Three kHs ONE Tips

I’ve had the ONE Re since before it was released (I was a beta tester) but I’ve never said much about it, here or elsewhere. I thought I’d make up for lost time and share a few tips that are off the beaten path.

1. The sub oscillator doesn’t have to be a sub oscillator.

The initial patch sets the sub oscillator’s octave to -1. This is is very sensible but it will lead some to overlook that it can be set all the way up to +5. Using the sub oscillator’s unique tones in higher octaves greatly expands the range of sounds that you can create. (I’ve found it very helpful when creating pipe organ patches, for example.) Be warned, though, the sub oscillator’s anti-aliasing isn’t very good (in normal use, of course, it doesn’t need to be).

2. The oscillators can be freerunning.

Another feature you won’t find in normal use. When an oscillator’s gain is increased from 0% AFTER a note has been triggered, there will be a phase difference between it and the others. I’m not sure if this is a feature or a bug (I can’t confirm it’ll work in other formats) but there are some cool modulation effects to be had by modulating an oscillator’s gain and its shape and/or sync parameters simultaneously.

3. Simulating a different filter.

This one works on other synths, as well. With most resonant filters, increasing the resonance to high levels will attenuate the pass band quite noticeably. Others, like sallen-keys, Subtractor’s, and ONE’s, are gain compensated – pass band attenuation is never more than a few dbs. What to do if you want to emulate a patch that used a non-gain-compensated filter with a high level of resonance? Use both of ONE’s filters. A high pass filter between two and three octaves below the low pass filter will get you in the ballpark. Tweak to taste. (Sorry, 12db/oct cutoffs only.)

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037

I don’t watch many documentaries but I did watch this one, last nIt wasn’t wasn’t as educational as i hoped it would be but I enjoyed it. It follows the making of a Steinway concert grand – a year long process – and includes interviews with Steinway workers and pianists and happenings in the world od Steinway. There’s a great scene with jazz greats Bill Charlap and Kenny Barron selecting pianos. Barron is having a great time, playing beautifully on each of the pianos, while Charlap just doesn’t fit with any of them, playing many abortive attempts at Gershwin’s second prelude. Sadly, the audio recording of the whole film was quite poor. Very frustrating.

It was interesting to see how much of the work was done by hand. According to the film, this is because the work required too much precision. That’s untrue, though; Taylor Guitars, an industry pioneer in the use of CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machines, is able to make instruments the way they do because of the precision afforded by machine cutting (their neck joints are designed with such precision that the thickness of the finish has to be factored in.

Not to discount the quality of their pianos but it’s worth noting that Steinway’s success doesn’t stem from that alone. Historically, they have very aggressively pursued name recognition and familiarity among young musicians. This, among other business practices, is what makes them so dominant in the American piano market, today. I felt strange, hearing a Steinway executive lament other makers going out of business.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas. I like Christmas. It’s hard not to.

This Christmas brings a gift for the Reason users among us. A free crowd-sourced refill was created for the occasion and released several days ago. I intended to have my piano combis included but there was a miscommunication between myself and the organizers (my fault). Oh well; the patches readily available on my Free Combies Page.

It’s a 326 mb refill with patches for most Reason devices and a fair number of Rack Extensions. The total patch count is 1200. I’ve looked through it and there’s some good stuff. Kudos and thanks to all involved.

Review: LOXX Strap Locks

LOXX strap locks

Strap locks are a more secure way of connecting straps to guitars, basses, and the like than the factory supplied hardware. While there are low-tech options, the term most often applies to mechanical varieties. They come in two main parts, a replacement strap button and a device that catches on an inner lip when inserted  into the strap button (this is to be attached to the strap). While these are in some ways superior to the standard option (a conical piece of metal on the instrument and an expanding hole on the strap), they do have drawbacks.

They can outright fail. They can break free of the strap (in most designs, they attach to the side of the strap towards the instrument), they can slip loose of their mate, they can unscrew themselves from the instrument. Because the strap now attaches at the end of the strap button (unless the button is countersunk into the instrument), there is increased leverage and therefore increased strain on the wood which can rip the whole device free of the guitar. Some even creak and rattle and the sharp edges of the devices can damage the instrument’s finish (though this is rare, thankfully).

But there is one variety that solves most of these problems, albeit with a drawback that put me off at first. LOXX strap locks have a pin installed in place of the strap button which is then grasped by the piece attached to the strap. This has the obvious fault of keeping it from being used with an unmodified strap but not for no reason; this way, the strap is kept almost as near to the instrument as it would with a standard strap button. And since I really only ever use one strap with each instrument (as I expect is the case with most people), this drawback may be overlooked.

The LOXX design is new to guitars but has been used in the automotive and marine industries for decades, securing soft tops and the like. The design seems perfectly robust and reportedly will require 220 lbs of force to be exerted on it to fail. Because the pin is spherical, the lock pivots smoothly rather than requiring the strap to flex as the instrument’s position on one’s body shifts (not strictly necessary but nice – this reduces strain on the strap that might cause it itself to fail). Even the variety of finishes is impressive (I chose black).

Installation is simple: screw the pins into place and attach the threaded strap insert with the supplied purpose built washer. It even comes with a multitool. There was one hiccup (well, two – I accidentally cut myself) in my installation but it wasn’t a problem with the product; one of the pins went in crooked. It could be that I made a mistake screwing it in or it could be that the whole was already messed up (the guitar’s previous owner took it to a tech I used once). I’m pretty sure it was my fault but I’m going to blame that tech (shame on him).

Once the strap locks were installed, I was entirely pleased. They look far better in person and they seem very secure. The mechanics feel smooth while anything can break, I’m not concerned about accidents. Not only must you pull up on the mechanism with even pressure on each side (i.e., even if it got caught on something, which it won’t, nothing would happen) but the device resists disengaging when carrying the instrument’s weight. Best of all, the mechanics attach through the strap, from the side away from the instrument; the washer is just there for when the strap isn’t in use.

All in all, I have to give this a big thumbs up. I’m very happy with the product and would gladly receive samples for more exhaustive examination and review (another electric set and an acoustic set, nickel thanks *wink wink*). Much more information is available at their website, including an informative, albeit biased, comparison of their design and two common alternatives.

Happy Birthday, Thelonious

The High Priest of Bebop would have been 95. One of the finest musicians to ever live, Thelonious Monk was a pianist and composer notable for, among many other things, creative use of rhythm and chromaticism. His unusual style of playing has led to a small controversy in recent years in the form of speculation that he would be unable of winning the contest named after him.

Monk died under very sad circumstances. The last six years of his life in the home and care of jazz patroness and friend Baroness Pannoica de Koenigswater. During this time, he did not play music and spent very little time with guests.