Category Archives: Musical Instruments

Posts about musical instruments, may be hard- or even software

Korg logue synthesizers – Creating backups

Via the edit modes of the synths, it is possible to dump traditional SysEx data via MIDI and USB connections. The dumps can include either the currently selected program or all data.

Fortunately, Korg makes it more convenient to create backups via some Sound Librarian software, available for both the prologue and the minilogue xd. Korg even provides user manuals as PDF documents, which can be found within the .app bundle.

In case your synth is connected via a USB cable, the librarian automatically fetches the data of the synth. The file menu contains a couple of entires to save your data. Save as… creates a file with the extension . prlglib. It contains the 500 programs, the user scales, and the setlist data. Global data of the synth seems to be missing as well as user oscillators and user FX.

Besides such an exhaustive backup, the file menu also provides an entry named Save program data…. This creates a file with the extension .prlgprog. Such a file just contains a single program. As a consequence, the menu entry is disabled in case more than one program are selected in the Librarian software.

Either file type is just a zip archive. In case you are curious what they contain, just add the extension .zip to those files and extract them with your preferred archiver.

Pressing the respectively Send all buttons in the librarian will overwrite the corresponding content on your synth. So before loading third party programs, e.g. as downloaded from presetpatch.com for the prologue or minilogue xd, I recommend to do a proper backup first, so you can easily restore your synth to the previous state after listening to the new programs.

Updating the firmware of a Korg prologue

As with the minilogue xd, the prologue updater tool asks to consult the user manual for details how to boot the synth into update mode. Unfortunately, neither the german nor the english manual contain the information required. It’s simple. Just hold the buttons six and eight while powering the synth on and wait until the display reads as “Version Up Mode”. Just upgraded mine from 2.0 to 2.1.

Korg prologue and minilogue xd – Using liked programs aka favorites

Both synths provide a favorite system. Unfortunately they work differently and are hard to remember in case you only use them every now and then. So here’s a quick reference.

minilogue xd

You can register up to 16 favorites using the panel buttons:

  • Select the program you want to register.
  • Hold the Shift button.
  • Press the button which you’d like to serve as a shortcut to this program for about a second or so.

To recall:

  • Hold the Shift button.
  • Briefly press the button which represents the desired program.

prologue

To “like” or “unlike” a program:

  • Select the program you want to “like”.
  • Press button 4 for about a second or so.

To scroll through liked programs:

  • Ensure button 4 is lit.
  • Turn the Program/Value dial.

To scroll through programs by category:

  • Press button 2 multiple times to select the desired category.
  • Turn the Program/Value dial to scroll through the programs of the selected category.

To return to “normal” scrolling behaviour by program number:

  • Press button 1.
  • Turn the Program/Value dial to scroll through the programs one by one.
  • Press button 1 multiple times to jump forward by 50 program numbers.

The prologue provides further sorting modes and a live set feature. See page 12 of its user manual for details.

OB-Xd preset location

The OB-Xd, provided by George Reales via discoDSP (and source on GitHub), is an excellent virtual analogue synthesizer emulation. It is not only available as a plugin for several DAWs, but also as a standalone app.

VSTs store individual presets as FXP files, or collections (aka banks) of them as FXB files.

In case you have downloaded an FXB file and want to install it for use in the stand alone app on a Mac, simply place the FXB in
/Users/YourUserName/Documents/discoDSP/OB-Xd/Banks/

Zynthian – Network Configuration

The Zynthian provides several user interfaces:

  • The most essential are the display, buttons and encoders of the unit, for direct access.
  • Some of the tools additionally provide a native computer window, which can be displayed either via (micro) HDMI or X11 forwarding.
  • A web browser configuration interface, accessible via the network.
  • ssh-access, over the network as well.
  • The MOD-UI-Interface is also available via HTTP.

The Raspberry Pi 4 features an integrated WIFI module, which is disabled by default. One can switch it on via the admin menu directly at the device, but only after it was configured via the web browser configuration interface. So to get the Zynthian connected to a network, an ethernet cable is mandatory. Subsequently you’ll find what I did, what worked and not (in short, a crosslink cable connection does not).

