Trish McGrath gets the lowdown on a whole stack of readers' own synth sounds, while Paul Wiffen gives an appraisal of a new library of samples for the Ensoniq Mirage.
Now that Patchwork is bigger than ever, you've an even better chance of seeing your favourite sound in print, not to mention your favourite magazine on your doorstep free of charge. And if you're still waiting to see your particular synth featured in these pages, then why not be the first to submit some sounds?
Many readers are now accompanying 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.
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?
Al Ferrier, Surrey
NOW HERE'S a popular synth that's so far eluded the Patchwork limelight. Although the Rogue didn't set the synth world alight when it was launched in '81, it's nevertheless capable of producing some very usable sounds for bass and lead line work. 'Resonant Violin' is described as a decently realistic violin voice, useful for "long instrumental breaks", whatever that might mean. Al recommends fiddling on the top and bass octaves for best results.
R Davies, Notts
IT SAYS HERE that 'Rebecca' has been created, nay inspired, by the programmer's love for a girl of the same name. Cue the violins. Seriously folks (and put the tissues away), 'Rebecca' did win the MT Blindfold Test against a selection of other notable CZ sounds.
As it's seen here, 'Rebecca' is actually the alternative version of two supplied; you may prefer the original (DCO1 Waveform values of 4:1). However, if the sound is sustained it becomes very flat indeed, so keep your playing mildly staccato for best results.
Francesco D'Agostini, Italy
WHILE ALWAYS deserving of further coverage in Patchwork, the Bit synths have suffered in the past from not offering convenient patch charts in their manuals to aid would-be creators. But where there's a will, there's a way (or at least, a lot of mourning relatives).
Of Francesco's quartet of sounds, (A) is titled 'Two-Stroke Ensemble', as each note or chord you strike is repeated twice as a pseudo-echo effect. 'Digital Violin' (B) aims to create an 'electronic' violin sound with the help of some tasteful vibrato, while sound (C) is aptly named 'Pseudo S&H' as it simulates sample-and-hold modulation applied to the VCF. Lastly, 'Fat Fiat' (D) (completely arbitrary name, by the way) is an amalgamation of a triangle wave and a PW sound that results in a good, fat solo voice.
Gary Dow, Texas, USA
A TRADITIONAL analogue synth sound from the Texas plains, 'Roland Fat' (OK, who's responsible for the title? - Ed) achieves its fatness by a combination of various techniques: the mix of sawtooth and pulse waveforms for maximum harmonic content, cross-mod and detuning of the oscillators, and envelope sweeping of the filter. A great sound for traditionalist synth players, and maybe something a little out-of-the-ordinary for more contemporary styles, too.
Rudi Cazeaux, Whitstable, Kent
A NEWCOMER TO Patchwork is Korg's DW6000, so we'll celebrate in style with this compilation of seven very impressive sounds.
On Rudi's short demo cassette, the first couple of sounds were our favourites: 'Stravox' a warm strings patch ideal for backing and moody pieces, and 'DX Strings', a much punchier strings sound with plenty of resin.
'Jazz Organ' has a nice chime effect in the attack phase followed by a quiet sustain, while 'Syntrump' is a rich, brassy sound whose VCA EG can be tweaked for a stronger sustain, and both attack and release altered for different effects.
Reminiscent of a tinkly electric piano is 'Pearl'; with it a lovely atmosphere can be built up by sustaining notes in the lower octaves while playing a solo melody over the top.
'Lead/Bass' offers the classic filter-sweep sound and should prove useful for those funky tasks no other patch can master, while 'Double Bass', though to our ears not that "acoustic" in quality, comes with the following descriptive prose from Rudi: "Playing staccato will give a long release, while holding the keys gives a damped sound (as if damped with the palm). A bit of string buzz and fingers on the fretboard also come through, and try adding some pitch-bend."
Mikael Arctaedius, Sweden
IT SEEMS THAT Mikael thought the 'More Than A Grand' sound for the DX7 (E&MM September) was not a patch (sic) on his 'Real Grand'. Well, we have to agree that his creation is a marvellously sweet acoustic piano sound, which should find many uses in both classical and contemporary music.
Mikael, incidentally, is in a band called Cul-De-Sac, who've just signed a record deal with an American producer. If this example of his work is anything to go by, we should be hearing more from him (and them) in the not-too-distant future.
Sample Disks for Ensoniq Mirage
SINCE ITS RELEASE over a year ago, the Mirage has been one of the best-supported samplers in terms of factory sounds. But this hasn't discouraged a number of independent sources from coming up with their own Mirage samples.
The latest and perhaps best-presented of these is the Sound Composer range from K-Muse in America. K-Muse have chosen to present their sounds in five sets of ten disks each, and this is the only way they are available. Each set costs $199, and features a complete range of sounds (say, drums on disk 1, bass sounds on disk 3, orchestral sounds on disk 8, and so on) chosen to fit within a certain classification. These classifications are either descriptive - 'Techno' and 'Classical' - or geographical -'London', 'LA' and 'NY'.
The 'London' series ranges from modern drum sounds through some haunting, breathy voices and orchestral hits (presumably taken from a Pink Floyd album, judging by their name). The 'LA' set includes movie soundtrack-type strings (called 'Hollywood'), some jazzy brass, and FM-type bell sounds. 'NY' is a treasure-trove for the home hip hop enthusiast, with some great slap bass, brass and choir hits, and an astounding selection of percussion sounds that includes various pipes, keys and glass.
'Techno' features some great digital-type sounds (originating in FM for the most part) and also works well in the context of modern musical styles like hip hop.
In stark contrast, the 'Classical' set is for the archtraditionalist, with string sounds ranging from bold baroque quartet to horror movie "tremelando". Other sounds in this set include the compulsory piano and brass.
One of the major selling points of the Mirage is its internal sequencer, and K-Muse's Arnie Schulze, who developed the sounds, has put this to good use with demos on each disk that show off the sounds to best effect. These also serve as a guide for the playing style which best suits each sound, enabling you to hear each sample "in context" before you put fingers to keys.
Some of the sound sets are more aptly-named than others: 'NY' is perfect, but I don't hear too much of my home town in 'London'. Still, this doesn't detract from the library's variety, or its usability.
I have a feeling that the large section of traditionalists among sampler owners will make 'Classical' the most popular set, but K-Muse have certainly catered for every taste. $199 may seem a fairly large sum of money, but when you consider you're getting a minimum of 50 well set-up sounds in each set, the whole thing begins to look more like a bargain.
And if you still have doubts, a 'Sampler's Sampler' set of five disks (with sounds taken from the five sets, plus a free demo disk) is available for $99; this allow you to test the water and see which sets are likely to serve your needs best.
Gear in this article:
Feature by Paul Wiffen