Spotlight

Gear Spotlight: Korg Monotron

I have to hand it to Korg for making the most fun synth products recently, they’ve been on a roll with the Microkorg and Kaossilator synths, and now they’ve released a $60 analog synthesizer called the Monotron, which will soon be joined by another iteration of the same setup, the Monotribe, a Monotron with extra waveforms and a discrete rhythm section.

I have a feeling that Korg designed this with modification in mind, as opening up the machine reveals some interesting labeling on the PCB. This thing is also really easy to modify, and the Monotron community has produced a number of MIDI interfaces, sequencers, and extra filters that really expand the functionality of this little box.

Korg Monotron

By itself, it’s pretty much a fancy Stylophone, a ribbon controller and pitch knob attached to an arpeggiator and a filter. The filter is worth noting, its circuit design was directly ripped from Korg’s classic MS-20 synth, and has the added bonus of a Line In, meaning that you can also use the filter on other audio sources.

I still need to add MIDI to mine as there are some really great sounds you can get out of this thing if you have it tuned correctly with a real input method. The MIDI kit also adds portamento as well, so I would imagine you could get some great leads and 303-style bass grooves out of it. For $60 you can’t really go wrong, it’s almost worth it just for the filter.…

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On Trying to Figure Out Where to Start

It’s been a couple months since I released Tuesday, and while I’m excited about my next project, I’ve run into a classic snag: I’m not sure where to start. I’ve got some new material in the works, and I have a general idea about what I want this next thing to sound like, but I’m having trouble nailing down that all-important jumping off point.

Sunset on Tuesday

Tuesday was the last time I want to make a hip-hop album, at least for a while. Rapping has always been kind of a side project for me, even though it’s garnered me the most fame. It’s fun, but I just can’t get completely into it. I’m sure there’s some very complex social and political reasons for this, but I think the most accurate reason is that I just don’t enjoy most hip-hop. Sorry. That’s just the way it is.

What I really do enjoy, and this might disappoint some of my fans, is folk music combined with weird electronic sounds. It’s a formula that’s worked out great for Beck, and while I’m probably not going to be as successful as he’s been, that’s more of the direction I’m headed. This creates a problem: There’s not a lot of examples of this style of music, so this project is going to require a lot of preproduction to really make it come together. With a hip-hop track, things are pretty linear. You get a good kick sound, set up a 4/4 beat, then add some rhythmic speaking over it. You really don’t even have to use a new beat if you don’t want to. It’s easy, and that’s part of the reason it isn’t satisfying. It literally takes no effort at all.

I spent some time on Tuesday looking for a balance between experimentation and accessible hip-hop, and I’m happy with most of the results. This time, I’ll be searching for that same balance in a larger and more dynamic set of musical boundaries, so it creates more of a challenge.

The Basic Concept

For the last seven years, I’ve been using mostly virtual instruments. I’ve been wanting to use more organic and analog sounds in my production, and this next project will use hardly any VSTs. Instead, I’m planning on using a variety of cheap vintage keyboards, drum machines, and auto accompaniment tools along with acoustic instruments. This project will have sort of a chiptune vibe, though I don’t think it will be accepted by the purists at 8bc.org…going “pure chip” would set too many limitations. I had this idea once before with my now-scrapped Robochomp project, but that was going to be more of a hip-hop outing than experimental electro-folk…

I’ve selected a small handful of potential noisemakers for this one, including the Korg Monotron and PSS-50 Super Section, a trio of vintage Casio keyboards, an air-powered chord organ, a MIDIfied Game Boy running mGB, a Boss Dr. Rhythm 550, a 1971 transistor organ, my trusty Ovation acoustic, and why not – a ukulele. I do plan on using Native Instrument’s Razor VST so it won’t be entirely organic, but the uniqueness of Razor lends itself nicely to the overall concept.

I tend to overindulge in my creation of soundscapes, so this will also be an exercise in minimalism for me, as I try to find that delicate balance between “not enough” and “too much”. I’m basing a lot of the engineering on the sound of 1970s-era rock albums, so it will be crucial to preserve dynamics and warmth to get that authentic 70s coloration, from the deep orange of a shag rug to the avocado green of kitchen appliances. The 1970s had a lot of artificial textures trying very hard to be real, and this album will reflect this concept as I attempt to wrangle the bleeps and bloops of the synths into laminated wood paneling and sticky vinyl seats.

Current Status

I’ve got a bit more pre-production work and a lot more songwriting to do before I start recording anything, my studio is currently running in software-only mode, and I need to fix a few things before it will be ready. If I had to wager, I’m projecting a winter release date, but that might change depending on what happens in the immediate future.

As always, this project will be free to download from both benjaminbear.net and bandcamp.com, with donations happily accepted. I may decide to release hard copies of this, it depends on the amount of funding I have. I considered trying one of those Kickstarter things, but I just don’t think the fanbase is there, and it wouldn’t cost me $2000 to make an album (actual price for a limited run would be around $150-200).

