Tuesday, 19 June 2012

First play with the signal generator......

I mentioned in a previous blog entry that I managed to acquire myself a signal generator. What on earth would I want with one of those? And trust me, that is a question I have been asked a few times over the last week or so.

Well first off, I think it best to explain what a signal generator is. It's an electronic device that generates a repeating or non-repeating electronic signal. Their main functions are generally for designing, testing, troubleshooting, and repairing electronic or electroacoustic devices, but naturally they do also have artistic uses. There are quite a few types of signal generator and all have a different purpose or application.

The type of signal generator I now have is a Type G1 low frequency signal generator manufactured by Linstead Electronics Limited who were based in North London. The advertising blurb for the G1a reads as follows~:

 The G1 provides a flexible source of audio and ultrasonic signals. The frequency range (10 c/s-100 kc/s) is covered in four decades controlled by a multiplier switch and a variable control clearly calibrated on a 54 in. diameter scale. Outputs available: sine wave, 0-6 v r.m.s. continuously variable (distortion < 1 X); square wave, 0-9 v peak-to-peak (d.c. coupled for no droop at low frequencies - fast rise times (x 1 psec) at high frequencies); 0-1 W into 3 0 over the frequency range 50 4s-20 kc/s - this output can drive a loudspeaker for testing and producing an audible note for experiment or a vibrator to examine mechanical vibrations. Supply: 210-250v, 40-60 cis, 25 W.

I don't actually have a clue what any of that really means, but for those of you who do, I hope it was interesting enough. I know it makes the type of noises I want it to make and the fact that it works is good enough for me :-)

Once I got the signal generator home, my first task was to sort out an audio lead and fortunately my new-found soldering skills came in handy as I cobbled together a temporary something so that I could get playing with it. I'll put together a proper lead in the next week or two.

The lead worked first time and I nearly cancelled out all hearing capabilities - moral is: check the volume pot on the sig gen as well as the faders on the desk!!! I fired up Reaper, loaded in AmpliTube 3 (it's a VST guitar thing - lots of cabinets, amps and effects) and a VST reverb plug-in called Ambience and away we went. Essentially, at this stage I am capable of only creating drones and pitch sweeps, though it is possible to "play" the signal generator, but that's going to take a little practice. That said, a new friend of mine in America called Rod Mitchell (he releases his music through Hollow Sun Records under the name of Atomic Shadow) has sent me a musical note to frequency chart which shows me what each number on the signal generator's dial corresponds to in terms of pitch. Basically, it will make learning to play the Linstead a bit easier.

So, I laid down some interesting bits and bobs and found that I had about 3-4 minutes of something that could possibly be turned into something. And that's what I did. I added a nice little synthy sequence courtesy of a VSTi called Dream Sequencer, bass sequence using a VSTi called MiniMogue and a rhythm that was made up of a hi-hat from my Alesis DM5 drum module triggered using the DIY drum trigger I made a few weeks back and some processed and looped noises I made, again using the DIY drum trigger. Wee bit of compression on the Linstead to keep it's levels in check and a little something came out of it. Have a little listen below :-)



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