Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Experiments in Audio - Part 2: Nanoloop, Korg X911 and Danelectro Reel Echo

Random Gear Shot

So tonight I decided to create a track using just three pieces of gear: Nanoloop with a Gameboy Pocket, Korg X911 Guitar Synth and my newly purchased Danelectro Reel Echo.

Gameboy Pocket with Nanoloop, Korg X911 Guitar Synth, Danelectro Reel Echo, Boss BR8 Digital Recorder

Five individual tracks were created, all about 5 minutes in length. The original waveforms were created on the Nanoloop, which is a synth cartridge for the Gameboy which allows you to tap directly into the sound chip parameters, utilising a 16-step sequencer. The Nanoloop site has a pretty comprehensive description of how it works. The signals from the Nanoloop were sent into the Korg X911 (see my previous post for more details on this unit). Three of the sequences were sent through the pitch to cv convertor to drive the X911's oscillators and two of the sequences were sent directly through the filter. The oscillators and filter were tweaked throughout. Each track was also run through the Danelectro Reel Echo pedal, with some tweaking throughout.

Here is the sound file that resulted.

I find that since I purchased the Reel Echo pedal, I have been using it quite frequently. It has several features that I find useful. It has a lo-fi dial that allows you to roll off a little high-end from each successive echo, which allows for some great, deep tones. There is also a "tape warble" feature which is sort of like a chorus effect, but sounds great when you run a messy tone through it.

The Nanoloop is endless fun. There are tons of sound files on the forum at nanoloop.com.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Gear Spotlight - Part 1: The Springboard Dub

I had a request today to post some pics of the inside of the Springboard Dub. This instrument was built for me by Arius Blaze, of Audible-ism.com, which seems to have vanished from the net recently. He built a ton of fascinating instruments.

The Springboard Dub

This instrument is basically two cannibalized delay circuits, with bends added, built in a small piano-shaped cabinet (the unit is about 13" across, 18" high). There are springs in the cabinet where the piano keys would usually be. Apologies for the low-res pictures, I currently only have access to a very cheap camera.


These springs are connected to a metal plate inside, which is wired to the rest of the circuit. There is also a small pickup behind the metal plate, and the resulting audio signal is fed into the first delay unit (on the left side of the unit).


The audio from the pickup is sent into the first delay. I haven't been able to identify where the unit was cannibalized from, but the original (pre-circuit bent) delay control was a slider. This delay has delay length, delay feedback and spring audio input controls, plus a switch that lengthens the maximum delay time, also adding a significant amount of noise (which is quite a plus in this unit).


The signal from this first delay is then combined with the signal from the 1/4" input on the left of the Springboard Dub and fed into the second delay. This delay has length, feedback and effect level controls, plus a switch which lengthens the maximum delay.


This unit also contains a nine-plug patchbay with each patch linked to a bend in the delay. These can be patched together in any combination, plus the springs are wired into bends so you can patch springs to a point in the patch bay and add additional glitches to the delay.


The delay unit on the right is, I believe, an Ibanez DL5 based on the delay chip in it (a Mitsubishi M50195P). There is an interesting article about how this chip works.


I will shortly be acquiring a new and better camera, and will replace these shots with better ones.

As for the sounds on this unit, here are some examples of what it can do:

Sample 1
Springs plucked: Starts with first delay on; springs are plucked while the feedback knob is adjusted; then second delay is added at around the 1 minute mark; then some glitches in the patch bay starting at the 2nd minute.

Sample 2
Theremin: Played through the second delay; at about 45 seconds glitches from the patch bay are added (occasional spring plucks throughout).

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Experiments in Audio - Part 1: Speak 'n Math, Korg X911 and Boss SP303

So I sat down late on Tuesday night and hooked up my circuit bent Speak 'n Math (by fastmatt) to my Korg x911, to my Boss SP303 sampler, just to see what happened.

Circuit Bent Speak 'n Math

Korg x911 Guitar Synth

Boss SP303 Sampler

The Korg x911 is a stripped down Korg MS20 with a bunch of presets (all analog oscillators) and an analog low-pass filter (the same filter as in the MS20). It is driven by a built in pitch to cv convertor. Basically when the Speak 'n Math output is hooked into the X911 it acts like an unpredictable, but manipulatable sample and hold wave.

I found a few interesting glitch loops from the Speak 'n Math and ran them through the X911 (sometimes sweeping the filter), picking slightly different settings on the X911 each time. After sampling 10 loops (all different lengths, but in multiples of 124 bpm) and one long "solo" (about 2 minutes in length) I sorted through the loops and picked the most interesting ones. I made a five-minute recording that slowly adds one of the loops at a time, and eventually layers in the longer solo part (but run backwards).

Here is the sound file that resulted.

Let me know what you think.

Gnostic Rocket

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Some Gnostic Rocket Live Recordings and My Gear List

My custom built delay unit - The Springboard Dub

So here is my first post on the new Gnostic Rocket Blog. As I have a job that now allows me an inordinate amount of time on the internet, watch this space for all kinds of goodies for the gear heads. Tonight I'll be posting some pics and sound files from an experiment I did last night utilising a circuit bent Speak 'n Math, a Korg X911 Guitar Synth and my Boss SP303 sampler.

For now here are some sound files and my gear list.

Here are some live tunes, recorded at Toronto's infamous Ambient Ping with special guest Sean Beresford on guitar.

Ambient Ping - Dec. 13/05 - Track 1
Ambient Ping - Dec. 13/05 - Track 2
Ambient Ping - Dec. 13/05 - Track 3
Ambient Ping - Dec. 13/05 - Track 4
Ambient Ping - Dec. 13/05 - Track 5
Ambient Ping - Dec. 13/05 - Track 6

Gear List - Live set-up

Yamaha CS-01 analog synth with breath controller
Theremin fed through a Korg x911 analog guitar synth
1957 Magnatone lap steel guitar with matching 4-watt tube amp
Kork Electribe ER1 drum machine
Boss SP303 sampler (all samples are self-generated in my home studio)
Springboard Dub - a custom built delay unit by Arius Blaze
Maestro Phase Shifter phaser pedal
Electro-Harmonix English Muffin tube pedal
Danelectro Spring King spring reverb pedal
Danelectro Reel Deal delay pedal
1963 Gibson Hawk tube-amp
Mackie 1202-VLZ Pro 12 Channel Compact Analog Mixer

Studio set-up

Sequential Circuits Prophet 600 analog synth
ARP 16-voice electric piano
Ensoniq ZR76 digital synth/sequencer
Sequential Circuits Drumtrax analog drum machine
Simmons SDS-1000 analog drum rack unit
Boss DR-55 Analog drum machine
Korg Electribe EMX digital synth/sequencer
Freeform Analog Technologies Freebass FB383 analog bass unit
3/4-scale Engelhardt Upright Bass
Aria Electro-Acoustic Upright Bass
1958 Kay Speed Demon guitar
Torino Acoustic Guitar
Jay Turser JTB-2B Hofner-clone electric bass guitar
Circuit-Bent Speak and Math by FastMatt
Circuit-Bent Radio Shack Toy Keyboard by jamforthelamb
Nanoloop 1.2 gameboy synthesizer cartridge
Boss BR8 8-track digital recorder
Audio Technica ATM27HE microphone