Greetings Synth Seekers! For those of you keeping track, there wasn’t a post last month. The plan right now is for Synth You Asked to occur at the end of each month alongside the other regular Lindby content, but due to some big items we have in the works, we decided it would be best to push it to the beginning of October. And as far as those big items go, keep an eye out both in November and December!
For today’s post, my original intent was to go into the powerful world of Modulation Busses. This is really where some of the most interesting and complex sonic sculpting can occur.
However, upon reviewing the plethora of options that come from this section of the Minimoog Voyager, I realized there were a few quite vital odds and ends that didn’t fit into any of the previous blogs.
So, for the sake of being fully prepared for the wild world of Modulation Busses, I wanted to dedicate today to covering those handful of topics.
Right off the bat, I realized I skimmed over a very unique part of the oscillators. In addition to the main three oscillators, there is a fourth option called Noise. While the other three oscillators use specific combinations of harmonics to produce different waveforms and specific pitches, the Noise oscillator is every harmonic at once. It’s essentially sonic chaos/white noise. It has great use in sound effects such as waves, wind, etc. and is also used to help create percussion sounds.
Noise also plays a significant role as the source for a special circuit called Sample and Hold (which will now be called S&H). S&H is a special source that uses the complete chaos of the Noise oscillator to essentially generate a random pattern. When you hear a synth part in a song where the pitches are jumping all over the place in a seemingly random way, odds are that that synth is using an S&H circuit to make the random nature occur.
Additionally, the rate of change in the S&H circuit is dependent on the rate of the LFO. The S&H “samples” a piece of the Noise oscillator to generate a random pitch and then “holds” said pitch until the LFO has a new oscillation. Both of these factors (the noise being the source and the LFO being the rate of change) can be replaced with new sources, but we’ll cover that a little later. Those Modulation Busses are still calling out, and we need to get to them ASAP!
As we work our way down from the LFO section of the Voyager, we come to two knobs, then two switches, and finally two wheels.
Those two knobs are Fine Tune and Glide Rate. Fine Tune literally tunes the overall pitch of the Moog. It’s also truly the only way to adjust the pitch of Oscillator 1. Given that the Moog is generating voltage via circuit boards to create pitches, the instrument itself is subject to changes in temperature. Basically, the Moog has to warm up, and then you actually have to tune it. It’s the price you pay for analog goodness! Additionally, the guts of the Moog can be subject to ridiculous precise tuning, but instead of going into that here, I recommend checking out this post:
This was shared by someone who talked to an employee at Moog. It’s slightly more in depth, but if you ever own a Voyager, it’s far better to take an hour to do this as opposed to shipping your entire Moog back to the factory to get retuned.
The Glide Rate knob ties into the Glide Switch. These two items work hand in hand to allow a glissando (think when a trombonist slowly slides their slide or when a string player slowly moves up or down a string). The switch turns this feature on and off, and the knob controls how fast or slow the effect is. A stronger setting means a more pronounced glide which means it’ll take longer to slide from one note to another. Given the digital brain of these modern Voyagers means there are more advanced settings, but we’ll save that for when we get to the digital aspects of the instrument. The main focus right now is on the purely analog elements.
The other switch is the Release Switch. Release is the final piece of the roadmap when dealing with envelopes (you can read about envelopes and Release here). Since Release isn’t always desired, this switch gives you the option to immediately turn it on and off without adjusting the Release knobs over in the Envelope section of the Voyager.
The two wheels are the Pitch Wheel and the Mod Wheel (short for Modulation). Many, many keyboards today have both these wheels. The pitch wheel allows you to “bend” the pitch up or down by a certain amount (like how a guitarist bends their strings to raise the pitch). Once again, the digital hybrid nature of the Moog allows this range of bending to range from quite small to quite large, but that will be covered later on.
The Mod Wheel is the primary controller for one half of the Modulation Busses. It can do a whole lot more than that, but we’ll dive deep into the Mod Wheel next time.
The last item to discuss today if the Touch Screen. We won’t go into every possible item it can be used for, but since it can play a vital role in the Modulation Busses, I wanted to make sure I at least went over its four main elements. You can increase or decrease a certain signal three different ways: dragging left and right (the X axis), dragging up and down (the Y axis), or covering more surface area with more of your finger (known as A for area). The fourth parameter is that by touching the touch screen at all, that can trigger a gate to open or close. I feel a bit like a broken record, but many of these abilities tie in to the digital side of things, so once that digital post comes up, we’ll be right back to the touch screen.
At this point, the only items on the front of the Minimoog Voyager that haven’t been discussed (besides the Modulation Busses) are the digital center (and the associated buttons) and four special red switches underneath the Oscillation section. Those four red switches are a post unto themselves, and while they can tie in to the Modulation Busses, knowledge of them isn’t essential the way the other items mentioned above are.
Like always, I will leave you with a video demonstrating each of these items.
Now that these odds and ends are crossed off, we’ll take the plunge into the Modulation Busses next time!