t need the ultimate in high-frequency
extension. That’s why it’s okay if a mic for a guitar amp has a limited HF response, and that same
character probably means less leakage (think dynamic mic). Ribbon microphones can sound really
sweet on electric guitar and many have figure-8
pickup patterns. Don’t let that scare you because
(1) you’ll be placing the mic very close to the amp,
and (2) you can point the null of the pattern at instruments that might otherwise cause leakage.
AUDIX I5 ($119)
Audix’s i5 is an excellent desert-island mic—especially when those desert islands have outdoor
stages. I’ve used the i5 successfully on snare, guitar amp, and trombone, where it tames the “blat“
of the instrument. This dynamic mic features
Audix’s VLM diaphragm technology for accurate
transient response and can handle SPLs in excess of 140 dB, enabling it to be placed close to a
guitar amp without worry of distortion. The i5 is
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MXL DX-2 Dual-capsule Variable
Dynamic Microphone
constructed using a zinc-alloy body, dent-resistant
steel grille, and gold-plated XLR connector.
CAD D82 ($159)
A passive ribbon mic with a flat, square, low profile
that makes it easy to place, the CAD D-82 travels
under the radar. It has a figure-8 pattern and can
be used on a guitar amp by looping a cable through
the amp handle and hanging the mic in front of the
grille. Its response is flattering to electric guitars
and the D82 will handle SPLs up to 140 dB (though
it should not be placed in front of instruments that
blast a lot of air). The D82 is an excellent, afordable introduction to ribbon microphones.
MXL DX-2 DUAL-CAPSULE VARIABLE
DYNAMIC MICROPHONE ($99)
The DX-2 was primarily designed for electric guitar and is housed in a D-shaped tube that lays flat
against the grille of a guitar amp when hung from
a cable over the front of the amp. One of the more
unique mics on the market, the DX-2 incorporates
two dynamic capsules with an adjustable blend
control. The large-diaphragm, supercardioid capsule is tuned to capture the fullness of the amp
while a small-diaphragm cardioid transducer captures the midrange detail. Output is via a standard
3-pin XLR connector.
ROYER R-121 LIVE ($1395)
Not shy about taking to the road, the R-121 Live’s
ribbon is 4 microns thick (as opposed to the
R-121’s 2.5-micron ribbon), increasing durability
while also resulting in a slightly reduced HF response that flatters electric guitar and horns. The
R-121’s polar pattern is figure-8, and the backside
Sennheiser
e 609
Shure
SM57
of the mic is slightly brighter due to the transducer’s asymmetrical design. The R-121 Live can also
be used for overheads, though you should be careful in venues with low ceilings, which can produce
unwanted reflections into the backside of the mic.
Don’t worry about the R-121’s figure-8 pattern;
careful placement can yield as much (or more)
isolation as using a cardioid microphone.
SENNHEISER E 609 ($129)
Deriving its profile from Sennheiser’s venerable
MD409, the e 609 was designed for up-close use on
guitar cabinets. The e 609’s supercardioid pattern
minimizes bleed, and a hum-compensating coil reduces interference from stray magnetic fields. An
internal shock-mount protects the e 609’s capsule
from damage due to impact while its flat shape
lends itself to being hung directly in front of a guitar
amp without need for a stand. The e 609 can also be
used on drums, toms in particular.
SHURE SM57 ($99)
Equally at home on a snare drum as it is in front of a
guitar cabinet, horn, or in emergency use as a hammer, the Shure SM57 has logged more road miles than
Willie Nelson. Nothing fancy but a reliable workhorse
mic, the SM57 has a cardioid polar pattern and a frequency response from 40 Hz to 15 kHz. A pneumatic
shockmount for the capsule reduces handling noise,
and its versatility on a variety of instruments makes it
a must-have. Get two while you’re at it.
ovyuz
Brass instruments present a few challenges, including high SPLs, possibility of harsh sound from
the wrong microphone, and wind noise. Horns can
have a lot of energy in the area between 1 and 5
kHz, so it may not be a smart idea to choose a mic
that emphasizes that range. In fact, sometimes a
dull-sounding mic tames the peakiness of a horn.
Ribbon mics tend to sound really smooth and
rich on horns but could be too smooth if you’re
looking for a raucous sound. Your choice of pattern may depend on whether you have a single
horn, or a section; tighter patterns help reduce
leakage in the individual mics on a horn section.
On the other hand, a saxophone radiates sound
across a wider area, so a mic with a narrow pattern may not be a good choice. For horn players
who move around a lot, a miniature condenser mic
clipped to the bell could be a good solution.
AKG D12 VR ($629)
The D12 VR is a multiple personality, large-capsule
dynamic mic with a thin diaphragm for enhanced
low-frequency response. The D12 VR can be used
with or without phantom power. Used in passive
mode, it’s excellent for brass, producing a smooth
response from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with peaks around
4 and 8 kHz. When phantom power is applied, one
of three active filters may be switched in, each tailoring the mic’s response for open or closed kick
drums, or for a vintage tone. The transformer-coupled output employs the same transformer used in
the original AKG C414, and the output connector is
designed to allow easy placement inside the drum.
AKG
D12 VR
ELECTRO-VOICE ND46 ($226)
Optimized for use on guitar and bass amps, the
ND46 is a large-diaphragm dynamic mic built for
use on brass, acoustic bass, guitar and bass amps,
and drums. The mic features a supercardioid pattern and can easily handle SPLs upwards of 140 dB.
The ratcheted, pivoting head of the ND46 locks
for secure placement and its Memraflex grille was
developed to stand up to rough treatment.
ROYER R-10 ($499)
Royer’s R-10 brings the company’s level of quality
to a price point that’s very reasonable. The R-10 is
a ribbon mic that can handle SPLs up to 160 dB so
you should be able to close-mike just about anything except a jet engine. A patented ofset-ribbon
transducer gives the R-10 higher SPL handling
on the front side and a brighter response on the
backside. An internal shockmount protects the
transducer from mechanical impact, resulting in
increased durability, and a multilayer screen protects the ribbon from wind blasts. Applications
for the R-10 include drum overheads, brass, percussion, strings and acoustic piano. It can even
be used on kick, though Royer stresses following
placement instructions outlined in the manual. Q
Electro-Voice
ND46
Royer
R-10
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Going deep with a founding father
of modern electronic music
BY GEARY YELTON
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Among fans of electronic music, German synthesist Klaus Schulze has long been considered
a pivotal figure. His early work as an original
member of Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel
served as a launch pad for an almost 50-year career and counting.
Since he first entered a recording studio in
1969, he has recorded more than 150 solo albums,
many of them multi-disc sets. He has headlined in
concerts throughout Europe and Japan, as well as
collaborated with film composer and former Dead
Can Dance vocalist Lisa Gerrard, among others.
Schulze’s latest album, Silhouettes, carries on
his tradition of extended synth improvisations
featuring immense electronic chord swells and
rhythmic, evolving sequencer patterns. It’s a fantastic introduction if you’re unfamiliar with his
music: To the rest of us, it is like a wonderful letter
from an old friend after a long dry spell.
which of course still had its famous wall at the
time. So, when I began playing with bands like Psy
Free, Ash Ra Tempel, and Tangerine Dream, there
was a small scene forming at the time with us and
a few other bands. And in contrast to other “creative” German cities like Munich or Düsseldorf,
we had the wall all around Berlin, so there was a
pretty “private” vibe at the time. From there our
music spread out, but at the same time we were
kind of isolated from the rest of the world.
Later, when the wall fell, of course, that
changed. I guess that certain isolation-vibe
brought us together, on one hand, but gave us an
equalized surrounding on the other. And it may
have fueled the urge to experiment, break free,
and explore new musical grounds.
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[Laughs.] At the time, that was absolutely unI guess in 2018, when you are still an actively thinkable. I was just pioneering my way towards
creating electronic artist who started in the late electronic music back then, really without a con’60s and who has just celebrated his 70th birthday, cept, constantly discovering new sounds, instruand then puts out a new studio album that fans ments, and the technology behind it was just dehave been waiting for more than five years, that veloping from day to day—a very fascinating time.
may be worth an interview! [Laughs.]
And hard to imagine today, when everybody has
It almost feels like sort of a comeback, even everything available at minimal cost...in a cell
though that was not my idea or my feeling when I phone. But I didn’t think, “Great, I am a pioneer”
made the record. I just get that vibe from the jour- at the time. I was just playing my music, forever
nalists, now that we are talking about my new al- experimenting, following the inspirations and
bum Silhouettes. And to be honest, I was never too discoveries, and seeing where it took me on the
keen on doing all the press stuf. I always loved to journey.
have the music speak for itself.
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Before I joined Psy Free and Ash Ra Tempel as
Who said that? I can’t imagine [I’ll ever] stop a drummer, I played electric guitar. But even that I
making music. Sure, there are breaks I need to did in my very own way. I had the instrument lying
take, and I certainly need to take care of myself as on the floor and treated it with all kinds of bottlewell, but I still live in the studio, which is my liv- neck-type devices: metal tubes, copper plates, and
ing room.
whatnot. I did that because to me the sounds that
What I have stopped is touring; that stressful were generated mattered more than the actual
life on the road. That wasn’t an easy decision, and I musical notes or chords. That was electronic mudo miss the live concerts with the fans; that is true. sic already, somehow.
But I had to learn the hard way that health comes
Drums I had always loved and had started playfirst. And I am back to kind of a normal mode now, ing every now and then. It felt natural to do the
which took awhile, but I am very happy about it. switch; it was fun to play. And it was another natuThe trick is to have your studio record-ready at ral progression after the drum phase to pick up
all times, so I can just hit that Rec button and play synthesizers when they became available, as they
whenever I feel like it. It’s always been like that.
gave me even more musical—or should I say sonic—freedom to follow my vision. Sound-wise, anyoGGGGGTGn GT thing I could dream of became possible over time,
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so of course, I then stuck with the synthesizer in
I actually started my musical career in Berlin, all its various forms and variations.
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Not necessarily. You know those older
Moogs—the most beautiful and fat sound
for sure, but every time they heat up or cool
down, the tuning gets lost. [Laughs.] Great, if you
can aford to spend the time in the studio to readjust them. In most cases, I have only one of the
Moogs in the setup, just to keep the recording sessions in low-maintenance mode. My setup has to
be simple and fast to access.
I always have an abundance of Virus As and Cs
around, three 19-inch [Studio Electronics] SE-1
Moogs, and some Quasimidi stuf…and, of course,
my beloved Roland JD-800 and JD-990s, the Spectrasonics plug-ins, plus two Alesis [Andromeda] A6
analog babies, as well. I also consider my collection of samplers primary instruments to this day.
On top of that, I always have a few standard-type
keyboards ready on the side that may be swapped
spontaneously, according to the mood I’m in.
up I run, there is no
real “inside the box.”
Most of my sound
sources are external
keyboards, expanders, and other boxes
connected via MIDI
and analog outputs into the mixing desk.
My record producer and engineer Tom Dams
has a stronger opinion on that. He does all the mixing in the traditional way, prefers analog boards,
and we both agree it sounds great that way. My
main mixing console is the Tascam DM-4800 plus
submixer, and I also use it in analog mode here in
the studio.
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[Emagic] Logic 7 is where it all happens until
today. I started of with tape machines, of course,
but I always pursued the next technological advancement, so I owned my first Atari [ST] as a
very early adopter. Back then the choice was CLab Creator or Steinberg Twenty-Four, and I went
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became [C-Lab] Notator and could synchronize to
Not exactly. What I had in the ’70s was, in fact, SMPTE, and later the [Emagic] Unitor MIDI ina 3P modular system, which I bought from my terfaces, which became the heart of my growing
first record company royalty advance from Brain/ MIDI setup. So I naturally stayed with Logic later,
Metronome. You can’t imagine how excited I was bought my first Mac, geeked out, and got a NuBusto take that money and drive straight to Florian connected [Digidesign] Pro Tools AD/DA—wasn’t
Fricke (of Popol Vuh fame) to buy the 3P system it called Sound Tools back then?—and continued
of him. I loved (and sometimes hated) it for de- that path. I am very used to Logic for years, and
cades and sold it of again later. The photos you being such a MIDI-oriented musician, that helped
speak of show a 3C modular system from Heinz a lot.
Funk that I was playing with when the pictures
I had extremely complex studio and live setups
were taken.
over the years, with multiple cascaded MIDI interfaces and even MIDI mixers involved, I could
kG GG G
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ˈGGˉGGGGGG Pro Tools back then. Don’t forget there was no
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Ableton Live, no Cakewalk or Sonar, so I stayed
With the complex and mixed studio gear set- with that DAW. When Apple bought Logic from
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Emagic and changed the design of the DAW in
version 8, I didn’t like it and still don’t. And don’t
get me started about Logic [Pro] X.
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Yes, I use both. My live setup, which now lives
forth in the studio, contains two full-blown E-mu
E4K sampler keyboards stufed to the brim with
my favorite sample libraries. More e64s reside
in the studio racks. They carry all the choirs and
voices, of course, lots of symphonic stuf, all the
[Spectrasonics] Distorted Realities and hallelujahs [from Vocal Planet], and quite a few custom
sample banks I’ve created over the years. I have all
of these on the studio computer, as well.
That is the place where my complete Spectrasonics collection resides. Man, everything those
guys do sounds great. I really love these plug-ins
and have them loaded in my default startup recording setup. I prefer Atmosphere over Omnisphere...loads faster and easier to use. Also, the
guys from Arturia know very well what they’re
doing. I developed some demo sounds for them
when they came out with their Minimoog and
Moog Modular plug-ins. I also still have a lot of
older plug-ins that I love, that unfortunately have
been discontinued. I still stick to this older recording setup even though that means there is a lot of
the newer plug-in stuf I can’t run on it.
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Since the more professional sampling started
to make sense for me in the days of the early Akai
samplers, that’s when I began collecting libraries
and also creating and saving my own sounds. I also
worked with manufacturers of sample libraries,
so there always was an abundance of new sounds
that seemed to come out every day.
As the Akai format was the format of choice,
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Expanders, new synths, step sequencers, sound libraries—that’s the area where I keep trying new
things, and testing stuf I may like. Sometimes
even getting an old box from the shed, dusting it
of, and connecting it back into the system can be
a whole new experience, because your perception
has changed and it has been years that you last
used it.
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I used a custom modified 19-inch Doepfer MAQ
live, which didn’t really satisfy me studio-wise, but
the Schrittmacher by Manikin is my favorite for
all occasions since it came out—simple to use, not
too crowded with features, and rock-solid. And it is
kG GGG
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it back [Laughs.] It was just what I needed, so I in GGGGf
There are cases for both scenarios. We just tegrated it into my live setup as the main sequencer.
