Thursday, July 31, 2008

California update: Thursday

Lucas, our host out here (and the coverstar on this great record), made these mic stands for us to use:

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kits galore

We're on a kit kick-- our Loud Objects "Noise Toy" arrived a few days ago, followed immediately by a couple of Thing-a-ma-kits!

The Noise Toy took no time to solder together (it's as easy to build as it is to play) and comes recommended. $15. Sounds great. Can't lose.

We're off to California for a week to visit little Mason and to record with an abbreviated version of Thee Iran-Contras. Look for Thing-a-ma-pics (sorry) when we get back. Bleep bloop bleep.

In the meantime, take a look at Make's Noise Toy semi-mod video and their intro to reprogramming its sounds. Fun stuff!

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

DIY Multiple

This was supposed to be a splitter/passive mixer. I'll just get that out in the open right now. I'd gotten the idea from Blacet's "Mixer" and "Splitter" modules, which are sold together as a kit for $100.

Essentially, what I wanted to do was build something that would let me take a guitar signal, split it out to two sources (the "splitter" section) then, independent of that but in the same housing, have two "return" jacks with attenuation to a common output (the "passive mixer"). Sounded simple enough.

But after soldering everything together, the "mixer" section started giving me problems. No matter what I did, its dials would only act in concert-- if one was fully counter-clockwise, the other one, regardless of its position, wouldn't do anything-- I'd have to balance the two, as if they were each half of the same output knob. And, to make matters worse, the attenuators weren't independent of each other, signal-wise, either (the left dial did not control the signal coming in from the left jack exclusively, but dealt with half of the total volume from both inputs). In short, I hadn't created a passive mixer, I'd just made a return circuit with an annoying volume control.

So, frustrated, I de-soldered the pots, re-drilled their holes, dropped in a pair of jacks and wired this new configuration the same way I'd hooked up the "splitter" section (which worked just fine), taking us to the layout you see in the photo above.

The pedal now houses two multiples, one with three jacks and one with five: plug something (a signal or a control voltage) into one of the jacks on the top and send it to two places; plug it into the bottom group and send it out four ways.

It's nothing fancy, but it works! Plus, it's passive and is a cinch to whip up.

If you want to build your own, connect the Ground lug on each jack in a cascade, and connect the Tip lugs in the same way. Viola! I'm sure there's a limit to the amount of times the signal can be split, though the old Doepfer Multiple had eight jacks!

P.S. If anyone reading this can point me to a simple passive mixer circuit (mono, pref) or pass over some pointers, please do!

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Passive True Bypass/Feedbacker pedal

After a series of drilling and spray painting mistakes forced me to abandon the aluminum case I was originally using for this project, I rehoused it in the black plastic Radio Shack job you see in the photos. To be honest, I think it looks a lot better this way, almost like something from the Shadow Hills line. Not bad for a $3 box!

In any event, this is a passive version of the True Bypass Looper/Feedbacker design I saw on the Beavis Audio Research site. Before getting underway, I found a wiring how-to on the Experimentalist Anonymous board which helped immeasurably. If you decide to build one of these, be sure to click both of those links and keep the pages open.

This is a twofer utility pedal that doesn't make a sound on its own. Instead, it acts as both a true bypass loop, to introduce one or a series of pedals into your signal, and as an overload feedbacker, sending an adjustable amount of the overall output back into its Send jack for chaotic noise effects.

It's also very simple to put together, only costs around $20 in parts and is entirely passive-- you'll never have to open it up to change a battery!

In the video below, I ran a clean guitar into the In jack (right, bottom) out to an amp via the Out jack (left, bottom), and from the Send jack (right, top) into a BYOC Analog Delay, then into a BYOC Mighty Mouse, and from there back into the pedal via the Return jack (left, top).

When the switch at the top of the pedal is in the down position, it acts as a simple true bypass loop; when it's in the up position, it's a feedbacker as well, with the dial in the middle controlling the amount of the signal being fed back into the circuit.

One thing worth mentioning-- it may have to do with the fact that I was using a plastic case instead of a metal one (though I doubt it), but I had to connect the grounding in a jack-to-jack cascade (like in the Beavis diagram), and not simply to the Output, as shown on the Experimentalist Anonymous page. Before I did this, the pedal gave me a wicked 60hz hum, which doubled in volume when it was engaged. Also, if you're following the EA guide (and you should-- it's really, really helpful), take note of the typo in their final photo-- the center row and the right-most row should swap their numbers (i.e. the top, from left to right, should read 1-4-7).

Speaking of errors, I apologize for the lighting in the video below. Also, it should stop at 1:30 or so, and not 2:30. I'll fix this soon enough. Enjoy!

