Author Archives: scarkord

Custom MIDI Slider Box Part 2

Thought I’d share a picture of my finished MIDI Slider Box. Really pleased with how it came out considering the limited tools I had access to.

I did initially have a problem with the sliders, but determined the wiper and pos (+) connections were wrong. In the instructions, it shows the wiper as the more central of the two terminals, but in the photos, the wiper is the outside terminal. I switched mine around, and voila, it works perfectly now.

Abandoned (ScarKord Expansion)

Here’s an impromptu collaboration with el-bo

It started life as an idea el-bo put together for the Sound Aesthetics, Show Us Your Music challenge, but subsequently abandoned.

I really thought it had potential though, so decided to see if I could develop it further and this is the result!

Again, in the spirit of the challenge, it only features Sound Aesthetics libraries.

Despite everything else that is going on in the world, I’ve not been this productive in years!

The Climb

Had a rare free evening tonight, so created track number three using only samples from Sound Aesthetics Sampling. As it was mainly built around the ‘Mountain’ sample library, I called it ‘The Climb’.

Although it’s a been released as a ‘Jason Vine’ track rather than a ‘ScarKord’ track, there is some pretty extreme processing going on particularly to get the percussion noises. It’s been a great exercise to coax these sorts of noises and patterns out of what are primarily melodic libraries.

Custom MIDI Slider box

Time for a new project, inspired by this post on Gearslutz. A custom DIY MIDI controller featuring three full size 100mm sliders and based on a Teensy 3.2. This will be used to control MIDI CC’s for my Kontakt libraries.

I sourced components as close as I could to the original post. The Teensy was from Amazon, the sliders and case from Farnell and I’m just waiting for some black 8mm slider knobs from eBay. Was difficult to find 100mm sliders and a case with the right dimensions in the UK so I’ve posted links below.

Bourns B10k Slide Potentiometer
Takachi Plastic Enclosure 30 x 150 x 100

Cost so far is around £50, but I already had some of the components such as LED, USB connector etc. Still quite reasonable though and I’m surprised something like this doesn’t already exist in the market.

The identity crisis

Well, it’s gone full circle. After writing a second song as ‘me’, I’ve now remixed myself.

First, the original. ‘Strange Resonances‘ was once again created only using sounds from Sound Aesthetics Sampling, namely their Mountains and Talua libraries, for their Show Us Your Music promotion. It’s darker than my other Sound Aesthetics track ‘Life In Pieces‘, reminding me of Massive Attack’s soundtrack work at times.

It was still a slower, cinematic track though, so I experimented with ramping up the tempo and it worked surprisingly well some 50bpm faster. The drums needed work though, so I went with a UK Garage / 2-step style broken beat which topped things off nicely. I also added some extra strings too for the extended breakdown section.

So, where to next?

Life In Pieces

Here’s a new piece of music I wrote this evening, using only sounds from the Fragments Kontakt Library, created by Sound Aesthetics Sampling.

You may also have noticed it isn’t released under my usual ScarKord moniker, but rather my own name. I’m just having a play at being a ‘serious’ composer for a bit, so anything vaguely filmic will be posted to that Soundcloud account, leaving ScarKord for remixes and more typical electronica.

Jumparoo

Wow, music lessons seem a lot more fun than back in my day 🙂

This is a piece of music I wrote with my son, James, for one of his remote learning lessons. He had to come up with a theme for a Mario / Sonic style platform game as well as a motif to play when the level clears.

This gave me the chance to introduce him to the world of 8-bit chiptunes, and also try out some new sounds. Namely the AudioThing Minibit and Impact Soundworks Super Audio Boy.

But of course, it can’t all be nostalgia, so I gave him a couple of unused ScarKord dubstep beats to play with too.

Filter update

After some more thorough testing, I determined that the volume of the 3320 VCF was a little on the quiet side, noticeably lower than my other modules. Putting this down to the use of 100k resistors rather than the 91k specified on the circuit board, I decided to replace them and am happy to report this did the trick!

One other interesting thing I noticed is that even with the resonance turned all the way down, and cut-off all the way up, the 3320 VCF does add a little bit of colour to the incoming signal, softening the edges and (dare I use a cliché) making it sound warmer.

Resonance seems to self-oscillate nicely from about 50% onwards and seems pretty easy to tune. There are also optional solder points on the PCB for a 1v/Oct input, so I’ve no doubt it could be quite a capable oscillator too.

All in all, a great addition to my modular synth and looking forward to trying out some other Guru Gara Synth modules in the future!

Pain in the resistors

Well that was a pain in the… resistors.

Finally got the new 3320 VCF module working after tearing my hair out a little. With the lockdown, I’ve had to source the components in dribs and drabs and can’t always get the exact components stated on the circuit board.

About a week ago, I finally took delivery of the last capacitors I needed then excitedly plugged it in and heard… nothing.

A bit of headscratching later, I chanced upon the idea of sending a voltage through the CV input which initially did nothing, until I swept the filter knob, which revealed a comb filter type noise, but only when the knob was pointing straight up. Resonance did nothing to the sound, and I had silence at either end of the filter range.

Where do I start?

My first thought was that perhaps the 100k B potentiometers were faulty, or that I had bought the wrong ones and got my Linear vs Exponentials in a twist. So, I checked stock at http://www.thonk.com and fortunately they had some.

Then, this morning, I had the joy of desoldering the old pots and installing the (arguably superior) new ones. Unfortunately, it didn’t fix the issue.

I checked my soldering again – all looked sound to me – so as a last resort double checked that I’d used the correct resistors. And low and behold, the 91k resistors I had been sent (and which were in a bag labelled 91k) were actually 910k! In fairness, the difference between the two is just a red stripe rather than an orange one, and even my wife wasn’t sure what colour they were when I asked her to check. So I desoldered all four of them, and replaced with 100k resistors (the closest I could find) and I’m pleased to say the module sprung into life.

I still didn’t have any resonance though, but tracked this down to some damage I’d inadvertently caused on the board around one of the resonance knob pins. I could just about work out where the pin was meant to be going though, so added a jumper wire to link to the appropriate resistor, and I have resonance too!

Whether the 100k vs 91k resistors makes a difference to the sound, I’m not really sure, but it sounds good to me and I’m currently enjoying feeding some sample and hold through the CV input.

This was the first time I’d built a module just from a PCB and Panel, rather than a full kit, and it definitely makes me appreciate the convenience a full kit gives you, even if I did save a bit of money along the way.

Thanks for listening!

Four posts in four days! Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has listened to my #loopathome tracks on soundcloud and metapop. It’s a marked difference to the trickle of listens I usually get on soundcloud, although it’s also true I haven’t been particularly productive over the last few years.

I’ve obviously been a lot more blocked than I had realised, and whilst a large part of that is due to the disruption of moving the family home and taking on a massive rebuilding project over the last couple of years, I do still get time in the studio but generally procrastinate or create little 8-bar loops that I decide to throw away due to self-doubt.

But, this weekend of experimentation gives me much to feel positive about and look forward to, as well as putting me in touch with a new group of talented musicians from around the world. Let’s keep it going!