Grant Richter on East Coast vs West Coast

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Grant Richter on East Coast vs West Coast

Post by consumed » Wed Nov 14, 2007 11:56 am

I have appropriated this from the Wiard Yahoo list. My apologies if Grant did not intend this to be republished, but I found this to be interesting and enlightening. (I will yank this if it is a problem)

Grant Richter wrote:I will try to explain a little of the philosophy behind the Wiard modules. It has to do with the "East vs. West" coast synthesizer history. This is an over simplified explaination, some "East Coast" instruments support FM for example.

It really starts with the concept of a patch. In the "East Coast" instruments (basically all synthesizer manufacturers except Wiard, Buchla and Serge) you have a subtractive synthesis patch entirely oriented towards the filter. This is your classic VCO-VCF-VCA connection with ADSR type envelopes. The envelopes generators typically have only a single output. The oscillators usually have very simple waveforms such as sawtooth and square wave. This is what most people are introduced to and why many people are puzzled by more complex instruments like the Wiard. This patch makes sense for playing with a black and white type keyboard. It produce a limited but pleasing range of timbres and is easy to operate and understand.

In the "West Coast" instruments, there are 3 possible synthesis modes. Additive, non-linear waveshaping and dynamic depth FM are the primary synthesis modes. "East Coast" subtractive synthesis is typically not DIRECTLY supported. It was not in the Buchla or Serge (no 24 dB/Oct. resonant filter). Good aproximations of subtractive synthesis can be patch on the Serge with cascaded filters. These instruments are oriented towards controlling with a multiple output sequencer or multiple output complex envelope generator instead of a black and white keyboard. They produce a larger and more importantly, different set of timbres than the simpler "East Coast" instruments.

The classic patch in a "West Coast" instrument involves two blocks. The first is a complex oscillator which supports both non-linear waveshaping and dynamic depth FM (Buchla 259 and Serge NTO). The second signal processor is a Lowpass Gate or "frequency and amplitude domain processor". The primary timbre generation is done directly with the oscillator, and the Lowpass Gate just tweaks the amplitude and frequency character. These two blocks are designed to be controlled by one complex envelope generator with multiple outputs routed to all the timbre factors.

Once again this is a simplifed explaination to illustrate subtle points. Actual usage involves a combination of both techniques.

In the 1200 series we have the groundwork laid for a complex "West Coast" voice. The JAG will convert two simple ADSR envelopes into a multiple output complex envelope generator. The Boogie Filter can be used as a Lowpass Gate but also supports the "East Coast" Moog type subtractive character. The Borg 2 Filter is a classic Lowpass Gate that can also be used like the "East Coast" MS20 subtractive filter.

The icing on the cake is the complex oscillator. The Wiard Synthesizer Mini-Wave and VCO (manufactured under license by Blacet Research) is a type of complex oscillator and non- linear waveshaper already well established. A lot of good work has been done with these Wiard designs. Improving on such a solid base is no easy task.

It would be great if a complex oscillator could support as many timbre modes as possible. Simultaneous support for multiple non-linear waveshaping, dynamic depth PM and wavetable would be ideal. If each of these was independent, you could look at them like geometric axis. Modulating the timbre parameters then becomes a matter of "walking about" in a large timbre space with multiple dimensions of simultaneous control. This is true timbre morphing and not just simple crossfading between timbres (which is good too).

This is where my research is currently focused. Exactly when the complex oscillator will be finished depends upon sales of the existing 1200 series modules. If the public is not interested in the extra "West Coast" synthesis methodology, it would be foolish to waste time and money on products for that purpose.

"East Coast" designs are as common as dandelions, but I feel support for subtractive synthesis should be included in a complete instrument. That is why the Wiard designs support BOTH East and West Coast synthesis methods. For example, any Wiard complex VCO will include classic subtractive waveform outputs in addition to the complex outputs.

I think that I need to focus on education to promote the idea of the more complex synthesis "West Coast" style. I am going to try and write manuals for the Boogie and Borg 2 modules that cover the less obvious operating modes. For the short term, I will be concentrating on that.

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Post by Kwote » Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:24 pm

fuck yeah!!! i read that before. i think pop music and subtractive synthesis is probably the reason most people don't care about modulars and hop on the hardwired synth bandwagon. would love to see the world open up more for analog modulars.

i read that before. good stuff. he should definately write some literature. he's good at explaining that shit. it's generally a bit difficult to understand modular synthesis without actually being involved in it though. i barely know anything and yet it still seems like a lot. can't wait til i really wrap my head around this stuff.

oh yeah the WESTCOAST fuckin rules. killa cali fo sho' :twisted: :lol: :twisted:
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Post by consumed » Wed Nov 14, 2007 2:56 pm

i posted this because you were asking about the wave multiplier. you can really warp sin waves through it and give them a lot of dynamic character through voltage control. the wave mult can also be used as a type of distortion, although i dont happen to use it like that. anyway, i think the wave multiplier is an important design and im glad that it has been made available to the rest of the world and not just to serge users. every modular should have one.

same thing goes for the VCS.

