Terminal Update: November 2017
Well, hey there folkies, how’s it going? As per our usual (I’ve noticed I say this almost every time), it’s been a damn long time since any kinda formal update. Sure, those of you following me on the ol’ facebook may be somewhat aware – but let’s take that awareness to the next level eh? I mean, you can only go so deep on facebook and I’m all about the depth.
What’s going on in music land? A lot.
vt100 #2 Record:
It’s no secret, I’m writing my second record. Not that there’s anyone to pass formal judgement on these things, but I would say that the record is coming along pretty well. Sure, snags abound, but that’s the way these things go.
- Warehouse – Ready for Mixing
- Cables – Ready for Mixing
- Impedance – Ready for Mixing
- A Thought – Recording IP
- Symbiosis – Recording IP
- Eclipse – Recording IP
- “Bio” – Writing IP
- Writing IP
So yea, three are about to discover the insides of my computer. After a couple of hours of editing/setup and what not, they’ll be ready to mix too. Of course, one of the snags is with those three, but I’ll get there in a second.
Then there’s the writing. God it feels good to start writing a new song. I tend to take songs all the way through recording before I start on another one. Well, I’ll take a batch of songs anyways (uh.. three of them this time). It helps me maintain focus; the songs end up better and end up done a bit quicker.
But wait Mr. Vt – you said you don’t start writing new songs until other songs are recorded. That’s right, I don’t. The Juno-6 died while I Was recording the last batch.
Yea, for real. So, there are things in the works, but yea… I’m also starting writing work on some new songs for the record.
And you know, a couple more and we call this a record.
Okay, so, hardware changes ehhhh? Yep! Since July what has changed? Uh, I’m not really sure. Let’s talk about the two latest bits then, eh?
Not too long ago I added the second hardware delay unit to the terminal, a stomp called the Timeline from Strymon. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily say that this delay is a particularly unique set of features, though it does have a couple of more interesting knobs. It’s main sell, honestly, is it sounds fantastic. Like… really friggen good. Between that, and having all the important features (for me, that’s midi syncing and control), it’s a wonderful pedal. I bought it because this pedal is considered by many gearslutz to be ‘the guitar delay pedal’ – though there are a couple of other pedals in that particular debate.
The Timeline, in addition to sounding just incredible does all the standard delay stuffs similar to my other delay unit the DD500. It differs in that it offers a handful of different delay circuits, my favorites being the bucket delay a circuit it called “Ice” which is basically a neato granular delay.
Remember three minutes ago when I mentioned the Juno-6 had died? Yea, for reals. I was about to record it for Eclipse and, well, after plugging in the quarter inch it stopped making sound. Boooooo.
While the Juno-6 is most certainly repairable, I knew a couple of things at that point:
- If I wanted to keep moving on the record, I’d need another synth quicker than I could get the Juno-6 repaired
- I probably shouldn’t rely on the Juno-6 for gigging. I need something less old, and far less precious to me.
I did some digging around, mostly looking into synths that could replicate some of my Juno sounds in some way. The Juno isn’t particularly complicated, it just sounds like a Juno… so what else sounds like a Juno? Well, sadly, nothing analog – but some stuff comes close, namely:
Modern Roland’s sounding like the Rolands of 35 years ago? Yep. Roland has a whole array of what they’re calling ’boutique’ synthesizers that mimic the sound and interfaces of the synths of yesteryear. The Ju-06 is a replica of the Juno 106 which is two models later than my Juno; and yes, the 106 does not sound like the 6 – but Roland isn’t making Juno 6 (or 60) clones, despite my desire for that sound.
Now the System-8 isn’t a boutique synth; there’s no specific hardware modeling of old Junos going on here. System 8 instead has the ability for software modules that Roland is annoying calling “Plug Out” (you know, instead of a ‘plugin’). System 8 ships with two of these plug outs, one for the Jupiter 8 and one for the Juno 106, in addition to having it’s own fancy pants digital synthesizer capabilities.
And I think there are a couple more Juno 106 clones out there, but I didn’t look into them too much. Despite none of this shit being analog, I went with the System 8. Why?
- The Ju-06 was a pain in the ass to get. I don’t think Roland is currently manufacturing this synth.
- Despite the Ju-06 being cheaper, it is a one trick pony. Since my Juno was modded for extra capability, this was a concern.
- More Midi stuff was available in the System 8; this stuff matters to me
- The System 8 is kinda pleasantly green
So yea, I got the System 8. Here it is:
System 8 vs Juno
Okay, so how’s the System 8 stack up to the ol’ Juno? The short version: The Juno 106 module for the System 8 does sound like a Juno, albeit the Juno 106. The difference between a 106 and a Juno 6 is the character of the oscillators and filters are a bit different. People usually say the 106 sounds a bit bright and somewhat thiner. I think that’s an accurate description of the Juno 106 plugout versus my Juno 6.
