Anonymous: Hi there, I recently picked up a Boss RE-20 (which I know Jonny uses) and I was wondering if you could recommend a couple of delay pedals to choose from that would complement it well and ideally help me nail some of the layered/ambient delay sounds that Ed achieves. I thought about an EHX Big Box DMM but they are kinda hard to come by here. Any advice you have would be very much appreciated :)
Give the Diamond Memory Lane Jr a try. It’s not as old school analog sounding, but it’s a really great delay. The Quantum Leap is also quite nice, and offers several weirder sounds as well which could be very useful.
That said, the EHX DMM XO isn’t bad at all. There’s a difference, but it’s pretty subtle, and I doubt you’d be able to differentiable the two when you’re creating ambient sounds. Plus it’s smaller and more reliable.
Of course, Ed made weird amazing ambient textures long before he had any rare analog boxes with modulation.
One of Ed’s favorite delay pedals is the Boss DD5, and you can’t go wrong with it. I’d also give the DD7 a shot, since it offers kill-dry reverse delay which DD5 lacks, as well as a fairly good emulation of the Boss DM2 (a cool, darker analog delay) as well as a modulated digital delay.
There’s also the EHX Memory Man with Hazarai. It lacks the modulation sounds of the DMM, but offers many more delay options.
And of course, there’s always the Line 6 DL4, or alternately the M5 or Echo Park (the M5 will sound just like the DL4, while the algorithms were tweaked slightly for the Echo Park so there could be subtle differences). These pedals offer a ton of delay sounds, both analog and tape-emulating, digital, and some weirder options in the case of the DL4 and M5. The DL4 also offers a powerful looper (as used by Ed for some very cool sounds on Little by Little).
If you think you may end up getting three delay pedals at some point in the future, then you could get one from each “group,” such as one DMM XO as well as a Memory Man w/ Hazarai. If not, pedals such as the DD7 and DL4 will give you more options than a single simpler delay would, even if they don’t sound ~quite~ as “good.” Of course, since you’re making ambient sounds, those differences will be obscured.
All said, you really can’t go wrong with any of the pedals that I’ve mentioned, so you should watch videos and try all of them if you can. See which one inspires you!
Photos of Jonny’s setup for the two NYC performances of There Will Be Blood with the Wordless Music Orchestra, specifically taken prior to the first performance. "Now that’s something you won’t find anywhere else."
Jonny performed with his original student model digital Ondes Martenot, which he used on the recorded soundtrack and on Radiohead albums since Kid A. As was also visible in the picture from rehearsal, Jonny seems to have taped some pieces of plastic in place to prevent the keyboard from moving from side-to-side. These are a fairly recent addition, but they do not seem to be for the performance as Jonny only uses the ring for the score of There Will Be Blood. Perhaps it was for Radiohead’s September session?!
The instrument is set for a sine wave in the “8-stop” high register, with pitch controlled by the ruban. Both speaker outputs are used, and both are maxed. Jonny also has one of the tone sliders, perhaps the high-cut filter, turned on, though it is also maxed.
Jonny ran the Ondes into two amplifiers. Rather than use his Palme, or any of of his newer Ondes Musicales diffusers, Jonny opted for a simple JBL PA speaker (serving as a Principal, D1) and a Vox AC30c2 (serving as a Résonance, D2).
The JBL PA is probably an older version Eon, perhaps an Eon 15 G2. The PA speaker is a fairly standard loudspeaker, so it works well as a Principal.
Jonny’s Martenot ran into the Vox AC30c2(x?)’s normal channel low input. The amp was set to a fairly low volume, and with a slight high-cut. Both knobs of the reverb nearly maxed, but the tremolo turned off. Positions of the top boost knobs are irrelevant, since he isn’t using that channel, but perhaps
Note that none of Jonny’s Ondes Martenot playing on the soundtrack is of low enough a pitch to damage the speakers of the Vox, so he can use it without worry (as he did for the Henry Rollins performance of Cymbal Rush).
