dronesynth progress report
Just a quick update with some pictures to show how my drone synth is coming along. The design is now finished and two of the three boards are built.
The panel layout is sorted and I’m currently putting it together on a plastic panel to see how it works out. I have a metal panel but will see how the thing performs before going wild with a drill as there’s over 100 holes.
I’m currently thinking I may try a version with different oscillators but am doing my best not to get distracted and finish this first.
So, you may be asking, what does it do?
It is a 4 voice drone synth based on a number of different designs which after a great deal of head scratching have been modified, pillaged and shoehorned into my own design. I’m not claiming any originality here, my knowledge of electronics is good enough to understand enough of what happens in a circuit to see where I can take circuit blocks and chop and change them as required.
The design originated in Ray Wilson’s Weird Sound Generator and the Casper Electronics Drone Lab, which is itself based on Ray Wilson’s design. I wanted a bit more from my oscillators and with a bit of research discovered I could get a rough triangle(ish) wave out of the logic chips I was using as well to give more tonal variations.
As well as the tremolo circuits which came directly from the Drone Lab 2, I also added frequency modulation to the voices. And then I set about creating a set of modulation sources. There are 2 identical circuits which take a trigger or percussive audio input and produce a trigger pulse alongside a simple Attack/Hold/Decay envelope. The TRG-1 was my prototype test circuit for this.
Alongside this is a LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) based on Ken Stone’s Super Psycho Modulation Source but with additional single outputs for each of the LFO’s and also a mixer made from a NAND logic gate to produce a complex modulation source.
I’ve also added external modulation inputs so I can build even more modulation sources to warp the sounds!
For another sound source I’ve added a logic gate ring modulator that takes it’s feed from the square wave outputs of the voices.
The output stages are pretty much the same as the Drone Lab 2 except I’ve put voltage controlled modulation into the Low Pass Filter.
Just got to finish the thing now 🙂
I have been a little distracted by the Thomas Henry Mega Percussive Synthesizer pcb I purchased and have to confess to having done a teeny bit of construction work on that. As well as my desire to pay with my drone synth, wanting to have this circuit built as well is spurring me on to get thing finished. Hopefully I’ll have something in a fit state to post some noises soon.
I have enjoyed getting my head back into electronics mode again. This is why I went into electronics when I left school – to make funny noises. From constructing a Dub Siren for a friend at the end of 2010 I’ve been well and truly bitten by the DIY synth bug to the point where I’m now planning to build a full modular.
Watch this space and I’ll keep you informed of my progress.
Ok, so this post has turned out a little longer than originally planned. One more thing to add and then I’ll be off. Here’s a recording of a jam from a few years ago with my friend Dave, or The Reverse Engineer as he’s also known. This was one of those magical moments were things come together. After seeing a documentary on Krautrock I’d been exploring bands like Neu! and Cluster. This was probably also the root of my interest in building drones.
Dave and I had been having a few jams and this particular session started with me showing Dave how to use the Arpeggiator on my Juno 6. This was duly recorded by Dave and manipulated in Ableton. Dave came up with rhythm and some church bells and then we added me playing Bass through my old Tonebender fuzz.
The idea we had was to create something that started light and got more densely layered and intense until it reached a peak and just fell away. I would play a bassline which Dave would sample and loop on the fly and then we’d repeat this with new loops played, sampled and added – all live. Half way through the piece I switch to adding bits of synth to to multitude of loops Dave is playing with in Ableton.