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Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?

Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« on: April 02, 2019, 01:44:39 PM »
Hi all,

First and foremost, I LOVE this synthesizer. I've had it for a few years now and love it- so flexible, such a unique sound, and the almost 'one-knob-per-function' aspect makes it easier than ever to use.

My only gripe is: the manual leaves a LOT to be desired. Even the Carbon111 manual seems to leave a lot out. I see people posting on Instagram and Youtube with their various patches and am dumbfounded how they have figured this thing out to such extents and get such wild sounds out of it. I'm very familiar with synthesis, but the PEK seems to have particular ways of doing things and lots of it is still a mystery to me.

I can't help but relate it to a VST- say Serum or Sylenth1 which have endless tutorials on how to use every aspect of the software.

Is there a particular resource that's all inclusive? I've been reading the forums and trying to find anything online but I feel like I'm missing something.

Any help would be appreciated!  :)

Re: Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2019, 02:35:08 PM »
It's a matter of learning by degrees.  The PEK manual is just as you described it, but it is a start.  Read it over and over to glean what you can from it.  The next degree is Anu Kirk’s Definitive Guide to the Evolver.  This is a tremendous guide, and it offers exercises in programming that get you involved in design.  And the next degree is painstaking hours of experimentation.  But this has to be methodical.  You have to work through the instrument section-by-section in order to come to know and understand it.  Just the oscillator section by itself is worthy of hours of trial and error. 

This resource might also be worth your perusal.  It goes all the way back to the days when the first Evolver was released.  There's a lot of information to be found, but you'll have to sift the site:

https://web.archive.org/web/20150316072322/http://www.ex5tech.com/ex5ubb_cgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=forum&f=23
« Last Edit: April 02, 2019, 02:36:45 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
The Musical Synthesizer YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChLGwGiRVs7rlZXnOG9_mUw

The Musical Synthesizer Blog: https://themusicalsynthesizer.wordpress.co

Re: Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2019, 09:09:26 PM »
Thanks for the forum link, that's super helpful. I was actually referring to the 'Definitive Guide...' when I said Carbon111. I've done lots of experimentation, but I think another run through on the Guide will be helpful.

Now that I think of it, I may have stopped short the first time through because it's longer than I remember.

I'm planning on making a bunch of PEK tutorial videos, so hopefully I'll be able to digest this info well enough to regurgitate it! Thanks for the links!

Re: Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2019, 11:18:02 AM »
You're welcome.  Pardon the self-promotion, but I usually offer patch design descriptions under my videos.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-CSFEgC2tTzYa70uOirGHIWGu72Pui8l
« Last Edit: April 03, 2019, 01:54:55 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
The Musical Synthesizer YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChLGwGiRVs7rlZXnOG9_mUw

The Musical Synthesizer Blog: https://themusicalsynthesizer.wordpress.co

Re: Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2020, 06:02:29 PM »
Something that's actually helped me get a better handle on my PEK has been using it to recreate patches on my Sub 37 and on my JP-08. I realize that seems silly - but the Poly Evolver invites you to make bugfuck weird sounds, and has such a wide range on each attribute, that sometimes I get lost in random design, enjoying the catharsis that comes with building out those strange sounds, and I end up with something that no one else would ever want to hear.

So when I make a lush pad on my JP08, I see if I can recreate it on the PEK. It helps me get my gain staging under control, it reminds me to be judicious with the filter. I had a gnarly bass patch on my Sub 37, and found that with a little more restraint than I often use, I was able to make an even chonkier variation of that patch on the PEK.

Once I have that strong baseline, I can then go beyond that and bring in some of the more unique elements this synth can offer.

I basically took this technique from my experience with the Tempest. I found the original presets disappointing, but I also wasn't super thrilled with my own attempts at creating synth percussion. When the Roland TR-8 came out, I found myself eyeing it up, because I had let my Tempest collect dust for a year or two, having been frustrated with the sounds I was ekeing out of it. Did I really need to drop hundreds of dollars on another drum machine? I had the ultimate percussion synthesizer, I just hadn't been using it right. Ironically, I took a cue from Roland's promo videos for the AIRA line, where they showed engineers analyzing sound in free oscilloscope software called Visual Analyzer.

I downloaded VA, plugged in my TR-606, opened the Sound on Sound Synth Secrets articles about making 808 drums, and spent a long time building out Roland percussion, and now not only had my fever subsided for the TR-8, but I sold off my TR-606 and DR-110, and had a great starting point for developing my own custom drums, and I really, really got to know the Tempest during that process.

Re: Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2020, 07:37:01 AM »
So after owning my PEK for many years it becomes obvious that I'm still learning things about it.   Just the other day I sat down to mess around with the sequencer and discovered a whole new side to it.  Typically I use the Soundtower editor for controlling the PEK sequencer,  as it's much easier that way.  Anyway,  I cannot believe that I never noticed or made use of the feature where you can adjust the note length value for each step.  I don't mean gate, but actually note length.  Boy, this can make for some fun control.   I've always felt the PEK sequencer accompanied with this editor was a high standard to be compared to.   I'm not familiar with another hardware sequencer that can vary tempo in this particular fashion.  Usually ratchet is provided in many other units, but is available in even increments, whereas this does not need to be.