Jonny also had a Boss RV5, which seems to have been set for a plate reverb. I don’t know which amp it was used with, or if it was just a spare in case anything went wrong with the AC30. Perhaps it was meant for some vague emulation of the Metallique diffuseur, though he may just like the sound of the plate reverb.
Anonymous: Who does the beat on A Punch Up At a Wedding?
It sounds like a combination of an “classic analog”-sounding drum machine (likely the Roland TR909) and Phil playing actual drums. The drum machine sounds are heard in isolation during the first second of the track, but Phil comes in almost immediately, playing the second “snare” and continuing from there. Phil’s playing becomes especially apparent later in the track when he adds additional sounds and fills, especially after 3:10. However, Phil drops away around 4:32, and the drum machine is again heard in relative isolation until the end of the track.
In terms of the drum machine, I think that the most likely candidate is the Roland TR909, which Colin had on tour in 2003. It just sounds right. However, it is possible that the beat was constructed with Colin’s Akai MPC60, or it may have been made on the Roland MC505. It is also possible that the MPC60 was used to sampled the TR909 along with other sources, such as Jonny’s modular. However, I think that the sound of the beat shows it to be just the TR909.
While the sound of the drum machine is distinctive enough to give us a fair picture of what is, the play/programmer is harder to pin down. While Thom uses drum machines for demos of tracks, it is generally Jonny, Colin, and Phil who program drum sounds and beats, particularly the Greenwood brothers.
Anonymous: Hello, I'm new to synthesis and would like to ask if you can share tips how to create a bass like on Skip Divided, that plays from 0:11 sec. on? I have a basic setup, the synths from ableton suite and a few freebies... of course not the same gear Nigel or Thom used. However, if you could just give a hint for things like waveform(s), lfo, filter and that stuff i would really be happy. I enjoy that sound much and like to play such things with soft-synths and midi-keyboard. By the way, great site!
Hello! That bass sound does not sound particularly complicated, and you should be able to reproduce it fairly easily.
The first thing that I noticed was that the sound is heavily low-pass filtered. I only really hear bass and mids, so the waveform is hard to say. It doesn’t sound “video-gamey,” but it’s still a rich sound, so I would expect that it’s a sawtooth wave, and likely multiple oscillators, set either to sawtooths as well or to other waveforms like sine.
About halfway through the song, the filter is slowly opened a little, and we hear clearly that the filter is also being controlled by an ADSR. That is what causes the filter to swell in and out of each note, while the peak is set by the filter position (initially fairly low, opened as the song continued). There’s also a lot of resonance as the filter opened a little, which was added progressively through the middle part of the song.
Since the filter’s swelling is so clearly audible, it is likely a different ADSR was used to control amplitude, namely one with a faster attack and slower decay than the one controlling the filter.
It also seems like the filter opens just a tiny bit more as each note sustains, which makes me wonder if an LFO was used for that. Set to a sawtooth and reset by each note trigger, an LFO would produce that subtle swelling of the filter during the Sustain, as contrasted with the clear swelling during the Attack and Decay sections.
- At least one sawtooth oscillator, and probably multiple.
- ADSR with slightly fast but noticeable attack and decay.
- LFO set to a slow sawtooth, and reset each time a note is played.
- ADSR and LFO mapped to the filter’s cutoff, LFO only subtly.
- Amplitude ADSR set faster than filter one, such that the swell of the filter is fully audible.
- Filter cutoff and resonance adjusted live or by DAW programmed automation (since The Eraser is Thom’s “laptop album,” he may even have used a softsynth).
Anonymous: How's Ed making all the layers of the looped riff at the end of You're all I need live from the basement?
The only looping that I hear on live performances of the track are done by Jonny with his Akai Headrush, but those begin closer to the middle of the track (right channel, 2:35). He plays them all live.