Tom (my producer/engineer) would have an spoke about the issue of certain discontinued
entire list. [Laughs.] From the top of my head, I plug-ins that I love to have available. They are ~˅GGGGGGGGf
I did not use a lot of drums on Silhouettes; it
know [Steinberg] Voice Machine and Plex weren’t the reason I stick to my trusty PowerMac comsupported in later Mac OS versions. The early ver- puter setup (running a pretty old OS). The same is a rather quiet album. Most of it is even pretty
sions of the great [Antares] Auto-Tune plug-in, of holds true for my bread-and-butter DAW Logic 7. backgroundish, not as important as it is on albums
course, [were] much better than later versions. While I may use L8 or L9 sometimes if a special like Moonlake or Eternal. I think it is one of those
They were so grainy, harsh, producing weird setup requires it, I don’t like Logic [Pro] X or any newer drum boxes I was trying, probably the Boss
glitches and stuf. I love that!
of that fancy, colorful iPad stuf. Also, what’s the DR-880. What also was used is Spectrasonics StyBack in the day, new manufacturers appeared point in buying new AD/DA converters with new lus RMX plug-in.
with a new plug-in or even a sound module plug-in hardware interface every year? Oh, yes, you also
every month or so, it seemed. It was pretty excit- have to get a new computer or update your digital kG G
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ing in the beginning. All early versions of anything mixing console every other year. If it ain’t broke, SG G G G G G T
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really don’t run on newer systems. In many cases I don’t fix it.
You sure got me there. [Smiles.] I still love my
did not like what they changed to in later versions,
There were years when I tried every new plugRoland
SRV-2000 and 3030 and my TC Elecor the fact that plug-ins started eating up so much in, every OS update, and every recording hardtronic
M-One
19-inch reverbs, the Lexicon 480L
RAM or computer speed. I got tired of having to ware and software and all the gimmicks, only that
with
the
LARC,
and of course, most important,
update computers, OS’s, and software and external I didn’t really get to do a new record then. We
the
Roland
RSP-550s,
of which I have a bunch.
hardware every few months. That’s crazy.
were far busier getting the entire system to work
These
are
the
main
efects
I use all the time for
than making new music—not good. I need a fast
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GGGGf
that’s the area where I’d rather go, tried-and-true. rooms and reverb positionings and, of course, the
I stuck to it for convenience reasons, even when
E-mu introduced their own format. Importing and
converting worked well except for a few glitches.
When Emagic introduced their EXS sampler, it
was also able to read Akai format, so there wasn’t
really a reason to change anything. I still use the
EXS inside my Logic DAW setup, even though in
the last years I more often just dropped raw audio
into an extra audio track and work it from there.
Honestly, I do not spend as much time as I used
to trying the latest and newest that someone has
released, so I’m not sure. I know there has been
a lot going on with all these new drum plug-ins,
which do sound amazingly real. That would be
nice if it’s an easy and most of all intuitive approach they ofer. I do not read manuals!
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delay cascades for most of the sequencers. When
Tom went to do the 5.1 surround mixes for all of
my Rheingold, Big in Europe, and Big in Japan live
DVDs in various studios around the world, he always had to bring these with him.
Efect plug-ins I use regularly are the UAD
DreamVerb (for backgroundish vocals or softer
solo instruments) and even Logic’s built-in Space
Designer. In most cases, these are used on instruments considered as the background tracks in a
mix. When it comes to my favorite special efects,
yes, there it is: Voice Machine. Discontinued, but
I like what it can add to the human voice, violins,
flutes, and even drum loops or atmospheric pads.
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Never say never. Collaborations are fun and a
nice change in the way of musical work. I have musicians visit from time to time, and of course, we record together. Also, Tom is here a lot, and we always
do things; the borders do blend there after a while.
Solar Moon are also great improvisers, [and] so is
Thomas Kagermann and Wolfgang Tiepold. Pete
Namlook was fun to work, with as well.
Meeting Lisa was one heck of an extraordinary experience. She works like me… only that she is her own
synthesizer [Laughs], if one can say that. Guess that’s
why we toured together—it was such a great vibe with
her all the time. And we really toss the inspiration
to and fro with a live audience experiencing it at the
same time—really amazing. It was the same in the studio. She just is such an outstanding talent.
When she visited me for the first time, which
was our first encounter actually—we had just spoken on the phone, before, once—she was totally
open. We talked for a little while, and then she was
so ready for new music. She couldn’t wait to hit
the studio. Tom was engineering at the time, and
she laid down her tracks so fast, take after take,
next song, next take. He couldn’t load up the next
song fast enough for her.
Needless to say, it’s all completely improvisational with us. You may change little details when
you do a later mix of a recorded track, but certainly
no meticulously planned and penned out compositions. We never talk about music, or harmonies,
or styles, for that matter. We both don’t know what
we’re doing, but we love it. Most of the people I
love working with are most interested in discovering/improvising new music.
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I had to realize it’s better for me not going out on
the road anymore. My health needs constant supervision, as I have a renal disease, which fortunately
is very treatable with dialysis. I do okay staying
home, and going here and there is fine, but nothing
as stressful as a tour or big live concerts far abroad
that require a great deal of traveling. I figure that’s
okay when you’ve celebrated your 70th birthday recovering from a longer hospital stay.
The Japan concerts I played in 2010 were the
last ofcial public concerts I did. Yet this new studio album Silhouettes was done in a concert-type
live situation within the studio, most of it played
through in one streak—not too bad an alternative
after a long, silent break. Q
Writer, synthesist, and EM editor-at-large Geary Yelton lives in
Asheville, North Carolina.
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RGEKŸECVKQPURTKEKPI
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and availability are subject to change without notice. The ““Universal Audio” name, UA “diamond” logo,
“UAD,” “Powered Plug-Ins,” and “UAD-2 Powered Plug-Ins” are trademarks of Universal Audio Inc.
n are the property of their respective owners.
All other trademarks contained herein
BY GEARY YELTON
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kGi For years, musicians and inventors have
experimented with fitting acoustic pianos
with magnets to augment their capabilities.
A carefully placed electromagnet can afect
a piano string’s sustain and harmonic properties and give a player considerable control
over those properties. One modern example
of an augmented piano is the Electromagnetically-Prepared Piano originally developed at
Stanford University’s Center for Computer
Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).
Another is the Spectrum Piano, developed by Canadian composer Doug Blackley and featured in his ethereal 2016 album, Vanishing Evocations.
The Spectrum Piano is a device that
uses electromagnetic energy to vibrate a
piano’s strings under Blackley’s control.
The current version has 24 electromag-
nets, each placed directly over the two or
three strings that produce a single pitch.
Because he can vary the power of individual magnets and thus the intensity of
vibration, he can control the pitch and
envelope of the resulting sounds. And because his device targets specific overtones
by selectively stimulating a string’s natural harmonics, he can control harmonic
content and thus, the sound’s waveform.
You can hear audio examples from Vanishing Invocations, as well as read more
details on the website spectrumpiano.com.
sounds that normal acoustic instruments
can’t. The diference between it and a conventional synthesizer is, of course, that a
conventional synthesizer uses speakers to
output the sound, whereas this uses strings
and a soundboard; therefore, it’s acoustic.
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Absolutely. If I have a string tuned to
55Hz, one of the low A strings, it would
produce the sound of 55 cycles. But when
o
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puts 55, 110, 165, and all the other frequenI call it an acoustic synthesizer because cy multiples. I can get it to sound the harit can do things that are obviously within monics without sounding the fundamenthe boundary of synthesizers and produce tal. So, I could take that string and tell it
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Absolutely, yeah, and it does pitch bends, too.
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Correct. Ramping them up and ramping them
down and by adjusting the frequency content that
I send into the magnets. And I can send many different frequency [spectra] and run them up and
down into the same magnet at the same time. So,
you can do anything you want.
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No. It’s a good idea if you could. In theory, if
I could somehow measure the exact frequency
vibration of the string and be correctly in phase,
I could use it to stop a string from vibrating by
sending the same sound as that but 180 degrees
out of phase, so when a string goes away from the
magnet, I pull it, and when it comes in, I wouldn’t
touch it. That would dampen it. But I have no idea
how. I mean, that would be like a neural network,
rocket science beyond my world of dreams.
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Oh, sure. There are a number of issues with
dampers. First, if my piano had a sostenuto pedal,
I could have a bunch of strings with a sostenuto
pedal down, and they could ring endlessly. And
{GG G G G G GG G then I could use the conventional damper on the
GGGG GGG f other ones. But when I chose to make [the SpecOh, yes, I can do that.
trum Piano], I chose to leave behind the whole
idea of hammers and all that stuf, because this is
oGG GG GGG f not an augmented piano. It’s a synthesizer, which
Electromagnets are conventionally used with is a diferent thing. I can play sounds with the
direct current. You send in a direct current, and damper up, and they’re much quieter because they
it sends out something that excites the core, and don’t get this big, long resonance that they have
it sends out a magnetic signal that will pull things when the pedal is down. Normally, I block the sustowards it. But if you send out alternating current tain pedal down so that it’s on all the time.
into it, then it will alternately push and pull.
But if you hold it not quite down, you can get
sounds that decay away much faster. Of course, if
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it’s all the way up, it will just stop, which is normal,
If I send out a 440-cycle sine wave of alternat- but it’s quite a bit quieter. The issue with that is, at
ing power, then it would push and pull 440 times a this point, mechanically speaking, I don’t have a
second. However, there’s an issue at the same time. way of holding the sustain pedal anywhere other
You can’t push with magnets. You can only pull. So, than just on or of for start.
vG GG G GGSG of course, you wouldn’t hear 440 cycles from this
The second thing is the music that you heard, for
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when you heard this thing vibrating. You’d hear example, the first piece, which is called “Flow,” it
It depends. First, I can excite them with a vari- 220, because you’re only getting the pulls.
will do that all in real time, all at the same time. It’s
ety of envelopes. I can give them the hardest envenot multitracked. In that, you heard lots of plucklope I can get, which is still not going to produce oG G G G G G G T ing short sounds and long sounds and diferent
anything like a piano hammer, because if you can f
sounds. If I were to put some kind of dampening on
I use a MIDI keyboard, and it instructs my the string to make the plucking more articulated,
push it that hard, the sucker will melt. I’ve done
that, and it melted. But I’ve done plucked sounds, computer to launch into sending signals that even- then it wouldn’t be able to make the long sounds
tually wind up at the electromagnets.
and you can get a nice ping, ping, ping, ping.
anymore.
to make a pling on the third harmonic, and I could
make it do a steady-state sound on the fifth harmonic at the same time. There would be two different sounds coming of of two diferent harmonics from the same string. So, I can determine the
harmonic content. It’s an electromagnetic-drive
system. I don’t use the hammers.
That way, I can bypass having to use the fundamental. In fact, I use low strings to get a lot of highfrequency sounds. If you excite the fundamental of
a piano string, you get this wonderful, huge sound.
It almost sounds like a pipe organ, because if you
excite the fundamental, of course you also excite all
the overtones above it. But if you excite the harmonics and don’t excite the fundamental, there’s a ton of
stuf you could do by exciting the harmonics of multiple strings at the same time, which fuse together into
a synthesized timbre made up of, say, five diferent
strings, each outputting diferent frequencies on different harmonics. That all happens at the same time,
and it produces this wonderful, rich, cohesive sound.
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Yes, I could, but I wouldn’t bother because I’ve
got lots of strings.
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Oh, I have so many.
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I can think of the day when I went downstairs
to get something, and the system was on, and I
heard this weird sound. I thought it was like a foghorn from a ship outside. Then my wife said, “Hey
Doug!” I went running upstairs, and it was just
booming loud, and there was smoke pouring over
the top of the piano. You don’t want to light your
piano on fire. And, of course, it didn’t, but that was
me melting down a bunch of magnets.
I did all the metal work. I soldered the thing
together. I came up with the physics of the idea of
how to do the thing. I did the software programming to allow me to drive the magnets in the way
that I wanted and all that. But I’m a composer; I’m
not a technician. And one of the reasons why I think
the thing works so well is because I had a specific
musical need. I understood the physics and thought
I ought to be able to do this in the way that it did.
But then it came to, well, gosh, I’ve got to get a saw
and I have to cut metal up. So, the whole thing took
a lot of time, in terms of technical stuf.
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I started in 2010. I went into Master of Fine Arts
at the university here. I chose to study music for
the acoustic piano, because my whole life I’ve been
using synthesizers. I first plugged into modular in
1978—a long time. And then I did music for film
and TV, and then I taught. But I got tired of that,
and I wanted to go back and work on improving my
melody, my harmony. So, I chose to study acoustic
piano because that wouldn’t allow me to be Mr.
Synthesizer and dress it all up in cool sounds.
So, I did that, and the time comes up when you
have to present something for your thesis. And because I studied acoustic piano, I’d have to write a
bunch of music for piano. I play composer’s piano,
but I’m not a concert pianist, so I’d have to get
someone to play my complicated stuf. People said,
you could do music for piano and synthesizers, for
example, but I really wanted to stick to my guns.
I went there to study piano, so I wanted to do my
project with piano.
I thought back 30 years ago or so to a theater
show that I did a live score for. At the time, I stuck an
electromagnet on a raw piano frame with the strings,
and the whole score for this theater production was
me playing that. I wished at the time that it could
sound continuously, but it couldn’t. So, I tried a magnet, and I made a little functioning system. It was
weak and feeble, and I didn’t know what I was doing,
but I knew what could happen. I know there have
been electromagnets on piano in the past to make the
string sustain longer to augment the sound.
I thought, what if I could go back to that? Surely, I could make it do diferent sounds other than
built another version, which is the really spectacular-looking one. That’s the second version. I did a
couple of small concert performances with it. I got
a concert pianist [Andrew Czink] who’s really into
avant-garde stuf to be my second player for it, and
he just loves the Spectrum Piano.
After that he said, “Doug, we’ve got to do something with this. We’ve got to have a duo.” So, we
made the duo where we do all this sort of modern,
strange, wonderful music. He found these various
oG G G G G zG wG things that we could do. We did a performance at
G Gf
a place in Vancouver called the Western Front.
I did the first performance for the thesis in We also were invited to the Newfoundland Sound
January 2013. And over the next year-and-a-half, I Symposium in 2014.
just vibrate the strings, because the physics of the
situation told me that I ought to be able to do it.
I ought to be able to make it make synthesizer
sounds. And if it could do that, I would be able
to do my thesis performance using only acoustic
piano, and I still get to have all my wonderful synthesizer sounds. So, the thing to do would be to
change the piano, rather than sort of change the
focus. I thought it would work, and it did.
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Although the mechanism just comes out of the
piano—you can put it into a diferent piano—it was
too heavy to ship. In order to get the thing onto the
plane, I had to build another one out of aluminum,
which would be lightweight and small enough to fit.
[After that] I finished my album, which I just
put online and sort of announced the instrument
out to the general world with my website. That
was last fall. I also applied for a grant, and just
three weeks ago they said that I got the grant to
present funding for building a new one.
