Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Totally tubular

It's just one thing after another with the Leapfrog. I'd been hoping to have them for sale by now, and I am getting close to that point. I actually have the stock of the first batch on hand and ready to sell now. But there's still a fair bit of writing to do on the manual, final checks to make sure all the drawings are up to date, a press release to write, and so on. I'm working on an ambitious demo track with about 20 multitracks of different instrument sounds all made with the Leapfrog, and that's taking longer than I had planned, but I'm learning a lot both about the Leapfrog and about synthesis in general doing it, so I thought it would be fun to go through one of the patches I'm using. The score calls for (General MIDI) "tubular bells"; here's my take on a sound something like tubular bells made with the Leapfrog, and some notes on making bell sounds in general. READ MORE

Preferred values for resistors and capacitors

You've probably noticed that although resistors and capacitors come in many different values, some of which seem like they could be randomly chosen, there's nonetheless some sort of logic to it. You'll see power-of-ten sizes like 1kΩ, 10kΩ, 100kΩ and it's understandable that those would be "round" numbers it might be convenient to use and manufacture... but for instance there also seems to be something special about the number 47, so you see many resistor values like 4.7kΩ, 47kΩ, 470kΩ, and capacitors like 0.47µF and 470pF. Why 47? Why not 46 or 48 - especially when 47 is a prime number and 48 has many small divisors, which would seem like it might be convenient? Here are some notes on the commonly-used numbers and where they come from. READ MORE

Temperature compensation with NTC thermistors

The panel contractor says they dispatched the first production batch of MSK 007 Leapfrog VCF panels to me on Friday, and those are the last remaining physical items needed before I can launch the module; so I'm still hopeful that I can aim for a launch by the end of the month.  That means I need to finish up the last few documentation items; one of them is a description of the exponential converter temperature compensation circuit, and that's an interesting enough item to be worth a Web log posting of its own. READ MORE

The Celebrated Leaping Frog

I've spent most of this week working on the second and third prototypes for the Leapfrog VCF. I'm hoping to have this product available for sale by the end of the month - maybe in time to have some kind of spooky Halloween tie-in for the launch. READ MORE

Nucleosynthesis

Here's a diagram of something called the CNO process, encompassing many of the nuclear reactions by which stars shine. READ MORE

Notes on notes on the plane

For this week's Web log entry, I'm digging into my back catalogue again to look at some of the geometry behind the Black Swan Suite. This is all written up in a PDF file with some musical notation and stuff that doesn't work well in HTML; read that if you want details, but I'll give a taste of the construction here. READ MORE

Year end

North Coast's first fiscal year ends with this month, and I have a bunch of small news items and progress updates. READ MORE

Fun with fractal chord progressions

I make a lot of music that is intended to be "ambient": something you can put on in the background and have it create a mood without demanding conscious attention in the foreground all the time. I'm also interested in automatic generation: I'd like to define some kind of pattern or structure and then have machines expand that into a complete composition, and have it be interesting all the way through, without too much human supervision. In this week's entry I'm going to go through a piece called Dharmapala which I wrote a couple years ago using a fractal chord progression. I've used this same technique in several other works, with varying success; I even built a mode for it into one of my homemade modules for realtime performance. But so far I've gotten the best results applying it in offline composition with a lot of careful planning and experiment. READ MORE

Circuit board shopping

This week I'm planning to order the prototype boards for the Leapfrog Filter, and it makes a good opportunity to go through some common questions beginners ask about shopping for PCBs. When you go to buy PCB production services you're typically hit with a form asking you to select which features you want, and it's not always clear what the consequences of the different answers may be. In this entry I go through some of those options, and give some other notes on shopping for PCBs. READ MORE

Video picks

I've been busy this week dusting off the design for the Leapfrog Filter. I really did most of the work on it back in 2016, and I even built a prototype which works pretty well, as you can hear in audio demos like this one. I'm hoping that will translate into a quick launch with not much more prototyping necessary. But I didn't have a chance to touch it at all while I was launching the Web shop and the other two modules, and now there's literal dust on my prototype and metaphorical dust on the design. This week I ordered most of the parts for some new prototypes, including these fancy million-operation conductive plastic potentiometers. They cost an arm and a leg even in bulk, and I can't really afford to buy them in bulk until after the first few Leapfrogs sell, but they feel great, much smoother than the cheap Thai carbon pots the discounters use. And they will basically last a lifetime. So I think the "build quality" of these, as people call it, is worth the price. READ MORE

Understanding stabilization capacitors

Here's a simplification of the output driver circuit from the MSK 008 Dual VC Octave Switch. READ MORE

Free EDA software rundown

The MSK 008 Octave Switch is planned to launch tomorrow and I've already posted the manual; so I thought it would be fun for this week's Web log entry to introduce some of the software tools I use for producing, and especially for documenting, module designs. My designs are free, my roots are in the free software community and my values emphasize all aspects of free speech, and so I try to stick to free software in running my operation. The title says EDA software ("Electronic Design Automation") but in fact this list covers some other engineering functions too, that people don't usually think of as EDA. READ MORE

Reality check: HP

Modular hobbyists love to invent fantasy modules. We'll sit down and sketch out just exactly the modules we wish we had in our racks, and then either show the mock-up images to their friends and leave it at that, or take it a little more seriously and try to actually build and sell our dream modules. All good clean fun. READ MORE

Post-launch thoughts

The shop has been open a few days.  Response hasn't been all that I hoped it would be.  There was a burst of traffic on the first day, but not the level of third-party referrals, social sharing, and in particular sales that I was hoping for.  It's early days, though, and predictable and somewhat deliberate that this first product is not my most popular one.  To some extent only people who have Mutable Clouds modules, or who are doing "generative" melodic patches, need this many smooth independent sine waves, and how many people is that? READ MORE

Launching the Web shop

This is it! After many delays I'm happy to finally cut the virtual ribbon and open this Web shop. READ MORE

.
.
.

Subscribe to our newsletter