Frequently Asked Questions
Some to address questions about this website, some to address questions
gain from my volunteer work
I don't like
lazy deceivers using my volunteer work for monetary gain. I
tired of unscrupulous auction or classified sellers using my web page
advertise their products - it is a misrepresentation of the product
they are selling. So I have had to resort to techniques to
prevent my work from being exploited. top
pictures have visible watermarks?
Some of the images I used are from associates and are
copyrighted. Many of them are my own. However I got tired of my volunteer work being
exploited. In today's world of simple copy/paste, the text
on my webpages are also "seeded" so they cannot be easily used in item
descriptions. If you would like to use an unmarked image from my
website, feel free to email me under "Contact". top
you embed your text as images?
To prevent their use as sales pitches for auctions and classified
ads. I got tired of my
volunteer work being exploited. Seems that "seeding" the text
didn't always deter unscrupulous sellers, so the good stuff has been
replaced by watermarked images. top
possessed you to use unconventional backgrounds for your pictures?
was putting together an
inventory of my gear and was inspired by the pictures in Tom Wheeler's Guitar Book in which there were
many pictures of guitars with nature features in the background.
I used to rent a farmhouse and had used the barn, the blueberry field,
the garden, and other surroundings as backdrops. I look for
scenic spots such as public parks (spot the one with the ducks in the
distance!). I also used the occasional railroad artifact as a
background as a vague reference to another hobby of mine - choo-choos. top
RA Moog Minimoog the crown
jewel of my collection. Still the king of analog synths (not counting
modulars). Retrofitted with MIDI.
Moog Source Great bass and lead
machine, closest thing to a programmable minimoog although short on
modulation options. Good arpeggiator synth too. Retrofitted with MIDI
although the mod wheel and volume can't be controlled via MIDI.
Moog Voyager Where the Minimoog
and Source lacks in modulation or MIDI, the Voyager fills that gap.
Moog Taurus I Low end solid
fundamental bass doesn't get better than this. Too bad there isn't a
decent MIDI retrofit.
Moog Taurus III Programmable
version of T1 with MIDI. The only synth that duplicate the elusive
Taurus preset. The low end and beef are just as good, they nailed it.
Moog Memorymoog I learned a LOT
of analog programming on this beast. Hot-rodded to stay in tune, I
still gig with it! The standard that I measure polysynths against,
hardware or software.
Moog Polymoog My first analog
polysynth. Did a lot of gigging with it but has been redundant with the
Memorymoog in my arsenal. No MIDI retrofit possible. Kinda neglected
lately but the only synth I am sentimental about. I made short legs and
made it a cool coffeetable.
Alesis Andromeda Closest thing
to a programmable modular synth and my polysynth for gigging so I can
leave the moogs and oberheims home
ARP ProSoloist All preset
little variability no MIDI but good sounds and the most expressive
aftertouch in my arsenal. Duplicated some presets in my Voyager for
Korg DSS-1 "As-is" I got for
nothing. Synth engine works 100% but has a bad data slider and disk
drive (no disk drive, no patches). Awaiting the USB and memory upgrade.
Oberheim FVS THE true
"polyphonic" synthesizer. Configuring homogenous patches is a
waste of its potential.
a basketcase but am progressing on resurrection.
Oberheim OB-X The worthy
companion to the Memorymoog. Huge organic silky sounding machine of the
OB-SX Good companion
to OB-X, although limited variability and no patch storage presets only.
Lexicon Model 200 an oldie
but a real goodie. The sound of the 80s. No MIDI, no digital I/O, no
Lexicon PCM-60 x6 "Budget" version of Model 200. Used for
gigging in clubs, nice basic plate/room algorithms. No MIDI, no
digital I/O, no problem.
Eventide 2016 x3 great
for short room verbs - something about this box lifts the source out of
One for vocals and one for snare.
Drawmer DL231 dual compressor
quite effective on percussion thanks to its log detector (not the usual
Also has a downward expander for gating and a limiter.
Drawmer DL441 quad
compressor/limiter used as a limiter on my PA. I've blown one too
Drawmer DS201 dual gate The standard all gates are
measured against. It just works!
Drawmer DS404 quad gate Quad version
of DS201, used for toms
Loft 400 quad gate/limiter used for my
monitors on my PA
UREI 7110 compressor x2 Excellent all-purpose
compressor. Unique feature is a control that offers a variable blend
peak and the RMS detector. Very unique compression effect.
UREI LA-12 dual
compressor x2 Newer version of 7110, used on vocals
UREI LA-22 dual
compressor/expander x2 Adds frequency selective compression or
This thing can take a dog of a kick drum and transform it into a
Ashly GQX3102 dual 31-band graphic used on
JBL 5547 31-band equalizer x4 used on monitors for PA
Parametric Excellent precision surgical EQ
Moog 10-band Graphic
Nice tone color when boosting
Moog MF-105M MIDI Murf Filter bank used
for sculpting synth waveforms on my analog synths
SDD-1200 x2 Really good stereo chorus, one for synths one for
Korg SDD-2000 Echo unit for vocals, delays out to 4
Korg SDD-3300 x8 Triple digital delay with insane routing
options. MultiFX can't touch this thing. Not an instant gratification
box, if you study delay processing techniques and love to tweak you can
get a lot of effects out of the 3300. I combined the 3300 with
PCM60 and got the ultimate multiFX, now I use seven sets of this
combination for my analog synths they are THAT good.
Yamaha E1010 Used for Haas FX on guitars. I exploit the
grunginess of the delay line for doubling effects.
ADA STD-1 The king
of tapped delays. Gorgeous modulation effects and resonance
Moog MF-104 x2 The originals, not the 104SD or
Moog MF-108M Excellent chorus and flange effects, some unique
features not found elsewhere.
Dynacord CLS-222 Leslie simulator for
Moog MF-103 12-stage OTA based
phaser. Smooth and warm.
