Thursday, July 4, 2019

Boss BF-2, CE-2 and DM-2 pedal "Understanding Technology Series: Understanding Time Delay Effects" ad, International Musician 1982

Boss BF-2 Flanger, CE-2 Chorus and DM-2 Delay "Understanding Technology Series: Understanding Time Delay Effects" full page colour advertisement from page 25 in the May 1982 issue of International Musician and Recording World (North America).

I'm still deep into packing up all my stuff for my house demolition/rebuild and during one of my epic procrastination sessions I came across this advertisement and fell in love immediately. I know effects aren't my usual jam, but its not unheard of if you search my blog by the "effects" label. Moog, Roland, Korg and some others are represented.

So, definitely worth a short blog post. And besides, I have two really good reasons for posting this ad.

The first reason is that I love pedals. Especially simple pedals with one in/one out. Easy peazy. No question of how to insert them into your ol'skool mixer either. And there's no doubt these pedals sound delicious.

The second, and more important reason, is that I absolutely LOVE the aesthetics of this ad. Boss ads didn't always line up in concept and design with their Roland counterparts, but this one fits snug as a bug in a rug with Roland's "Understanding Technology Series" advertisements that got many-a-loin-a-swelling during this time period.

In other words, this ad shares blood with royalty.

Let me jog your memory... remember this lovely "Understanding Technology" 808 advertisement from mid-1981?

Or, an even better example is this lovely "Understanding Technology" 2-pager for the Jupiter 8 from the same time period.

Or how about this TB-303/TR-606 "Understanding Technology" classic from mid-1982?

And I bet each of those synths have been plugged directly into a Boss BF-2, CE-2 or DM2 pedal at some point by most owners.

You get the picture.

And in all honesty, I'm drawn to this Boss pedal advertisement even more because it's educational component is off the hook too. Just look at that diagram underneath the three pedals that explains in visual detail the time delay differences between the flange, chorus and delay, including the overlap in timing found between each one.

Well... back to packing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

HAPPY 626 day! Roland TR-626 advertisement, 1988 / 626 ReBirth Mod

Roland TR-626 advertisement / TR-626 ReBirth Mod - HAPPY 626 day!

Well, I don't have a lot of TR-626 marketing material (you can read the original TR-626 ad blog post here.), but I wanted to celebrate the awesomeness of 626 day somehow. So I decided to merge it in with one of my recent fascinations: Propellerhead's ReBirth.

And what better way to combine these two fun activities than by creating a mod that substitutes the 808 and 909 drum machines in ReBirth with  ----- THE HORROR!!!! ----- a TR-626.

That's right, dammit. Deal with it.   :)

I've wanted to learn about making mods for ReBirth as far back as I've known mods existed - how to change the drum sounds, how to change the graphics, all of it. And it turns out the 626 is almost a perfect drum machine to port over because the number of sounds it contains matches pretty well with the number of sounds that the 808 and 909 modules in ReBirth contain. Its definitely not a perfect match (as you'll see) but it works.

Update: Reminder - I'm using ReBirth 2.0 and mod was created for V2.

Diving right it, I quickly learned there are quite a few limitations/idiosyncrasies that determine just how the sounds could be mapped out. The big ones included:

1. The basic functionality of each drum machine can't be changed. So, the top half (the 808) had to function similarly to the 808 in ReBIrth, and the bottom half (the 909) had to function similarly to the 909. So, for example, instrument selection on the top half could be done through something like that 808 dial, while the bottom half of sounds had to be selected through the buttons.

2. The template image file can be modified, but they need to be kept at the exact widths and heights, so the placement of all the dials and selection buttons can't really be changed. And dials had to be there, even if they ended up having no effect on the sound (more on that below).

3. Some sounds that have "Tune" dials, are actually just different samples. For example, the "Tune" dial for the 909 low/mid/high toms change the pitch of each respective tom sample. But the "Tune" dial on the TR-909 bass drum actually consists of four different samples, each with different amounts of low end. Efficient programming - but less variation for the 909 bass drum. BUT this opened up the possibility of slotting more than one sound into that drum selection.

Based on these "rules", I mapped out the TR-626 sounds across the two drum machines like this:

The actual TR-626 allowed a lot more control of each sound - for example, tuning of each instrument - and so some functionality was lost depending on where I decided to slot in the 626's sounds.  There's a lot riding on that selection!

So, let's look at each drum sound in more detail to see what I did.

TR-626 bass drums (slotted into 909 bass drum): 

As mentioned earlier, the 909 bass drum "Tune" dial is actually made up of four samples. So, I could slot the two 626 bass drum sounds here. This gave me two extra sample slots, so I added reverb on to those two 626 bass drum sounds to create the two extra samples. So, I renamed the "Tune" dial to  "SND" and with it you can select between these four sounds.

Original 626 bass drum 1
Original 626 bass drum 2
626 bass drum 1 w/ reverb
626 bass drum 2 w/ reverb

The rest of the dials for the bass drum work as expected: "Level" controls volume, "ATT" simulates faster attach by adding high end to the beginning of the sound and "DEC" (decay) increases the envelope time of the sound and is most audible on the reverb tail of the two extra drum sounds.

