Saturday, January 3, 2015

Twiddling the littleBits Korg

Since my first playing around with the littleBits, I've got the arduino configured so I can use my Akai MPK mini keyboard to control the littleBits synth. Hardware synths are new to me and one challenge is tuning the oscillators! They do have some drift and interesting interactions together. The MIDI program for the arduino has built into it some nice features to mimic an LFO by modulating the pitch with CC1 events and it supports portamento as well as pitch bending. This is much better than using the provided "mini keyboard" which basically is an array of switches:

With the arduino setup, I also can use my iPad to control pitches with any of its MIDI apps which I'll be doing more of as I go on. The piece above was with just the MPK mini on 2 tracks - one bass looped and the other sort a distorted guitar. The distortion interestingly enough was all from the modules in the little bits - no post processing bit crushers or digital noise added. The synth setup for this piece, I call a "mess-20" since it is sort of the MS-20 Korg configuration. 2 analog oscillators, an envelope into the filter that is triggered by note-ons and a simple delay module. 

The post processing was limited to some EQ, compression and a stereo-spread module to give the mono synth some sense of space. 

So after a few more days of tweaking, I still thing this is an incredible modular setup for very little money! I did add some modules to the bass Synth kit - specifically some wires, mixers, splitters and an additional envelope and oscillator. It is important to remember that these are Korg modules and it IS a mono synth, so no polyphony or stereo in the hardware itself is supported. Likewise, these modules are not inherently velocity sensitive, so any volume adjustments are limited to playing with the volume know (or much easier) done with automation on the track post recording. 

I usually record the audio into Logic and there I can add space with the stereo spreader or manipulate the recorded audio in any other ways. I'm sure this is old news to you audio gurus but for a  MIDI guy like me, there is a learning curve here. It took me awhile to get the levels right for recording and as of now I am still going through the iMac mic-in port which probably is not the cleanest. 

For patch preset saving I resort to the camera on my phone so I can remember the convoluted lego-like layouts of my synth modules for future use :). 

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