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Chick Corea Lessons Learned, Lessons Shared Allan Zavod Jean-Luc Ponty Synth Solos Synth Programming Checklist


Synths Samplers Beatboxes







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CONNECT AudioFuse is the revolutionary next-gen pro audio interface that sets a new standard in sonic quality, creative production and value. It fuses the superior sound of high-end analog studio consoles with all the connectivity you need for any recording or performance.

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VCOs · VCFs · VCAs · X-Mod · Dual FX · Polyphonic Step Sequencer · Arpeggiator


6-Voice Analog Poly Synth The biggest sound in analog poly synths just got a little smaller. That’s right. The OB-6, the history-making collaboration between poly synth legends Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith, is available in both keyboard and desktop versions. The same in-your-face SEMinspired analog tone. The same easy-to-tweak, knob-per-function layout. Put two together for instant 12-voice polyphony. The OB-6: Mind-blowingly huge — whichever size you choose. Designed and built in California by

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on purchases of select manufacturers’ products made with your Sweetwater Card between now and September 30, 2017 – 24 equal monthly payments required.

*Offer applies only to single-receipt qualifying purchases. No interest will be charged on promo purchase and equal monthly payments are required equal to initial promo purchase amount divided equally by the number of months in promo period until promo is paid in full. The equal monthly payment will be rounded to the next highest whole dollar and may be higher than the minimum payment that would be required if the purchase was a non-promotional purchase. Regular account terms apply to non-promotional purchases. For new accounts: Purchase APR is 29.99%; Minimum Interest Charge is $2. Existing cardholders should see their credit card agreement for their applicable terms. Subject to credit approval.

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INTERVIEW CHICK COREA Lessons Learned, Lessons Shared


LINE 6 Helix Native


THE ART OF SYNTH SOLOING Allan Zavod’s Solos for JeanLuc Ponty





NEW GEAR Products from ElectroHarmonix, Boss, Waves, and more!




FIVE QUESTIONS Dan Parks: Revisiting SSM Technology for New Analog Synths


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There is no shortage when it comes to apps for musicians. In fact, there is an overabundance. And sifting through the dozens of products in a category to find the one that fits your needs can be a monumental task. To help you locate the synth, sampler, drum machine, DAW, or utility app that’s right for you, we have chosen the cream of the crop—from old standards by Arturia, Korg, Moog, Propellerhead, and other top developers to the hottest new products to hit the Apple App Store.



SOUND DESIGN A Synth Programming Checklist



58 RADIAL Key-Largo



PRODUCTION Automatic Delay Ducking

Electronic Musician (ISSN 0884-4720) is published monthly by NewBay Media, LLC, 28 East 28th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10016. Periodicals Postage Paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. Canada Post: Publications Mail Agreement #40612608. Canada Returns to be sent to Bleuchip International, P.O. Box 25542, London, ON N6C 6B2. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Electronic Musician, P.O. Box 232, Lowell, MA 01853. Electronic Musician is a trademark of NewBay Media. All material published in Electronic Musician is copyrighted (©) 2017 by NewBay Media. All rights reserved. Reproduction of material appearing in Electronic Musician is prohibited without written permission. Publisher assumes no responsibility for return of unsolicited manuscripts, photos, or artwork. All product information is subject to change; publisher assumes no responsibility for such changes. All listed model numbers and product names are manufacturers’ registered trademarks.

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STUDIO GRANDS Two Exceptional Studio Grands Recorded in Legendary Studios

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David Bryce Geary Yelton, Mike Levine,



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Editor’s Note

There are many apps for that! I recently purchased a new iPad for use in a specific musical project for two reasons—I wanted a bigger screen and more powerful processor than I currently have and, more importantly, I wanted to avoid taking my laptop onstage. Although I already knew which apps I needed for the gig, I was also interested in finding other goodies to inspire me. But if you’ve ever searched through the music-related items in the app store, you know the number of options is staggering, and it’s going

to take a serious investment in time to separate the wheat from the iChaff. That’s where Electronic Musician magazine comes to the rescue! This month, Editors at Large Geary Yelton and Francis Prève have assembled a comprehensive list of their favorite instruments, beatboxes, DAWs and utilities for the iOS platform, which we’ve categorized to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. As usual there is something for everyone—from vintage synths re-

Found in Translation


Fig. 1. Triggering the ping pong grooves on my iPad as two control-voltage monsters (see my June 2017 column) light up in sync.


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Spam emails are an endless source of inspiration for me. I love the bizarre mashup of broken English and raw psychology. Recently, I rescued this gem from my junk folder: “What is your name? Where are you from? I am Nara. I live in Seoul. I think that we have many common interests. I am good at ping pong, cooking fish, and yoga.” I pasted Nara’s words into a text-to-speech program called Babble (free for the Mac in the Apple App Store) and chose a Korean female voice for authenticity. It wasn’t quite appealing enough, so I tried the Chinese “Ting-Ting” voice. Bing! Speaking English, the Ting-Ting-bot had an ear-catching character. I exported the phrase to an AIFF file, tightened the timing in Ableton Live, and layered it with a drum groove. I then extracted a few other phrases and rendered them with Mikko, a friendly Finnish baritone. The loops became the centerpiece of my performance with synthesist Mark Vail at the Don Buchla Memorial concert (see Fig. 1). I loaded them into the Bilbao sampler in Korg Gadget, assigning questions and statements to different MIDI notes so I could trigger a rapping dialog between the spambots. Afterwards, another performer told me he couldn’t wait to try the technique on memos from his boss. The wonderful thing about modern speech synthesis is the way it approaches the uncanny valley of discomfort from the


imagined for mobile phones and tablets to all-new interfaces designed to take full advantage of the multitouch capabilities of these devices. I hope you find this list as interesting and inspiring as we do, whether you’re currently using an iOS device or considering one in the future. And Android users take note: While some of the products in our roundup are also available on your platform, we have a separate article about Android apps in the works, so stay tuned!



opposite mountaintop where humans do. Just as Auto-Tune makes real voices sound surreal, speech synths create vocals close enough to grab attention, but wrong enough to make audiences listen closer. And feeding English words to foreign voices makes the sound even more arresting. Several months after the concert, I was digging in my audio archive for a loop to accompany an animation I’d produced to show off my company’s latest iOS app. As a joke, I loaded one of the ping-pong grooves. It made a weirdly wonderful match, and we ended up using it unchanged for the official launch video ( One of our programmers told me his kids played the video over and over trying to figure out if it said “yoga” or “Yoda.” The easiest way to play with foreign voice-bots is at (see Fig. 2). For grittier robot voices, I highly recommend Midi TTS for iOS (; $2.99); for Windows, check out Balabolka (; free) and ChipTalk (; free). Hear these voices in my video at Fig. 2. Google Translate offers a wonderful range of weird voices. Click the speaker icon to hear them.


7/17/17 12:43 PM

Sweetwater GearFest 2017 A summer weekend of workshops, concerts and product demos For the sixteenth time in as many years, Sweetwater Sound invited musicians, audio professionals and gear manufacturers to its Fort Wayne, Indiana facility for GearFest 2017. Sweetwater, the world’s busiest online retailer and the largest music store in the U.S., held the two-day event on Friday and

Spread out across Sweetwater’s sprawling 100-acre campus, nearly 500 gear makers displayed their wares in gigantic tents organized by category. Tents for electric and open to the public, and more than 15,000 visitors atguitar, acoustic guitar, and drums sat alongside tents for tended this year, according to estimates. To assure the electronic production, pro audio, and open-box bargains. Some of the larger companies had their own tents, trucks, public their production would be second to none, a battaltrailers or buses including Behringer, Fender, Gibson, Roion of helpful Sweetwater personnel was always on hand. land, Shure, Studer and Yamaha. Friday morning got off to a rough start as heavy rains soaked the huddled masses lining up to enter the store. As a precaution, electrical power to the tents was shut off as the show began. But before long, the sun was shining and everything was up and running for the rest of the festival. Manufacturer reps did product demos, answered questions, and gave their visitors handson opportunities to check out whatever gear they wanted. I spent a few blissful moments with two new synths—the Roland SE-02 and Novation Peak—and I was terribly impressed by ATV’s aFrame Electrorganic frame drum and Chandler Limited’s EMI Abbey Road REDD microphone. Meanwhile, inside Sweetwater’s enormous headquarters, visitors attended workshops, master classes and performances by company clinicians and celebrated recording artists, engineers, and producers. Featured artists included guitarists Robben Ford and Andy Timmons, drummers Terry Bozzio and Omar Hakim, keyboardist Larry Dunn, bassist Rhonda Smith, and EM founding editor Craig Anderton, whose talk was filled to capacity. My favorite GearFest event is always the producers’ panel. Moderated by Mitch Gallagher, this year’s lineup included heavy hitters Al Schmitt, Chris Lord-Alge, Chuck Ainlay, Fab Dupont, and Neal Cappellino. They discussed where the jobs are, how studios have evolved, and the producer’s role in making records. And they all agreed the only way to land a record deal today is to first gain a following on social media. One especially popular attraction was Moog Music’s imposing Emerson Moog Modular System, set up and functioning on Sweetwater’s Crescendo Stage. Near the store’s exit, a beautiful Hammond Novachord built in 1941—one of only five that has been fully restored—invited visitors to sit down and play. Attendees also had many chances to score some of the $55,000 in giveaways, with lucky winners announced every hour. On Friday and Saturday nights, Sweetwater sponsored free concerts by Dweezil Zappa and Eric Johnson in their 2,000seat outdoor pavilion. As a celebration of Sweetwater’s customers, the music they Suit & Tie make, and the gear they use to make it, GearFest 2017 was a rousing success and a Guy at the splendid time was guaranteed for all. —GEARY YELTON Hammond

Saturday, June 23–24. GearFest is always free of charge



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Audio/MIDI interface for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows $149

Stereo compressor/limiter $212



HIGHLIGHTS 24-bit, 96kHz resolution •

Class A preamp with phantom power • ¼-inch/XLR combo input • 3.5mm stereo headphone/line output • uses AA batteries with mobile devices • powered via USB when connected to computer • when DC power is used, unit charges the iOS device connected to iRig Pro I/O • mini-DIN-to-Lightning and two 2.5mm-to-MIDI DIN cables included • bundled with AmpliTube 4, SampleTank 3 SE, T-RackS Deluxe with Mic Room, and more

HIGHLIGHTS Volume, Attack, Release, Sustain and Swell knobs • limiter • switchable overdrive with controls for Volume, Tone, and Drive • selectable hard or soft knee • supports mono-in/mono-out, mono-in/ stereo-out, or stereo in/out • 3-color LED bar graph displays gain reduction • includes EXH9.6DC-200mA power supply





Vocal library TBA

Effects pedals $349/each, street

HIGHLIGHTS Diamond Edition provides 13 mic positions for surround and virtual-reality projects (including stereo Neumann Dummy Head) • available for purchase or in Composer Cloud subscription • WordBuilder plug-in allows user to type in words from any language and hear them sung by full choir or individual male and female sections

HIGHLIGHTS Stereo pedals featuring MIDI I/O, USB, expression-pedal input, and ability to run two patches at one time using Simul mode • MD500 has 28 effects and 12 modes, with Boss chorus, Roland Dimension D, and more • RV-500 offers 21 reverb types, 12 modes, plus modulation, ducking and EQ • editor/ librarian software available when connected to a computer

TARGET MARKET Guitarists and other




TARGET MARKET Film, TV, and game


TARGET MARKET Instrumentalists

ANALYSIS Designed to give multimedia composers a wider variety of vocal tools and more dynamic and surround positioning capabilities than the developer’s earlier products.

ANALYSIS Both units offer a wide variety of Boss and Roland product emulations in a sturdy form factor.

ANALYSIS A studio-grade true-stereo TARGET MARKET Musicians, song-

compressor/limiter designed to hold up to the abuse of the road.

writers ANALYSIS A substantial update that can handle mic, line, and instrument input.

All prices are MSRP except as noted



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7/11/17 8:41 AM

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO DRUM The new Simmons offers unprecedented creative control far beyond what traditional acoustic and electric kits can offer. Explore the massive Signature Sound Library featuring sought-after kits, world percussion, industrial samples and more. The SimHex® tension-able mesh pads allow for nuanced performance, while the unique Spherical Isolation Mounting System™ creates expansive pad position options and virtually eliminates cross-talk. Test drive the today and experience the shape of things to drum.

“Engineered as a sound design tool for today’s modern drummer.” — Dave Simmons

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Hardware for running open source software Pedal $345; module $455.

Educational portable keyboards $329 and $299 street


Panning plug-in $99 HIGHLIGHTS Spherical auto-panning plug-in developed with Grammy winning mix engineer, Michael Brauer • two separate panners • four panning modes • five trigger modes • Speed, Depth, Width, and Drive controls • motion filter • dynamics processing with highpass and lowpass filters • input gain and wet/dry controls • includes presets created by well-respected engineers


HIGHLIGHTS Both products have HIGHLIGHTS Developed with Cycling

TARGET MARKET Mix engineers

’74, OWL provides two hardware formats—a Eurorack module and stompbox—that can load user-created Max Gen patches and run them without a laptop • also runs patches written in Pure Data, C++ and FAUST • each product includes an ARM processor • downloadable patches available online • pedal has stereo ¼" I/O • 8 user-assignable controls on module

ANALYSIS An affordable way to add

TARGET MARKET Instrumentalists,

sophisticated tempo-synchronized or free-running movement to your mixes.

modular users



built-in speakers and headphone jack, and both run on batteries and support Bluetooth connectivity to smartphones and tablets • Go:Piano is a digital piano with 61 full-size keys, sustain pedal, and a variety of sounds • package includes Faber Piano Adventures lesson book and Piano Adventures Player app • Go:Keys includes over 500 sounds and offers Loop Mix with pattern playback assigned to keys TARGET MARKET Beginning keyboard


BX5 D3 AND BX8 D3 Active studio monitors $149/each and $249/each HIGHLIGHTS Bi-amplified (Class A/B) close-field monitors with Kevlar woofers (5" and 8"), silk-dome tweeters (1" and 1.25") and rear bass port • XLR and ¼" inputs • lowend tuning switch • volume control • published frequency response of 52Hz-35kHz for BX5 D3; 37Hz22kHz for BX8 D3 TARGET MARKET Personal studios,

educational facilities ANALYSIS Third-generation versions of two, popular budget-priced powered monitors.

players ANALYSIS A straightforward way to ANALYSIS Two products designed to

integrate custom software-based processing in a pedal board or modular synthesizer.

make it easy to learn and use keyboards.

All prices are MSRP except as noted



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7/11/17 8:41 AM

The Ultimate Instrument for the Performing Musician

NEW FEATURES The Nord Stage 3 is our outstanding new flagship instrument that Actual features our latest awardPhysical winning technologies including Drawbars for the Nord Lead A1 Synth Engine Nord Stage 3 with sample playback, our Compact acclaimed Nord C2D organ, a greatly enhanced Piano Section and extensive hands-on Effects - all in one exceptional performance keyboard. Read more and listen to sound demos:

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OLED-displays for Program and Synth section Seamless transitions when changing programs Extended Split function with optional Crossfade Song List Mode Extended Morph Destinations Doubled memory (2GB) for Nord Piano Library Greatly expanded Piano polyphony (120 voices) Creative Piano Filter presets Expanded Memory (480 MB) for Nord Sample Library Extended Synth polyphony (34 voices) Improved Delay with added Feedback filters New Filter Mode effect with Resonance Separate Compressor per Slot w/Amount/Fast modes Separate Reverb per Slot with Bright mode Follow us:

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6/15/17 11:18 12:04 AM PM 6/16/17


The Divided Fretboard Sound splitting with Jam Origin MIDI Guitar 2 BY MICHAEL ROSS

You don’t need any special hardware to use Jam Origin MIDI Guitar 2.

A typical hardware guitar synthesizer, such as the Roland GK system or the Fishman Triple Play, allows you to play different programmed or sampled sounds simultaneously, based on which notes you play along the fretboard. You may have seen this demonstrated as a one-man-band effect: a guitarist sets up a guitar-synth triggering an upright bass sound on the low strings and an organ or piano sound on the upper ones. But there are other creative ways to use this effect and you don’t necessarily have to spend $400 to $800 on guitar-synth hardware to do it.

The controls are not as fine-tunable as on a hardware guitar synth, and you are restricted to only two zones, but it is still a lot fun. Ableton allows this only if you run MIDI Guitar 2 in its standalone mode, not as a plug-in. You can use MIDI Guitar 2 (or a hardware guitar synth system) to do other creative sound splitting using software samplers. I installed the MIDI Guitar 2 plug-in on an Ableton audio track and Live’s Sampler on a MIDI track (see Figure 2). I set the Sampler track to receive MIDI from the Jam Origin plug-in. I don’t own many samples, so I first created one by using MIDI Guitar 2 to play a bass note on Ableton’s Analog plug-in, and recorded it to a clip on another track. I then dragged that audio clip into the first zone in the Sampler’s Zone window. By dragging the bar under the piano keys at the top of the window, I set that sample to sound only when I played notes on the guitar below a certain range. I used the same method to create a pad-like sound, also with Analog. I once again recorded it and dragged it to the next zone in Sampler. I restricted its triggering to notes above the bass sample so they wouldn’t sound at the same time. Just for fun, I dragged a sample containing audio of a preacher railing about “missiles and atomic bombs” into another zone that was set to sound when I played higher on the upper strings. The trick is to set all the trigger points close enough to reach on the neck, without overlapping. Controlling a sampler with your guitar can send you down interesting avenues: I have audio files of my nerve endings being tested,

For $99.95, Jam Origin’s software-based MIDI Guitar 2 (Mac/Win) lets you create a similar effect without requiring special pickups or add-on devices. By using the software’s Channel Split MIDI Machine, you can program certain sounds to trigger only when you play low notes on your guitar, while others will trigger only when you play high notes. The Lows and Highs Channel knobs let you send low and high note messages as separate MIDI channels, while the Split Pitch control sets the point at which the notes transition from low to high (see Figure 1). I set the low notes to drive Ableton Live’s Analog synth plug-in on Channel 6, with the guitar’s high notes driving Ableton’s Operator synth on Channel 9.



