Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Synth Memory Lane...

Ahhh... Nothing better than a little trip down gear-from-the-past memory lane.

This latest episode was brought to you by my upcoming segment for Inside Home Reocording. I'm planning to do a "Synthesizers 101" bit - getting into some basics on theory and practice behind subtractive synthesis.

I'll probably be touching on other kinds of synthesis (granular, wavetable, additive, physical modeling...), but subtractive synthesis is probably the easiest and most popular form of synthesis to cover. Plus a lot of the "downstream" aspects of subtractive synthesis apply to other forms as well.

Back to the post subject. As part of researching this, I was trying to find a soft-synth out there that was:
  1. a subtractive / analogue model,
  2. FREE and
  3. available on both Mac and PC platforms
Surprisingly, there were more than just a handful when I did a search on KVR. I unearthed a fantastic candidate from Togu Audio Line called the U-NO-62. It's apparently a model of the Roland Juno-60 built back in the early '80's.

Finding this soft-synth was awesome on a couple of levels:
  1. The Juno 60 was a simple synth with a single"ish" oscillator and fairly intuitive controls - so perfect for demonstrating a "101 Basics" thing with.
  2. It was the predecessor to my very first synth - the Juno-106 - which I spent HOURS on back in high school. It had a similar layout and controls as the Juno-60, but also had this new-fangled thing called MIDI on it as well.
... which brings me to memory lane... {ahhh...}.

"To all the synths and gear I've owned..."
Come on everyone, you know the words!

Alright, I'll spare you the nostalgic crooning, but I'll indulge you with a shortened, abridged version of the trip down memory lane of gear I've owned and sold over the years...

Soon after investing in the Juno-106, I went on to acquire a Roland TR-909.

That led to getting my first MIDI cable and ... well, the rest is history. I started doing some rudimentary recording with two tape decks and a couple of RCA splitter cables. Very time consuming, but hey, I was a teenager with time on my hands. We didn't have the Internet back then folks!

When I went off to music school at Western, I thought I needed to upgrade, so like any budding gear-slut, I haunted the local music store in Ottawa (Steve's Music) and lusted after the latest and greatest (at the time): Ensoniq's ESQ-1.

.... {drool}

It had 3 oscillators and 8 multitimbral voices! Woo Hoo!!!! To boot, it had an on-board multi-track sequencer which was the kicker!

Having this little baby around made me realize that I was a Music-Theory geek. I spent hours trying out stuff we'd learned in Theory classes - trying to apply to different styles of music and whot-not.

A couple of years later, the next shiny toy came out: The Korg M-1

This was just a killer synth at the time - a lot of the same concepts that the ESQ-1 incorporated, but it just sounded ... fantastic. So, back to the sell-your-gear-to-finance-the-upgrade cycle.

Soon after that, I decided to go to B-School at Mac and sold the M-1 to finance my next "toy" - a shiny 386 33MHz PC. Woo Hoo! Boy, that thing had 4 Mb of memory and a 80 Mb drive - killer!

The rest is sort of more recent history, but it took another five or six years before I'd start marrying the PC-geek and the Music-geek who were just itching to hitch up. I went out and bought a Korg N264 along with a copy of Cakewalk Pro-Audio (version 5 or 6 I believe).


That's where the downward spiral to today begins, and THAT is where I unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) have to end this before it gets way too complicated and rambling....

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