During my "play time"  came up with more more wonderful sounds.  One is a Jethro Tull-like flute using the tuned feedback control.  Eventually I will get them shared.
DSI Equipment: Poly Evolver Keyboard, Evolver desktop, Prophet 8,  Pro-2, OB6, P-12
 

https://Soundcloud.com/wavescape-1

Re: Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2020, 07:55:05 AM »
Ahem....As probably the only other person who reads this part of the forum.... :D

I'm not aware of other resources for learning about the Evolvers, other than the one or two we're well familiar with.  But that doesn't mean the leraning has stopped.  Perhaps as you've just described, the best technique for continuing the learning is occasionally devoting hours of pure experimentation with the instrument.  It's not something I do often, but there's nothing like a late night of pure knob-twisting.  It's amazing what you can miss, even after years of using a synthesizer.  Even as Evolver veterans, we will always be surprised by the great blue monster.  So, that's my only suggestion for learning this instrument: nights spent on the control panel, rather than at the keyboard.

(As an aside, I must confess that, on strange nights while in a weird mood, I will turn off the lights in the music room, trigger one of the factory sequences, sit back, and have one heck of a daydream to the flashing blue and red Evolver lights.  It tends to rekindle my fascination with the instrument, although it usually ends with my wife creeping down the stairs and asking if I'm feeling alright.)
« Last Edit: July 22, 2020, 08:07:45 AM by Sacred Synthesis »
The Musical Synthesizer YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChLGwGiRVs7rlZXnOG9_mUw

The Musical Synthesizer Blog: https://themusicalsynthesizer.wordpress.co

Re: Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2020, 10:25:26 AM »
Agree, no better way than to experiment with this beast.   Yeah,  I think my wife wonders about me too sometimes when toiling with all these knobs and lights. :)
DSI Equipment: Poly Evolver Keyboard, Evolver desktop, Prophet 8,  Pro-2, OB6, P-12
 

https://Soundcloud.com/wavescape-1

LPF83

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Re: Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2020, 10:20:04 AM »
So the Poly Evolver has a steep learning curve?  This is interesting to me, I always thought Dave was more into design decisions that favor simple interactions, but I confess to having never tried a PE.
Prophet 6, OB-6, Prophet Rev2-16, Korg Minilogue XD module, Roland SPD-30, Roland SPD-SX, Roland KT-10, Maschine, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen + Octopre.

Re: Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2020, 05:38:24 PM »
The instrument is well-designed and ultimately easy to use.  But there's a lot packed into it, and the deeper you dig, the more you find.  The complexity comes with the vast number of functions that can go into a patch.  But it is a finely designed synthesizer.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2020, 11:57:02 AM by Sacred Synthesis »
The Musical Synthesizer YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChLGwGiRVs7rlZXnOG9_mUw

The Musical Synthesizer Blog: https://themusicalsynthesizer.wordpress.co

LPF83

  • **
  • 121
Re: Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2020, 05:37:16 PM »
The instrument is well-designed and ultimately easy to use.  But there's a lot packed into it, and the deeper you dig, the more you find.  The complexity comes with the vast number of functions that can go into a patch.  But it is a finely designed synthesizer.

I would have thought that's the case, as Dave's designs seem to lean toward simple to learn but full of depth when you search for it, but when I saw the first post in thread, I got the impression the original poster just found it difficult to achieve some of the sounds he'd heard come out of it.  I've had that experience with some soft synths -- where the presets sound great, but then I began tweaking them and find that the workflow probably made sense to the synth designer, but isn't really fitting into the way my mind works.  Going back to the 80's, the Yamaha DX7 struck me like that.  The first synth I learned to program on was a Kawai K5 (additive synth)... Oddly enough has been considered the most difficult to program synth ever created by some (and I was unlucky enough to cut my synth teeth on one!).   As unnatural (and simultaneously fun) as that experience was, subtractive workflow is always so much more musical to me (even though some will say that additive synthesis is the only way to truly reproduce natural sounds).

I adore the three Sequential synths I have now are with me because  they seem to think the way I think, and I suspect subtractive purists do.  There are other synths that sound amazing but just work contrary to others -- some admire that, I find it gets in the way. 

Was curious where the PEK falls in that spectrum?  Maybe easy to use, but just a lot of range available on the parameters?
« Last Edit: September 11, 2020, 05:40:53 PM by LPF83 »
Prophet 6, OB-6, Prophet Rev2-16, Korg Minilogue XD module, Roland SPD-30, Roland SPD-SX, Roland KT-10, Maschine, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen + Octopre.

Re: Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2020, 07:11:34 PM »
Yes.  I, too, learned synthesis on old additive synthesizers - the Korg MS-20, Minimoog, ARP Odyssey, and Electrocomp EML 101.  Coming from such a background, it was a smooth transition to Dave Smith's instruments, including the Poly Evolver Keyboard.  I had more difficulty adapting to matrix and menu type designs, as with the Evolver Desktop and Tetr4.  But I think anyone with a similar background would find working with a PEK to be a joy, as I do.
The Musical Synthesizer YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChLGwGiRVs7rlZXnOG9_mUw

The Musical Synthesizer Blog: https://themusicalsynthesizer.wordpress.co

Re: Where/how are you all learning how to use the PEK?
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2020, 12:59:27 PM »
LPF83

You wont have any problem finding your way around on the PEK.  Its just that there's some nooks and crannies that can be found long into ownership that make it a continual instrument of discovery.  The Soundtower editor is probably something you want if you plan to do much with the sequencer though.

DSI Equipment: Poly Evolver Keyboard, Evolver desktop, Prophet 8,  Pro-2, OB6, P-12
 

https://Soundcloud.com/wavescape-1