Unfortunately, no. Part of the grant, however,
was that I make one mechanism that I can hand
of to somebody else to do so, and I like that idea. I
will either give it to a couple composers, or I might
pass it of to the University of Victoria to see what
they could do with it. But I’m perfectly open to the
idea of other people working with it.
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People ask this. I don’t especially want to be
a manufacturer. Absolutely, I could, but can you
oG GGGGG
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I could. I would be open to that. This is obviously what I should do. But then the question is how
much of it is patentable and how much not? What’s
really original about it is the use of the summation
of all the strings together as a collective series of
harmonics [that] allows me to turn it into a synthesizer and produce those sounds that I have not
heard of of any other electromagnetic instrument.
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There are two big heat sinks along the top, and
then below that you see 24 electromagnets. I am running 24 amplifiers at the same time, and the amplifiers are not normal amplifiers. If you put a speaker on
these, your speaker will expire, because they’re suicide amplifiers. Those do take a fair amount of power
in the sense that the heat sinks get pretty hot. When
I did these performances, it might be 45 minutes. I
would have to adjust certain parts to make sure the
whole thing didn’t overheat, because if it does, the
individual magnets will shut of. The other thing is, if
I push too much power into the electromagnets, the
sucker will overheat and burn up.
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f
The way an EBow works is it senses what frequency a string is vibrating, and then it sends out a
sine wave at that frequency to sustain the sound. It
takes a while to pick up the sound and figure it out.
But with the Spectrum Piano, I know exactly what
the strings are tuned to already, so I don’t need that.
I can hit it with something right away and know
that it’s the third harmonic on the 27th string without having to do any analysis. The strings in a piano
just sit there, and I can excite them all in an array
at the same time, rather than just exciting any individual string. I can excite them [in a way] that uses
18 strings to make one sound and make one note, as
opposed to exciting one string.
zSG GGGGGGf
I would think so, because I can do anything to excite an individual string—hit all the harmonics you
want and do all that sort of stuf. But at the same point,
with this one I have 24 strings, and the next one will
have 48 strings, and I can use any combination of
them all at the same time in order to fuse together like
an orchestra, rather than one player. So, you can have
one violin player, where here I have 24 violin players,
and you can make a lot more sounds with 24 players
doing diferent stuf than one magnificent, unbelievable player, which is more how I saw those guitar ones
as, not that there’s anything wrong with that. They’re
fantastic. It’s just two diferent animals. Q
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BY JERRY KOVARSKY
C ontinuing our study of Jens Johansson’s work, I got a chance to talk
with him about his gear and his approach to crafting his famous leadsynth tones. Due to “old age” and the difculties of touring with gear these
days, he has retired his trusty Yamaha DX7 keyboard and switched to a
Roland A-800 Pro controller. He is not thrilled with its pitchbend mechanism due to its short throw and dead zone at center. So, his fabled use of
a pitch diferential to get a continuously smooth response from his bend
mechanism has been retired…for now. He has also swapped out the Roland JV-1080 module for a JV-1010 since it is half-rack size.
Ex. 1. This solo opens
Jens’ guest spot on
Sonata Arctica’s tune
“The Cage,” from
their 2003 release
Winterheart’s Guild.
Performed at a blistering tempo, Johansson delivers a highly
melodic statement.
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RUMINATIONS ON HIS LEAD TONE
While Jens won’t give exact details about his lead
tone, he was willing to ofer some guidance on emulating it, or crafting your own. He describes his
original Korg Polysix tone as “detune-free unison,”
as he likes to hit the distortion efect with a very
sharp sound. In general, Jens suggests that you always craft your lead sound with the distortion on:
The sound you need to feed the efect may sound
plain, or even crappy on its own, but it’s the tonal-
3
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Ex. 2. Some vintage Johansson, taken from his trades with
Yngwie Malmsteen on “Trilogy Suite, Opus 5,” from their third
album, Trilogy (1986). Here, Jens freely mixes the harmonic and
melodic minor scales.
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Ex. 3. The next trading phrase Jens plays is from
“Trilogy Suite, Opus 5.” His opening is a majestic
phrase, and the entire solo utilizes the A♭ Aeolian
Dominant scale.
up at an inhumanely fast
tempo. It’s a great example of how melodic
Jens can be while playing
the whole solo using the
Ab Aeolian
Ab Aeolian Dominant
same scale/note choices.
One
aspect
that
Ex. 4. Here we first see the regular A♭ Aeolian, or natural-minor scale,
which sounds like the B-major scale starting on the sixth step. The
makes it so melodic is
second example shows the third step of the scale being raised a half- how he uses mostly nonstep, to change from minor to major. This gives the sound of an A♭
root tones across all the
dominant seventh chord, with a flatted sixth, or thirteenth.
chords. He is singing
across the chords, thinkity of the distortion efect that is critical.
ing more horizontally or linearly. You might conJens adds some expressive control by using af- sider bar 7 to just be vibrato, but since he achieves
tertouch to bring in a little bit of detuning and some it using positive pitchbend, I chose to write it out
extra filter resonance. The modulation axis of the that way.
joystick fades in two additional oscillators an ocAfter the first eight bars of linear playing, he
tave lower. But the critical character comes from switches up in bar 9 to some ascending arpeggios to
his use of the Morley JD-10 amp-simulator/over- bring him up high in range. I like the figure that he
drive pedal, which has been his choice for decades starts in bar 21, moving from adjacent notes to increasnow. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right?
ingly spread intervals from the lower D he uses as an
anchor. Also pay attention to how he keeps things
A CHOICE SOLO
interesting rhythmically by mixing up his use of sixJohansson has so many great solos to explore, but my teenth notes and triplet groupings. Even when playing
research led me to this solo, both as a fan favorite and blisteringly fast, he’s crafting well-thought-out lines.
one that caught my ear (see Example 1). Taken from
an album that he was a guest soloist on, the opening
ONE FROM THE EARLY DAYS
of the tune “The Cage” from Sonata Arctica’s 2003 Since Jens first came to public attention during his
release Winterheart’s Guild, shows Jens tearing it years with Yngwie Malmsteen, I thought I’d share
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something from that seminal time. The tune “Trilogy Suite, Opus 5” (from their third album, Trilogy, 1986) was one of their biggest hits. Partway
through the tune, Yngwie and Jens trade solos,
and Example 2 is Jens’ first volley.
Notice how he freely mixes up the A♭ melodic
minor scale (using the F and G notes), with the A♭
harmonic minor scale (using the E-natural and
the G). Starting in bar 5 through the end, he varies
his note groupings from triplets (which match the
pulse of the 12/8 time signature) with groupings of
four and five notes, creating a sense of urgency in
his bravura phrases.
Example 3 is the next phrase where Jens answers Yngwie, and here the tune changes tonality and the A♭ now sounds major, or dominant
seventh. Jens is using a very cool scale called the
Aeolian Dominant, which is the fifth mode of the
D♭/C♯ Melodic minor scale. The A♭/G♯ Aeolian
scale is the natural minor scale, so think of the Bmajor scale starting on the sixth tone, but with a
major third (C), instead of the minor third (the B)
as in Example 4.
Coming back to Example 3, notice how the
opening of his phrase is clearly major, but in the
next bar how the tonality gets richer, based on the
implied D♭ minor. This constant I-major to iv-minor harmonic movement is very colorful and fun
to solo over, which Jens does beautifully. Q
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BY JORDAN RUDESS
L et’s face it, scales and arpeggios can be boring. But as an improviser,
I use the skills I learn from them to come up with ways to make things
interesting, as well as to improve coordination and to build the necessary
finger strength it takes to play my ideas.
LEVEL 1: FINGER WARMUP
In this exercise, basic independence-of-the-finger ideas combine
with contrary motion to get you
in the mood and warmed up. Take
your time and don’t wimp out on
giving each finger some energy.
Here are five contrary-motion exercises I’ve
developed that will definitely get your brain fired
up and your hands in gear.
Fig. 1
LEVEL 2: PENTATONIC
CONTRARY MOTION
This nice little C pentatonic exercise is
somewhat straight-ahead but just confusing enough to sizzle your brain cells
pleasantly. It does a little rhythmic
twist on the way down and changes
the accent at measure 3. Remember
to shake out your hands by your side
when you feel a build-up of tension.
20 18
JUN E
Fig. 2
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LEVEL 3: C AND D♭ ARPEGGIOS
This exercise is one of my personal
favorites. It’s awesome when your
hands start feeling like they have a
mind of their own. Can you get to
that stage? Get practicing and it will
happen! All the inversions of these
two chords are happening in contrary motion. Of course, you need to
do this exercise in all keys!
Fig. 3
LEVEL 4: AUGMENTED
ARPEGGIOS
This one features augmented chords,
and I love the way they sound each
step of the way. It’s cool how, when using augmented chords, this harmony
magic happens.
Try starting your left hand on G♯
and it will also work well!
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
LEVEL 5: BROKEN
AUGMENTED ARPEGGIOS
Your fingers will start looking like
a crawling spider when you master
this one. It has a unique feel to it,
but be sure to pay close attention to
the fingering.
Check out Jordan’s Online Conservatory at www.jroc.us to find
these and other original exercises
in all keys, as well as video, MIDI
files, audio and tons more great stuf
for keyboardists. (Transcriptions by
Eren Basbug.) Q
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This article originally appeared in the January 1979
issue of Contemporary
Keyboard magazine.
BY TOM COSTER
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S uperimposing new chord progressions onto the structure of a song is extremely important in improvisation. What
you are basically doing is adding new chordal structures to give the tune more variety. It may seem that in doing this
you are taking the given chord structure and changing it, taking away from what the tune is about; but in superimposing you don’t change the primary chords, you simply add to or vary the chords that approach the primary chords. I
call these added chords secondary chords. Each time you play a chorus of a tune, you can vary the secondary chords
to give your solo a fresh sound. It is very important to remember, though, that when you add these chords you should
have it worked out with the bassist and guitarist so you won’t sound like you are out in left field.
I will use the basic 12-bar blues progression as my example, since
everyone should be familiar with the form and the changes. Here are
the primary chords in the progression (Ex. 1):
which will vary both the sound and the melodic movement (Ex. 4):
Here is another version of the 12-bar blues progression (Ex. 5):
Now compare the primary progression with this reconstructed progression, in which superimposed chords add color and variety (Ex. 2):
The above example may seem a bit over-constructed, but I wanted to
show a variety of possibilities that you can experiment with. Also, it has
many two-chord-to-the-bar situations. A good way to begin learning to
improvise over these changes is to play scale fragments (Ex. 3):
I have shown the root-2nd-3rd-5th fragment for each chord; you can
try some other possibilities for yourself. Even using just this fragment,
you may want to alternate between ascending and descending versions,
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In this blues progression, two of the primary chords (compare with the
original blues progression) have been altered. Fm9 is substituted for C7 because of the descending sequence in bars 6, 7, and 8; and Dm9 and G13 are
substituted for G7 and F7 to give this particular progression a llm9-V13-I
cadence. This progression has a nice flow and is fun to improvise over. If
you are improvising three choruses of a blues, it sounds great to play the
progression shown above on the second chorus to give the solo a fresh
sound and add some new color. On the third and final chorus, you can go
back to the original blues progression to bring it back to home base.
Here is another option (Ex. 6):
Remember that these are just three examples of what can be done to add
color and variety to a basic progression. This is in no way designed to take
away from the beauty and simplicity of the blues. It’s just a way of giving the
soloist a new vehicle to build new sounds and directions for his or her solo. Q
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BY BILLY TAYLOR
M ilt Buckner was a great jazz pianist who, because of the star system that prevails in the
jazz field, was never given proper credit for his tremendous contribution to the jazz lexicon.
Buckner was an imaginative, innovative musician who developed orchestral-sounding block chording into a widely imitated piano style. His facility
for playing rapid, highly rhythmic passages in chords was astounding (check
out his recording of “Nola” with vibes player Lionel Hampton in the late
’30s), but he was so consistently relegated to the role of accompanist that
few listeners realized what a great soloist he was. The devices he created
were popularized by other pianists (George Shearing, Nat Cole, and so on)
and have become an important part of contemporary jazz piano playing.
The basic concept is simple: Harmonize a melody using four-part
closed-position harmony, with the melody doubled in the octave below
(see Ex. 1). Nat Cole and other pianists of the early ’40s also liked to double the top two notes of the chord. I have found that to double all the
notes gives an even fuller sound, most efective in slower passages.
Because the jazz pianist has the ability to play melody, harmony, and
rhythm simultaneously, the piano has been used orchestrally in jazz since the
ragtime days of Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton. Milt Buckner pioneered
in exploiting the four-, five-, and six-part voicings that were being used in
scoring for the various sections of the big bands of the late ’30s (see Ex. 2).
As you can see from the examples given so far, this style of block
chording was called the locked-hands style because, in order to play
it properly, the hands had to move across the keyboard as though they
were locked together at the wrist.
In the chronological development of the jazz lexicon, styles have
often overlapped. I call the transition period between swing and bebop “prebop.” The pianists of that period laid the groundwork for those
who followed them by incorporating the locked-hands device and other innovations of the period into their own styles. For instance, Jimmy
Jones used the kind of pattern shown in Ex. 3 to accompany violinist/
[Y
This article
originally
appeared in
the December
1977 issue of
Contemporary
Keyboard
magazine.
JUN E
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vocalist Stuf Smith on “Perdido,” while I used the kind shown in Ex. 4.
Other pianists, such as George Shearing and Oscar Peterson, have used
combinations of chords and octaves in order to accent certain notes
while playing with greater speed (see Ex. 5).
Buckner’s astounding technique allowed him to finger the most difficult passages and articulate them rhythmically like a reed section or a
brass section depending on the mood he was trying to convey. He knew
how to be percussive and yet melodic, and his style has been an influence on many of today’s best-known pianists. Those who insist on making comparisons between artists with the idea that any one person can
really be judged “best” do us all a disservice if we allow them to impede
our ability to focus on the superb talents of such artists as Milt Buckner.
It is unfortunate that during the last ten years of his life he got less attention and encouragement at home than he did in Europe.
If you would like to hear how the locked-hands style should be
played, listen to Buckner’s album Play Chords. In the meantime, Ex. 6
shows a tune in his style to play. Q
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BY FRANCIS PREVE
I n last month’s column, we examined a few methods for turning envelopes into LFOs
on synths that support envelope looping. This time, we will invert that process and cover the possibilities lurking within LFOs that can also operate in one-shot mode.
One-shot mode is a neat LFO trick that can be
found on several hardware and software-based
synthesizers. The first time I encountered it in
hardware was in Korg’s monophonic Monotribe
ribbon sequencer. As for software, the ubiquitous
Xfer Serum included it from its first releases.
Depending on the synthesizer’s implementation, one-shot LFOs can be either basic or mindbogglingly complex. Here are a few techniques
you can use on synths that support it.