  • The first thing I tried was just connecting it to a MacBook using an ethernet cable. ssh immediately worked, e.g. ssh root@zynthian.local. Even using a web browser, the configuration interface was available at http://zynthian.local. After providing the login credentials, the login screen immedieately reappeared without providing any hint what went wrong. According to the discourse pages, other users observed this behaviour as well.
  • So the next step was to connect the ethernet cable directly to the router. The Zynthian interface discloses the IP address of 192.168.1.5, which one can enter into a web browser. And that’s it. Via the configuration interface, WIFI can be configured. Hint: It will last a couple of seconds until the popup for selecting the network is populated. Just be patient. Now the Zynthian admin interface discloses the WLAN IP as 192.168.1.6 and you can get rid of the ethernet cable..
  • From the config interface, the OS can be updated, what I did immediately.

Great. WIFI works, and the config frontend can be reached without the need of an ethernet cable.

Security hints:

  • You should change the login passwords of your Zynthian, otherwise your machine may be easily hacked and abused by someone else.
  • Additionally, try to disable WIFI from the Zynthian’s admin menu after using it.

Zynthian, the fun synthesizer

Of course I bought the V4 kit immediately, despite it’s more a project for the cold and dark season.

It took the whole eve yesterday to assemble the hardware, despite the fact I luckily had all the tools required available. Unfortunately it didn’t boot. Though the LEDs on the Raspberry PI and the soundcard lit during startup, the screen just left blank. Today I tried the following:

  • Try a new and more powerful power supply, just in case it was to weak to power all the hardware and the screen (as it happened with another Raspberry PI ages ago). This didn’t solve the issue.
  • Recheck the wireing inside the box. Everything appeared to be fine. Reconnecting the cables didn’t solve the issue.
  • Recheck the firmware image used. Heureka. I used »2020-07-27-zynthianos-buster-lite-armhf-1.0.0.zip«, despite the fact the page clearly states that releases labeled as “RC” should be more stable. I downloaded »2020-05-27-zynthianos-buster-lite-1.0.0-RC2.zip«, flashed it using Etcher and the device did start up immediately.

I connected a MIDI keybed and started Aeolus, a pipe organ emulation, on the device. Everything just worked “out of the box”. Phantastic.

I’ll check wether everything works as expected during the next couple of days. For now, I’m extremely content, thanks to the great work of all the people involved.

Zynthian Update – Raspberry Pi 4

Ages ago I was part of the Linux Audio community, but eventually I was bored by all the fiddling around and left Linux alone. Well, not exactly. For the kids of a relative, I configured a Raspberry Pi with a USB breakout box to use it as a pipe organ emulator. But some time later, they did the same I did – they bought a hardware pipe organ emulation. And I’m still extremely content with the instrument.

The advent of the Raspberry Pi 4, however, again makes the platform interesting for audio processing. And Zynthian, an open source project, upgraded to it. The v4 kit is available for 325 €. Before diving into it, I recommend an amazona.de article for v3 as well as the Zynthian wiki.

Should I buy one of those tempting gadgets? Well, probably :) .

Velocity support of Korg’s *logue synthesizers

With the advent of the *logue synthesizers (e.g. the Prologue and the Minilogue XD) Korg introduced a phantastic new feature – the possibility to program custom oscillators and effects for the machines. To accomplish that, Korg published the logue-sdk via Github.

The keybeds of the synths do not provide aftertouch. However, since a recent OS update (AFAIR that was Firmware 2.0 as released November 9, 2019), aftertouch received by external keybeds can be used to control a whole bunch of parameters, including the filter’s cutoff frequency.

While I really like those synths, I’m not content yet with the velocity support. Velocity can only control the two most essential parameters, the envelope amounts of the two envelope generators. The first one always controls the amplifier (e.g., velocity controls the volume of the sound). The second one is limited (as it only consists of an attack and decay phase instead of a standard ADSR envelope), but can not only control the filter cutoff, but also two pitch destinations. However, when using the latter two, there’s absolutely no possibility to still control the filter’s cutoff by velocity.

Further, the velocity value also cannot be used as a parameter in custom oscillators. This really is a pity, since velocity is essential e.g. for FM synthesis. I really wonder why so many parameters can be mapped to aftertouch (which the synths cannot produce by themselves), while the much more common and important velocity was omitted. At least for the MInilogue XD one could argue, that the target audience, due to its mini keys, are not performing keyboarders (though the famous Yamaha Reface DX impressivly shows how responsive a mini keybed can be). But the Prologues are designed as performance instruments while suffering from the very same omission.

