The Normalled, Live Performance 4700/S
Normalled synthesizers are very convenient for live performance, but for my first synthesizer a modular system seemed to suit my needs. So, I chose a 4700/S and despite all those patch cords, still managed to use it in live performance by applying a trick or two.
My playing situation wasn't too unusual; while doing time in the Air Force in Germany, I became involved in a musical revue/variety show put on by the base recreation center. Besides touring a few bases in the area, we ultimately ended up as one of the acts in the open house festivities at Templehof Airport in West Berlin. In addition to playing rhythm guitar, I used the 4700/S for background melodies and sound effects.
Since no elaborate patches were required, I came up with the normalled patch scheme shown in figure 1. This covered about 80% of my playing needs, so that the only plug-pulling I had to do was occasionally bypassing the first balanced modulator/VCA, changing VCO waveforms, and routing the filter output.
We opened our shows with the old white noise/howling wind cliche, which changed to rising oscillator sounds. An off stage voice did a space launch-style countdown while this was happening, and when he said "liftoff", the rest of the band would kick in (a bit corny, but the audience ate it up). Seeing as how I also had to play along with the band later on (preferably in tune!), twisting the pitch control around could have created problems. So, I added the preset modification shown in figure 2 to the 2720-9 glide circuit board. The extra knob and switch were stuck beside the pitch and glide controls, below the ground jack. I set one pitch control in tune for regular playing, while the other could be used for special effects and the like.
There were a couple of tricks I used to make patching easier. First of all, when the gig was over I unplugged the wires going to the keyboard (CV out, trigger, ground) and plugged these into unused jacks on the modules. Thus, the two module cases could be closed with the patch cords already half-ready to go when I set up for the next show.
Since the three oscillators were being controlled by a single control voltage output, I took two patch cords and joined them in a "T" configuration (see figure 3a). The long end of this cord went to the CV out jack, while the other three ends went to the oscillators. This cut down on the cord count and freed the multiple jacks for other applications.
Another way to cut down on clutter involves using patch cords with combination pin plug/jack ends (see figure 3b - I used Pomona Electronics model #P-36 cords; I don't know offhand where they're available, but I would think most well-stocked electronic stores would have something similar). When going from, say, the LFO to a VCO, another plug can be inserted in the back of the first plug to run off to another VCO (or whatever).
No matter how many miles of wire you've got running around, with careful planning most changes can be made with knobs rather than by switching patch cords around. The only people those cords should intimidate is the audience; you're supposed to know what's going on. Finally, when you're up there on stage and you just can't seem to remember where those last two or three patch cords go, just remember that wise old saying - "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull". In other words - fake it!
Feature by Doug Llewellyn
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