Dec 302012

Here we have a song called Noise Inside My Head by the band Assemblage 23 remixed by yours truly.  This is a project I’ve wanted to do for some time and just recently decided to shoehorn it in to the schedule as a fun diversion.  Tom Shear is the man behind A23′s music (see an exclusive interview here) and has generously posted stem files from a few of his songs on the band website to allow fellow producers and fans alike to take a stab at creating their own remix.

For those interested in the production process that went into the remix there’s more info below.


Original Song:



Studio Wormbone Remix:



Production notes about the making of the remix:

After downloading and quickly studying the song’s stem files (individual instrument tracks) I decided to approach the remix by rebuilding each separate instrument line from scratch.  The song structure is a pretty straightforward verse/chorus/bridge pop tune, which is a tried-and-true formula.  I elected to maintain the song’s existing shape for this project and concentrate on reverse engineering the notes and textures rather than re-molding the whole.   I figured this would be a good learning experience since I’ve been enjoying A23′s music for some time, and dissecting and putting one of Tom’s songs under a microscope like this allowed for a deeper understanding of the music’s style.

After nearing completion on the remix I listened to the album version of the song as a comparison and realized that the original has a few more secondary synth melody lines that weren’t included with the stems.  However I had already filled up the real estate that those synths would have occupied with additional tracks.  There’s of course no reason for the remix to be a carbon copy of the original unless this version was meant purely as an academic exercise (which it wasn’t!).

The track breakdown in a nutshell:



These ended up being a combination of analog sounds from the Vermona DRM and Native Instruments’ Battery.

The kick is a multilayer of two analog sources to give it punch and a mid high acoustic sample for a sharper attack and some high end detail.

The snare is a layer of analog clap and two different versions of an acoustic snare with different processing on each (saturation, bit crush, reverb, etc).  There’s also a randomly modulating Twisted Tools S-Layer hit that doubles the snare in a few sections.  This was intended to help keep the drums organic sounding but the ‘humanize’ function in Battery did a nice job of providing subtle doses of this already.

The hi hat is a blend of two analog layers and one acoustic sample.  There are subtly changing performance differences in each layer adding to the liveliness.

The deep reverb tom in the intro and bridge are from NI’s Kore 2 and run through UAD reverb and 1176 compression.

Cymbals are from Battery.

The entire kit also has some parallel compression via UAD’s Fairchild comp.  This controls errant transients but more importantly in this application helps with overall color and glues all the parts together.



This is the Future Retro XS analog semi modular synth.  I intended to get wild with modulation and experimented at length with different settings but ended up resolving to a simple single oscillator patch with a tight envelope.  It was the most ballsy option in the context of the song.  The third verse being only drums/bass/vox was wanting more variety so the bass patch there has a slight variation with more bite.

I was pleased to use this synth for a bass line for once – it’s so damned fun and easy to tweak that I usually can’t contain myself enough to limit it to bass’s supporting role.  This saucy mistress loves nothing more than to take the spotlight!



These were surprisingly relegated to one plugin, NI FM8.  It’s glassy gritty leads seemed perfectly suited to a song with this name.  The main line got some different voicings and effect variations.  In particular, the verses have a multiband distortion with hideous feedback via Ohmforce’s Ohmicide.  When notes are sounding they’re politely distorted but in between notes the feedback screams.

The crunchy mallet solo sound was also FM8 but EQ’d with a sharp surgical spike at about 3Khz to make it cut to the front of the mix.  This was rounded out and made a little friendlier with the Fairchild comp again.



Tom’s vocals are spot on when it comes to emotional delivery so I wasn’t inclined to muck about with them this time around.  The stems were dry so I did wet them up a bit with a slight stereo delay and open their spacial dimension with some dark room reverb.  The vox stems also seemed a tad dark and I heard a hint of clipping once or twice when solo’d.  I don’t know if this was their true nature or if it was a byproduct of being translated into stem files.  Either way the murkiness was easily remedied with a little UAD Pultec EQ shelving boost at 10K, and the clipping was unnoticeable in the context of the mix.



I’m partial to sound design, ain’t no two ways about it.  Therefor I thoroughly enjoy this step in the production process.  A project like this is ripe for integrating elements from the ever growing catalog of Studio Wormbone sound packs (*shameless plug*).  This song got a few electro percussion loops and fills, a fair amount of transition FX, and some rhythmic atonal synth lines.  Also, the crowning jewel of the remix in my humble opinion is the heinous sheet metal ripping torture sound at the end of the bridge.  Noise inside my head indeed!


Dec 122012

Now available!