TR-626 snare drums (slotted into the 909 snare drum):

The 909 snare drum in ReBirth is slightly more intricate than the bass drum - and is a really good example of how the programmers cut some corners to try and get as many variations of the 909 snare into ReBirth with limited processing power.

The final sound of the 909 snare in ReBirth is made from a layered combination of five samples from the "Tune" dial that give the drum sound more bottom end, and three samples from the "Snap" dial which incrementally adds more of that higher frequency 909 snare "noise" we all know and love to the final sound. The "Tone" dial seems to be adjusting the length of the envelop for the "Snap" samples.

I decided the easiest thing to do would be to insert the three TR-626 snare drums into the sample slots of  the "Tune" dial and label it "SND". Then I just used silence in the snap settings so that dial, and its corresponding "Tone" dial wouldn't have any effect on the snare drum sound in any way. The dials still appear because you can't turn those off, but I did relabel them "---" to indicate they didn't do anything.

As mentioned, the "Tune" dial has space for five samples, so along with the three original snare sounds, I added reverb to Snare 1 and Snare 3 and put those in the other two slots. So, the 'SND" dial can select between these five sounds:

Original 626 snare drum 1
Original 626 snare drum 2
Original 626 snare drum 3
626 snare drum 1 with reverb
626 snare drum 3 with reverb

The only other dial that functions is "Level", affecting the volume of the sound.

TR-626 low, high muted and high open congas (slotted into the 909 low, mid and high tom)

I've put the low, muted and open congas next to the snare drums. They fit well here and the "Tune", "Dec" and "Level" dials works as they should - although there isn't much decay adjustment on the mute and open high congos since they are such short sounds anyways.

TR-626 rim shot, clap, closed hi hat, open hi hat, crash cymbal and ride cymbal (slotted into the same spots as the 909 sounds)

Made sense to slot the same percussion sounds from the TR-626 into the rim shot, clap, hi hats, crash and ride cymbal spots. "Level", "Dec" and "Tune" dials work as they should.

TR-626 low timbale (slotted into 808 bass drum)

This was an easy replacement of the sample - "Level" dial adjusts volume,"Tune" dial takes out hign-end of the sample, and "Dec" shortens or lengthens the envelop of the sound.

TR-626 hi timbale (slotted into the 808 snare drum)

This was a trickier one. The 808 bass drum "Tune" dial automatically eq's the one sample, but the 808 snare drum sound is made from five samples under the "Tune" dial and three samples under the "Snap" dial.

So, to emulate the "Tune" effect of the low timbale, I created five different hi timbale samples that enhanced or cut some high end from the original sample. There was no use for the three sample slots used for the "Snap" dial, so I just replaced with silence for those and removed the snap label.

"Level" dial affects volume as it should.

TR-626 low, mid and high toms (slotted into 808 tom/conga switches)

Made sense to put the two sets of 626 toms into the switchable 808 tom/conga slots - one set when the toggle switch is in the down position, the other set with the toggle switch is up. "Level" and "Tune" dials work as expected.

TR-626 shaker, clave, low and hi agogo (slotted into the 808 rim shot, clap, clave and maracas switches)

These might have been the four hardest choices to make since it would mean that only two of the four sounds would be available at any one time. In the end, I chose to put the shaker, clave, low and hi agogos into these slots.

"Level" dials work as expected for each sound.

TR-626 cowbell, cup cymbal, china cymbal and tambourine (slotted into the 808 cow bell, cymbal, open and closed hi hats)

The last four percussion sounds of the 626 were slotted into these last four 808 spots.

All corresponding"Level" and "Dec" dials work as expected. The "Tone" dial for the cup cymbal removes bass frequencies of the sample as it's turned.

And that's that!

Is it perfect. Definitely not. But all in all, it was a fun little project and a great way to learn how the programmers of ReBirth managed to cram so much goodness in an efficient manner and how they cut corners to maximize processing power.

A nice balance, I'd say.

I've put the mod (for use with ReBirth 2) up on Google Drive until I get a chance to send to one of the ReBirth mod sites.

Here's a short video of my 626 Mod in ReBirth.  :)

Monday, June 17, 2019

Alesis 1992 "Alesis Product Line" product catalog


Alesis "Product Line" 7-panel two page colour product catalog from 1992.

So, I uploaded these scans as two long pages, and also segmented them out to higher res scans of different panels depending on content flow. Basically an experiment to see what works best. 

Surprisingly, I've only ever posted one other ad from Alesis - a Christmas ad for the HR-16 and MMT-8. But I was recently intrigued by my own MMT-8 and thought I'd share my little experience. I could have posted a number of earlier marketing promo pieces that feature the grey MMT-8, but I kinda love my black MMT-8 so I specifically dug into the vault and chose this brochure because of it.  Besides the MMT-8, it includes a great summary of Alesis' gear from 1992 - drum machine, mixer, effects and their ADAT. All fantastic gear for a great price at the time.

Anyways, about the MMT-8...

A few days ago, I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw this tweet from Peter Kirn:

Well, there's two things I love in one sentence! The Alesis MMT-8 sequencer and Shawn Rudiman.