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a boat’s access ramp creaking, and Native American chanting that I drop into individual zones and play in real time for live “musique concrète.” Whether you use a hardware or software guitar-synth setup is up to you and your pocketbook, but splitting your MIDI guitar-synth signal with either one can open up a wealth of creative possibilities. n

Fig. 1. Send low and high note messages as separate MIDI channels by using the Split Pitch, Lows Channel, and Highs Channel controls.

Fig. 2. Creating a bass-note sample using Ableton Live’s Analog and Sampler.


7/11/17 8:44 AM

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The best iPad and iPhone tools for making music onstage, in the studio, and anywhere else you find inspiration


It shouldn’t surprise EM readers that the iPhone and iPad are increasingly being used as serious music-production tools. In addition to recent increases in processing power, features such as multitouch and wireless capabilities have allowed developers to create products that rival, and in some cases surpass, software for desktop and laptop computers, especially when you consider price.



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After combing through thousands of music and production-related apps, we’ve picked just over 200 of the best; apps that we would unhesitatingly recommend to friends and colleagues. The list represents a broad range of musical styles, interests and skill levels—just as our readers do—and we’ve categorized our selections to make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for—Instruments, Drum Machines, Groove Boxes/ Virtual Studios, Effects Processors, DAWs/Audio Recording, MIDI Sequencers/Arpeggiators, DJ Apps, Education/ Transcription, and Utilities. Apple endowed iOS with Core MIDI and Core Audio early on, giving it a leg up on its Android competition. All of the apps here (except for some utilities) leverage one or both or those technologies, as well as later developments such as Audiobus, Ableton Link, Inter-App Audio (IAA), MIDI over Bluetooth and Audio Units extensions (AUv3), which allow connected apps to function as an integrated system (much as a DAW functions as a system with audio and effects plugins). Many of the apps feature in-app purchases (IAPs), as well, allowing you to expand their capabilities or content.


7/19/17 8:31 AM


50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION MELLOTRONICS M3000 (OMENIE) From “Strawberry Fields” to “Dazzle Ships,” the Mellotron’s tape-based approach to sampling has earned its place as a milestone in electronic music history. This tribute edition includes samples of many original tapes and a wonderful array of in-app expansions.

ADDICTIVE PRO (VIRSYN) Combining VirSyn’s straightforward approach with instant touch-screen gratification makes detailed additive design an absolute joy. The inclusion of finger-customized filter curves and arpeggiation tools is just icing on an already delicious app. Addictive is an understatement.

ANIMOOG (MOOG) One of the first apps to make the most of the iPad’s multitouch capabilities, Moog’s wavetable synth has stood the test of time. And with synth legends like Suzanne Ciani using it live, it’s an essential addition to every iOS rig.


BENT.FM (MAYANK SANGANARIA) Start with simple FM synth, and then add a massive and cryptic matrix that allows users to apply circuit-bending techniques to its virtual architecture. The end result sounds like a fascinating cross between a broken DX and a numbers station.

CMI PRO (PETER VOGEL) If you’re over the age of 40, you probably once coveted the $25,000+ Fairlight Series II. And if you’re under 40, you’ve probably seen one in Deadmau5’s studio. Either way, you’ll instantly recognize its sound from hundreds of hits.

CUBE SYNTH (VIRSYN) Take Addictive Pro’s tactile approach to additive synthesis, combine it with the morphing options of vector synthesis and you get an instrument that’s impressively organic for both percussive and pad-like textures. VirSyn’s arpeggiator and effects are a bonus.

CYCLOP (SUGAR BYTES) If synth wobbles are a big part of your sound, Cyclop is a genie that will grant your every wish. For everyone else, it’s a sophisticated synth with innovative tone generation and more modulation options than you may ever need.

CZ APP (CASIO) With 1985’s introduction of the Casio CZ-101, phase distortion synthesis became a staple of the newwave era, straddling FM and virtual analog. CZ for iPad may seem simple by modern standards, but it recaptures the original’s signature sound.

DRC (IMAGINANDO LDA) The ARP Odyssey offered much more complex synthesis options than its competition at the time, including highpass filtering, PWM, and a sophisticated sample-and-hold section. This version adds effects and three step sequencers, while keeping the essential sound intact.

AARDVARK SYNTH (SONOMATICS) A basic and fun performance tool offering monophonic x/y control over basic waveforms (sine, saw, pulse, noise). Multitouch adds modulation and envelopes. It’s an oldie but a goodie.

This straightforward virtual-analog polysynth is not much to look at, but all the expected parameters are there, and many presets are loaded with personality. You can replace the onscreen keyboard with chord buttons and a strum pad.

DXI (TAKASHI MIZUHIKI) While FM4 (below) nails the overall character of Yamaha’s TX81Z, DXi offers graphic envelopes, looping envelopes, additional analog waveforms, and a white noise generator. Effects include a resonant lowpass filter and basic delay.

FM4 (PRIMAL AUDIO) AUDULUS 3 (AUDULUS) Audulus 3’s visual programming lets you design and assemble virtual modular synths and audio processors. It supplies a library of nodes—graphical building blocks of code—that connect in innumerable ways. Audulus goes deep, and there’s nothing quite like it.

Although Yamaha’s DX7 was definitely the goto digital synth for early ‘80s pop and new wave, their TX81Z was a key component in early ’90s house and techno. FM4’s faithful re-creation delivers instant old-school cred.

GEOSHRED (WIZDOM MUSIC) Want to shred guitar idiomatically, without the

blisters, calluses, or decades of practice? GeoShred has you covered, with impeccable physically modeled guitars, tons of stompboxes, and the ability to bend multiple strings polyphonically.

IDS-10 (KORG) With integrated speech synthesis, dual monosynths, an awesome analog drum machine, and an interface that works well on an iPhone, the iDS10 is the fastest route to whipping up Daft Punk doodles while waiting for the bus.

IKAOSSILATOR (KORG) In a way, the original Kaossilator–with its x/ypad approach to synthesis–was a precursor to the modern world of iOS instruments. The app version carries forward that legacy with up to five simultaneous parts and Ableton Link compatibility.

IM1 (KORG) It’s difficult to make “real” classic house tracks without that piano and that organ bass, not to mention the choirs and rainsticks that dominated the ‘90s rave-pop scene. They’re all here in this iOS version of that legendary synth.

IMINI (ARTURIA) The iMini recaptures the features and interface of a Minimoog, but with added effects and a pair of x-y pads that you can assign to almost any frontpanel parameter, making it great fun for manipulating sequenced material.

IMPAKTOR (BEEPSTREET) Impaktor turns any surface into a percussion instrument. Impulses from the mic trigger a physical modeling synth that emulates hand drums, cymbals, mallet instruments, and more. The 6-track audio recorder quantizes your tracks and exports them as WAV files.

IMS-20 (KORG) A terrific introduction to modular synthesis techniques, thanks to its hybrid approach. The iMS-20 also includes sequencing and does a great job of replicating the nasty flavor of the original’s dual resonant filters.

IPOLYSIX (KORG) Released before MIDI, the Polysix didn’t get the respect it deserved, despite sporting the same filter as the PPG, a fat unison mode, and a gorgeous ensemble effect worthy of the best string machines. This virtualization recaptures its sound nicely.

IPROPHET (ARTURIA) Back in 1986, the Prophet VS introduced the concept of vector synthesis—real-time blending of up to four different digital waveforms with filtering.


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iProphet beautifully re-creates the entire experience of the VS.

to generate new timbres. Modify sounds with a resonator, apply FM and effects, and use the arpeggiator to animate your creations.


powerful synth with a unique sound (and significant learning curve for newcomers).


The iSEM is a good approximation of the Oberheim SEM. As users of both, we can say it’s a close emulation, but with far more synthesis features, like an additional LFO, a multi-wave suboscillator, and integrated effects.

LAYR (LIVING MEMORY SOFTWARE) If you’re a synthesist who likes loads of parameters for shaping sounds, this stunning multitimbral synthesizer deserves your attention. LayR lets you stack any number of complete synths, and it comes with some remarkably fine-sounding presets.



This ambitious app shoehorns an entire orchestra into your iOS device. The instruments sound astonishingly lifelike, comparable to the best symphonic sounds you get with a top-shelf music workstation. In-app purchases supply additional instruments and more versatile performance articulations.

Distinguishing it from other subtractive synthesizers, Lorentz’s resonator emphasizes any frequency, even inharmonic frequencies, to modify the signal’s harmonic complexity, evoking metallic, distorted, and unorthodox timbres. Like other iceWorks synths, it has a programmable arpeggiator, chorus, and stereo delay.

For 0.003 percent of the price of a real one, you can snag the Model 15 app and get 90 percent of the experience of a Moog modular in the comfort of the car you just bought with the money you saved.




Whether you think of it as the first portable modular or the synth that defined the sound of Pink Floyd’s “On the Run,” the VCS3 is iconic. So is this emulation.

Magellan takes a more-is-more approach that includes dual layered three-oscillator synths with 11 filter types, 10 simultaneous effects, intelligent chord functions, an assignable x-y pad, and a pair of arpeggiators. The sound is appropriately massive, and the presets ably demonstrate this.

For casual gigs and rock, Korg Module covers all the conventional bases, including acoustic and electric piano, organ, clavinet and strings—perfect when paired with a larger controller. It’s also a great companion for Gadget users looking for more traditional sounds.



Mersenne excels at emulating mallets and other tuned percussion instruments. Like Lorentz, part of its characteristic sound comes from its resonator, but it also relies on dual FM synth modules and noise generation.

Mood takes the classic Minimoog architecture and interface and adds a basic FM oscillator and sample player to its mixer, plus a few smart modulation options and vintage effects like ring mod and distortion. It’s a modern approach to a classic.



IWAVESTATION (KORG) Enlisting Dave Smith’s brilliant wave-sequencing and vector synthesis tools, Korg unleashed the Wavestation in 1990. It quickly became a rave-era mainstay thanks to artists like Orbital. The iOS version nails the sound, with in-app expansion packs based on the original ROM cards.

JASUTO (CHRIS WOLFE) Don’t just design sounds; design your synths and effects. This modular construction kit lets you build instruments and processors by connecting sound generators, filters, a sequencer, an accelerometer, mathematical functions, and myriad other modules.



Excellent samples of a piano prepared with the actual materials used by Cage for Sonatas and Interludes. Randomize button rearranges the sounds on the playing surface, and the app can record your performances for sharing via social media.

JORDANTRON (WIZDOM MUSIC) Jordan Rudess needs no introduction. His sound is iconic in the arena of progressive rock, and Jordantron captures a gigabyte’s worth of his signature sounds in Mellotronic format. These stacked patches are a Dream Theater fan’s (ahem) dream come true.

When it comes to wavetable synthesis on iOS, Nave is shockingly powerful, with a Serum-like 3D display of each wavetable and an integrated speech synthesizer that instantly converts typed phrases. Extensive filtering and modulation tools abound.

This free app is the sound engine for Roli Blocks, and it works great with the Seaboard Rise. On the iPhone 6 and above, it responds to 3D touch and includes 25 sounds created in Equator, with more available. A faithful emulation of an unusual device that debuted in 1980. Like the original, it has one pulsewave oscillator, a suboscillator, and a sweeping lowpass filter. Unlike the original, it’s polyphonic and has delay, reverb, and terrific presets.

OSCILAB (2BEAT) Oscilab’s fusion of arpeggiation with LFOs is utterly alien by any standard, but its approach is easy to grasp within a few minutes. From there, the fun factor kicks into overdrive. Hypnotic and essential.

MITOSYNTH (WOOJI JUICE) LAPLACE (ICEWORKS) This physical modeling synth simulates plucked and bowed strings, blown pipes, and struck metal



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Wooji Juice took a few risks with Mitosynth and its unusual approach to additive, vector, sampling and wave sequencing. The result is an extremely

PHASE84 (RETRONYMS) Though it’s overdue for an update, Phase84 is such a blast to use that we had to include it. It’s


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a phase distortion synth (like Casio’s CZ series). Standout features include a formant oscillator, 16step groove editor, and two x-y pads.

PHASEMAKER (BRAM BOS) Based on the DX7’s 6-operator approach to FM, Phasemaker’s UI is a triumph of intuitive usability, making the process of tweaking FM sounds much more approachable. Digging deeper, it also offers ratio-based amplitude modulation—an impressive and underutilized synthesis type.




While Ruizmaker is strictly AUv3, once you’ve loaded it into a compatible sequencer, you’ll find it’s a great little analog drum machine that strongly evokes the 808 and 909. Front-panel parameters control essentials like decay, tuning and drive.

Another oddball noisemaker, this app was inspired by John Chowning, the man who invented FM synthesis. It probably comes closer to re-creating the soundtrack of Forbidden Planet than any synth you’ve heard, but its timbral range extends far beyond that.

RUISMAKER FM (BRAM BOS) Like its sibling, this is an AUv3-only drum instrument, but focused on FM-based sounds with basic controls for customization. Despite the apparent simplicity, these drums offer a wide sonic range and are impressively crisp and punchy.

SUNRIZER (BEEPSTREET) Although Sunrizer looks like a standard two-oscillator virtual-analog synth, it has an impressive range of filter options and a smart implementation of envelopes and LFOs. Having it all on a single page is the clincher.


Designing original sounds in Phonem isn’t for the faint of heart, as it allows microscopic control over virtually every nuance of speech synthesis. Fortunately, a sizeable collection of wonderful presets gives you a great set of starting points.

POSEIDON (VIRSYN) Poseidon takes a visually striking, hands-on approach to wavetable synthesis. Start with WAV files or spectral models and sculpt with unique filters and extreme flanging. Load exotic scales and stunning presets. The step sequencer is designed for performance, too.

With 1.3GB of sampled content, SampleTank is a virtual rompler that delivers a tremendous variety of instruments, as well as riffs, grooves, and patterns for specific instruments and musical genres. Additional content and a scaled-down free version are also available.




This app emulates the Seaboard Rise, an MPEcompatible controller that lets you shape sound with your playing technique. Paired with MPE hardware or standalone, the app responds to performance gestures. It comes with 25 idiosyncratic presets, and more are available.

This free synthesizer supplies 200 presets, and a $10 upgrade buys 600 more. Along with eight knobs, its GUI has two x-y pads to manipulate preprogrammed parameters in real time. It also imports presets from the desktop-based SynthMaster.



With a forward-thinking keyboard layout, Seline is as much a controller as it is a synth, thanks to the MIDI Out and Audiobus 2 spec. The presets are decidedly new age, but the real draw is its nonstandard approach to performance.

With a graphical playing surface that looks like a Haken Continuum, this cutting-edge synth excels at ambient textures and drones. Features like three triple-layered oscillators, each with its own arpeggiator, hint at SynthScaper’s unprecedented architecture, and its sound does not disappoint.


How real could a piano in your iPhone sound? Prepare to be amazed. Sampled from a marvelous concert grand, Ravenscroft 275 is a versatile virtual instrument that’s equally at home on a bus or on a stage.

With a knack for unusual atmospheric timbres, this 3-part multitimbral synth makes outstanding use of multitouch. Control pitch and modulation with the position of your fingertips on your iPad: Shroom responds to all ten fingers, simultaneously.



A powerful polysynth that combines virtual analog and FM synthesis, six types of noise, a suboscillator you can detune, bass boost, and a resonator that serves as a mod destination. In addition, the oscillator waveforms are continuously variable.

A faithful emulation of Roland’s Sound Canvas modules, which were popular in the ‘90s for playing General MIDI files. Its onboard MIDI file player lets you reorder songs, edit their tempo and key, and repeat sections.




This iPad variation on West Coast synthesis has graphical patch cords and a 64-step sequencer, and nothing is quicker or more natural than connecting patch points with your fingertip. With wavefolding, a slope generator, and a lowpass gate, Ripplemaker is mucho Buchla.



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For a free sampler, Sylo offers a surprising number of granular tools, combined with a lowpass filter and ADSR. Echo, ring mod, and distortion effects add to its usefulness. The inclusion of instant microphone sampling is a blast, too.

An unconventional synth app that supports MPE. It uses physical modeling to simulate the action of small spheres controlled by springs responding to various physical stimuli. As a bonus, it’s also a remote controller for the Haken Continuum.

TC-11 (BIT SHAPE) A visually oriented synth that uses your iOS device’s position in space and the location, number, and movement of your fingertips on a grid to control dozens of parameters simultaneously. This expressive instrument generates unusual timbres and has onboard recording.

TERA SYNTH (VIRSYN) At first glance, Tera looks like a three-oscillator subtractive synth with innovative front-panel scrolling, but as you continue scrolling, you’ll quickly discover its physical modeling waveguide section, a sophisticated formant filter, and extensive modulation options.

THOR (PROPELLERHEAD) Even after a decade, Thor’s versatility and sound are an integral aspect of Reason’s allure. But until Propellerhead gets around to releasing it as a VST, you’ll have to content yourself with this stellar and


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XYNTHESIZR (YURI TUROV) This intelligent, versatile, and addictive app centers on a grid-based sequencer that can morph its patterns in ways based on cellular automata algorithms. A lovely onboard synth is available for immediate gratification, and you can route its MIDI to other apps.

for effects, and some tempting in-app upgrades.