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• 40 Backgrounds – subtly setting the mood
• 50 Future Weapons – implements of battle
• 70 Power Downs – entering sleep mode and/or draining energy
• 100 Robo Voice One-Shots – vocal type hits
• 100 Robotic Hand-To-Hand Combat – physical aggression
• 50 Technology & Signals – beyond your wildest imaginings
The finest available modern outboard analogue and high-end digital equipment was used in the development of this product. All of these sounds maintain the glossy refinement of Studio Wormbone’s hyperproduction tools and techniques. Each sound is calibrated with precision to make your next production inventive, far-sighted, and mind-blisteringly innovative.
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Dec 092012

Studio Wormbone was recently contacted by a friendly blog reader who brought to our attention the below piece of synth history.  If you like analog synths and you like Christmas you’re gonna love this!



An Arp Odyssey Christmas

synth album by Stephen Alcorn


This may be of interest to folks who like old-school analog synthesis, I have completed a CD of Christmas carols performed entirely on an ARP Odyssey synthesizer. The individual tracks were originally recorded in 1976.

This CD is called “An ARP Odyssey Christmas” and is a set of 20 Christmas carols in (mostly) classic arrangements. It is available on CD Baby and iTunes; information on how I made the recordings may be found on the CD Baby web site ( under “Album Notes”; for your info I provided it below.

The Odyssey is a monophonic synth, capable of amazing sounds, but only capable of playing one note at a time on its short keyboard, no chords or harmonies. Because of this, each carol is a multi- track recording made up of several parts (up to seven) in which each part was actually played and recorded individually, in real-time sync with the other recorded parts.

This to me is really a bit of music history that might be of interest to anyone who remembers, or is curious about, some of what was happening with electronic music in pre-digital times (back when one had to compete with the brontosaurus for the use of the only quarter-track tape deck).
The album notes from the CD Baby web page, below, list the Christmas carols and “orchestration”, and which go into some detail about how I did the recording. (I might mention that the professional results possible for 21st century home-brew recordists were not possible in the 1970s, as signal processing equipment was not available to folks without substantial trust funds.)

If you do take a look at this CD (and a listen), I hope you like it. If you have any questions about what this is and how I did it, I’d love to share my experience.


“An ARP Odyssey Christmas” is a collection of classic Christmas carols performed on an ARP Odyssey analog synthesizer. Arrangements evoking trumpets, flutes, strings, reeds, spacey sounds, and even an operatic soprano were created by recording each part separately in sync with the others.

It was 1976 – “Switched On Bach” had been out for eight years and won three Grammies, the iconic MiniMoog for six years, and the ARP Odyssey for four. Electronic music was becoming more and more popular, and synthesizers were increasingly heard in many genres of music. As of 1976, however, I knew of no existing album of Christmas carols rendered on a synthesizer.

I was in graduate school In 1976 studying geology, and in the fall of that year thought that it would be fun to make a Christmas album to give to family as Christmas presents. It seemed like a good idea, since I had an ARP Odyssey (which I had played with a Rhodes piano in a band, Amethyst, in Athens, Georgia) that was sitting idle, and I had a yearning for unadorned, classic arrangements of Christmas music.
Reaching the goal was an amazing journey, as they say, especially for a naïf like me (I don’t recall “newbie” being used at that time). I’ve sketched the process in the section “Making the album” below.

The Carols:

This list of the carols included on this album indicates the instruments that were simulated on each track. Please bear with me on this – your fertile imagination will be to your advantage!

1 God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen (Verse 1 mysterious chanters, wind, astral sounds; Verse 2 horn quartet ;Verse 3 violins, violas, ‘cellos, basses, flutes, trombone)

2 Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming (flute quartet)

3 Coventry Carol (flute quartet)

4 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (electric trumpets, bass)

5 Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly (electric trumpets, bass)

6 We Three Kings (clarinet, electric harpsichord)

7 Joy to the World (flute, flute, English horn, bassoon)

8 Angels We Have Heard on High (oboe, flute, English horn, bassoon)

9 O Little Town of Bethlehem (violins, violas, ‘cellos, basses)

10 Good King Wenceslas (trumpet, trumpet, trombone, tuba)

11 O Christmas Tree (violin, violin, viola, ‘cello)

12 Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella (oboe, English horn, bassoon)

13 O Holy Night (operatic soprano, with electric trumpets and sort-of-saxophone accompaniment)

14 Good Christian Men, Rejoice (trumpet, trumpet, trombone, tuba)

15 Carol of the Bells (flutes, electric bells)

16 It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (oboe, flute, English horn, bassoon)

17 Oh Come Little Children (violin, violin, viola, ‘cello)

18 The First Noel (violins, violas, ‘cellos, basses)

19 Oh Come All Ye Faithful (trumpet, trumpet, trumpet, octave bass)

20 Silent Night (Verse 1 Mellotron, wind, cosmic sounds; Verse 2 French horn, violas, ‘cellos, bass

Making the album:

The problem with recording an album in 1976 was that there was no “recording equipment for the masses” available. Much has changed since the 1970s, technology perhaps more than anything else.

