A small amusement – watching prices on eBay. There is an antique that sounds like a flugelhorn out a frog’s arse and it’s going for thousands of dollars. Next to it is something that no one will touch even if Jesus came and delivered it on a cloud. On the Internet are grown men – well I guess that’s an assumption but anyway – grown men shouting hoarsely about ‘converters’ and ‘ROM revisions’ and ‘stereo presence’ and all kinds of complete twaddle. Read between the lines and it becomes obvious – none of them know how to use the gear they’re binging and purging.
I want to make amends to the universe for this shameful display.
Learn to use your damn equipment.
Dog of the Week.
Look at this: it’s my JV1010. You can get one for tuppence. The advantages include being very small and having a Session ROM – an extra set of sounds. If you have a PC then you need to get a hold of the free JV editor that Roland included with the unit. If you are an OSX user then you’ll need some other editor – or get an JV1080 with some knobs on front. No Session ROM included, never mind you can get that later.
Now this is a Sword and Sandals machine. Each voice has four tones. You get 64 tones all up. Each tone is a waveform, a filter, an amplifier and 2 LFOs. So you can make a nice sound with just one tone, by putting a waveform through a filter and so on – I don’t need to explain that. When you stack up these tones you get very thick sounds, and the synthesiser has an analogue control which makes the oscillators drift a little – so that traditional Roland sound is quickly there.
But you’ll eventually become dissatisfied because S&S relies on samples and they are going to be the same every time you push the key. At this point Mrs. GearSlutz throws her hands in the air and goes back to mooing with lust for a Moog. But really there’s some interesting techniques that Roland have put in there, found that no one cared, and not bothered to explain very well. Allow me.
At this point I have to assume you are reasonably familiar with the S+S idea.
Two tones can be connected in a structure. The first structure is parallel, so that each tone has its own envelope and 2 pole filter. No.2 is serial, running the two through the filters to make a 4 pole filter with two distinct cut off settings. That’s nice for more overt filter sounds. The third structure has the waveforms mixed together through a booster. If you try this without quite knowing what it does, it just seems to make a horrible fuzz. Instead, think of it as Roland’s attempt to make FM without touching Yamaha’s FM patent.
Turn on the first two tones. In the first one put a pure sine wave. In the second put a pure waveform of some sort, but with some harmonics to play with – a saw is fine. Select the 3rd structure with the booster. Now as you turn up the gain on the booster, the combined waves will start to ‘fold over’ – what would have been a volume peak is forced down and new harmonics are created. Use the top tone like a modulator, and the bottom tone as the carrier – the analogy is false, but the process will reach some comparable results. Detune them for chorused harmonics.
But notice that there’s both a filter and amp in front of the booster. Obviously that amp can be used like the amp on an FM modulator. You can also use a resonant filter sweep to move the new overtones around. The result is a very nice harmonic sweep that sounds a bit like an FM or a pulse width modulation sweep. If you use structure 5, you get a ring modulator – rather than adding the waves, you’re multiplying them. Different sound but same workflow.
Always more to learn.
The ring mod is a fine way to get modulated sounds, even just by supplying two of the same waveforms (in structure 7 for example) and detuning. Look carefully in the waveform list and you will see ‘low’ versions of the simple waveforms. These are like LFOs in the signal path and do slow movements with the ring mod, which works well with some careful use of ‘chaos’ LFO to get variations of tone.
The FXM control is still mysterious. It’s like a fixed FM effect with a few settings… what use? Roland aren’t that talkative. “FXM (Frequency Cross Modulation) uses a specified waveform to apply frequency modulation to the currently selected waveform, creating complex overtones. This is useful for creating dramatic sounds or sound effects.” Meh, not really forthcoming for something they they’ve included in every keyboard in 20 years. Sound on Sound suggests it’s a good way to vary hi hats!
The other interesting part of this little box is the effects section. The later XV machines had a bigger effect palette but there are still plenty of treatments to try. One that’s particularly nice is the Feedback Pitch Shifter which allows quite long delays between each re-pitched feedback loop. It’s the eventide harmoniser effect that the Residents used for decades (and I used on the Ant Can See Legs). Here also the Time Control Delay you can sweep by your modulation wheel for really nice tape delay effects.
With a bit of care you can get noises out of this thing which are more interesting than the big expensive toys. The point I’m getting to is that the music that people are crazy for at the moment, all this reissued culture, was made by people who had to work with whatever cheap 2nd hand tools they could get. If you want to bring back the excitement of whatever ‘old days’ you crave – this is where it starts. Learn to use the stuff you own!