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MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby Ben Asaro » Mon Nov 09, 2020 3:28 pm

100% agreed! The drums are still at the level for a piece with many more voices. I just threw that up to keep the pulse. I will probably be developing this one, interesting to see where this can lead. I also want to experiment with taking the sub osc out and creating a dedicated bass line from it with the Mother-32.
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby Ben Asaro » Wed Nov 11, 2020 3:17 pm

Finally had the time and desire last night to sit down and suss out how the Subharmonicon actually works from a functional harmony standpoint. I ended up concentrating on the first 8 subdivisions, as I found that after 3 octaves, the notes are too muddy and indistinct for my tastes.

Starting with the subharmonic oscillator fully clockwise, it's in unison with the main oscillator. (Note: this presumes that you have the sequencer assigned to the main oscillator, not the sub oscillators) The first eight subdivisions are:
unison
-12 semitones
-24 semitones
-31 semitones (perfect 4th)
-36 semitones
-39 semitones (augmented 5th)
-42 semitones (perfect 4th)
-45 semitones (major 2nd)
-48 semitones

The most common divisions are perfect fourths and octaves, which can make for very nice perfect fifth and suspended harmonies.

If you were looking to make the Subharmonicon adhere to specific functional harmony, a bit of figuring and maths is required or it can turn into a harmonic mess. The more I use the Subharmonicon, the more convinced I am that this really is a performative instrument and it's not designed to be set it and forget it. Its design encourages you to find places where a quick turn (or applied CV) into the sub oscillators will create new harmonies.

Using both main oscillators tuned to different root notes is where things start to get really interesting because, although the other VCOs adhere to the same maths, you can create some very dense harmonies this way. And once you start making them behaving polyrhythmically [sic, not sure if that's actually a word lol], the chords can stack up in ways that will cause a significant amount of dissonance.

An interesting trick is to tune the main oscillators to notes other than the root note. This allows you do divide down into more complex harmonies.

The simplest chord that I've found is the Maj6/Min7 chord:
VCO 1 = Diatonic 5th (e.g., G)
SUB 1.1 = Perfect 4th (e.g., C)

VCO 2 = Diatonic 3rd (e.g., E)
SUB 2.1 = Perfect 4th (e.g., A)

This uses just 4 of the 6 oscillators. If you then wrote a very simple ascending pattern of I-ii-iii-IV, you would have:

VCO 1= G-A-B-C
SUB 1.1 = C-D-E-F

VCO 2 = E-F-G-A
SUB 2.1 = A-Bb-C-D

Notice, how the sub oscillator plays a Bb when the main VCO plays F. This could imply several options depending on what else you have going on, but there is also the possibility that you will have B and Bb playing at the same time. Depending on how you have the sub oscillators tuned it can either be a minor 7 interval for a minor 2 ... two very different sounds! There is another instance where you can have G and F with the same relationship.

I hope that this information is useful to anyone looking into getting a Subharmonicon. It's one of those instruments that is utterly confounding at first, then it gets very intuitive to use if you are going purely by ear, and then it gets confounding again once you start bringing in other pitched elements.
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby MOF » Wed Nov 11, 2020 3:54 pm

Turn one knob and you will probably lose what you had forever.
And that’s why I won’t be buying one and why I love soft synths and ITB mixing. I want repeatability and consistency.
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby Ben Asaro » Wed Nov 11, 2020 3:55 pm

MOF wrote:
Turn one knob and you will probably lose what you had forever.
And that’s why I won’t be buying one and why I love soft synths and ITB mixing.
Oh yeah, I totally get it ... instruments like this are almost a lifestyle choice lol.
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby MOF » Wed Nov 11, 2020 4:07 pm

MOF wrote:
Turn one knob and you will probably lose what you had forever.
And that’s why I won’t be buying one and why I love soft synths and ITB mixing.
Oh yeah, I totally get it ... instruments like this are almost a lifestyle choice lol.

It seems that way to me.
I used to spend hours doing my own B&W film developing and printing and for many years promised myself that I would one day get all the necessary equipment for colour, but once digital cameras achieved technical parity with film I just used Photoshop to do in seconds what it would have taken hours to do in a darkroom.
I bought a Nord Modular with every intention of making my own sounds and that didn’t happen.
I guess I prefer to concentrate on song writing/recording and tweak existing synth sounds (so many presets available these days) if they’re not quite right.
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby Ben Asaro » Wed Nov 11, 2020 4:17 pm

I really like that analogy to film, I feel that synthesis and photography are very much on the same trajectory. I totally agree with you, at the end of the day the choice is whether you feel the results justify the means and how you want to get there. Like the meme says, hardware synths are essentially fancy furniture when it comes down to it. :)
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby Ben Asaro » Fri Nov 13, 2020 12:39 am