Fig. 1
KORG MONOLOGUE
Korg’s minimalist monophonic masterpiece, the
Monologue includes a one-shot LFO for use as
a second envelope (see Figure 1). In addition to
pitch and filter cutof, it can also be assigned to oscillator shape, which adds greatly to its usefulness
as a modulation resource.
The crucial concept here is that the LFO waveform determines the envelope shape. For example,
a sawtooth creates an instant attack followed by
decay/release, a triangle delivers a “wow”
efect, and the square can provide a burst
of parameter modulation within a note.
Despite their simplicity, these approaches
cover several classic envelope styles. The
most important thing to keep in mind is
that the envelope time is inversely proportionate to the LFO rate. That is, slow rates
deliver longer envelopes and vice versa.
It is also worth mentioning that the
Monologue’s LFO always completes its
cycle, even in one-shot mode. Because of
this, patches with long releases retain their full
sawtooth decay, as long as the LFO rate is set to a
complimentary value.
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
[[
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XFER SERUM
On the software side, Xfer Serum ofers incredibly
sophisticated LFOs with up to 64 breakpoints and
individually adjustable curves for each segment.
While there are only three AHDSR envelopes,
there are up to eight LFOs—all of which include
the option to operate in one-shot “envelope” mode
(see Figure 2).
As with the Monologue above, the overall rate
of the LFO determines the speed of the envelope
shape, but with such precise control over breakpoints, it’s fairly straightforward to get the contour
you’re after. Because the LFOs can also be synced
to tempo, you can create intricate rhythmic efects
that would be nearly impossible to achieve using
more traditional envelopes.
Because of their extreme configurability, there’s
another trick you can do with Serum’s one-shot
option: Step sequences that play once (see Figure
3). This is amazing for adding melodic bursts at
the beginning of notes, which is an unusual efect
reminiscent of sampled instruments such as the
iconic shakuhachi sample that defined Peter Gabriel’s classic “Sledgehammer” in the ’80s.
Here are three tips for quickly configuring Serum’s LFOs:
1. You can copy all settings (including envelope
mode) from any LFO by simply Option (or Alt)
dragging it onto the “title” of another LFO.
2. Using Serum’s Save Shape feature, you can
create a catalog of envelope contours for future use.
3. To design traditional sequences rapidly, hold
the shift key when adjusting the LFO shape. This
will quantize the breakpoints and slopes into
steps. From there, you can finesse the details of
the LFO contours. Q
Second VCO
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Dual LFOs
Expanded
patchbay
The MiniBrute 2 has the
keyboard action of the
MatrixBrute and increased
sound-design capabilities
thanks to VCO 2 and a
loopable envelope.
ARTURIA
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R eleased in 2012, the original Arturia MiniBrute
DrumBrute’s pads and sequencer, while adding a pair of voltage
control channels for animating
timbre in dramatic fashion. Its
16 velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads serve triple-duty for note entry, sequencing functions, and
parameter settings via a shift button. What’s more,
you can switch between several common keys and
modes, such as major, minor, Dorian, Mixolydian,
and Blues. This makes it easy to whip up musically
interesting sequences with minimal efort.
Above the pads is a row of encoders that facilitate both dial-in note entry and access to the
velocity and pressure values for sequencing synthesis parameters. In terms of innovation, the
MiniBrute 2S feels like an instant classic for the
dance-music scene.
Architecturally, both units are based on the
standard analog design of two oscillators patched
into a filter and VCA, but with an array of thoughtfully designed modulation tools that give it a
unique flavor.
was an instant hit, thanks to its inventive waveforms,
Steiner-Parker multimode filter, and $500 price tag.
This year, Arturia took things up a notch in the
MiniBrute’s evolution by introducing two products designed to fit diferent musical needs—the
MiniBrute 2 with a keyboard and the MiniBrute 2S
with pads and extra sequencing capabilities. And
thanks to their expanded patchbays, both models
can serve as a powerful introduction to modular
synthesis when integrated with Eurorack-based
systems such as Arturia’s new RackBrute 6U and
3U cases.
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KEYS VS. PADS
{oh{˅zGh}hpshislG The
MiniBrute 2 and 2S are far more capable than
puG{~vGmsh}vyz their predecessor, with an additional oscillator,
BY FRANCIS PREVE
Francis Preve has been
designing synthesizer
presets professionally
since 2000. Check out his
soundware company at
symplesound.com.
z{ylun{oz
All analog signal path.
Innovative oscillators.
Extensive patchbay.
Steiner-Parker filter.
Looping envelope. Pressure and velocity sensitive keyboard (2). Robust sequencing (2S).
sptp{h{pvuz
Mult and attenuator
needed to re-create
some common analog
sounds.
MiniBrute 2: $649
MiniBrute 2S: $699
arturia.com
[]
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dual multi-waveform LFOs, an impressive new
looping AD envelope, and a 48-point patchbay
that ofers access to nearly every parameter on
the synth. The MiniBrute’s aesthetics and metal
construction remain largely unchanged, aside
from the addition of retro wood end-caps. This is
a good thing, because the entire line is roadworthy
and both instruments are destined to make it into
studio and live rigs.
The biggest diference between the two models is their approach to musical interaction. The
MiniBrute 2 sticks with a 2-octave velocity- and
aftertouch- enabled keyboard, which has the same
action as the MatrixBrute. Another improvement
soloists will appreciate is that the pitch and mod
wheels are now located next to the keyboard instead of on the front panel.
The MiniBrute 2S is a bold step in a diferent direction, cribbing part of its design from the
OSCILLATOR ENHANCEMENTS
The first oscillator in both instruments is based
around the original keyboard’s innovative take on
the SH-101, with mixable saw, square, and triangle
waves. For those who are unfamiliar with the first
MiniBrute, the sawtooth has a chorus-like Ultrasaw knob, pulse-width modulation is available for
the square, and the triangle features a waveshaping function called Metalizer that transforms its
texture from muted to bright and aggressive. The
original MiniBrute included a dedicated LFO for
the Ultrasaw, and the pulse/square ofered simultaneous envelope modulation and LFO modulation, as did the triangle for its Metalizer efect. Ad-
ditionally, version 1 included a sub-oscillator that
blended sine or square waves in a choice of two
diferent octave ranges.
The MiniBrute 2 includes those same distinctive, mixable waveforms, but with diferent modulation sources: LFO 2 now modulates the Ultrasaw, giving it a wider range of waveforms; pulsewidth modulation is now sourced from LFO 1;
and the triangle’s Metalizer depth correlates with
velocity. Keep in mind that, with the exception of
the Ultrasaw’s additional LFO, all of the original
MiniBrute’s hardwired modulation routings can
be duplicated using the MiniBrute 2’s patchbay
and a little bit of planning.
The sub-oscillator has been replaced with a far
more flexible, second VCO that ofers sine, square,
and sawtooth waveforms and three distinct modes
for its tuning knob: Fine, All, and LFO. Fine mode
delivers a tuning range of slightly more than an
octave in either direction with integrated keyboard tracking. All mode sweeps across the entire
frequency spectrum of the oscillator from around
1 Hz to well above 20 kHz. LFO mode provides
frequencies below 1 Hz. This is the widest tuning range I’ve seen in a non-modular, hardware
synth’s oscillator. VCO 2 can also act as a frequency modulation source for VCO 1, where it can be
used as an LFO or audio-rate modulator for wild
sideband efects.
Moreover, the MiniBrute 2 and 2S appear to
be more stable than the original version, some of
which were pretty inconsistent over a five-octave
range. When I first fired up the MiniBrute 2, I
checked the oscillator’s seven-octave range and
my unit had a ±21 cent diference at either extreme
when the opposing extreme was in tune. A few
hours later, the diferential was the same. After letting it burn in for 24 hours, I tested it again and the
tuning diferential was the same at the extremes.
However, in all cases, when tuned to middle C, the
result was a 5-octave range that deviated no more
than 8 cents from the center.
Granted, these are extreme tests, but after ex-
periencing the issues with my original MiniBrute,
I wanted to examine the new model’s tuning stability thoroughly. Overall, it’s more stable than almost any vintage VCO you’ll encounter.
FILTER FUN
Arturia retained the Steiner-Parker multimode
filter in the MiniBrute 2 and 2S. It’s an aggressive, even brutish (there, I said it) filter with nasty
resonant behavior, regardless of which of the four
modes—low, high, band, or notch—you select.
Resonant notch filtering is a bit confusing if you
can visualize the curve of that filter type, but sure
enough, this Steiner-Parker filter ofers that efect.
The filter’s normaled modulation routings take
a few more chances than on the previous model,
with its two cutof modulation sources patched directly to the ADSR and aftertouch, along with an
attenuator knob for resonance modulation from
LFO 1. Devoting a cutof modulation resource to
pressure and not keyboard tracking is a bold design decision, but using the patchbay, you can
change this if you want more familiar routings.
Having only two modulation inputs means that
you can modulate the cutof with an envelope,
keyboard tracking, LFO, or alternate options, but
you can only pick two without wrangling extensively with the patchbay. That said, newcomers
will probably stick with the factory envelope and
aftertouch defaults which give the unit a characteristic sound.
On its own, the patchbay solves many (but not
all) of the most common routing choices, but the
MiniBrute 2 really begs you to incorporate Eurorack modules if you want it to make several commonplace synth sounds.
MODULATION SOURCES
Each of the two LFOs is identical to the original
MiniBrute’s primary LFO. There are six waveform
options: Sine, triangle, sawtooth, square, random
stepped (sample-and-hold), and random gliding
(S&H with a lag generator). Noise isn’t available,
MIDI Control Center
Arturia’s range of hardware devices lets users customize their deeper behavior using the
aptly named MIDI Control Center software. With it, you can adjust velocity and aftertouch response curves, modify continuous controllers
and channel routings, and save/load sequence
data, among other parameters. Shown here is
the main page for configuring the MiniBrute 2S,
including options for transposition, CV/gate
functionality, note priority, and trigger modes.
FIG. 1: The MiniBrute 2S combines the padbased interface and sequencing capabilities
of the DrumBrute with the flexible synth
architecture of the MiniBrute 2 keyboard.
because it can be addressed using the patchbay.
Each LFO can be independently switched between free-running or tempo-synced to the arpeggiator/sequencer.
The envelopes, however, have a few significant
changes; notably, instead of two ADSRs, the MiniBrute 2 has a single ADSR and an AD generator
with switchable gate (reminiscent of the ARP Odyssey). While the ADSR is normaled to the filter, it
doesn’t include the fast/slow switch found on the
original MiniBrute. Even so, it feels sufciently
snappy, so I’m guessing Arturia opted exclusively
for Fast mode, which sounds better anyway.
I was originally disappointed with the AD envelope that is tied to the VCA, but after tinkering
with it, I discovered how flexible it really is thanks
to its two switches. One toggles between Gate
(maximum sustain) and Trigger mode for plucked
efects. Even more interesting is the inclusion of a
Loop switch. If you read my Sound Design column
on page 44, you’ll see how valuable this feature can
be: With looping on, you can use this envelope for
repeating notes or, using the patchbay, as a fourth
LFO that can vary between triangle and sawtooth/
ramp shapes, depending on how the attack and decay parameters are set. I like this configuration far
better in terms of its sonic potential.
INS AND OUTS
The patchbay is so well-stocked that the eccentricities of the front panel can largely be overlooked, allowing you to reconfigure the modulation routings in a more familiar manner. Since it’s
simply a collection of minijacks that the manual
describes in detail, I’ll cover some of the most
common, practical applications that aren’t obvious from the front panel’s controls.
The MIDI section includes outputs for keyboard, gate, velocity, and mod wheel, so if you
want to add velocity control or keyboard tracking
to the filter cutof, it’s a matter of patching either
of those to the secondary filter attenuator that is
normaled to pressure; or skip the envelope modulation and use its bi-polar attenuator instead.
The VCA includes an attenuator normalled to a
+5V generator for creating drones. Patching one of
the LFOs (or VCO 2 in low-frequency mode) delivers
classic tremolo or modern gated modulation efects.
To re-create the waveshape modulation on the
original MiniBrute, with its enveloping of pulsewidth and/or Metalizer, just patch the same ADSR
that controls the filter to either of their modulation attenuator inputs. However, this is where we
hit a snag with the patchbay: There’s no mult/
splitter. For those who are new to modular synthesis, a mult lets you divide the signal from a single
modulation source and route it to multiple destinations. In this case, to use the ADSR to modulate
multiple destinations besides filter cutof, you’ll
J UNE
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[^
need a Y-cable (or mult and attenuator modules in
a Eurorack system).
SEQUENCER AND ARPEGGIATOR
The onboard sequencer in the MiniBrute 2 keyboard combines the arpeggiator from the original
version with the sequencer from the MicroBrute.
This sequencing is for note and velocity only
(whereas the 2S, described below, is much more
sophisticated), but you can add ties and rests with
a bit of forethought and button pressing.
Each of the eight sequences stores up to 64
steps, with time divisions ranging from quarternotes to 32nd-note triplets. The vibe here is similar to the sequencer in the SH-101, so you can
quickly whip up synthwave or techno patterns
with a minimum of fuss. Eight sequences may
seem a tad stingy, but you also can load and store
sequences using Arturia’s MIDI Control Center,
and the ability to transpose sequences using the
keyboard adds musicality in a live context (see the
sidebar MIDI Control Center).
The arpeggiator ofers eight pattern types, including random and ordered, and shares the time
division options of the sequencer. Additional timing possibilities include five diferent gate times
(10% to 90%) and ten diferent swing settings.
The patchbay provides access to clock and reset functions, with a wide range of voltage clocks
supported in addition to the usual MIDI and USB
choices. These include 1step (Gate), 1step (Clock),
1pulse (Korg), 24ppq, or 48ppq. I ran some tests
using my Korg Volcas and everything functioned
flawlessly.
The focus of the MiniBrute 2S, on the other
hand, is on sequencing, so these features are far
more extensive in the non-keyboard model. It offers real-time note entry from the pads, capturing
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both pitch and gate time (note duration), quantizing that information and associating it with the relevant pad parameters. There is also a row of knobs
above the pads that can be used to directly edit step
values for more than just gate time and notes.
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The sequencer memory in the MiniBrute 2S is
organized into four banks of 16 patterns, but for
some reason, they don’t all reside in memory at
once. Instead, the 2S only loads one bank of patterns at a time. In general, this allows you to work
with groups of related patterns in a fluid compositional manner. The downside is that loading patterns from diferent banks means that the current
bank will be replaced. In most cases, it’s not a huge
hassle, but it does require that you organize your
sequences in advance.
Fortunately, there are amenities for loading,
copying, pasting, and erasing data so that everything is coordinated for live performance. As with
the keyboard version, you can also transfer sequence data using MIDI Control Center.
