stew's synth emporium

For all non-guitar instruments; mandolins, synths, kazoos, and anything else musical that doesn't fit elsewhere.

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stewart
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stew's synth emporium

Post: # 1298716Post stewart »

been going a bit crazy with the old synth gear, lads. my motivations are many and complex; i'm not bored of playing the guitar, it's more just the sound of guitars that i'm finding increasingly dull, and i've never been one for gimmick pedals that make your guitar sound like a trumpet or whatever... factor in my limited abilities with 6 strings (i can blag it, but i'm actually quite shit). couple that with the fact that i'm about to embark upon a more electronic project (short version- the B.I drummer has fucked his wrists and has carpal tunnel, which means a drastic reconfiguring of that band if it's to continue), i thought i should be in the position where i have the tools to compose and record and experiment a bit. i'm also hoping to move somewhere with a bit more space in the next year-18 months or so, which should give me the room to have a working studio setup (more on my current limitations later). so, i decided to get a few new things in addition to the existing keyboards and stuff i had kicking around (chiefly: a Rhodes stage 73, my trusty Roland Juno 106, a 1st gen Novation BassStation and assorted Casio bits and bobs ~ the most interesting being a CT-410V, which is one of two models they made in the '80s with an analogue ADSR filter).

so, in december my birthday was coming up and i thought it would be nice to get a Korg MS-20 mini. they're extremely easy to find second hand, and they're pretty cheap. i found one listed locally, at a keen price, and promptly bought it. i discovered after a couple of days that i hated the mini keys, and was kind of down about it. i was talking to a friend about it and he suggested one of the full-sized MS20 kits that korg released as a limited edition. they normally sell for about 600 but i managed to find one for 475, so i sold the mini and bought that. MUCH better (for me).

[youtube][/youtube]
(this is me just pissing around briefly)

so that was that. everything i need. except... i'd only ever properly dabbled in analogue synthesis, and really felt that if i wanted to be able to produce certain sounds (i'd been listening to a lot of early-mid '90s electronica) i could do with an FM synth. to test the water i picked up a Yamaha YS100 for £40. this was designed by Yamaha for people who wanted some degree of sound control, but didn't want/need to get bogged down in the full horrors of FM programming. that being the case, you really need to hook it up to a computer to edit the sounds fully. that required more expense and hassle, so i donated it to Damn Teeth (one of my bands) and got a Korg DS-8 instead. SO MUCH BETTER. it has a few analogue-style sliders for quick sound shaping, as well as a clear editing map and (suprisingly) good stock sounds. i even discovered the other day it has a really, really good Rhodes sound. maybe not for use in isolation, but for demos or textural stuff in a mix it's ideal. that was a concern i had for my planned setup, more on which later.

[youtube][/youtube]
(not my video, but an ok one)

as nice as the MS20 is, there are certain things it can't do without modifications. pulse width modulation being the main one. i do very much like PWM. that led me to looking at the Jen SX1000, a cheap monosynth (both when it was made and now). after an abortive attempt to get one in liverpool with wwrrss's help (top lad) i got one for slightly cheaper on ebay (250 delivered, i think). it needed a service, but it sounds and looks amazing. has a certain Moog-y/ARP-y quality about some of the things it can do, and it has 2 (two!) ADSR sections.

[youtube][/youtube]
(again, just a brief mess around from the night i got it home)

inbetweentimes i realised that i didn't actually have enough space for all these keyboards in my house, but because of the plans i had, i still needed a few things. so i'm forever grateful that 19" racks exist. i picked up a Yamaha TX81Z FM rack synth (cheap as hell, classic bass sounds), a Novation DrumStation (808/909 emulator minus the sequencers) and i'm waiting on a Roland MKS30 arriving at the moment. that's a rackmount version of the JX3P, which uses the same voice chips (although the architecture is different) to... the Juno 106!! now, you may ask why i'd want two broadly similar devices? that's the setup issue i was talking aobut earlier. because space is at a premium, and i can't very well hold rehearsals in my bedroom, nor do i want to sit on my own in our rehearsal space writing when i could be at home, i thought it would be good to split my gear. so the rehearsal space would have the Rhodes, Juno, Jen and some effects units, at home I'd have the DS-8 (remember that very useable Rhodes sound?!), MS-20 and now, the MKS30 which at a push can broadly replicate Juno flavours, all controlled via an Akai MPC2000XL sampler/sequencer brain. so that's essentially similar sounds available at both locations, which is pretty exciting. i also have a Korg SQ1 sequencer and a Volca beats drum machine, which means i can take those and the MS20 away with me on weekends away up north. pretty much covers any scenario in which i'd find myself wanting to compose....

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when i do eventually move and have space, i'll have a formidable array of hardware i can use as my own private studio (i also have more stuff languishing in storage- '60s Vox Continental, Philips Philicorda and Hammond organs, probably all pretty fucked by now if i'm being honest). shame by then i'll be almost 40 and capable of making nothing but shitey old man music, but hey ho. these things take time. ((penpen))
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Post: # 1298733Post NickS »

What a lovely selection. You sound like just the man to buy a vintage Hohner Cembalet, currently doing nothing in my loft....
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Post: # 1298745Post stewart »

Would certainly be interested once I have the space. The imaginary room is going to have to be some size...
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Post: # 1298752Post Thomas »

It'll be well nice once it's all set up. Very cool setup.
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Post: # 1298767Post lorez »

Some great sounding kit Stewart, I'm still getting my house sorted but will soon have space to set some stuff up. I like the idea of the rack mount stuff as well
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Post: # 1298770Post gusman2x »

Can't listen at work, but will check it out over the weekend.