"Buzzsaw" by The Turtles.

EDIT: The video problem has been solved.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thrift store finds

A non-Moog, pre-Wendy Walter Carlos record and three Eastern gems:


Running around

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. We've been running around, just got back from a wedding, blah blah. (Congratulations Forellis!)

On the upside, here's a photo of a pedal I'm putting together. It's going to be a passive version of this great, simple design from Beavis Audio Research, which is a site I can't stop visiting. Great advice and ideas all over that thing. Anyway, look for an update later this week.

Also, Jess got a skateboard! Skate and Destroy!!

Open thread: what are you all listening to this summer? Anything we should check out?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Our New Nephew!

Mason Roe Godden was born at 5:45 pm PST at 6 lbs, 3 oz. Finally, our dreams of being an aunt/uncle have come true! Congratulations, Big Pete & Jenny!


The Shamblers on WFMU tonight!

Originally uploaded by longrally

Just a reminder-- The Shamblers will be playing on Scott McDowell's "Long Rally" show tonight at 11pm on WFMU.

(That's him in the black shirt.)

Tune in!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Our show at Hanks

Thanks to everyone who came out to our show last night. We had a ball and hope you did too!

(Thanks for the hot shots, Emily!)


Friday, July 11, 2008

The Shamblers: FREE show tomorrow night!

Just a reminder, The Shamblers will be playing a free show tomorrow night at the always great Hank's Saloon in Brooklyn.

A couple of last minute changes (we just found out):

1. We're going on at 10pm, not 9pm
2. Due to a scheduling SNAFU, the Cash Kings, who we were originally opening for, are no longer on the bill.

Still, free music and cheap beer in one of the last good venues left for bar bands in the city. Plus, tomorrow is Jess' birthday AND we'll be playing some new songs live for the first time. How many reasons do you need? Be there!


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Voice of Saturn Sequencer kit: first impressions

This is the first non-guitar pedal kit that I've put together, and the step-up in parts and wiring was noticeable from the start. That said, it was still a relatively paint-by-numbers operation, and was at no point "difficult" to complete. Anyone can build one of these things— you just need time. And some soldering practice.

More to the point, this is the cheapest, easiest to build analog sequencer option I know of, and while the control voltages may be neither completely stable (they're supplied from a 9v battery. As the battery dies, so does the CV range) nor accurate (they aren't calibrated or anything), they get the job done well enough. Plus, it's got an S-Trig out, which can drive a Moog, a deal sweetener for me (see video below).

In short, if you don't have a sequencer but want one on a budget, and maybe kinda sorta want to know how it works while you're at it, head over to the Curious Inventor site and pick up a kit. It'll run you $125, with around $10 shipping.

There have been a few video reviews of the Voice of Saturn line popping up, and I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and offer my initial impressions as well.

The cons:

1. Wiring. There is a lot of wiring to be done with the sequencer kit, and none of the cabling is included in its bag of parts. This thing is cheap for a reason, and corners had to be cut, but it would have been nice to know that I had to re-stock on wiring before it arrived. It's a small gripe (one, admittedly, I could have avoided by looking at the kit's contents photo a little more closely)

Also, the online manual (one is not included with the kit) recommends that you cut and prepare 15" lengths of cable, with which to connect the parts and the PCB. As you can imagine, this quickly leads to a mess of wires, so I recommend organizing a color-coded system for yourself beforehand and sticking with it.

In other words, when the kit arrives and you realize that you have to go out and buy a bunch of cabling, get as many different colors as you can and more of each color than you think you'll need. Or, better yet, order cabling direct from Curious Inventor alongside your kit. I found that 24 gauge works nicely,20 gauge doesn't.

2. LEDs. There are 11 LEDs on the sequencer, and they're held in place with small plastic LED holders. The instructions advise you to insert the LED holders first, then the LEDs, "pushing them until they snap in place." In the case of our kit, that meant using a metal letter opener to force the LEDs, with effort, to get situated. Again, minor gripe, as it may have just been a matter of the holes on our unit being a hair too small. But, if you're having trouble installing the LEDs on your kit, I can tell you from experience, pushing them in by hand (as shown in the manual) does not work. You'll just bend the LEDs' legs and get frustrated in the process. Instead, use something skinny and non-flexible to lock them into the sockets.

3. The Manual. Maybe I've been spoiled with the BYOC manuals, which hold your hand as close to literally as possible, but the instructions for the Voice of Saturn Sequencer kit were of this type: here's a photo of the finished result; make yours look like this. Again, I'm new at this, and directions of this sort could be the norm for all I know, but from a nOOb's perspective, a little more of a walkthrough would have been appreciated, especially in a kit aimed at the intermediate/beginner crowd.