In addition to pitch and gate time,
there are separate tracks for velocity and
pressure on the MiniBrute 2S. While
these can certainly be used for their labeled functions, you can get a lot more out
of the system if you think of them as two
additional parameter sequences: That is,
if you patch a parameter for velocity control, you can sequence that value using
the knobs when the velocity-track editor is active. The same process applies to
the pressure track. Thus, it can function
as a note sequencer with dual parameter
step-sequencers for each pattern. A noteworthy feature of the MiniBrute 2S is that
the Mod1 and Mod2 tracks can also be used
as envelopes and LFOs. This allows you,
among other things, to generate sequences
of envelopes (with variable attack and decay times on each active step), sequences
of LFOs (for wobble-like patches), another
pitch track for duophony, as well as another gate
track to trigger both envelopes separately.
Live performance with the sequencer is akin to
working with 808-style devices: You can use the 16
pads to toggle steps on and of; or, when the load
key is pressed, use the pads to switch between the
sequences within a bank in real-time, either instantly or at the end of the current pattern.
The Shift key also allows for real-time interaction with the pattern playback in musically useful
ways. While holding the key, the first four pads
select between forward, backward, alternating
(back and forth), and random, which is a lovely
touch. Other pads let you switch between time divisions (note values) and even scale/mode changes, letting you rapidly toggle a sequence between
minor, major, Dorian, or any of the others. This is a
very musical function. The Shift key is also useful
for editing details such as note slides, for a more
303-like sound.
All in all, the MiniBrute 2S sequencer is impressively dynamic in a live context, as long as
you pay close attention to your pattern and bank
organization.
E TWO, MINIBRUTÉ
After digging deeply into both units, I think they
have the potential to repeat the success of the original MiniBrute. The MiniBrute 2 and MiniBrute
2S sound fantastic and are a friendly introduction
to the modular world, especially in conjunction
with the companion RackBrute expanders.
Personally, I think the MiniBrute 2S is the real
innovation here, as its synth can easily be controlled
from another keyboard or USB, if that’s your preference. Moreover, the MiniBrute 2S’s clear layout and
intuitive approach to live sequencing gives it an addictive, one-of-a-kind feel. Q
3
Ways to Stay in
Tune with
1
2
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AIR MUSIC
TECHNOLOGY
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Fig 1. As the cursor (a blue diamond, highlighted in red) moves along its path
on the x/y axis, the sound morphs between programmable states you can
assign as destinations. Here the patch morphs between settings, including
Complexity, Delay, and Reverb Mix.
A dditive synthesis is easier to understand than
BY MARTY CUTLER
Marty Cutler
is the author
of The New
Electronic
Guitarist (Hal
Leonard).
z{ylun{oz
Unique sounds with lots of motion. Excellent library of presets.
Modular approach encourages
creativity and experimentation.
sptp{h{pvuz
Can’t audition samples before
loading. Can’t click and drag
modules to diferent positions.
Needs improvements to owner’s manual.
$99 ($49; upgrade from
version 1)
airmusictech.com
Fig 2. The Edit window lets you assign
up to 15 different modules that can
radically alter the instrument’s sound.
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analog-style pad with a subtle,
almost conversational murmuring based on Masai-tribe chants.
The Edit window provides
all of the sonic building blocks;
three are hard-wired and 15 have
menus of various module types
(Figure 2). For example, the Basic
Modules submenu includes several kinds of organs, a fine oscillator-sync emulation, and other useful additive waveforms. Within the Filter module is the Moving Filter,
a sweet comb filter well-suited to this instrument.
New additions include Spectral Noise, which
adds nonharmonic partials to the signal, as well as
Spectral Distortion and Spectral Modulation that
prove extremely useful in creating bell-like and
raunchy out-of-tune sounds.
All of the selections in these menus are modifiers
of some sort: You are not restricted to a menu of waveform presets, because Loom II produces a waveform
with all harmonics present. Because experimentation
is so enticing, I wish you could click and drag modules
to new positions. It would also be handy if you could
audition WAVs from the Load window.
And while the information panes for each
module are helpful, Loom II is sorely in need of a
better organized manual, as some feature remain
unexplained. AIR has a few videos online that
show you around, and you can purchase a Groove
3 video that explains much of the instrument.
to implement: We get the concept when working
the drawbars of an organ, but reproducing complex
sounds, such as an acoustic piano or a gong, is much
more difcult. That’s one reason most commercially
available additive synths lean toward the “creative,”
as opposed to the “emulative” side of things. Loom II
is an excellent case in point.
A 2014 Editors’ Choice Award winner in its
initial release, version II adds new modules and
processors, and comes with a bigger library of presets (including the original library, which has been
revamped to reflect the latest features). Loom II
works as an AU, VST, and AAX plug-in: There is no
standalone version.
LOOM IN ESSENCE
With the exception of building analog-style subtractive-synthesis patches (which this instrument excels
at), Loom II’s user interface may not initially seem
intuitive. But because its semimodular approach is
far less tedious than textbook additive synthesis, it
fosters more creativity and experimentation.
Loom II starts with a rich harmonic palette to
which you add oscillators, processors, and functions. In the Morph window, you can create complex
motion by moving between diferent programmed
states of the instrument on an x/y axis (see Figure 1).
The Wave page has two slots for WAV files. But
rather than grafting sampled waveforms onto synthesized sounds, you create motion through vocoder-like superimposition, with a choice of one-shot
samples or looping. You can change start times,
modify frequencies, boost fundamentals, and more.
With a bit of tweaking, I was able to enhance a rich,
LOOMING PRESENCE
Nevertheless, Loom II is fun to use and capable of
unusual and exciting sounds. Its modular approach
is sure to lead you toward your own creations. I suggest you download the free demo and check it out. Q
Over $300,000 in cash awards & prizes!
ENTR Y FEES HELP SUPPO RT THE NON- PROFI T
JOHN LENN ON EDUC ATION AL TOUR BUS
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Input/output
metering
The RME
Babyface Pro
offers a winning
combination of
compact size
and high-quality
performance in
a USB 2.0 audio/
MIDI interface.
MIDI I/O
Digital I/O
RME
i G
w
T he Babyface Pro is a sleek redesign of RME’s Baby-
You get two analog outputs
on XLR jacks and two headphone jacks, one 1/4” and one
1/8”. Having both sizes adds
versatility, and I didn’t hear any
diference when plugging the
same pair of headphones into
each. According to RME, the
unit has separate driver stages
for each headphone jack, which is designed to allow you to get the best quality from high- or lowimpedance headphones.
The headphone outputs are not individually addressable, however, so you can only send one mix at
a time through them. To create a second headphone
mix, you could feed the main mix into a headphone
amp through the XLR line outputs, or from the outputs of your monitor controller, if you have one.
The unit includes an optical port that supports
up to 8 channels of ADAT Lightpipe I/O or two
channels of S/PDIF. According to RME, that give
you potential of a total I/O count of 12 inputs and
12 outputs, although that includes using the headphone jacks as outputs; to me that’s a little misleading, although many manufacturers count their
I/O this way.
To my way of looking at it, the Babyface Pro offers 12 inputs (four analog plus eight ADAT) and
10 outputs (two analog outs plus eight ADAT).
Sure, you could use a headphone jack as an additional output—say, to drive a second pair of monitors (you’d need a Y-cable, of course, to do that)—
but to me, it’s not the same as having a dedicated
set of individual XLR or TRS line outs.
Nevertheless, the potential to connect up to 12 inputs—in conjunction with an additional ADAT-compatible mic preamp or interface connected through
face portable interface and, as one would expect from
the company, it is solidly built and impeccably engineered. It’s quite versatile and will serve you well in
both studio- and remote-recording situations. What’s
more, you can use the Babyface Pro with either a computer or iPad, or as a standalone mic preamp.
{olGul{G
nlulyh{pvuG BABY WEIGHT
still quite svelte, Babyface Pro is approxivmGhG Though
mately a half-inch larger in all three physical dimenwv~lym|sSG sions than its predecessor. And at 1.5 lbs., it weighs
a half pound more. Nevertheless, it is still small
wvy{hislG|ziG about
enough and light enough to hold in one hand.
interface comes with a handy hard-shell
pu{lymhjlG case,Thewhich
allows you to carry it around with the
BY MIKE LEVINE
Mike Levine is a
composer, producer, and
multi-instrumentalist
from the New York
area and Technical
Editor - Studio at Mix.
Check out his website at
michaelwilliamlevine.com.
z{ylun{oz
Four analog ins.
Built-in I/O. MIDI I/O.
Excellent sound. iOS
class-compliant. Use
as standalone mic pre.
Direct monitoring with
efects. Hard-shell
case included.
sptp{h{pvuz
TotalMix FX complex
to learn. Headphone
outs not separately
addressable.
$749 street
rme-usa.com
\Y
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£Glt|zpjphuUjvt
confidence that it’s protected from damage. The
package also includes a right-angle USB B-to-A
cable for connecting it to your computer.
The most significant physical change is that
RME eliminated the somewhat clunky external
I/O breakout cable for audio connections, putting all the inputs and outputs into the unit itself, which is a lot more elegant (see Figure 1).
The only breakout cable that remains is for MIDI
I/O. With mic and line connections built into the
housing, the unit is more robust for use in remote
locations.
INS AND OUTS
When it comes to I/O count, the big news is that
the Babyface Pro gives you four channels of simultaneous analog input instead of the two that were
on the original unit. The analog inputs include two
XLR mic inputs on the back and two 1/4" line/instrument inputs on the right side (see Figure 2).
the optical port—gives Babyface Pro plenty of expansion capability for a small, portable interface.
Many of the interfaces hitting the market now
feature Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 connectivity. That
the Babyface Pro is USB 2.0 might seem disadvantageous. However, RME states that a 12x12 interface
does not require much bandwidth and that, because the company writes its own drivers, its use
of USB 2.0 provides lower latency and is more efficient than competing devices.
Additionally, the Babyface Pro has built-in DSP
and, when used in conjunction with TotalMix FX
software (free for Mac/Win; $3.99 for iPad), allows
for latency-free hardware monitoring and efects
processing, while giving you plenty of control over
the monitor mixes (see Figure 3).
THREE FACES OF BABYFACE
The Babyface Pro ofers three diferent modes of
operation: Driver-Based USB 2.0 mode for when
you connect to a Mac or Windows computer (which
requires driver installation); Class-Compliant mode
for connecting to an iPad; and Standalone mode for
situations where you use the unit as a separate mic
preamp or as an A/D converter for S/PDIF-equipped
turntables, CD players and so forth.
In Driver-Based USB 2.0 mode, Babyface Pro is
entirely bus powered. In the other two modes, however, you need an external power supply (not included), which connects through the DC power jack on
the right-side panel. For those situations, if you want
to run untethered to AC power, RME suggests using
a battery-powered USB-bus power supply.
CONTROL AND FX
You can control essential functions of the Babyface
Pro from the hardware itself using the large rotary
encoder along with six onboard buttons. You can
set levels for input and output (with excellent metering for both), change the brightness of the display (LED meters and status lights) and even Dim
a selected output. When running in standalone
mode, you can turn on and of the phantom power,
a task that you would do through TotalMix FX in
the other two modes.
TotalMix FX allows you to configure and store
monitor mixes, and add processing such as reverb,
Fig. 2. Headphone outs and line/instrument jacks are also onboard.
echo, and EQ to the sources you’re recording. Unlike
the larger RME interfaces, Babyface Pro doesn’t offer compression. The ambience efects are quite useful if you want to hear reverb on, say, a vocal track
when recording. In a direct monitoring system such
as this, you hear the source before it hits the computer. So, the ambience efects provide a way to add
some vibe to the monitor mix when needed.
The EQ is a 3-band parametric, with a choice of filters on the low and high band and a fixed one for the
mids. It also includes a low-cut filter. Unlike with the
reverb and delay, you can print the results of the EQ
onto the track if you want, although it was not readily
apparent how to switch the EQ into the record path.
After searching through the manual without finding
the answer, I found a video on the RME site in which
the narrator mentioned that you have to open the
window for the separate Fireface USB Settings application (which is always on when you’re using the
interface) and check a box called EQ for Record.
Like many mixer applications that accompany
interfaces, RME could improve Total Mix FX with
a more intuitive GUI. I’d also like to see RME make
the documentation for the software and the interface more comprehensive. That said, once you get
used to the Total Mix FX interface, it’s quite powerful and lets you get the most out of
your Babyface Pro.
In addition to setting up and
controlling monitor mixes and
built-in efects, the software lets
you access talkback, listen-back
and loopback functions. There
is no talkback mic built into the
Babyface Pro hardware, so you
must use TotalMix to designate
an input to be used for talkback, to
Fig. 1. Good-bye break-out cable! XLR I/O is now built-in.
which you can connect an external microphone.
According to RME, TotalMix FX for iPad is almost
identical to the Mac/Win version. The only exception
is that you don’t get the reverb and echo efects. Connecting an iPad requires a USB B-to-Lightning cable.
If you have an older iPad without Lightning, you’ll
need the Apple Camera Connection Kit.
OOH BABY, BABY
During the time I tested it for this review, I found
the Babyface Pro’s sound quality to be impeccable,
both on playback and when recording through
the mic preamps. I tracked electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric bass and percussion through it,
and was impressed at how clean and transparent
the mic preamps were. Overall, it is a solidly built,
high-quality piece of gear, and with TotalMix FX
providing a powerful front end, you get plenty of
control.
Getting rid of the audio breakout cables makes
the Babyface Pro much more manageable and elegant. And increasing the analog input count from
two to four adds more versatility.
Without question, RME has taken the Babyface
concept to a new level with the Babyface Pro, resulting in a superb portable interface. Q
Fig. 3. TotalMix FX software gives you control over
Babyface Pro’s built-in DSP.
J UNE
201 8
£Glt|zpjphuUjvt
\Z
Dual de-esser
Three flavors of
compression
yl}pl~
Three kinds of
saturation
Fig. 1. The processing modules
in Scheps Omni Channel
can be dragged to different
positions in the signal chain.
WAVES
z
G
vG
j
I n a market glutted with channel strips, software
reo, which processes the same
on each side; Duo, where you
can set diferent processing for
the left and right channels; and
M/S, where you can have diferent settings for the mid and side
channels. The Gate, DS2, and
Compressor modules all ofer
internal and external sidechain
access.
Open the default patch in
Scheps Omni Channel and the
first module on the left is called Pre, which allows you to add preamp-like harmonic distortion
to your audio. The three Saturation types—Odd,
Even, and Heavy—represent odd harmonics, even
harmonics, and clipping, respectively. You can dial
in the amount with the Saturation knob.
The Saturation can be subtle or noticeable, depending on how you set it. Either way, it sounds
excellent and is an option you don’t typically find
in a channel strip plug-in.
The Pre module also includes a filter section,
where you can set highpass and lowpass filters,
and adjust their frequency and slope (6, 12, or 18
dB/octave). The final section, Thump, lets you add
in low-frequency resonance—which is tantamount
to a bass boost—with either 2 dB or 4 dB of gain.