That said, it would turn out I won’t be able to use the 106 plugout as a direct replacement. Because I’m relying on features of the mod I’ve installed in the Juno-6, I can’t replicate what my Juno 6 can currently do using that plugout. Very specifically, the Juno-66 mod provides a sample and hold lfo that I sorta love and have written songs with it in mind (specifically, Eclipse). I attempted to replicate my Juno-6 sound using the System-8 Juno mode coupled with an externally sourced sample and hold lfo, alas, it didn’t really work.
Instead of Juno mode, if I want similar shaping on the System 8, my current option is to simply build (some of the) patches in System 8 mode, which has all the features I have in the modded Juno. Not the same sound by any means, but interestingly enough, some folks actually like the System 8 bounces better than the Juno ones.
Juno’s future is somewhat uncertain at this point. I really wanted to complete this current record with the Juno sound being a specific component. Originally, after the breakage, my intention was use System 8 as a travel synth exclusively, fix the Juno, and fixing recording using the Juno exclusively. Unfortunately, repairing the Juno is turning out to be problematic as the vintage synth repair guy in Oakland has gone awol. It make take me some time to find him, and so while all that happens… who knows. I may just use the System 8 for the rest of the record, using Juno-mode where I can, and where I can’t… ah well, maybe it’ll make the record better, as some people seem to think it will.
System 8 Integration
This is going to be one of those deeper and more technical topics. Bringing in the System 8 isn’t a matter of plug-n-play. I have to refactor every song to use it, which involves a handful of steps. To make things more complicated, because I do that, if I want to swap in the Juno after it’s repair, I have to take extra care.
The short version:
- For each song I need to find a replica sound. Starting with Juno-106 mode, I attempt to recreate the sound, and it’s particular dynamics within the song (maybe I play it legato and with an arp). This can take a while, and depending on how it goes, I may need to dive into System 8 mode to do it. It’s expected that the sound won’t be exactly the same; it more about finding something that works or is even better
- After I find a sound, I need to re-map any midi cc’s I’m using. CC’s are how I automate the synth sound changing during the song. Usually I do things like open it up for a build, stuff like that. Juno actually has no native midi, so these are the midi CC’s of the Juno-66 mod, that I need to remap to whatever patch I’m using on the System 8. This isn’t usually just finding the new controller number, but also changing the automation curves as the System 8 will have it’s own way of responding to things.
- If I want to use the Juno-6 at any point, I have to restructure the sequences (… in the sequencer) to separate Midi CC’s from note data. Both synths will have the same notes, but different CC’s, and such, that will be where I need to toggle one synth versus another.
- In cases where the System 8 ‘just doesn’t do a thing’, I need to figure out what else I’m going to do. Specifically, the Juno-66 mod allows me to detune all of the voices in unison mode, but I can’t do that on the System 8. Maybe i’ll just swap that out with some distortion automation or something.
The newest three songs will be pretty straight forward I think. I’ve already done Eclipse. A Thought is super simply with the Juno. Symbiosis will likely be the same patch as Eclipse, though I may clone it so I can make a couple of other changes. The first three songs though, those will be a lot harder. They may get other work done to them when I do that to make them easier to play. I expect a couple more weeks working out the integration of the new synth.
And, cause i’m a huge fucking nerd, the latest midi diagram showing all of the devices and their control wiring.
The Live Set
And with an hours worth of music comes another fun and exciting new topic, live sets. What’s it going to look like for vt100 to play all of these songs? Sure, I make little videos all the time, but if anything goes wrong I can start them over (and boy howdy, do things sure go wrong).
But, there’s more, to do a live set, there are a few things that become, well, things:
- Keeping all the songs from the set active in my memory (mean i’ve got to play them a lot)
- Figure out how one song can change settings that affect other songs
- Hardware issues (see boy howdy comment above)
- How to pack the whole thing up for travel
- How to put it together in a reasonable amount of time
- And finally, how to minimize dead air
I’d say the last bullet is my favorite to thing about. The sequencer requires me to stop everything in order to change songs. Ceasing musical movement isn’t great sure, but then couple with having to make sure a lot of knobs are in the right spot before I start is a thing too. While all of this is going on, what comes out of the speakers? Absolutely nothing. And… if I don’t check on some of the sounds they may not exactly do what I want them to do when the song starts.
Whta we want to do is minimize that dead air as much as possible. Basically this means, “start the next song as soon as possible”. But if the song can’t be started right away, well, what else? Maybe a new, shorter song? Maybe mix in some of my other stuff? Hard to say exactly how it will pan out, but these are a couple of ideas I’m running with.
Yes, I actually listen back to my rehearsals, look at where time went, and try to reduce it. Smoove, like butta.
The other issues are a matter, for the most part, of engineering and practice. Traveling? Yea, I need to engineer a setup that moves, then I need to practice tearing it down and setting it up a bunch. Boom. Done. Winning.
But wait, live set?
Oh, am I going to actually play anywhere? Yes. Next year. This year, I’m going to play at my house; you can watch though. I’ll be streaming a live set on December 2nd, at 8pm pst. Via twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/vt100music
More on next years show in a future update. And with that, I’ll see you folks… next time.