Side note for Rudiman fans: Just found out he's releasing a new EP on Tresor Records. From the page:
"The studio is Rudiman’s vehicle, the weapon and the balm. From synthetic wonders to dark-warehouse drum missives, Autonomic Pilot proves once again Rudiman as a master of his craft. Tresor Records is proud to welcome his new work into the world."


I jumped over to Peter Kirn's article on the CDM Web site called: "Post Album Techno: 9 years of live sequence data, from Shawn Rudiman". As Peter puts it -
"Shawn has taken the plunge and dumped years of live performance practice from his backups, in an irrationally specific media archaeology experiment for techno nerds." 
And specific it was! Each of the 12 live sets on the album called "Finest Quality, Big Time Data" are from the MMT-8's data tape audio back-ups. That's right. Not the audio. The DATA. I you try to listen to the tracks, it's just that screechy 90's dial-up modem-like sound for four or five minutes.

Brilliant! It's like he posted it just for me.  Okay, not just me - it's also for the eight other people that also purchased the "album" so far.

To me, that's one of the most interesting things about this release by Shawn. He knew when he posted it that it had a very narrow audience and hence was obviously a very limited money-maker. But from a promotional standpoint, it's a fun and interesting exercise aimed directly at us "techno nerds".

And exercise I did!

Unfortunately I had just packed up *all* my studio for a temporary move (over 200 synths, drum machines and sequencers into 250+ feet of 4' wide bubble wrap, 20+ cases and 25 carry-totes) so I had to find that MMT-8 first. Luckily, it only took about half an hour to find it and get it out of its bubble-wrapped sleeve. The power supply was somewhat easier to find since I have a healthy addiction to label makers.

So I plugged it in, and hoped for the best. Sure enough that lovely little screen lit up bright!

It turned on!

Next, I needed to figure out how to restore the audio data. One of the great things about the MMT-8 is its ease of use, and the fact that most of the directions on its use can be found on the flip-up lid on the top of the MMT-8.
flip-up instructions
So, with the instructions on how to restore pattern and song data identified, I dug out an audio cable and plugged one end from the headphone output of my laptop and the other end into the "tape in" port on the back of the MMT-8. I then pulled up the Shawn Rudiman's Bandcamp page, entered the correct key combo on the MMT-8 to start the restore process, and hit play on the Bandcamp page to get the first set of audio data playing.


I tried different volume levels.

Still nothing.

I tried downloading and playing the MP3 file from the computer. Nothing. Uncompressed WAV files. Nothing. Stereo cable. Nothing. Mono cable. Nothing. Mono->Stereo cable. Nothing.

Anger sets in.

Then I had an idea. I pulled up the Bandcamp app on my Android tablet, plugged the audio cable into the headphone jack and hit play.

Boom! The screen on the MMT-8 indicated it was restoring the data.

I had forgotten how fussy tape backups/restores could be. And not just fussy. But time-consuming. And so it was four minutes and fifty-seven seconds later the MMT-8's screen returned to normal and I started looking for parts (what Alesis calls patterns).

00. 01. 02..... 16 - jackpot - "Deep Techno-2"!

But now for problem #2. All my synths were packed up! What do I connect to the sequencer to see what exactly was restored?

I got an idea.

What if I play each track, one by one, from that first pattern on the MMT-8 while sync'd up and recording into Propellerhead Reason?

And that's exactly what I did:

The great thing about this method is that it created a nice visual reference of the MIDI data and I could get a better idea of what might be a percussive, pad or bass-type track. I then created a new instance of Kong, Thor or any of Reason's other great instruments (or VSTs!) and copied over the midi data from the track. Voila!

It also helped that I contacted Shawn to let him know I had managed to pull in one of his sets and he gave me a few more tips and hints about his workflow. Thank you Shawn!

So now I bet you want to hear something. Well, that's gonna have to wait because I have a few more Alesis brochures to post yet!  :)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Moog Minimoog "The Moog for the road" brochure/poster, 1974


Moog Minimoog "The Moog for the road" eight page colour brochure/poster from 1974.

I've sweated over blogging about this brochure/poster for a long time because I was never sure exactly how I was going to scan and post such a unique piece of marketing material? The problem is that it is both a brochure and a poster. Let me explain.

The piece starts off as a brochure - with a front cover, two inside pages, and a back cover. Great. Cool. I can scan that easily enough and post the scans as I normally would for a brochure (which I did above).

The other side is a poster, where the two upper quadrants are specs and features and the two bottom quadrants make up one big awesome photo of the Minimoog. Again - Great! Cool! I can scan and post that side as chucks of a poster.

Here's the problem...

Because of the way the piece was design and folded,the two inside pages on the "brochure-side" are actually upside down!

You will also notice that those two top quadrants (the inside pages for the brochure side) are also a bit shorter, The designers purposely did this so that tag line "Minimoog... a whole new freedom of expression" from the bottom of the "poster" side can be visible on the "brochure" side!

Not only is that a cool design feature, it's also functional, giving a great visual cue to the reader to flip up those two inside brochure pages to reveal the poster right-side-up on the other side! Genius!

The piece is gorgeous and quite a departure from the Minimoog "The INstrument of the pros" brochure from just two years previous.