A short trip down memory lane: At the time that this Christmas album was put together, synthesizers were analog and almost exclusively monophonic, meaning that they sounded one note at a time. Most of these monophonic analog synthesizers employed “subtractive synthesis”: The synthesizer would generate a waveform, such as a sawtooth or square wave, with a specific harmonic content as the “raw material” needed to develop a particular sound, and then subtract harmonics in a predictable (or intentionally unpredictable) way to create that sound. This waveform was produced by an “oscillator”; components such as “filters”, “amplifiers”, and “envelope generators” were used to contour the sound in real time. The entire signal path was analog; digital techniques weren’t yet available.

So different sounds could be constructed, but to save a sound you had to write down the settings. To return to that sound you had to consult the settings and adjust and tweak the knobs and sliders manually until the sound was re-achieved. This was necessary because digital control and MIDI (a standard for computer control of synthesizer and other functions) weren’t invented yet. All settings and changes needed while performing had to be done manually.

In order to record music in multi-part harmonies, a sound (“patch”) was set up for each individual part, and each part was played and recorded as a separate track on tape. After the first part was recorded, each subsequent part was played and recorded while listening to (monitoring) the previously recorded parts, in order to keep it all synchronized. This part of the process is similar to how things are often done now. But since the synthesizer was monophonic, pressing two keys simultaneously could not sound two simultaneous notes, even two notes with the same sound.

In 1976 most recorded music was sold as records – the tape cassette was growing in popularity, but it wasn’t yet fully developed as a “high-fidelity” medium. Few people had cassette players (“decks”) that could be plugged into a stereo system, and far fewer people had the means to make recordings that could be called high fidelity.

Most anything ‘electronic’ in the commercial music recording world of the mid-1970s was produced by very expensive equipment in laboratories and well-heeled recording studios. Quality production values were hard to come by the home recordist. Signal processing for the masses was in the future (even functions as basic as echo and reverb, except for the metallic-sounding spring reverb found in some guitar amps, and special effects devices like the tape-based Echoplex), so there was no ready means to add good quality reverb or other now-mandatory effects to home-brewed sound. In fact, I had no access to either a mixer or an equalizer.

During the fall of 1976 I did the planning for this tape of traditional Christmas music and set up the patches, and in mid-December did the recording over three long evenings at the music department at the University of Georgia, helped immeasurably with the recording equipment by a music graduate student who was fascinated with the project (and whose name I unfortunately do not have). I was excited, because at the time I knew of no commercially available Christmas music recorded with a synthesizer.

All of the selections were recorded on a TEAC 3340S quarter-track tape deck (direct-in, no mixer). Track-bouncing was necessary for arrangements requiring more than four tracks. An EchoPlex was used for echo and reverb in “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” and “Silent Night”. The resulting quarter-track tape was reduced (without mixer) to stereo on a Revox half track tape deck. The resulting stereophonic tape was used as a master to produce cassettes one at a time on a TEAC cassette deck. “It’s a wrap” meant that these cassettes were given to the family as Christmas gifts that year.

Dec 052012

I had the opportunity to acquire one of these recently and am disappointed that I didn’t have it on hand for possible use during the creative sessions for the latest Cinematic Robotics sound packs.  Perhaps the cosmos is telling me I’m not done working with robots yet!


Dec 052012

Here’s your chance to snag up a heap of musical assets at pennies on the dollar.  Through the month of December there’s a colossal holiday sale on almost the entire Studio Wormbone catalog of sound pack releases over at Producerloops.  (New releases Cinematic Robotics Part 1 and 2 not included.)  Prices have been drastically reduced for a short time only.

Pounce on this event while the pouncing is good!  Treat yourself to stuffing your stocking with ear candy.  And have a festive season while you’re at it . . . I insist!


Dec 052012

This is a little ditty written . . . well, programmed . . . well, CREATED by well known sound designer Richard Devine.

I thoroughly enjoy his music but since getting the latest cd RISP I’ve been struggling to find the appropriate space to give it the repeated listens it deserves.  As with most artists that push the boundaries of normal, this is definitely not casual mood music.  It’s not background music, and definitely not family time music.  It’s a little too distracting and intellectual for the car.  It’s not quite dark or angry enough to get angst-y to.  ‘Taint pick-me-up-happy-go-lucky stuff for sure.  Perhaps it’s because this is meant to be focused, intentional, ‘set everything else aside for the duration’ listening that I’ve been struggling to work it into my daily routine.  Hopefully I’ll have the luxury to be able to devote the resources to enjoying it fully sometime soon!


From Richard:

Patch experiment trying to use just a few LFO’s synced together at very slow rates to generate a loose arrangement of triggered square wave pulses. These pulses where sent out to a few voices on the delptronics
ldb-1e and the DrumDokta & “Clap” Breakout running through a MakeNoise Phonogene/Echophon delay. FM swells courtesy of the MakeNoise DPO and Intellijel Rubicon, ran through a Strymon TimeLine delay pedal. Haunting drones coming from the Cycle Box II and WMD wave gamma.