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Post by Kwote » Wed Nov 14, 2007 3:49 pm

yeah judging from the description of the wave mult on metalbox's site it sounds like the opposite of subtractive synthesis ie: additive. but then i'm sure it was kind of a crude description that doesn't even scratch the surface of it's true capabilities. can't wait to have one.

can't wait to have a VCS too. definately on the list.

i have 3 10u racks that i've imagined for myself thus far. don't really wanna think beyond that. already severely overwhelmed.
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Post by consumed » Wed Nov 14, 2007 10:57 pm

Kwote wrote:yeah judging from the description of the wave mult on metalbox's site it sounds like the opposite of subtractive synthesis ie: additive. but then i'm sure it was kind of a crude description that doesn't even scratch the surface of it's true capabilities.
additive is a little bit different, but i understand the context in which you are using it (adding harmonics). additive synthesis actually uses a combination of sin waves to create the sound, on the principle that every sound we hear is a collection of sin waves at varying frequencies and amplitude, which create the timbre. its not an area that analog excels at, since you can really use up a lot of sin wave (oscillators) just making a relatively simple sound.

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Post by Kwote » Thu Nov 15, 2007 2:29 am

yeah. i actually did a ton of research on all this back in may. but my memory kinda sucks. haha.
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Post by Chuck E. Jesus » Thu Nov 15, 2007 9:14 am

It produce a limited but pleasing range of timbres and is easy to operate and understand.
and that's bad how? obviously there is some marketing going on there, and there's nothing wrong with that...personally, if i were to draw a line in the sand regarding synth mfg's it would be those that name them after their creators (Moog, Arp, Buchla,etc) and those with silly made up names :P
i think pop music and subtractive synthesis is probably the reason most people don't care about modulars and hop on the hardwired synth bandwagon.
price and bang for the buck are other important considerations...i got into modular when the Doepfer came out because i could actually afford it...

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Post by Kwote » Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:14 am

ross g wrote:
It produce a limited but pleasing range of timbres and is easy to operate and understand.
and that's bad how? obviously there is some marketing going on there, and there's nothing wrong with that...personally, if i were to draw a line in the sand regarding synth mfg's it would be those that name them after their creators (Moog, Arp, Buchla,etc) and those with silly made up names :P
i think pop music and subtractive synthesis is probably the reason most people don't care about modulars and hop on the hardwired synth bandwagon.
price and bang for the buck are other important considerations...i got into modular when the Doepfer came out because i could actually afford it...
yeah. i was saying people hop on the whole non modular trip cuz it's more accessible to the general public via pop music etc.

i actually wanted to get into doepfer originally but the price of there case scared me so i got a monosynth instead. but once i finally found out about blacet i couldn't make any excuses not to go modular.
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Post by Chuck E. Jesus » Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:40 am

Kwote wrote:
ross g wrote:
It produce a limited but pleasing range of timbres and is easy to operate and understand.
and that's bad how? obviously there is some marketing going on there, and there's nothing wrong with that...personally, if i were to draw a line in the sand regarding synth mfg's it would be those that name them after their creators (Moog, Arp, Buchla,etc) and those with silly made up names :P
i think pop music and subtractive synthesis is probably the reason most people don't care about modulars and hop on the hardwired synth bandwagon.
price and bang for the buck are other important considerations...i got into modular when the Doepfer came out because i could actually afford it...
yeah. i was saying people hop on the whole non modular trip cuz it's more accessible to the general public via pop music etc.

i actually wanted to get into doepfer originally but the price of there case scared me so i got a monosynth instead. but once i finally found out about blacet i couldn't make any excuses not to go modular.
yeah, when i got the doepfer it was actually quite a bit cheaper...i got an A100 basic system for i believe 1550 bucks, but that was about ten years ago (and the US dollar wasn't down the craphole)...putting a subrack together yourself is the way to go...actually i'm not sure i even knew about blacet back then....

just teasing about Wiard, i plan on attending the Midwest Analogue Heaven gathering in the spring and checking the stuff out firsthand....

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Post by Kwote » Thu Nov 15, 2007 12:14 pm

ross g wrote:i plan on attending the Midwest Analogue Heaven gathering in the spring and checking the stuff out firsthand....
hopefully someone will videotape it and post it on youtube :wink:
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Re: Grant Richter on East Coast vs West Coast

Post by BTByrd » Thu Dec 09, 2010 11:28 am

Grant Richter wrote:
I think that I need to focus on education to promote the idea of the more complex synthesis "West Coast" style. I am going to try and write manuals for the Boogie and Borg 2 modules that cover the less obvious operating modes. For the short term, I will be concentrating on that.
[/quote]

[I don't mean to totally resurrect this thread... or do I? ]

As someone who has some West Coast modules (Hz Donut, Anti-Osc, QMMG) but an East Coast background, I'd be interested in hearing more about "less obvious" operating modes for LPGs.

