Buchla Music Easel Simulator
Cross-posting this from Patchstorage here: https://patchstorage.com/buchla-music-easel-simulator/
Where to start…..?
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I have been poking at this project for a while and finally decided I would share it out. It really began just as an experiment and a way to teach myself about synthesis in general, but it’s reached a point where I am enjoying making music with it, so I decided it might be fun for all of you to poke at and perhaps contribute to.
Some caveats up front:
– I am not an experienced synthesist or programmer. This has been a teaching tool as much as anything for me.
– I do not have a real instrument, and I’ve actually never even had my hands on one. In fact, I do not own any modular gear.
– I’ve done my best to reverse-engineer the functionality and behavior based on watching demos, performances, reading forum posts and user guides, but I am confident I have missed a bunch of stuff, large and small.
– I’ve largely tried to replicate the original 208 rather than the more modern 208C or Command.
– I’ve tried as best I could to translate the real instrument’s interface into Drambo’s control scheme, but there are some obvious limitations, differences and compromises made.
– In keeping with the performance-oriented spirit of the original instrument I’ve tried to balance usability in the translation. Patching a Drambo instrument as complex as this on the fly is very cumbersome, so I’ve added some additional input selection switches to make it easier and less error prone. Also, I’ve liberally sprinkled Transpose modules through the CV chain for my own convenience.
– Despite having never touched a real Music Easel, I can confidently say that this is far more challenging and frustrating to use than the real instrument. I play this primarily using an Arturia Minilab mkII midi controller, which I find is a huge improvement.
– BIG ONE: At least passing familiarity with the actual Easel is probably mandatory to be able to use this. I’ve replicated some of the instrument’s oddities, and I’ll try to note them below, but I’d encourage you to watch an Easel video or two before trying to play this if you’re not familiar with the real thing.
Layout and notes:
I’ve organized the tracks largely by function, with a few tracks dedicated just to controls.
MAIN track: This is the main output for the instrument, and also houses the Sequencer track(s). I’ve used Drabmo’s built-in track sequencer rather than a CV or Gate/Velocity Sequencer because it’s less cumbersome to edit and perform with.
– There is an AU slot in the “MAIN OUTPUT” rack for a Spring reverb. I’ve used both the reverb from iVCS3 and Eventide’s standalone AUV3. I’ve found the Eventide more stable.
– There are a few other open AU Processor slots cued up after the “MAIN OUTPUT” rack for delays, shimmers, modern reverbs, etc.
SWITCHES track: This houses…. switches (and a few knobs). These are almost all N-1 remote controls for other N-1 modules buried down below in the SIGNAL track, using the “Index” patch points. The controls correspond roughly to the top row of controls on the real instrument, but also includes a number input and other controls to enable easier patching.
SLIDERS track: Again… sliders… like it says on the tin. Like the switches, these are all just remote controls for modules down in the synth engine on the Signal track. One note here: the Envelope sliders are reversed from what you would expect, just like on a real instrument.
CV: This is what you’ll want to keep selected as you perform and play, and there’s a LOT going on here. I’ve tried to break the functionality into sections so they are easier to follow, but it’s still a beast.
This track houses the functionality of both the 218’s keyboard controls, as well as the patch row of the hardware instrument. Tip: jacks in this row are enabled by selecting by the “Jack” settings on the switches above.
– Sequence CV section– this is receiving Midi from the MAIN track (where I house sequences). There’s a SEQ CV Voltage UP module to step up the pitch signal into something powerful enough to modulate things like the LPG.
– Keyboard CV: This section contains all of the Keyboard-related controls.
KEY CNTL takes midi in from the track, and performs a few midi-only functions (mainly the arp).
PRESET VOLTAGE SRC (or PVS for short) partially replicates functionality of the 4 buttons on the far right side of a real instrument’s 218 touch keyboard. It allows selection of 4 pre-tuned CVs, either as a modification of the keyboard pitch, or as a separate pitch control for one of the two oscillators. If you expand it, you’ll see a couple of modules (labeled Midi) used to scale midi note signals from the drum pads of my Artuiria Minilab midi controller to select the 4 different voltages. To play with it, route Midi from your controller of choice to the MIDI CH 10 FROM SLIDERS component and reconnect the ‘index’ input of the “Select” module to the MIDI CV Scaler module. That took a while to figure out…
KEYBOARD CV OUT add portamento, and also allows you to more easily split the keyboard CV from the PVS to play both oscillators separately.
PULSER is my attempt to replicate some of the flavor I hear in performances of the real instrument.
RANDOM VOLTAGE SOUCE uses as LFO and a second SH as a cheap substitute for the Buchla uncertainty circuit. An inverter and a Feedback send help with more complex routing.
ENVELOPE is mostly self-evident, though you’ll see 2 Inputs next to the rack. The first is a trigger input which is remoted into other modules inside the rack. The second is a patch point to allow CV modulation of any of the 3 stages (in combination with the ENV MOD TARGET switch up in the SWITCHES row)- a bit of functionality I had to steal from the Easel Command because it’s cool.
One thing I haven’t tackled successfully yet is getting the envelope to self-trigger. Pointers would be awesome.
The rest of the row are patch points for the Oscillators and LPGs, again pointing down to the guts of the instrument in the SIGNAL track.
I could write a whole other novel on the SIGNAL track, but let’s just say it is functional rather than elegant.
Thanks for looking and I'd love any pointers, tips, suggestions to improve it.