Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Interesting Grant Richter Post

Grant Richter made an interesting posting to the Wiard mailing list yesterday, offering some suggestions on strategies to get away from the saturated VCO-VCF-VCA synthesizer patchings by using "west coast" techniques with their modern equipment... strategies just as ancient, however still on the fringe in terms of popular usage.

If you are new to this contrast, it is the subject of much debate and outside the scope of this posting, however in a nutshell - During the early days of synthesizers, the instrument design as well as the approach to creating sounds on the instrument fell into two different schools of thought, both in design and approach. The design sensibilities of the Moog and ARP companies, and their immense popularity, founded the 'east coast' approach to synthesis in the mainstream early on. Their 'west coast' counterpart in the form of the more avant-garde designers such as Don Buchla, while enormously influential in popular culture and synthesis history, did not enjoy nearly the enormity of sales or ubiquity of being a household name.

Anyway, suffice to say even today it costs you $20,000 to acquire a Buchla system, these sounds and approachs seem too 'fringe' for the average synthesist. Well, I have a hunch that one of Grant Richter's goals in life is to bring 'Buchla-esque' synthesis to the masses. His Mini-Wave (manufactured by Blacet), his Noise Ring and his Borg filter all sit square in the middle of 'west coast' territory. In this interesting post, he talks about ways to use modern equipment in this seemingly elusive style - this read is a must for the beginning synthesist. Enjoy.

------Original Message------
From: Grant Richter
To: wiardgroups
Sent: Dec 18, 2006 5:24 PM
Subject: [wiardgroup] More synthesizer tutorial

Some more comments on "West Coast" techniques.

The main difference between the two techniques are how the filter is applied. In "East
Coast" technique, you start with simple waveforms and used the filter to do your timbre
control. The classic East Coast patch is VCO - VCF - VCA with ADSR envelopes for the VCF
and VCA.

In one of the "West Coast" techniques, you start with complex waveforms and use the filter
just to do final tone shaping. Of course crank up the resonance if you want to mix the two

How do you get complex waveforms? The Wiard-Blacet Mini-wave or 300 series Waveform
City is a good source of complex waveforms when used as a wavetable playback device.
These complex waveforms can be made even more complex by the use of synch and FM at
the same time. The Mini-wave/Wavefrom city can also be used as a wave multiplier for
non-linear synthesis.

Here are a couple of simple patches that are "West" sounding.

VCO(sine) - VCA - LINFMVCO(sine) - Borg in lowpass gate mode (VCA).

You use the first VCA to dynamically control the depth of linear FM. Envelopes are routed
to the FM depth VCA and to the Borg tone shaper. The use of sine waves produces "nice"
sounding FM along with the soft Borg envelope. With the first VCO set to about 7 Hz and
the linear FM control of the second VCO barely open, you have dynamic and natural
sounding vibrato.

VCO(sine) - LINFMVCO(sine) - VCA - Mini-wave(+/- 5v) - Borg in lowpass gate mode

This is a fixed depth FM patch going to a dynamic depth wave multiplier. Envelopes are
routed to the first VCA and to the Borg. The VCA before the Mini-Wave needs to have
controls to set initial volume and control the amount of envelope (like an ARP 2600 VCA
has). You want to adjust the VCA so it is about 20% on with no envelope. Then adjust the
amount of envelope sweep to your taste. You can play with any bank or wave in the Mini-
wave but Bank 13 is designed just for this use.

Banks 0 to 7 of the "Socket Rocket" chip are designed to process audio input. In this case
the VCA is set 100% on. Bank 6 "Bit Descimation" can really make a drum track gnarly
when set to 4 bits or less.

One thing to look at is the "Socket Rocket" users manual. This is a 10 meg pdf file.

Go to

and scroll to the bottom under "Discontinued Products" Right click on "Socket Rocket Final
Manual" and save the pdf file to the desktop or your prefered location. This has ideas for
using the waves in the Socket Rocket chip. I used an ARP 2600 and 1630 sequencer to
reference the patches.

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