DRUMJAM (SONOSAURUS) A wide variety of drums and percussion from around the world, with innovative techniques for playing them. You can customize the drum sounds and record and export loops as WAV files, too.

Z3TA+ (CAKEWALK) This versatile synth is almost identical to the Mac and Windows version. It furnishes plenty of waveshaping tools and effects, a modulation matrix, and an arpeggiator with more than 200 patterns. It can even swap presets with the computer-based version.


ZMORS MODULAR (ZMORS) affordable iOS implementation.

THUMBJAM (SONOSAURUS) How much fun would it be to play slide trombone on your iPhone? ThumbJam comes with 45 sampled instruments, a MIDI arpeggiator, and an audio recorder. Onscreen bars make it easy to play, and you shake your device to add vibrato.

TROUBLEMAKER (BRAM BOS) The world may not need another TB-303 emulation, but Troublemaker includes many smart additions that allow it to transcend clichés and stake out new sonic territory for acid-house fans. Its visual sequencer is an innovative bonus.

It may not look it, but zMors Modular is one mother of a synth. Forty-six modules deliver at least five flavors of synthesis, DSP math functions, sequencing, effects, and more. With Expert Sleepers hardware, it even interfaces with Eurorack. DRUM MACHINES

ATTACK DRUMS (WALDORF) Back in 2001, Attack was the go-to plug-in for creating classic analog drum machine sounds. Its reincarnation for the iPad is a giant leap forward, with realtime pads, sequencing, effects, and a giant mixing console—all without feeling cluttered or overstuffed.


UNIQUE (SUGAR BYTES) Take a straightforward two-oscillator synth, place the focus on vowel formants, then make every parameter big and easy, and you have the essence of Unique. It won’t change the world, but it will make your formant-based designs a lot easier.

With a distinctive IDM feel, uncluttered interface, and Mouse On Mars pedigree, Elastic Drums offers more experimental groove options for the beep-click crowd. It’s essential for both experimental and industrial applications, thanks to an exotic array of processes.

IMPC PRO (AKAI PROFESSIONAL) The original iMPC brought Roger Linn’s legendary approach to drum programming to the iPad. The Pro version gets even closer to the original, with touch-based editing tools and a real-time variation slider that make it virtually irresistible.

ISPARK (ARTURIA) A beat-making workstation, iSpark lets you record 64-step patterns from 640 onboard instruments (or ones you import), and then chain patterns into songs and automate them in real time.

VIRTUAL ANS (ALEXANDER ZOLOTOV) This app simulates the ANS synthesizer, a mid20th century Russian invention that generated sounds from images and vice versa. It has brushes and gradient tools for drawing images that translate to interstellar sweeps and R2D2-like whistles.

PATTERNING (OLYMPIA NOISE) Beathawk is a bit of a dark horse in the iOS drummachine world, and that’s a shame because it’s fantastic for sample-based groove composition, with per-pad filtering, envelopes, and effects. The arranging tools are equally deep.

Instead of a grid, Patterning gives you a circle for programming rhythmic loops. It’s surprisingly intuitive. Mix and match drum kits, create patterns, arrange them into songs, and export everything. Have a blast making beats that you’ll want on your tracks.



WAVEGENERATOR (PPG) One of the most powerful wavetable synths on any platform, from the man who invented the technology. If you want to deeply explore wavetable design with few compromises, this is your ticket.

WAVEMAPPER (PPG) Wolfgang Palm’s WaveMapper offers an extraordinary approach to sound design that’s as simple as moving sonic pieces around a chessboard. Once you learn the properties of each element, you can quickly mix and match components to create entirely new sounds.



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This app delivers a studio full of sampled drum machines, from TR-808 to Volca Beats. Choose preset kits or roll your own. Program patterns on a grid or record your pad performance in real time, then create the perfect mix for complete songs.

DM2 (AUDIONOMY) Taking a slightly different approach, DM2 supplies a versatile percussion synth for sounds that are noticeably less traditional. You get the same programming and recording options as DM1, four x-y pads


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By fusing instant access to eight essential slicing parameters with VirSyn’s sophisticated arpeggiator, ReSlice makes working with chopped and diced audio an immersive experience. The inclusion of on-the-fly recording and Ableton Link adds to the jam factor.

and Trap scenes, it’s no surprise that FL Studio Mobile’s DAW functionality makes it the perfect companion for big-room producers on private jets. Pinch resizing makes heavy track counts manageable, too.



This unique performance instrument lets you create complex rhythmic patterns in real time. It imports audio loops, phrases, and beats and chops them into sectors you can sequence into stuttering, glitchy grooves. Go crazy with warp commands and controlled randomization.

There’s a reason that Gadget is becoming the sequencer for countless iPad producers. It combines great-sounding synths, compatibility with Korg’s other iOS synths, and a beautifully designed sequencing environment, while the new Zurich recorder brings it into DAW territory.



Programmable drummers have come a long way. X Drummer leverages recent advances in machine learning, listening to your input and helping you practice, compose, record, and perform in styles that automatically match what you play.

Groovebox makes it easy for newcomers to quickly mix and match preset patterns and instruments to create original grooves. From there, you can tweak basic synth parameters and freely edit the sequences. The in-app expansions are nicely affordable.




Once you stop marveling at Auxy’s minimalist aesthetic and effortless functionality, you’ll quickly discover that it sounds great too. There’s a reason for its cult-like following and media praise: Auxy is an exquisite way to produce impressive tracks.

CAUSTIC (SINGLE CELL SOFTWARE) Caustic takes its design cues from Propellerhead Reason. You get a nice variety of instruments, 20 stompboxes, a mixer, master effects, and a pianoroll sequencer. Import and open samples in the wave editor. It plays well with other apps, too.

EGOIST (SUGAR BYTES) Featuring a sophisticated slicer, a 303-style bass synth (also great for midrange bits), a simplified drum machine and seven effects, Egoist can easily be used for ‘90s era rave tracks, but it excels at hiphop, disco, house, and IDM.

FIGURE (ALIHOOPA) This is the free app you tell your friends to download so they have a better idea of what you’re actually doing in your studio all the darn time. Effortless bass, drums, and leads with no possibility of mistakes—100-percent fun.

FL STUDIO MOBILE (IMAGE LINE) With the desktop version dominating the EDM

NODEBEAT HD (AFFINITYBLUE) Like many generative music apps, it’s easy to mistake NodeBeat for a game. Once you set up an arrangement of nodes, notes play in response to the proximity of generators. Define scales, set tempo, and control internal sounds or MIDI instruments.

REMIXLIVE (MIXVIBES) Remixlive’s loop grid lets you perform by launching loops and samples. Switch to the drum grid to play drum pads and record custom loops. Edit loops in the sample editor, balance levels in the mixer, and control effects with an x-y pad.

TABLETOP (RETRONYMS) This modular studio starts out with 14 devices, including a step-sequencing matrix, audio recorder, turntable, effects boxes, and sample players. Expand your setup with in-app options, or connect Tabletop-ready third-party apps. Tabletop offers a novel approach to iPad music production.

TAKE (ALIHOOPA) For zero dollars, Take is a handy 3-track recorder with baked-in drum grooves, voice tuning, and dead-simple effects that sound great. Alihoopa integration makes it more socially aware, but even on its own, it’s an absolute must-have sketchpad.

BLOCS WAVE (AMPIFY) Loop-based groove-making tools are plentiful on iOS, but Blocs Wave’s 48 loop pads, time-stretching, and export to Ableton Live give it the edge for modern productions. As a free app with loads of in-app options, it’s risk-free to check out.

The app is free and bundled with enough clips to get you hooked on their in-app expansions.

WR6000 (WEJAAM) The iPad version of Korg’s classic groove box offers exotic effects, tube-style distortion, and friendly automation in a large format that’s a joy to use. The iPhone version is a ringer for the original Electribe-R that dominated the ‘90s dance scene.


WR6000’s knob-centric mixer interface may be a tad esoteric for those of us who prefer traditional faders, but its combination of virtual analog with simple sampling makes it quick and easy. Unfortunately, the free version times out after 10 minutes. EFFECTS PROCESSORS

For current Maschine fans, iMaschine 2.0 is a no brainer, with 4 sets of 16 sample-based pads, extensive sequencing and arranging tools, and dual x-y pads with assignable effects. For newcomers, it’s a great introduction to Native Instruments’ approach to modern beat-making.




The most versatile of three versions—AD 480 Free, Basic, and Pro—this app emulates the mid‘80s Lexicon 480L reverb and all its original parameters. It includes 24 I/O channels, an onboard recorder and 108 factory presets.

This app’s innovative approach to music production makes it unlike anything else. You organize and manipulate geometric shapes onscreen that play loops or samples, alter parameters, and more. Be careful, though. Once you pick it up, it’s hard to put down.

LAUNCHPAD (NOVATION) Launchpad’s 8 x 6 grid of loops and one-shots— combined with a set of 16 club-friendly effects—is insanely gratifying, regardless of your skill level.

When IK Multimedia ported its AmpliTube


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software to iOS, suddenly entire guitar rigs—amps, cabinets, stompboxes, and all—were more portable than ever. Now you can choose from Orange, Mesa/Boogie, Acoustic, Slash, and Jimi Hendrix editions.

AMP KIT+ (AGILE PARTNERS) Guitarists have lots of choices when replacing their amp and effects rigs with iOS apps. Partnering with Peavey, AmpKit+ models some of your favorite guitar and bass amps, cabinets, microphones, and pedals. It even provides backing tracks to audition presets.

APEFILTER (APESOFT) So you think you know filters? apeFilter will challenge that assumption. From Fibonacci combs to precisely tracked harmonic series and everything in between, apeFilter provides clever modulation options, real-time control, and more college math than you can handle.

BORDERLANDS GRANULAR (CHRIS CARLSON) This app is terrific for exploring granular synthesis. Record or import audio and create grain clouds. Use your fingertips to manipulate sound fragments onscreen, and automate your gestures by recording and saving them.

CSSPECTRAL (BOULANGER LABS) Richard Boulanger is a true maverick in the digital audio realm. Although csSpectral’s clean interface may imply simplicity, its processing capabilities are absolutely mind-boggling. csSpectral is a voyage around the wild side of sonics and has soundtrack written all over it.

DEDALUS (AMAZING NOISES) Dedalus is a multi-delay processor that’s unlike all the others. It uses granular synthesis to split sounds into fragments and processes both live input and audio files. Plenty of user parameters let you achieve a broad range of interesting effects.

APEDELAY (APESOFT) Combining a stereo delay with touchable realtime FFT resynthesis tools for each channel, apeDelay is a mad scientist’s dream. That said, the results are anything but mainstream or “pop,” which is why it’s a must for IDM and experimental producers.

DUBFILTER (AMAZING NOISES) This dual resonant lowpass/highpass filter doesn’t just process audio signals, it responds to them. While processing live input or scrubbing or playing audio files, it dynamically modulates frequency bands with an envelope follower, an LFO, and two x-y pads.

AUDIO EFFX (VIRSYN) Based on the multi-effects chain that all VirSyn instruments share, Audio EffX offers seven processors—EQ, drive/distortion, flanger, reverb, phaser, delay, and chorus—that sound great and can be reordered on the fly. Ableton Link integration allows for tempo-synced delays.




Getting serious about complete productions in iOS means you’re going to need a capable dynamics processor for your tracks. Push is that and then some, with a comprehensive range of parameters, integrated noise gate, limiter/clipper, and a genuinely professional sound.

Liquid, spacious, Eno-esque reverbs are EOS 2’s specialty, enhanced by integrated modulation options and customizable crossovers. It’s also great for thick, small room ambiences. With its impressionistic sound and straightforward controls, EOS 2 is tailor-made for soundtracks and ambient productions.

If the idea of sequencing multiple simultaneous effects on a per step basis gets your creative juices flowing, Effectrix will absolutely blow your mind. Going further, you can also set up an octave of keys for switching patterns via MIDI.

AUFX:SPACE (KYMATICA) Most of Space’s reverb parameters are familiar, but the inclusion of dedicated resonant lowpass and highpass filters set it apart from the pack. It’s fantastic for quality ambiences, but the exotic bandwidth-limited ‘verbs make it really special.

FILTATRON (MOOG MUSIC) Originally designed for the iPhone, Filtatron is one of those apps that’s great for both killing time on a bus and processing audio via Audiobus, thanks to its impressive emulation of the Moog ladder filter, overdrive and LFO-modulated delay.

BIAS FX (POSITIVE GRID) With so many amp simulation apps available, how do you find one that’s right for you? It’s all about quality and quantity. Bias FX gives you 25 stompboxes, 5 studio processors, and 12 classic amps to assemble your perfect pedalboard.



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FLUX:FX (NOIISE) Designed in cooperation with guitarist Adrian Belew, Flux:FX is a signal-processing powerhouse. Thirty-one effects (including stutter) are literally at your fingertips, with parameters controlled by

an x-y pad. Flux:FX records and plays back x-y position snapshots in a 64-step sequencer.

GRAINPROC (MAYANK SANGANARIA) When you finally figure out GrainProc’s bizarre and slightly incomprehensible UI, you’ll be rewarded with a two-channel granular effect that’s simple to manipulate in a live performance context. It’s not as fancy as the others, but it’s a great introduction.

GRAIN SCIENCE (WOOJI JUICE) Combining traditional synth parameters with granular synthesis, this app can import a sound, alter it radically, blend it with another granulated sound, process it with effects, and record the results. Think of it as a sound designer’s chemistry set.

GRIND (AUDIO DAMAGE) Like its VST counterpart, Grind is a special kind of distortion that relies on a set of wavetables for its waveshaping functions, with an integrated multimode filter and LFO. If you’re looking for unusually nasty results, Grind is the ticket.

HARMONY EIGHT (VIRSYN) Easily generate Imogen Heap-style synthesized choirs via eight stereo pitch-shifters, with integrated formant correction. Then, add eight delays, compression, EQ, multi-effects and Ableton Link. The result is an utterly unique processing tool.

IDENSITY (APESOFT) If you’re investigating granular synthesis techniques, you owe it to yourself to check out iDensity. With six channels of granulized audio streams, tempo and pitch shifting, and the ability to improvise live, it’s a smart introduction with truly otherworldly results.

IPULSARET (APESOFT) Advanced granular synthesis that’s distinctly different to iDensity’s approach, this synth allows you to process your samples using one of five modes: Wave, Trainlet, Sample, Live (input), and Harmonic. From there, forget everything you know and explore.

JAMUP PRO (POSITIVE GRID) Get JamUp XT for free, and then move up to the hard stuff. Designed for guitar and bass players, JamUp Pro makes building a killer effects setup drag-and-drop simple. And the sky’s the limits when you want to expand your rig.

LIMITER (AMAZING NOISES) Taming audio signals is essential when you’re processing audio, and nothing keeps levels un-


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der control like a brickwall limiter. Whether it’s processing sound files or signals from audio apps, Limiter will attenuate, squash, saturate, or distort whatever you throw at it.

LOOPY HD (A TASTY PIXEL) Since launching four years ago, this multitrack stereo looper is one of iOS’s most popular music apps. It records from an input or from other apps through Audiobus, and you can control its functions with MIDI. Merge tracks for endless overdubbing.



If you’re looking for transparent dynamics processing for your iOS mixes, look elsewhere, because this compressor is tailor-made for punchy drums and hard basses. The straightforward controls include a mix knob for parallel fans, too. Best of all, it’s free.

WOW fuses a flexible distortion algorithm with an exhaustive array of resonant filter types, then loads up on sequencing, modulation, and a threeaxis x-y pad for results that would be equally at home on both Daft Punk and NIN tracks.

RP-1 (KAI ARAS) RP-1 is a straightforward stereo delay with an added modulation effect (chorus, flange, phase, etc.) that you can place before or after the main delay. As such, it has a classic sound with a clean interface and large color-coded controls.

MIC ROOM (IK MULTIMEDIA) An app that claims to morph your standard iPhone microphone into replicas of classic models like the SM58, RE20, or C414 may sound like fake news, but Mic Room delivers real results, especially when combined with IK Multimedia’s iRig microphone.




Looking for new ways to alter reality? This granular synth gives you a suite of effects you can apply in real time while scrubbing waveforms with your fingertip. A morphing filter and dual-band frequency shifter contribute to the madness.

Want unconventional effects? Check out Shaper. It gives you four processors in series: wave transformation (with clipping, wrapping, and folding), a glitch gate, a waveshaper, and a resonator with a fast delay, suitable for comb filtering. (Try the Burnt Muffin preset.)

Although it’s years overdue for an update, Samplr is such a blast, we decided to include it. Load some audio, display the waveform, shatter it into fragments, and manipulate playback with multitouch. Loop it, bow it, arpeggiate it, and more.

MOBILE POD (LINE 6) Line 6 has long been a leader in guitar amp modeling, and Mobile POD carries on that tradition by putting a POD pedal in your iOS device. With so many amps, cabinets, and effects to choose, you can duplicate almost any guitarist’s tones.

OSTINATOR (LIVING MEMORY SOFTWARE) This terrific app simulates a hardware looper and has every function you’d expect. Loop live input or audio imported from files or other apps. Control most functions with MIDI, and seamlessly crossfade loop endings with beginnings.

