RM1x First Set

During the last few months I’ve been deciding on a main sequencer for my setup. Some of the main contenders included the BeatStep Pro, the Electribe 2, the Squarp Pyramid, and the Octatrack. The latter two are a little bit on the expensive side. Plus, the Octatrack’s workflow is something of a unique thing, with a manual the size of a small novel. On the other hand, the Pyramid’s operation is much more straight forward, but the lack of documentation and demos makes me wonder if it will have any supporters in the future.

So, the two main contenders ended up being the BeatStep Pro and the Electribe 2. The BeatStep Pro is a very neat sequencer that can (in theory) control some pieces of gear, while I jam away freely in another synth. The electribe 2 also features a nice patter sequencer, plus a built-in synth engine that is derived from the mighty King Korg. Unfortunately, both the BSP and the E2 have some important shortcoming when I started to plan how they would fit my setup. The BSP does not have ANY support under Linux. Although the device appears as a class-compliant USB-MIDI device, Arturia’s refusal  to publish the SysEx implementation means that backing up projects, or assigning CC values is only possible using their software (which does not run well on a VirtualBox or Wine). This is despite all the program does is send and listen to strings of SysEx messages.

As for the Electribe 2, I would be my first choice if I ever need something for live performances, but for my personal journey in the studio, I need something that can hold patterns with more than 4 bars (I still prefer the classical 8-bar phrase) and also be able to play drones, which is not easily done with an Attack-Decay envelope similar to that of the Volca Sample.

Earlier this month I began looking for other alternatives, including older gear. I already own a Yamaha QY-70, which is interesting for recording MIDI, but a little bit troublesome to create and edit patterns. Then I found this video by Meecek and instantly feel in love with the RM1x. It took a few weeks until I found one available on e-bay, as these things, although not expensive, are a little bit rare to come by. Then I was able to score an almost new-old-stock Yamaha RM1x from a collector in France, and the machine arrived just in time for Christmas.

So, here is my Christmas tale for 2016, now lets wait and hear for what 2017 will bring! :)

Ambient Kaos 1: Full, Re-mastered Version

On September 2015 I started the Ambient Kaos series. The objective was to produce 12 tracks of ambient music using only the Korg Kaossilator and mini- Kaos Pad 2. The series ended last August, and serves has a register of my own evolution during my first year producing videos on YouTube. The first few tracks were recorded directly using the mini-KP2. Later, I started to record stuff using my pc and save the trouble with transferring files from a micro SD to the PC. This also means that the audio for the first few episodes is the raw recording of the mini-KP2. Although the recordings are not bad, some EQ and overall mastering definitively increased the quality of the latter episodes.

What is more, the first episode is about 7 minutes long, but the track takes almost 20 minutes. And since this is the time of the year to look back and see were to improve, I took the chance to publish the full version of the first Ambient Kaos, now with full mastering treatment (well, YouTube will certainly add some more compression and normalization on top of my work, nonetheless). I hope you enjoy it while you rest during these Holidays.

Nux Flanger Core Review

I brought this pedal during the Spring of 2016: I was walking through a store and saw it at a reasonable price (about 30 euros). Now, there are three things to know before reading this review: a) I’m not a big fan of flangers in general; b) this pedal is more subtle than your average flanger FX (compared, for example with the Flangers in the MiniKP2, this one is very, very shy); and c) I think NUX stopped making these pedals during the summer of 2016, although you can still find it on amazon and other retailers. As usual, I recommend you to complement this reading by watching the demo on my YouTube Channel (see bellow).

Ok, so let’s start with the obvious: this pedal is white with a purple background in the control area. It is a metal case with the same dimensions and overall Feel of the NUX Time Core (reviewed here). I must say the NUX Time Core has been with me for about a year now and is my main delay pedal. I don’t use it as a stomp box (i.e. I don’t have it on the floor and use my feet on it), so I cannot state it was built like a tank. Nevertheless, if you’re not going to take it to some physical mistreatment, the built quality is fine (specially considering the price). Thus, I’m expecting the NUX Flanger Core to be at around the same build quality, which is not bad,  and it is perfectly adequate for my usage. Continue reading Nux Flanger Core Review

Arturia Microbrute Through Guitar Pedals

Not exactly a “Berlin School Experiment”, more of an improvised experimentation using the MicroBrute and five guitar pedals. There has been quite a few videos on this theme, so I decided to add my own personal twist to the experiment.

The music starts at about 01:00. For this video I decided to include the end of the preparatory stage where I program the sequence on the MB. This is an arpeggiation on the chords of a Portuguese (more precisely Azorian) folk song “Charamba”, but on a 5/4 time signature.

I also took advantage of the double (almost triple) output of the microbrute (Main mono and headphones) to make a more complex FX chain. The Main audio (Path A) goes directly into the Behringer EM600  and then goes though a passive mixer to serve as an attenuator. At the same time the headphones output (Path B) is split into two channels: one of them goes into the FM600 and they are re-joined using a passive mixer to give me a sort of Wet/Dry balance on the FM600. PathB then continues to the FX600  for some chorus. The two Paths (A and B) are joined at the inputs of the Nux Time Core  for some Ping-Pong delay and then carried the the RV600 for some Space Reverb.

The session was recorded live using audacity and the OpenCamera app. Calf Plugins (EQ, Compressor and Multiband Compressor) were used for mastering. The final video was assembled using KdenLive.

New Tutorial Series Released Today!

Just a quick update. I just uploaded the first episode of a 7 (or 8) episode tutorial series devoted to the Korg SQ-1. I’ve been having a few requests to do such a thing, and I finally managed to get the time and courage to do it. The tutorials will be added to this playlist on my YouTube Channel. I hope you enjoy this new series, find it inspiring and start applying the tips and tricks in it to make new music.

Please feel free to put you questions in the comments for the video. I’ll try to reply to them either via reply, or on a future episode, or even on a Q&A episode at the end of the series.

Berlin School Experiment 4

This video was recorded right after my latest Vlog episode. The Volca FM had just arrived at my place and I was doing some experimentation with it. The ChevyBass preset was used as a base for tweaking the carrier and modulation envelopes. I must say there is some similarities between FM and west coast synthesis: both focus on tailoring the harmonic content using complex oscillators, rather than filtering. I found some parallelism between Velocity in FM and the Dynamics of west coast synths. In this regard, having the Velocity decoupled from the Note In data is a blessing in disguise, as it allows new approaches to sound sculpting, that cannot be easily attained using a classical FM synth like the DX7.. or my little black box: the FB-01.

However, it is the effect chain that really delivers the Berlin Scholl vibe to this track: the output of the Volca FM is split tinto two: one path goes straight into the EM600 for some tape delay, while the other goes into the VP-1 Phaser and then into the NUX Time Core emulating an analogue delay. Both chains are glued using the RV600 reverb unit. As for the Streichfett, it is using only the internal Phaser and Reverb for ambience.
This track was recorded live, using ardour (which provided the click track) and the OpenCamera app (android). The audio was treated using Calf Plugins (EQ, Compression, Tape Emulator). The video was assembled using KdenLive.