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Showing posts from February, 2018

Yamaha CS-10

A while back I decided I needed a new mono synth. I love my Korg MS-20 Mini but it can be a tad, shall we say, aggressive. I forgot to feed it on time once and I woke up with a patch cable up my nose. The Yamaha CS01 is fun but it’s not my go-to synth. Actually it’s more of a forget-to-go-to synth, but I’ve talked about that before . And then of course there’s my darling Technics SY-1010 , but unless I need something vaguely sad, I probably won’t reach for him either. No, what I needed was an all-around mono synth, something that could handle bass, leads and effects, would sound good doing it, and wouldn’t eat up too much of my poor English teacher’s salary. I thought I’d take advantage of the city I live in and visit Korg’s showroom on the outskirts of Tokyo to do my browsing. Alongside their own gear, Korg also had instruments set up from the companies they distribute in Japan, namely Arturia and Moog, so I set about annoying the polite guy manning the phones in the corner for th

Korg DW-8000

I like analog synths. That should be obvious from this blog. I particularly like ‘70s mono synths and ‘80s polys. That being said, I’m not an analog purist. I’m not anti-digital, by any means. I have a CZ-101 and a Yamaha TX81Z, and I’d really like a TG33 and Kawai K1m. I prefer analog but as a composer and producer, I recognize that sometimes a song needs a different kind of sound. It’s with this philosophy in mind that I jumped at the chance to buy a Korg DW-8000 for around $100. It wasn’t in perfect condition but it worked, and that was good enough for me. Why the DW-8000? If you have to ask, you probably haven’t heard one. Released in 1985, the DW-8000 is an 8-voice polyphonic hybrid synthesizer, occupying an evolutionary branch that ended when Roland’s D-50 won the survival of the fittest. But for an interesting period in the mid-80s, synth manufacturers were trying to find a way to link the sumptuousness of analog with the realism and clarity of digital. Korg eventually cau

Looks Matter

Shibuya, the center of shopping for young people in Japan, is also a major hub for musical instrument shops in Tokyo. My favorite shop for new gear, Music Land Key, is there, so if there’s something new I need, I know they’ll have it for a good price. I’d been wanting an Arturia Beatstep Pro for awhile. Although I have a Korg SQ-1, I liked the idea of having two lanes of sequencing, plus its MIDI to CV functionality was intriguing. And with all the hardware I seem to be amassing, I figured it was time to wean myself off the DAW a little as well. I put on a pair of pants and rode the trains across town. It’s not far in Tokyo terms. I live on the northwestern edge of the metropolitan center, outside of the Yamanote line that defines central Tokyo, but not so far removed either. But considering how big Tokyo is, my fairly short trip still took an hour each way. I rode the elevator to the fifth floor, made a beeline for the Beatstep Pro, saw that it was still white, and turned right a

Korg M-500 Micro Preset

British synth pop brought the synthesizer into the mainstream. Before that, it was largely confined to specialist performers like Vangelis and Jean Michel-Jarre, or the occasional soundtrack. But a new generation of young musicians harnessed the power of the then-still new instrument to create bold and fresh new sounds. A big contributor to this was the availability of relatively low-priced preset synths. With reduced functionality but also a reduced price tag, these synths—often available on layaway—proved a boon to young musicians hoping to forge a new genre without the prohibitive price tag. One such group was Liverpool’s Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (hereafter referred to by the much less unwieldy OMD), who married catchy pop melodies to experimental ideas. Their early records featured the Korg M-500 Micro Preset heavily. It can be heard providing leads on songs like “Enola Gay” and “Messages.” Play with an M-500 for a few minutes and you can’t help recalling those songs.

Korg Poly-61

Sometimes, for whatever reason, a synth will stay off your radar. It could have nothing to do with the sound of the synth itself. Maybe it’s even (in the parlance of our times) a beast. But for whatever reason you haven’t given it the time of day. This was my history with the Poly-61, Korg’s 1982 polysynth. Sandwiched between the famous and desirable Polysix, and the Poly-800, the synth that everyone loves to hate, the Poly-61 is easily forgotten. Nobody really talks about it, despite it having been used by big names of electronic music like Boards Of Canada and Com Truise. It also looks incredibly synthwave with its gray color scheme and grid-patterned front panel. I’ve been through more Poly-800s than I care to count, I have the Polysix iPad app, and I certainly wouldn’t mind a Mono/Poly, but a Poly-61? I must not be the only person with a blind spot for the 61 because I managed to get one recently in decent shape for $150. And pleased as punch I am. It’s a 6-voice dual DCO ana

Korg DDD-1

I’m not a huge drum machine guy. Some people love them and have giant collections. I like them alright and have owned my fair share in my life. I started with an Alesis HR-16 in the late 80s. In my acid house days I owned a TR-707 and later a 606, as well as a Maestro Rhythm King that I bought for like 20 bucks when no one wanted those old things. These days it’s easier to just load some samples into Maschine Mikro or even just drag and drop them directly into Logic. I can’t be bothered to pull out a box, plug it in, program a beat, etc. When I’m composing I’m moving fast, and I don’t have enough room to have drum machines permanently set up and plugged in. With one exception. My Korg DDD-1. The DDD-1 was Korg’s flagship drum machine in 1986, a 12-bit digital behemoth that was meant to compete with the other big machines of the time: your DMX’s and Drumtraks and Yamahas. It had 18 drum sounds with room for expansion courtesy ROM cards, velocity sensitive pads, stereo panning, eve