Category Archive: Synthesizer
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Beatseqr is a hardware step sequencer that offers real time manipulation of parameters from your favorite virtual synths or Digital Audio Workstations. Designed and developed by Steve, an old friend from my DJing days, it is built using the arduino. It boasts some very impressive capabilities such as 4 pattern looping, pattern copying and pasting, and mute and solo… all rolled up into a very intuitive hardware interface. The sliders can be assigned to various parameters of a patch for further tweaking and this is where the beatseqr really shines. Here is some video of the device being used with ReDrum, providing a general overview of the features. There are a number of other informative demonstration videos over at the beatseqr blog.
This website chronicles the history of electronic musical instruments from the late 1800s to 1990. Included is information about the theremin, the Ondes-Martenot and the Telharmonium, which are three very interesting early instruments.
Here is some video I shot shortly after my project presentation which demonstrates the AirDeck virtual theremin application I designed and explains some of the features. It uses the Wii remote as an input mechanism by tracking motion with Infrared LEDs. The AirDeck is written in Java with the WiiUseJ API for handling Wii remote events and the JSyn API for internal synthesis. It can control MIDI out as well as offering a simple DJ scratch interface for real-time manipulation of sound samples similar to a DJ scratching with vinyl records. After about a year of working on this project, I am very relieved that it is finished. I’ve learned a lot and am looking forward to possibly working on other similar concepts in the not too distant future.
When I initially started working on my project, I began with C#, because I had found a Wii remote library which would get my idea off the ground. And it did, and for that I am grateful. Unfortunately, C# does not have a whole lot to offer in the musical arena as far as synth or MIDI functions.
So, I had to look a bit further. I discovered WiiuseJ, which I wrote about previously, which does the whole Wii remote manipulation in Java. Not having worked in Java before I was a bit skeptical as to whether I should embark down this path. But then after further research, I found JSyn, written by Phil Burk. This API offers a very deep and robust set of synthesizer and digital sound processing functions and is relatively easy to pick up and understand, which was a blessing since I am a complete Java noob.
Check out the JSyn website for more information.
The Fall Quarter will be starting up this week and as a result I am really making a final push to complete as much of my project as possible. My goal over the summer was to complete as much of the application as possible, so I wasn’t scrambling during the quarter to wrap everything up. The good news is, I have made some significant progress on many fronts, but I am still not where I wanted to be when the quarter started.
Here is where I am at so far:
- I have redesigned the GUI somewhat, adding elements for some of the features that I am adding. For example, I added tabs to select the mode the AirDeck will be using based on user selection. Right now, my main priority is on the “SynthDeck,” which is the theremin app. I added tabs for ScratchDeck, a DJ scratching utility and MixDeck, a DJ mixing utility. These last two components are outside of the scope of my Project, although I would like to fit them in, time and resources permitting. Even when the Project is complete, I still plan to develop these elements… I Just had to limit the scope of my project work to something that I am 100% confident that I can deliver – which is the theremin/synth side.
- I have the MIDI out working now. This will allow the user to select a MIDI out device and it either can use the built in General Midi Instrument library(from the soundcard), or it can be used to control an external sound source such as a VST instrument, a 3rd party synth application or MIDI capable keyboard/gear. One issue I am trying to work through is that because I am using the MIDI pitch bend control, which is a variable parameter depending on what MIDI capable device is being triggered, the notes on the keyboard grid do not line up with the grid that I currently have set up for internal synthesis. So I might have to dynamically reconfigure the keyboard grid depending on the range of notes the pitch bend is set for, although this is dependent on the external application. I did include a dropdown menu for choosing the General MIDI patch, so the user can change the instrument they are playing. Currently these are represented by numbers, if I can figure out how to get the list of instrument names programmatically, I will add that as well.
- The amplitude control issue has been resolved, although I need to work this out for midi control. It is my understanding that midi control has aftertouch and velocity signals that can be modified, so I need to figure out how to dynamically control these.