To the people who are expecting another hip-hop album, be patient. It took a long time to make Tuesday into something I actually liked rather than just poop out an album, and while I could release a quick followup with little effort, I’d rather focus on growing as an artist and exploring new concepts. Sure it’s artsy-fartsy, but that’s how one grows as an artist – with weird “experimental” material that most audiences just don’t get, except for those few people who swear that it’s the most brilliant thing ever.…

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Spotlight

Gear Spotlight: General Electric Tap-A-Tune

Ah yes. This thing. This was released in 1971 by General Electric and is one of the first (if not the first) transistor-based toy keyboards ever made. It’s supposed to have 4 different waveforms and vibrato, but I can’t tell if the waveform switch actually does anything, so I may need to open this thing up and repair a few things. It could also use some returning, as some of the notes don’t seem to be in tune with the rest.

This is a loud unit, I’m going to have to add a line out to get it to be really useful, as I have a feeling that adding some filters (like the one on my Korg Monotron) and effects will really get this thing sounding great. It does have that warm analog sound, it just needs a little help to take away some of the honk (running it through better speakers will probably help as well). It has potential and was a steal at under $15.…

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Spotlight

Gear Spotlight: Mitchell MU-70 Ukulele

The ukulele has undergone a renaissance as of late, even Eddie Vedder is hopping on the bandwagon and releasing a whole album centered around this tiny Hawaiian instrument. I didn’t even know how to play one when I bought mine, but it’s easy to learn, and a lot of fun.

My main gripe with ukuleles, in general, is that the majority of them sound like those plastic-stringed toy guitars you used to find at department stores. They don’t stay in tune very well, and sound “plinky” even with quality strings. The Mitchel MU70, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of these problems. It has actual sustain and beautiful tone and sounds like a real instrument rather than a toy…which is slightly ironic, considering the majority of the instruments I own actually are toys. My other gripe is all the hipsters on YouTube recording bad ukulele covers, but that has more to do with its current popularity than anything else.

Mitchell MU-70 Ukulele

Source : Top Music Gears

Somehow I managed to pick this thing up for under $100, even though Guitar Center’s website is listing them for $199 at the time of this writing, so I must have found a good sale on whatever day I walked in there. It stays in tune fairly well and has good fret action, which makes a simple instrument even easier to play.

It’s completely acoustic so micing is necessary for recording, but beautiful results are had with both my Bluebird as well as my Korg MR-1. The MR-1’s stereo condensers actually make it sound like a bigger instrument, sounding a bit like a mountain dulcimer or a lap harp.

Ukuleles are naturally tuned to C, and its limited fret count makes it a bit difficult to play in other keys without going into higher registers. The sweet spot for the MU70 is near the nut, it starts to lose its sustain as you get closer to the bridge, so playing in a key that mostly uses the upper frets brings out the usual plinkiness.

I did play every ukulele in the store when I purchased this one, and this one was the best sounding one in my price range. There was really only one ukulele that I liked better than this one, but it was nearly $500, and I didn’t feel like paying that much for an instrument I didn’t even know how to play.…

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Spotlight

Gear Spotlight: A Trinity of Casio

I’ve got a nice little collection of three 80s-era Casio keyboards, they’re great for adding 8-bit chipsounds without having to resort to modifying old video game systems or messing about with VSTs. Once you start adding effects, whole new sonic avenues start to open up, and the simple waveforms start to become more and more useful in my productions.

Casio PT-1

Casio PT-1

Out of the three, I use the PT-1 the most. Essentially a variant of the 1980 VL-Tone, this mini synth has four sounds and a handful of rhythm patterns including ‘Rock 1’, most famously used in Trio’s “Da Da Da”. The sound of this thing is “generic NES game”, so I use it a lot when I need some 8-bit flair. It pairs well with effects and filtering, and is a lot more versatile than it initially seems. Its simplicity and small size also light it a lot of fun to play, when I bring this with me to shows, it usually leads to impromptu freestyle and jam sessions.

Casio SK-1

Casio SK-1

I got this thing to circuit bend, but then I broke a couple keys on it when it got stuck in a drawer, so now I’m planning on rack mounting this after I add a MIDI port to it. This keyboard has practically become synonymous with circuit bending, and because of that the average price has risen from around $5 – 10 a few years ago to around $80 currently. By itself, it’s not that exciting of a keyboard. The sampling feature is fun for a bit and can be used to make some pretty neat sounds, but the stock sounds are kind of boring. It does have some rudimentary sound editing capabilities and some fun rhythm patterns that make it a bit more useful, but where this thing really shines is the bending potential this thing possesses. There has been some really impressive hacks, check out GetLoFi or Burnkit 2600 for an introduction into what’s been going on, benders have found everything from noise generation to video output.