Moog MF-102 Ring
Modulator Cool sound mangling box
Eventide H969 Harmonizer well featured but not well known pitch
Moog MF-101 12dB or 24dB ladder filter with envelope
follower. Very effective on bass guitar. Early model with
now-obsolete CA3080 OTAs.
EV EX-18 crossover used for variable highpass on channel
UREI 525 crossover used on PA
Rane FAC 24 crossover
used for filtering the output of the SDD-2000
Moog Should I Buy for Bass sounds?
You want earth shaking bass? Get a T3, MiniTaur, or SubPhatty.
You want the Minimoog bass? The Source does a better job than the
Voyager. Memorymoogs are overkill for monophonic bass lines. Model D
has resonance that is non-linear and decreases as the cutoff reaches
its extremes, this is why a EG spiked minimoog bass is unique to the
minimoog. This non-linear resonance was considered an engineering
"fault" at the moog works and succeeding instruments have corrected
this "fault". This "fault" can be simulated on an Andromeda.
You want extreme moog bass? A Memorymoog in unison mode with all six
voices firing all three oscillators at once destroys subwoofers (that's
eighteen oscillators, 7 more than Spinal Tap).
The SE-1 doesn't apply, doesn't have the beef of my moogs. Li'l and
Slim Phatty doesn't have decent low end for bass.
However the Voyager can get a
lot more sounds that no other moog could dream of because of its dual
filters and extensive modulation options. top
Want to own vintage
If you want to own any vintage item, there is a price of admission.
Repair costs. Restoration costs.
Cost of obsolete hard-to-find components. Doesn't matter whether
it is vintage analog synths, hammond organs,
tube guitar amps, autos, tractors, etc. Be prepared for what
you're getting into.
Famous Last Words:
"Should be an easy repair"
Most musical instruments that use any electricity inside are labeled NO
USER SERVICEABLE PARTS INSIDE on the case for a reason. There may
not be lethal voltages inside, but there are plenty of devices inside
that are best left in the hands of a competent tech.
2) "Should be a simple fix"
More Famous Last Words:
3) But why should my repair bill be more than what I paid for it?!?
Do not expect maintenance free gear or expect that new vintage toy to
be functioning 100% upon delivery from a seller.
NEVER assume that repairs will
be cheap. Depending on where you live, a competent repair tech
be hundreds of miles away and you will have to pay shipping costs for a
repair. Even brand new stuff made today is going to have
years later. Anybody thinking otherwise is living a fantasy world.
Repair costs is an intrinsic part of owning anything. Deal with it.
Even More Famous Last Words:
does the MIDI retrofit cost more than what I paid for my synth?!?
Upgrading pre-MIDI synths to the 21st century is not going to be easy
or cheap. These things cost money because of the development and
fabrication expenses that went into them, and the low quantity for the
limited market they are targeted to. It's called Business
Economics 101, you should study it sometime. top
In close relation is the following topic...
Want to fix your own gear?
free repair advice from the internet?
Seems that as vintage gear becomes more popular and competent techs
hard to come by, novices are seeking free repair services from the
I do have extensive knowledge of how gear works and my net reputation
precedes me. I often see queries from novices on DIY
repair. Here's why guys like myself refrain from fixing stuff
over the internet:
And lastly... the internet is a poor resource for learning
electronics. I have seen websites with incorrect information, and
university websites actually omit crucial information. top
- We didn't invest a lifetime of time and money to hone our craft
so it could be given away. Please refrain from shaming tactics to
convince us otherwise.
- I am too busy at work and my limited personal time is too
valuable. You're not the only one who wants to make music.
- If time permits (which is rare), I'll provide pointers and some
advice to simple problems. But there is a threshold where it is neither
no longer free or suitable for novices (insert disclaimer "professional
driver do not attempt at home"), and you will need a competent tech to
look at it in person.
- Many problems are not trivial and just cannot be fixed over the
- Most gear has lethal voltages inside of them and they will kill
you. I assume zero liability upon any personal injury or
death. There's a reason that competent techs exist. You're
- If you cannot grasp complex systems such as analog synths or
correctly interpret a schematic, you will do more damage with your
incompetence and your repair bill will be higher.
- The circuits have many complex interactions. A problem can
be deceptive and may actually have another cause somewhere else.
- Complex systems need complex tools. Oscilloscopes and other
test instruments are not easy tools to use and it is easy to use them
the wrong way. "Professional driver" disclaimer...
- Beware of buying used oscilloscopes or other diagnostic tools on
auction or classified sites. These things are often not 100%
functional. Buy from a reputable test instrument restorer with a
- There are free software oscilloscopes for computers. Forget
them. There are many technical reasons these are not suitable for
professional repair, too lengthy to go into detail.
- Guesswork will not fix gear. Don't bank your luck on
it. These things require thorough knowledge of the system as a
whole and a logical approach to the root cause of the problem.
- Do not adjust trimpots. Many of them interact with other
trimpots or require test equipment to adjust correctly. There's a
reason these things are labeled NO USER SERVICEABLE PARTS INSIDE
- Do not unplug/reseat connectors. They can be reseated wrong
and cause even more damage. You often cannot see that it is
visually reseated wrong.
- More often than not, en masse
swapping of ICs will do more damage than good.
- Any IC could had been blown by another problem upstream, and
replacing it will only blow the new one! Pretty expensive with
hard-to-find $$$ CEM ICs that are depleting every day.
- If the new replacement IC is bad (it DOES happen!), it may do
more damage to surrounding components.
- If the ICs are not socketed and have to be unsoldered from the
PC board, you may permanently damage your PC board. Do that and
you have just created a doorstop.
- The above applies where "IC" is replaced by resistor, capacitor,
- Concerning a polyphonic analog synth or sample system, novices
have zero business trying to fix a rocket. Too many of these have
been destroyed by incompetent repair jobs.