REVERB FEEDBACK DELAY NETWORK (AMAZING NOISES) The right reverb can make all the difference in a mix. This one goes beyond simulating natural and manmade environments into imaginary spaces. Change the resonant and reflective quality of walls, generate echoes, and control parameters with your device’s accelerometer.

SPARKLE (APESOFT) Sparkle operates in the intersection between convolution, vocoding, and sophisticated FFT functions. Simply put, you can superimpose the rhythmic or timbral character of a source sample on the spectrum of the target, add synth features, and then play it via MIDI.

TONESTACK (YONAC) Save configurations of guitar amps, cabinets, and effects—nothing unusual there. Fully expanded, though, ToneStack’s effects collection is unbeatable. You can integrate other effects apps into your presets, too. It also has a metronome, tuner and 8-track recorder.


AURIA PRO (WAVEMACHINE LABS) With a long and impressive feature list, Auria Pro is a genuinely professional DAW that rivals desktop software. It records 24 tracks simultaneously and handles MIDI and audio tracking, mixing, and post-production. Excellent third-party plug-ins are included, with more available.

CAPTURE (PRESONUS) Capture is a 32-track, 24/96 audio recorder designed for mobile multitrack recording and editing. Use the built-in mic or any MFi (made for iOS) audio interface, and then transfer tracks to PreSonus’s Studio One (a free version is available) via WiFi.

CUBASIS 2 (STEINBERG) Based on the top-shelf DAW Cubase, there’s nothing lightweight about Cubasis. It supports unlimited tracks, 24/96 recording, detailed audio and MIDI editing, and third-party Audio Units. It comes with an assortment of software instruments, effects processors, audio loops, and more.

FIELDSCRAPER (IMUSICALBUM) Field recordings can be inspirational resources for subsequent mangling with desktop processing, but FieldScraper skips the middleman and lets you get to work within the app itself. With filters, distortion, and modulation oscillators, coffeehouse ambiences may never be the same.

FINALTOUCH (POSITIVE GRID) If you’re bold enough to work exclusively on an iPad, you’ll need a capable mastering chain. Final Touch is so full-featured that several Grammy Award-winning producers have enthusiastically endorsed it. For less than five bucks, it’s a no-brainer.

TURNADO (SUGAR BYTES) Concealed behind an unassuming set of four x-y pads lurks a powerful set of eight processors with an emphasis on rhythmic, stuttering, and pattern effects. Everything is deeply customizable, but hitting the dice/randomizer button often yields configurations that sound shockingly professional.




TC-Helicon built a reputation inventing voice-enhancing hardware. The iOS version packs much of that technology into an inexpensive app that has automatic tuning, gender bending, looping, and a range of vocal-friendly effects.

Positioned as a one-click voice memo recorder that instantly uploads to iCloud, Just Press Record has the distinction of being the only mobile recording app that includes an Apple Watch companion for quickly grabbing audio (or playing James Bond).

Every iOS musician should learn to use GarageBand. It’s a unique and surprisingly capable DAW that supports Audio Units, and it’s free. It comes with some excellent loops, instruments, and effects processors, and it swaps files with Logic Pro X.

RF-1 (KAI ARAS) When it comes to reverb, realism isn’t RF-1’s strong suit. This is obvious from just scanning the presets, which range from tremolo ‘verbs to chorused ambiences. Accordingly, RF-1 is handy for dance and pop producers who dig unique spatialization effects.



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quencing, one of B-Step’s specialties is sequencing chord progressions. Another useful trick is ratcheting—retriggering a single step a predetermined number of times—a technique you’ve heard if you listen to Berlin School.

rig, Thesys is a powerful step sequencer offering detailed parameter automation and performance control with real-time keyboard selection of patterns and macro actions.


Quite a few looping apps are available for iOS, but Retronyms’ 16-track Looperverse emphasizes realtime performance control enhanced by their premium pedal controller. Time-stretching, pitch shifting, and stem export just add to its professionalism.


The Tenori-on is a rare and futuristic MIDI performance instrument combining sample playback and step sequencing on a 256-button grid. TNR-i reproduces it in every way, with practically all the same controls and capabilities, at a tiny fraction of the cost. DJ APPS


This inexpensive DAW records as many as 127 MIDI tracks and 24 audio tracks. It furnishes dual keyboards, 16 drum pads, a sampler, an audio editor, and more than enough sampled instruments, drum loops, and effects to produce demos anywhere.

With four independent playheads that can simultaneously scan a single piano-roll sequence in any direction at multiple tempos, Fugue Machine could change the way you approach music. Whether glittering, ambient or grooving, the results are hypnotic and absolutely compelling.



Every musician needs a stereo audio editor, and TwistedWave imports many formats via many means. All the commands you’d expect are available, and it can integrate processing from thirdparty effects apps. TwistedWave can also record from any source, including Bluetooth.

This 16-track sequencer emphasizes creating patterns and then selecting their playback order in real time during a performance. It’s loaded with useful features and does almost anything you’d want a step sequencer to do. It even has undo and redo.

With four turntables and vinyl-centric interface, DJay Pro is the award-winning app for turntablists who want to keep things as real as possible in the virtual world. Auto-syncing your Spotify favorites is a life-changing experience. This is Mercedesclass turntablism.



If step sequencing is in your repertoire, definitely check out Koushion. Its capabilities are comprehensive and inspiring, whether it’s controlling other iOS apps, playing external instruments via MIDI cable, or connecting wirelessly with software instruments on your computer.

Gorgeous minimalist design, Spotify integration, and superb auto-sync would make Pacemaker a star performer even if it weren’t free, with effects available as in-app purchases. A companion Apple Watch app that actually works just adds to the magic. Get it!



MASTER RECORD (IMUSICALBUM) Impressive tape saturation and simulated wowand-flutter effects, as well as extensive sample rate and bit-depth conversion tools for a variety of audio formats, including MP3, M4A, CAF, and FLAC.

MUSIC MEMOS (APPLE) A free app for capturing uncompressed audio for later use in GarageBand (or any DAW) is a wonderful thing, to be sure. But Music Memos’ ability to intelligently add drums and bass to piano or guitar recordings verges on magical. MIDI SEQUENCERS/ARPEGGIATORS

Every iOS sequencer takes a different approach, but this one is straightforward and easy to understand, because it emulates a tabletop analog step sequencer with 16 steps and MIDI message filtering. Chord sequencing and MIDI effects are optional.



The mother of all arpeggiators. Edit presets or create new patterns using onscreen controls. Control pitch and tempo with the 16x16 matrix, and control other parameters with your accelerometer. Easily play complex arpeggios at any tempo.

If Modstep has limits, they’re not obvious. It controls external instruments and iOS apps (with templates for both), and it has its own synth and a sampler with drum pads. Sequences can contain as many tracks as your iPad can handle.



Though it’s more than adequate for MIDI se-



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Whether you’re using it with the onboard analogstyle synth or integrating it with a hardware MIDI

In the pro DJ world, Traktor has become one of the most popular options for laptop-based performance. The iPad version is quickly becoming a contender, too, thanks to its robust auto-sync and compatibility with NI’s Z1, S2, and S4 controllers.


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A full-featured transcription suite that supports audio and video files. You can alter the pitch or speed of a file, as well as loop, scrub and freeze the audio. A keyboard and spectrum analysis are also included in this intuitive app.

Most ear-training programs teach musicians to recognize intervals and chords, but this one is optimized to enhance your sound-mixing skills— specifically, your ability to distinguish frequency bands and understand how equalization affects sound. If you record music, you need this.



Music theory and ear training never hurt anyone, and iOS is an ideal platform. You get 13 exercises for recognizing intervals, chords, and scales; melodic and tempo dictation; brushing up your music reading skills and more, with six instrument sounds.

Once you’ve downloaded hundreds of free songs, this next-generation fake book will display their chord charts and play a multitrack arrangement while you play along. Change musical style, tempo, key, or instrumentation. Create, edit and share charts, and much more.


CAPO TOUCH (SUPERMEGAULTRAGROOVY) Every fretted string player needs this one. It analyzes recorded songs and then displays their chord changes with chord diagrams for guitar and other instruments. A slider instantly transposes the key, and another slider changes playback tempo.

FORSCORE (FORSCORE LLC) forScore’s aim is simple but lofty: To replace all your printed sheet music with transcriptions in digital form. Collect scores into libraries, scan music from hardcopy, import PDFs, create set lists, and edit and share transcriptions, lead sheets, guitar tabs, etc.

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MACPROVIDEO (NONLINEAR EDUCATING) From Ableton to Ultrabeat, this extensive selection of training videos, encompassing tons of hardware and software, brings music technology education to your iOS device. Watch all the stepby-step lessons at your own pace. Some older titles are completely free.

NOTION FOR IOS (PRESONUS) A music notation app that lets you hear your scores played by samples of the London Symphony Orchestra and other fine musicians. For almost

any instrument you can imagine, it turns your iPad into a portable transcription workhorse.

ONSONG (ONSONG) OnSong manages chord charts and lyric sheets imported from various formats, or you can create your own. Easily transpose keys and edit your charts’ appearance, play and sync imported backing tracks, and share wirelessly with other band members.

STEVE REICH’S CLAPPING MUSIC (AMPHIO LIMITED) If you make electronic music, you should know Steve Reich’s name. If you don’t know him, you should know his piece, Clapping Music. If you don’t know Clapping Music, you should just get this app. It’s absolutely mesmerizing and totally free.

SYNTORIAL For years, EM’s favorite software for learning to program synths. Now Syntorial is an iOS app, and the first 22 lessons are free. If you’re serious about programming, upgrading to the full version is absolutely worth the price.

TENUTO (MUSICTHEORY.NET) Learn to identify notes, chords, intervals, and

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keys, and brush up on your ear training. Tenuto provides five music calculators and 20 exercises you can customize to suit your skill level.

UNREALBOOK (ARON NELSON) For performing musicians who rely on charts, your iPad is ideal for storing, organizing, and displaying your sheet music, chord charts, lyric sheets, and set lists. unRealBook imports PDF files, records your songs, and links your PDFs and recordings.

WAAY (TEN KETTLES) Understanding scales and harmony makes songwriting easier, and it makes it easier to communicate with other musicians. Waay takes a practical approach to learning music theory, with interactive exercises and video lessons that help you build speed and accuracy. UTILITIES

With Audiocopy, you can copy audio and its metadata from dozens of compatible apps to a clipboard and paste it to others. Catalog and browse all your sounds, record new ones, and perform basic edits such as trimming and normalizing.

AUDIOSHARE (KYMATICA) This utility manages audio, MIDI, and text files and moves them between apps and your computer. Store files in a library, edit them, compress them, and shuttle them between folders. AudioShare also records audio from other apps or external sources.

AUDIOTOOLS (ANDREW SMITH) If you take audio seriously, you need this app. Start with essentials like a dual-channel oscilloscope, SPL meter, and real-time analyzer, and add acoustic analysis options as your needs grow. AudioTools makes expensive test gear obsolete.



This one is essential. It’s the glue that holds your device’s music production system together, a MIDI and audio routing system for connecting iOS music apps. Connect multiple sound sources, processors, and destinations, and save entire configurations for recall.

AUM is a versatile audio mixer, audio recorder, and Audio Units host. It routes audio from other apps or external inputs, processes it with other effects apps, and sends it to any physical or inter-app destination. It’s fantastic for live performance.

pensable to musicians, especially when working with plug-ins in your DAW. It lets you use your iPad as a second display that functions as a touch screen for your computer.

E-SCOPE 3-IN-1 (E-SKETT) If you don’t need or can’t afford sophisticated audio analysis tools, e-Scope is for you. You get a signal generator with four types of signals, an FFT analyzer for measuring spectrum, and a three-mode oscilloscope you adjust by pinching the screen.

HOKUSAI 2 (WOOJI JUICE) The free version is an uncluttered audio editor that handles basic tasks for multiple simultaneous


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Lessons Learned Lessons Shared BY JON REGEN


“We traveled all day, I’ve got a salad coming from room service, and we can talk for a while,” legendary pianist and composer Chick Corea tells me from his hotel room in Istanbul, Turkey. With a seemingly never-ending tour schedule, and an unquenchable musical hunger to match it, at 76, the jazz piano patriarch is still breaking new musical and technological ground.



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Following the release of his acclaimed new CDand-movie box set The Musician, and the continued success of his online educational workshops, Corea made time to talk to me about how, after nearly six decades in music, he’s just getting started. Your new three-CD box set and video documentary The Musician is astounding. You recorded it during your 70th birthday celebration at the Blue Note in New York City. And as if those shows weren’t impressive enough, you recently recorded the mammoth celebration for your 75th birthday, as well. And that one was way more intense, because it was twice as long! We’ve got eight weeks and 80 shows of glorious, freewheeling, friendly, beautiful, spontaneous music made with all of my friends. Everything was recorded and also shot on video. And I don’t know what the hell to do with it! But it was really a lot of fun. It was such a joy, and when I get together with that many friends, I always contemplate what a charmed life I have— making music with all these incredible people. It was like floating on a cloud the whole time. When we spoke in 2014, you left us with some inspirational words of advice for aspiring artists. You said, “I like to encourage others into the arts, and one of the things I tell them is that it’s a great life. The reason why is because you’ve found something that you love to do. Then, in addition to that, you not only get to enjoy the feeling of doing what you love to do, but you also get to see someone else receive pleasure from it. So, it’s a good life, and it’s something that people everywhere really need. It’s what keeps us alive.” This still seems to be your overarching approach to making art. Absolutely. I’m no politician, and I’m no corporate executive, although in some lifetime I would like to be an architect, because I love building stuff. But for this job of making music, I see it to be a glorious mission. In actual fact, musicians themselves are kind of pure hearts. They have dedicated their lives to making creative music and all of them, in their own way, love to see the effect of people being amazed and uplifted positively by music. So, I see it as a mission. Now that I’m older, I just want more and more people involved in the arts. Because it’s the antidote. It aligns with all of the great efforts of people to help each other on the planet. I also see my friends, rightly so, getting interested in politics and what’s going on with the government. And I’m interested to a certain extent myself. But the attitude that musicians have is kind of universal: We’re non-political and non-religious, and we’ve got this pure, simple goal to create; to create music and make life beautiful. All we need is more

of that! That’s why these online music workshops that I’m doing [] are my passion now. In an age where so many older musicians are mystified by the brave new world of technology, at 76, you seem to be constantly embracing it and using it to inspire and educate. The reality of it starts right on the street. As I travel and play my gigs, I’m always meeting a lot of people. I meet young musicians and fans, and when I talk with them, I see what it is that inspires them. I get invited to give lectures and workshops in various cities, and I’ll ask musicians, “What do you guys want to know?” And they’ll ask me questions like, “How do you voice a chord?” or “How do you write a song?” or “What’s improvisation all about?” There are a lot of technical questions, which are fine, because talking shop is a pleasure for me. But then I see that sometimes there will be that moment where I can say a simple thing to a fellow musician, like, “All of these questions you’re asking get resolved by you starting to rely on your own judgment of things. Your judgment of what sounds good and what doesn’t sound good, what you think works, what you like—it’s yours. It’s good to learn from your environment and from making a discipline of copying from your heroes. But when it comes right down to it, you have to trust your own judgment and think for yourself.” And sometimes a simple statement like that will affect someone. They’ll go, “Wow!” They’ll have a life-changing moment. And it always amazes me. I saw by first-hand experience that just being there for my fellow musicians had a good effect. It’s inspired me, so I’m really going to do all I can to learn about the Internet and how to do this thing mechanically. I’m going to ask all my friends who are under 40, “How do you hook me up?” [Laughs.] We live in a time where musicians are challenged by the chaos of social media. We seem to be constantly promoting gigs and Facebooking photos of our gear, but that compulsion to participate online is often at odds with the need to improve at one’s instrument. How does someone quiet their mind in the information age? The first thing I think of is that basic simple truth of “You have to trust your own judgment.” That’s always senior to everything. When you look out at life, there’s always some kind of complexity going on. You made one picture of the modern day, with all the social media and noise. But I just finished a wonderful biography by Walter Isaacson about Benjamin Franklin. And it took me back to the days when America was being formed, and these people came to the land and they didn’t know anything about what was happening here. They

were pioneers. Imagine the amount of uncontrolled stuff that was coming at them. It’s similar to the “noise” on social media. They were looking at a plane with trees and terrain, and they weren’t sure how they were going to make a living and eat and provide for their family. So, we’re back to that idea of trusting your own judgment and using it to start making choices. Do young musicians come up to you and decry the death of live music in 2017, or do you think that there’s still a vibrant, live music scene today where people can showcase their talents? That’s a good question, and I think it’s a matter of really coming into present time and looking at the world clearly as it is, right now in this moment. The urge to create and the subject of music will, of course, never die, because it’s native to every living being. It’s part of everybody. Whether they’re professionals or not, the artistic and creative impulse is there. Times are changing, and the way we interact together is changing on an exponentially faster route. Whether you want to focus on the fact that it’s a declining statistic or not, is up to you. That’s why I personally try to be a “solver” rather than someone who points out problems. I want to solve a few problems by making things into a game and into fun. I was in a taxi in San Francisco about a year ago, and this young, African-American girl in her twenties was driving the cab. She was really bright, so I said to her, “Just out of curiosity, as a musician who is playing here in town, have you ever heard of the name Duke Ellington?” And she looked up and said, “No, I’ve never heard of that.” I said, “What about Louis Armstrong?” She replied, “No.” But check this out: I said, “Have you ever heard of Miles Davis?” And she looked up and said, “No.” I mean, check it out! [Laughs.] You see? It changed me. I think that’s just something we have to contend with—constantly, exponentially changing times. So, you have to be quick on your feet. You have to think, “Alright, the Internet now is the way to market something.” Let’s look at the business terms of “marketing” and “promotion” and put them into a more “street” vernacular. If you play the piano and you come to a town and you want a gig, you’ve got to go find somebody. Right? You can’t stay in your apartment all day! [Laughs.] You’ve got to go find somebody and introduce yourself. “Hi, I play the piano. Can I sit in?” What are you doing? You’re promoting yourself, right? You have to. That’s what life is about. It’s communication: You show people what you do, and if they like it, they’ll call you for it, and then confidence builds up until finally they’ll give you some money for it, too! I think if we kept that whole idea and used social media and the Internet in a natural, human, communicative way, that’s the thing to do. Because it’s the way to communicate now. You’re


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Cheap But Good Advice for Playing Music In a Group By Chick Corea 1. Play only what you hear. 2. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything. 3. Don’t let your fingers and limbs just wander—play them intentionally. 4. Don’t improvise on endlessly—play something with intention, develop it or not, then end off, take a break. 5. Leave space—create space—intentionally create places where you don’t play. 6. Make your sound blend. Listen to your sound and adjust it to the rest of the band and the room. 7. If you play more than one instrument at a time—like a drum kit or multiple keyboards—make sure they are balanced with one another. 8. Don’t make any of your music mechanically or just through patterns of habit. Create each sound, phrase, and piece with choice—deliberately. 9. Guide your choice of what to play by what you like—not by what someone else will think.