The next module is a Gate, which can be set either as a conventional gate or downward expander. It ofers controls for Threshold, Range, Close
(a threshold below which the gate will shut) and
Attack and Release time.
A five-step attenuation meter shows when the
gate closes and opens. Although you probably
won’t need it as often as the other modules, it is
nice to have it at your fingertips when you do.
developers need to ofer more than just a generic
plug-in integrating EQ and dynamics processing if
they want to get their products noticed. One triedand-true path is to emulate a specific hardware unit.
With Scheps Omni Channel, Waves took a somewhat
diferent approach: It collaborated with mixer extraordinaire Andrew Scheps to create a multifaceted
plug-in that seeks to re-create, in a single plug-in, the
collection of key processors Scheps regularly uses.
hGtvk|shyG
johuulsGz{ypwG MOVABLE PIECES
Omni Channel has two main sections: The
~p{oGwv~lym|sG Scheps
Processing Module and the Master Section. The
provides five diferent processor modmlh{|ylzGhukG former
ules—Pre, EQ, DS2, Gate and Comp—and you can
ljlsslu{Gzv|ukG change their order in the signal chain by dragging
BY MIKE LEVINE
Mike Levine is a composer,
producer, and multiinstrumentalist from
the New York area.
Check out his website at
michaelwilliamlevine.com.
z{ylun{oz
Three types of compression. Flexible EQ.
DS2. Pre includes saturation. Focus mode.
Insert slot. Stereo
and M/S processing.
Limiter. Many presets.
Sidechaining.
sptp{h{pvuz
Presets not organized
by instrument/source
type.
$149
waves.com
\[
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them (see Figure 1).
Modules can be turned on and of with one
click, making it easy to minimize CPU by keeping
only the processors you’re using active. I compared the plug-in’s CPU usage against several of
the other channel strips that I have, and in my (admittedly anecdotal) analysis, it seemed about average in terms of power usage.
You also get one Insert slot where you can open
any other Waves plug-ins you own or an additional
instance of any of the five processors, providing
added flexibility.
Clicking on the Expanded View Button in the
corner of each processor opens up a much larger
version that fills the entire module area, making
editing more comfortable and ofering additional
functionality.
On stereo instances of the plug-in, you can switch
each module between three diferent modes: Ste-
The EQ module ofers a great deal of
giving you a lot of monitoring flexibility.
control. You get four bands: High, Low,
Last, the Master Section has a brickMid, and Tone. All four bands give you a
wall limiter with a Threshold knob and
choice of three diferent filters—one fully
a status light that indicates when the
parametric and two with fixed Qs.
limiter kicks in. You can use it to keep
The Low and High sections let you sesignal from going over 0 dB or to add adlect between Shelf, Resonant Shelf, and
ditional crush, depending on where you
Parametric filter modes. The Mid and Tone
set the Threshold.
sections’ ofer Wide, Narrow, and Parametric. In the Mid band, the Wide mode
PRESET CENTRAL
filter is broader than the one in the Tone
Scheps Omni Channel provides a comband. Overall, the EQ section is powerful
prehensive channel-strip toolbox with
and quite musical, with the Mid and Tone
the kind of fine parameter control that
bands being particularly impressive.
will allow experienced engineers to acThe DS2 module has two identical
curately sculpt the sound of a track. If
sets of controls which, like a de-esser, atyou’re not as adept at tweaking, Waves
tenuate a user-specified frequency when
has provided a wide selection of presets
detected in the source. When I first startthat give you an excellent place to start
ed using Scheps Omni Channel, I was a
your settings for virtually any source.
Fig. 2. The Compressor module in Expanded View, showing
bit puzzled as to why I would need two the larger controls and the sidechain EQ section that is not
In addition to a large bank of presets
de-essing channels. But I discovered that available in the normal view.
from Andrew Scheps, you also get setDS2 is way more than a de-esser.
tings from well-known engineers such
Each of its two sections has an on/of
as Billy Bush, Brad Divens, Tony Visconti,
~GzGvGj SG~ G
button, frequency and threshold knobs, a
Jacquire King, and Dave Darlington. Begain reduction meter, and a choice of four
tween all of them, you’ll find presets for
GG G GG
diferent filter shapes. The Side Chain Lisa wide variety of instruments, although
ten button allows you to hear only the aufocused mostly on the meat and potatoes:
TUGz
GSGG
dio that is being attenuated, making your
vocals, drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards.
tweaking decisions a lot easier.
I was impressed overall with the qual SG
GGGGG
When you open DS2’s Expanded View,
ity of the presets. However, I wish Waves
you can set its two sections to be linked or
would have provided the option to sort
G
UG
unlinked, and select an external sidechain
them by source type as well as by the
source rather than the internal one.
name of the creator. If they ofered that
In addition to reducing sibilance, you
option, there could be separate lists for
can use DS2 to tame all sorts of frequency issues. (optical-style compressor) setting is sweet sound- drums, bass, guitar, and so forth. The way it is now,
For instance, if there’s a midrange frequency that’s ing and gives a pleasing silkiness to vocals and if you’re looking for, say, snare presets, you have to
causing a track to sound boxy, you can set one of other sources.
hunt through each engineer-specific menu to find
The FET setting is more aggressive, perhaps them. There may be one or two in each menu, but it
DS2’s channels to knock it down each time it occurs. Having two independent sections makes it a designed to sound like an 1176. VCA mode is trans- makes direct comparisons a lot slower.
parent on lower settings but can really crush when
Waves provided another preset-related feature
lot more powerful.
you turn down the threshold and turn up the re- called Focus mode, which only works on the Anlease. I loved it on snares and on drums, in general. drew Scheps presets. If you turn on the Focus butTHE BIG SQUEEZE
All three compression types are incredibly us- ton in the Waves menu at the top, it highlights the
The Compressor module may be the most powable
and, as you would expect, can be subtle or most consequential controls in the preset, making
erful one in the plug-in. You can choose between
noticeable
depending on the parameter settings. adjustments easier.
three diferent compressor algorithms—VCA,
Having
three
diferent algorithms is a luxury in a
FET, and OPT—giving you the three distinct flachannel
strip
plug-in,
and you’ll use the compresvors of compression in one place.
OMNI POWER
With Scheps Omni Channel, Waves has produced
Below the Compressor Type buttons, you get a sor on every patch.
Threshold knob and a 5-step gain reduction meter
yet another winning plug-in. Skilled engineers, in
TAKE IT TO THE LIMITER
as in the Gate module. Below that are Ratio, Atparticular, will find it to be incredibly powerful.
tack, and Release knobs; an Output control; and a On the far right of the GUI is the Master Sec- Less experienced recordists will find its huge preMix knob. The last allows you to dial in as little or tion, with its sizeable VU-style meter that can be set collection and Focus Mode to be quite helpful
as much of the processing that you want, allowing switched to show Input, Output or Gain Reduc- for creating useful settings.
tion level. You also get Input and Output faders
for parallel compression.
There are plenty of excellent channel strip
But that’s not all: If you click the Expanded and a phase reverse switch, which is always a plug-ins on the market, but thanks to its compreview, you will find a 3-band sidechain EQ that al- handy thing to have.
hensive feature set, smart design, excellent sound
On stereo instances of the plug-in, a series of quality and reasonable price, Scheps Omni Chanlows you to tailor the frequencies that trigger the
buttons allow you to listen to the signal in stereo, nel is poised to become one of the top choices in
compressor through the sidechain (see Figure 2).
The Compressor sounds excellent. The OPT mono, or just the left, right, mid, or side channels, this very competitive market segment. Q
J UNE
201 8
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\\
Pinch-zoom on
touch-screen
yl}pl~
F-Key
Q-Link encoders
The Akai MPC X
often includes
several ways to
perform the same
functions, such as
from the excellent
touchscreen
display or from
hardware buttons
for Undo/Redo,
Copy/Delete,
Save, Overdub,
Full Level, etc.
AKAI
PROFESSIONAL
twjG
W ith the electronic music world abuzz about hard-
{olGyl{|yuGvmG
{olGtvuz{lyG
wyvk|j{pvuG
jvu{yvsslyG
iypknlzG{olG
ohyk~hylG
hukGzvm{~hylG The MPC X benefits from the same modern
ratio that have made sub-$500
~vyskzG price/performance
analog synths such a hit. Going so far as to supBY MARKKUS ROVITO
Markkus Rovito writes
words and music from the
Urban Hermitage in San
Francisco, California.
z{ylun{oz
Comprehensive computer-free workflow.
Fast internal processing. Responsive touchscreen and pads. XYFX.
Pad Performance mode.
Sample Chop. Q-Link
with displays. Wireless
connectivity. CV/Gate.
sptp{h{pvuz
Nothing significant.
$2,199 street
akaipro.com
port Wi-Fi connectivity for using it with the Ableton Link hardware/software syncing standard
and Bluetooth 4.0 for wirelessly connecting MIDI
controllers and/or QWERTY keyboards, the MPC
X simply gives you far more than any MPC before
it at a price never before possible. It costs less than
two-thirds the price of the far inferior MPC5000
when it debuted 10 years ago.
Just as important, features like the dynamically
updating Q-Link knob displays, large touchscreen,
and super-fast internal processing make the MPC
X a fast and powerful production environment for
people who prefer the distraction-free, head-down
experience of a standalone workstation. Far from a
lone wolf, the MPC X also provides expansive hardware control over CV and MIDI hardware, as well
as MIDI software (see Figure 1).
BEYOND BASIC BEATS
The MPC X internal software basically mirrors
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the MPC 2 desktop software,
so that in Controller Mode, the
hardware controls the computer software exactly, and
you can save files both to and
from either your computer or
the MPC X internal 16GB hard
drive. While MPC 2 has added
fully linear audio tracks, making it more like a full-on DAW,
the workflow of the MPC X in
Standalone Mode is based on
Sequences that you can string
together in Song Mode and then
export as MP3, AIFF, or WAV at up to 32-bit floating point/96kHz.
You start with a Project file. Each Project can
have up to 128 Sequences, and each Sequence
can contain up to 128 MIDI tracks and eight audio tracks (or 128 audio tracks in the desktop
software). Each MIDI track feeds into one of six
Program types: Drum, Keygroup (melodic instruments), Clip (sets of looped samples), external
MIDI, CV for controlling analog gear, and Plugin,
which is only available when using MPC X to control the desktop software.
You can play the Drum and Keygroup programs
with the eight banks of 16 pads, and each pad can
hold up to four Layers of samples and up to four
insert efects from the comprehensive selection
of 50+ internal efects. You pull samples from the
10GB Vault collection and other free expansions
that Akai includes, record your own samples, or
import them from connected USB drives or the
SD card slot.
On the MPC X there are multiple ways to perform almost any function from the touchscreen,
ware that takes attention away from screen staring
and mouse clicking, Akai has seized a ripe moment
to bring back a flagship MPC hardware audio workstation. The comprehensive MPC X carries all the
hallmarks of a good ol’ fashioned standalone MPC
but with new-school advantages, such as a 10.1-inch
color touchscreen, 16 Q-Link encoders with minidisplays, and exacting control over the updated MPC
2 desktop software for when you do want to plug in
(and to use software plug-ins).
the Q-Link knobs, or using the cursor keys, numerical keys, and large Data Dial. It’s the same for
creating MIDI sequences. You can record them
in real time with the pads with or without quantization; step-sequence using either the pads, the
Q-Link knobs or the touchscreen; or by inputting
the notes directly on the Grid View of the display,
which also provides hands-on note length, velocity, and transposition editing.
The very responsive touchscreen does so much
for MPC X, with many function buttons sending you directly to view modes like the Browser,
Pad Mixer, Track Mixer, Sampler, Sample Editor,
and more. Additionally, the F-Key mirrors the
six function buttons below the display to the onscreen buttons. The main Menu view serves as the
window to the MPC X’s many treasures, such as
the Pad Mute, Track Mute, and Song modes; the
Pad Color editor; and the Looper, which lets you
record with endless overdubbing in real time and
export the results as a sample.
The Pad Performance mode is a vital way to enhance song creation and musical performance for
melodic MIDI Programs. It lets you assign specific notes, chords, or chord progressions to the pad
banks in the scale of your choice. And the XYFX
view takes full advantage of the touchscreen as an
x/y touchpad for adding efects to a full mix or as
an insert efect on individual tracks or pads. The
XYFX has 17 of its own efect programs, most of
which are tempo-synced with their timing varying along the horizontal axis. You can use the
XYFX spontaneously on playback or record its
movements into a Sequence.
If the five selectable modes of Q-Link control
aren’t enough for you, Q-Link Edit lets you customize the Q-Link encoder assignments. Chop
mode in the Sample Editor is also great fun and
very useful for slicing loops into their own samples at transient points, and then triggering them
from the pads and/or laying them out as MIDI
notes in the Grid View.
HEAVILY CONNECTED
Besides the previously mentioned wireless capability, the MPC X doesn’t skimp on the wired connections for either recording or sequencing external
gear. The four audio inputs start with combo XLR
and 1/4-inch TRS jacks with optional phantom power for Inputs 1/2 on back, 1/4-inch TS instrumentlevel jacks for Inputs 1/2 on the front, and Rear/
Front switches on the top panel selecting the active
inputs. Inputs 3/4 are a pair of 1/4-inch TRS jacks
or a stereo RCA input with Phono/Line switch and
a grounding post for turntables. The top panel has
input level knobs for Gain 1, Gain 2, 3/4 Rec Gain,
and LED level meters for monitoring both input and
output levels.
There are eight 1/4-inch TRS outputs on the
back, and you can route any Drum, Keygroup, or
Clip program track in the MPC X to the output
pairs 1/2, 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, or the individual outputs
1-8. Meanwhile both 3.5mm and 1/4-inch headphone outputs are simultaneously active on the
front with Volume and Mix knobs.
A welcome addition to MPC hardware, the
MPC X has eight CV/Gate outputs on the back
panel for standard 3.5mm cables. You can assign
any CV program track in your Sequences to a CV
output and a Gate output. There are also two 5-pin
DIN MIDI In and four MIDI Out ports. For every
MIDI track in a Sequence you can assign the MIDI
channel, Program channel, and MIDI Out port.
Two powered USB-A ports can also receive
MIDI messages from external MIDI gear, but they
are most useful for connecting USB drives for additional sample storage. The single USB 3.0 port
connects the MPC X to a computer as a controller,
and it also makes any additional storage drives on
the MPC X—USB drives, an SD card, or an optional internal SATA drive—available to the computer.
GOING SOFT
With the MPC 2 software open on your machine,
the MPC X in Controller Mode works very similarly to how it works in Standalone Mode, with the
diference being that what’s shown in the software
adapts to fit properly on the MPC X touchscreen.
You can open the same Projects from the MPC X
drive in MPC 2, with the extra ability to use VST
and AU plug-ins on MPC 2 tracks. You can also
view the name of VST plug-in parameters in the
Q-links.