- If you want to make your repair tech's job easier, at least admit
that you tried to fix it yourself. Your tech will thank you for
- If you want to keep your repair costs reasonable, don't try to
fix it yourself. A tech will charge you more to fix your screwups
in addition to the original problem.
- Don't assume you have just been equipped with all the precautions
to attempt a DIY repair. Space doesn't permit listing all of them.
- One idiot damaged a synth module when he tried to plug a MIDI
cable into a jack that looked
like a MIDI jack, and he got upset because I advised him to take it to
- I know of at least one professional in Europe who installs
upgrades to analog synths but no longer accepts synths from the US
because of incompetent repair jobs.
- Any seller who told you "should be a simple fix" has already
figured out otherwise, doesn't want to pony up for the repair bill, and
off the problem to someone else - you. Congratulations!
I don't subscribe to the club of blanket replacement of old electronic
The single driving factor is heat. Prolonged exposure to heat will
prematurely degrade components.
Most guitar amps from the 60s and 70s are tube amps which generate a
lot of heat inside that chassis and do require regular cap replacement.
I say "most" because I have a british Selmer tube guitar amp made in
1963 that doesn't run hot and the last visit to my tech three years ago
revealed zero problems with the capacitors. That's fifty years on the
original caps! On another device where I did cap replacement ement, I
have pics of scope images of the power rails before and after - and
there was zero difference.
Then there is the heat issue at the junction of semiconductors. That is
driven either by design or user error.
Poor design means the semiconductors run hot because the heat isn't
adequately dissipated. I had a cheap rackmount multiFX that I no longer
use because the chassis got hot and the unit eventually started going
flaky. Not all design errors can be fixed in the field.
User error means the unit was packed in a manner such that ventilation
was neglected or because of incorrect loading. Everybody knows that
heat rises. When I racked my units I paid attention to those that
generate heat and that needed ventilation. They either had 1U open
space above for ventilation (heat rises) or I strategically placed
units with shorter depth directly above them so that heat could
Replacing ICs and opamps en masse
is a waste of time and money unless you are intimately familiar with
components. It is also an invitation to trouble in that if it doesn't
work you are in for a hell of a troubleshooting session. One of the
rare exceptions are the 4xxx CMOS family made by RCA in the 1970s -
these things did not have input overvoltage protection of the modern
equivalents and were prone to blowing from overvoltage rule violation
or ESD. I have one device that absolutely would not work without the
dinosaur age 741 opamp - some engineers design their circuits around
the substrate design such that only 741s from certain manufacturers
There is also design evolution to consider. The practice of placing
bypass caps in close proximity to the power pins of high speed logic
didn't become widespread until the early 1980s.
Anybody pushing blanket replacement of all caps, opamps, IC, et al is
selling something you don't need and does not understand these true
What components do I change in my mixer EQ
tailor them to more specific things IE kick drum? How do I modify my mixer to use a
Most EQ circuits have components that interact with each other.
Changing the R or C values may not get the desired effect. Attempting
to change the center frequency by changing a cap or resistor value may
change its boost/cut range. It may make the Q factor become
undesireable. These factors are all interactive.
There are many circuit configurations that comprise an EQ circuit. You
need to know the transfer function of that configuration before
deciding how to modify the circuit. No single transfer function applies
all EQs. Some circuits are custom designed with the transfer function
known only to the designer and/or company. Empirical
experimenting may be a long and frustrating process.
Shoehorning a sweep control into an existing circuit is not at all
trivial circuitwise. Many EQ circuits are not even designed to employ
sweeping. There is no simple way to do this.
Modifications like this will quickly reach the point of diminishing
returns. It would be easier and cheaper to buy a parametric eq. top
CMOS and memory ICs
"Bit rot" is more prevalent in CMOS and memory ICs made before the
mid-1980s. That was a product of the fabrication process, and has since
been corrected in modern processes.
EEPROMs were strictly a development tool. EPROMs were the low quantity
alternative to masked ROMs and are often deployed in electronic gear.
It wasn't economically feasible to fab masked ROMs in quantities of
less than 100,000. Musical electronic gear almost never sells anywhere
near that quantity and there is no way to project the success of a
product to justify the $$$ for masked ROMs. EPROMs were the better
solution. Firmware upgrades are also much easier with EPROMs.
You can still buy low LSI CMOS and TTL, but low density EPROMs used in
1980s gear (512KB and lower) are no longer made and getting harder to
Almost everything made before 1990 used DIP package ICs. DIP
packaging is gradually being replaced by SMT. Each year there are
more and more ICs that are no longer being made in DIP packages.
Take this from an EE with 30+ years experience in the business: leaving
gear powered on 24/7 will degrade them. Heat degrades electronic
components, especially capacitors and ICs. Leaving them on 24/7 creates
accumulated heat and no amount of venting or cooling will remove the
heat where it hurts - the terminal leads and the internal bonded wires
on the substrates of ICs.
As for switching on/off power supplies, relax chicken little. That
applies to tube circuits with solid state rectifiers and no standby
switch, and to appliances with large motors such as forced hot air
furnaces and refridgerators. It does not apply to solid state
electronics unless the power system is poorly designed (like the old
I have a lot of gear in my possession that gets power toggled on a
regular basis and I pay attention to proper heat ventilation. The only
caps I have replaced was because they had leaked (guitar amps generate
a LOT of heat and generally have poor ventilation) or whose cap values
have impacted tuned circuits (my 40+ Hammond organ got a vast
improvement from a recap).
In my experience if you pay attention to devices producing a lot of
heat and work to improve ventilation or cooling, that goes a long way
to getting more mileage out of your gear. top
Digital vs Analog filters
This topic comes up a lot.
