Tag Archives: modular synthesizer

Video – Winter

Snow field

One of the reasons I have been off line for the last few days is that I have been working on some music.  I now have something to share with you :)

Quick background – I studied classical music composition in the mid naughts (00s).  To hear the music I was composing, I used a product called GPO. You can hear this on some of the videos on my video page.  Sounds pretty realistic, if not exactly like a live orchestra.

As some of you may have seen, lately I have been playing with old-school analog modular synthesizers.  What?  OK, that sounds odd, but this is the type of synthesizer they used in “the old days”, synths that sounded like synths.  The “modular” part means that I pretty much create a new instrument using patch cords every time I make a sound.

Lately I have had the idea to recreate some of my old music using this even older technology.  It won’t sound as realistic, but perhaps it will add something. Continue reading

The Coventry Carol – Video

Notre Dame

I have always like The Coventry Carol.  I’m into dark, medieval music, particularly Christmas music, which seems like it should be bright, not dark.  So I decided I wanted to record it.  But I needed a little research first.  I was surprised at what I found, and this led to the video (hint, read this before listening)

The carol was part of a “mystery play” that went back to the 14th century.  The words were written down in the early 16th century and the music in the late 16th century, some believe in a bid to try to get it performed again (it wasn’t).  This song is about the slaughter of the innocents.

Yes, The Coventry Carol is a lullaby sung by the women of Bethlehem to try to calm their frightened babies as they wait for Herod’s men to murder the babies. “Bye bye, lully lullay.” Nice, right? So “the little tiny child” in the song is not the baby Jesus, but some poor, doomed child.

The words and music survived as much by accident as anything, as such things do, and was revived again in the 20th century.During The Battle of Britain in WW2, the Germans bombed Coventry on the 14th of November, 1940.  On Christmas, 1940, the BBC played The Coventry Carol live as it was being sung from the bombed out ruins of the Coventry cathedral.

So the song went from the poor woman resigned to their fate when brought up against powers beyond their understanding to the women shaking their fists at the sky when brought up against these powers.  You may bomb us and kill our children, but we will rise from the ashes. Continue reading

Higher Ground – Video

Modular Synth - November 2017

Some of you may know that one of my interests is building a playing a modular analog synthesizer.  This is an “Old School” instrument where sounds are created by patching different modules together with patch cords.  Well, more to it than that, but the idea is that it is a very hands on type of instrument.

An issue with this type of synthesizer is that if you like a sound, oh well, you will eventually have to tear it down.  At that point it is gone.  You can make a drawing of the patch, a quick schematic.  A photo, well, that would be so complicated you will get nothing.  Or you can learn the instrument well enough to be able to recreate it later.  That’s my goal. Continue reading

Dark Jingle Bells

Earlier today I posted about recording a dark version of Jungle Bells.  I said I wasn’t going to post it, but I changed my mind :)  I’ve had zero views in about 3 hours, so I think it’s safe that nobody is going to see it anyway, so this isn’t a big risk…  The big bass sound I talked about in the first post is hard to hear in the video – making it into a video takes out all of the heft.  But it should stillbe dark.  and i hope fun!

Click here if you don’t see the video

I hope you enjoyed that bit of analog modular synthesizer madness….


Another Victim of 2016 – Throwback Thursday

(Click here if you don’t see the video)

At the tender age of 6 I became a synthesizer fanatic.   My first exposure was Wendy Carlos’ epic album, Switched on Bach.  After hearing that I tried to find anything and everything that had synthesizers, particularly the big Moog modular synthesizer.

At about 12 I saw an album cover with the coolest synthesizer on the back.  I had to have it!  But at that age I really couldn’t afford it.  Now the stories differ.  I remember buying it for my brother for Christmas while he says he bought it himself, the first album he actually paid for.  Whichever way, that cool looking album ended up in my brothers hands.  Of course at 12 that meant it is almost mine forever.