10. Use contrast and balance elements: high-low fast-slow loud-soft tense-relaxed dense-sparse 11. Play to make the other musicians sound good. Play things that will make the overall music sound good. 12. Play with a relaxed body. Always release whatever tension you create. 13. Create space—begin, develop, and end phrases with intention. 14. Never beat or pound your instrument—play it easily and gracefully. 15. Create space—then place something in it. 16. Use mimicry sparsely—mostly create phrases that contrast with and develop the phrases of the other players. (Originally printed by the Berklee College of Music for “Chick Corea at Berklee” and dated March 1114, 1985.)

not going to get a gig in the way you did 20 years ago. Speaking of 20 or so years ago, I’m staring at a Xerox copy of a talk you gave at the Berklee College of Music back in 1985. I got it when I attended the Eastman School of Music a few years later. It’s entitled “Chick Corea at Berklee—Cheap But Good Advice for Playing Music in a Group.” It says things like, “If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything,” and “Don’t improvise on endlessly—play something with intention, develop it or not, but then end off, take a break.” Do you remember that talk? I remember that. Wow, that guy was saying some true things! [Laughs.] There’s another line of yours I particularly like that reads, “Don’t make any of your music mechanically or just through patterns of habit. Create each sound, phrase, and piece with choice—deliberately.” Yeah. That’s another way of saying “Don’t try to market yourself as if the world was 1960, because it’s not. It’s 2017!” It’s amazing that even 32

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Montage triggers through [Apple] Mainstage. I’ve got a bunch of plug-ins from Spectrasonics like Keyscape and Omnisphere, also [Native Instruments] Absynth and Kontakt. Those are for more abstract sounds, but my main playing sound is the sample on the Montage that I made years ago of my Stage-model Rhodes. And I put the Moog Voyager on top of it. I also still stand up and play the [Yamaha] KX5 shoulder keyboard. They don’t make them anymore. It’s the same keyboard I used to take out with the Elektric band. Yamaha won’t make me another one!

Getting geeky for a minute, the last time we spoke, you were playing a Yamaha MOTIF XF8 with the samples of your Rhodes, along with a Moog Minimoog Voyager. But recently, I saw a video of you onstage playing a Vintage Vibe electromechanical piano. I used the Vintage Vibe at the Blue Note, but it’s not something that I can carry around, so I’m now playing my Rhodes samples on the Yamaha Montage. It’s just a better-quality sound than the MOTIF. After this trio tour is done and I take a break, I’m going back out with the Elektric Band. I’ll be using the Montage, along with a laptop that the

I think the question everybody wants to know is, what is the secret to looking and playing like you do at 76 years of age? You seem to be aging backwards! [Laughs.] There’s no secret. I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for a long time. I eat well and I try to take care of myself. I went on a nutritional diet about five years ago and I lost a lot of weight. And I’ve been doing Scientology since 1968, which always keeps me fresh. There’s no mystery to it.

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years ago, you were already formulating your concepts for coursework, which you are still teaching, now partly online. Well, people would always ask me questions, and I don’t like to see any kind of advice being given in an authoritative way, especially with art. You don’t say, “Beethoven was better than Brahms,” or “This period of Miles Davis’ music was better than that one.” It’s all subjective. All you have to do when giving people advice, is let them know that it is advice. In other words, this is my experience and it might not work for you. All of a sudden, that puts a little bit of a human element into it, and it avoids sounding like I’m telling someone they’re wrong if they don’t do these things.

It looks like I have to go on a diet and become a Scientologist! Well, whatever works, man! n

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W hen we think about ’70’s fusion bands, the names Weather Report, Mahavishnu Or-

chestra, and Return to Forever are always mentioned. But it could be argued that the Jean-Luc Ponty Band had as much, if not more, commercial success with a string of a dozen albums that broke the Top Five on Billboard’s Jazz chart; two of them even broke into the Top 40 albums. It was a powerful band with great writing and flawless execution, and for six years of this best-selling period, Australian Allan Zavod manned the keys. Zavod, a skilled classical and jazz pianist and composer, played with the big bands of Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson, and recorded/toured with Billy Cobham and Frank Zappa, among others. After his touring years, he moved into orchestral composing, scored more than 40 films, and was awarded a Doctorate of Music in 2009. He passed away in 2016. In an interview during his Ponty Band days (April 1978, Contemporary Keyboard), Zavod mentioned that he soloed mostly on the ARP 2600 (and a little bit using the Arp Odyssey). So, no pitch bend wheels for him: He did it all using a knob!


Allan Zavod

FIERY TRADING My first solo choice comes from Ponty’s best-selling album, Enigmatic Ocean, from 1977. On the tune “Imaginary Ocean Part II,” the band trades choruses between Ponty, Zavod, and guitarists Daryl Stuermer and Allan Holdsworth. Example 1 starts off with a difficult-to-notate, two-handed flurry of notes and then settles in to some tasteful soloing. Bar 2 is easy enough to understand, and then in bar 3 Zavod uses colorful note choices from the C Mixolydian mode and then moves into a bluesy lick in bar 4 that you would usually play on a G minor, or G7 chord before resolving it back to the C major tonality. Bars 5 and 6 feature the classic 2-note fusion lick and then take

Chart-Topping Fusion BY JERRY KOVARSKY

off into some fleet F major arpeggiations. When the chord changes to Eb dominant seventh in bar 7, he seems to be still playing mostly on an F tonality, except for the bend up into the Db at the end of the bar. Bar 8 continues the F tonality until he resolves down into the F# for the D7 chord at the end of his phrase. Example 2 is his second “trade,” and Zavod starts out with a figure that seems to be from the D harmonic minor scale, certainly an outside choice to play over a dominant seventh chord. He settles back inside over the next two bars before taking flight into chromatic shifting lines for the F chord in bar 5 and then resolves back into some fleet-fingered F major pentatonic for bar 6. Once again, he stays on the F tonality when the chord shifts to Eb7 in bar 7, again using the bend up into the Db to hint at the dominant seventh color. Bar 8 continues the F tonality and then he outlines more of a G minor over the F major before resolving again to the F# for the final D7 chord. MAKING THE CHANGES Example 3 is a masterful solo on the tune “Once Upon a Dream,” from the 1976 Ponty release Imaginary Journey, which really shows off Zavod’s ability to play over chord changes. In the opening of his solo, he is using the C blues scale to open up, with a few interesting half-step chromatic note

Ex. 1. Allan Zavod’s first chorus of trading with his band mates from the tune “Imaginary Ocean Part II.”

œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ#œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œfijù œ œ û œ œ 4 #œ œ œ œ &4 œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ 1 2 6 D7


1:39 C7

œ bœ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ bœ œ œ œ #œ œ œ œ bœ nœ nœ œ œ œ & œ 3 4 F 3 œœœœ œ œœ & œ™ œ œfijù œ œ œ œ œ œ œfijù œ œ œ œ œ œ œfijù œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œœœ œ 5 6 œ 7 E¨7 D7 b œ œ ù œ û œ œ œbœ œbœ œ bœnœ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œbœ œnœ œ œ œ œ w &œ #




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(( S H A P E )) SHAPE40 $549 EA

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Ex. 2. Zavod’s second chorus, where he makes more choices that are outside the chords.

œ & œbœ œ#œ œ œ œbœ œ#œ œ œ nœ ™ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œbœnœ œ œ œ ™ œ œ œœ œ œ 1 2 3 4 2:27 3 3 F œ œ nœ œ œ œ œ œ œnœ œ œ œ & œ #œ#œ œnœ#œ œ œnœ ™œbœ ™ œ™#œ œ ™ nœ ™nœ œnœ œ œ œœ #œ œ nœ 6 5 E¨ D7 œ œù # œ n œ b œ b œ n œ œ œ œ n œ œ œ œ œ nœbœ œnœ œ œ œ œnœ œ #w œœœ & œœœbœœ œ œ œœ D7 3






Ex. 3. His solo on the tune “Once Upon a Dream” shows how well Zavod could navigate chord changes. q=96 C7(#9) D¨Œ„Š7 q=96 C7(#9) D¨Œ„Š7

4 ‰bbœœnnœœ œœJ bbœœ œbœ ® œ œœbbœœnnœœ œœ Œ ¿ b œ 4 ‰ J œbœ ® œ œ#œnœ œ œbœ & œ Œ ¿ b œ & 4 1:30 œ#œnœ œ œ œbœ œ b œ œ œ œ n œ œœnnœœ œ 2 1 1


1:30 D7(b9) D7(b9)

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3 3

3 3


œœ ûœ œ œ œ D7[âÄ] bbœœ œ œ œ ûœ œ œ œœ œ œœbbœœ œœ œœ ®® œœbbœœ œœ œ™ œ œ œœ œœ œœ œ œ™ 9 D7[âÄ]

3 3

3 3 3 3 Ex. 4. On “Imaginary Voyage Part II,” Zavod solos over two chords, bringing a warm, lyrical style to his nicely paced solo. q=80 q=80

B9 B9

C‹ C‹



B9 B9

44 Œ ‰ & jj # œ œ ™ 44 Œ ‰ & fij œ n œ # œ ##œœ œœœœœœ œœ œœ ™™œœ ™ œ b œ n œ n œ ™™ b œ 1 œ # œ œ 1 1:56 # œ œ # œ œ œ œœ 22 b œ n œ n œ b œ nn œœ œœ œœfijùù bb œœ œœ ™™ œœ 33 œœ ## œœ ## œœ œœ n œ # œ 1:56 C‹ B9 ÍÍÍ C‹ B9 3 3 ÍÍÍ ÍÍÍ 3 3 3 3 3 ÍÍÍ 3 3 3 b œ n œ & # œ œ n œ œù # œ œ b œ n œ & nn œœ œœ b œ nœ œù bbœœ œœ œœ ™™ œ 5 n œ ##œœ œ œ œ n œ œ ## œœ œœnnœœ#œ#œ œ œ œœ œœ œœ œœ 4 b œ nn œœ œ 5 nœ œ œ œnœ œ 4 3 3

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3 3

3 3

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3 3 bbœœ ™™ û œœnœ œ œ3 b œ n œ œœ œœnœ##œœ##œœùù nnœœ ûûœœ ‰‰ ‰‰ ≈≈ œœ œœ œœ œœ œœ œœnnœœbbœœnnœœnœ n œ œ û & n œ œ # œ b œ œ n œ œ # œ b œ & n œ œ # œ œ 7 #œ nœ nn œœ nnœœbœnœ 6 3 6 7 3 C‹ B9 nn œœ bb œœ œ œ œ C‹ B9 ÍÍÍ ÍÍÍ n œ n œ b œ œ œ n œ b œ n œ œ œ n œ n œ œ œ œ b œ œ œ n œ b œ b œ œ œ œ œ n œ œ œ œ œ & bœnœ œœ œœ œbœn œ œ œœ œœ œ œ œœ œ œœ œ œ œ œœ nnœœ ™™ œœ œœ œœbbœœ œœ & nœ œbœn œ œ 8 9 8 9

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B9 B9 3


Ex. 5. One of my favorite phrases by Zavod from “Imaginary Voyage Part II.”

#œ n œ n œ b œ nœ nœ nœ n œ b œ n œ n œ nœ bœ nœ #œ œ #œ#œ œ œ nœ &® œ œ nœ œ œ bœ nœ n œ œ n œ 12 C‹



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choices at the end of the bar. He uses mostly color tunes for the Db major seventh chord in bar 2, and includes the sharp eleventh (the G note). You could also think of it as him continuing to use the C minor pentatonic sound from the previous bar. Bar 3 has some very colorful playing on the D7 chord, using a scale called the Altered, or Altered Dominant. Beyond the root, third, and seventh, every other note in this scale is altered— the flat and sharp ninth, the sharp eleventh (or flatted fifth), and the augmented fifth (or flat thirteenth). It produces wonderful tension on the dominant seventh chord, and the line descends nicely into the major third of the next bar/chord, and continues downward. Bar 5 has a motif centered on the half-step between the sharp ninth and the third of the E chord, and transitions nicely into a pentatonic run on the F major chord in bar 6. In bar 7, Zavod plays around with the halfstep between the sharp ninth and the third, and the flat ninth and the root, and then plays a pentatonic run for the following chord, with a short, soulful bend. It comes across as bluesy and is a nice way to resolve some of the tension. The full solo is available online at WONDERFUL MELODICISM Example 4, from the same album, is from the tune “Imaginary Voyage Part II.” Allan’s solo is over two chords, and his notes choices are relatively inside compared to the last selection, but he really sings some beautiful melodic lines. For the B dominant ninth chords he sticks to the B Mixolydian scale, but centers his lines around the color tones of the chord. For the C minor seventh chord, he uses the minor pentatonic and the Dorian modes, with a little bit of bluesy bending in bars 2 and 6. I love the bravura double-time run he starts at the end of bar 7 and continues through bar 8. Practice hard to get that one up to tempo! (The full solo is available online.) INSANE LICK OF THE MONTH And finally, I’ll leave you with Example 5, an outrageous line Zavod played on “Imaginary Voyage Part II.” Enjoy! n


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Sound Design Workshop

Synth Programming Checklist Five common design issues and how to address them

A fter 20 years as a college professor, I’ve noticed a few recurring misunderstandings about the details of synthesis: And as a preset designer, I’m occasionally surprised by sounds that make it through the curating process. This month, I’ll address five common synthesizer features and offer a few ways to ensure that you’re using them with intent in your own original presets.


IN-TUNE DETUNING While some dual-oscillator vintage synths only allow fine-tuning of one oscillator, many modern synths—both hardware and software—allow independent tuning of both oscillators. Even so, I encounter presets that feature positive- or negativeonly detuning on one or more oscillators. This is a no-no because it means that those patches will always be slightly sharp or flat (respectively) and, thus, will not be in tune with other instruments. When you are detuning a multi-oscillator patch, always set the fine-tuning to equal amounts in opposite directions (see Figure 1), if possible. This will keep your presets in tune with other instruments in a track.

Fig. 1. Setting a pair of fine-tuning controls equally in opposition directions keeps your patches from sounding out of tune with other instruments.

MISMATCHED RELEASE TIMES When working with both filter and amp envelopes (or modulator and carrier envelopes in FM synthesis), it is crucial to ensure that the release time of the filter or modulator envelope matches or exceeds the release time of the amp or carrier envelope. If it’s too short, there will be a sudden jump in timbre as you release the key. Sometimes this is desirable, but more often than not, it can be confusing for newcomers. UNDERSTANDING INVERTED ENVELOPES Inverted filter envelopes are a powerful tool for simulating horn swells and other exotic tricks. However, the key to using them correctly is understanding that, unlike positive envelopes, negative envelopes subtract from the base Fig. 2. A graphic example of an inverted 4-stage envelope controlling the cutoff frequency of a filter.



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value of the cutoff frequency or other modulated parameters. Accordingly, their sound is that of an instant attack followed by a variable decay (the attack segment) until it hits “bottom” (determined by the negative envelope amount). At that point, it rises (based on the decay time) until it reaches the sustain level, where it remains until the key is released, and then it returns to the original value of the cutoff frequency. Though this may sound confusing, Figure 2 is a clear diagram of what’s actually happening. FILTERS ON SINE OR TRIANGLE WAVES Sine waves contain a single fundamental frequency, whereas triangle waves offer an attenuated set of odd harmonics. As a result, adjusting the cutoff frequency of your filter has a negligible effect on those waveforms; in the case of a sine wave, the filter functions as an imprecise volume control and nothing more. While sines and triangles are great for supporting brighter waves, on their own, filtering them is generally unnecessary. UNDERSTANDING KEYBOARD TRACKING Positive keyboard tracking increases the filter’s cutoff frequency as higher notes are played. Negative keyboard tracking does the opposite. Most often this is used to keep the relative brightness of a patch consistent across the keyboard. But with high resonances, it can also be used to tune a filter directly for use as an additional pitched element or peak in the frequency range. To set this up, use a sawtooth waveform with high resonance and 100% keyboard tracking, then adjust the cutoff frequency until the fundamental pitch of the oscillator pops out. It may require some experimentation, but mastering this tool is a great way to use the filter as an additional oscillator, as it can be used to emphasize any harmonic present in the original signal. n


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Two types of filters Analog Effects section


Performance controls for real-time expressivity Fig. 1. The MatrixBrute is a one-of-a-kind synthesizer combining analog sound and digital control. “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.” — Morpheus


MatrixBrute COULD THIS MAKE MODULAR SYNTHS OBSOLETE? BY GEARY YELTON Writer, synthesist, and EM editor-at-large Geary Yelton spends most of the year in Asheville, North Carolina.