Here are tidbits from myself and others I have collected from the past:
Achilles heels of analog filter emulations for the 46,938th time:
Filter resonance. Real analog filters have a "color" to their resonance
that is missing from emulations. Many emulations use the textbook
transfer function of filters, but they are abstract functions that
don't even begin to take into account the intricacies of analog
filters. Plus a derivation of specific moog/oberheim/arp/roland/et al
filters would take a lot of work to derive and to implement on a
computer. Desktop computers don't have the horsepower to crunch such a
VCAs. The early ones were less than high fidelity and actually imparted
mild overdrive that was dynamic depending on level and timbre content.
Few people realize the importance of a "dirty" VCA - minimoogs and
early oberheims owe much of their "fatness" to VCAs not just filters. A
very complex behavior to model in emulations.
Audio domain modulation. Low frequency modulation using an LFO is easy
to emulate. But emulations fall apart when attempting audio domain
modulation with non-sinusoidal waveforms. FM using sinusoidal waveforms
is easy to emulate, non-sinusoidal waveforms now require FFT to
transform them into a Fourier series of sinusoidal waveforms that is
easy to chew on. It's the FFT that is the bottleneck, and much so if
the waveforms are being modulated themselves.
AC coupling between stages. The coupling between VCO->VCF->VCA on
real analog is not direct and the capacitive coupling element will
introduce distortion and phase shifts to the harmonics, neither of
which is easy to emulate. The emulation must take into account the ESR,
lead inductance, dielectric absorption, and other idiocracies of
capacitors that impact the sound of real analog.
If you want really technical information, keep reading:
The transfer function (read: algorithm) of most digital filters are
glorified versions of the textbook formula.
What many fail to miss is that the textbook formula is an ideal utopian
formula that real world filters seldom follow. In the analog world,
there *is* no ideal filter. The textbook formula assumes perfect
reactive devices (caps, inductors) and perfect active devices
(transistors, opamps). No single transfer function applies to
Moog ladder filters, Oberheim SEM filters, ARP 4023/4072, CS-80, etc.
There are no perfect devices in the analog world. They all have their
thorns. Those are the charms that make analog filters interesting and
is why an Oberheim 12dB lowpass multimode filter sounds uniquely
different from a ladder filter in 12dB lowpass mode. They are also the
thorns that plague digital emulations, because the non-perfect
behaviors have to be converted into a mathematical formula. As well as
a mathematical model of all those elements interacting when they are
coupled together, including the feedback behavior at different
resonances. Not only is that derivation a difficult task, but the
resultant formula would be extraordinarily difficult to crunch in a
That brings digital filters to an interesting paradox. Because the
market demands low prices, the real problem is recouping the expenses
into research for a digital filter that accurately models analog
filters. You would need to recruit the services of engineering physics
engineers with an EE background to derive the mathematical formula that
accurately models real world circuits. And to crunch the numbers of
their research you would need a powerful and efficient embedded system
(don't even think about a desktop PC). Neither of those come cheap. Any
attempt to market a system at high cost will attract few buyers since
this is a market that is accustomed to reasonable retail prices. Sell
it too low and spread out the returns over time, and it would take too
long to recoup those expenses from the miserly returns of the software
An interesting parallel is the market that Lexicon created with their
digital reverbs. They faced the same challenges as digital filters, the
difference being they targetted the market that could afford the
initial high costs of the research and development. But that market
today - professional recording studios - is 1/10 what it was thirty
years ago. Bricasti formed from the ashes of Lexicon. They have a
product using today's technology. I don't know how their sales today
compare to thirty years ago, but today a lot of users scoff at their
prices. This is definitely a case of you get what you pay for. The
problem is convincing those same reluctant users to shell out $$$$ for
an accurate digital filter in a softsynth. Not gonna happen any time
Going from the digital to analog domain and (potentially) back is
significantly more expensive because of additional components. A prior
poster had correctly ascertained the problems of having to control the
filters with envelopes and other modulations and to assign them to
voices all of which is far easier digitally since you don't have to
worry about A/D conversion and the number of voices you can have (your
polyphony) can be determined by the ability of your processor(s) to
handle the computational load. Not so for analog filters. You have a
potentially variable number of voices and have to figure how best to
assign them to your fixed number of analog filters. Basically, Waldorf
solved that in the Q+ by saying that once you used a patch with the
analog filters you were limited to 16 voices in that patch and if you
were using multis then only one of them could use the analog filters.
The OP's assumption that analog filters were just some resistors is
also incorrect as the famous 24dB/oct Moog transistor ladder filter is
exhibit A of. The transistors in the analog circuit are being used much
differently than in a digital circuit. Transistors on IC's are cheap
but laying out the chip for the analog filters in them could be much
trickier than for pure digital because transistors in the analog world
are not flipping from 0 to whatever the chip positive voltage
representing 1 is unlike in digital designs.
It is hard enough to hire competent electrical engineers much less
those that possess knowledge of analog filter technology and are
willing and able to do that for a career in electronic instrument
design. Just a fact of life. Sad but true.
One also has the problem of how many and of which type of analog filter
to use. Each additional option adds up to a real component and design
cost for every unit produced unlike digital filters which may have high
up front software design costs but then don't add to the unit cost of
Bottom line is it costs a lot more and it isn't worth it for the high
volume manufacturers to do at this point. Who knows, maybe that could
change in the future. Just is the way it is now. The Waldorf Q+ is a
fine synth but you pay about a $1500-$2000 premium to get those analog
filters and some more voices and most of the cost is in the filters.
Most people won't pay it.
Microprocessors can do a lot of things really fast, but not
everything. Any "exotic" functions (other than basic
add/substract, multiplication and division) are taking more CPU cycles.
For example, on Nehalem CPUs, FMUL (floating point multiplication) is
taking between 1 to 5 clock cycles in normal circumstances. On the
other hand, FPTAN (f.p. arctangent, nice to use for saturation for
example) eats 120 CPU cycles. You can use some faster / lower precision
algo for some nonlinear function, or look up tables, but it's always
more costly than basic math stuff.
