ardutouch

ArduTouch is an all-in-one Arduino synthesizer learning kit for $30

This looks like a near-perfect platform for learning synthesis with Arduino – and it’s just US$30 (with an even-lower $25 target price). It’s called ArduTouch, a new Arduino-compatible music synth kit. It’s fully open source – everything you need to put this together is available on GitHub. And it’s the work of Mitch Altman, something of a celebrity in DIY/maker circles. Mitch is the clever inventor of the TV B-Gone – an IR blaster that lets you terminate TV power in places like airport lounges – plus brainwave-tickling gear like the Neurodreamer and Trip Glasses. (See his Cornfield Electronics manufacturer.) …

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tr808

Watch this to learn how to create hip-hop 808 bass lines easily

You either already know what this is about – or you don’t know that you already know what this is about. That is, you’ve heard bass lines made with 808s all over the place. That’s likely to continue, too – thanks to the dominance of PAs with heavy bass, and the corresponding use of bass in all kinds of tracks, this has become a big part of musical language. And it’s a versatile approach to making bass lines. Because of its construction, you could take this same technique and apply it to any kind of music. But yeah, it is …

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montagekeyboard

Yamaha may have the best workstation synth, now quietly improved

The workstation keyboard hasn’t died in the age of the computer and the analog revival. Instead, it’s just gotten, well, more workstation-y. Advances in embedded computation have gone alongside general purpose computer hardware, making the workstations from Japanese giants like Yamaha, Korg, and Roland do more than before, with expanded functionality, memory, and sound. These instruments do so much that it’s hard to describe them. But I know even some serious synth enthusiasts who have a lot of respect for Yamaha’s Montage. That may come as a surprise, partly because Yamaha’s marketing is aimed squarely at other groups. So yes, …

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0-coast

Two videos show why the Make Noise 0-COAST modular is cool

2016 was the year when people said, hey, I want to get in on some of that modular goodness, but … maybe I don’t want to buy a rack and spend thousands of dollars to do that. So it’s great to finally see desktop semi-modular becoming a thing – and an affordable thing at that. There’s the best note entrant, Moog’s excellent Mother 32. But I also like the much odder, but still affordable Make Noise 0-COAST (that’s a zero, not the letter o). It’s got a far more idiosyncratic front panel, but that shouldn’t put you off: it’s still …

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Photo: Randy Yau, via Barry Threw on Flickr.

In memory of Jean-Jacques Perrey

Soon after the loss of Don Buchla, another legend of synthesis has passed away. Jean-Jacques Perrey died last week. Perrey was a master of whimsy and invention. He’s of course best known for his collaboration with Gershon Kingsley, “Baroque Hoedown,” featured in Disney’s Electric Light Parade. But that’s emblematic of a broader contribution: he’s one of the leading pioneers of the 20th Century in introducing the sounds of electronic synthesis to a mass audience, with noises heard from Sesame Street to TV ads. Here’s the master composer playing his own best-known tune: It’s also notable that, like Bob Moog, Perrey …

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arp_odyssei_image2_rgb

Korg turned their Arp Odyssey into an iPhone, iPad app

Let’s be clear: Korg’s ARP Odyssey remake is a thing of beauty. But it’s now also available as an app … one with awkward spelling that’s nonetheless rather awesome looking. Meet ARP ODYSSEi. (Hey, that “i” has been on the beginning of words for eons now. Maybe it wants to flip to the other side.) ODYSSEi is a modeled version of the ARP Odyssey. And it’s a bit like an “Odyssey+”. It’s got the three filter types and drive from the new 2015 Odyssey reboot (the hardware). But iOS brings other features: Voice assign mode – with chord playback Arpeggiator …

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The overview screen, for navigating - some overtones of both Kai's software from the 90s and the better stuff from Apple (Sculpture).

Substance is a new software approach to every kind of bass

There are those desserts that are subtle. And then there are the ones that are layered chocolate and peanut butter and cream that you drench in still more chocolate sauce, but in a way that holds together. You know – layering. Substance, a new soft synth from Output, is all about layering. It’s about making enormous bass things out of other already pretty-large bass things. And it represents a nice latest chapter in what the boutique software developer has been doing with sound design

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screenshot_569

BlokDust is an amazing graphical sound tool in your browser

Just when you think you’ve tired of browser toys, of novel graphical modular sound thing-a-ma-jigs, then — this comes along. It’s called Blokdust. It’s beautiful. And … it’s surprisingly deep. Not only might you get sucked into playing with it, but thanks to some simply but powerful blocks and custom sample loading, you might even make a track with it. And for nerds, this is all fully free and open source and hipster-JavaScript-coder compliant if you want to toy with the stuff under the hood.

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bengal

Bengal could be the Ableton synth you’ve been waiting for

Years ago, when Ableton’s Operator FM synth designed by Robert Henke made its debut, it was a revelation. Its clear panel design and flexible architecture made FM synthesis more accessible to countless Ableton Live users. But now Operator, while still a great go-to instrument, certainly deserves some competition. And that makes Bengal special. The production of Max for Cats (and Christian Kleine, another key designer of Ableton instruments), Bengal also innovates in the area of clear design and architecture. And with a semi-modular design, it goes further than Operator in opening up avenues for creative sound design.

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karplusstrong

Watch a perfect explanation of modular physical modeling

Eventually, even the most impassioned synth lover gets bored of mixing oscillators together. You need a little spice in your sound life. You need Karplus-Strong synthesis. Commonly associated with physical modeling strings, Karplus-Strong can also be thought of as a flexible feedback system of delayed, filtered noise. Okay, that’s a lot more abstract than imagining fake strings, but I say that for a reason – because it’s a system with lots of component parts, you can use it to create a wide palette of sounds. Some might sound like strings. Some might sound more artificial. Some might sound like percussion. …

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