monolith

The Monolith is a huge synth powered by Teensy, shown at Maker Faire

The Monolith is a “ginormous” music making machine, powered by a tiny chip and tiny code – the Teensy and one single Arduino sketch. And what you get is a completely non-portable synthesizer with flashing lights, controls for sequencing and synthesis, and the ability to make beats and melodies. It won accolades at this year’s Maker Faire in California, and creators Darcy Neal (aka Lady Brain Studios) and Paul Stroffregen (the Teensy’s inventor) joined Tested to show it off. (That’s the YouTube show by Mythbusters’ Adam Savage.) They’ve packed a lot of clever features: Arcade button controls 8-step sequencer with …

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circuit hands on 5

Circuit 1.5 adds staccato, patch preview, and MIDI CC stuff you want

Circuit is small. Circuit doesn’t do too much. But what Circuit has been doing is steadily adding little improvements that are exactly what users have been asking for. It’s a uniquely focused tool, and that’s the reason I find myself writing about little firmware updates. They’ve been really important. Now 1.5 continues that trend with three features that, while not flashy, could actually have a huge impact on how you work. Watch, in this clear video: Fractional Gate or “staccato” features let you record up to six different levels of gate length – that’s how long the note will sound. …

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octaveone

Watch Octave One demonstrate their elaborate, hands-on live rig

We value the new and the young a lot in electronic music. But developing musicianship requires time, patience, and practice. So to see where electronic musicianship might be able to go, it helps to look to the people who have invested years. And that’s why it’s worth repeated visits to Lenny and Lawrence Burden, aka Octave One (also aka Random Noise Generation). Not only are they brothers who have grown up together, and can literally complete each other’s sentences, but they’ve been building the technique of how they play since their first 1989 release. Before we get to that live …

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steps

Steps is an iOS sequencer that works in your hand, sequences hardware

This will sound like ad copy, but it’s true: Steps is the handheld iOS sequencer that all your mobile gear has been waiting for. Our MeeBlip line makes MeeBlippy sounds, but it needs a MIDI input for notes – like a step sequencer. (I’m not just plugging our product here – I’ve even pondered writing my own app to fill the void.) The volca series and Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators have their own sequencers, but it’s useful to have a clock source for all of them – and you might outgrow their built-in sequencing functions. Add to that countless other …

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dude_prod_pic

Bastl’s Dude is a €75 mixer in the space of four AA batteries

One of the many clever ideas packed into Bastl Instruments’ show-stealing Superbooth stand last month was a tiny, cheap line mixer. Imagine starting with a battery compartment that holds four AA batteries, and building around that, and you start to get an idea of Dude. It’s tiny. It’s just €75 (slightly more for Europe with VAT). And it’s something a lot of you will likely want. Watch: Dude isn’t without compromises. The big one is, it’s a mono mixer only – not stereo. So you get five inputs, but they’re all mono inputs. Now, a lot of the stuff you …

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ni_maschine_2-6-5_sw_update_screenshot

Maschine 2.6.5 makes it easier to manage ideas, routings

Ableton has accustomed a lot of us to the idea of having a grid of bits of ideas we can trigger and layer (among other similar metaphors in drum machines and the like). So of course that same functionality would make sense elsewhere. Maschine Jam took Native Instruments’ groove workstation into a different direction by focusing on how you generate, transform, and arrange ideas. Now that focus on workflow is finding its way into the whole Maschine family, both in the form of refinements to Jam and new functionalities elsewhere. So, as NI quietly rolls out Maschine 2.6.5, all Maschine …

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raymondscottelectroniumsoundpage

In the 80s, Keyboard Mag released sounds on flexi vinyl

Before the Web and SoundCloud, publications wanting to share sound examples – whether that was from artists, tutorials, or whatever – had to get creative. And so it was that Keyboard Magazine included flexible discs in the magazine, some time in the 80s. Based on a discussion from various Keyboard editor and contributor veterans, it seems there have been a number of attempts to digitize these over the years, along with lots of other useful content like those Brian Eno DX7 presets I shared yesterday. But the sheer content volume of a monthly magazine published starting around 1975, plus the …

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brian_eno_yamaha_dx7_patches_crop

Get original DX7 patches made by Brian Eno in 1987

You can’t get much more 80s synth power than this: Eno. DX7. Keyboard Magazine. Yes, it seems there’s a magical synth site called Encyclotronic, full of patches and hardware specs and other goodies. And it seems that site has noted that back in 1987, Keyboard Magazine managed to extract some of his favorite patches for the Yamaha DX7 and shared them with readers. Sadly, Keyboard lacks any kind of exhaustive archive. (Believe me, having edited a book from their archives, I know – thar be dragons.) And because this was a paper publication, Mr. Eno didn’t share everything. So somewhere, …

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synthbikebw

Summertime means less synth, more Synth Bike

Electronic musician – mad scientist – inventor LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER is taking his synth bike on tour, finally answering the question “how can I have more synth, but get exercise and a tan?” And for all of you stuck in a windowless basement studio, that means he can do his jam in places like the landmark Tempelhofer Feld airport in Berlin. It’s busking, with wheels. Synth shop Schneidersladen is another obvious destination: And the invention itself is just mental – a bunch of electronics strapped to a bike, with the advantage of mobile sound and even backpack recording, now …

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Sonic Robots' Glitch Robot.

Here’s how Mouse on Mars are using robots to expand their band

Analog and digital? That’s just a small slice of the pie. The post-digital / post-analog world uses those two ingredients but adds others, like biological, photochemical, optical, and perhaps most importantly, kinetic. Instead of electrifying screens and circuits, then, you can also make stuff move. Mouse on Mars, in collaboration with the Sonic Robots project of Moritz Simon Geist, are making just such a collective – human meets robot. And it makes some sense not just in technological terms, but aesthetic ones. The German collaborative get as playful with robotic use of objects and percussion as they do in their …

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