Critter and Gitari’s $150, Battery-Powered Pocket Piano

Pocket Piano from Critter and Guitari on Vimeo. Apologies to the immense powers of lumbering studio gear, but a new lifestyle may be forming around unique, mobile, small, simple synths. The latest entry comes from none other than Critter and Gitari, some of our favorite electronics designers, based in Philadelphia. This time, they’re touting a pocket synth. No MIDI, no control voltage – just wooden keys, some knobs, an audio out jack, and a speaker. But the killer feature is, it runs on batteries. That allows you to take it anywhere, including – as evidenced by the video – on …

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$5-10 Modular Studio on the iPhone, Mac, PC, Mobiles: SunVox Video Tutorials

So, you’ve seen lots of interesting looking iPhone apps, but most of them strike you as gimmicky. Others have interesting workflows, but limit you to working on the mobile device, not switching back to a computer. And maybe you’re perfectly happy with a phone running Windows Mobile or Palm OS. Enter SunVox. This is not a mobile music making app for the timid. It’s a powerful suite of soundmakers and sequencers, baked together into a modular environment that lets power users tweak to their heart’s delight. It’s small, it’s fast, and it looks – and sounds – a lot like …

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New Teasers: Urs Heckmann Modular Soft Synth, and the Fairlight CMI Returns

In some of the news I’ve missed in the last couple of days are some unusual announcements. Urs Heckmann can be fairly considered one of the great soft synth designers, with accomplishments like Zebra. His latest, Bazille, like many recent soft synths, is a hybrid: FM synthesis plus phase distortion plus the obligatory subtractive synthesis. In an early teaser video (he apologizes for audio quality), he shows off its modular design. Now, modular routing is something we’ve seen in some form in other recent synths, from Maschine to Future Audio’s Circle. But for Bazille, the layout of the whole synth …

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Tweak and Tweet: Make and Share Synth Sounds with Twitter

Tweet A Sound: getting started tutorial from Andrew Spitz on Vimeo. You probably think of social networking and messaging as being about text, about saying things like “Wow, this tuna salad sandwich I’m having for lunch is delicious!” But the next Tweet you get on Twitter could be a synthesis preset. Say what? Working in Max/MSP, Andrew Spitz has developed a tool called Tweet a Sound. It uses Twitter as a communications platform for “social sound design.” Instead of just saying, “Wow, I be makin’ phat basslines,” you can actually share the sound. Whip up a sound using typical FM …

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Ableton Live Tutorial: Learning Operator with Faux M.A.N.D.Y. – Booka Shade Sounds

You’ve seen the splashy “sound just like –” headlines in various music magazines. But imitation is, after all, an essential form of musical development. Something magical happens as you try to imitate something – you begin to hear it differently. Sometimes you wind up nailing something exactly, and in the process discover how you might make your own, unique sounds. And sometimes, the process of translation falls apart, and instead of an imitation you go somewhere else altogether. But I do think you learn something by imitating, however successful you may be. You also often gain new appreciation for the …

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Free Exclusive Ableton Operator Download: “Less Cowbell” 808 Sounds, New EP

The simple interface of Ableton’s Operator belies some truly lovely soundmaking capabilities. Our friend Francis Preve, a principle Ableton sound designer who has contributed hundreds of presets since 2004, has a new single out that makes use of some of those sonic possibilities, combining Operator with juicy spectral and granular effects in Live 7. As a gift to Ableton users on CDM, he’s giving us both the rack he used and some tips on squeezing noise out of the Ableton instrument. (By the way, I’m open to tips for other platforms, not just Ableton — ask for what you want!) …

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Noise.io, “First” Synth for iPhone/iPod Touch, Will Bring Gestural FM Synthesis Control

The iPhone and iPod Touch are getting their share of metronomes, guitar tuners, sonic toys, and even one fairly full-featured sample-based drum machine / arrangement tool (BeatMaker). But what about live synthesis? Noise.io (short for Noise for iPhone) claims to be the “first” synth. (I believe, technically, that honor goes to Einar Andersson’s iPhone synth, but that isn’t yet an official iTunes app, and it’s relatively basic by comparison.) We’re waiting for a video demo and audio samples, and the developer warns that even the image above is an “ugly beta,” not the real thing. But we do know that …

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Wrist Synths: Whisper-Quiet Wearable Wristband FM; Solar-Powered Beats

Tired of all those DIY electronics projects making an awful racket? This one is whisper-quiet. You may have to turn up your volume to hear it at all. Project creator Andrew Benson (maker of many wonderful things for Cycling ’74) writes: I just finished sewing together an FM synthesizer that lives on a wristband and is controlled by a little brown button that serves as a knob and a pair of small pressure sensors made from conductive fabrics. The whole thing runs off of an attiny45 chip, which is a really cheap AVR microcontroller chip that I’ve programmed with some …

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