Don't get me wrong - I loved that 1972 brochure with its amazing illustrations. But this 1974 brochure's professional photography, less busy design and unique brochure/poster fold makes for one of my favourite historical pieces - not just from Moog, but for all synths.

Just gorgeous.

Happy Birthday Mr Bob Moog.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Propellerhead ReBirth (RB-338) Techno Micro Composer Version 2.0 "Believe the unbelievable" brochure, 1998

Propellerhead ReBirth (RB-338) Techno Micro Composer Version 2.0 "Believe the unbelievable" four page colour brochure from 1998.

No. This isn't a repeat. Although at first glance it very well looks like it. That lovely shiny silver front and back cover, the wire-frame imagery that gets peppered around the inside pages and the line diagram of the software interface on the back. Its fun to see how the writers decided to keep a lot of text in the brochure.

But as you can see, by the time Version 2.0 rolled around, there was a lot of new features and functionality to talk about.

First - the software itself. They had delightfully added a TR-909 drum machine, a compressor and a cool little synchronized filter (that was actually introduced in version 1.5!). That's in addition to the two TB-303s, a TR-808, a digital delay and a distortion that was initially released in Version 1.

But more exciting to me as a two-bit historian and archivist though, is how the company updated the wording in the brochure to reflect its closer association with Roland's instruments.

For example, in the first version of the brochure, Steinberg/Propellerhead were very low-key in their association. They let the images in the brochure speak for themselves and instead of directly referring to the TB-303 and TR-909 would use Roland-speak words like "bassline" and "303 sound".

But by Version 2.0, Propellerhead decided to makes its association with Roland a little more concrete by directly referring to the TB-303, TR-808 and TR-909 in its opening paragraph in the brochure. What changed? Well, according to the the Rebirth Museum Web site (which no longer exists but can be accessed through the Wayback Machine thank you very much), quite a few downloads of the alpha version of ReBirth came from Roland HQ in Japan, who then reached out and eventually stipulated that the following be added to the packaging and splash screen.
"ReBirth was inspired by the TR-808 and TB-303, originally created by Roland Corporation. Their unique sounds and visual images have been re-born through digital simulation by Propellerhead Software."
And while something similar exists in the V1 brochure, its not exactly the same.

But by V2, Propellerhead had included this exact phrase (with the inclusion of the TR-909) in the second iteration of the brochure. And then some:

Could it be that the V1 brochure was printed prior to the agreement between Roland and Propellerhead? Cool thought.

Either way, as mentioned on the now defunct Rebirth Museum Web site, Propellerhead considered this a "thumbs-up" by Roland and a good reason for Propellerhead to strengthen its association with Roland in V2 of the brochure.
"Propellerhead Software regarded this as a blessing from Roland, as it was considered an "unofficial thumbs-up" and their acknowledgment provided strong marketing leverage. In a sense, Roland's stamp of approval legitimized ReBirth as something that met the standards of Roland quality."
This story is now canon in Propellerhead-land, but I wonder if Roland has the same memory of events.

The incorporation of new gear wasn't the only reason ReBirth users were excited for V2.0. As can be seen in the brochure, ReBirth allowed users to create their own front panel graphics and, even more important (and fun!) for me, create custom sounds. Along with an "exchange platform" for songs and mods.

Propellerhead's ReWire functionality was also introduced in V2. Initially code named "TopHat", ReWire was created to connect  audio and synchronization between ReBirth and Cubase". And, it eventually became a standard for other companies that wanted to sync their software to Rebirth.

And this leads me into one of the biggest, yet subtle changes to the V2 brochure. Along with ReWire came the ability for a lot of musicians to sync up ReBirth with other professional software. So, it made sense for Propellerhead to boost the "professional appeal" of ReBirth in the "Functions Overview" section.

Take a closer look and you will see that in V1, the first bullet point in this section highlights Roland's machines. And rightly so, since its ALWAYS ALL ABOUT THE ROLAND GEAR!!!!!
"Two bass line synthesizers, one "analog" drum machine, a distortion box and a delay."
But in V2, those instruments have been bumped to bullet point #3. And what has made it to the number one feature in the overview?
"16 bit, 44.1 kHz audio quality (stereo)."
Yup. The instruments took a back seat to audio quality.  Okay, not really - just in the bullet points.

But it still makes me nervous, and I sometimes wonder if that was some kind of foreshadowing.

Anyways, that's enough thinking for today. Time to play with ReBirth 2.0 on my Windows 10 laptop. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Moog PianoBar "Fall in love with your piano all over again!" brochure, 2003

Moog PianoBar "Fall in love with your piano all over again!" two page colour brochure from approximately 2003.

Well, here's a rare beast - a Moog PianoBar brochure!

I haven't run into this particular piece of literature anywhere online that I can remember - just in my local music store in the early- to mid-2000's.  My "guy" at the store knew I had a Moog Modular, Minimoog and Taurus pedals and would often put other Moog literature aside for me, including this brochure. This is the same awesome dude who gifted me his Sequential Circuits belt buckle, among other things. I've been frequenting that store for what must be over 35 years - and he's still there. And still a great guy.

Anyways, enough personal nostalgia.