Terrific sound. Unbeatable modulation routing. Well-organized panel layout. Paraphonic and split modes. Expressive performance controls. Onboard sequencer transmits MIDI data. Ample CV and gate connections. Free computer-based patch librarian software.


Slight pop and pause when you change presets. Circuits sometimes bleed audio signals. Unbalanced outputs. Computer software needed to edit global parameters. Small alphanumeric display. $1,999



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B roadly speaking, I consider newer synths supe-

it lying flat. Flipped down, it locks securely in place. The multifunction matrix dominates the front panel and gives the MatrixBrute its name (see Figure 1). A tightly packed 16 x 16 grid of 256 rubbery, backlit, translucent white buttons, it shares the front panel with assorted knobs, envelope sliders, and buttons paired with indicator LEDs. The matrix serves three obvious functions, determined by buttons labeled Preset, Seq, and Mod. A 3-character LED display indicates the current preset location, and a 4-character display indicates tempo. The 1.75 x 0.875-inch monochrome E Ink display, which is not backlit and retains its contents even when powered down, lists the current preset’s name and assignments for four user-definable modulation destinations in crisp type that’s slightly smaller than the words you’re reading now. Almost every control, except the matrix buttons, is dedicated to a single function. Controls are organized in sections such as VCOs, VCFs, and effects. The front panel offers enough visual feedback so that you can focus on any detail of the whole signal flow at a glance. A Panel button makes all the controls live, disregarding the selected preset so you can program the MatrixBrute as if it had no memory. All controls transmit MIDI data, and all parameters respond to MIDI messages. Conveniently located between the keyboard and the pitch bend and modulation wheels are several performance controls for enhancing realtime expressivity. These include knobs and buttons for glide, octave shift, note priority, and legato mode, as well as four smooth and assignable rotary

rior to vintage synths. I still love the old classics, but keeping them maintained is a pain, and replacement parts are getting scarce. Compared to more recent instruments, many vintage models are also lacking in worthwhile features like multiple filter types, sophisticated modulation routing, onboard effects, and native computer connectivity. The MatrixBrute, from Grenoble-based music software and hardware maker Arturia, aptly demonstrates the advantages of modern technology. It combines those features with a 64-step sequencer, astounding flexibility, and unparalleled real-time control. Although it’s monophonic, the MatrixBrute also offers 3-note paraphonic and split modes. Working with the MatrixBrute is a lot like using a modular synthesizer in that you can connect almost any function to almost any other function. Instead of patch cords, it has a matrix similar to the grids seen on EMS’s VCS3 and Synthi A in the 1970s, but with buttons in the place of patch pins. It also lacks the main display that most synths require for user programming. But it doesn’t need one, because virtually all parameters are directly accessible from the front panel without diving into menus. In fact, the MatrixBrute has no menus. EMBRACE THE INEVITABLE The 44-pound MatrixBrute has a 49-note, unweighted keyboard that transmits MIDI velocity and aftertouch. Its rugged steel-and-aluminum body is trimmed with dark wood and Tolex on the sides. Its control panel flips up on hinges to allow positioning in one of three angles, or you can leave


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encoders for controlling macros. On the front left, below the performance controls, is a 1/4-inch stereo headphone output, right where it should be. Along with two unbalanced master outputs and a TRS insert, the back panel has a monophonic input with a switch to enable gate detection, allowing the synth to trigger envelopes from external instruments or click tracks. You can route the input to an envelope follower, which makes the MatrixBrute a monster for processing guitar, for example. Twenty-four 3.5mm jacks serve as CV ins and outs connected to the VCOs, VCFs, VCA, and one LFO, as well as gate ins and outs connected to the envelopes. These allow interfacing with Eurorack modules and other external devices. A DIN 24 jack connects to compatible gear, too (see Figure 2). MIDI connections comprise USB and In, Out, and Thru DIN jacks, alongside connections for a sustain switch and two expression pedals. The internal power supply has an IEC connector and works with 100 to 240VAC sources. VOICE OF THE MATRIX The MatrixBrute has three analog oscillators and a noise generator. VCO 1 and VCO 2 are identical, generating sawtooth, pulse, and triangle waveforms you can mix using the waveform level knobs. Each waveform has one knob that modifies its spectrum. The Ultrasaw knob thickens the sawtooth by adding two slightly out-of-phase copies. Pulse Width varies the duty cycle from square wave to zero output. The Metalizer knob adds overtones to the triangle wave output. VCOs 1 and 2 each have a suboscillator that plays a fixed octave lower and is continuously variable from sine to a dull square. The third oscillator, VCO 3–LFO 3, functions as both a sound source and a modulation source. The noise generator produces more colors than you would expect. In addition to the usual white and pink, it generates red noise, which uses extreme high-cut filtering to suppress high frequencies entirely, and blue noise, which uses low-cut filtering to suppress lower frequencies. The MatrixBrute has two filters, VCF1 Steiner and VCF2 Ladder. In the 1970s, Nyle Steiner, who developed the Steiner-Parker electronic valve

and wind instruments, designed a filter Arturia later adopted for the Brute series. VCF1 can sound more raw and raspy than most typical synth filters. In contrast, VCF2 sounds smooth, fat, and practically identical to Bob Moog’s much-loved ladder filter. Their user parameters, which include Drive and Brute Factor distortion, are identical except that VCF1 has a notch response in addition to lowpass, highpass, and bandpass. You can switch either filter from a 12- to 24dB-per-octave slope. A prominent rotary encoder labeled Master Cutoff offsets the two filter frequencies equally. In the Mixer section, the MatrixBrute’s audio path routes all sound sources through either or both filters. Selecting both lets you route them in series or parallel. In the Audio Mod section below the VCOs, you can route oscillators and noise to modulate the frequency of the other oscillators and either filter. VCO 1 can modulate VCO 2, and VCO 3 can modulate VCO 1 or 2. VCO 3 can modulate either filter, and the noise generator can modulate either VCO 1 or VCF 1. Any combination produces a broad range of harmonically complex timbres. In the Voice section, you can choose Monophonic, Paraphonic, or Duo-Split modes. When playing paraphonically, the MatrixBrute can produce three tones simultaneously, with each VCO generating a separate tone while sharing the VCA, VCFs, and envelopes. Selecting Duo-Split mode enables a second, hidden VCA to play separately articulated voices. You can play two timbres simultaneously on the left and right halves of the keyboard, or one on the keyboard and the other with the sequencer. One side of the split uses the Steiner filter controlled by Envelope 1, and the other uses the ladder filter controlled by Envelope 3. How you route the VCOs to the filters determines which side is duophonic. The MatrixBrute is the first monosynth I’ve seen with this kind of split capability. I found that pitch bend and octave shift affect only the right half, and glide affects only the left half, whereas the mod wheel affects both. You can, however, transpose the left half by holding the Mode button as you shift the octave. You can’t load two different

Fig. 2. In addition to master outputs and a TRS insert, the rear panel has a mono input with gate detection, DIN 24 sync, and two dozen minijacks for interfacing modular synths and other external gear.

presets to create a duo split, though you can create your own preset that incorporates one preset from memory and another timbre you create manually. A MODULATION MASTERPIECE Because the three ADSR envelope generators have sliders, you can see their settings instantly, and that’s always helpful. Envelopes 1 and 2 are hardwired to the filter and amplifier but can modulate any destination. Each has an additional slider that determines keyboard velocity’s effect. Envelope 3 has no fixed assignment and has a Delay slider that postpones the attack for up to 10 seconds. You can sync either of the two LFOs with the sequencer or an external clock. The LFOs are almost identical, but where a knob on LFO 1 determines its initial phase, a knob on LFO 2 delays its onset. Each LFO offers seven waveforms, including sample-and-hold and noise. They can either loop continuously, wait until they receive a gate signal to begin their cycles, or cycle through just once and stop, like an envelope. In Modulation mode, the matrix organizes mod sources in 16 alphabetized rows and mod destinations in 16 numbered columns. To route modulators, you first press the Mod button, then press the button that aligns with the desired modulator and destination, and then adjust the range with the Mod Amount encoder. If you want to modulate the VCF1’s cutoff with keyboard velocity, for example, press the button where row K (Velocity) intersects column 9 (Steiner Cutoff ), and then dial in the maximum modulation depth. Because there are more possible mod destinations than columns, however, you can assign any destinations you choose to the last four columns, and your assignments will be shown in the E Ink display. OBJECT OF MY EFFECTS The Analog Effects section is based on a bucketbrigade device (BBD), a delay line on an analog signal-processing chip. The effects comprise stereo and mono delay, chorus, flanger, and reverb. Two buttons change effects type and enable sync. All the effects share three knobs—Delay Time, Regeneration, and Wet/Dry mix—and the function of the other two, Tone/Rate and Width/Depth, depends on which effect is selected. Analog reverb has an unusual but toothsome character, and varying its parameters with modulators yields even more unique timbres. Things can get especially interesting when you modulate delay time with an LFO, envelope, or mod wheel. I like the chorus more than most, particularly its ability to impart width. The delays have a maximum half-second delay time, and the stereo delay has two taps and uses the Width/Depth knob to introduce a stereo ping-pong effect. You can’t independently control delay time for the two taps,


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though, which limits its versatility. But the biggest downside is that with only a single BBD, your preset can apply only one effects type at a time. STEP BY STEP The MatrixBrute stores 256 step sequences called Patterns, which can be linked to presets or stored on their own. Unlike synths that make you scroll through menus, the MatrixBrute accesses all sequencer functions using the grid’s 256 buttons and the Sequencer section’s 24 buttons and 3 knobs (see Figure 3). The transport controls are in the Sequencer section, which also handles parameters such as pattern length, tempo, swing, gate time, note values, and clock divisions, either as you’re recording or during playback. I was thrilled to discover the sequencer transmits MIDI data, which means it can play external instruments and you can record patterns into your DAW tracks. Engaging Sequencer mode divides the matrix buttons into four groups of four rows, giving you four buttons per step. Each group has 16 steps for a maximum 64 steps in a pattern. The four buttons in each step control four parameters. The Step button illuminates to indicate that a note will play; if it’s dark, it indicates a rest. The Slide button turns glide on between one step and the next, aas-keyboad-em-half-page-2017-objeq-delay-rev-0.pdf 1 4/7/2017 12:15:21 facilitating the type of slurs that made the Roland


Fig. 3. In combination with the 16x16 matrix, the Sequencer section furnishes all the controls you’ll need to record, edit, and control sequences and arpeggios.

TB-303 famous. An illuminated Accent button indicates a higher velocity value for a step, either enabled by pressing it or recorded in real time. Mod enables modulation for the selected step once you’ve set that up in the modulation matrix. You can enable or disable any of these buttons while you’re programming a pattern or on-the-fly during a performance. You use the keyboard to record patterns one step at a time, giving each step equal duration, or you can record quantized patterns in real time and even punch in when needed. Enter rests by pressing the Sequencer section’s Tap button. When you

finish recording, you can change a note’s duration or tie notes together by pressing two or more Step buttons at the same time. Change the pitch of any step by first pressing Record while the transport is idle, then selecting a step, and then playing a new note. You can also use the keyboard to transpose the entire pattern during playback. The Sequencer section also controls parameters for the arpeggiator. The arpeggiator has four normal play modes—forward, reverse, random, and alternating forward and reverse. Its real power, however, lies in Matrix Arpeggiator mode. When you press the Sequencer and Arpeggiator buttons simultaneously, the upper group of four rows becomes a 16-step sequencer, and the three groups below determine which note will sound when you play a 4-note chord. Each of the three groups may be assigned to a different octave, and you can transpose any step up or down a semitone. Although I was happy with the sequencer’s versatility and ease of use, it didn’t meet all my assumptions. When I heard you could program the sequencer from the matrix, I wanted to press buttons in the grid to enter notes the way you can with, say, Ableton Push’s note mode, Yamaha’s Tenori-On, or Fugue Machine on the iPad. I hope this feature will be possible in a future update. IN In Preset mode, predictably enough, each button in the grid loads one of the 256 internal pre-










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Fig. 4. Arturia’s MIDI Control Center lets you access the MatrixBrute’s global parameters and store thousands of presets and patterns.

sets. When you switch from one preset to another, the previous preset cuts off immediately, and you’ll notice a pause (less than a second) before pressing a key triggers a sound. That delay can be a problem in some situations. The factory presets supply a veritable menagerie of expertly crafted timbres that sound terrific, though none of them takes full advantage of everything the MatrixBrute can do. When you install Arturia’s free MIDI Control Center on your computer, you’re no longer limited to 256 presets and 256 patterns. The software can serve as a patch librarian, allowing your computer to store an unlimited number of presets and patterns (see Figure 4). You can drag and drop between Keyboard_ES8_ES8 12/3/15 2:56 them PM Page 1

your computer and the MatrixBrute, arrange and organize them into projects onscreen, and tag them with keywords. You’ll also need MIDI Control Center to configure global parameters such as MIDI channels, clock source, velocity curves, and so on, and to update the MatrixBrute’s firmware. As much as I’ve come to admire the MatrixBrute’s design, it does have flaws. The most serious is that audio signals can bleed between circuits. With the filter open and all mixer inputs disabled, for example, I noticed a faint periodic sputtering, like gentle helicopter blades. The sputtering took on pitch when I raised VCO 3’s frequency, and I traced it to VCO 3 bleeding through the Steiner filter. A similar problem I couldn’t track down completely was a sort of rhythmic beat bleeding through from LFO 2 whenever I turned any effects to fully wet—again, regardless of whether the filters were switched off. When I asked Arturia about the problem, I was told the cause was packing so many components into such a compact space, making occasional bleeding between circuit boards inevitable. The pitch-bend and mod wheels feel more lightweight than on any of my other synths, but my bigger concern is the gap in the metal opening at the top and bottom of their throw. When you push a wheel to its extreme, you can feel the precision-

cut edge of the opening. Overall, though, I’m quite pleased with the MatrixBrute’s build quality. The knobs, sliders, and buttons are all good, and some are excellent. The construction is solid, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take this instrument out on the road. Unlike some digitally controlled synths, the MatrixBrute generates control signals with such fine resolution that turning a knob or modulating a signal doesn’t produce the slightest trace of zipper noise. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE Despite its minor flaws, I’ve fallen for the MatrixBrute, and I’ve fallen hard. It does almost anything I’d want an analog monosynth to do, with few qualifiers. Given current technology, it comes as close as possible to a Eurorack system without patch cords. Unlike a modular synth, though, it memorizes and recalls every connection, every preset, and every sequence. Sure, some modules do plenty of things the MatrixBrute can’t, like ring modulation or generating exotic wavetables, but you can overcome such limitations by connecting its insert jack to outboard effects and its CV and gate jacks to modular gear. Without a doubt, the MatrixBrute is an instrument that has won my respect and admiration. This isn’t just a lot of synth for the money; it’s a lot of synth, period. Arturia has made me a devoted fan. n

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Share Presets with Helix hardware


Click on blocks to change models Load custom IRs

Helix Native lets you configure your own signal path—amps, cabinets, mics and effects— and use it on your computer or transfer it to one of Line 6’s Helix hardware processors.


Helix Native A PREVIEW OF A POWERFUL AMP- AND EFFECTSMODELING PLUG-IN BY MICHAEL ROSS Michael Ross is a writer/ musician/producer living in Nashville. Check out his blog,


Plenty of amp, cab and mic models. Deep editing. Presets can be shared with Helix hardware devices. Loads custom impulse responses. Discount pricing for registered owners of Helix hardware and select Line 6 software.


