Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A conversation with an old friend

I'm not sure what specifically inspired this, but I have been thinking a lot about my old friend, the Yamaha FB-01 synth module. I picked up this MIDI controlled FM synth box back in 1995 for $100, and it was one of the best purchases I have made. You can now find these regularly on E-Bay for around $50.  Over the years, the FB-01 has found its way on to most of my releases, and even survived my apartment/studio robbery in 1999. I guess it just didn't look impressive enough to steal. If you are not familiar with this box, it uses the same 4 operator FM synthesis as the DX-100 and TX81Z. The only problem is that you can not edit any patches without an external editor. For years I never really cared, I just used the factory presets (RubBass was my fave!) with maybe some external filtering or effects. I have used the presets in this box for kick drums, basses, pads and various FX over the years. Recently, I found a decent, free editor for PC's that works pretty well. You can check the editor out at:

With the background out of the way, I can get to the point. I like to make music, and have been in a musically creative rut for a while. Sometimes I think that limiting your tools can help inspire creativity, so I gave myself a challenge: to create a track using nothing but unaltered sounds from the FB-01. You can check out this little house tune in the video below, and see for yourself what one of these machines can do. All but one of the sounds used in the video are factory presets, as I haven't had the time to create a bunch of new patches yet. I only used sounds recorded in mono from the FB-01 into Pro Tools. I have not applied any additional effects, only adjusted levels and panning.

Patches Used:
-Custom patch based on modified Harp

I still think it sounds pretty good for a cheap synth module from 25 years ago, that is still widely overlooked. It has been nice to catch up with my old friend, and I'm pretty sure we'll be working together more soon!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Home studio remodeling, part 2

After spending most of my available time working on this project, my studio remodel is nearly complete. I have finished and installed all of my DIY acoustic treatment, cleaned, painted, and rearranged some of my gear. After installing all of the treatment and bass traps, the only thing I can say is "why did I wait this long to do this?" While it is difficult for me to quantify without testing, the bass response is much more clear and defined, with greater stereo imaging. I have yet to work on a serious production or mix, but in my preliminary noodling around I have been able to make better decisions regarding the low end frequencies on some of my work.

I will be posting sometime soon about my other DIY acoustic treatments, including how I made them, and what they accomplish for my room. 

Here are some pictures of the "new" setup:
Workstation view #1, and yes that is a lava lamp on the right above the rack gear.

Workstation view 2, including the door and how I made a trap work there.

Records...and some mics & other stuff.

The back wall.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Building your own bass traps

To build each bass trap panel you will need:

 2- panels of OC703 insulation
 2- 8' 1x4's for each trap, cut into two 4', and two 2' sections.
 -8 1.5" screws -enough fabric to cover your frames
 -some staples to keep the fabric on,
- 2 screw hooks for mounting to the wall.

We will begin by building a frame out of the 2 foot & 4 Foot sections, held together buy two screws in each corner. We then continue the assembly by laying our frame over a section of our fabric, and after pulling the fabric tight, begin stapling to the frame. Any breathable fabric works well on this project. For this example, I used some heavy sheets that I found at goodwill for $2 each.

Next, we insert our rigid fiberglass insulation panels into our partially covered frame. I used Owens Corning 703 panels, 2"thick. There is a comparable Johns-Manville product, or Roxul rockwool is also adequate. You will need to find an insulation supplier near your town, as this stuff is not at all like the fluffy pink stuff generally available at big box hardware stores.
 My frames were a little short of 4 feet, so I trimmed off the excess insulation with a serrated knife I also picked up from the thrift store. I do not recommend cutting these panels with a knife you plan on using in the kitchen again.

We continue to cover the backside of the trap with our fabric, remembering to pull tight, fold in our corners neatly, and then staple. After our cover is in place, I trim off the excess material, and set it aside for later use.

I chose to attach 2 screw hooks to the back side of the trap, and mount two eye hooks in our wall to mount the panels With our eyes and hooks in place, we simply lift and hook the panel in place, straddling the corner of our room at a 45 degree angle.

Some of us have doors in the corners of our rooms, so in the pic below I decided to hang this corner panel with some chain from the ceiling, allowing the panel to move in the event someone needs to open the door.

Don't forget about wall to ceiling corners as well. Low frequencies build up in all corners, not just the 4 vertical corners.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Home Studio Remodeling

I am currently in the process of remodeling my home studio, aka Anode Records World Headquarters located in suburban St. Louis, MO. My space is a 13' x 16' carpeted room in the basement, with a ceiling height that is 6'8" for just over half of the room, and 7'6" for the remainder. My plans include thorough cleaning, new paint, building a good deal of acoustic treatment and bass traps, and actually connecting a lot of the equipment that has just been sitting around. You can see my proposed layout in the Sketchup pictures I have made below. I will not include actual pictures at this time, because it is a bit of a disaster since my time for this is limited.

The general layout includes my rack gear and synths to the right of the computer desk, the DJ setup along the left wall, and the guitar, mics, and PA will be along the back wall.
In future posts & videos, I will detail building and testing all acoustic treatments.
I like using Google's Sketchup to visualize things before moving forward. It's a fun and free program available HERE
My main goal is to create a Reflection Free Zone(RFZ) for the mix position, and to tame the early reflections in the rest of the room so that I can actually record non electronic instruments and vocals with clarity.