How to have swing on the Volca FM

When I brought the Volca FM, I complained about it not having a swing function (either by a dedicated knob or a combination such as FUNC+TEMPO). If you happen to own a Volca Sample or a Volca Kick, however, there is a neat trick you can use, albeit at the expense of loosing the capability to sync these newer volcas to your old ones.

Well, recently I’ve been preparing a comeback to the Korg Volca Sample Tutorial Series, and learned that the Volca Sample can switch between two sync modes: the traditional volca sync (one pulse every two steps, or 2PPQ) and a newer one pulse per step of the sequencer (4PPQ). This latter mode is capable of carrying swing to other synced units.

Now, to have swing over sync, you do need both machines to be in 4PPQ mode, and this is done by accessing the Global Menu and setting option 8 to ON. Unfortunately, this option is only available on the newer volcas (FM, Sample and Kick), which means that by using it, you’ll loose the ability to sync the newer volcas properly to the older ones.

Hopefully, Korg will someday get around to do a firmware upgrade, so that we can have swing over sync on all volcas.

Behringer Ultra Chorus UC200: Is it worth it?

There are some pedals, like the EM600, that take a lot of time for me to review because of how great they are. Then there are pedals like this one: the Behringer UC200. This is a very cheap pedal (usually less that $20 – $25 on Amazon). Because it it so cheap, i feel compiled to lower the bar and see what this pedal can offer on such a low budget. As usual, a demonstration of this pedal is provided on my YouTube channel.

As the code name implies, the UC200 is a pedal from Behringer’s early 200 series. This alone should summarize the build quality. Although I found no issues with the jacks and the knobs being decent, there is a low budget plastic feel to the pedal that improved as the series evolved. There is a single mono input, and a stereo output (two mono 6.35mm TS sockets). So at least we know the pedal will provide us with some widening of the stereo field. Continue reading “Behringer Ultra Chorus UC200: Is it worth it?”

Behringer Echo Machine EM600

This one took me almost a year to experiment with and review. This is probably not the best thing to say if you want to attract manufacturers to invite you to review their, products, but I’ll say it nonetheless: this pedal almost broke me, but in a good way. Not only it sounds good, it is also fully featured, making this probably the best delay pedal in its price range (less than €100).

This little green stomp box offers 3 switchable types of delay line with adjustable modifiers, 11 delay modes, as well as the traditional REPEAT and TIME knobs for controlling the number of repeats and the time between them. The time can also be sync’ed to a TAP TEMPO, and 3 subdivisions are available by default. There is also the customary TAILS switch which allows the effect to keep going even if you choose to bypass the newer notes. The pedal works in stereo, with some modes adding an extra panning to enhance the effect. Continue reading “Behringer Echo Machine EM600”

Berlin School Experiment #10

It is frustrating that we have to program the JV1080 from a small dot-matrix display. The synthesis engine on this one is so great, it is easy to get lost while programming in it, but I guess that the JV1080 is a synth of its time, and at the time presets and preset-packs were all the rage, so manufacturers wouldn’t bother with the sound editing capabilities. Fortunately those days are gone (are they?).

In this piece I use a custom patch on the JV-1018, loosely related to the Flying Waltz preset, but with an extensive use of the ring modulators. This pad sound serves as a base for the whole track, as it plays a descending chord sequence. The microbrute plays the sequencer and receives the same MIDI notes as the JV-1080. Thus, the sequence is transposed for the last incoming note at all time. My PSC500 controller is also sending MIDI clock to the Volca Beats, which plays a part latter on in the piece… in line with my previous experiment of incorporating percussion in Berlin School-inspired Music.

This track was recorded in one take, with the Volca and the MicroBrute being recorded onto two mono-tracks using the Focusrite 2i2 and the JV-1080 being recorded onto a stereo track using the Behringer UCA-202. Ardour was used for all the recording and mixing, which involved using the alsa_in program to incorporate the Behringer’s inputs into the list of available inputs… I tried to avoid using compressors in this track, and replaced most of them by saturators. This technique should keep the transients, despite introducing some distortion. As usual, Calf plugins were expensively used to mix and master this piece, and the final video was assembled in KdenLive, running on a linux box.

Ambient Explorations 6

Up until now I’ve been using mostly minor scales on this series, but this is becoming boring, specially with all the nice, warmer summer time getting closer. So I decided to move on to the Major Scale. This was a four-track recording, two of them made with the Streichfett being controlled from the SQ-1. There was little intervention from my part (apart from programming the melodies in the SQ-1) so I didn’t record any video from those two sessions. The other two tracks (which were recorded  to make the video part) were done using the MicroKorg.

A few things happened when making this track. For once, I decided to use the Solo section of the Streichfett, which I’ve been neglecting since ever. I also when forward to program something that reminds me of Tomita’s work (although I cannot point exactly when he used it): a noise-resonant filter patch for the microKorg. I also recorded all four track “dry”, so all the audio FX (delays, reverbs) were done in the DAW using Calf Plugins (EQ and vintage delay) and also the very interesting TAP Reverberator (also a free and open source plugin). I noticed the compressor at the end of the sound chain was destroying the attack transients of the Tomita patch, so I replaced it for the Calf Saturator. I think the end result is much more full-bodied than the Compressed version, but I’ll leave that to your better judgement.

Oh… I also changed my audio references for mixing and mastering… I hope the sound is now more balanced.

As usual, the audio for this video was recorded and mixed using Ardour, and the final video was assembled using KdenLive, on an Arch Linux machine.

Ambient Explorations 5: Counterpointilism

Last month I did a lingering counterpoint piece in my Ambient Explorations 4 . Now, some of you may argue that counterpoint is nor really a technique for Ambient Music. I could counter-argue that a 500 year old framework is perhaps flexible and capable enough of adapting to novel aesthetics. Plus, I believe the rigidity used to discern between genres and (specially) sub-genre of electronic music serve more to the ego of some composers/producers, than to the greater aim of creating meaningful and/or enjoyable music.

But I digress, in this month’s Ambient explorations, I decided to combine the lingering counterpoint technique I used last April and the Eno-inspired minimalist pointillism I did at the beginning of this series. I only used my trusty Roland JV-1010 for both the piano (the Psicorhodes preset) and a custom pad I made using the JP8 Saws and the Ring Modulator. I only recorded two tracks for this piece (one for each sound), but when I was assembling the video I noticed I had a third video take (perhaps from a rehearsal). I used the three videos nevertheless to keep the rather pleasing aesthetics of multiple overlapping video takes.

As usual, this track was recorded using Ardour, mixed & mastered using Calf Plugins. The video was assembled using KdenLive running on an Arch Linux laptop.