Some common effects models missing. No drag-and-drop configuring. $399



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L ine 6 is so well-known for its pioneering amp-and-

cabinets, and effects as the Helix hardware units, and it shares a similar user interface with the editor application for those hardware devices. This makes presets created in Helix Native transferable to any Helix hardware unit via the Helix editor. Unlike IK Multimedia Amplitube, Native Instruments Guitar Rig, or even Line 6’s own POD Farm plug-in, Helix Native eschews icons that graphically represent—however obliquely—the specific amps and effects being modeled, in favor of the minimal graphics of the hardware. Personally, I like the streamlined look it gives the GUI, but it does mean identifying the effect or amp being used in a chain and it requires clicking on a little block generically labeled Dly, Mod, Dist, and so forth. Also, in an effort to maintain transferability between hardware and software, you cannot drag amps and effects into the signal path: You must create a spot at the end of the chain, click on a selected effect and, once installed, drag the effect to the position you choose. That said, Helix Native makes it easy, through drag and drop, to create multiple series and parallel signal paths. I was able to set up an AC30based wet-wet-dry rig in just a few minutes. Once I created this rig, I could save it to an empty preset in one of Helix Native’s Set Lists. Automation, at this point, is a little bit baroque, though it is not unlike other Amp modeling software. I installed the Helix Native plug-in on my guitar input track in Ableton Live. To control parameters through MIDI, either for a hardware controller or automation, I needed to click on the desired effect or amp, and then click its Automation/Controller Assign box. The

effects modeling hardware (e.g., POD, DL4) that it is sometimes forgotten that the company has been selling modeling software, such as POD Farm and Echo Farm, for decades. Its latest hardware modeler, Helix, has staked a claim on the rapidly expanding subset of guitarists who eschew combos, stacks, and pedalboards for a single multi-modeler to handle all of their onstage amp and effects needs. Now, the DSP technology that drives the Helix hardware has been harnessed as a software plug-in: Helix Native. Although this plug-in was in the final stages of Beta testing when we got a sneak preview, Helix Native should be available to the public by the time this issue of Electronic Musician hits the stands. Here are some facts and first impressions. THE SOFTWARE/HARDWARE NEXUS Helix Native comes with more than 60 guitar and bass amplifiers, more than 30 interchangeable speaker cabinets, and more than 100 effects. The usual Fender, Marshall, Vox, and Hiwatt emulations are present, along with some popular boutique brands. The Helix HX Hybrid cabs purport to provide the same resolution and low-end accuracy as a 2048-point (or higher) impulse response, while using roughly the same DSP as a 1024-point IR. As with the Helix Floor and Rack processors, you can also load custom impulse responses, including third-party IRs (impulse responses). Helix Native also includes 16 microphone models. Although you can vary a mic’s distance from the virtual speaker cabinet, you cannot shift its axis. (You can, of course, simulate an off-axis response to some extent by using the High Cut option.) In fact, Helix Native contains the same set of amps,


7/17/17 1:53 PM

good news is that Helix’s elegant GUI places it right there as an alternative to the parameter Edit box—no scrolling through drop-down menus or searching for hidden screens to find the page. Once you click on that screen, however, there are drop-down menus involved. The first lets you choose the parameter you want to automate or control in real time. Once you have done that (I chose Level for an overdrive effect), another drop-down menu just below asks you to pick a Knob number; I chose Knob 1. Having completed that task, I could go into Ableton, choose Configure on the Helix plug-in, and when I move the Level slider in the Helix GUI, Ableton will recognize it as Knob 1. I can then control the overdrive’s level with a hardware controller or automation. Though this may sound convoluted, it can all be done fairly quickly. Even better, once I choose Knob 1 to control Level, if I switch to a different overdrive model, it will already control that model’s level, as well. Line 6 is already working on a MIDI Learn function for Helix Native that will make all of this much easier. PLAYABILITY In the end, modeling software comes down to sound, and in the case of amp models, also feel. Unlike plugging a guitar cord into an actual amp, playing though an audio interface into a DAW hosting an amp-modeling plug-in requires judicious balancing of gain stages. Helix Native has an input level control that must be adjusted to work with the input level of the audio interface to provide the amp models with a signal that will cause them to react like the real thing. Once I had the levels adjusted to the proper proportions, the dynamic response of the Helix amps proved remarkably realistic. Set to a slightly crunchy amount of gain, the models cleaned up nicely with lighter picking attack or by lowering the guitar volume. This allows the kind of expressive playing one gets from a real tube amp. The amp’s sound and feel can be tailored to your taste through a set of controls that goes beyond the Bass, Mid, Treble, and Presence found on the surface of many amps. Lowering the Sag value offers a tighter response, whereas higher values provide more touch dynamics and sustain. Theoretically, Hum and Ripple adjust how much heater hum and AC ripple interacts with your tone, respectively. Not being an amp tech, I don’t know exactly what that means but I could detect little or no effect beyond a slight warble when both were on 10. Bias changes the bias of the power tubes, with lower values creating Class AB bias, whereas at maximum, the amp is operating in Class A. Bias X determines how the power amp reacts when pushed hard; a low setting produces a tighter feel, while a higher one provides more tube compression. This parameter is interactive with the Drive and Master settings. All these effects are subtle at less than extreme settings.

Most players just want an amp that sounds great out of the box. For example, the Bogner sounded good out of the gate, as did the clean Fender sounds. A couple of the amps—the Marshall JM and Plexi models and the Vox Essex 30, in particular—needed a fair amount of tweaking before they began to inspire me. Often it was just a matter of adjusting the previously mentioned gain stages and some tone twiddling, others required a different mic and/or some high or low cut at the cabinet miking stage to remove an unpleasant high end. While we are on mics, I am pretty sure a C414 condenser should have more high-end sparkle than an SM57 dynamic microphone, not less. Though Line 6 pioneered amp modeling with its Axis series, it is effects like the ubiquitous DL4 delay/ looper and, more recently, the M Series of hardware processors that put the Line 6 stamp on the musicgear world. Thus, it came as no surprise that the effects in Helix Native sound uniformly excellent. Classics of each type are accurately modeled, although some of the industry stalwarts are conspicuous by their absence. The Dyna Comp is modeled, but not the Boss CS-2 or -3. The SD-1, Centaur, OCD, Tube Driver, and Rat are here, but the TS-9 is missing. Instead we have the Kowloon Walled Bunny overdrive, which admittedly shows Line 6’s ability to get down in the weeds with its accurate emulations of germanium, silicon, and LED components interacting in various combinations. Legendary effects such as the Fuzz Face, Boss CE-1 chorus, Echoplex, Big Muff and Memory Man are honored, but Helix Native also nods to modern sounds with a very cool Bitcrusher option and a Harmony Delay, as well as Octo and Particle Verbs. In fact, Helix Native goes beyond classic guitar tones into the world of modular synthesis with a three-oscillator synth and a three-tone note generator. Combining those with the many of the other lush modulation, delay, and reverb models, and a slew of boutique and modded pedal simulations might make Helix Native well worth the price of admission for the effects alone. FINAL THOUGHTS Keep in mind that the version that we were given for this review was a pre-release version, and there are possible changes to come. But if you are a fan of Line 6’s Helix hardware, Helix Native software will make jumping back and forth between live and recording relatively seamless, as you can easily transfer sounds created in the studio to the stage, and vice versa. Even if you are not on the Line 6 hardware bandwagon, you may find Helix Native a welcome addition to the field of software amp-and-effects modelers. Moreover, Line 6 didn’t create Helix Native just for guitarists. The developer says this plug-in was designed for anyone who is looking to create new and unique sounds—from producers, DJs and engineers to sound designers and composers working in film, TV, or video games. n


MIZA LINE USA — Distribution by CANADA — Distribution by


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Disable each module to save CPU cycles

Filter the delay’s echoes

Fig. 1. With Objeq Delay, you’ll make sounds that defy easy analysis. It combines two delays with physical modeling, an LFO, and dual-band filtering.


Objeq Delay TRANSPORTING CLASSIC EFFECTS TO PREVIOUSLY UNHEARD WORLDS BY GEARY YELTON Editor-at-large Geary Yelton has been writing about gear for Electronic Musician for almost half his life.


Unique and versatile effects. Eight seconds of delay. Ample toneshaping parameters. Easy to use.


Only one modulation routing. GUI isn’t resizable. $139


Select rhythmic delay times


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I ’ve long been fascinated by unique effects, especial-

to control the second delay’s number of repeats. An alternate means to set delay time uses popup palettes that specify precise rhythmic values or apply a multiplier that multiplies the selected duration by its value (Figure 1). Selecting the multiplier’s 2/3 and 4/3 values can generate complex rhythms. The Delay module also has High Cut and Low Cut sliders that affect only the repeats and a Ping Pong button that alternates repeats from left to right to create an illusion of width. The LFO module offers five shapes, bipolar or unipolar modulation, and the ability to lock to tempo in subdivisions or multiples of note values. Choose from 13 mod destinations such as filter cutoff, formants, or just the wet portion of the output. Assigned to the Echoes parameter, LFO produces wild variations by dynamically changing delay time. I just wish it could modulate multiple destinations simultaneously. The Bank Manager displays banks and programs, along with other information. It’s also where you move, rename, copy, and delete banks and programs. You get more than 200 factory programs, some musically useful and others just plain bizarre. You can alter some of them quite radically simply by changing the LFO rate and destination, Object frequency, and delay times. Interaction between the two delay lines lets you create innumerable rhythmic variations, but what makes Objeq Delay unique is the interaction between the modules. Applying LFO modulation to parameters such as Object frequency, material, or formant can generate effects difficult to reproduce with other processors. For a delay plug-in that takes your sounds to new places, at the very least, download the demo. n

ly when they require specific hardware or software. Objeq Delay, from Canadian developer Applied Acoustics Systems, is one such plug-in. Combining a two-stage delay processor with a physical-modeled resonator, high- and low-cut filters, and LFO modulation, Objeq Delay opens up new timbral realms to explore. The uncluttered GUI is divided into five functional modules—LFO, Filter, Object, Delay, and Mixer— with a stereo level meter on the right. Each of the first four modules can be turned off, helping you conserve CPU cycles. Other than the browser, the plug-in’s user interface is a single panel you can’t resize. Audio input passes through the Filter module first, if it’s enabled. It combines high-cut and low-cut filters and lets you dial in cutoff frequencies across the entire audible spectrum, with 1-, 2-, or 4-pole rolloffs. The Object module emulates four acoustic resonators—Beam, Drumhead, Plate and String. Each has its own tonal signature resulting from its spectral response to an input signal. Along with a menu to select resonator type, the Object module’s Frequency and Decay knobs control the resonant pitch and the resonant effect’s duration. The Material knob determines how partials decay in relation to the fundamental, making low partials decay more quickly than high partials or vice versa, producing a more or less metallic sound. Formant models how close the signal is applied to the resonator’s center or edge. The Delay module supplies two stereo delays— a single delay and a feedback loop—each with a maximum 8-second delay time. They can be linked and independently synced to host tempo. The First and Echo knobs adjust the delay time of the two delays, respectively, with a Feedback knob


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“Possibly the best EQ plugin on the market” Computer Music Magazine (CM212)

An equalizer is probably the tool you use most while mixing and mastering, so you need the best of the best! With FabFilter Pro-Q 2, you get the highest possible sound quality and a gorgeous, innovative interface with unrivalled ease of use.

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6/29/17 4:34 PM

Drag VSTs into sequencer or rack Supports 64-bit VST 2.4 plug-ins


Have several Plugin Windows open simultaneously

In addition to being remarkably stable when using VSTs within the program, Reason 9.5 includes plug-in delay compensation.


Reason 9.5 RACK UP THOSE VSTS BY MARKKUS ROVITO Markkus Rovito is a writer/musician/DJ. He’s been down from day one of Reason.


VST instruments and effects cleanly integrated with Reason’s unique workflow. VST parameters can be automated, MIDI mapped, and modulated with device CV outputs.


VSTs not supported in ReWire mode. Some or all parameters within sample library instrument hosts cannot be automated or CVmodulated. $399 street ($129 upgrade from any version)



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W hen Propellerhead announced that Reason 9.5

vice opens a matrix for assigning CV inputs to any VST plug-in parameter. Flipping the Reason rack to the back, first you must patch a CV output from a device like the Pulsar dual LFO or Alligator triple gate to one of the eight Modulation CV Ins of the plug-in. Then in the CV programmer, you can assign any of the CV inputs to any available plugin parameter, either from a menu or by clicking Learn and selecting a parameter from the plug-in’s interface. You can also set the Amount from 100 (full modulation) down to -100 (full reverse modulation) and set the Base Value, or starting point for modulation. The CV routing, as well as selecting VST parameters for automation and remote control from the Plugin Window, worked well for every plug-in I tried, except for sample library instrument hosts such as UVI Workstation and Native Instrument Komplete Kontrol. With Komplete Kontrol, I could create automation lanes and assign remote controls for the parameters of individual instruments loaded in it, but the Parameter list for CV modulation was incomplete. With instruments loaded into UVI Workstation, their parameters weren’t recognized for automation lanes, remote control assignment, or CV modulation. I suspect third-party programmers and Propellerhead could work out this incompatibility over time. Remarkably, none of the VSTs I tested crashed Reason or crashed at all, though Propellerhead has some sandboxing built in to help prevent a crash, as well as plug-in delay compensation. You can also disable problem VSTs from the Manage Plugins window. Reason 9.5 has been born anew. It’s the same great system with a clean slate of possibilities. n

would finally support VST 2.4 plug-ins, longtime users reacted like an Oprah audience hearing they’re all getting new cars. Not only did Propellerhead satisfy its users’ number-one request, but also it knocked off a major deal-breaker for non-Reason users to try this great music workstation. For the most part, this integration has been smooth. You get fully functioning VSTs plugged into the unique Reason workflow, including flexible audio routing, patchable CV control, and inclusion within Combinator patches. Reason 9.5 hosts 64-bit VST 2.4 plug-ins (VST 3 and 32-bit VSTs are not supported) in a nearly identical way to other Reason instrument and effect devices. After a plug-in scan upon first launch, available VSTs appear beneath Reason and Rack Extension devices in the Instruments and Effects sections of the Browser and the Create menu. Analysis plug-ins, such as spectrum analyzers, appear under Utilities. Drag VSTs straight into the rack or the sequencer (for instruments), and Reason automatically sets up a sequencer and mixer channel with basic audio routing. New Plug-in Rack Devices, which look much like a Combinator device, host the VST in the rack. The main difference is, the Open button launches the Plugin Window, which includes the VST’s normal GUI, as well as a few title bar options. You can set the Plugin Window to stay open even when you click on other rack devices, and you can keep many Plugin Windows open at once. The Automate and Remote buttons let you choose any parameter of the VST for which to open an automation lane in the sequencer or to assign to a connected MIDI control surface. A CV Programmer arrow on the Plugin Rack De-


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Check for Mono Even though it’s 2017

In the old days, one often checked mixes for mono compatibility due to technological constraints of the times. You should still do this today, since your average listener won’t hear a mix in perfect stereo (think sitting in the driver’s seat, or sitting on the left side of a couch). 3

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In the analog days, it was often desirable to drive preamps as hard as possible, for tonal purposes. The same held true in the 16-bit world, but for issues relating to the noise floor. However, neither of these issues apply to 24-bit, so give yourself valuable headroom—you’ll need it later on. 2

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Try Out a Manual De-Esser on Vocal Tracks

What is a manual de-esser? The answer is, you. Go through the track and manually gain down each sibilance, either by clip or pre-fader automation. Pretty quickly, you’ll learn to recognize the football-like shape of a peaky sibilance, which will expedite the process. Sure, it takes time, but it’s one of the most natural ways to tame those ear-splitting “ssssss” sounds.

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5/23/17 2:38 PM 5/23/17 11:58 AM

USB has Live and Recording modes


Individual effect send per channel

Separate ground lifts for main and monitor outs

A sturdy device that provides a wide variety of functions that gigging keyboardists need, in a surprisingly small footprint.


Key-Largo THE GOLDILOCKS LIVE MIXER FOR KEYBOARD PLAYERS BY STEPHEN FORTNER Stephen Fortner was a full-time editor at Keyboard magazine for ten years and its editor-in-chief from 2009 through 2015. He currently consults in the music products, automotive, and film/TV industries and is helming the upcoming website


Clean, no-noise, uncolored sound. Brings hardware and software synths into the same mix with no trouble. USB audio resolution up to 24-bit/192kHz. Excellent build quality.


No headphone output. No onboard EQ. Wallwart AC supply is only power option. $379 street



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W e gigging keyboardists have pretty simple needs

based virtual instruments into a live rig. More on this in its own section below. Each input channel has its own effects send; the master return knob is just to the right of the input section. This is intended for any pedals or other external effects you may have, and yes, you can use stereo effects via the proper Y-cables. With a monaural effects chain, summing to mono is problemfree. Overall effect bypass is toggled using the stompboxstyle button on the left. Master outs are on XLR connectors, and they’re balanced and transformerisolated as with high-quality direct boxes. Monitor outputs (for driving powered stage wedges or your in-ear system) consist of a stereo 1/4" pair and are likewise balanced, with their own volume control. There’s also a stereo TRS send-and-return loop for a volume pedal—not a controller-type sweep pedal, but the kind that attenuates the audio itself—which affects the main and monitor outputs alike. This is useful both as an expression tool and as a “panic button” if you’re not sure which keyboard has suddenly started misbehaving and making an unwanted noise: Slam it down and find the culprit with the benefit of silence.

in onstage sound support. So why has fulfilling them always felt complicated? For mixing two or three keyboards in stereo and some way to feed our powered stage speaker separately from the main P.A., we carry a compact mixer. For a ground lift switch to defeat the electrical buzzes that often plague live venues, we carry direct boxes. If soft synths running on a laptop are part of the rig, we need an audio/MIDI interface. Radial’s new Key-Largo is the first single device I’ve used that combines all of these functions—and performs a few other useful tasks as well—in the footprint of an oversized stompbox. Its mission is to simplify our lives, and it succeeds. ANALOG INS AND OUTS The Key-Largo is meant to be placed on the floor like a stompbox. If you’d rather have it closer at hand, it’s so hefty that it won’t bounce around if perched on blank keyboard-panel space. (It comes with stick-on rubber feet but I’d use heavy-duty Velcro for maximum peace of mind.) Nor will the weight of even a full complement of plugged-in cables tip it backwards. Like all Radial products, its steel construction is designed to withstand zombie apocalypse-level road abuse. Seriously, this thing is a beast. The I/O complement begins with three 1/4" stereo input pairs for keyboards and other linelevel sources. These are unbalanced, but the KeyLargo ultimately turns everything into a balanced signal (see Figure 1). The fourth input channel is for the USB connection, which is perhaps the best implementation we’ve seen for seamlessly bringing computer-

USB AUDIO, MIDI The Key-Largo’s USB operates in two modes, Live and Recording, selected by the sort of recessed switch you operate with a toothpick or pen point. In Live mode, incoming audio (mono or stereo) is


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mixed to the main, monitor, effects, and volume pedal busses just like an analog input. If you’re reaching for Ivory pianos or that cool Arturia CS-80 emulation at the gig, this is the behavior you want. In Recording mode, the Key-Largo acts more like an audio interface, routing a 2-channel mix (but not separate inputs on separate tracks) to your DAW as well as adding the computer’s output to the main and monitor buses. Here, a connected volume pedal also affects the overall USB send. Audio resolution goes up to 24-bit/192kHz and I can attest that the sound quality is stellar for studio as well as live applications. For recording analog synth tracks direct, the Key-Largo stood up next to my beloved Universal Audio Apollo like that little girl statue stands up next to that bull statue. Drivers (downloadable on the product page at radialeng. com) are required for Windows; on Macs the KeyLargo is class-compliant and simply shows up as both an audio and MIDI device in DAWs and in the Audio/MIDI Setup program. Speaking of MIDI, there is some solid and useful functionality in this department. Old-school MIDI In and Out ports are on the right side panel, and they shuttle MIDI data to and from USB. Normally you’d hook a USB MIDI keyboard directly to your soft-synth laptop, but if you have an older controller (or are out of USB ports) you’re covered. Want to drive an analog synth with sequence data from your DAW? Likewise. USE CASES With traditional compact mixers, I’ve usually devoted a pre-fader auxiliary send to a QSC K10 speaker for onstage monitoring, which means I’m running in mono. If I wanted stereo I’d run the master outs to a pair of K10s, then the speakers’ thru outs to the P.A. snake, which meant that the only way to have “more me” onstage than what the sound operator wanted up front was to reach for the volume controls on the backs of the speakers themselves—not at all an ergonomic move while I’m playing. The dedicated monitor bus on the Key-Largo hit the exact sweet spot between these two approaches with none of the compromises of either. It gave me the same relative mix of keyboards as what I’m sending to the front-of-house (which is what I want to hear), yet I could hear more or less of it with a single knob twist. In conventional mixer terms, this is because while the monitor bus is post-input-gain, it’s effectively pre-“fader.” Radial says that a 24V internal power rail facilitates wide dynamic range, and to my ears the Key-Largo let all of the subtlety through on soft passages, yet didn’t get even a little crispy when I pushed it hard. In fact, I don’t recall a compact keyboard mixer ever performing this well sonically at a loud gig.