Lets say that you use "modern" approach for filter design, like in
Diva. In that case, you first develop a system of nonlinear
differential equations that describe the VCF. Next, you apply some kind
of solver for that system, typically Trapezoid Rule solver. And than
you end up with equation like this:
y[n+1] = f(y[n+1])
where f() has some nasty nonlinear parts (lets say, in typical example
that you get something like y = A*y + B*tanh(C+y) + D). So you have
ended up with implicit nonlinear equation, and beside narrow class of
cases there is no analytic (explicit) solution for that equation (that
is, one where you get y = g(A, B, C, D)). So you typically use some
iterative solver, so you have to calculate already expensive nonlinear
functions several times (that's why Diva cpu consumption is parameter
dependant, low resolution or low cutoff -> iterative solver
converges quickly or initial estimation of solution is good enough
On the other hand, if you ignore any non linear parts (that is start
with linearised model of VCF) you get 10-20 add and multiply operations
and one division (plus one or two "CPU expensive" nonlinear functions
to calculate filter coefficients but that's same in linear and
Sometimes it is a lot easier to accomplish a function using analog
How do you balance music, family, and life?
I didn't author this, but it really speaks volumes: top
answer: Communication, scheduling, and a man cave.
I can only speak from my own experience, but I've had this problem with
every woman I've dated, including my wife. My wife's just the only one
I've been with long enough to figure it out.
Basically, any time the woman in my life felt I was putting more time,
money, or focus on average into something other than her, she saw it as
me prioritizing my own hobbies/interests over her. And that was never
really the case, of course. I just tend to have a one-track mind once
I'm working on something, so I wasn't always very happy to be
"interrupted" (a word you might think, but should never say in this
situation). I don't know how many times I've heard the sentence, "Oh,
so your blog/site/computer/movie/game/synth is more important than I
It took us years to come up with a situation that worked for both of
us, but here's how it works. From the morning until 5:30/6:00 at night
on weekdays I give my time to my employer. Once I'm home, my time up
til 9:00pm goes to my family. After that is my cave time. Actually
having a furnished, temperature-controlled room for all my gear (it
used to literally be a garage operation, which sucked equally in summer
and winter) where I can retreat to indulge in my music was the final
piece of the puzzle.
We also have at least one night a week where I emerge from the cave,
usually to watch a Rifftrax with her or something. We do family stuff
on the weekends too. My wife was happy with me allocating a few hours a
day to my interests once she understood that it was about me regrouping
and recharging, not about "escaping" her. It was never about the
specific activity or hobby; it was about what she saw as my priorities,
and where she stood in that list.
Legal case law has firmly established that ANY
entertainment made available for
commercial sale that uses audio or visual samples
of existing copyrighted material MUST have preapproval from the
original copyright owners. Other artists have already tried to
evade this legal precedent and
Think you can sample a long forgotten obscure source and no one will
notice? That was a mistake
that Charlie Clouser of NIN tried:
1980's I did solo tracks that were all techno stuff
vocals from tv and films, and I had a bunch of DAT tapes with all the
vocal bits I had accumulated. Never released, nobody ever heard them.
When I remixed Heresy I broke out those tapes and took those vocal bits
from an obscure documentary about religion that was, by then, almost 20
years old. Didn't clear them, didn't even know the title of the
documentary they had come from. As soon as the remix came out, on
import CD only, in Europe only no less.... Nothing Records got the
call. Yes, the producer of the original documentary was suing Nothing
Records. He was teaching a course in film and showed this documentary
to his students, one of whom was a NIN fan. This knucklehead kid saw
the scene that the vocal came from, and said, "Hey teacher! I have a
remix that has a sample of that line in it!" The teacher goes, "????"
and the kid goes, "It's by my favorite band, nine inch nails!" and the
teacher goes, "Who or what is a nine inch nail?" and the kid goes,
"They're like the best band evarrrrr, check out the track!" ........
Ring Ring - lawsuit. It took a couple of months to prove to the
filmmaker that we'd only printed like 10,000 copies of that remix, that
it had only come out as an import CD and wasn't on the 4x platinum
album, and that he wasn't going to get a piece of The Downward
Spiral... but we still had to pay him off. I think Trent paid the guy
$8,000 to let it go, but it took many hours of in-house lawyer time to
make it go away. I got a firm talking-to by Trent's manager to please
never do that again! Lesson learned: no matter how obscure you think
the sample is, get it cleared. If you don't, you'd better hope nobody
ever hears the record, because if you ARE successful with it, someone
will come around with their hand out. Eight grand that one sample cost!
Get approval from the copyright owners - period. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Sampling artists aren't "musicians"
Please stop associating sampling with "musical ideas".
Most sample artists are either frustrated musicians or people who are
too lazy to put the time and effort to learn how to play a musical
instrument and create their own music.
Sample artists would have no "new musical ideas" without musicians to
create the music in the first place.
Sample artists are hamstrung by copyright laws because the real
invested money, time, and sweat to advance their playing technique in
the instrument(s) of their choice got tired of their wares and
potential income infringed by unlicensed
No amount of long stretches of reasoning or browbeating is going to
change the fact that unlicensed sampling is copyright infringement.
Oh how they tried every argument to justify their actions!
Blockquoteth the poster:
rock musicians stole riffs from blues players and made
multi-millions, but it's not "real" if you sample them and re-arrange
it? It's farcical to me to discount arrangement and composition skills
in favor of technical and mechanical playing and reproduction. After
all, we're paying respect to our influences.
"Real" rock musicians need to develop skill on their instrument to
steal riffs. "Real" musicians spend a lot of time and money replicating
the exact sound and feel of their influences due to variables such as
mouth embouchure, vocal cords, playing technique, composites of their
instruments, the sonics of the pickups and amplifier and cabinets and
speakers, the alloy of the strings, the microphone to record the amp,
the response of the recording room where the microphone is placed, the
sonics of the studio preamp EQs and magnetic tape to capture the sound,
on and on and on.