I really wish it will appear via a future update, but I fear it was left out intentionally and with reason.

John Bowen Solaris – Preset Bank 8

About 5 years ago I explored the synthesis capabilities of the Solaris by creating several sounds for it. Every now and then, I posted the presets at the user forum. Eventually John included them in the OS as factory preset bank 8. Frankly, I still feel honoured :) .

In case you own one of the later Solaris’, you should have the sounds on board already (Bank 8 program 0 should read as »Softy«). If you don’t, here’s the files I sent to John on Feb 15, 2015.

Solaris Bank 8 – Christoph Eckert – 2015-02-15

Behringer lässt die Katze aus dem Sack…

Auf Youtube ist vorhin ein Video von Behringer aufgetaucht, in dem der neue CAT-Synthesizer beworben wird. Auf der Homepage ist er allerdings noch nicht gelistet. Im Gegensatz zum ARP Odyssey hatte ich bisher von der Katze nichts gehört, weshalb ich erstmal Amazona bemühen musste.

Es ist schon interessant, wie Behringer derzeit einen Klassiker nach dem anderen neu auflegt. Die anderen Anbieter dürften es somit schwer haben, in dem Marktsegment noch Fuß zu fassen. Klangschrauber wird es freuen. So viel klassischen Analogsound für so wenig Geld wie heute gab es schon lange nicht mehr.

Expressive E – Osmose

Korg Z1 controllers

Korg Z1 controllers

The (in)famous lever of a Roland A-50 MIDI Keyboard Controller

The (in)famous lever of a Roland A-50 MIDI Keyboard Controller

Korg Kronos ribbon controller and joystick

Korg Kronos ribbon controller and joystick

Anders als Gitarristen hat man als Keyboarder keinen direkten Einfluss auf die Tonhöhe. Dafür finden sich an Synthesizern üblicherweise Spielhilfen, um Vibrato und Tonhöhenbeugungen vornehmen zu können. Mit den klassischen Rädern bin ich nie richtig warm geworden. Glücklicherweise verfügte mein langjähriges Masterkeyboard (Roland A50) über den Rolandtypischen Jammerhaken. Für Korg ist der Joystick typisch. Die Systhesizer verfügen zudem meist über Aftertouch. Nach dem Anschlag einer Taste kann man durch “Nachdrücken” klangliche Parameter steuern. Die genannten Spielhilfen (außer dem selten zu findenden polyphonen Aftertouch) beeinflussen alle gespielten Töne gleichzeitig. Expressives Spiel einzelner Töne lässt sich damit nicht erreichen. Für die separaten Controller muss man allerdings ohnehin eine Hand von der Tastatur nehmen.

Mit großem Interesse verfolge ich die letzten Jahre Geräte wie beispielsweise von Haken Audio (Continuum Fingerboard und Continuu Mini) oder die Seaboards von Roli.

Expressive E rührt derzeit mittels eines Prototypen die Werbetrommel für ihren neuen, äußerst expressiv spielbaren Synthesizer Osmose. Unter anderen findet sich auch ein Video mit Jordan Rudess. Auch Engadget hat ein Video veröffentlicht. Zum Einsatz kommt hierbei MIDI polyphonic expression (MPE), die einerseits von den Bedienelementen erzeugt und andererseits von der Klangerzeugung auch verarbeitet werden können muss. Dazu passend kommt im Osmose Physical Modeling zum Einsatz.

In den Videos kommt das natürlich toll ‘rüber. Allerdings ist mir klar, dass ich als unterdurchschnittlicher Hobbymusiker sehr lange üben müsste, um vergleichbares aus einem solchen Instrument zu holen. Der “Sofort-Kaufen”-Impuls blieb daher bisher aus. Ich will ja auch morgen noch was auszuprobieren haben :) .