Ed basically just holds long sustained notes, I don’t hear any looping. However, those are made using his EBow along with several effects. To make the sound swell in, Ed very subtly raises away from the strings between notes (but my enough to mute the slides completely). However, this does not seem to account for the length of the “attack” of the swells, so I suspect that he might have a delay with the mix set to be mostly wet, such that the initial sound is quieter. He also might have a second delay as well to smooth things out between the two. It’s hard to say how many delays are used, since the EBow blurs repeats, but there’s definitely some delay, as that smooths the decay of the notes and gives extra richness to the sound. He also has distortion to thicken the sound, but he’s using the neck pickup and probably has the tone knob low, which is why the sound is dark and smooth (sort of like the Ondes on some settings), rather than rich in upper harmonics.
From the rehearsals for the screening of There Will Be Blood - Jonny’s original student model Ondes Martenot alongside his Analogue Systems French Connection with The Apprentice cabinet, as posted by Wordless Music on Twitter. Also featured are a Boss
RV3 RV5 reverb and a Boss TU12H tuner.
Jonny used the student model on the original recording of the soundtrack, so it makes sense why he might be using it for the performance, rather than his new Ondes Musicales.
It is currently unknown if Jonny intends to use both instruments for the performance. The French Connection is patched for a simple Sine Wave, run through a high-pass filter to remove any extraneous bass, so perhaps Jonny intends to use it for a basic sound, while keeping the Ondes Martenot set to something more complicated. It is also possible that the French Connection is simply there as a spare, since the music stand is only in front of the Ondes.
Analogue Systems The Apprentice Modules
Same as used on 2012 tour, * indicates part of the patch.
- RS95E VCO
- RS95E VCO
- RS95E VCO*
- RS110 Multimode Filter*
- RS100 Lowpass Filter
- RS110 Multimode Filter
- RS100 Lowpass Filter
- RS60 ADSR
- RS60 ADSR
- RS180 VCA*
- RS180 VCA
- RS180 VCA
- RS270 Adaptor Converter*
Building Your Own Palme Diffuseur (Updated)
Jonny’s Palme (stringreunited).
The Ondes Martenot (or at least Ondes Musicales) is an instrument unique due to its control mechanisms and waveforms. As one might hope, its diffuseurs, or speakers, live up to the uniqueness of the instrument and bring further distinction to the instrument. There are four main types of diffuseur - Principal (standard loudspeaker), Résonance (springs suspended in front of speaker), Metallique (gong used as speaker cone), and Palme (suspended strings allow for sympathetic resonances). This article will discuss how to reproduce the sounds of the Palme, and briefly also the Résonance.
The Palme gets its name from its distinctive shape, which is similar to a palm leaf. The leaf shaped part is actually a resonating space, much like the body of an acoustic guitar, in front of which strings are suspended. It features a total of 24 strings, 12 on each side of the diffuseur. Each set of twelve is generally tuned to a full chromatic scale, ascending by semitone from left to right, though some pieces call for alternate tunings. The back strings may be tuned an octave above the front ones (I’m not quite sure). The Palme speaker was not only used by Jonny in conjunction with his Ondes Martenot, but also on Thom’s vocals on You And Whose Army.
The first thing to ask is how much do you want an authentic Palme?
The Résonance Diffuseur
Martenot essentially “replaced” the Palme with the Résonance diffuseur in the 80’s. It uses springs stretched in front of a speaker to create resonance and reverberation. Dierstein’s new Ondes Musicales uses this Résonance (in its double cabinet with the Principal) instead of the Palme, and since obtaining his new Ondes Jonny has used the Résonance instead of his more delicate, temperamental, and irreplaceable Palme. That could be easier to reproduce than the Palme, since you do not have the added problem of reproducing the resonant cavity, and you do not need to keep any strings in tune (if the strings are out of tune, your resonances would only be strong when you play out of tune). It wouldn’t be quite the same as the Palme, but it could be easier to make while still being quite an interesting Martenot diffuseur.