Along comes samplers that bypasses all of that investment in time and
money and allows users with zero musical ability to steal that exact
sound without compensation, and you have the gall to call it "paying
respect to our influences"?!?
This is not only indolence, but disrespect. Sampling laws are more
strict for a reason. Those musicians and recording engineers who have
invested a lifetime investment into their craft are not about to submit
to any long stretches of reasoning whatsoever, and it has nothing to do
whether we like that music or not.
Blockquoteth another poster:
up to you (or anyone for that matter) to say a
musician is inherently worse because they've sampled something. Who do
you think you are?
I will not submit to shaming or demonizing tactics.
After forty five years of learning my craft, I know indolence when I
see it. top
your own cables
I've been making my own cables for over thirty years.
The single thing I learn over and over is you get what you pay for.
A few years ago I completely re-wired my racks. I went with good
Canare cable from Redco and decided to try their 1/4" plugs to save $$$
For stage cabling, Belden 8412 cable is my standard. Have yet to
find one broken.
The 1/4" plugs were a mistake. They're made in asia and 1/10 of
them were bad out of the box with tip and sleeve shorted. I later
uncovered problems with the barrel shorting out the tip and had to add
insulated tape to prevent that.
These were problems I never encountered with switchcraft plugs. I
will never compromise on plugs again.
Don't ever compromise on cable. The bad ones are made from
polymer insulation that melts too easy when a soldering iron is used,
thus shorting out wires. Teflon or rubber insulation is the best
If your cables are fixed in the studio, use cable with copper stranded
wire. If your cables are going to be used on stage where there is
a lot of flexing, do not use copper stranded wire as it breaks too easy
As for custom length cables - don't do it. I went with a system
of multiples - 3ft, 6ft, 9ft, 15ft, 25ft. That combination had
served me well. I know a friend who made custom length cables,
then when he later re-configured his system he had all these unusable
cables that were too short. top
you swap speakers with the guitar amplifier powered on?
It depends on whether the amplifier is tube or solid state.
You can safely swap speakers with a solid state amplifier powered on.
If you use the STANDBY switch on a tube power amplifier then it is safe
to swap speakers. If your tube power amplifier does not have a STANDBY
switch you should NEVER swap speakers with the power on.
Tube power amplifiers require an output transformer to couple the
output tubes to the speaker because the tubes cannot drive the speakers
by themselves. In technical terms, output tubes are a high output
impedance drivers and the output transformer serves as an impedance
converter to work with low impedance loads like speakers. If you remove
the speakers with the power on without using the standby switch, you
will burn out the $$$ output transformer.
A lot of confusion comes from guitar players. Most guitar amps have
tube preamps and tube power amps. Some guitar amplifiers have tube
preamps but solid state power amps, some have solid state preamps but
tube power amps. If your amp has power tubes - 6V6, 6L6, EL34, EL84,
5881, etc etc then you have a tube power amp.
Unlike tubes, the power drivers in solid state amplifiers can drive the
speaker by themselves thus they do not require an output transformer.
In technical terms, solid state power drivers are low output impedance
drivers and can connect directly to low impedance speakers. They are
also safe to operate with no speaker. top
Very few Vintage Guitar Amps over 50 years
Unlike 100% original vintage guitars, a 100% original guitar amplifiers
50 or more years old may exist but it is unlikely to work.
Besides the capacitors going bad due to age, the original speaker cone
will age too. The
cone is paper based - the layers will separate and worse, the coil
(also made of paper) will no longer be symmetrical around the magnet.
POOF! Often the stock speaker is underrated and the amp can put
power to blow the speaker. The stock
Jensen alnico speakers used in 1950s Fender "tweed" amps are often
blown, and Jensen no longer makes a direct replacement (they claim to,
but the reissue does not use the same paper cone). The same is
true for "pre-Rola" Celestion speakers, as the original formulas for
the paper cones were lost to a fire; recone kits are available but
they're not the same paper cone.
the problem is the accumulated heat inside the chassis (from the tubes
and transformers), which will prematurely age the capacitors if played
hours at a session or gig. Guitar amplifiers are notorious heat
It is EXTREMELY rare to find a completely original working vintage
guitar amplifier -
unless the owner played it sparodically a few times a year, a couple
hours at a time, and kept it in a dry climate controlled atmosphere
since the day he bought it.
Unless the amp was owned by an old lady who only played it on Sundays,
vintage guitar amps are unlikely to have their original tubes.
Some amps such as the Fender PS400 or Marshall Major require tubes made
specifically for the amp which are long out of production.
Rare exceptions are well designed amps. I own a vintage british
Selmer guitar amp with 100% original components (other than the missing
speaker grill). My guitar tech checked the capacitors and they
did not need replacing. Why? The design had dissipated heat
very very well, and heat is what kills capacitors. top
learned to program synthesizers
A lot of my programming education was out of necessity from gigging in
weekend clubs. It grew out of a lot of trial-and-error with
almost zero bookworming (this was long before the internet), and I have
a creative mind when it comes to exploiting systems.
My first synth was a PAiA 4700 modular. I did a lot of
experimenting at home and for weekend gigs I just had it patched for a
basic starting point for most monophonic sounds, which I could alter in
real time with minimal changes. In retrospect the PAiA's
weeaknesses were its filters and control features, so I got a lot of
mileage out of the VCOs and the mixer.
