Usually our Sunday Synth Jam features jams that are – well, a lot more ‘synthy sounding’ than this.
With less guitar.
In fact, this is probably the least ‘synthy sounding’ and the most guitar-filled synth jam you’re likely to see. Which is precisely why we’re featuring it.
The video captures Tyler Ramsey (Band of Horses) playing an acoustic guitar fitted with the Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer. Experimentalsynth’s Chris Stack explains:
Here we have both odd and even harmonics modulated with an undulating, recycling series of timbres using mostly the warmer lower order harmonics. Tyler has the Vo-96 demo guitar tuned to a nice open chord, and the Vo-96 is not set to infinite sustain but to a very long slowly fading note duration.
The open strings drone an undulating progression of timbres produced by this setting and Tyler’s open tuning makes a rich background drone that harmonizes perfectly with the melody of the piece.
The Vo-96 & Acoustic Synthesis
The Vo-96, created by Paul Vo, attaches to a standard acoustic guitar and works by letting you control the vibration of individual harmonics of guitar strings over time. The DSP and control systems of the Vo-96 operate in the background, adding and subtracting harmonic vibrationof the string by modulating the magnetic field it.
Creator Paul Vo calls his approach ‘acoustic synthesis’ and considers it wide open territory to explore.
“It’s synthesis – but it’s not synthesis that’s occurring in some virtual space,” explains Vo. “It’s not even synthesis that’s occurring in an analog electronic space. It’s more real than analog. The synthesis is occurring physically, on a physical vibrating string.
“It’s not even once removed. Analog is like once removed, Digital is like twice removed. This is actually real – it’s physical. Behind the physicality is some really intense digital signal processing going on to control the physical space.”
The immediacy offered by Vo’s ‘acoustic synthesis’ comes with a constraint – the range of sounds possible is limited by the physical properties of the strings and guitar body. You’re not going to suddenly get mind-shattering bass synth with this approach.
Instead, the Vo-96 opens up new territory, acoustic sounds that you haven’t heard before, even though they sound guitar-like. And, while Vo’s first ‘acoustic synth’ is based on the guitar, the approach could be used with pianos and other instruments.
The Vo-96 is currently being funded as a Kickstarter project. It is about three-quarters of the way funded after 6 days.