If you aren't familiar with the PianoBar... um... that makes two of us. Sure, I'd heard of it. But never bothered to do any actual in-depth research into the thing. Then recently, I was hanging out in the Moog Fan Club Facebook group and one of the members posted some up-close-and-personal photos of the device in its carry-case. Serial number 0009 no less! Wowza.

Now, is that gorgeous, or what?!?!?!

Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah...I'm not familiar with the PianoBar. So, I pulled this brochure out of my archives. And that led me to become even more curious, so I did some research and this is what I've found out so far...

According to a 2005 Sound on Sound magazine review article on the PianoBar, it was "Moog, in concert with Buchla" that came up with the piano-to-MIDI converter. A New York Times 2016 article celebrating the life of Tom Buchla seemed to corroborate this by indicating that Buchla consulted with Moog to begin manufacturing the PianoBar in 2002.

But, I'm also finding references in forums indicating that it was more a Tom Buchla innovation that was then marketed by Moog.

For example, in the MusicPlayers forum under the question "What ever happened to the Moog PianoBar", member "The Real MC" commented "To be fair, the PianoBar was actually a Buchla product. Buchla gave it to Moog to sell."

Also, A CDM post from September 2005 indicates that "the device is actually the brainchild of synth legend Don Buchla, not Bob Moog as you might assume."

In any case, I dig any occasion where Moog and Buchla team up.

The brochure itself provides plenty of detail into how the PianoBar operates.
"What makes the PianoBar unique is the revolutionary, patented Scanner Bar, which sits ever so slightly above the piano's keys leaving the touch and feel wonderfully unaffected.  The Scanner Bar is less that 1/2" thick and rests against the fall board out of the way of the flying fingers. It contains sensor for each key that use infrared to detect their motion. The Pedal Sensor rests underneath the piano's pedals to register their motion. The Scanner Bar and Pedal Sensor work together to capture the full range of your expressive touch - from resounding chords to delicate passages."
How unique was it? That Sound on Sound article I mentioned earlier provides some great historical perspective for us by listing a few competing products.
"Approached in the right spirit, the device opens doors that hitherto simply weren't accessible to the piano player, unless you had the ultra-expensive Bösendorfer or Steinway systems, or the less expensive, yet still pricey, Yamaha Disklavier system. All these, of course, are built into the piano and therefore not transferable, unlike the Piano Bar. The ability to extend the sonic palette of your humble Joanna is, if not mind-blowing, pretty marvellous."
Pretty f**king unique.  :)

So, I was gonna stop there, but I've had a glass of wine and my ribs have another hour in the oven before I transfer them to the bbq for the finishing touch. So, lets keep this boat rockin'.

According to Electronic Musician's June 2004 review of the PianoBar by Allan Metts, the cost of the PianoBar was $1,495. And in the end, gave the device these ratings:
PROS: Accurate piano tracking with no significant latency. Easy, noninvasive setup. Capable sound set.
CONS: Pedal Sensor moves too easily and needs height adjustment. No MIDI SysEx dump capability. Cable attaches only to the left side of the Scanner Bar.
That 2005 Sound on Sound review I keep referencing listed it at a UK price of 899.99 pounds, along with this:
Pros - The only viable device to let virtually any piano output MIDI.
 - Opens up all kinds of sound-layering possibilities.
 - Relatively straightforward to install if you're lucky.
 - Very fast triggering with no dicernable latency.
Cons - Can be fiddly to install and calibrate, depending on your piano.
 - Some piano actions are too far gone to make the Piano Bar usable.
 - Very dependent on the mechanics and tuning of your piano.
And remember that 2005 CDM post I referenced earlier? It indicated that Moog had a sale on the PianoBar at one point bringing the price down to $995.00 US!
"...Moog Music this week is introducing its “Be the First” promotion. Be the first, second, or third person in your U.S. metro area (Moog has identified 364), and you can get the PianoBar for as little as US$995. (You also have to be a school teacher, gigging musician, or someone else who can convince other people to buy them, so you can’t get the discount and take it to your cave — the Phantom of the Opera is totally disqualified.)"
A September 16, 2005 Synthopia article provided even more details on the price structure of the sale:
"If you are the first school, teacher, gigging musician, church, or studio to purchase the Moog PianoBar and are in position to share your enthusiasm for the product, your purchase price will be $995, a $500 savings off the published price. If you are the second qualified person in the metro area, your price will be $1095 – a $400 savings. If you are the third qualified person, your price will be $1195 – still a $300 savings!"
A common reference that come up when I started researching the PianoBar was Bruce Hornsby. Seems he was a big fan, and in a September 2009 interview with Keyboard Magazine it's explained that Bruce used it to play softsynths from the piano:
"You’ve been using the Moog Piano Bar to control soft synths from the piano and expand your sound palette beyond piano and voice, like on the new song “Invisible.” What is it about the combination of acoustic and electronic timbres that you find so alluring?
It all stems from the fact that I always hear an orchestra playing in my head. Not on all the songs, but often on ballads, like “Mandolin Rain,” “Here We Are Again,” and “Continents Drift.” If I’m playing bluesy, you’re not going to hear any MIDI, because I’m not hearing an orchestra in that stylistic setting. But “Invisible” is a perfect example of dialing in the Bob Moog. I’ve done a lot of solo concerts over the years where I’d show up in a new town to a piano supplied by Steinway. But it wasn’t MIDI’ed, so originally I’d put a Korg M1 on top, playing it with one hand and the piano with another. I used the sound “Overture,” which I came to find out that my old friend Bruce Springsteen used as well."
"Dialing in the Bob Moog." I like that phrase 0- going to have to start using it.

