“I admit it… I’m a total music nerd”

So… I’m a totally sucker for making from kits… I get heaps of satisfaction from putting together all sorts of noise and music making devices including Bleep Labs Thingamagoop 2 RGB and Cat Full of Ghosts Yowler synth.

I even enjoy ripping open old 80’s battery operated keyboards and connecting wires in places just to see what happens. Often nothing, sometimes fun weird things. I admit it… I’m a total music nerd.

I’ve been super excited to get hold of Teenage Engineering Pocket Modular synths, so by the time the PO-400 and PO-170 arrived, I was itching to rip open the ‘flat pack’ boxes and get into it.

I thought I’d start with building the 170, as it’s a bit smaller, and I thought I should document the build process and then be able to give a couple of working tips to help others get their build right the ‘first time’.

The other thing I am a sucker for is a good aesthetic. Teenage Engineering does this down to the smallest minutia…. packaging. leads. font. graphics. dimensions. colour. I love it all.

My first piece of advice for fellow builders is to put all of the screws and small pieces in small containers. I did this to ensure that they didn’t roll of my table or get lost amongst the stuff on my desk.

Second piece of advice is to attach the power distro board first. If you put the modules in to start with, you’ll find that some of the power distro screws are difficult to reach, and you really only want to be putting in these screws once, as they have the potential to thread the metal casing if tighten too much, or are screwed in and out too many times.

FWIW, I attached the spacers to the case before I attached them to the modules. This is different to what the build guide suggests, but I found that it worked really well.

I attached the power distro, modules and speaker before bending the metal casing. The speaker fits pretty snug in the space, so when you’re attaching the modules to the power distro, connect them to the centre plugs, because they won’t fit next to the speaker when you bend the case into place.

The bending itself feels like a critical point in the build that you don’t want to get wrong. I bent by pushing the edges into the table top. I was able to do it slow, methodically, with an even pressure that allowed for good results at the bend points.

After bending the metal frame, attaching the keyboard module with its rubber stopper was really straight forward. A tip for attaching the stick-on key-bed is to spend a little time identifying the horizontal alignment and centre position, because this is a part you are only going to be wanting to attach one time.

Once everything is in and screwed together, you can start putting in all of the lego-styled knobs. Pay attention here to the small indentations in each and align them to the zero-point of the potentiometer. The small ones in particular are pretty fiddly to get on, so it’s good to get it right the first time.

If I was to point you in the direction of the most helpful resources for this build, I found both TE’s PO-modular 170 online guide and Alissa’s build video the most useful.

I recently sat down (over zoom) with James Jennings to do this interview about my new “Cinematic Rhythms” course for Melodics, as well as a little about my musical past and things that have shaped my musical path.

If you’re unfamiliar with Melodics, it’s a Music training app for Keys, Pads and Drums. Available for both computer and iOS.

Check it out @Melodics

Melodics - Cinematic Rhythms

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Hi all, Recently I was asked to contribute some Chord Sets to the wonderful Scaler Plugin. It’s a remarkable plugin, which allows you to create harmonic material easily.

I sat down at the piano and played a bunch of chord progressions that I regularly gravitate towards, and then provided them to Davide Carbone who is one of the brains behind it.

A week or so later with Scaler’s release, there I am, listed next to a bunch of amazing artists.

The idea of a plugin that provides you with chord progressions of various artists may seem a bit like *borrowing* someone else’s ideas. But once you get the hang of what it can offer, it’s actually not like that at all.

I’m finding that using my own presets as a starting point, and then using the variations feature allows me to discover chords that I may not have normally gone for, but adds those occasional harmonic variations that keep things interesting.

You should check it out!

Scaler

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I have recently been working some material up for the Melodics App, which is an app that aims to make learning how to play finger drum pads and piano fun and engaging.

The aim of my course was to get users to understand some of the techniques used in creating cinematic-styled music.

