After attending INTERZONE, I realized how intrigued I was with modular synths, how important their role is in electronic music, and their potential uses for electronic musicians regardless of genre. I wanted to learn more about how to use a synth and create my own modular synth set up to experiment with sound and my own music creations. Surely, I could not be alone in this venture.
I was beyond pleased when I found out that INTERZONE Music Festival offered a unique workshop for a few lucky attendees. The workshop was held as part of their afternoon program and it involved the construction of your own mini TS Synth. Not only would you be shown how to build the synth by professional electronic instructors, but you would be guided along the way in learning an essential technique needed to put your synth together, soldering.
This limited workshop was advertised on the festival website and sold out quickly. Fortunately, Zara, one of the festival organizers, allowed me to sit in on the synth workshop so I could learn more about the synth creation process. I was excited to understand what interested the other attendees in creating synths for their own musical pursuits.
As the class started, the eight attendees each shared their desire to learn more about using modular electronics to create music. The instructor, Peter (affiliated with PATCH:WORK Electronics in Brooklyn), provided the needed materials and soldering components. He pointed out the importance of lead soldier and using a proper soldiering iron to achieve the proper temperature. This class was appropriate for beginners who have never done soldiering nor created a synth before. A hand out manual on soldering was also provided with the words distribute wildly. Creating the proper soldering connections was essential in having this training session work, and Peter and his assistant instructed each student on how to handle a soldering iron, identify circuits and inspected their work so they could get the proper results. As a person who has never soldered before it was clear how important it is to understand the potentials of a project board and the circuit orientation to create the proper electronic connections.
Observing the group as they made their connections on electronic board, circuits and solder was truly remarkable. The construction process came together with ease and steadiness as there was great anticipation in the final outcome of this project which took about two-three hours. Peter pointed out how most electronics are not made by humans anymore, as machines will screen print and soldier all connections. As the students finished up with their work, a keyboard was constructed with resisters and parts they put together. Eventually the hiss of the synth’s which could be heard in the adjoining rooms like a cacophony of organs being pressed and played in a truly random pattern. The participants level of joy was apparent as they slid their fingers gently across the keys creating amazing sounds. While pressing the keys, the tones created managed to exhibit a sense of individuality as many modular synth systems tend to do. It was clear to Peter that the level of interest in synth creation was high and he informed the class that they would consider holding another class to meet the demand.
Seeing the potential in such a simple setup exhibited how a person could progressively build upon this and eventually create a system of their own to suit their own needs, free of limitations. Now in 2019, attendees could make their own synths for the low price of $35 dollars. What role would this DIY synth creator play in a musician’s synth discovery journey? From the level of interest in synthesizer repair and restoration that is booming in NYC and across the country it seemed clear how important a class like this is, and it demonstrated the relevance of synths down to the elemental level… even in a day and age where music creation feels somewhat more mechanized and less hands-on.
If you want to learn more about modular synth set up contact PATCH:WORK Electronics here.
*Featured Image via Richard Devine