You can see the PianoBar in action in this excellent Spectrasonics YouTube video. Note that that lovely Moog PianoBar logo on the right side of the keyboard bar in a few shots.

Even more "legit", here's a 2003 Moog demo of the PianoBar. Audio not as good, but the coolness factor is through the roof:

Time for me to "Dial in the Bob Moog" on my modular.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Steinberg Cubit "Visual Song Processing" advertisement, Keyboard 1989 / Cubase "Buy it! Boot it! Love it! " advertisement, Electronic Musician 1990

Steinberg Cubit "Visual Song Processing"full page colour ad from page 65 in the May 1989 issue of Keyboard Magazine and Steinberg Cubase "Buy it! Boot it! Love it! Or your money back!" half page black and white ad from page 112 in the March 1990 issue of Electronic Musician Magazine.

I don't do it often, but today I have two scans. And for good reason!

I had actually scanned each one separately a while back and written little bits to form into future blog posts, but then this morning I noticed a tweet from Steinberg announcing it was Cubase's 30th anniversary. And I thought... heck - that's a bandwagon worth jumping on! So I went back, checked, and sure enough... this Cubit advertisement first showed up in the May 1989 issue of Keyboard Magazine

(Aside: That May 1989 issue of Keyboard Magazine isn't just exciting because of this initial Cubit ad. Its also the now-legendary CYBERPUNK issue.)

It wasn't just on this side of the pond that Stenberg was rolling out its successor to Twenty Four  III (aka PRO24) sequencing software - Cubit was being rolled out in Europe in magazines such as Music Technology  and Micro Music with large three page advertisements as well. Check out Mu:zines for those ads!

But the Cubit advertisements lasted for only a few months before Steinberg shut them down. The reason? According to Cubase's Wikipedia page, a trademark issue was forcing Steinberg to change the name.

And better for it too!

Well, it didn't take long for that name change to happen. How do I know? Well, for one, the Cubase ad includes quotes from three different 1989 magazine reviews - and those aren't the only reviews that came out soon after the Cubase name change. 

Music Technology magazine out of the UK was one of the first with their review. It was actually a two-part review that ran in the August and September 1989 issues running in at over 8000 words. And the reviewer Nigel Lord still didn't manage to cover all of Cubase's features.

In his verdict, he writes: 
"Quite honestly, this is the most impressive piece of music software I have yet encountered for the ST. And I certainly cannot conceive of it being possible to develop a more sophisticated sequencing package for that machine. As with most genuinely worthwhile designs, the transition from well-crafted tool to creative instrument is quite seamless - the features which give it a claim to both these titles being universally well thought-out and meticulously presented. Not only that, but it's a delight to use and one of that increasingly rare breed of technologically advanced designs which positively encourage the user to experiment and get to grips with it."
Not bad. Not bad at all. 

Sound on Sound's review also came out in their August 1989 issue. And I gotta say after reading David Hughes' verdict, we are starting to see a pattern...
"I like this program a lot. Cubase is a natural successor to Pro24 and I would strongly recommend Cubase to any existing Pro24 owners, who should remember that they can save quite a substantial amount of money if they take part in the part-exchange scheme that Steinberg are offering. I would also recommend this program to those musicians looking for a fully professional system with the potential for expansion. Cubase has this in abundance. I've used the review package for over a month now and Steinberg will find it difficult to prise it out of my hands. I feel that I've written some of my best music with Cubase, and consequently don't want to lose a single note of it. I enjoyed the sheer depth of this product. You simply won't exhaust the possibilities in a single night. It will take a great deal longer than that, I promise you."

Keyboard Magazine's October 1989 review by Jim Aikin was a little more low-key, but still very positive. In addition to the quote used in the Cubase ad I scanned, we get a little bit of software sequencer history along with Jim's conclusion:
"The impact made last year by C-Lab's Notator has forced other Atari sequencer developers to put some muscle in their hustle. With Cubase, Steinberg proves that they're up to the challenge; it's fully competitive with anything that Notator has to offer, except in the area of notation printout - and let's face it, that's not Notator's strong point either (me: Ouch!). Dr. T's KCS Level II still leads the pack in terms of sheer editing power, but its user interface is starting to look a bit long in the tooth, though there have been some strong enhancements in version 2.1..."

Interestingly, the ads for Cubase took a while to get into magazines. I'm not sure if this is because Steinberg had spent their 1989 marketing budgets on the earlier advertisements, or maybe they were just waiting for the Mac version slated to come out in early 1990 to be closer to production? 

No matter, because according to Steinberg's earlier Twenty Four software advertisement, there was already a base of 30,000 users. And many of those 30,000 users would have read those early positive reviews or started to see the software pop up in music shops.  

