Oh no, it's the eighties again

During the recent studio reorganisation I was left temporarily unable to run all the analogue synths from my Novation controller keyboard so I found myself investigating my long-neglected VST instruments, most notably the FM8 plugin from Native Instruments. Having used a DX9 (no, really) in the past I had a low opinion of FM synthesis in general but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the FM8. Big dramatic clangy FM sounds abound and the programmable arpeggiator is a thing of wonder. So here's a quick little four-chord thing I recorded using the FM8 arps and bass and some strings from Absynth 5.

I'll probably be thrown out of the analogue synth club for that. Never mind, studio shifting is almost finished and we'll be back to old school subtractive synthesis very soon.

Fender GC-1 Stratocaster - Powered by Roland

This is an interesting Fender oddity, a Mexican Stratocaster body with a USA made neck and incorporating Roland's GK hex pickup to drive guitar synths and processors like the GP-10 or the VG-99.

The GC-1 had a fairly short production run in the early 2000s and is out of production now, probably due to the apparent reluctance of guitar players to fully embrace hex pickup technology. This is a pity as it is capable of stunning effects that can't be achieved on any other guitar such as baritone guitar, 12-string simulation and programmable pitch shift per string which allows for alternate tunings at the press of a button. The GP-10 also lets you do string bends from a footpedal, creating impossible multi-string bends and pedal steel effects.

Here's the GP-10 and GC-1 doing some of that stuff. First off, the GP-10 is set to play an open E minor chord and the expression pedal bends strings up and down to make an open A minor chord. Hit a few harmonics and the thing warbles into a sound vaguely reminiscent of a pedal steel but with a far more modern edge to it.

It does straight tuning transpose too, here's a baritone guitar effect.

And it's handy for recording demos if you can't be bothered to pull more than one guitar off the stand. This is the GC-1 standard magnetic pickups mixed with the modelled sounds to provide electric, acoustic and 12-string sounds as well as an open G slide part.

Bomes MIDI Translator

I discovered this late last night, a very highly configurable MIDI routing engine that lets you filter and route between any number of hardware synths and controllers.

http://www.bome.com/products/miditranslator#

I installed the trial version, used it for about five minutes then pulled out my credit card and bought the full version. Now I can launch into my keyboard rig without waiting for Cubase to start up, creating a new project, setting the tempo, creating all the tracks, I just hit my controller keyboard and everything works. Note on/off, controller data from a Novation master keyboard plus clock from the JD-XA gets routed to all my synths and effects and it took me about ten minutes to learn. Highly recommended - I'm not ion any way associated with the company, just really pleased to have found a great product.

I should add that there's a less feature-laden version which appears to be effectively free to non-commercial users, the author only requests you send him a postcard ...

http://www.bome.com/products/mtclassic

If you use hardware synths and want to do some poking under the hood with MIDI data then it's the best I've found. And I've done a lot of searching for something like this.