synth tutorials

Circuit Bending the Casio SA-serie

Doing some circuit bending on my casio keyboards  I collected some useful schematics to “safe-bend” the casio sa serie (sa 1 2 5 8 10 20 etc).
The main mod is the one from Casperelectronics that adds interesting bends as the “glitch/randomizer” , “feedback” , “5th add”, “pitch shift” and the classic “power crash”.

Casio SA-X

In the forum I found another scheme based on the casper mod but with some adds.


Getting powerful kicks out of the Monomachine

The Monomachine is an interesting instruments not only for “classic” synth sounds but can even work as a 6 elements drum synth sequencer.
The Six machines are not a great restriction for rhythmic composing, as the beatbox on one track only can keep the rhythm busy, while I can synthetize kicks snares, percussions and cymbals on the other channels/machines.

In this post I want to examine the monomachine as a “kick generator”.
The best “Kick machines” are without any doubt the GND-sin and the EFM machines.
The best way to start is to genearate the SINE wave, with the envelope with the decay  set to do a 808 type kick and hold and release at ZERO.
The first thing to understand it’s that the punch in the sound is given by the typical pitch sweep.
Faster is the sweep , harder is the punch.
So to make the pitch sweep you can use the LFO , set to TRIG , with the EXP wave, getting the right amountand the right Speed.
As you have created your kick sound , then applying the “dynamics” efx in neighbour mode (on the folloowing track ) and setting the compressor to work in a rude way with a high ratio, medium attack and short release you get the final punch to the kick.

Making Kick drum using an LFO (in a modular synth)

The kick is a relly important percussion sound in electronic compositions, let’s get a different way to make it.

Usually to synthetize a good kick we use a sine wave layered with a square, and balance the two if we want a softer kick or if we want more attack.
VCOs tends to be harmonically rich so it’s not simple to get a kick that sounds not clearly tuned.
To get a more “percussive & less harmonic” kick (but it is even useful to create percussions like toms or bongos) I use an LFO.
LFO sounds more clinic, not many harmonic content on the wave generated.
Using a simple SINE wave on the DOEPFER A-145 can lead to interesting kicks and percussion.
The path is really simple A145->A132-3 (vca) and an env to control the vca.
The A145 is interesting as a sound source because it can work very well into audio frequencies, the only downfal is the fact that it has no freq. modulation capabilities.

Using the LIVEWIRE VULCAN MODULATOR  we can go further into sound design as the vulcan has cv inputs for the frequency mod.
Using the same signal configuration we can notice that the vulcan sounds more organic, the wave is not a perfect sine, it has some fluctuation too.
The result is a percussion that is not rounded as the 145 but with more punch and more attack.

Chiptune for dummies (part 2) Nanoloop

Nanoloop is a good alternative to LSDJ as a tool for making 8bit music on gameboys, even if it’s a sort of alter ego of Lsdj.
The sw is intended as a synth/sequencer  with a really carachteristic layout.
It uses a grid of 16 step (4 x 4) and in every step there are two marks, as it shows various pages (pitch, envelope, modulations..), the position of the marks shows the value in a graphical way, no numbers.
The particular sequencer force the composition in a more electronic and particular way than LSDJ, that use a classic workflow, and the absence of sample player force the user to build rhythms using the synth parts as noise or wave.
I omitted to say that the sound engine is alway the same (2 x pulse, wave , noise like on every gameboy).
At first Nanoloop can seem a little tricky sw , but after a while I found it really “open on the sound creation” and useful to create loops but also experimental sounds.
The one I described is Nanoloop vers 1.x , the one for the old gameboys, but exist a a vers 2.x too that runs on GB Advance and DS/DS lite, that has a more complex structure and more synthesis potential as FM.

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Nanoloop Vers 1

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Nanoloop Vers 2

chiptune for dummies (part1)

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8 bit/chiptune music is really fascinating but making it is not always simple or easy.
There are many ways and many kind of “chipgear” , I’ll start making a list of the more common instruments used and then I ‘ll start to describe the process from the easier…

  • Nintendo Gameboy + LSDJ & Nanoloop
  • Casio/toy keyboards
  • Commodore 64 + various softwares on disk and cart
  • Commodore 64 as a standalone synth with Cynthcart
  • Gameboy emulators on PC + LSDJ
  • Nintendo DS + softwares
  • Famitracker (NES emulator for PC , midi controllable)

The FAMITRACKER is obviously the easiest way to get into chiptune music making.
It’s a Nintendo NES/FAMICOM emulator that runs on pc with a tracker style sequencer midi controllable.
The NES has 5 track:

  • 2 x SQUARE

every parameter is controllable from the sequencer step by step, the sample track can play one sample at step, but you can import wav and create a drumkit and use the sample track to play the rhythm with your own samples (bit & frequency reduced with the right aliasing!)
The funny thing is that you can play your melodiy with a moidi keyboard , so it’s easier to compose with it compared to gameboys applications.
Famitracker is free and you can download it here.