And the proof is in the pudding - or whatever that saying is.  30 years later Cubase is still going strong. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Roland TR-505 drum machine "The first step..." brochure, 1986

Roland TR-505 drum machine "The first step in forming your own personal music system" four page colour brochure from October 1986.

Well, its May the 5th.


505 day.

Sure, it's not as flashy as 808 day. Not as bouncy as 303 day. Not as Latin-y as 727 day. But dammit if I'm gonna ignore the baby of the Roland XOX family today.

Plus, its been a while since I've blogged. For good reason though - I'm getting ready to demolish my house. Everything is getting packed up as we speak. Bubble wrapping synths and drum machines. Boxing thousands of old synth magazines and brochures. And trying to figure out what to do with 10 Commodore 64's. No kidding. Its slow going. But its happening.

But I jut had to take some time out to post this lovely Roland TR-505 brochure.

The layout of the brochure follows the format of all those other lovely Roland brochures - like these two for the TR-909 and TR-808 (click on images to view corresponding blog posts and full sized scans).


Same large lettering on the front page with a ton of white space around it. And a gorgeous, artsy-esque image below. This time, Roland chose to use a dark slate rock formation as the backdrop, and included two of the 505's siblings, the TR-707 and TR-727, to help pump up the TR-505's cred. This wasn't an accident (more on that later).

Flip the page and Roland gets directly to the point with a title that makes it clear who the target market for the TR-505 is.

Newbies and the price-conscious.

Hey, everyone has to start somewhere.

The intro also hits directly at the intended audience with words and phrases like "economical" and "extremely affordable price". And to drive home the point that you are getting lots of value for the money, Roland makes sure to highlight the large number of sounds, large memory and full MIDI implementation found on the TR-505.

Roland references the TR-707 and 727 early on when hyping up the sounds on the 505. Smart move, as its a great way to suggest that what you are getting is the best of those two worlds in one small package.

And guess what... turn to the back page and there they are again. Sure, its a great way to cross promote a few other Roland products (standard fare in these brochures), but also to again make that connection in reader's minds between the the 505 and its bigger brothers. Nice work!

Now... do I have to address the obvious question?  How did the 505's sounds stack up to the 707 and 727. Well, the logical thing to do is plug in all three and hit record on the video camera. But unfortunately all three drum machines are bubble wrapped and wedged into big carrying totes at the moment. So, that will have to wait until next 505 day.

So, I tried to do the next best thing, which was Google it and read a couple of forum comments on the topic. And well, you can guess how that went. Hint: humans are mean SOBs.

So, in the end I loaded up Reason and got my sample packs out. I compared the 505 and 707/727 sounds from two different sample packs, in case any samples in any given sample pack weren't recorded properly. In the end, there wasn't any perceived differences between samples in the different sample packs.

Here's my thoughts*:
*you have a right to your wrong opinion  :)

Bass drum:  ounds are different. The 505 bass drum has less low end than the two 707 bass drums.

Snare: 505 snare is definitely different than the two 707 snares. But all three have some punch to them. And definitely belong to the same family of sounds.

Low, medium and hi toms: Definitely different between the two machines. The 707's toms were longer, with a bit more natural hollowness (for lack of a better word) to them.

Rim shot: Surprisingly, almost exactly the same - with the 707 slightly lower in pitch.

Closed hi-hat: Definitely different. 505 slightly lower in pitch. But both work great to cut through a track.

Open hi-hat: Very similar. Surprised by that.

Low conga: 727 conga slightly longer and lower in pitch than the 505.

High conga: 505 and 727 similar in sound, with 727 slightly higher in pitch.

Timbale: The 505 timbale sounds slightly similar to the 727 high timbale sound, but is a shorter sample with less high-end at the beginning on the sound - less "snap". The 727 low timbale has no comparison.

Cowbell: There are hi and low cowbells on the 505 and only one on the 707. All three sound different, but are pleasing to my ears. I love cowbells!

Hand clap: The 505 and 707 hand claps sound similar, but are definitely not the same samples. The 707 might be slightly beefier and I prefer it.

Crash cymbal: The samples are different, with the 505 having a bit more "crashiness" up front before tailing off. The 707 has more of a steady tail, if that makes sense.

Ride cymbal: Very different samples - you can even see it in the wave form. The 707 ride has much more "ting" at the beginning of the sound than the 505 does, and a lot more body to it as well. I prefer the 707 sample.

Of course, there's a tambourine sound on the 707 that isn't included on the 505. And there are a lot of the 727 sounds that aren't included on the 505 including hi and low bongo, hi and low agogos , cabasa, maracas, short and long whistle, quijada and star chime.

But I think that Roland did a decent job of selecting to include congas and timbales sounds on the 505. Sure, they could always have added more... but remember -  the 505 was created with cost in mind.

Enjoy 505 day, every one!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Casio LZ-1000 synthesizer "Why would you let your friends choose any other synthesizer" ad, Keyboard Magazine 1998

Casio LZ-1000 phase distortion and sample playback synthesizer "Why would you let your friends..." full page colour advertisement from the inside front cover of the April 1998 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Let's face it... Casio knew a good thing when they saw it.