You could also just go for an authentic or even digital spring reverb, which doesn’t function in quite the same way but produces somewhat similar sounds.
The Palme Diffuseur
While the most distinctive physical characteristic of the Palme is its shape, what makes it unique sonically are tuned strings that are suspended in front of and behind the soundboard. The strings are originally tuned to the notes of a chromatic scale, but theoretically one could tune them alternately. The strings produce sympathetic resonances with the sounds being produced by a sound-exciter (or resonator) located in the “stand” under the chamber. Its the same principle as the extra strings on instruments like the Sarangi, or even on a piano when one releases the dampers.
Both sides of an early Palme (cité de la musique paris).
The cavity of the “leaf” also gives the speaker a resonant space, much like the body of an acoustic guitar. The resonant sounds produced by the strings are amplified by the sound chamber, and also caused to resonate for longer. As such, it is very important to the Palme’s overall sound.
If you wanted a really simple, makeshift Palme, you could buy a really cheap sound-exciter (such as this) and connect it directly to the bridge of the instrument. You could also trying sticking a speaker inside of the guitar, but it’d be less accurate to the original. With a twelve-string, you could even try to cover the entire chromatic scale, though I would be careful of the tensions. You should probably tune the strings down in pitch, rather than tuning any to higher pitches, lest you risk breaking the neck.
For a more authentic Palme, you’d need to build or commission a similar cabinet. The “body’s” shape is vaguely ovular, but with a point on one end, and suspended by a base. The base is also fairly important, as it is where the bridge/tailpiece and sound-exciter are located. If you were to have a cabinet constructed, I would think that a luthier would probably be a better option than a carpenter.
The base of the cabinet suspends the body above the bridge/tailpiece, so that the sound-hole is near the center of the span of the strings. This is a major difference compared to most string instruments, on which the bridge is connected tot he sound-chamber and can influence it directly, but you may or may not deem it necessary for your copy.
There seem to be two bridge types, one with a single square of metal, which is shaped to both hold the strings and to direct them, and one vaguely similar to those seen on a guitar such as a Les Paul (separate “bridge” and stoptail). Jonny’s Palme is of the latter type, but it seems to be a characteristic of later (80’s) Palme’s.
There are also two different methods of suspending the strings, or “tuners.” Earlier models have the tuners based on the top of the instrument, while later models have them held through the soundboard(s). This change was made earlier than that from one bridge to the other, and so models exist with the earlier bridge, but the later string-suspension-position.
(Same sources as above).
A Palme with the earlier bridge-type, but the later tuners (Source).
The strings used for the Palme were metal and similar to a guitar’s or mandolin’s, so one could just use guitar strings for a copy, and therefore possibly even a twelve-string guitar’s bridge and tuners. A 12-string Tune-o-matic style setup could work well, as could something closer to what is found on Arch-top guitars.
The Palme does not actually use a speaker, but rather a sound-exciter - basically the transducer part of a speaker, its voice coil, pole piece, and magnet. The exciter is connected directly to the bridge of the Palme (or to the bridge/tailpiece combo of the earlier models) by a length of metal. This causes the bridge itself to vibrate, in turn causing the strings to do so.
Though not quite the same, modern alternatives are available from Monacor and Sparkfun.
A side-view diagram of a Palme (radiomuseum.org).
An image of the a Martenot’s sound-exciter/resonator, from the Metallique diffuseur (radiomuseum.org).
It seems that the fundamentals of a Palme are these:
- Cabinet with acoustic amplifying/resonant space.
- Strings suspended in front of the sound-hole of that space.
- Bridge on which the strings rest is directly connected to a sound-exciter.
- Sound exciter and bridge kept in a “base,” which holds up the amplifying space but keeps the exciter and bridge separate.
If anyone ever does build a copy, I’d be happy to see and hear it. Best luck!
