The Roland Alpha Juno, Korg Poly 800 MkII and Yamaha CX5M are among the machines featured in this month's selection of readers' synth sounds, and there's a review of new voicing tapes for the Ensoniq ESQ1.
MANY READERS ARE now supplementing their patch charts with a short demo cassette of the sounds in question, and this is really good news for our over-worked (and generally hungover) editorial team. Don't worry too much about classic performances and impeccable recording quality; just present your sounds simply and concisely - and convince us you're the best of the bunch.
If you can't lay your hands on a cassette player, don't let that put you off submitting some patches - an interesting description is a good substitute.
Don t forget that if your patch gets published, you'll receive a free year's subscription to MUSIC TECHNOLOGY with our compliments. So send us your favourite sounds on a photocopy of an owner s manual chart (coupled with a blank one for artwork purposes) accompanied, if possible, by a short demo-tape. Include a decent-length description of your sound and its musical purpose in life, and write your full name and address on each chart. And remember, edited presets are all very well, but an original masterpiece is always preferable. OK?
The address to send sounds to: Patchwork, (Contact Details).
Rob Norman, Edinburgh
To be honest, we were swayed to featuring 'Chuffed' after giving Rob's demo a listen. What could have been a very odd 'chiff organ voice was ably demonstrated as ideal for chopping out rhythmic chords reggae-style - so be sympathetic to its performance needs if you want to get the best from 'Chuffed'. The sound is very responsive to dynamics and after-pressure, and has a pretty chunky bass end, too.
Stephen Godsall, Cumbria
It's not too often we come across an authentic-sounding cymbal sound for inclusion in Patchwork, so this one took us rather by surprise. Stephen confesses he spent hours experimenting to create his cymbal patch, but he finally produced a convincing ride sound that provides plenty of stick click, too. He also advises shortening the release time of operator 4 to create a hi-hat patch.
Ron Pritchard, Plymouth
Nice to see sounds for the MkII Korg beginning to filter through to us. 'Soft Strings' (A) is an ethereal, dreamy orchestral string sound, modulating slightly to take advantage of the built-in DDL; a rich, deep bass is produced in the lower register.
The second patch, 'Ghostie' (B), is also extremely atmospheric. It's described by Ron as "a mysterious eerie sound; the 'howl' is created by playing a chord in the upper half of the keyboard, then releasing all keys. The sustained sound is then broken into by playing one key in the lowest octave, which produces this spine-chilling sound."
Sounds like a suitable backdrop for ghost stories...
Lars Sandren, Sweden
The ESQ1 seems intent on making regular appearances in Patchwork, as we receive a steady stream of patches from creative owners. And from a creative Swedish ESQ1 owner comes a warm, fat bass sound that introduces a touch of noise when a key is struck.
J M Poza, Surrey
From six sounds submitted, we chose our favourite, 'Sexy Brass', a short and characterful brass patch that should cut through any mix. Set the bend range to 1 and make elaborate use of pitch-bend. The sounds we received, incidentally, are extracts from two booklets of CZ patches, available from Mr Poza by mail order. Send an SAE for details to (Contact Details).
801A/B, 802A/B, 803A/B, 804A/B
IMAGINE THIS SCENE for a moment. Proudly clutching a wad of hard-earned cash, you dash into your local music shop, returning several minutes later groaning and puffing under the weight of an Ensoniq ESQ1. Arriving home, hoping your neighbours are watching enviously, you go inside, plug it in, and presto! You've only got 40 sounds to play with. Ho hum.
However, you remember reading that you could get "0-120 in 3.6 seconds". You now realise that you need the "optional" EEPROM cartidge which at around £55 is decidedly not a snip. Once you've bought said cartridge you crave even more sounds, so in march Valhala from the USA, who have just produced eight data tapes with 40 new sounds apiece. And as these only cost £14.99 each, you feel much happier already.
The tapes themselves contain a range of patches including 49 pianos, brass, strings, percussion, lead, bass, woodwind, sound effects and some more conventional analogue-type sounds. Top of the pianos are the clean and lifelike ACGRD1 on tape 801A, the deep and gutsy (especially in the lower regions) LOPNO on 801B, and (also on 801B) SUSPNO, which offers more in the sustain department but less in the way of weight. The Steinway impression on 802B (STEINI) is pleasant, but the FM pianos and FM Rhodes on 804A and 804B tend to sound thin, unspectacular, and all rather similar.
At this point you may have already noticed the main problem with the Valhala range, which is that not all patches of a similar type are on the same cassette. This means you need to buy all eight tapes to make sure you've got all the variations you want, and that once you've bought them, it's harder to keep track of which sound is where.
Basses 1-10 are spread out between 801A, 801B, 802A and 804A. Most impressive is BASS4 with its distinct dancefloor appeal, and BASS2, which is reminiscent of Yamaha's FlapBass on the DX100. Also on 804A is the not-very-good-at-all KORGBS, and the only slightly better ESQBAS.
Strings are even more diverse, with competent patches on every tape out of the eight, although string enthusiasts would be well advised to start with tape 804A, which has some of the best, notably HISTR, DXVIOL and CARLOS. MELSTR (803B) and BACH (801A) are also worthy, while OBX-A (803B) is brassier.
The two lead sounds which really shine, and which would rise above any mix, are WENDYC on 801A and FLTMAR on 803A. The former is powerful and atmospheric, while the latter uses prime, synth3 and sine waveforms on the Ensoniq's oscillators to good effect. Other good patches to watch out for include CHOIR2 (801B), PROFIT (803A) - a sort of heavy metal guitar if you keep your eyes shut - and RPTDRM (803B), a repeating bass drum that changes in tempo rather than pitch as you move along the keyboard.
The prize for the dodgiest name goes jointly to ISAO and TOMITA (803A and 804A respectively), surely a case of misplaced inspiration if ever there was one, though the former is actually rather pleasant.
As with any collection of synth sounds, it's useful to remember that what at first appears to be uninspiring can be made uniquely interesting by a bit of judicious tweaking of the parameters. And layering, say, a choir with a relatively long attack over a bass sound can prove unexpectedly rewarding.
Loading 40 sounds at a time from cassette into the ESQ1 doesn't take very long, and that's when the fun starts. At best, there are some superb and original sounds; at worst, there are building blocks and food for thought.
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Feature by David Bradwell