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If you build your own synth modules, you MUST join this Yahoo group.

Modular Synth Panels

Members include just about all the well-known DIYers. They post FPD files for their custom modules. FPD is Front Panel Designer, the software used by Schaeffer USA to allow hobbyists to design and order their own machine-engraved aluminum panels. All you do is load the proper FPD file in the program, and then you can order finished panels directly via internet connection. Or, use the panel layouts as masters to design your own custom panels. It’s a very easy-to-use, basic CAD program.

I’ve used Front Panel Designer for prototypes and custom jobs, and the resulting panels are beautiful. They are anodized, and various anodizing colors (and colors of engraved text and graphics) are available.

Some of the panels that group members have made:
Bob K Modular

The “Thummer” is a legitimate controller design.

Although I need to note that Jim Plamondon, the inventor and promoter thereof, hasn’t had much luck finding investors willing to bankroll mass production. And it is a shame. A simple version of it would not be very costly to manufacture.

He has been very, very aggressive about promoting his idea. For example: Valleywag, Wall Street Journal, Wired, Engadget, Coolest-Gadgets, and a TV station in Austin TX.

Didn’t anyone tell Mr. Plamondon, a former Microsoft marketing dude, how difficult it is to sell a new kind of musical instrument to musicians? If I were offering advice, I’d tell him to start small. Manufacture a boutique version, get some user feedback. Build the business up slowly, because, trust me, it is the only way.

This IS NOT a mass market. It IS NOT like selling a videogame gadget. Musicians are conservative and spend irrational amounts of time practicing on their existing instruments. Popularizing a new instrument is like invading Russia. Look at Adolphe Sax — he battled other instrument makers in court over patents, and his saxophone did not become popular until well after his death.

Judging from the Wall Street Journal article, which ran six months ago, this is probably a dead issue by now:

“Taking stock of his savings, he says he has about six months left before he’ll have to find a full-time job. At that point the Thummer will be relegated to an evenings-and-weekends enterprise, he says, “and that’s the death of a start-up.””

How NOT to sell your obscure self-released industrial CD.

Matrix ran a link today to this Denver outfit, called Revolution State.

Right there, on the front page, frontman Ben Pebley runs his Livejournal. In which he:

(1) complains that he can’t figure out how Trent Reznor manages to give away his music for free.

And (2) bitches “I hate audacious bastards that think they are somehow “entitled” to steal our music. There is NO reason in the world that anyone is entitled to steal our music. It’s only $10 for our CD for fucks sake!”

Sorry, Ben, with all due respect, you’re doing this incorrectly.

I’ve never heard of you. And since the mp3 samples on your “discog” section are broken links, I still have no idea what your work sounds like. Without some reference, I’m not inclined to drop $10 on your CD. Just trumpeting your love of Einsturzende Neubauten and Coil won’t quite do the job. You still have to get people to notice you. Living in Denver won’t help either–have you toured on the East or West Coasts lately?

Perhaps the “provegan animal liberation revolution” needs some work.

(Message to Dave Lovelace: read their Livejournal and tell me what you think.)

Tapdrum — a DIY kit

It’s been around for several years. There is an AOL homepage from 1999.
The guy who runs this is named Urip Wisnuardi, I think he’s Indonesian. He also sells OEM GPS modules.
A Tapdrum board accepts up to 8 analog inputs from piezo sensors (or whatever–you could feed audio into it if desired), from which it generates MIDI note and velocity data. More than one Tapdrum circuit can be daisychained together to obtain more than 8 inputs….video here.

Anyone built this? Share your experiences.

The Tonal Plexus IS shipping….

I just heard from Aaron Hunt, the head of H-PI Instruments. He says that their Tonal Plexus MIDI controller has been shipping since last October, in the 2-octave and 4-octave form.

$1292 is really not much to pay for a PROGRAMMABLE microtonal keyboard that can do ANY scale, with 422 keys (!). In fact, that’s a steal.
tonal plexus layout
Think about it–the next instrument up that can do this, the Haken, costs THREE TIMES as much as the Tonal Plexus. Not sure if the C-Thru can do programmable scales.

Plus, microtonality makes it more flexible than the other alternate keyboards, which H-Pi lists here.

(No idea the Terpstra cost $10,000. Still no idea if they shipped any.)

I am very tempted to get a 2-octave Tonal Plexus. No, this is not an advertisement. It would be interesting to see if it can give full effect with popular MIDI-CV converters like the Kenton.

Aaron’s site also has a section on microtonal keyboards of the past. READ IT.

The Ohm

Apparently is now shipping–announced last year: The Livid Ohm Controller
Ohm controller
Pretty! Sexy too! Unfortunately I can’t tell if it can be programmed to put out MIDI note-on and note-off from the keys. It is oriented toward DJs who use software, specifically Livid’s, which is included, in which case an $899 price is a screaming bargain. (Don’t ask about Linux usability.) They also have another key-to-MIDI board for DIYing, which is “shipping soon”:

What makes me sad: when CDM ran an article about the Ohm last year, their comments section filled up with sleazy trolling. Scroll down to read it. Little shits. It’s a miracle that Livid manufactured this controller, most software-oriented companies can’t be bothered to make hardware. No wonder there aren’t more alternate controllers available…..put one out, stand back and watch as faceless bastards attack you in comment areas.

Still looking for an alternate MIDI controller

Forgot to check Doepfer. It’s great that Dieter is doing something different, and for that I salute him and encourage him.

The CTM64 is not only available now, you can even buy the separate parts and piece them together as needed. It handles up to 64 button inputs.
Doepfer CTM64
If you want to make an alternate controller, this looks to be the least costly way. The CTM64 main board is $135 from Analogue Haven. The 8×8 square matrix button board is 125 euros direct, ask Analogue Haven if they have them. You can always create your own. I’m thinking of getting a CTM64 and designing a PC board for a keyboard with a staggered key arrangement, using these tact switches. Caps are available for them—in 6 colors.

Now, if only Dieter would put out that touchplate keyboard he keeps showing……

Betcha never heard of this MIDI controller.

The Opal controller

By reading this guy’s site, one gets the feeling that he was the original designer of the C-Thru controller. And it looks as if he and C-Thru had a falling-out. So now he’s making his own version. It appears to be the same key layout as the C-Thru. No prices are mentioned. (Not likely to be a bargain.)

I only found out about this because an Opal owner put his hamster in a plastic ball and let the little bugger roll around on his Opal controller. And put it on Youtube. (I really do wish the “Web 2.0 Revolution” would allow us to tag Youtube videos for stupidity.)

sorry, it’s hosed again

We upgraded to the latest version of WordPress (2.3.3) as of ten days ago, and it’s already polluted with some kind of virus that posts spam links in the message bodies. It also blocks comment posting and screws up various settings. As before, WordPress is unhelpful.

Please try to post something and let’s see if it works.