Fig. 1. At a glance, the rear panel tells you the balanced/unbalanced status of ins and outs, that the volume pedal send/return is stereo-capable, and that you need drivers for USB (though only on Windows, natch). No manual-diving needed!

In three decades of gigging, I don’t believe I’ve come across a mixing solution that’s more precisely targeted at the needs of the modern live keyboardist. The KeyLargo simply does everything you need and nothing you don’t. Ground buzz usually makes itself known during sound check, but the reality is that sometimes you don’t get a sound check. I’ve also had buzzes mysteriously manifest during a set, perhaps because the ground is intermittent on one stage circuit or another. With not one but two ground lifts (monitor and main outs) right on the front panel, the Key-Largo let me surgically remove buzz without diving for direct boxes and with no one the wiser. File under “Why doesn’t everything have this?” The Key-Largo can also sub in for one of your sustain pedals. Hook a 1/4" cable from the jack on the right-side panel to the pedal input on your keyboard, and you’re golden. Polarity is switchable via another recessed button, and even though the button you step on is clicky, its behavior is (correctly) momentary. I prefer a piano-type pedal for most applications, but for that second or third synth, this saves your foot from chasing one more pedal around the floor. It feels forced to think about what the Key-Largo leaves me wanting. Mic inputs would be nice for miking up a Leslie, but if you’re in the real-Leslie club, you probably don’t mind running a setup that involves more plumbing. More conspicuously absent is a headphone output, which would be handy for hotel-room shedding before the gig or for pre-checking your keyboard mix before the

sound engineer has shown up to turn on the monitor system. Get this, though: I decided to try my Blue MoFi headphones, which have their own preamp built in, with the Key-Largo’s effects send pressed into service as a line-level headphone out. It worked nicely. A KEY MIXER In three decades of gigging, I don’t believe I’ve come across a mixing solution that’s more precisely targeted at the needs of the modern live keyboardist. The Key-Largo simply does everything you need and nothing you don’t. If soft synths are part of your setup, it synergizes your hardware and software worlds as though your laptop were just another keyboard, with no fuss. If you’re used to a more conventional compact mixer, you might miss having at least a bass-mid-treble onboard EQ to make tweaks to fit the room, but consider that all your keyboards probably have EQ themselves. The mix bus quality you’re getting is head and shoulders above any compact mixer other than maybe a Speck XtraMix, which is to say, way above what this jewel-like little Swiss Army knife costs. For 90 percent of my gigs, I’m going Key-Largo and never going back. It’s as though someone really looked at the needs of us keyboard players, listened, and said, “Oh, uh, right. Someone should make that.” Well, someone did, and their name is Radial. n


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Fig. 1. BIAS Delay is a component effect you select from a pop-up menu in the top left corner of the GUI for Positive Grid’s BIAS Pedal plug-in. Controls for BIAS Delay’s Ducker appear at center-left when you click on the mod stage module in the signal chain shown near the top of the GUI.

Ducked Delay Ride the FX level without lifting a finger! BY MICHAEL COOPER Michael Cooper is a recording, mix, mastering and postproduction engineer and a contributing editor for Mix magazine. You can reach Michael at michaelcooper@ and hear some of his mixes at michael-cooper-recording.

P rominent echo trails can sound great in the gaps between lead guitar and vo-

cal phrases, but they can clutter up the tracks when they are currently voicing if the effect is too loud. To quiet the echoes here and there, you can place the plugin producing them (set to 100%-wet output) on an aux and ride the aux’s fader or the dry track’s send. Or, if the plug-in is instantiated on the track’s insert, you can ride the plug-in’s wet/dry mix control(s). Either way, you’ll need to write automation to record and playback all of your manual moves. What a hassle! Instead, why not use an effect that adjusts its wet signal level automatically? Ducked delay does just that. This type of effect uses a built-in ducker to attenuate the effect’s wet signal—by an amount you choose—when its dry input signal exceeds the threshold level you set. By setting the threshold slightly lower than the level that an instrument is playing or a vocalist is singing, you make the ducker automatically lower the level of the delay effect when the track is voicing. An attack control determines how quickly the effect is attenuated. In between instrument or vocal phrases, the ducker releases its action and the effect’s level rebounds—at a rate determined by a release or decay control’s setting. Fig. 2. The PSP stompDelay plug-in features an effective Ducker, albeit one with limited controls and metering (situated in the bottomright corner of the GUI). The plug-in’s other features—including a powerful modulation section—are arguably its strongest selling points.



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At the time of this writing, I knew of only three delay plug-ins that included a ducker. Let’s take a look at them, in alphabetical order. I’ll focus primarily on the plug-ins’ ducking facilities, but keep in mind they comprise only a tiny portion of the great features each of these unique plug-ins offers. POSITIVE GRID BIAS DELAY BIAS Delay resides inside Positive Grid’s BIAS Pedal plug-in, which serves as a wrapper for Distortion, Delay, and Modulation component effects (separate products). While BIAS Pedal’s main target application is processing electric guitar (the plug-in includes an amp sim, which can be bypassed), there’s no reason you can’t use the BIAS Delay component on other types of instruments and lead vocals. Inside BIAS Delay’s GUI, controls are allocated to different processing modules in the signal chain (see Figure 1). You can set the delay time, feedback


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level, and wet/dry mix in either the Custom Panel or Delay Stage module, which duplicate controls for those parameters. The Modulation Stage is where controls for the Ducker (and for adjusting modulation and basic reverb parameters) are located. The Threshold control sets the level above which the Ducker will kick in and reduce the level of the delay effect; turn it counter-clockwise to raise the threshold. Turn the Gain Reduction knob clockwise to increase how much the Ducker will dip the delay’s wet level; the Attack control adjusts how quickly the wet level will decrease when the threshold is exceeded. If you find the delay effect’s level rebounds too quickly after the dry signal falls below the threshold, turn the Release control clockwise. Helpful Wet Volume meters show you the current amount of gain reduction for the effect.

PSP STOMPDELAY The PSP stompDelay plug-in offers both conventional delay effects and a looper. After setting the delay time and feedback amount, you can adjust the dry and wet signal levels independently using two controls dedicated to that purpose. The modulation section lets you select among ten different waveforms for its LFO and a whopping 37 different note values (from 64th-note triplets to several whole notes spanning up to four seconds). PSP stompDelay can also simulate the effect of a tape recorder fast-forwarding or rewinding your track. The Ducker section is straightforward, with two controls—Ducker Threshold and Ducker Range—doing all the heavy lifting (see Fig. 2). Adjust the latter control to set how much the wet signal will be attenuated when the input signal exceeds the threshold. PSP stompDelay is the only plug-in of the three here that lets you dynamically attenuate the wet signal up to -∞ for complete suppression (although UVI Relayer comes so close it’s almost moot). PSP stompDelay’s Ducker provides no attack or release control, nor a gain reduction meter. But a helpful LED lights when the Ducker is attenuating wet signal.

Fig. 3. Clicking on the FDBK/DYN tab in the bar running along the top-center of UVI Relayer’s GUI brings up controls for a fullfeatured Ducker.

UVI RELAYER Relayer is one of the most full-featured delay plugins I’ve seen. It’s a multitap delay that offers up to

32 delay lines with an adjustable diffusor (which softens the sound) and modulation controls (see Figure 3). Powerful facilities let you change the delay time, gain, pan, feedback, and filter effects (biquad filter, wah-wah, etc.) for each delay line in a multitap setup. You can process the delay effects further using supplied IRs (impulse responses), which are derived from instrument amps, radios, telephones, laptop speakers, and more. There’s even a gate you can open using a mouse click to let input signal enter the delay lines—useful, for example, for applying delay to select lyrics. Of the three plug-ins featured here, Relayer provides the greatest complement of controls for its ducking effect. You can adjust not only the attack and decay (release) times for the Ducker but also its hold time. The hold time—adjustable up to 1,000 ms—delays the onset of the release phase in which the level of the delay effects starts to rebound. The Threshold and Amount (gain reduction) controls are also extremely wide-ranging—as low as -100 dBFS for Threshold and up to 50 dB for Amount. A simple (Gain-) Reduction Level Meter gives you a rough visual indication of how intensely the wet signal is currently being attenuated. Ducked delay not only sounds cool, it makes production more fun by sparing you the hassle of automating effects levels. It’s an effect and technique that should be a part of everyone’s, ahem, delay tactics. n

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continued from page 33 tracks and offers wave and MP4 export. The inapp upgrade adds a wide array of processing options, making this a handy little tool.

patch editors for MIDI gear? MIDI Designer lets you create custom GUIs by assigning controls you select to specific parameters, actions, and properties. Download layouts created by other users, too.

IANALYZER PRO (PHYAR STUDIO) This comprehensive audio analysis toolkit gives you all the FFT-based tools you’ll need to test and optimize any kind of audio gear or environment. It isn’t cheap, but if the price is too steep, the nonPro version is excellent, too.

IMIDIPATCHBAY (JOHANNES DOERR) Make any MIDI keyboard a master controller. Quickly switch between configurations that create different splits and layering setups. Transpose any zone and filter controller data. Instantly send Program Changes to your entire rig. iMIDIPatchbay makes iOS essential onstage.

LEMUR (LIINE) Remember the Jazz Mutant Lemur, that touchscreen control surface for MIDI and OSC that cost $2,495? The iPad came along and made it obsolete, so now all the same functionality (and more) costs one percent of the original price.

MIDI DESIGNER PRO 2 (CONFUSION STUDIOS) Want to design your own control panels for apps and

MIDIFLOW (JOHANNES DOERR) Although Midiflow provides yet another way to route MIDI between apps and external sources, it offers more flexibility and functionality than most other apps. Presets can recall multiple routings, filtering, remapping, master clock synchronization, key zones, transpositions, and more.

MIDIFLOW FOR AUDIOBUS 3 (JOHANNES DOERR) This six-app bundle multiplies Audiobus 3’s capabilities. Control numerous instruments and effects simultaneously, split and layer keyboards, remap scales and velocities, transpose and harmonize notes, monitor MIDI messages, humanize sequences with randomization, and use movement to control other apps.

STUDIOMUX (APPBC) With Studiomux running, MIDI and audio flow seamlessly between your iOS device and your computer via the Lightning cable. Play iOS apps with your controller or computer plug-ins with your iPhone, and record everything to a DAW on either device.

SYNCKONTROL (KORG) Originally designed for the monotribe—and compatible with the volcas and many other hardware synths—SyncKontrol not only syncs analog hardware to your iOS sequencers, but also uses Ableton Link for wireless applications. Let that sync in.

TONALENERGY TUNER (SONOSAURUS) This comprehensive chromatic tuner and metronome is loaded with thoughtful features, like modes for voice, strings, and brass and winds. It plays musical tones to match by ear, and it tracks and displays your pitch deviation in a choice of visual forms.

TUNABLE (AFFINITYBLUE) MIDIMITTR (MATTHIAS FRICK) Offering both low-latency MIDI over Bluetooth and USB (using a macOS companion app), this handy utility would be worth a small fee. Instead, Matthias Frick gives it away for free. The interface is strictly text, but the latency spec is impressive.

iOS tuners are plentiful, but few match the extensive feature set of Tunable. It displays a graphic history of pitch variations and includes a chromatic tone and chord generator, a metronome, basic recording, and AirPlay screen sharing for Apple TV users. n



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Dan Parks Revisiting classic SSM technology for new analog synths BY SARAH JONES

F I f you’re a guitarist or drummer—or a motorcyclist—you might have some CruzTOOLs on you right now. For more than two decades, this northern California company has produced multitools, tech kits, and accessories for music and motorcycling, two lifelong passions of founder Dan Parks. But before Parks got into hardware tools, he spent 20 years in the audio semiconductor business, mostly at SSM, which pioneered chipsets for early programmable synths such as the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5. Today, with analog synthesis experiencing a renaissance, driven largely by the Eurorack movement, Parks is bringing long-discontinued SSM chips back to the market through his new company, Sound Semiconductor (sound, which focuses on highperformance ICs for music and pro audio. Why are you getting back into the semiconductor business now? I guess I felt like there was some unfinished business. Around the mid- to late- ’80s, when Yamaha came out with the DX7 FM synthesizer, there was also a trend toward professional keyboards going to sampling and sampled sounds, and it really took the bottom out from under the analog synthesis market. Analog synthesis didn’t die, but it kind of went back to being an enthusiast thing. And the semiconductor industry is all about volume. So, we started doing pro audio stuff: ICs that went into mixing consoles and signal-processing gear. We were acquired by Analog Devices, which wanted to go toward the consumer route. But it got way too corporate for me and just wasn’t very fun anymore. I liked the smaller markets of electronic musical instruments and pro audio gear. It was kind of wild and woolly; it was rough around the edges; everybody knew everybody, and it was enthusiasts doing products



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for enthusiasts. So, I left. My other lifelong passion was riding motorcycles. I had a Harley and it didn’t come with tools, and I figured other people would need them. That’s how CruzTOOLS got started. I’m a bass player, and a little over a year ago at Winter NAMM, as I was shopping around, it really became clear to me how there was a renaissance of analog synthesis; that was confirmed by NAMM data. So, I just started to imagine a re-entry into that business and talking to some of the former designers I worked with. And to my delight and surprise, everybody was really interested in it—especially to make synthesizer chips again. Our first product was the re-introduction of one of the more iconic SSM chips; it’s a voltage-controlled filter.

computer-aided layout, are fairly inexpensive. You can simulate a circuit on your computer that’s matched to the parameters of a particular process, and have very good correlation between what you model and what you actually produce in silicon. Now we have available to us low-cost processes that have much more dense geometries, and it’s much easier to do full custom chips with dual-layer metal. Things like that that just weren’t available to us back in the ’70s and ’80s.

How are you carrying your original vision forward in the context of the Eurorack movement and this technology renaissance? Well, the Eurorack market is all of the energy: That is the reason for the renaissance. It’s just amazing how that has created a cottage industry of synthesizer manufacturers, and it’s also pulled along the mainstream people, which is certainly good for us because in order to justify the kind of investments we’re making for these new semiconductor chips, we need to have enough volume to get a return on our investment.

What kind of implications does that have for your own product development? Well, I’ve had to learn how to do all sorts of things—every process, every element of this business. Before, I was the business guy, I was the marketing director. We had product engineers and test engineers and reliability people and process engineers; this large group of people that were specialists in all of their areas. Now packages are all surface-mount instead of being a chip that has legs that go in the holes on a PC board; they are surface-mount soldered and they have about one-tenth the footprint on a PC board than they did back in my earlier days. So just learning about all the details about packaging or tests or reliability testing, all of these things that I never had to worry about before. It’s part of the excitement, and it’s because I’m learning.

How is semiconductor manufacturing different in today’s environment? SSM developed its first chip in 1975. That was probably less than ten years into volume manufacturing, and certainly there was no computer modeling, computer-aided design; things were done by hand. Fast-forward to now: It’s been another 40 years’ worth of innovation, and high-volume, high-reliability semiconductor manufacturing has been in place for a long time. And those tools like computer modeling and computer-aided design,

How does it feel to go from manufacturing mechanical tools to semiconductor manufacturing? In a way, we’re kind of crazy doing a startup for electronic musical instruments and professional audio gear, because no major semiconductor company in their right mind would be developing products for those markets because they’re way too small. The big companies want millions of pieces in sales and there’s no way we’re going to get that through this endeavor. You could justify it in the sense that it is a niche; niches are always a good thing to do in any kind of business. But the main reason we’re doing this is, it’s just fun. n


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