Oscilloscopery - The Rigol DS1054Z oscilloscope

To assist in my electronic endeavours I have treated myself to the very wonderful Rigol DS1054Z digital storage oscilloscope and BLIMEY, it is good. This machine does everything from FFT analysis to SPI bus decoding in realtime (almost). It's a four-channel scope, brilliant for watching the channels of something like an SPI or I2C bus.

So naturally the first thing I'd want to connect up was my modular synth. Here's the MakeNoise DPO oscillator outputs running in hard sync mode. FFT shows the harmonics and already I can see that I need to turn up the sweep extent trimpots for the pulse width modulation on two of my other oscillators.

The scope has LAN connectivity, PNG waveform saving to USB memory stick, hundreds of features you might normally expect to pay twice the asking price for.

And by illicitly googling "RIGLOL" you can find a page that lets you enable the paid performances for free.

Not that I condone such behaviour.

M-Audio MIDISport not working? Here's the fix ...

I've had endless problems trying to get an M-Audio MIDISport 4x4 interface working under Windows. Half a day of googling, driver updates, registry edits, reboots and nothing was working but there was a clue in a post from (of all people) Microsoft tech support. Apparently some MIDI interfaces don't like the identifier requests sent out by USB 3.0 hubs. The solution? Use a USB 2.0 hub. Simple as that. Works first time. Posting this so the internet can share in the secret.

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.

The synths just keep on coming

Well, I thought the JD-XA would be the last synth I ever needed but I just could not resist the Roland System-8 to go with it. Huge sounds from the internal sound engline plus the Jupiter 8 and Juno 106 modelled plugouts make this one incredible piece of kit. The gear mountain is getting rearranged when the keyboard stand extension arrives but for the moment there's gear spread right across the lounge. And it sounds incredible. Demos to follow soon!

Routemaster Number five

Having made a complete fuckup of two previous boards by putting the voltage regulators in the wrong way round, I've rattled through building this new version. One more board to build then the modular cases will finally be ready for me to transfer the synth modules into.

Waldorf Salad

An early birthday present has arrived in the shape of the rather fantastic Waldorf Streichfett string synthesiser. Perfect for those Jean Michel Jarre moments.

The Creamcaster

The latest (and probably last) guitar arrival is ... yet another Stratocaster. This is another partscaster, made from a Jeff Beck Strat body with a US Standard neck. Pickups are by The Creamery - a Baby 71 humbucker in the bridge and Alt 64s in the neck and middle positions.

The Baby 71 is the reason I wanted to build this guitar. It's a reproduction of the old Fender Wide Range Humbucker, a really great-sounding low output humbucker with extended highs. Works beautifully with single coil pickups, something like the Fender Shawbucker but with a chiming character all of its own.

This video was shot as soon as I'd thrown the guitar together so the intonation wasn't right and the strings were choking on a few of the bends but you get an idea of how good that bridge and middle sound is.

The Baby 71 and Alt 64s are available from Jaime at The Creamery and highly recommended.

Tempo sync madness

I still haven't finished putting the pedalboard together, I keep having ideas about an Arduino-based switch unit to select MIDI clock signals either from the Master Control unit or from external MIDI. I'm probably going to have to go ahead with it because the Eventides sound great on guitar but even better on the analogue synths.

The reverb ruins it though, I had way too much wet mix on that preset and Eventide's Blackhole isn't ideal on that setting. Maybe I'll do another pedals video with the Roland synths sometime. I'll add that to my ever-expanding to-do list.

Ich bin ein Berliner

I never quite understood the term "Berlin school" synthesis. And President Kennedy's famous declaration translates as "I am a doughnut". So maybe this is doughnut school improvisation. Anyway, it's the modular synth doing its thing while I remain only nominally in control of the sounds it produces.