The second alternative, always using sw on your computer, is a Gameboy emulator.
Just download a GB emulator and then buy the tracker sw LSDJ (little sound dj) here .
LSDJ is a software that can be used on emulators or with the real thing!
Using it with an emulator is convenient for track saving, loading and recording with a “dry” sound.

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LSDJ , like famitracker, is a tracker based on the sound engine of the nintendo, in this case of gameboys, and it has four sources with four tracks:

  • SQUARE x 2
  • WAVE (sample/wave)

This simple sound generator can create amazing sounds with the implementation of LSDJ, like wavetabling, wavesequencing together with classic squarewave sounds and 4bit samples…

These are the two first sw platforms to check if you want to create micromusic/chiptune in an easy way but with the 8bit style.

It’s all for be continued!

Elektron Machinedrum drives Korg MS10

This is a really interesting trick to control an analog synth with the Elektron Machinedrum.

The video and explanation is from the DARENAGER youtube channel:

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Using the Machinedrum to drive a Korg MS10

1.Set up a GND-IMP machine and a GND-SIN machine, in global setting route each of these to their own output – I used E and F in this example.

2. For the GND-IMP machine set it UP to 0, UVAL to 0, DOWN to 64 and DVAL to 127, set the track level and volume to maximum. This will be your trigger pulse, so connect a lead from the output you assigned this machine to into the MS10 trigger input. (output E in my case)

3. For the GND-SIN set it at maximum level and volume, also turn DIST in the routing page fully up (127), set the RAMP and RDEC to zero. This will be your pitch control, route it from its output on the MD you selected earlier into the VCO CV input. (output F in my case)

4. Select accent track and set it to max for all steps and all tracks, it is important that you do this or it won’t work as the accent boosts the juice a bit.

5. Program some triggers for the IMP machine, then place triggers on the same steps for the SIN machine, using parameter locks on the PTCH control you can change the pitch played by the MS10, experiment with different envelope settings on the MS and different triggers for the IMP and SIN machines. As you can tell from the video, there are a few limitations with this technique, first the pitch is not linear and does not act as anything like normal scaling, second on the MS10 you get some bleed though of the SIN sound. If you are electronically minded it should be feasable to build a little circuit to boost the CV output a bit. You can also route the SIN to the V/OCT input or the filter CV input on the MS10, just remember to set the ENV/EXT knob on the VCO or VCF to a high setting or you won’t get as much modulation. This can yield some interesting sounds, have fun and experiment. If you use the V/OCT input you can change the base pitch by playing the keyboard on the MS10. This technique can also work with other synths or devices with CV inputs with varying degrees of success. Also you can use the LFO on the pitch of the SIN machine for some weird fx. I think that is everything, if I have left anything out let me know. Any questions let me know.

Cheers Daren

Elektron Monomachine Sequencer

The Sequencer is one of the most interesting parts of the Monomachine as it can control anything on the machine.
The sequencer works as a realtime or step (Roland TR-like) mode , and it can be switched record on or off with the sequencer running.
That’s ideal for live performance!

Programming notes is easy, if a midi keyboard is connected it can record from midi in , but it can be programmed standalone using the step sequencer buttons as they act as keys.

After notes programming the most useful things is the PARAMETER LOCKS programming.
A parameter lock is a motion sequence of a parameter.
It can be done on a single step (using step programming) or it can be recorded realtime turnig the knobs while the sequencer is running in realtime recording.
This function enables to modify extremely every nuance of the sound in a very easy way , and It’an effective strenght of the Elektron philosophy.

Applied to to a digipro machine , for example, it can create programmed wavesequences…

Applied to an envelope can morph the shape of a sound, from percussive to sustained…

Applied to a efx can for example vary the delay time and feedback…

Every thing in the machine can be controlled by the sequencer and the intensive use of parameter locks can create sound sequences really complex and even really difficult to recreate with another instrument.

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