I was totally blown away when I first heard it.  Although I was a synth-fanatic, I had never heard sounds quite like it.  There was lush soundscapes, complex textures, shimmering glides, ethereal voices and surrealistic instruments.  Sure, there were some quirky, silly and novelty sounds mixed in, but as a kid I loved it.  More than anything I’d heard created by synthesizer, this sounded living, organic.  And yet it sounded spacey and futuristic. Continue reading

Weekly Smile Week 17 #weeklysmile

Weekly Smile #WeeklySmile

Weekly Smile #WeeklySmile

I’ve posted smiles that have run a large rang. There have been simple things and complex, old and new, and.. wait… that sounds like something for this weeks smile :)

I received my first music synthesizer when I graduated high school.  It was part graduation present and I paid for part of it.  The instrument was a Realistic MG-1.  That’s right, it came from Radio Shack!  That being said, the basic synthesizer was built by Moog, a company that at one time was almost synonymous with synthesizer.  Through the years I bought newer and better instruments.  The MG-1 had two ways to make sounds – the Moog analog synth, which played one note at a time.  This sound quickly became dated as the 80s progressed.  Then there was an organ tone that I almost never used.  The newer instruments had a “modern” sound and could play more than one note at a time.  As time went by the keyboard had issues and other problems cropped up.

So, my first synthesizer has spent about 2 decades in a closet. Continue reading

Lost Star – Music Video

Lost Star

In the past I have put up a few posts about my modular synthesizer.  Here’s a very, very quick recap – a modular synth is created from different modules, each one with a specific function that are patched together with patch cords. They are, or can be, very “old-school”, like 1960s and early 1970s.  As technology and needs moved on they quickly became dinosaurs.  Except nothing else is as flexible or can get that sound, so they have made a comeback and have even been seen in “mainstream” music.

OK, So I have posted a handful of videos, from a funky version of “The Munster’s” theme, to a two part, modern classic work to a fun rap.  In each of these videos there are photos or videos of the modular synthesizer.  Those who are observant can see that there was a lot of empty space in the cabinet and that empty space grew smaller with each video. Continue reading

The Anti-Rap Rap (Music Video)

Trent Grin

A few weeks ago, when I was still dong my A Smile a Day, I wrote a silly poem as my smile.  A few people thought I should make it into a rap, so I did.  I hope you enjoy!

(Click here if you don’t see the video)

A few words.  Yes, that is me trying to rap and sing background vocals :)  All of the other sounds are also me playing a modular synthesizer.  There are some shots of the synthesizer in the video – the thing with all of the cables/patch cords.  Thinking of cables, I wore a few patch cords as “bling” when I took the pictures, but they were cut off.  When patching, it is convenient to have a few around your neck so they are readily accessible… Continue reading

Modular Modulations

(Click here if you don’t see the video)

Just 25 second, that’s all.  The story takes much longer to tell then the song lasts.

Simply put, in music a modulation is a change of keys.  There are several main ways to do a modulation and when I was studying classical music, I studied many of them.  You see, modulation is the grease that keeps classical compositions moving, that moves them from place to place, makes it a journey instead of a song form.  When I was doing studies I usually did block chords with proper voice leading and such.  I once did a very short study with several different types of modulations, just looking at the actual change, not the set up or anything – tonic  chord -transition chord – new tonic chord – etc.  It was pretty boring on its own, but was an exercise like the thousands of others I did.  Literally thousands.

Later I entered a challenge to write a meaningful modern composition using 100 notes or less.  I dug out the modulation exercise and wrote a quick melody for clarinet with a bassoon bass line.

Great.  Skip ahead a few years to today.  I wanted to make a very short demo of my modular synthesizer, or the few pieces I currently have.  Digging through some printed out music I found something called “Modulations”.

So, quick lesson here: never throw anything away.  You never know when you’ll use it again.  And again.  And, well, you get the picture…

I think this sounds like incidental music for a show aimed at very young children. Perhaps when a character moves from one activity to another.  What do you think?

Modular Madness – Old School Synthesis

New Studio

When the term “music synthesizer” first made the rounds people were talking about “Switched on Bach” and, usually, Moog.  The synthesizers back then seemed to be as big as a house and cost almost as much.  For the most part the synth world was ruled by modular analog synthesizers.  In the 1970s these were replaced, for the most part, by portable synthesizers, like the ARP Odyssey and Moog Minimoog.  In the early 80s even these went away to be replaced by slick, mass produced digital synthesizers like the Yamaha DX7.  By the mid 80s the old modular synthesizer was a dinosaur, a relic of the distant past.  Sure, digital synthesizers still called a set of parameters that make a sound a “patch”, named after the telephone switchboard like patch cords of the modulars, but most people didn’t understand the reference. Continue reading