Freitag, 8. August 2008

How it all started...

The first time i came in touch with music electronics or electronics in general was roghly six years ago. I was playing the electric guitar for a while and wanted to buy some cool distortion pedals, so that i'm able to play heavy rock and metal. I realized that i couldnt really afford them. While surfing on he internet i found out that it's not that difficult to make them myself so i gave myself a try on building some effect. I started with building some designs found on net, later i tried to design some pedals myself. But since i didn't know how the things inside work it wasn't that successful. Also because of financial issues i never used good quality switches and boxes. It ended up by putting the ~7 effects is had in a huge box. So in the end i had a huge, humming box with 7 strange sounding distortion effects in it. Because of several reasons i didn't toucha soldering iron for a while.

Renewed Interest
About a year ago i was looking for a midi controller keyboard to used with pc-based software instruments. By chance i found one at a local flea market in berne, switzerland. This flea market is organized by a alternative culture center 'Reitschule' (b.t.w. its a great place to visit), so a lot dubious sellers are around there. Maybe thats the case for all flea market but anyway... So i found this controller keyboard which looked totally new. After some negociations i bought is for 80 Swiss francs which is ~50 eur0s. Back at home i quickly found out the keyboard wasnt working at all. After nearly throwing it from the balcony i rememembered that i once wanted to start building a synthesizer. After some days of investigation i came to the decision that i'm gonna try to put the keyboard back to life by constructing an analog synthesizer around it.
Since i haven't really worked on electronics for a long time i started with very simple projects. By that time i discovered ray wilson's excellent music from outer space site. Without the invaluable information on this site i probably wouldn't have been able get into analog synthesizer technology. Thanks to ray wilson for building and supporting this excellent site!.
The first 'real' project built is the weird sound generator from MFOS. Due to a lack of an appropriate enclosure i mounted it into a a folder.
The folder gained some popularity amolng my bandmates and friend. So i offered them to build the same circuit in an specific enclosure which they could choose on their own. By the time i already biult three copies of WSG, one is mounted in a plastic case (see the myspace site dedicated to it) another one in a wooden box and the last one in a former model airplane remote control. By the time i planned my next project: the MFOS mini synth. After building three WSG's i felt sure enough to modify the mini synth slightly to fit my needs. In order to use it with the keyboard i added the scanning matrix encoder (also from the mfos site, your guessed it, right?). I also added an external (guitar) input which routes the external signal to the filter and vca section, beside that it has an envelope follower and a signal to gate converter. Another major change compared to the original sound lab is that it can be patched beside the switches that do the signal/cv routing. Below are some photos of the synth and the keyboard.
There are already enough not-so-musical soundlab demos on the net so i decided not to make a 'raw' soundlab demos yet, once i have time i'll add a video. You can hear my soundlab in a musical context (well that always a matter of taste i guess) on my myspace site. The sound lab can be heard in the songs 'the funky chicken', 'a word' and 'drifting'. In 'the funky chicked' the bass is done with the soundlab, the horns in the band (not in the intro, these are samples), and in the keyboard solo in the middle. The playing of this is lousy but the sound is quite decent i think. In 'a word' the bass and all the synths are done with the soundlab (except drums). The wah-wah guitar well heard during the first verse is the acoustic guitar processed by the soundlab. In 'drifting all the synths except drums are made with the soundlab.
After the soundlab was finished is built three guitar effect boxes, a little guitar practice amp and a midi to control voltage converter. More on these, especially the midi-to-cv converter later.

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