In my early college days when I couldn't afford the likes of a
Prophet-5 polyphonic analog synthesizer, I discovered additive
synthesis on my Hammond organ. I became very good at manipulating
the drawbars, even sweeping them in real time to emulate filter
sweeps. I have a recording of one of those gigs where you can
hear me sweeping the drawbars. That was before MIDI; those were
the days :)
As my synth collection grew, so did my EE skills as I was finishing
college. I was very uncultured in the electronic music fashion as
I grew up listening to my guitar-playing-brother's records, devouring
Aerosmith, Elton John, Bachman-Turner-Overdrive, etc. The
diversity in local radio was pretty narrow, so exposure to synth sounds
was minimal. The first time I recognized a synthesizer was
Heart's "Magic Man" - I knew that dive to low G was no guitar! I
didn't even know what a Minimoog was. Then I found one on display
at a local store. The salesman to this day still busts me because
I played the "Magic Man" line over and over.
So my synth programming skills evolved around the guitar. I was
also quite active in school and local community bands where I learned
the art of respecting space in the palette of music - something that is
sorely lacking in many musicians.
Slidepots are a real problem. With precious few exceptions, they
are not long life components. A very common plea I see on
internet discussion forums is where to find new slidepots to replace
worn out ones. If they are not vertically mounted (like a
rackmount graphic EQ), there is no way to completely keep dust and
debris from falling into them other than completely covering the
unit. Most of them have thin resistive elements that are further
aggravated from the dust problem, they wear out too easily.
Remember we are talking about a musical instrument where costs have to
be kept low in a very competitive market - quality long life slidepots
are very expensive.
When they wear out and you need new ones, it gets worse... if they are
PC board mounted slidepots, now the footprint of the part have to match
the PC board holes. There is no industry standard for mounting
conventions. They come in different lengths, 30mm 40mm 50mm
etc. Formats vary all over the map! OEMs sell them only in
bulk quantities of thousands so they are very hard to find in low
quantities like synth repairs. Tapers other than linear with
values above 100K - such as filter resonance and EG - are pretty much
Pot cleaners don't fix the problem. Scavenging a carcass for
parts isn't a solution as they are still old parts with unknown life
Frankly I avoid gear with slidepots whenever possible. My ARP
ProSoloist lost a couple of slidepots and I finally replaced all of
them with rotary pots which are far more readily available and more
Often the only solution is to acquire a new slidepot with matching
length, then design & build an adapter PC board that couples the
new slidepot to the old footprint. As of 2020, some folks have
offered such solutions for certain ARP products using Bourns PTL
slidepots with adapter PC boards.
does your arsenal not include synths from Korg, Roland, or Yamaha?
I get this question on occasion as my arsenal is heavy on American
products. I'm not biased against non-american products; it's just
that I have preferences for my gear choices. I -do- have a few
asian products - Korg DSS-1, Roland PM-16, and the Korg SDD series
digital delays. I have auditioned many products from Asia and
have not chosen them for various reasons:
Sound quality, User Interface.
Take the Yamaha FM synths, such as the DX-7. It was a very
popular product and was the right product at the right time.
Before it was released in 1983, many players wanted instant
bread-n-butter sounds (piano, organ) that sounded good. Before
the DX-7 the choices were either an analog polyphonic synthesizer (that
drifted out of tune), cheesy electronic pianos and organs, or carry a
large 350lb Hammond organ with a Leslie cabinet in tow. The DX-7
gave players all those sounds in a small lightweight package at an
affordable price, and it did not drift out of tune. Small wonder
that Yamaha sold over 100,000 of them to enthusiastic players...
...except me. When I auditioned the DX-7 in the store I was
soundly disappointed in the sound quality of the instruments it was
emulating. I didn't know it at the time but I had an authenticity
standard that was really high, and the DX-7 "Ham-N-Eggs" emulation of a
Hammond organ was not good enough. Neither were the pianos,
brass, strings, and other bread-n-butter sounds. Being a tweaker
at heart, I set about exploring how to edit those sounds to improve
them, and quickly realized that not only was the FM synthesis
extraordinarily unpredictable, but the user interface of a sole data
slider combined with an LCD display amounted to a user hostile,
time-consuming, and uninspiring interface. FM sounds tend to have
a clangorous timbre, which was of little use in the music I wanted to
make. Korg and Roland products failed to make sounds that
appealed to me also. All were focused on maximizing profits using
a synthesis method they owned (Yamaha licensed FM from Standford and
aggressively enforced it, Roland had a patent on L/A synthesis).
While the DX-7 was not the first instrument to sport that horrid user
interface, it set the standard. With precious few exceptions, it
seemed that every Asian synth
ditched the user friendly panel-full-of-knobs-buttons for the user
hostile one-data-control-with-LCD-display. I seldom use factory
presets and prefer to create my own sounds, and I will choose the
instrument that makes that job much easier. The Korg DSS-1 is the
rare exception because no one else made a great sounding sampler that
included a great sounding analog synthesis chain on each voice (see, if
it sounds great and I can tweak it then I will use it...).
Some companies are just utterly incapable of designing a user friendly
interface. Without naming names, one company does a nice job with
user interfaces on shallow feature sets like digital pianos, but their
user interfaces on their complex synthesizers is just plain
awful. Without naming names, some companies write the worst user
manuals on the planet.
Sorry, but my synthesis of choice is analog synthesis and my user
interface of choice is a panel full of knobs and buttons for immediate
access. Well, the Asians have figured out that they can make more
profit with a synthesis technique that they own than with analog
synthesis. In the race to create cheaper and cheaper products to
squeeze competitors out of the market, a panel full of knobs was too
expensive. If you cannot build what I want, I will look elsewhere.
Inferior components, Planned
obsolescence. Having maintained my own gear for years, I
have learned how to spot inferior components. One of the worst
offenders is slidepots, and they are used on almost every Asian product (perhaps you
have noticed that I only have two ARPs in my arsenal, and neither of
them have slidepots...?). Slidepots are a major pet peeve of mine
because (1) they have a short life span, (2) since they are a PC board
mounted component, there is no industry standard for mounting
footprint, (3) years after the product is discontinued, exact new
replacements are extremely difficult to find (because domestic OEMs
like Alps keep changing the footprint oh-so-slightly), (4) third party
replacements are extremely risky in that they are NOT new products but simply
scavenged from broken units, which won't have much life left in
them. Indeed, years after they are discontinued there are growing
numbers of synth owners looking for new slidepots for their
synths. Rotary pots are much
easier to replace.
