Yamaha's classic CS80 makes a welcome appearance alongside the CZ101, Bit 99 and DW6000, and more ROMs for the DX7 complete this month's selection of readers' sounds.
If you're still waiting to see your particular synth featured in these pages, then why not be the first to submit some sounds?
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 by a short demo-tape (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). 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?
Seeing as this month's Sounds Natural is all about synthesising the snare drum, we felt Olli's set of percussion sounds had arrived at an opportune moment. This is our favourite from the range of bass, tom and snare sounds submitted - it's a punchy, fairly sharp snare that should blend well in any mix.
A selection of sounds from Nigel for the Bit 99. Included are the parameter names, so Bit One owners should be able to adapt the sounds for their keyboards (it seems the only parameter that may differ in intensity is the LFO modulation, so set that one to taste). The sounds are briefly described as:
Juno Strings (A): an attempt to emulate a typical Roland Junos' string sound, but obviously without the chorus.
Bellow Church Organ (B): as named but without the pumping and squeaking.
Synth Chimes (C): a synthesised chime to imitate the chimes of old-fashioned clocks.
Psycho Synth Bell (D): a synth bell with a 'psycho' detuning ring.
YAMAHA CS80 - Classic CS
Tom Szakaly, Rochdale
Its nice to see a classic synth like the CS80 getting a look-in among the CZs and DXs... Tom describes his creation as "a general purpose sound particularly suited to 'fat', sustained-type backing; an overall 'wash' of sound with plenty of movement. Having said that, it works for lead lines as well, being equally effective on staccato arrangements (having the necessary 'bite' on the attack portion of the sound)." Who's next then? Minimoog anyone?
(Click image for higher resolution version)
KORG DW6000 - Five Go Down To Play
Daren Horley, Rainham, Kent
A selection of patches for Korg's popular DW6000, which we're sure DW8000 owners will be able to adapt and build on to their heart's content. Daren describes his sounds as:
1) A stringy sound with a "vocal" touch at the bass end. Enhanced by lashings of delay!
2) A rather digital dangerous sound. Good for chordal work.
3) A sound not a million miles away from a cello or violin quartet.
4) A haunting, distant whistle. Add delay to taste!
5) A harsh bass sound, flange as the mood takes you!
(Click image for higher resolution version)
RITTOR VOICE ROMS
For the Yamaha DX7
SYNTHESISER PROGRAMMERS MAY be a talented and dedicated bunch, but they do lack at least one important quality. Hardly any of them (Dave Bristow and Bo Tomlyn stand out as being exceptions) have the ability to catch the public's imagination as personalities. I mean, have you seen any synth programmers on television recently? Thought not.
Faced with this marketing problem, the Japanese have called on the services of three "big name" music-playing acts who also just happen to be decent DX7 programmers. The result is a set of three new ROM cartridges of 64 sounds each, programmed by Toto's David Paich and Steve Porcaro, Minoru Mukaiya of Casiopea, and Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Toto first. The sounds are arranged in the time-honoured DX7 fashion of two banks of 32 (remember we're talking the Mk1 instrument here) and are roughly arranged in "families": brass, wind and tuned percussion on bank A, pianos, effects and combination sounds on bank B.
Like the earlier Shofuku cartridges (see MT September '86), all these come with notes on each sound, this time penned by the artists themselves. However, the Toto notes are derived from a brief conversation with the two men in an airport departure lounge, and aren't too useful. Paich describes one sound as "a different kind of wind pad", and Porcaro offers us such gems of wisdom as "a bass sound Dave likes to use a lot" and "my first solo attempt at a Hammond sound".
Patchy documentation aside, however, the Toto collection is quite a strong one. For although the "crystal clear" sounds like marimbas, strings and harps have all been heard before, there are some excellent - and distinctive - variations on familiar themes.
Xylospiel 2, for example, is a clever combination sound with a "wooden" attack that becomes more metallic with greater velocity; 99 Voices is a beefier-than-average FM choir sound; and Toto Wurly is the finest approximation of a Wurlitzer sound this writer has heard a synth produce - a refreshing change after hearing so many feeble attempts at a Rhodes.
Casiopea are, in case you were wondering, a successful Japanese band in the Shakatak mould (though they're a bit more experimental), and are the closest Yamaha have to a "house band" in their native country.
It's not surprising, then, to see the band's keyboard player wax lyrical about the DX7 in his ROM notes - though these are, fortunately, a bit more enlightening than Toto's.
In essence, the Mukaiya ROM represents an attempt (not the first, it's true) at coaxing chunkier, more rough-sounding textures out of the DX. And to a large extent, it succeeds. There are some fine detuned vibes, marimbas and celestes (in contrast with Toto's pedestrian efforts in this area), and some distinctive strings programs that benefit from judicious use of the DX7's Pitch EG.
On the other hand, many of these voices sound as if they've had the sparkle taken from them in an effort to improve their chances of surviving a complicated mix. And as such, they've lost some of their character, with the pianos, human voices and brass all sounding powerful but, in the final analysis, bland.
If ever there was a collection of sounds that gave the impression of being half-finished, the Mukaiya cartridge is it. Then again, if you're keen on tweaking your ROM sounds to suit your own taste, that may be a good thing.
Finally, Ryuichi Sakamoto's work as composer, musician, producer and programmer needs no introduction from me. His two banks of sounds divide neatly into those suited to live use (complete with wide dynamic range, liberal use of performance controls to alter timbre, and so on) and those aimed primarily at recording (where sounds are more even).
This in itself is extremely laudable: too many synth sounds (and not just FM ones) lend themselves to live performance, but play havoc with the levels once you're off the stage and into the studio. And Sakamoto's notes are the best of this bunch, scoring points not just for giving details of where the composer has used his sounds, but also for offering suggestions as to how they can be altered by the user.
Generally speaking, both sets have an "analogue" feel to them - though they're a good bit cleaner than Mukaiya's. Almost all the "live" sounds which Sakamoto actually calls Analog are interesting - rich, vibrant lead sounds that conjure up audible images of Moog or Oberheim without ever seeming to be imitations of those instruments.
There are also some silky, atmospheric strings on the "live" side, though these do suffer quite noticeably from having their dynamics muted on bank B.
Still, the "recording" side does feature some fascinating special effects. Ondmartin, for instance, must be the world's first FM simulation of that ancient electronic instrument, the Ondes Martenot; it's uncannily accurate, even if the programming can't have been too taxing.
Best of all are Waao Voice and Environment: two shimmering, unpredictable (and usable) patches that sound as though they're derived from acoustic timbres, yet somehow couldn't have been created with anything that didn't have "DX" written on it.
It's a pity that there isn't more of the wackier side of Sakamoto's programming on this ROM. Some of the more conventional sounds are all very well, but I'm not sure they're what musicians would actually buy a Ryuichi ROM for.
If these three ROMs teach us anything, it's that many of the sounds top programmers use on their records really aren't all that special. In reality, the sounds themselves are only as good as the way they're played, how well they're integrated into an arrangement, and (especially in 1987) how they're processed in the studio.
If your playing, your arranging and your processing are up to scratch, there's some thought-provoking stuff on all three of these "big name artist" cartridges. But there are no instant miracles.