And *everyone* was as happily surprised as Casio when David Schwimmer finally got the chance to show off his virtuoistic chops on a Casio CT-460 in his hit TV docu-drama "Friends" in 1997.

Blessed with a peerless technique, David's repertoire on the show was wide-ranging, taking in everything from Merzbow and Beethoven, to Coltrane, Parker and Monk, not to mention his own masterful transcriptions and other compositions. It was, perhaps, his sense of spontaneity and impeccable timing that only comes from years of training that made his live performances on "Friends" so fresh and exciting for the studio audience, America and the world.

Knowing a good thing when they saw it, Casio quickly made an endorsement deal with David and upgraded his gear. Within a few short months you could find David's trademark smile and I-don't-care-if-my-music-is-too-loud shrug on every magazine rack in Liechtenstein, Tuvalu and Saskatchewan for months to come. And, of course, it could also be found in this Casio LZ-1000 advertisement which Casio paid good money to place strategically on the inside front cover of Keyboard Magazine for over two years.

Casio and Schwimmer were a perfect fit - an awesome sounding keyboard with some of the latest "Moo", "Bark", "Ding Dong" and "Pew Pew!" sound samples recorded to date, paired with a light-up keyboard that let new users play along with some of David Schwimmer's latest and greatest hits that came pre-programmed with the internal sequencer.

Utilizing some of the latest Internet technology, owners of the LZ-1000 could dial-up to AOL and connect directly with Casio to download Schwimmer's latest hits twice a year. Casio's state of the art sample compression algorithms allowed users to download the package of songs, including the Schwimmer's personally recorded 16 bit/44.1kHz samples, in under six hours and averaging less than $200 in telephone and AOL fees.

I managed to catch his set in Chicago at the 2005 Lolapalooza festival. His set began quietly, with David lingering over just a few short samples, avoiding the urge to head straight for the shredding post-punk that dominated his playing style during that time period. By the fifth hour, the intensity started to build, unleashing explosions of raw energy on the audience of campers next to the festival.

I bought his t-shirt. Who wouldn't?

Casio kept the AOL service running for over 20 years until the endorsement deal unfortunately and suddenly collapsed at the 2017 Amsterdam Dance Event in Belgium where David unexpectedly took his music in a new, totally acoustic direction.

Keyboard Magazine's Jim Aikin concluded his review of the LZ-1000 in the July 1998 issue, stating "...It works, but what's with all the animal sounds?", before giving it a solid 8 out of 10. Coincidentally, Jim also reviewed Schwimmer's newly released electro album "Coffee with Friends" in the same issue asking a similar question.

Here's a great look back at David's authentic and expressive playing style that captivated viewers around the world.

What an inspiration.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Propellerhead ReBirth (RB-338) Techno Micro Composer "Believe the unbelievable" brochure, 1997

Propellerhead ReBirth (RB-338) Techno Micro Composer "Believe the unbelievable" four page colour brochure from 1997.

Full disclosure - I'm a huuuuuge Reason fan. I have a great auto-load template set up that opens with two TBL3 303 emulators, and two Kongs - one with 808 sounds and one with 909 sounds. Great for when I'm on the road. Or in bed.

So, you can't be surprised that I was a huge ReBirth fan way back when as well. It was such a game changer. So much fun.

But I was a little surprised when I came across this brochure, along with about 200 others that I got for free (from a guy who knew a guy). Reading through it brought back some great memories. If you have any recollection of using this software, it's definitely worth the eye-ball time.

The brochure itself is amazing looking - the scans of the front and back cover do not do the shiny silver colour justice. The cool design is top notch with lots of space. Just the way I like 'em.

And did you catch the TWO logos? I'd forgotten how close Propellerhead and Steinberg were. Steinberg first partnered with Propellerhead for their Recycle music loop editing software. And the success of Recycle helped keep that partnership going, with the money made helping fund the development of ReBirth.

But, according to a 2013 interview with then Propellerhead CEO Ernst Nathorst-Böös, that partnership ended with Reason.
" fairly quickly became clear to us that the cultures of the two companies were very different. They were distributing our products, among other things, and did a great job of it. But when Reason came around, we decided that it was important for us to also handle those aspects of our business ourselves."
Remember, Steinberg already had Cubase. Sure, two very different DAWs, but still competitors.
"They had Cubase and we had ReBirth. When Reason came out, it just seemed like the natural thing to do to end the distribution relationship. But we kept working together on making our products work well together, using ReWire and REX technologies."
Ernst speaks highly of Steinberg throughout the interview. It's a good read for anyone interested.

One interesting observation I made while looking through this version of the brochure is that Propellerhead never directly references the TB-303 or TR-808 in the brochure copy. In the introductory paragraph they write about "a silver box" and "303 sound". Later on they reference "two silver synths and a black drum machine". And in the Functions Overview section they reference "two bass line synthesizers, one 'analog' drum machine".

Its not until the legalese section on the back page that they tell us what we already know (and love!)...
"ReBirth RB-338 software synthesizer is a new, original product that simulates the sound of the discontinued Roland products TB-303 and TR-808. However, the product is in no way connected with Roland Corporation."
This apparent policy to avoid direct comparison with Roland's gear changes in future ReBirth promo material...

Stay tuned!