MPC 2 also works as a VST, AU, or AAX plug-in,
so you can load it into any DAW. For that case, you
can use the MPC X MIDI Control mode to create
a custom MIDI map for its pads, buttons, Q-Link
knobs, and XYFX touchpad to control the host
software when needed.
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RETURN OF THE MACK
Clearly the MPC X wields a huge amount of creative power and control capability, but it also performed very well in my testing. Older standalone
MPCs could test your patience as you waited for
samples to render from processing, but the MPC
X churned out sample pitch shifting, time stretching, normalization, and so forth with the speed of
a modern laptop. It was fast and fluid in all areas of
mode and view switching, recording, editing, timing, XYFX, etc.
The touchscreen supports two-finger pinch
zooming and felt sensitive and highly responsive.
The latest firmware was stable, and I did not experience the glitches, crashes, or bugs that very early
testers sometimes mentioned.
In short, this is the true renaissance of the
standalone MPC. The MPC X keeps everything
that MPC fans love about producing
and performing with the series, and just
adds bells and whistles from there—
more of them than ever before. The
price tag may still be a bit much to convert a ton of new MPC heads. However,
with the scope of its color touchscreen,
high-quality control systems and 24/96
Fig. 1. An SD memory card slot on the front panel joins two USB ports on the back and an internal
audio interface, and generous connecbay for an optional SATA SDD or HDD for expanding the storage available to both the MPC X and to
tivity, I frankly am impressed that the
a connected computer. The 10.1-inch color touchscreen comes with a kickstand for setting it at the
street price stayed this low. Q
viewing angle of your choice and a protective slip-on cover.
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Layers
Fine-tune
the analysis
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Four effects
per layer
Regroover Pro’s renamable Layers have
markers for selecting
their playback range.
Here, the markers play
non-uniform lengths,
creating a drum loop
with parts that drift
away from and toward
each other over time.
ACCUSONUS
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FIXING THE UN-MIXING
Once you drag a WAV or AIFF
(30 seconds or shorter) into Regroover, it analyzes the audio
and churns out four separate
tracks, called Layers, into the
plug-in’s timeline. Each Layer
has a DAW-style track header
with gain, panning, Stereo Enhancer (mid/side
control), solo and mute buttons. Regroover analyzes your loop’s tempo and automatically syncs it
to the tempo of your DAW’s session. You can adjust your audio’s BPM if the analysis was wrong, as
well as switch of host syncing if you desire.
Once you’ve soloed through the Layers, if you’d
like to experiment with diferent results, check
out the Analysis section. It lets you bump up to five
or six layers, and the Activity slider lets you adjust
for slow-changing music or for busier clips. For
every change, you hit Split to re-analyze the file.
Say you want to isolate a particular sound, but
some elements of that sound are spread over more
than one Layer. The eraser, or Annotation tool lets
you highlight sections to be removed from one
Layer and added to another (because the sum of
all the Layers always adds up to the original audio). For example, if a kick drum is spread across
multiple Layers, erase them from all but one layer,
and then use the Lock button (which prevents a
Layer from changing upon re-analysis) on all the
other Layers except the one where you want the
kick. When you click Split, all the kick elements
should be combined to one Layer. That method
worked quite well in my testing for drum sounds
in the low-, mid-, and high-frequency range.
Four strategically chosen efects for each Layer also helped me to tease out only the sounds I
that break down mixed audio files into their component parts represented a holy grail of pro audio
achievement for many years, and now thanks to
the sophistication of artificially intelligent machinelearning algorithms, they are starting to come online.
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Accusonus has a patented, A.I.-assisted audio
yo€{otGthjopulG analysis
engine that enables its Drumatom2 software
to
remove
microphone bleed from drum recordings.
{lhyzGky|tG A similar technology
powers Regroover Pro 1.7 to
split
fully
mixed
drum
loops and other audio files
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into 4 to 6 separate tracks based on similar sonic
hukGwsh€zG~p{oG and rhythmic characteristics. However, unlike other
the appeal doesn’t end with track separa{olpyGwpljlz software,
tion. Regroover’s creative and powerful playback, reBY MARKKUS ROVITO
z{ylun{oz
Separates drum loops
and audio files into
component Layers.
Tools for remixing Layers. Drag-and-drop
sounds to drum pads.
16 stereo outputs.
Strong export options.
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Imported audio limited
to 30". Can’t zoom in
on Layer waveforms.
Can’t change MIDI note
assignments of Layers
and Pads.
$219
accusonus.com
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mixing, and exporting options make an instrument
in its own right.
CRACK-A-TRACK
Regroover Pro’s audio analysis can do wonders in
isolating a particular sound, such as a kick drum
or snare from a full drum loop. However, don’t expect perfect track separation from just any fully
mixed WAV or AIFF just yet. This technology has
come a long way, and it will only get better, but Regroover Pro 1.7 works best with drum loops whose
sounds are distinct in both character and rhythm.
In fact, with certain loops you’ll get near-perfect separation of kick, snare, hi-hat and percussion parts. With full music beds or multitrack
mixes without drums, the results vary. Either way,
you can almost always uncover some interesting
sound design opportunities, and Regroover includes some clever ways to massage better results
out of the initial analysis.
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Fig. 1. You can drag-and-drop sounds, either from Regroover Pro’s Layers or from your
desktop into the Expansion Kit pads, and then shape them in the Editor view.
wanted from the Layers. The gate, EQ, compressor, and saturator can all help you either to enhance and bring to the forefront the sounds you
want or to dampen or eliminate those you don’t.
The gate helped particularly on Layers with little
noise artifacts between the main drum hits.
BANG ON THE PADS ALL DAY
Whether Regroover gives you great, fully usable Layers out of a particular audio file or not, it has a whole
second facet that lets you wring every last drop of
juice out of an un-mixed loop—the Expansion Kit.
This 16-pad grid lets you highlight any portion of a
Layer and then drag-and-drop it onto one of the pads
for playback. It is a quick and efective way to pinpoint the best individual sounds from your un-mixed
audio and stash them in an easily playable pad grid.
Regroover’s Editor view provides editing tools for
the sounds on each pad: start and end points, reverse,
gain, pan, Stereo Enhancer, mute, solo, an ADSR envelope shaper, and two efects—EQ and compressor
(see Figure 1). You can also import any WAV or AIFF
up to 30 seconds long onto one of the free pads.
With the MIDI-playable Expansion Kit, you
could load a favorite drum loop into Regroover,
pull all the best sounds from it onto pads, and
supplement the kit with other samples within
minutes. Or you could mute the kick drum, for
example, from a loop and replace it with any kick
from your collection.
PLAYING/REMIXING/EXPORTING
You can play both the Expansion Pads and the six
Layers with MIDI notes in three modes options—
trigger, toggle, and hold. The Layers begin with
MIDI note C3, and the pads begin at C4. Unfortunately, you cannot change the MIDI notes as-
signed to the layers and pads to better accommodate your own hardware preferences.
Triggering Regroover’s layers becomes even
more fun when you mess around with each Layer’s left and right markers to set the start and end
points for that Layer’s playback. You may want to
focus on looping just the most interesting part of
that Layer, or by making the repeating sections an
odd number of steps on the grid, you can create
loops with the multiple Layers that evolve over
time. Each Layer’s playback region becomes a
sample phrase, and once you start playing those
phrases on a controller or feeding Regroover some
programmed MIDI tracks from your DAW, you’ll
be remixing your formerly static drum loop into a
whole new rhythmic experience.
Regroover Pro supports 16 stereo DAW outputs,
so you can route each Layer and/or each Pad to a
separate audio track in your DAW for further mixing and processing. And to preserve all the work
you’ve done isolating and editing sounds within Re-
groover, you can export the Layers, pad sounds, or
the L/R marker selections as post-efects/post-fader audio files at the same sample rate as your DAW
session. Export options include Layers as separate
files, Layers as a mixed file, a pattern as determined
by your L/R marker selections and the Clip Length,
the L/R marker selections individually, or the pad
sounds as separate files (see Figure 2).
You can also save all your work as a Regroover
Project file, which will make it easier to reopen
into a diferent DAW session, another host software, or to share it with a collaborator.
GROOVE APPROVED
It’s already quite cool that, more often than not, Regroover Pro turns a fully mixed drum loop into multiple tracks of the loop’s component parts. Then on
top of that, its fluid, on-the-fly remixing tools, editing
tools, drum pad player, routing, and exporting options make a fun, fast, and flexible rhythm machine.
Remember that Regroover Pro lets you mine for
snippets of gold within drum loops and other audio that was previously of limits. You won’t always
strike it rich, but any producer whose work includes
a lot sampling, remixing of stems, and drum pad performance should be better of with it than without it.
When it works to its fullest, you can unlock a
single drum loop to be the basis for an entire song’s
fresh and original rhythm tracks. This plug-in has
the potential to rebirth a dusty old collection of
drum loops into an endless trove of new beats. Q
Fig. 2. The Clip Length determines how long the overall pattern of the combined Layermarker selections will play, either when triggered or exported. The top tool-bar also holds
the Grid menu, tempo and syncing options, and a master output control with switchable
limiter and Peak indicator.
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40 effects types
ElasticFX provides an
intuitive way to control
four simultaneous effects
blocks on your iOS device.
EQ, compression,
and stutter/filter
Four processing
modules
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BY FRANCIS PREVE
Francis Preve has been
designing synthesizer
presets professionally
since 2000. Check out his
soundware company at
symplesound.com.
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X/Y control over four
efects. Flexible routing
configurations. AudioBus 3 and Inter-App
Audio compatible.
sptp{h{pvuzG
Reverbs may be a tad
bright for some
$5.99
mominstruments.com
]W
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I t’s no secret that I’m a fan of O-G-Sus’s Elastic Drums
These are graphically displayed
in a manner similar to Ableton
Operator’s algorithms, with all
efects color-coded, so you can
understand the signal flow at a
glance.
Overall, the processors sound
great and have a versatile character that works extremely well
in conjunction with the various routing configurations. What’s more, the efects are thoughtfully gain
structured, so even switching between algorithms
on-the-fly doesn’t create awkward “clipping explosions” like some other efect apps.
Once you’ve got an efect configuration that
suits your audio goals, it’s time to dig into ElasticFX’s automation tools, which let you create 1-,
2-, 4-, 8-, or 16-bar motion sequences for each of
the X/Y points, with Ableton Link sync baked-in.
During my tests, I got lost in this feature for nearly
an hour and came up with some impressive loops
that would have been difcult to achieve by other
means. Fortunately, I was able to capture them in
the AUM mixer app, which integrated perfectly via
both AudioBus 3 and Inter-App audio standards
ElasticFX also has a robust MIDI implementation, with the ability to assign continuous controllers to any of the four X/Y axes, as well as the wet/
dry parameter for each efect. The assignment process is elegant, too, as it is simply a matter of hitting
the MIDI Learn button, tapping a destination, and
moving the desired CC knob on your controller.
Priced under six bucks, ElasticFX is an impulse
buy that will immediately extend your existing iOS
investment for both production and performance. It
sounds great, the automation features are genuinely
inspirational, and MIDI configuration is a breeze. Q
app: It’s one of the best iOS beatboxes available, thanks
to its elegant interface and intelligently designed drum
parameters, which are optimized for modern techno
and experimental grooves. Fans of the app often rave
about its four X/Y multiefects, which are a big part of
its sound, especially in a live performance context.
ElasticFX takes those efects and improves
their processing in both obvious and subtle ways.
From there, it adds an automation recorder, intuitive MIDI implementation, and compatibility with
AudioBus 3, Inter-App Audio, and Ableton Link.
The end result is a standalone efects app that integrates beautifully with iOS tools like AUM and
BeatMaker for a mere $5.99.
Each of the four processing modules ofers 40
efect options, grouped by category: eight modulation efects (chorus, flanger, phaser, and a few hybrids), five pitch-based tools (including ring mod
and frequency shifter), six distortions, three filters, seven delays (with comb filtering and granular types), five reverbs, and five “others,” including
gating and stuttering efects, as well as autopan.
There’s also an integrated EQ, compressor, and
hybrid stutter/filter at the end of the chain.
Because each of the efects is so specialized, editable parameters are limited to the essentials: generally 2 to 4 parameters per type. This makes a lot of
sense, as the focus is on live performance using the
X-Y pad. In other words, there is generally no need
to fine-tune functions, such as the phaser rate and
depth, when they are already accessible on the pad.
ElasticFX includes eight diferent routing options for the four efects, including clever combinations of parallel and serial configurations.
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BY FRANCIS PREVE
T his month, we’ll examine the structure and components of classic analog
drum sounds. Nowadays, these percussion instruments can be created with
nearly any full-featured softsynth—including Ableton Operator, Xfer Serum,
or Reason’s Thor and Subtractor—but the underlying principles are identical.
That said, the tonal identity of any given synth—hardware or software—will
define the sonic flavor of a bespoke drum kit.
While it’s possible to re-create timbral aspects of familiar analog drum machines like a Roland TR808 or TR-909, exact duplication can be extremely tricky since the original units incorporated specialized circuits that defined their sound in a way that traditional synthesis tools can’t quite capture.
Although this master class includes tips for approximating those iconic drum machines, the
techniques are broader than that, encompassing other classic analog percussion sources like the
Simmons SDS-V and Roland CR-78. Once you understand the essentials, you can then explore
the range of possibilities lurking within your existing tool kit of instruments, but with a much
broader range of customization options than those of the originals.
SYNTH DRUM ESSENTIALS
If you consider the analog technology available for those classic drum machines from the ’70s and
’80s, it becomes obvious that they couldn’t possibly include dual oscillators, extensive filtering,
and multiple modulation sources. In those days, having a full synth for each drum would have
been prohibitively expensive.
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To recapture their essence, you have to think
about them in terms of their simplicity. It’s no exaggeration to state that many of the most familiar
drums are downright minimal, technically speaking.
To get started, it helps to understand that many
of the early analog drum sounds consist of two elements: a sine or triangle wave and a noise generator
with filtering. Of course, envelopes are involved,
but with the exception of simulated maracas and
cabasas, these are strictly ramp shapes with instant
attack and simple decay/release segments.
Some of the early Roland tones, notably cymbals
and the iconic 808 cowbell, rely on more complex oscillator configurations that are unique to their custom
circuits. Additionally, the distinctive 909 toms use a
dual-oscillator approach. But by and large, the most
common drum sounds can be re-created with a single
oscillator, noise generator and filter, with a few basic
envelopes for sculpting the behavior of each.
Since these design techniques apply to a huge
variety of synths, we’ll approach the concepts agnostically, using diagrams that are applicable to
nearly every modern subtractive synth. Figure 1
shows the architecture that serves as the foundation for most of the drums in a standard kit (kick,
snare, toms, hats and cymbals), so if you have a
synth that supports this structure, you’re all set.