Went on a bit of a deep dive today with the SH, slowed the tempo to 50bpm and tried to see if I could coax some decent ambient sounds out of this thing. The answer, of course, is YES -- in fact, right now I much prefer it in this mode of operation! Of course, the prog side of me won't allow just the one instrument to play but as a starting point, it's crazy inspiring. This is the Subharmonicon and RV-500. I am adding PWM to OCS 1+2 via the Modbox, each one being different phases.

https://soundcloud.com/asfollowswriting ... icon-jam-3
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby Ben Asaro » Fri Nov 13, 2020 3:32 pm

Still discovering new tricks hidden up the Subharmonicon's sleeve ... I've found that you have much more control over the SH if you feed a clock pulse into the Play input instead of the Clock input. This allows for very fine control over when the sequencer advances.

The sequencer interprets every X amount of pulse triggers [pretty sure it's 24 but I will verify later] as the tempo, enabling VERY long evolving chains that are still in sync with my master clock. Brilliant!

It is now possible within the NerdSeq to create patterns that can reliably sync the SH and altogether stop and reset it as needed.
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby The Elf » Fri Nov 13, 2020 3:49 pm

Ben Asaro wrote:
MOF wrote:
Turn one knob and you will probably lose what you had forever.
And that’s why I won’t be buying one and why I love soft synths and ITB mixing.
Oh yeah, I totally get it ... instruments like this are almost a lifestyle choice lol.
I find room for both in my life. Just take the best of what each can give!
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Nov 13, 2020 4:18 pm

Ben Asaro wrote:Finally had the time and desire last night to sit down and suss out how the Subharmonicon actually works from a functional harmony standpoint. I ended up concentrating on the first 8 subdivisions...

Interesting... if it's of interest, here's how those harmonics relate to the harmonic drawbars of a Hammond (and with the equivalent pipe organ stop names):

Base semitone – subfundamental (16ft) drawbar
12 semitones – Fundamental (8ft) Drawbar
19 semitones – Sub-Third (5 1/3ft) Drawbar – 5th ‘Quint’
24 semitones – 2nd Harmonic (4ft) – 8th
31 semitones (perfect 4th) – 3rd harmonic (2 2/3ft) – 12th ‘Nazard’
36 semitones – 4th harmonic (2ft) – 15th
- 39 semitones (augmented 5th)
40 Semitones – 5th harmonic (1 3/5ft) – 17th ‘Tierce’
- 42 semitones (perfect 4th)
43 semitones – 6th Harmonic (1 1/3ft) – 19th ‘Larigot’
- 45 semitones (major 2nd)
48 semitones – 8th Harmonic (1ft) – 22nd ‘Sifflote’
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby Rwkitch » Fri Nov 13, 2020 9:13 pm

I've not delved as deeply as Ben, but I love the SH. Had a worry when I first tried it though: I had it triggered from a Dark Matter, everything set pretty much in the 'middle' with (from memory) just both main oscillators. Set it going, and it sounded horrible- not due to a bad sequence (well...) just played much higher in pitch than expected, nothing like anything I had heard before. Great, I thought, I've a dodgy unit. However, channeling the IT Crowd I turned it off and on again. Crossed fingers, restarted it. Wow, it sounded lovely! Add some reverb and I was hooked :)
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby Rwkitch » Fri Nov 13, 2020 10:18 pm

Forgot to say, I had let it warm up, 30 minutes or so.
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby Ben Asaro » Fri Nov 13, 2020 10:24 pm

Rwkitch wrote:Forgot to say, I had let it warm up, 30 minutes or so.
That’s key! It needs to stabilize, I usually give my rack 20 minutes before I start doing anything. Also, the SH, usually does need the VCOs to be reset by turning them a bit, then back to your starting pitch or it can be quite cacophonous!
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby Ben Asaro » Fri Nov 13, 2020 10:28 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Interesting... if it's of interest, here's how those harmonics relate to the harmonic drawbars of a Hammond (and with the equivalent pipe organ stop names):
Funnily enough, I think that the Subharmonicon has a very ‘organistic’ timbre. I wonder if there’s any relationship to frequency integers and timbre.... unfortunately I don’t know nearly enough about acoustics or psychoacoustics to posit a theory!
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Re: MOOG SUBHARMONICON -- in the house!

Postby Durr GaGa » Fri Nov 13, 2020 10:31 pm

Really pleased to hear that you are as happy with your SH as I am - it is a really amazing instrument that continues to inspire and surprise. I like your ambient piece - just what the SH was made for!
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Regards,

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