The pros:

1. Low difficulty construction. Despite the list above, the kit is remarkably easy to put together. There are only two resistor values to worry about mixing up, and all 11 potentiometers are 100k. It isn't quite a Lego operation, but it's close. And while the manual isn't the most forthcoming thing in the world, it doesn't really need to be— so long as you pay attention to what you're doing, everything will end up in its proper place.

2. The price. $132 (w/ shipping) is a steal. I've read a few comments on the boards from people saying they're holding out for the Chimera Synthesis SM16, which I'm excited about too, but, when it finally drops (early-August is the newest ETA, but who knows), it'll retail for $400. To the Eurorack addicted, that may not seem like a lot, but for the rest of us, that's a chunk of the rent.

3. The VoS Forum. Much like the BYOC forum, the VoS Forum is the place to go with any/all Voice of Saturn construction questions. There were two points on the wiring diagram that I didn't understand and, after posting about them there, got a response within an hour. Not bad!

4. DIY pride. Sure, you can't make music with satisfaction alone, but there's something I find more inspiring in firing up a machine that I've built than there is in turning on something I bought. Granted, your VoSS/Paia 9700 pair won't rival your SQ-10/MS-20 combo, but knowing your instruments exist because of your interest in them certainly adds to their worth, sentimentally or otherwise.

In total, the Voice of Saturn Sequencer took me three nights to complete (about 12 hours altogether). If you have more experience in kit building than I do (which is to say "some"), I'm sure you'd be able to shave a few hours off that time.

This is the first sequencer I've owned (or used, for that matter), and as soon as I switched it on I immediately wanted to cobble together a second unit. Trust me, if I can build one of these, you can too. Recommended!


S-Trig out to the Rogue
CV Out to CV In on the Blue Ringer

S-Trig out to the Rogue
CV Out to Low Pass Cutoff Frequency In on The Resonator

S-Trig out to the Rogue
CV Out to High Pass Cutoff Frequency In on The Resonator

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Game for the day

The company that owns (essentialy...) CBS, Viacom, Paramount Pictures, Dreamworks and Midway Games-- with everything owning those companies entails (this helps put it in perspective)-- has a website that looks like it was made in 1996.

Here's the game: as the National Amusements website is clearly template-based, find other sites that look just like it and leave their URLs in the comments.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Astatic D-104 update

I'd been unable to track down a suitable adapter for the Astatic D-104 that famous author Moshe Zvi Marvit sent our way, and didn't want to just use the thing as a paperweight, so I did what any rational person would have done: I chopped off the 4 pin connector and soldered on one that I could use. Viola. We now have a ham radio workhorse mic in our studio.

I like it-- it's got a real narrow frequency sound to it (somewhere between a Copperphone and a Green Bullet), and I'm sure we'll be able to find a special-effect use for it without much effort. In the meantime, it's standing in as a far classier talkback mic than the 58 we were using previously.

Thanks again Moshe!

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Happy Independence Day

Does anyone know what the proper holiday greeting for July 4 is? Happy Independence Day? Merry July 4th? Does "Happy Holidays" apply? I kept striking out yesterday and want to be better prepared from this point forward.

In any case, our pals Terry and Lindsay were in town from Oregon and helped us ring in the New Ye... er, July 4th celebration in typical Shamblers fashion: playing 221B Baker Street and watching the New Jersey, Manhattan and Coney Island firework shows from our roof.

They taught us how to make a new drink, too, which is apparently sweeping the scene in Portland:

The Ginger Rogers. We don't remember what the proportions were, but it was made with the following:

Ginger beer
Fresh ginger (garnish)

Come back soon you two!

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Is this what Walter Steding used?

Not this exact one, but this model?

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Next project-- what should it be?

My Voice of Saturn sequencer kit should be getting here just after the holiday weekend and I can't wait. So much so that I'm already planning out the next soldering project. Here are the options-- which one looks best to you?

  • Voice of Saturn tone generator

  • Thingamakit

  • MFOS Weird Sound Generator

  • Any of the Paia 9700 modules

  • Monome 40h kit (if I can get one)

    ...or any of the BYOC pedals (their multitap delay in particular).

    Have you built any of these machines? Would you recommend one over the other, or, for that matter, anything not on the list above? Note: I'm not a master hobbyist, and I don't know the first thing about programming, so, sadly, SID synth retrofits are out. Pretty much anything else, though, is fair game.

    EDIT: The sequencer kit was just delivered!

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  • Tuesday, July 01, 2008

    If only I'd gotten 100 Economic Stimulus checks...

    via Noise Source


    Inside the MTA