KICK DRUMS
You’ll want to keep your oscillators in the 30-70Hz
range or all kick drums, keeping in mind that 40-50
Hz is the sweet spot. It’s worth noting that frequencies below 40 Hz may not be reproduced by many
speakers, which is why the magic notes for clubfriendly bass are E0 (41.2 Hz) to A0 (55 Hz).
808 Kick. It’s fascinating that the most popular
kick drum for modern dance music (the Roland TR808 kick) has, arguably, the simplest architecture of
any synth sound; a sine wave with no filtering, with
a ramp (decay/release only) amplifier envelope and
a pitch envelope set to an extremely fast decay (see
Figure 2). Setting your pitch decay to between 20
and 70 milliseconds will impart that trademark 808
“click” transient (depending on the depth of the
pitch modulation), while longer amplifier decay/
releases (both should be the same) will give you
that “Jeep drone” originally popularized in hip hop.
If you want to use your custom 808 kick for bass
lines, switch your synth to monophonic mode so the
releases don’t overlap and create unpleasant lowfrequency intermodulation artifacts. For a more synthwave, retro sound, back of on the pitch envelope
and shorten the amplifier decay. The result will be a
shorter, more traditional new-wave kick.
Pro Tip: If your synth only ofers a triangle wave,
you can approximate a sine by using very low filtercutof frequencies that eliminate all but the lowest
harmonics. In this case, route the rapid pitch envelope
to the filter cutof as well, to retain the attack transient.
909 Kick. You can simulate the 909 using this
same architecture, but switching to a triangle wave
followed by a lowpass filter with a very low cutof
frequency. From there, add a bit of cutof modulation from the pitch envelope (on some hardware
synths, these are one and the same).
Next, increase the decay of the pitch/filter envelope to the 200- 500 ms range. By lengthening this
decay, then adjusting the depth of the modulation for
each destination, you can increase the punchiness of
the kick into 909 territory. I’ve heard several producers refer to this as “chest punch,” which is fairly apt.
Pro Tip: By experimenting with cutof modulation depth, in conjunction with slightly raising the
cutof frequency itself, you can simulate the hardstyle distortion efect, since triangle waves contain
odd-numbered harmonics—the same harmonics
that are emphasized by adding a distortion pedal.
SNARE DRUMS
Classic analog snares generally consist of a sine/
triangle tone generator and a noise generator,
each with their own dedicated amp envelopes (see
Figure 3). Fans of the 808 and 909 (and TR-8 and
-8S) snares are already familiar with the “snappy”
knob, which is essentially a volume knob for the
noise aspect. Reduce that to zero and you’re left
with the tonal element of the drum.
While both the 808 and 909 include a bit of control over that component, many other vintage drum
machines do not. As a rule of thumb, E2 is the MIDI
Fig. 1. These
are the core
modules for
re-creating
nearly any
analog drum
or percussion
instrument.
Despite its
apparent
simplicity, the
architecture is extremely flexible.
Fig. 2. Kicks
are among the
easiest drums
to synthesize,
especially the
ever-popular
TR-808, which
is basically
just a sine wave with an attack transient.
Fig. 3. Most
analog snare
drums consist
of two components—a
short, pitched
tone with a
sharp attack
and a burst of
noise that Roland traditionally refers to as “snappy.”
note that’s generally closest to the most common analog snare pitch (around 160 Hz). For a less derivative
drum sound, it’s worth examining everything from
100 Hz (beefier) to 200 Hz (thinner) for the pitched
component. As with the kick drum, applying a pitch
envelope with a lightning fast decay can add a strong
transient, which will help the snare cut through a mix.
As for the noise, filtering and amplifier decay are
the two defining parameters. Unless your synth allows the pitched oscillator to be routed directly to
the output—or through its own filter—you’ll need
to stick with a lowpass filter to fine-tune the noise
character. Some synths, like Reason’s Subtractor offer detailed control over noise decay, volume, and
color (tone), which is perfect for this application.
Other synths, such as Sylenth, ofer parallel signal
paths with independent filters for sculpting the
noise without afecting the sine/triangle oscillator.
808 Snare. Start with a sine wave, tune it to 160
Hz (or play E2), and give its amplifier envelope an
instant attack and decay/release time between 250
and 350 milliseconds. If there’s a lowpass filter in
its path, open the cutof to maximum.
For the noise component, give it a separate
amplifier envelope and re-create the “snappy” parameter using its volume. The snare decay parameter can be simulated by varying the decay/release
value between 100 and 600 milliseconds.
If both sources also share a single amp envelope at the end of their synthesis signal path, be
aware that it will afect the overall decay, in addition to any enveloping on the oscillator and noise.
909 Snare. Structurally, the 909 snare is nearly
identical to the 808, so you can use the above instructions as a starting point. While the pitched
waveform of the 909 is more complex than a simple sine or triangle (and too short to be determined
using an oscilloscope), a triangle wave serves well.
The amplifier envelope of the pitched element has
a slightly longer decay, but not significantly so.
As for the pitch envelope, part of the 909’s
punch comes from a slightly longer decay. Instead
of the 808 click, experiment with decay ranges
in the 100-200 millisecond range. Additionally,
lowering the lowpass cutof to 90% and applying
an identical envelope to modulate the cutof will
enhance the impact of the sound. From there, you
can adjust the noise decay independently to taste.
Pro Tip: To make the 909 snare emulation
even more convincing, apply generous amounts
of compression. This was a key production technique in classic house and techno.
TOMS
Those other drums in the kit—the toms—are no
less important than the kick and snare in adding
the right vibe to your music.
808 Toms. Under the microscope, the 808 toms
are largely based on the same architecture as its
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kick: A sine wave with an extremely short pitch envelope for a transient, and an amp envelope with
a short-to-medium decay/release—but played in
higher octave ranges. However, if you listen closely,
you can hear a touch of lowpass filtered noise with
a very low cutof frequency subtly blended in the
background. Because of this, the architecture for
the snare drum will work well for reproducing
them, by following the above instructions.
909 Toms. 909 toms are a diferent beast altogether, consisting of two oscillators tuned a fifth apart (7
semitones), with the fifth being slightly lower in volume. Here, a triangle wave will serve as a convincing
substitute for the original oscillator circuit. As with
its kick and snare, the 909 toms’ pitch envelope has a
slightly longer decay than the 808 (100-200 ms). This
adds punchiness and should also modulate the filter
cutof frequency for added authenticity. The base value for the cutof should be about 40% to 60% of maximum. From there, customization is a matter of what’s
available on your chosen synth and personal taste.
Simmons Toms. Simmons electronic drum
kits dominated the ’80s. While the Simmons kick
and snare were just as common, it’s the SDS-V
tom that is the most recognizable today, as it’s also
a close cousin of the disco tom.
Because of the era’s technology, the Simmons
tom is incredibly easy to re-create with a modern
synth, where a single ramp decay/release envelope
governs pitch, filter cutof, and amplifier equally.
The only variables for customization here are
global decay time, pitch modulation depth, lowpass
cutof frequency, and filter envelope depth. Additionally, a second pitch envelope with near instant
decay can be used to add the trademark Simmons
click to the attack of each hit. Figure 4 diagrams the
architecture and routing for these toms. Because of
their simplicity, experimentation will yield a huge
assortment of familiar new-wave and disco toms.
Pro Tip: To create that classic disco-tom
sound (pew! pew!), skip the noise generator, open
the filter cutof to maximum, and use a sine wave
instead of a triangle.
PERCUSSION
Wood and metal provide the defining acoustical
properties of real-word
percussion such as cymFig. 4. Remarkably, Simmons
(and disco)
toms rely on a
single envelope
for pitch, filter
and amplifier
duties.
Fig. 5. Noisebased cymbals and hihats get their
shimmer from a highpass filter.
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bals, hi-hats, cowbells, and claves.
And although hand claps, bongos and congas
are made of diferent materials, they share design
elements with metal and wooden percussion, but
with a few additional tweaks.
Hi-Hats and Cymbals. While the TR-909’s cymbals were all sample-based, the 808’s cymbal, hihats, and cowbell are all based on a bank of six pulse
oscillators that are processed using a HD14584 hex
Schmitt trigger inverter chip. This is amazingly specialized and nearly impossible to reproduce without
physically re-creating—or digitally modeling—the
circuit design. So, we’ll stick with the synthesis model we have used so far to build the types of cymbals
and hats found in ’60s- and ’70s-era home organs
and the Roland CR-78 drum machine.
Here, the architecture is remarkably straightforward: A noise generator followed by a resonant
highpass filter followed by an amp envelope, with
no other modulation (see Figure 5).
For hi-hats, start with the open hat by selecting
white noise and a highpass filter (12 and 24 dB/octave both work for this). Next, raise the cutof to 2
kHz or higher and adjust to taste. From there, give
the amp envelope a medium decay of around 1,000
ms to nail the character of an open hat.
For a closed hat, duplicate the sound (by saving
and reloading, or copy/pasting) then give the new
sound a tight decay of 200 ms or less.
To get the closed hat to cut of the open hat,
as on all drum machines, you’ll need to create a
“choke” or “exclusive” group and assign both hats
to the same group. Ableton’s Drum Rack allows this
from within its input/output section (see Figure 6).
This assigns both drums to a monophonic channel,
so that when one plays the other is cut of.
Pro Tip: To get closer to the vintage Roland
CR-78 character, add a touch of resonance to your
highpass filter to create more of a “ping.”
For cymbals, use the above open-hat design principles, but with a very long decay and release time.
Clave. A clave is another simple sound to synthesize. All it consists of is a sine wave (or filtered
triangle) with an amp decay of 150-250 milliseconds (see Figure 7). That’s it. You’re done.
E6 is a good MIDI note to begin with, and the
frequency range of 1.5 to 3.5 kHz ofers a wide array of valid options.
Pro Tip: While it’s tempting to add a touch of
pitch envelope to enhance the transient, at these
high frequencies, the result will be more of a
squeak or chirping sound.
Fig. 6. To make closed hi-hats cut off open
hats, assign both to the same choke group.
Shown here is Ableton’s Drum Rack system
for configuring this.
Fig. 7. For
claves, all you
need is a sine or
filtered triangle wave and a very fast amp
envelope.
Fig. 8. Cowbells,
agogos, congas,
and bongos can
all be created by
experimenting with ring modulation.
Fig. 9. The fastest route to analog handclaps
is a noise burst
with bandpass filtering.
Cowbell. The essence of the original 808 Cowbell consisted of four simultaneous pulse waves
at the following frequencies: 555 Hz, 835 Hz, 1.37
kHz, 1.94 kHz. You can easily swap them out for
sawtooth waves, if your synth doesn’t provide
pulse-width control.
Since there’s no filtering—and 555 and 835 Hz
are the dominant frequencies—you can approximate this timbre on nearly any two-oscillator
synth by dialing in those tunings. (A tuner and
MIDI key-to-frequency chart will help if you’re
synth is limited to semitones and cents.) From
there, set your amp envelope decay to around 600
milliseconds. Even on an afordable synth like the
Korg Minilogue, the results are compelling if you
have the patience to tune it properly.
As for more realistic cowbells, the process is quite
simple. Using the same approach as the above clave
example, increase the decay time to around 400-500
milliseconds, and place a ring modulator at the end of
the chain (see Figure 8). Because ring modulators add
the sum and diference to the original source frequency and the ring mod’s oscillator frequency, it’s easy to
add the metallic cowbell texture with a little tinkering. The result will change dramatically depending on
which notes you play and how you tune the ring-mod
oscillator, but it’s worth the time to get it right.
Pro Tip: You can often use these same settings
to create congas and bongos, simply by playing the
sound a few octaves lower. For agogo bells, try a
higher octave.
Handclap. 808-style handclaps are very difcult to re-create on a standard synth, because the
initial portion of the sound includes a dedicated
circuit that sharply repeats a fast attack-decay
transient three times, followed by a more traditional decay for the “reverb” element.
To simplify this technique for nearly any synth,
just use white noise, followed by a static (unmodulated) bandpass filter with a cutof frequency
between 800 Hz and 1.5 kHz. To add more of a
cupped-hand sound to the clap, increase the resonance. The amp-envelope decay works best between 450 and 800 milliseconds.
Pro Tip: For finger snaps, increase the bandpass cutof to around 2.5 kHz and add reverb. Q
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BY SARAH JONES
I n 2015, after a dozen years hosting BBC Radio 1—interviewing the likes of Paul
McCartney, Adele, and Kanye, and enthusiastically championing emerging artists of every genre—DJ Zane Lowe was tapped by Apple to launch its Beats 1
digital radio station. The move marked a shift in strategy for Beats Music and
iTunes Radio, bringing in a name-brand personality—arguably the world’s most
influential radio DJ—to inject vitality into its 24/7 streaming service. I sat down
with Lowe to learn how he’s working to bring a sense of musical community to
the streaming world, and how that translates into opportunities for artists.
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When I first started at Beats 1, we all to
some degree felt like we were making radio on
a streaming service, and over time we realized
that while we have similarities with radio, we
are really a live stream. What we try and do is
create an environment where streaming music
can come to life. It’s about search and discovery. Beats 1 moves in real time—and so does the
music, and so do the artists, and so do the fans.
It’s the most exciting time ever to witness that
conversation between artists and fans.
lead-up time prior to a record’s release like there
used to be. There’s really not a point in talking
about a song unless it’s available on streaming
services and everywhere for people to add to
their libraries and share with their friends. The
creative is always on and never ends, whether
you’re making the record, making the video,
making the track listing, working on your merch,
figuring out the timing of the record, etc.
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That’s a good question! Not a lot. But I was
aware when I took this job and came to work
at Apple that I was going to have to put my entire focus into streaming, where it’s going, and
what it can become. I still feel that we’re at the
early stages of this streaming era, and there’s
still so much work to be done on every single
pG G G G G G G level. And while that’s exciting and challeng GGˈˉG˅GGGT ing, it doesn’t leave room for much else. I did
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The conversation between an artist and their recently are just coming to light now, includBeats 1 launched with artists controlling their audience has become much more direct and ing a song by Jacob Banks, which I co-wrote
own context. We launched with OVO Sound we’ve realized that the concept of promotion is with John Newman. But really, at the moment
Radio (Drake and his manager, Oliver El-Khat- changing. It’s becoming so much more creative. I’m entirely focused on trying to help build a
ib), OTHERtone (Pharrell Williams and music If you’re an artist now, you don’t necessarily need really healthy streaming business at Apple and
supervisor Scott Vener), and The Pharmacy (Dr. to tread the same boards as your predecessors. adding value to that conversation between the
Dre). That’s been a huge part of Beats 1 from You can find new and interesting ways to “pro- artist and the fan. If I ever think things are
the start, to put this experience in the hands of mote” your music in ways that are personal and moving in a perpetual fashion and I have some
the artist and let them lead the narrative. We’re super creative. There really isn’t the same long time, I’ll be in the studio in a flash! Q
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JUN E
20 18
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