S C O T T E R I C P E T E R S E N

Composer, electronic musician, improviser

Mixer Feedback Music: 1204FX Improvisation 2

WARNING:

(every good post should begin with one!)

Following any of the steps below to create feedback loops with mixers can harm your gear and more detrimentally, your ears.  The results are often unpredictable and almost always extremely loud.  The pulse waves created by these kinds of setups and heard in the recording below are very hard on the ear mechanism (as you will be able to tell by listening.)  Please take all precautions to limit the amplitude of your speakers and, if listening on headphones, to start with the volume very low and turn it up as needed.  If you plan to attempt the following setup or one like it, start with all volumes at the minimum and raise them once you know what your results are going to be.

Note: the piece begins very quietly, the first loud sound is around 1:26.

1204-10-29

The following is a list of equipment used in the above improvisation.

  • Dell Latitude D620 (1.6gHz, 1GB RAM) running the latest PureDyne distribution
  • Jack and Ardour to record the improvisation
  • Behringer XENYX1204FX mixer for all sound generation
  • 4 1/4 TS cables
  • 4 RCA cables
  • Headphones

Kane recently played a few recordings for me of experiments he had done with feedback systems created using his 1204 mixer.  The sounds were appealing and I thought it would be fun to see what it was like to make music with only a mixer for an instrument.  My 1204FX has on-board DSP that Kane’s model does not.  Normally, I do not use the processor at all, but for this exercise it was useful in adding variation to the signal flow and achieving a variety of sonic results.

Last night I experimented for about 2 hours with different routing schemes and to get used to controlling the mixer as a sound-generator.  I recorded 8-10 tests and ended up with about 45 minutes of pretty good material which I may use at some point in the future.  I then recorded 1204-10-29 in one take, using only the 2-channel output from the mixer.  There is no additional material in the recording, nor any post-processing aside from normalization.  The following is the routing recipe I used.

Routing the 1204FX

The first pair of feedback loops was connected as follows:

Alt 3 output –> channel 1 input (trim at +60) –> sent to Alt 3-4
Alt 4 output –> channel 2 input (trim at +60) –> sent to Alt 3-4

The second pair of loops was connected like so:

Aux Send 2 –> channel 5/6 L (+4) –> Main Mix (no Alt 3-4) –> Aux Sends 1-2 alternately as desired
Aux Send 1 –> channel 7/8 R (+4) –> Main Mix (no Alt 3-4) –> Aux Sends 1-2 alternately as desired

Aux Sends 1-2 at +15
Aux Returns at +5 to +10
Aux Return 1 to Aux Send 1 at +5

The reverberation heard is the built-in “Chapel” reverberation, program 19 on the mixer.  I used the Control Room R & L output channels to route the audio to my laptop for recording.  I monitored the sound using the headphone jack on the mixer with the volume as near to zero as I could get it.  (At some points this was not enough and I had to quickly pull the phones off.)

Useful parameters for making music

There are many ways to achieve sonic variation within the mixer.  The controls I used were the “pre” buttons for each channel, which control signal flow to the main mix and the aux sends, the faders for each channel plus the ALT 3-4 and Main Mix stereo faders, the “ALT 3-4” buttons, the AUX 1-2 faders, the pan controls, and the 3-band EQ for each channel.  (Is that everything, you say?  Almost, I didn’t touch the trims, the low cuts, or the aux send knobs below the DSP area.)  The controls I used the most were the volume faders and the 3-band EQs.  All of the frequency variation (thumping lows to screaming frequencies around 12k) was accomplished by turning down two of the three EQ bands, and playing with the remaining band while simultaneously working the volume fader for that channel.

If you are interested in experimenting with a mixer like this, trial and error will be your best guide.  Try making the channel settings similar for all channels and then changing them one by one to clearly hear the results.  Or try using only 1 or 2 of the channels and later adding the rest one by one.  Most of all, play with the levels a lot: I noticed that in several instances minute changes to a single channel produced startling results.  Also get to know your routing: changing the ALT 3-4 stereo faders will affect all of the channels using the ALT 3-4 pair, while playing with the gain of an individual channel will only affect other channels that share its signal path.  By bypassing the aux sends (the DSP) you can have two layers of sound, one processed and the other dry (you can hear this clearly in my piece), so experiment with foreground and background layers.

Here, again, for your edification is my improvisation… I know you don’t want to scroll all the way back to the top of the page.

1204-10-29

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Filed under: Current Projects, Music, Phase 1, , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Responses

  1. Josh says:

    Hi, thanks a lot for writing this post! I’ve just recently been turned on to ‘feedback mixer music’, but wasn’t really able to find anything on the web that talked about a good starting place (routings and all). So thanks again!

  2. […] The audio is by Scott Petersen. To learn more about the audio and how it was created, click here. […]

  3. Bruce says:

    Well done, cool result! This technique is new to me. Don’t think I will try it myself though! Big dragster motorbike sounds and more, nice. thanks.

    • scacinto says:

      Hi Bruce, thanks for your comment. If you want to try this stuff out, just head down to the local pawn and pick up whatever mixer they have on-the-cheap. Even “broken” mixers will work most of the time, and sometimes with even better sonic results.

      Cheers

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