- The GUI has been tightened up in terms of event logic. I have individual methods for each of the GUI components such that choices made by choosing certain items make the appropriate calls.
Here is what is currently outstanding:
- While I added synth parameter sliders such as Attack, Decay, Resonance, etc. I still need to figure out how to program those to apply the actual effect.
- Same thing with the effects sliders, which will add global effects such as Reverb and Delay.
- I need to program the preset sounds. I want these to sound as realistic as possible and since I am still learning a lot about analogue synthesis, it will remain a challenge to program these right.
- I want to incorporate patch saving capabilities so that a user can tweak certain parameters of a sound and then be able to recall these later. That is why I have added a File Menu.
- I want to add status indicators that show the three following things: a) the Wii remote is connected, b)battery level of the Wii remote, c) Midi out is active.
Here is the GUI as it currently stands:
During the last Winter Quarter, I took the Advanced Electronic Music class, as required by my Recording Arts minor. I was excited to do so as I had just purchased Cakewalk Sonar 8 and was anxious to get working with it. We were tasked to create another original piece and while most of the class was again using Pro-Tools, my professor was gracious enough to let me do my thing with Sonar. This song is the result.
I’ve always enjoyed contrasts, so this song is an attempt to contrast organic sounding material with synthetic elements; also contrasting an upbeat jazzy mood with darker, moodier tones. Hence the name Bionic Brew. The initial melody line is latin lounge flavored with a little bit of funkiness; again my exposure to the Hotel Costes type sound is showing. Then it gets into an analogue synth arpeggiation and on into a spy vs. spy kind of bridge, capped off with a touch of scratching. One of the things I experimented with a lot on this tune is the use of LFO to modulate different parameters of a waveform through another waveform and I was able to come up with a few interesting sounds using Sonar’s z3ta synth module in this fashion. Again, probably not the most dance floor ready or DJ-friendly track, nonetheless… I present Bionic Brew.Mojo_bionic_brew.mp3
Bionic Brew © 2008 Mojo’s Dojo
The Haken Continuum is a musical interface that reacts to touch like a touchboard, but allows one to control pitch, velocity and other parameters by sliding or pressing the board.
As I state in my About page, from a young age I have wanted to be involved in music production, which is why as part of my undergraduate work, I went for a minor in Recording Arts. Over the years, I have written dozens of half-finished pieces and riffs, but for one reason or another was really never able to fully finish a piece. One of the gifts that college has provided me is better discipline and better focus. In my Introduction to Electronic Music class we were tasked with developing an original composition, which forced me to follow my creative efforts through to completion. Earlier this week, I posted about the Buchla, and this piece has elements of the Buchla in it, hence the name. The piece was done primarily in Pro-Tools, and is my attempt at an original drum ‘n bass track. I will be the first to admit that structurally, it is probably not very DJ friendly, and it may not even be very dance floor friendly. But as my first fully developed and completed original piece of work, I would like to present it. Here is Buchlasaurus.Mojo_buchlasaurus.mp3
Buchlasaurus © 2008 Mojo’s Dojo
Ronald Jenkees is quite a character, that’s for sure. Three things are undeniable about him:
1) He loves music and is definitely having fun with it.
2) He creates some really great beats.
3) He has crazy chops on the keys.
When it comes to analog synthesizers, most people have probably heard of Moog Synthesizers. And with good reason, Robert Moog was a trailblazer and his synths are incredible. Not as many people have heard of Don Buchla and his Buchla line of synths. I mention Buchla here not only because the synths are amazing pieces of work, but also because the university I am currently attending happens to have one of these rare beasts and I had the oppportunity to mess around with one. Buchla and Associates are still around today, making synths and midi controllers. Here is a video of a Buchla 200 in action.
Here’s another sweet little gadget making use of Nintendo technology that I am more than happy to pimp here. It is the Korg DS10 Synthesizer and it is basically a little synth and sequencer you can run on your Nintendo DS. Here’s some video of it in action. Also some cool vocoder action in this video!