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I should have started this earlier but no time to myself with a business and young family going...here goes:

I've been interested in synth bass for a long time. It comes out of a enjoyment of dance music generally which goes back to an Abba album 'Arrival' and Jean Michel Jarre's Equinoxe V which then kind of expanded into disco with Chic and then funk/rnb.

For the last 10 years I wanted to get a set up that allows me to arpeggiate bass synth.  I kind of achieved that in a basic way with an FI pedal and tap tempo slap back delay to produce the bassline to I Feel Love.  It's pretty close to how it was achieved by Giorgio Moroder originally also.  But I wanted to get a bit more into keyboard bass without being able to play a keyboard.  I really like the Freemasons and have wanted to emulate what they do for a long time. Their tracks are satisfyingly bombastic in nature and that includes their bass lines - some great disco influences too.  Check out these for example:

 

But the one track that made me go 'hmmm' was this one.

It's got layered basslines - one arpeggiated, one a pedal drone...and I guess there's a third in there as well for accented notes.  I thought to myself how fantastic would it be to be pumping out something as powerful and immersive at a gig some time...?  So my quest began...

For what it's worth, I already have a decent pitch to MIDI system using my 6 string Shuker into a Terratec Axon MkII and Yamaha CSR6 synth module.  But the latency on low notes makes it next to impossible to achieve anything close to the tightness of modern dance tracks.  Yes I could string it with piccolo strings and transpose everything an octave down but that's a load of faff considering the user interfaces are so poor in the stuff I already have.

One option would be the Roland VB99 system, it seems to be fairly reliable but the current model is sort of cab/independent stand based and doesn't really work with the other kit.  Besides, having plumped for the Future Impact, I really wanted to work with that.

Another option would be Steve Chick/Industrial Radio MIDI controller based on his proprietary fret sensing tech.  I've met Steve and given an earlier system (when Charles Celia was making his basses) a go.  There was virtually no latency and now the basses are made from Warmoth parts, a system works out to about 1600 quid.  But to get the best out of it, the bass needs an expert set up which only Steve can do at the moment.  Steve lives in Sydney which is a bit of a walk.  I could use the fret sensing system with the Future Impact pedal but I have no idea how I would arpeggiate at this point, without some extra gear...which might make the FI redundant.

So I decided to look into pedal based options given that they were generally more accessible and I already had a Future Impact and a Zoom B3.

 

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About 5 years ago I did a bit of research into pedal based arpeggiators, not really expecting to find something so specific but to my surprise Eventide offered an arpeggiator in the Pitchfactor pedal.  So I plumped down three hundred or so of your finest English sterling and had one delivered. 

Pitchfactor-right.png
After getting to know the pedal a bit, it became apparent (and this wasn't clear in the user manual) that the patterns available weren't user editable.  Basically they gave you some stuff and it was up to the user to decide whether they were creatively inspired by them or not.  There was one guy who actually found a way to hack the pedal and create patterns using MIDI CC messages but it required some fairly deep (and time consuming) digging about in the editor.

The disappointing thing that became apparent after using the pedal for a bit was that the thinking specifically behind the Pitchfactor was very fluffy.  Lots of features available but they didn't really take things one step further and think about what those features might be used for beyond being 'creatively inspired'.  So I reluctantly sold the pedal and didn't much do much else for another 3 years.

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So about 6 months ago I decided to do a bit more research to see if the market had any new products and it turned out that one company, Cooper FX, somewhere in the backwoods of 'Murica had made a pedal called the Moment Machine that specifically functioned as an arpeggiator. 

So once again I furtively plumped down two hundred and fifty of your finest sterling...twice actually.  The first time I ordered from Ebay, I had it shipped via the Ebay Global Priority programme for a heinous amount.  Still, you had the best of the best shipping service, right?

Wrong.  The package was stopped at customs in Guangzhou and I received a request for my passport to prove my identity if I didn't want the package confiscated and destroyed.  Given my work visa needed to be renewed later that week, and Customs categorically refused to guarantee either the safety of my passport while in their care or the timely return to avoid being an overstayer, I refused.  The package (as far as I know) was destroyed. But not after a complaint to Ebay and a full refund including shipping was provided.

Fast forward another month and I bagged another which was forwarded via DHL from a friend in London - it arrived without any problems.

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So after a Moment Machine finally arrived, it seemed to work really well.
cooper-1.jpg
The arpeggiation was accurate and user programmable.  The user interface is pretty good for a pedal, relatively easy to navigate and set up. I did notice that if I started both the tap tempo on the Moment Machine and on my Zoom B3 at 120, they would go out of sync after maybe 8 bars or so.  This was surprising but I guess the Zoom might be at fault given it doesn't have any MIDI in or out and was built to a budget.  I managed to program in the bassline to I Feel Love but...

...and you knew there was going to be a ...'but'...