Yes my Korg DSS-1 does have slidepots. I recognize the risk, and
have spares that I scavenged from other Korg products.
Slidepots are a good example of planned obsolescence. The goal is
to plan a finite product lifetime at which the owner will opt to
replace instead of repair. Any tech who has been inside these
synths will discover capacitors whose maximum voltage is perilously
close to the supply voltage rail, which will really shorten their life. As
the value of keyboard products quickly decrease, many owners will find
that the cost of repair will exceed the value of the instrument and opt
to purchase a new product. This
is not by accident. Manufacturers make money on new
product sales, not by maintaining legacy instruments. Yamaha so
brilliantly demonstrated this back in the 1990s when they destroyed
their entire stock of spare parts for legacy products. Not dispose - they destroyed all of it. No
fire sale, no auction, nothing. Need to replace a defective
custom IC in that vintage Yamaha CS-80 built in 1978? Good
luck... While I cannot argue that steady instrument sales
provides revenue to develop future products, the disposition towards
legacy products displayed by companies like Yamaha makes me very
reluctant to invest in their products.
Another pet peeve is those damned tactile switches used under panel
buttons. Finite life and they can't be opened and cleaned.
Oh, my seven Korg SDD-3300s do have those tactile switches, do
they? However those buttons don't see as much use as tweaking a
synthesizer, so they won't fail so soon (and yes, one of the ones I
purchased on the 'Bay did have a defective tactile switch).
The Asian domestic component supplier for controls and knobs is
Alps. They never make anything long term, and are even
ever-so-slightly altering the product dimensions in the interest of
obsoleting previous products. Need a new control or knob for that
vintage Asian synth? Good luck. When I bought my Korg
SDD-2000 it had a defective button switch... new ones are not
available. It did not go unnoticed that you can STILL buy knobs and (most) rotary
pots for American gear from the same OEM, even for gear that was made
in the 1960s... This may sound biased, but you cannot dispute
reality. Although CTS still makes the slidepots that were used in
ARP synths, you can't buy them in low quantities less than thousands.
And lastly, don't make your
interconnects look like established brands. I have seen
too many Asian products with 1/4" jacks that look like established brands like
Neutrik or Cliff. When I open a product to repair a defect and
discover that the normalled contact on the jack had failed, I find that
what appeared to be an established brand is in fact not. This is
a very common fault on effect insert jacks on mixers and guitar amps -
the normal contact on the RETURN jack fails and the product stops
working. A component that impersonates an established brand is a
counterfeit in my book, and is another reason why I cannot expect Asian
products to have long product life.
Case shell quality. I
am hard on my equipment in that they have to endure the rough road of
club gigging. I cart my equipment in Anvil ATA cases for maximum
protection. But if the shell of a keyboard product is constructed
of plastic, that is a deal killer for me. Even in an Anvil ATA
case, a plastic shell will
break from rough handling. Plastic also gets more brittle with
age. My Memorymoog has fallen a five foot drop to the pavement in
its Anvil case and emerged unscathed. There is no way that plastic case shells
have any value in my arsenal. This is another design
decision in the race to out-price competitors.
Upgrade Treadmill. One of my demands is I
expect to get minimal ten years of use out of my gear. A lot of
Asian products tend to either be half finished or are a generation
behind in computer peripherals. Mind you, the extremely
competitive synthesizer market shares the blame for this as products
are rushed to market and the Asians are hardly alone. It did not
go unnoticed that many keyboard instruments have a life cycle of 1-2
years, with new models being offered with significant
improvements. It did also not go unnoticed that the value of
older instruments had diminished to near nothing, and players flooding
the market to sell their old gear were driving the value down even
further. This is the upgrade
treadmill that players found they lost money over and over every
time their old instrument was suddenly made worthless by a new product,
and I refuse to be on it. That is why I expect ten years of use
out of my gear purchases. Keyboard products that use computer
peripherals - such as memory storage in removable media - are almost
always a generation behind the current computer technology. When
the new instruments use low density floppy disks or flash memory cards,
expect those peripherals to be difficult to find in about a year as
they go obsolete when densities keep improving.
Keybed Quality. The DX-7
had a great feeling keyboard but the majority of others were
awful. If it's not a weighted action keybed, the action is
featherlight and unpleasant to play. Those cheap featherlight
keybeds also have a habit of breaking keys. I am a piano pounder
and I will not modify my
technique for an inferior keybed. If it is a weighted action
keybed, it is too fucking stiff!
I am a lifetime piano player and if the weighted action keybed is too
stiff they they will hurt my hands and there are many playing
techniques that are not possible on them. This is also a
major pet peeve I have with many digital pianos. American
products are not hardly exempt (while I love my Memorymoog, I hate the featherlight Panasonic
keybed that needs its membrane contacts cleaned periodically).
From a particularly punchy moment on a discussion forum:
Typically, a synth pad is a sustained tone generated by a synthesizer,
often employed for background harmony and atmosphere in much the same
fashion that a string section is often used in acoustic music.
The timbre of pads resemble a vocal ensemble, string ensemble, or organ
in that they can be heard without flooding the audio spectrum or
crowding out a singer. The pad synthesist plays many whole or
half notes, sometimes holding the same note while an egotistical
attention whore guitar wanker fires off an incomprehensible barrage of
pyrotechnics at a very annoying volume level much higher than the rest
of the group. The usual result is dismissal from the club and
losses of money because the manager did not approve of his patrons
leaving his establishment due to the loud volume of the guitar despite
protests from said spotlight-hogging narcissist "look at me everybody"
guitarist using the tired phrase "if it's too loud then you're too old".
to be added
Why do analog synths
of different brands/models sound different?