Die restaurierte Wilhelm-Orgel in Kaufungen

Am Sonntag hatten wir in der Kaufunger Stiftskirche die Gelegenheit, der Wiederinbetriebnahme des Instrumentes von Georg Peter Wilhelm (1733-1806) beizuwohnen. Das Instrument ist insofern interessant, da die Erbauung in die Übergangszeit vom Barock zur Klassik fällt. Die Disposition weist noch barocke Züge auf, die Intonation empfand ich allerdings als deutlich obertonärmer als ich es von barocken Instrumenten gewohnt bin. Die Posaune im Pedal ist wahrscheinlich die zurückhaltendste, die ich jemals gehört habe.

Nach Gottesdienst und Besichtigungsmöglichkeit spielte am Abend Gerhard Weinberger ein Konzert. Mit den wiederholt hängenbleibenden Tasten kam er genauso souverän zurecht wie mit der umfangreichen Literatur. Hier das Programm:

  1. Georg Muffat (1653-1704) – Toccata tertia
  2. Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780) – Fantasia a gusto italiano
  3. Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780) – Fantasia sopra »Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele«
  4. Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780) – Präludium und Fuge C-Dur
  5. Ernst Ludwig Gerber (1746-1780) – Drei Choraltrios über »Liebster Jesu, wie sind hier«
  6. Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) – Drei Variationen D-Dur
  7. Johann Carl Friedrich Rellstab (1759-1813) – Sonata D-Dur – Allegro pomposo – Andantino – Allegro è Grave
  8. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – Pièce d’Orgue (BWV 572)
  9. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – »Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn«
  10. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – »Aus der Tiefe rufe ich« (BWV 745)
  11. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – »Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten« (BWV 691a)
  12. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – Passacaglia und Fuge c-Moll (BWV 582)

What the Minilogue xd lacks, and why you must own one

For quite a while Korg is constantly stressing the market of electronic musical instruments with its innovative products. Wavedrum, Kronos, Volcas, *logues, you name it. As the Prologue was released, I got very exited, especially due to its programmable user oscillators (and nevertheless I did resist the temptation to get one).

Recently I got the SDK up and running. As a consequence, I got interested in the Minilogue xd so as to be able to eventually work on some home grown user oscillator. Surprisingly, it turned out to be one of the very rare instruments that blow you away the very first time you touch its keybed.

But first things first, the Minilogue xd is rather limited:

  • I’m used to play keyboard instruments with two hands. Thus mini keys and a three octave keybed are completely out of question.
  • For the very same reason, four voices only are out of question as well. No chance to play jazzy chords or sounds with some release time.
  • Just one LFO. I’m used to have vibrato mapped to the lever, so there’s no second for further modulations.
  • The filter envelope only consists of AD, lacking SR.
  • Limited modulation capabilities. No modulation matrix, no patch panel.
  • Limited velocity capability, just amp and filter EG.
  • Compared to its elder sibling, only one filter mode.

If it didn’t have that cool user oscillator, I’d never considered even touching it. Meanwhile I’m glad I did. Why? To put it simple: Its impressive sound. Even without its user oscillator or effects engaged, the machine sounds fantastic. I even compared it to the Prologue in the trumpet store. The latter one left the impression of being rather smooth, the Minilogue xd providing much more character. One VCO alone in conjunction with its VCF are a pleasure to touch. Now consider you have that cool additional Multi engine. I’m completely overwhelmed.

So what about the abovementioned limitations? As Sebastian “Kebu” Teir put it during his TEDx talk: »Having limited options boosts creativity«. IMO it’s actually nowaday’s Minimoog. Excellent sound, easy to understand and use, and very portable. A must have for every synth addict.

Do ré mi fa sol la si

Während wir im deutschen und angelsächsischen Sprachraum Bezeichnungen für die Stammtöne verwenden, die auf dem Alphabet basieren, finden sich im romanischen Sprachraum Tonnamen, die sich aus der Solmisation entwickelt haben. Eine (tabellarische) Übersicht bietet Wikipedia. Oben abgebildet sind Tonnamen, wie sie in Frankreich Verwendung finden. Um Halbtöne auszudrücken, werden die Adjektive «dièse» für ♯ und «bémol» für ♭ verwendet.

Mittlerweile habe ich sie gelernt, habe obige Abbildung aber noch immer griffbereit in der Hosentasche.

Update: Seit Vorgestern findet sich im Netz ein nettes Karambolage-Video dazu.