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February 2011

Posts from January 2011

FAW Circle Patch - Ancient Astronaut


A  motion pad with vocal characteristics. Mod Wheel controls FXPingPong2Time. Use the Mod Wheel to add change speed and pitch of delays. I programmed “Crusher” so the patch works with it off and on.  In the sample below, I use the same MIDI clip with Mod Wheel automation and record first with the crusher off and then with the crusher on. The Sequencer modulates resonance and bit crushing intensity.

One reason I like using Circle is it’s really easy to route modulation and quickly grasp modulation routings. Just drop the colored circle from a modulation source and drop it on a modulation target.

I left you a little home work this time. When you download the patch, you’ll notice that the patch responds with fixed velocity. To add keyboard velocity as a modulator for volume, drag the blue circle to the VGA Level source. You can change the intensity of the effect by following the instructions in the call out.


Ancient Astronaut Demo for FAW Circle Patch for Patch Lab by MarkMosher

Download .cpf File

Interview With Alan Pollard - Keyboard Technician for Goldfrapp, Björk, The Human League, The Cure, ELP…


Alan Pollard has been a keyboard technician for over 20 years working with major artists such as Björk, Queen, The Human League, Goldfrapp, The Cure, Stevie Wonder, Paul Weller, Annie Lennox, Emerson Lake & Palmer to name a few. These days, he  specializes in programming and running Mac based sequencing software for touring live shows. He also designs and builds reliable installation, live and studio keyboard / computer systems.

Alan was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his work and offer some insights for those who want to purse projects of this nature.

Mark Mosher: Your website mentions you “specialize in programming and running Mac based sequencing software for touring live shows.” What is your “go to” software for sequencing live shows and why?

Alan Pollard: Most tours I work on I use Apple’s Logic mainly because I tend to end up syncing various instruments and sending program changes etc. So Logic’s integration of audio and midi tracks makes most sense to me.


Mark Mosher: How did you first get started in this line work?

Alan Pollard: I worked in a music shop when MIDI was first introduced and set up some early sequencing set-ups for studios. When I left I pretty much went straight onto a tour doing the same thing as I had been doing in the store.

Mark Mosher: How has performance and stability improvements in laptop technology changed your strategy for live performance rig design and what new challenges have laptops introduced?

Alan Pollard: Using laptops makes a smaller set-up than having a racked up desktop and is also easier to have back-ups; I often set up the show on my personal Macbook Pro to use in emergencies. I still think that if a tour set list is pretty much set in stone and the band are not likely to change much then a hard drive playback system is more stable. But you often still need the computers with you in case songs get added or changed. The ability to work on a track back in the hotel room with just a laptop makes some things a lot easier, as trying to sync up drum parts at the side of a noisy stage at a muddy festival site is not always the best way :-)


Mark Mosher: You are currently touring with Goldfrapp. Their latest album “Head First” is loaded with synth including some classic analog sounds. What is your role on this tour and what approaches will you be taking to reproduce these sounds live?

Alan Pollard: I worked closely with Will Gregory for a couple months before the tour getting all the sounds we needed from the album stems and sampling other original parts. Angie Pollock plays all her keyboard sounds from within Logic. We are using a mixture of ESX samples and soft synths (eg FM8 and Surge) to reproduce the parts needed. I have backing parts on hard drives but also run Logic to send program changes to Angie and the electronic drums (Akai’s) as well as start the 2 hard disk recorders in sync.

Mark Mosher: I read that on the Björk tour that you were using Reactable. How do you think tangible interfaces such as Reactable change the way you perform music and connect with audiences?

imageAlan Pollard: That particular Björk tour was about having the electronic aspect controlled in a very tactile way so that the audience could see things were happening and not just faced with someone hunched over a laptop. The reactable was obviously a big visual synth. But we also used Tenori-ons, Lemurs, korg kaos pads and various fader banks, which all meant that there wasn’t too much mousing and you could see that the guys on stage were performing.

Mark Mosher: Do you have any tips for musicians performing with laptops on how to harden or “crash proof” their rigs?

Alan Pollard: As I mentioned before, I always start by saying do you really need it running from a laptop or could it be played back from another source, ie hard disc etc.

Then I would say you need backup; lots of backups. And not all in the same place, leave a drive with a clone of your machine at home, and carry one with you away from the rest of the gear.