Just as the limited availability of authentic Ondes Martenot has caused many copies to exist, there are already a few copies of the Palme out there.
Claude-Samuel Levine’s Palme is similar to later Palme diffuseurs, but shows some notable differences from other Palmes, specifically in the “bridge.”
The Japanese company Asaden have also created a Palme copy. It is quite different from either of the originals in how the strings are suspended, but the fundamental principles are the same (resonating strings suspended in front of a sound chamber), and apparently it is much easier to tune. It only features strings on the front half of the diffuseur. You can listen to it here.
Anonymous: Hey, great blog! Just one question, how would I go about making my own Palme loudspeaker? It sounds a good treat and I'm wondering if I could replicate one to use with my guitar. Peace.
Hello! The first thing that I need to ask is how much do you want an authentic Palme?
Martenot essentially “replaced” the Palme with the Résonance Diffuseur in the 80’s. It uses springs stretched in front of a speaker to create resonance and reverberation. Dierstein’s new Ondes Musicales uses this Résonance (in its double cabinet with the Principal) instead of the Palme, and since obtaining his new Ondes Jonny has used the Résonance instead of his more delicate, temperamental, and irreplaceable Palme. That could be easier to reproduce than the Palme, since you do not have the added problem of reproducing the resonant cavity, and you do not need to keep any strings in tune (if the strings are out of tune, your resonances would only be strong when you play out of tune). It wouldn’t be quite the same as the Palme, but it could be easier to make while still being quite an interesting Martenot diffuseur.
While the most distinctive physical characteristic of the Palme is its shape, what makes it unique sonically are tuned strings that are suspended in front of the speaker. The strings are originally tuned to the notes of a chromatic scale, but theoretically you could tune them however you liked. The strings produce sympathetic resonances, with the sounds being produced by the speaker. Its the same principle as the extra strings on instruments like the Sarangi, or even on a piano when one releases the dampers.
However, it seems that the cavity of the “leaf” also give the speaker a resonant space, much like the body of an acoustic guitar. The resonant sounds produced by the strings are amplified slightly by the sound chamber, and also caused to resonate for longer.
If you wanted a really simple, makeshift Palme, you could stick a speaker inside of an acoustic guitar. With a twelve-string, you could even try to cover the entire chromatic scale, though I would be careful of the tensions. You should probably tune the strings down in pitch, rather than tuning any to higher pitches, lest you risk breaking the neck.
For a more authentic Palme, you’d need to build or commission a similar cabinet. The shape is vaguely ovular, but with a point on one end. The bottom of the cabinet suspends the “body” above the bridge and stoptail(?), so that the sound-hole is near the center of the span of the strings. This is a major difference compared to most string instruments, but you may or may not deem it necessary for your copy.
The strings used for the Palme were metal and similar to a guitars, so you could just use guitar strings, bridge, and tuners for your copy.
The speaker is a lot harder to pin down, however. Theoretically, I would aim for a fairly transparent one, since that would be best for all applications. However, since you’re playing a guitar, and since guitar speakers are an important part of an electric guitar’s sound (due to how they reduce higher frequencies), you might want to go for a speaker designed for a guitar. You will also need an amplifier to drive the speaker, but if you have a guitar amp you could use its speaker out.
If you (or anyone) ever do build a copy, I’d be happy to see and hear it. Best luck!
Anonymous: Hey KingofGear I have a few questions for you, I hope you can help! :) The first is, have you heard the stacked stems of Polyfauna 2.0? Well if you have, there's a track people have identified at Unhappening I was wondering if you knew, what kind of piano Thom uses for that song, it sounds like a Rhodes, but I might be wrong. The second question is do you know what kind of synth or how Thom makes the synth at the end of Amok, you can clearly it it the Amok sample. Thanks for the help! :))
Hello! I would go with Rhodes piano, since that is the only electric piano that Thom has used in the past couple of decades. The synth at the end (and start) of AMOK is Thom’s Dave Smith Prophet 08.