Keyboard Abstinence…

It’s now been almost 3 months since I packed up all my gear and left San Francisco. Since then my entire studio has been placed in custom wooden boxes, stuffed in a container, placed on a ship, crossed the atlantic and is now sitting in a harbor somewhere along the Swedish coast.

I knew I would be away from my gear for a long time which is why I put together my portable little setup (more here), but I did not foresee how much I would miss having access to my modular and my keyboards.

I packed an LPK25 but I just don’t gel with it, also the build quality is poor and the thing is already starting to fail on me. To replace it I’ve been fiddling with the laptop keyboard and the built in Analog Four keys, but It’s going to be at least another 45 days before my studio is back up, and as a result I’ve started to long for a good key bed.

I’m really tempted to grab one of the new, interesting ‘mini-synths’ like a BassStation 2, a MiniBrute or an MS-20 Mini, and with Arturia announcing the MicroBrute the availability of portable, analog, mono synths have never been better! While not the cheapest option it would add a lot of extra value over a Midi controller.

On the other had I’m also curious about the new KeyLab series from Arturia. While dependent on a computer to run the KeyLab software, the quality of the Arturia emulations are just killer.

What’s your portable keyboard solution? Computer and MIDI controller or an actual synth?

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Elektron Side Cheeks / Panels Part 4

Today I had my third meeting at the studio building my Elektron side panels! I got a call in the afternoon that the actual designs / plans were ready for inspection so S and I drove down right away to check them out.

DSC01186Using the actual Analog Four to verify the angles, spacings and other details we went over the designs and sketches. I made one alteration, adding angles to the front cut-outs, which the carpenter seemed very happy with. Other than that his plans matched exactly what I had in mind.

Next the actual ‘production’ will start and in about 2-3 weeks I should be able to show you the actual results. Needless to say I’m really excited about this project and I can’t wait to see what the final panels will looks like.

More updates to follow.

Problems with Sound Locks on the Analog Four

While I intend to invest in a Machinedrum from Elektron at some point in the (hopefully near) future, at the moment I’m restricted to only the Analog Four for song production.

# I’m traveling so I do not have access to my full studio. Yep, I miss my modular…

Because of this predicament I have been learning a lot about the A4, and I’m getting really impressed by its feature set. Restricting myself like this has also proven to be a very exciting way to work, but that’s for another post.

Anyway, when you are limited in the number of ‘voices’ and instruments at hand, the Sound Locks of the Analog 4 can be a real killer feature. Essentially it allows you to ‘lock’ a sound to a particular step (or ‘trig’ in the Elektron parlance) in the sequencer. Thus you can use just one of the A4 sequencer tracks to play back for example a Bass Drum, Snare and HiHat, instead of using 3 tracks. Make sense?

However, while this works great for synthesizer lead patches and many other types of sounds, I’ve run into an interesting issue with one of the Bass Drum presets.

The following video actually explains it better than I can with words:

Essentially locking the Bass Drum with any other sound on the same track causes the ‘volume’ of the BD to drop sharply as soon as the other sound plays, only to slowly come back up over time. If patch 2 is continuously triggering on the same track the Bass Drum will never return to audible lands. Note that this behavior only occurs with certain kicks.

There is also a thread on the Elektron forum discussing the same phenomenon. Essentially it would appear to related to the filter, and an effect of kicks constructed by self-oscillating it. Here’s a secondary thread that provides more info and a few other angles.

I will continue to research this but if you have run into this problem, found solutions or have any thoughts on plausible causes please share in the comments!

Elektron Side Cheeks / Panels Part 3

Check the following posts for part 1 and part 2!

I had my second meeting at the studio where the side panels will be made. At my first meeting with the carpenter (furniture maker?) we discussed the choice of wood and went over some simple design directions. This was mostly to get a sense for material and time so that I could get  a rough estimate on the cost.

DSC00932In today’s meeting we went deeper into the precise angles of the tiers and details around air vents, decorative additions and spacings for cables.

I have to say it’s very impressive to talk to a true expert at these things.

Even while listening to my ramblings about standing up vs. sitting down, studio and live use and so forth he was casually drawing up designs that were miles ahead of the sketches that I had brought. I also completed the actual formal order so that work can start for real.

These panels will not be cheap, but on the other hand they are hand made by an expert wood smith from one of the most famous craft regions in Japan. I also get it made precisely to the specifications I want.

More to follow :).

Elektron Side Cheeks / Panels Part 2

As you may know I’m working on some designs for Elektron Side Cheeks / Panels. Read Part 1 here for the background.

Here are some photos of my extremely crude prototype boards that I made to check the angles for the tiers:

DSC00934

I didn’t have any tools (currently traveling…) so I went to a local home center and borrowed an electric jigsaw. The holes are drilled using a small hand drill that I picked up for $10. The wood is a simple pine board ($3). All in all this little crappy prototype / test (which actually works!) cost about $15 to make.

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I started with a high angle and gradually shaved off degrees so that I could check both the standing and sitting viewing angles. The angle in the photos is final result for the lower tier.

I also realized that I wanted at least 10mm of space between the lower tier machine and the table top to pass cables under the stand.

This is to accommodate a possible third machine placed directly on the table top in front of the stand. Other important lessons include the space needed for the cables attached to the back of the lower tier machine, and making sure that the upper tier does not cover the controls of the lower tier.