...when two steps of the same pitch came after one another, they sounded like one note.  This is because the notes are sampled as they are supplied.  So if they are supplied without an envelope, then the steps will sound like a continuous tone of double the length in duration.  I tried emailing the guy who makes them but no reply and apparently he's too busy given he's still finishing university(!!!)  So I set the Moment Machine to one side and carried on looking.

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By this time, I had started to look into ways of sustaining an arp bass line alongside a manual bass line.   It became clear that I would have to look into separate signal chains within the same pedal board so I started searching for mixers and channel splitters that might do the job.  There wasn't really much out there until a few months ago when EHX announced the Tri Parallel Mixer.  


1564057273_1495938.jpg
This looked like it might be what I was looking for, although mono only.  So one of those will be on it's way shortly. 

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There was also the problem of how to sustain an arpeggiator while playing other things.  A MIDI based solution like Taurus pedals would be relatively simple - there's a sustain function in MIDI.  Funnily enough EHX (to the rescue again) came up with an interesting pedal that does pretty much that, like the hold function on a Boss DD7, the Freeze pedal.  And it was reasonably priced as well. 
Freeze-large.jpg

Basically you set the thing up so that it latches on and off and press the pedal roughly in the first half second of a note for it to capture a micro sample and loop it infinitely.  It works pretty well although there are some things to watch out for:
1) For a synth note generated with an envelope, it won't capture the full ADSR characteristics so the pedal has to be placed carefully in relation to the bass synth pedal and the arpeggiator pedal. I ended up putting it between them both which doesn't work out perfectly so it's a work still in progress.  It kind of double emphasises the need for an envelope in the arpeggiator section (which we will get to later) to define the note in each step.
2) Once the pedal is holding a note, you can still play through the pedal on top of the note being held.  The problem is that if I'm playing through another signal chain at the same time, it's possible to continue triggering notes in the arpeggiator.  I wish there was an option to block the audio pass-through function via a micro switch on the side.  The EHX Tri Parallel mixer can block off one loop at a time BUT it means that I have to switch that loop back in every time there is a chord change. It's a faff.

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So regardless, this is kind of where things are going.  There's an H9 pedal which will provide modulation, slap back delay and pitch shift after the Deep Impact.

gear mono.PNG

 

But the story isn't finished yet...

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A bit more digging around in recent months brought another pedal with an arpeggiator function to my attention - the Adrenalinn III.  It's an unusual box of tricks jam packed...possibly over flowing with features including an 8 bar drum machine with 8 sets of classic Linn drum samples, full sounding amp model sims from some interesting amps including Bogner, Peavey 5150 and a Boogie Mk2, plus various modulation and delay related effects.   It's a great sounding pedal - everything sounds very warm and analoguey.  Some of the amp sims are a little raw sounding but nothing unpleasant or unusable by any means.

adrenalinn_iii_main_photo.png

There are 199 presets available so plenty of storage space and MIDI channels.  The primary purpose of the unit is to do beat related effects so if a player wants delays chopped up in time to the music or cycles synced to tempo then this box will do it.  It can do that effect at the start of Green Day's Broken Boulevard and John Mayer used Adrenalinns I, II and III for three of his hits:

https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/Rig_Rundown_John_Mayer

So this week I looked into how to set the unit up so that I could do I Feel Love to start with. The sounds in the presets sounded great - there was a definition to the notes that I learned from the user manual, was due to each step having it's own individually definable envelope filter (something I really wished was in the Cooper FX Moment Machine).  The user manual also mentioned all sorts of things about programming for drums but I couldn't find how to programme the pitches for each step in a user defined sequence.  So I fired off an email to Linn asking for help and Roger Linn himself replied within 24 hours.  He said that the arpeggiator was very simple - a flanger where the resonance frequency was controlled by each step.  Which in other words meant to me that it wasn't an arpeggiator, it's a sequenced filter.  This kind of explained why I was getting clarity on some notes and not others.  I have to admit that I was disappointed it wasn't accurately described in the user manual.  The pedal sounds so good in all the other ways that I hadn't planned to use it in, it's a little swiss army knife of a thing.

So at this point, we are back to the Moment Machine and the journey continues.  The FI doesn't have an arp.  The Moment Machine doesn't have an envelope filter for each step.  The Adrenalinn III doesn't actually have an arp, it's a sequencer based filter.  Seems to me like there is a large gap in the market for players who want to emulate arpeggiated synth bass but don't want the hassle of spending days hunched over a small screen scrolling through endless menus and mapping various bits of kit to one another.

Right now the Moment Machine, for its lack of an envelope filter, is as good as it gets without the prospect of a company like Panda MIDI including an arpeggiator in a version of the Future Impact.

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That is a monster post @kiwi !!!

Havent got time to read it all now, but looking forward to learning your synth brain later. Right up my street!

 

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Yeah you're right, I'm sorry.  I should have started it a year or so ago but didn't have time.  It's been bottled up all this time.