Next test your show in order all the way through. You never can be sure that one song may throw up a problem for another when played back to back. And if anything ever goes wrong, don’t say it was “just one of those things”, find the problem or reason, there almost always is one. Also if you can have a clean laptop just for music and don’t go over board with every plug-in and soft synth, just have the ones you need for the show.


Mark Mosher: Are there hardware synths or controllers that you tend to bring out on every tour and do you bring a backup for each hardware synth?

Alan Pollard: Yes I always try and have a spare of everything, but I have to work with the band and their budget :-) My off stage rack tend to have similar things in it but it depends on the tour.


Mark Mosher: How much time do you usually have to create a rig and program a live show?

Alan Pollard: It really varies, usually you know and can start planning a month or so before, i.e. order equipment and locate masters etc. Sometimes you might just come in at the start of rehearsals, a couple of weeks before the first show, and you just have to make do with the bands equipment and get it in a road worthy state as best you can.

Mark Mosher: You’ve worked with the likes of Bjork, Queen, The Human League, The Cure, Stevie Wonder, Annie Lennox to name a few. What was the most technically complex and challenging show you’ve worked?

Alan Pollard: They all have their own challenges, but I guess that the last Björk tour had the most going on for me. My playback rig off stage, Damian Taylor with laptop & keys, tactile interfaces and mixer with feeds from other players. Mark Bell running Abelton live and various effects. The reactable, a real harpsichord, all synced together with MIDI metronomes for the brass section!

Mark Mosher: Do you have any words of advice you can give to Modulate This readers who might want to pursue a career in programming for touring live shows?

Alan Pollard: Tricky one...listen to people, everyone's got something they can teach you and a valid opinion. I’ve learned a lot from touring with some very accomplished players and crew. Also it should be fun, remember its for people’s entertainment and that’s the bottom line.


For more information see Alan’s web site -

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO

Absynth 5 Patch - Fractal Pad MM


A motion pad using Fractalize with a stepping envelope to modulate oscillator A.Granular synthesis is used for oscillator B using factory wave sample Cello-Class.wav. These oscillators have a metalic sparkling sound at the high end of the keyboard. In lower octaves this sounds more choir-like. On Oscillator C I'm using wave morphing with a cloud filter which sounds a bit like a class "computer" sci-fi sound.  In the performance section there is an X/Y pad to add Oscillator C into the  mix. Performance control 3 is assigned to Osc 3's Cloud filter and modulates grain randomness.

Absynth 5 Fractal Pad by MarkMosher

Download .ksd (Asynth 5, Kore 2)

Announcing Modulate This Patch Lab

As my first post of 2011, I’m excited to announce the new Modulate This Patch Lab micro site –

I've had a passion for programming synths and working with samplers for over 20 years. I'm constantly experimenting and creating new patches with a large variety of electronic music instruments. I'm also creating original harmonic content via field recordings and re-synthesis.

While many of these patches are used in my original music and sound compositions, I have a lot of patches that have yet to be used. This led me to thinking of ways I might share my past and future patches and samples so you could use them in your work. I also hope that these listening to these sounds, reading my notes, and spending time to reverse engineer these patches will help inspire you to go deeper with synthesis and sound design so you can add unique sounds and timbres to your music and sound compositions.

Patch Lab Concept
To this end I've launched the Modulate This Patch Lab. Patch Lab is my "synth programming stream of consciousness share as I go" micro site. I'll be sharing individual presets as I finish them - or at least get them far enough along for you to have fun with them. I'll also share some patches from my personal library.

For each patch I'll be starting from "init". I'm releasing these patches under a non-exclusive royalty-free license so you can use the patches in the context of any musical and/or sound composition (see licensing for more details). From time-to-time I will also include some libraries of sounds (licensed separately)

Site Features


Each post corresponds to a patch or library. For patches, there is a screenshot, description/usage notes, an audio sample, and download links.

The main site has an RSS feed so you can subscribe to all updates. Each synth and patch type has it's own category each with it's own RSS feed. Use search to explore the patches.

The search results page offers a thumbnail screenshot and the audio preview of the patch making it easy to browse the search results. I've also provided a SoundCloud drop box in the right column if you would like to share original music or sound compositions you made with patches from this site.

Subscribe, Comment, Share
So, subscribe to this site, download patches, have fun, tell your friends, share and leave comments.


Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Synthesist, Sound Designer
Boulder, CO