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Latest Posts

How To Play 90’s Dance Music on Synth Keyboards

Written by v on December 28, 2009 – 1:59 pm -

Season’s Greeting to everyone,

I apologise for being quiet for so long. You cannot imagine how many half-written posts I have that I did not have the attention span and motivation to finish. I have a perfectionist streak within me that can be paralysing and I hope to cast that off in the New Year.

I am a big fan of 90’s dance music and I love listening to songs and figuring out riffs on my keyboards. The music has an energy and upbeatness to it that really draws me in. Whilst browsing Youtube earlier this morning, I found these great instructional videos:


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Brief Blogs for 2009-11-09

Written by v on November 9, 2009 – 9:00 am -

  • Fairlight Instruments announces Fairlight CMI Series 30A, to mark 30th anniversary of revolutionary CMI sampler: http://bit.ly/3hOkdi #

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What is Ring Modulation?

Written by v on August 13, 2009 – 8:31 pm -

Ring modulation is an effect  that was introduced in the first analogue subtractive synths. Basically, it involves multiplying two waveforms together, e.g. multiplying a triangle wave and a square wave, to produce a new waveform that was the product of the inputs.

Electronically, this was a simple technique to create a new more complicated sound without requiring new waveform generator circuits.  The resultant waveform would have different harmonics to either of the original inputs and could then be filtered by the musician to create a new sound.

It is called ring modulation because one of the electronic circuits that implemented this operation used 4 diodes connected together in a ring-like configuration, similar to a bridge rectifier.

One of the most famous uses of ring modulation was to create the voice of the evil robots, the Daleks, in the British science fiction TV series Dr Who. The voice actor’s voice was ring-modulated with a 300hz sine wave and then filtered to produce the characteristic warbling sound.

Also, the MOS-6581 (SID) sound chip used in the Commodore 64 home computer implemented a limited form of ring modulation – one of the inputs to the ring modulator was always a square wave.

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Written by v on August 13, 2009 – 8:18 pm -

The vocoder is a very polarising device – it drives some people wild, it drives others nuts, but everyone who’s listened to modern music in the last three decades or watched cartoons had heard one. This is the effect used to produce a robotic voice or talking instrument.

Traditionally, vocoders have been dedicated units – boxes, with two audio inputs – a sound source and a microphone. It analyzes the human voice to measure the formant characteristics  and superimposes them over the tonal qualities of the input sound.

It is very similar in effect to the talk box, where a sound source is fed down a pipe into the user’s mouth and the user moves their mouth, jaw and tongue to modify the sound. The vocoder is also commonly confused with autotune – the quite recently developed pitch correction technology that can also be used for artistic effects.

Nowadays, vocoders are often built into synth keyboards like the Korg MS-2000, Radias and Microkorg series. They are also implemented in software in digital audio workstatation packages including Reason and Ableton Live.

In this article, we’ll talk about the history of the vocoder, how it works, its use in popular culture and how you can use one.


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Low Frequency Oscillator

Written by v on August 13, 2009 – 6:46 pm -

Many synths have a feature known as a Low Frequency Oscillator or LFO. The name is confusing, because usually, an oscillator refers something that makes a sound, like a square wave.

In this case the low frequency oscillator does not generate a sound, rather it is a control that is used to dynamically tweak or modulate  an existing sound to achieve different effects, making the sound more interesting.

It is called ‘low frequency’ because the frequency is usually at or just below the threshold of human hearing, usually less than 50hz, and often set to 20hz or 10hz.

Lets take a look at a few examples:

Imagine playing a note on your keyboard and turning the volume control knob rapidly back and forth with your fingers 10 times a second. By doing this, you are creating a tremolo effect. A 10hz LFO patched to the volume control would allow you to do the same thing without using your fingers.

Now imagine doing the same thing, but instead of turning the volume knob, you move the pitch bend wheel back and forth 10 times per second. This would create a vibrato effect. A 10hz LFO patched to the pitch bend control would do the same thing.

In fact, the LFO can be connected to a whole variety of controls or sound parameters to achieve different effects. The range of parameters you can control of course depends on the capabilities of your synth keyboard.

You can adjust the level (amplitude) of the LFO to determine whether you want a slight or a strong effect and you can raise or lower the frequency for faster or slower ‘throbbing’.

Digital Audio Workstation software and VSTs are usually extremely flexible in what you can control. In fact, you can use multiple LFOs running at different frequencies to control several parameters in parallel.

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Propellerheads Release Beta of Latest Software ‘Record’

Written by v on August 13, 2009 – 1:39 pm -

Propellerhead Software, the makers of the popular Digital Audio Workstation software Reason, have released an open beta of their latest software Record.  You can obtain a trial licence key and download it here.

The software will be officially released on the 9th of September, for a recommended retail price of US$299.

I have not yet tried it out, but the word on the street says that it is heavy on CPU usage, so hopefully you have a dual-core or quad-core processor installed in your system.

Here is the video promo:

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Welcome to SynthKeyboards

Written by v on July 11, 2009 – 3:56 am -

Welcome to my new blog SynthKeyboards! My name is Vlad and thank you for dropping by.

I have been passionate about electronic music from a young age.  My first electronic keyboard was my Casiotone MT-70, which my mother purchased in Singapore in 1983 for $300. Despite its primitive sound generation, I still use it to this day as you can just take it out and play it.

I also had a Commodore C64 home computer, which was famous amongst electronic musicians for its sound chip, the SID-6581 – which implemented a 3-voice analogue subtractive synth – vastly superior to anything that other home computers had at that time.

Today, my other synths include a Korg Microkorg XL Analog Modelling Synth and Korg Electronic EMX-1 Music Production System (basically a drum machine with some synth capabilities).

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