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Oh dear. I am just using Taylor's FMeron. But if in need, Misa TriBass + Novation BassStation can put out some fun stuff. Not yet on a gig, though.

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I can not remember who it is; but one member here uses the EHX tri-mixer thingamy and absolutely loves it. Someone help my old brain out.

Doesn't the new Boss SY-1 come with an arpeggiator too?

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2 hours ago, itu said:

Oh dear. I am just using Taylor's FMeron. But if in need, Misa TriBass + Novation BassStation can put out some fun stuff. Not yet on a gig, though.

I'd never heard of the FMeron until now. But it is a little limited in comparison to the Future Impact.  Also found out that the GR55 DOESN'T do arpeggiation.

7 minutes ago, Daz39 said:

Doesn't the new Boss SY-1 come with an arpeggiator too?

If it does, there's no user programmable function built in to it.
https://www.boss.info/us/products/sy-1/

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I woke up this morning with a bit of a plan - put the Adrenalinn III after the Moment Machine and clock sync them to each other (assuming one can send clock sync messages) then use the Adrenalinn's envelope filter to slice whatever is coming out of the Moment Machine. So long as they are in sync there is no need for the Adrenalinn to be velocity sensitive.

So I gave it a go - just proof of concept at this stage without tempo sync as I was impatient. You'll see in the video, I start with the FI using the editor to trigger a patch.  Then I engage the Moment Machine for 15 seconds or so, then the Adrenalinn III.  It kind of works.  But the Moment Machine and the Adrenalinn III are definitely working on a different tempo despite both being set to 120bpm and need syncing via MIDI. 

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So looking at the user manuals for both, the Moment Machine's MIDI port is input only.  The Adrenalinn III has both in and out MIDI.  So I set the MIDI clock setting in the Adrenalinn to send (out) and the Moment Machine to recieve (MIDI).  Any joy..?

No. 

The Adrenalinn is sending a clock signal as it's possible to test by setting up a clock sync feedback loop by connecting the MIDI in and MIDI out together.  So something is up with the Moment Machine.

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18 hours ago, Daz39 said:

Doesn't the new Boss SY-1 come with an arpeggiator too?

Yes it does. And its arpeggiator is superb.

It is not programmable nor midi enabled but the arpeggiator speed is very easily adjusted both via its dials and also by using an expression pedal. It also tracks like a deer hunter polyphonically, which can leave other synth pedals in the shade. 

The strength of the SY-1 is its simplicity of use. If you don't want to spend a lot of time PC editing then that's where it comes into its own. 

So you could either go down the wonderful but complex, expensive and real estate consuming approach as illustrated so well in the diagram above to get your arpeggiator needs sorted. 

Or just get one Boss pedal. 

Edited by Al Krow

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18 minutes ago, GisserD said:

@Kiwi The Source audio C4 has a programable sequencer..... it might be of interest to you?

image.png.e20253a3fe60a817a3599f7a3f237359.png

@Quatschmacherwill be along shortly to tell you if its any good or not.

Yup, and this has midi capability as well as PC editing. (But mono rather than poly). 

Don't have a view on the C4 arpeggiator yourself D? 

Edited by Al Krow

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1 minute ago, GisserD said:

i havent tried it yet.

That's kinda interesting and actually says a lot about the "immediacy/accessibility" of the C4 (and FI) vs a non programmable / dial accessed pedal like the SY1. 

Both @Woodinblack and myself were onto the arpeggiator on the SY1 straight away - and both came to the conclusion that it really is very good and one of the best features on the SY1.

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its just as accessible as all the other paramaters in the c4.

My lack of free time has no effect on the C4s performance whatsoever!

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36 minutes ago, GisserD said:

@Kiwi The Source audio C4 has a programable sequencer..... it might be of interest to you?

 

image.png.e20253a3fe60a817a3599f7a3f237359.png

@Quatschmacherwill be along shortly to tell you if its any good or not.

Are those the pitches of the steps? I am assuming you can change the number of steps.

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11 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

That's kinda interesting and actually says a lot about the "immediacy/accessibility" of the C4 (and FI) vs a non programmable / dial accessed pedal like the SY1. 

Both @Woodinblack and myself were onto the arpeggiator on the SY1 straight away - and both came to the conclusion that it really is very good and one of the best features on the SY1.

Partly, yes. Having it on a top means people are more likely to try it out. Having said that, the sequencer and arpeggiator of my Subsequent 37 are on the panel but I’ve barely used them as they aren’t features I’m that bothered about. The same goes for the C4 - I’ve barely used those features yet. It is pretty good though with a range of preset patterns and one programmable pattern. It doesn’t (currently) have the ability to program rests though nor have a swing function. 

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2 minutes ago, Woodinblack said:

Are those the pitches of the steps? I am assuming you can change the number of steps.

yes the yellow bar represents the pitch. plus or minus 2 octaves.

theres some really usefull presets too. 16 steps is the maximum.

 

image.png.1d92e6a9113712e194b2769d9518115f.png

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