There are six compositions you can play along with; Space Between that helps you explore the idea of less is often more, and to listen to the space between notes. Character & Theme works on the idea that a simple musical theme can be synonymous with a character in a film. Drama & Rhythm builds tension through the use of dramatic deep strings and tense percussive elements. Tension & Dissonance works with closely clustered notes to create something melancholic and tense. Deep Melody puts everything together to create a deep cinematic world, and Chords Uplifting resolves the whole course as an epic uplifting grand finale!

 

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To celebrate the release of my new EP Streamers, I’m giving away a set of Instrument Racks that are compatible with Ableton Live 10. These instruments use many of the new features and FX available in Live 10, including Echo, Drum Bus and Pedal.

Each instrument uses original audio files from each track on the EP, but they are more of a ‘re-imagining’ of the sonic landscape of each track, and are designed to be immensely playable using the pre-mapped 8 Macros, and hopefully creatively inspiring to you.

I used similar techniques for many of the instruments that I utilised in the commercial Analogue Sequences Pack that I created for School of Synthesis, which is available at Loopmasters. This technique involves using the Slice feature in Simpler in conjunction with carefully mapped Arpeggiator settings to create ‘playable’ sequences. It is particularly fun to play with using an Ableton Push controller in it’s 64 Pad drum rack mode, though can be played with any midi controller.

These are freely available to you to use as you wish, but if you find them racks inspiring consider donating a dollar. or downloading the Streamers EP via Bandcamp for a couple of dollars!

Download the instrument racks in .alp format here.

Have a listen to Streamers on Spotify  or via Bandcamp below

Streamers (2018) -Winterpark - Cover Art- LoRes

 

 

 

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As a side to my work at Ableton User Group Melbourne, I was privileged to be part of the team programming and putting on Process- A Sonic Forum: a day-long event that brought together a whole stack of musicians working in the field of music technology talking not about Industry, but about arts practice and creativity.

We had wonderful presentations and workshops put on by Darrin Verhagen, Ben Byrne, Chiara Kickdrum, Chris Vik, the Monash Country Lines Archive, Rainbow Chain, Tom Cosm, Eve Klein and Dennis DeSantis.

MESS (Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio), Found Sound, Ableton and Innovated Music were also all involved in providing a range of Musical Equipment, Synths and Gadgets for participants to play on.

Have a look at the video round-up, and watch this space for future Process events!

Over the last few months, I’ve been composing and creating sound for a really beautiful meditative puzzle game for iOS called Breath of Light.

Made by Melbourne game development company Many Monkeys, Breath of Light is the sort of puzzle game that takes time to master, there is no rushing the process, It’s a slow paced game that required immersive, meditative music.

The interface is a bit like a Zen Garden, where the player must arrange and move objects within the space to allow the flow of energy from one lotus flower to another. The game is set over 4 seasons, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring, each progressively more challenging as the levels evolve.

Each season has it’s own musical underscore created from a bank of loops that are designed to both work in any combination, but also evolve and develop over time with the gameplay.

It was decided very early on that User Interface (U.I.) sounds should add to the musical score. The way we made this work was to have a series of randomised tones associated with every object and movement within the game. All these sounds were composed in a way that to match the tonality of each season’s underscore, which allows every gesture within the game-play to contribute to an interactive soundtrack.

During the development of the soundtrack, I used Ableton Live to create a performable set to play these sounds to both demo these musical ideas to the guys at Many Monkeys and to test how the U.I. sounds blended with each other. I did this by creating drum racks that housed the U.I sounds and used scenes to work out the different combinations of underscore loops for each level in the game.

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Once the nuts and bolts of the game sound was finalised, I set about developing a performable live set to recorded each ‘season’ as a musical composition in it’s own right. This was done with a little extra help from the wonderful Max for Live Dub Machines audio FX ‘Magnetic‘ and ‘Diffuse‘ which added extra flow and movement.

Below are the recorded seasons of the Breath of Light soundtrack, available for free download via Bandcamp.