Can you recommend a drum sequencer/sytnh/whatever? I want something that I can programme quite easily and use with garageband. I'm currently putting in individual hits on the garageband drum synth using the computer keyboard, but it's not very intuitive, and doesn't have a sequencer. Don't want anything for live use, just something I can quickly use to construct a beat. I did consider a volca beats, but I'm a n00b with synths etc so don't know if that would be the best use of my cash.
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Post: # 1298774Post stewart »

The Volca beats actually sounds pretty crap, the Volca sampler is much better if used as a drum machine but you need to do a bit of extra work to get the functionality out of it, from what I can tell.

The Akai Rhythm Wolf might be worth a look, it seems pretty cool. They also do the Tom Cat which is more of a pure drum machine, the Rhythm Wolf has a monophonic bass synth built in.
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Post: # 1298885Post aen »

stewart wrote:The Volca beats actually sounds pretty crap, the Volca sampler is much better if used as a drum machine but you need to do a bit of extra work to get the functionality out of it, from what I can tell.

The Akai Rhythm Wolf might be worth a look, it seems pretty cool. They also do the Tom Cat which is more of a pure drum machine, the Rhythm Wolf has a monophonic bass synth built in.
I heard those AKAIs have terrible pitch drift? Or maybe it was just a sloppy tuning system, I forgot.

Volca beats is kind of weak sauce, but it's actually pretty awesome with a chain of effects pedals. Probably half of my instagram is volca beats into pedals.
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Post: # 1298900Post stewart »

The snare on the Volca beats is laughable, will be doing that resistor mod when I get the chance.
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Post: # 1298911Post lorez »

Instead of a drum machine/sequencer & because you're already using GarageBand have you considered something like ableton? Or is it on the iPad? If so some of the Korg apps might suit
plopswagon wrote:I like teles and strats because they’re made out of guitar.
robroe wrote:I dont need a capo. I have the other chords in my tonefingers
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Post: # 1299155Post stewart »

got the MKS30 (finally). two of the voice chips are dying, so i need to get that sorted. still, it was a bargain, and it has decent potential. the programming interface was like, WTF until i read the manual, it's ok when you have the map in front of you. once it's fixed i'll get an external controller for it (which is a specific piece of hardware for this synth, and not cheap).

here's a quick clip of a sequence on the MKS and me noodling manually on the Juno. they have the same voice chips so blend together quite nicely:

[youtube][/youtube]
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Post: # 1299164Post BearBoy »

There are some iPad apps that replicate some of the old Roland programmers. Not sure if there is one for the PG-200 but you can buy clones (although they're about £200 so not exactly pocket change).

You've got some great stuff there Stewart.
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Post: # 1299166Post stewart »

yeah, come to think of it there's definitely an ipad app for the JX8P controller (forget what it's called, PG500 or something). the Dtronics PG200 clones go for about 180 second hand, which is kind of swallowable given the hassle it saves... if only Roland had put a MIDI out on this thing it would have been easy to control parameters through pretty much any device.

the thing about all the stuff i've acquired, apart from bigger things like the Juno or MS20, everything is pretty cheap. like, £250 or less.
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Post: # 1299186Post gusman2x »

lorez wrote:Instead of a drum machine/sequencer & because you're already using GarageBand have you considered something like ableton? Or is it on the iPad? If so some of the Korg apps might suit
It's on a mac.

So, would I get a touch pad controller thing?
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Post: # 1299195Post stewart »

That would work, you need to get your head round Ableton though (and potentially have to buy the software, unless you have a copy that came with an interface or something).
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Post: # 1299211Post Mages »

Love it stew, cool stuff.

Have you heard of the MKS-7 "Super Quartet"? I had thought it was just a sort of preset module but recently found is actually programmable through MIDI. It's also closely juno related.

lemme just spoil these videos so as not to hijack your thread too much
► Show Spoiler
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Post: # 1299228Post Mages »

a question about the SQ-1, how does it work as a MIDI to CV converter? there hasn't been a lot of info about that out there.

I was thinking about getting one but now I'm looking at the Arturia KeyStep.
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Post: # 1299258Post stewart »

Mages wrote:Love it stew, cool stuff.

Have you heard of the MKS-7 "Super Quartet"? I had thought it was just a sort of preset module but recently found is actually programmable through MIDI. It's also closely juno related.

lemme just spoil these videos so as not to hijack your thread too much
► Show Spoiler
yeah, i've seen those. i think the downside is you can't save any patches or something along those lines. i've only seen one on uk ebay since i've been paying attention to such things, it sold for £485 a couple of months back.
Mages wrote:a question about the SQ-1, how does it work as a MIDI to CV converter? there hasn't been a lot of info about that out there.

I was thinking about getting one but now I'm looking at the Arturia KeyStep.
the SQ1 is pretty basic; although it has CV out with switchable voltages, it only has MIDI out, so i don't see any way of using it as a converter. you can run MIDI and CV out at the same time, but that's about it. i haven't seen the keystep, but i've played around with the beatstep and it's a much more versatile sequencer than the SQ1 for CV applications, from what i remember. arturia are kind of killing it right now, everything they release is cool as hell.
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Post: # 1299325Post Mages »

MIDI-in via USB. I saw a youtube video where someone demonstrated conversion to CV was possible when sending MIDI out from a computer. What im not sure about is will it work with a keyboard.
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Post: # 1299334Post stewart »

Ah, of course, I forgot all about that, I use that port to power it from a phone charger.

I guess if you had a keyboard with a USB out it should work, in theory.
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