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Post by Entrainer » Thu Dec 09, 2010 12:08 pm

Supposedly, other than being filters...
they can make bongo sounds.
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Post by haricots » Thu Dec 09, 2010 12:27 pm

Is it just me or is the whole east west thing kind of silly? :hmm:

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Post by jonkull » Thu Dec 09, 2010 12:31 pm

It had it's place in history and serves as an easy descriptor.
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Post by Entrainer » Thu Dec 09, 2010 12:34 pm

It's a good starting point.

Helped me wrap my head around a few ideas coming
from a Arp/Moog/Roland/Korg background.

Mostly using sines, triangles, and self oscillating filters
FM'd combined with wave multipliers. Starting with
low harmonics and adding them instead of starting
with high harmonics and subtracting them.

And it helped with a multi function module such as
Serge VCS and it's euro counterpart Maths.

Using sequencers instead of a keyboard... both lend
themselves to sequencing and keyboard performance.

Other than that, it's two coasts of the same island.
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Post by Ranxerox » Thu Dec 09, 2010 12:43 pm

haricots wrote:Is it just me or is the whole east west thing kind of silly? :hmm:
It's a binary simplification. While it might have held some truth in the early 70s, I don't think it has any value nowadays - most people on here are able to achieve fairly complex timbres regardless of their format.

Even MU, which originally was kind of the ultimate 'East-coast' synth format, now offers huge sophistication - including FM, LPGs, waveshaping oscillators (the HRM), and various complex EGs and sequencer / gate processors that go far beyond Grant's prescription of what the limits of an 'East-coast' synth should be.

In terms of variety and complexity it now seems that Euro offers the most, not Serge, Buchla or Wiard, and so we have long since entered a 'post-coastal' era.

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Post by bwhittington » Thu Dec 09, 2010 12:46 pm

Ranxerox wrote:we have long since entered a 'post-coastal' era.
:mrgreen: :tu:

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Post by e-grad » Thu Dec 09, 2010 12:58 pm

As Grant wrote in the text quoted:
This is an over simplified explaination, some "East Coast" instruments support FM for example.
However it is a valid theoretical and educational concept which can help to understand different forms of synthesis.

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Post by richard » Thu Dec 09, 2010 1:09 pm

moog and buchla had very different images of what a modular could be. I think east coast vs west coast merely marks that memory. I don't think its even contentious as anyone with half an ear loves both.
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Tales from the Voodoo Box (EMS Synthi A solos) https://soundanatomy.bandcamp.com/album ... ynthesiser

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Post by BTByrd » Thu Dec 09, 2010 1:45 pm

I agree with the spirit of what most of you are saying. The East/West distinction is indeed a simplification, but it does seem to track two distinct design philosophies and ways of patching.

That said, I can't say that when I patch up a FM based patch using a Hertz Donut or Anti-Oscillator and then run it through a LPG that I get something that sounds radically different from what I can achieve with some east coast oscs and a filter + VCA.

I feel like I must be overlooking something; what - aside from bongos and fm - are some standard "west coasty" sounds or techniques for sound design?

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Post by Entrainer » Thu Dec 09, 2010 1:49 pm

Comparators were new to me as well, EOR or EOC, triggering
other events.
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Post by dougcl » Thu Dec 09, 2010 1:50 pm

It is relevant to this day in that many people (most?) categorize themselves into one or the other, according to their taste, if not in so many words. There is no trend, nor should there be, toward merging everyone's definition of "good" into agreement. West remains the domain of those who covet the "weird" and East is the domain of those who covet the "musical." From this standpoint, I don't think we will ever be "post-coastal."

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Post by Entrainer » Thu Dec 09, 2010 1:53 pm

dougcl wrote:West remains the domain of those who covet the "weird" and East is the domain of those who covet the "musical."
Cue Nelson Baboon.

Enter stage right.
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Post by dkcg » Thu Dec 09, 2010 1:55 pm

dougcl wrote:West remains the domain of those who covet the "weird" and East is the domain of those who covet the "musical." From this standpoint, I don't think we will ever be "post-coastal."
Weirdly musical?
Image

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Post by DanielW » Thu Dec 09, 2010 1:57 pm

e-grad wrote:As Grant wrote in the text quoted:
This is an over simplified explaination, some "East Coast" instruments support FM for example.
However it is a valid theoretical and educational concept which can help to understand different forms of synthesis.
Yes, it really clarifies what's different about modules like Maths or systems like Serge from "ordinary" synths. When I got to try out a Serge system for the first time, I had no idea how to get anything good out of it, because I wasn't even aware about how it differed from what I considered a synth to be (i e subtractive).

The more I get into modular, the more interesting the west coast philosphy gets.

I find the introduction to the Serge Creature in this manual (p. 11 and on) very informative, with Moog-style modules being "molecular" and Serge modules "atomic", "function blocks", and east coast synths being built from the "outside-in" while west coast synths are built from the "inside-out".

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