January Projects

  1. Mixing a 4-song EP I recorded with Cory back in November
  2. Designing and testing the Falcon Heavy v2.0 pedal
  3. Mod work on my Sunmachine Fuzzo))) and Basic Audio Scarab Deluxe pedals
  4. Having fun with the new Volca Bass synth
  5. Listening to great new stuff from Nilsson to Run The Jewels to Martin Gore

The Best Music We Heard In 2016

Here is the best music we heard in the past year. Most, but not all, was also released in 2016.

Top 20 (in random order)

Honorable Mention:
Aesop Rock, “The Impossible Kid” (2016)
Bon Iver, “22, A Million”, “” (2016)
David Bowie, “Blackstar” (2016)
Deftones, “Gore” (2016)
Hammers of Misfortune, “Dead Revolution” (2016)
Lincoln Marshall, “Water” (2016)
Maxwell, “blackSUMMERS’night” (2016)
Operators, “Blue Wave” (2016)
The Powder Room, “Lucky” (2016)

Larsen Expressive Feedback Loop

I finished testing and finally boxed up the Larsen Expressive Feedback Loop this morning.  It’s good to have it done.

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It’s more of a prototype than a finished product; while the circuit itself is really solid and I’m proud of its design, learning to work with wah enclosures was a giant pain and I had to jerry-rig several things with the hardware to get it to work.

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Bit of a mess inside, but it’s loud and weird and fun.

The feedback potentiometer (what the foot treadle controls) is pretty sensitive; most of the play is toward the heel-down position of the treadle. If I were doing it again, I’d experiment with making a super-anti-log taper pot out of a linear pot and a resistor. Or, maybe I’ll upgrade this one with that in the future.

If I ever get around to making one of the doom records I’ve been writing, this thing will be all. over. it!

Summer and Fall on the Breadboard

This week I ran across an email from July 30, telling Drew and Cory I’d started messing with a feedback loop circuit on my breadboard.  It’s taken until this weekend to get it soldered up.

Testing, from about a week ago
Testing, from about a week ago

Feedback loops can be simple and fun, but simple ones have a lot of limitations. Two big ones are that many pedals do nothing in them (because the pedals flip the signal’s polarity, so feeding them back just results in a quieter sound due to phase cancellation), and that they can get excruciatingly loud, fast, if the rest of your signal chain has enough headroom for it (like if your amp is running pretty clean).

Here’s a pretty straightforward feedback loop designed by Beavis Audio

I fixed those issues with a polarity inverter and limiting/hard clipping in the feedback loop.  I also added expression via treadle control of the feedback amount, and two modes for the loop: always-on (regardless of feedback on or off) and only-on-when-the-feedback-is-also-on.  (Mode names need work.)

Most pedals have one input, one output, and the circuit itself in a sort of loop within the pedal.  A feedback loop effectively has three inputs (main input, loop return, feedback circuit output) and three outputs (main output, loop send, feedback circuit input).  I hadn’t thought about all of that when I jumped into designing one, and all those signals crashing into each other results in a lot of parallel impedances and switching headaches I didn’t anticipate.  Given the challenges, I’m pretty happy with the performance of the design.

It’s not quite finished yet because I seem to have burned one of the footswitch connections, so I’m waiting for a replacement part to arrive.  I’ll do a video once it’s done.

That’s a lot of tech talk, but it’s pretty intuitive once it’s plugged in, I think; when you roll your heel back, you get more feedback.  It’s super-fun to play and useful for anything from freak-out noise to gentle washes of added delay or reverb.

Conclusion of the Saga of the DS-1 Lab

I’ve finished my DS-1 lab experiments (previously discussed here and here) and boxed it up.  The full report is over on Mr. Furious Audio.

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Insides… whoah. 5 component changes, 8 added components, 3 added toggle switches, 1 added potentiometer/knob
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All boxed up with rad art from Cole. The switch cover (silver) (but not the rest of the enclosure or the circuit/components) is from my very first pedal ever, circa 2000-01.

Why Gear?

Some of us spend a good amount of time and energy on gear; searching, shopping, watching demos, even fixing, designing, and building new stuff.

Why not spend it on making music?

(I ask myself this, as the months pile up without a release… )

Making music is exploring, in many ways.  Exploring new techniques, more advanced skills, different performances, writing unique material, and new gear.  Gear is on the same spectrum.  Different areas of exploration speak to different musicians, and gear is one that seems to speak to me.

Gear can be inspiring.  For example, as I was finishing design work on my DS-1 lab yesterday, two new riffs popped out as I was fooling around and testing sounds.  They emerged out of my interaction with the pedal; they wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.

That validates the gear quest, for me, in principle.

Whatever keeps you exploring; do that.