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Re: beginner guitar synth questions - stompbox DIY

Legion's post reminded me of some early experiments
with stompbox FX I undertook when I first got into
electronic music.

At the time, since I couldn't afford a "real synthesizer",
I imagined ways of creating an abstract "synth" using the
crappy old stomp boxes of the day, moldering away in pawn
shops and junky music stores. Of course, I could have built
things too, but that's a different story.

I started with a typical monosynth architecture as a guide
to which role each effect would play in my "synth design",
i.e., based on VCO + VCF + VCA, ala Moog, Arp, and Roland.
Basically, a subtractive synthesis architecture.

[For the uninitiated, VCO = 'Voltage-Controlled Oscillator', your
sound/pitch source; VCF = 'Voltage-Controlled Filter', usually
a Low Pass filter, or a combination or Low Pass and High-Pass. You
can think of this as timbre control - how the sound changes, its
character); and finally, VCA = Voltage-Controlled Amplifier, which
controls the volume, loudness and dynamics of your sound. Any one,
or all, of these components may be routed through an Envelope
Generator (EG), which creates the shape of the sound across the time.
The typical VCA has controls for Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release,
hence, EGs are commonly referred to as ADSR, AD, or AR, depending on
the type of EG. For more info on synthesizer theory, search the Web
for "subtractive synthesis".]

So given this type of architecture, it's relatively simple to
categorize various stompboxes under each functional relationship:
either it's a VCO-, VCF-, or VCA-related effect.

My first concept was something like this:
Guit.(VCO)--> Pitch-Shifter (sub-oscillator) --> Envelope Filter --> Rex50
(ADSR) --> Amp

In the VCO category, the Guitar is the pitch source, with a pitch shifter
as a sub-oscillator (commonly found on Roland monosyths). You can also
side-chain a stereo chorus or flanger before or after the pitch-shifter
to fatten up the sound.

In the VCF category, the envelope filter was a crummy Cry Baby Volume/Wah
(and an old 7-band Graphic EQ) to control the overall tone and timbre. The
Wah allowed realtime parameter tweeking ;).

For the VCA section, I used a Yamaha REX50, a little-appreciated
multi-effects box with a nifty ADSR patch I used to control the
dynamics or the output stage. Another wild and useful patch is
the Pan - which behaves like an LFO - also another useful
synth-like function.

Other "synth design" pedals, like envelope followers, phase
shifters, tremelos, etc, add considerable sonic variety to
your bag of tricks. Add a patchbay, and you've got a semi-modular
psuedo-synth!! :)

Adding a looping rig and the noise-making possibilities become

- Larry

-----Original Message-----
From: legion <legion@voicenet.com>
To: Loopers-Delight@annihilist.com <Loopers-Delight@annihilist.com>
Date: Monday, February 14, 2000 12:32 PM
Subject: Re: beginner guitar synth questions

>> >>> custom sounds and not trying to sound like a bad timpani or 
>> >>> player, you'll be much happier!
>> >>Ok, that's an intriguing idea which I'm going to have to look into.
>> >>specific analog synths should I check out?
>> we are talking about analog synths here, I don't think a piano player is
>> gonna care much about how close the low-pass is to a real minimoog any
>> than he'll care the tone of a timpani :-)  It's those analog synth 
>> you have to watch out for, but people I know seem to really like the
>> Waldorf Q:  http://www2.waldorf-gmbh.de/products.html
>Well I guess at 50+ synths I qualify as an analog synth freak. i also
>play guitar (straight acoustic or heavily processed electric) and guitar
>synths (Old Roland analog GR series, midi guitar, etc).
>The first question you have to ask your self is do you want to use your
>guitar polyphonically (Ie; more than one note as in chords and such) or
>for simple leads and monophonic lines.
>Unless you are using a dedicated guitar synth or midi interface all the
>effects boxes and analog synths are monophonic. Even the polyphonic
>synths will only allow you to play into the filter and such so you're
>not playing the synth itself but merely using it as a processor.
>While I agrere the Waldorf Q is an amazing synth that is well of $2500US
>and it still will only let you process through it not play it.
>there are a few old analogs with Pitch convertors in them that actually
>track the guitar note coming in to oscillators inside the synth and this
>might be fun if you're looking to do a lead type thing. The korg MS20
>does this as does thre Roland SVC355. both are rare and very $$ of
>course. The Korg X911 "Guitar synth" is a msall box geared towards
>mangling spounds but doesn't track too well (actually nonoe of the older
>analog pitch convertors track well.)
>If you just want to mangle the guitar signal beyond comprehension then
>something as basic asthe Waldorf 4pole filter box might work. you could
>also go the completely other route and pick up a vintage modular like
>the arp 2600 or EMS VCS3 (as used by Pink Floyd!) for well over $2k
>The cheapest and easier route ti as someone said to string guitar
>stompboxes together. You can even throw something like the boss SYB3
>"Bass synth" pedal in the loop for good measure. the reissue EH
>Mircosynth also does terribly wrong things ot an original signla and
>might be worth checking out.
>I wrote a detailed post on using FX with guitar a while ago. You can
>read it from this link:
>good luck!
>     HELP WANTED PRODUCTIONS - Http://www.voicenet.com/~legion
>"Bringing you the best in Organic Electronic music since we started..."
>Home of the Unusual Instrument and Recording Gallery with pictures and
>info of Tube recorders, Omnichords, weird guitars, Casios, and more.