I’ll definitely be adding some features to this thing, and you’ll be hearing it very soon.

Casio MT-36

Casio MT-36

The MT-36 is another beginner’s keyboard, it has only six instruments and four rhythm patterns, but does squeeze in a one-finger accompaniment mode and unique percussion sounds. The instrument sounds are all generated from multiple square waves, so again, filtering is necessary to bring out the best in this instrument. I need to open this keyboard up as well, as there’s some issues with the tempo and volume sliders that makes trying to dial in anything an exercise in randomness.

Since I mainly got this for the auto-accompaniment mode (my next project visits quite a few of these forgotten gems), I may add a few light bends to this. Nothing in the way of apocalyptic noise generation, as that always disappoints me when I see these videos of circuit bent instruments and hear nothing but the first few seconds of a demo song, then nothing but crushing static. I know it’s supposed to be the fun of experimentation, but I’m a musician first and I like things like melody and tone. Call me old-fashioned if you want.…

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Spotlight

Gear Spotlight: Boss Dr. Rhythm DR-550

This drum machine actually came as a bonus with a Roland PAD-80 (Octapad II) I bought, so I really never set out to own one of these, but I’m glad I do: the DR-550 has all the 90s-era Roland drums I could want. See, my first workstation keyboard was a Roland XP-80, so there’s a nostalgic place in my heart for those drum sounds.

By the 90s most synth and drum machine manufacturers had moved to digital sampling, and the DR-550 is no exception. While there are some samples of the classic TR-series, this thing is geared towards realistic drum sounds. You’re probably not going to mistake the results for real drums, but that Roland sound is there, anyone who’s used a Roland product from the same period knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Boss Dr. Rhythm DR-550

My personal unit has an issue with the LCD screen, so I normally use this as a sound module and program sequences in Ableton Live. Even if the screen wasn’t broken, I’d still do things this way, as I never quite got the hang of this style of the drum machine, I always preferred the push-button step sequencing style of machines like the TR-808/909. As a sound module, this thing is great, it’s probably the best collection of drum samples Roland had at the time, think of it as a “best of” collection from the Roland R8 and its series of expansion cards. My one gripe is that MIDI control isn’t set up in a typical fashion, you can only trigger samples that have first been assigned to the pads, so you have to set up your drum kit before you start programming. Still, this thing is cheap like most of my gear, and it’s effective.

I had thought about circuit bending this thing, but most of the bends create more static than tone, so I decided to forego that for now, I may pick up a 505 later if I get in the mood to bend something. I also need to see if I can track down the bug that causes it to crash when connected to MIDI, as that can get annoying in the middle of a session. I can’t complain too loudly about it though, as it was free, and does a great job when it actually works.…

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Indian

Latest Indian Designer Sarees / Saris

Indian sarees: an ever alluring trend

India is a place of trends and culture. It has a wide diversity among various places. As far as the Dresses are concerned you will find that Indian sarees are one of the best and most preferred outfits. Indian sarees are not only famous in India but it is also favored in many other places if there is anything related to traditionalism.

It is a fact that the Indian sarees have been in trend since years. The designs in terms of embellishments, fabric etc change with time but the concept of Indian sarees is always there. If you are also looking forward to change your wardrobe or add a collection of exclusive Indian sarees to it then in that regard it is better to know various patterns and techniques to carry the Indian sarees. Here is the round up of the best garment steamers that you can go for while selecting the Indian sarees:

• Basic simple pattern of Indian sarees: It is the one pattern of Indian sarees which can be seen from generations. It can never be out of trend. You will notice in the collection and trend of years that this is always fashion. You can play with fabrics, embellishments etc in order to make your look an appealing one. Make sure that you do not miss the track of latest fashion while selecting Indian sarees.

• Bengali and Guajarati style of Indian sarees: As mentioned above India is a place with a huge diversity. Here you can find the specific designs of Indian sarees that are emerged in various states. They make your look so very gorgeous and unique that you can never think of ignoring them. So make sure that you have some Indian sarees of this kind in your collection.


• Lehenga style Indian sarees: This is some what a new pattern of Indian sarees that is available for you in the market. Such Indian sarees are basically worn in specific functions and occasions. They give you an elegant and beautiful persona and make your appearance an exclusive one.

These are some of the amazing patterns of Indian sarees that you can surely have. But with addition to this you also need to have a look over the fabric and prints of Indian sarees. The Indian sarees are available in various designs like bandhej i.e. also known as bandini, leheria, kota doria etc. So with this too you can have a difference in the Indian sarees. So while going for the addition of Indian sarees make sure that you have a variety of all these patterns, designs, prints etc. With this you will find that you can have a huge collection with no repetition. So just plan it out and have a unique look with each one of the Indian sarees. Even you can take help of Internet to find the apt source for you and turn out with the best look.…

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