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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Micro x MicroHeavy

posted by on March 13 at 13:20 PM

Who needs music conferences and stages to rock? The Nord Micro Modular is a four knob video-tape sized interface that lets you twist and tweak your way into rock, right there in the comfort of your very own bedroom.


Dr. Heavy (a.k.a. Mike Todd) is an engineer / tech / musician who knows the internal workings of gear and systems. Heís a synth specialist who isnít afraid to go hard and loud. The band in which he uses his Nord Micro Modular is called Phase 3.

Before you kick my ass, can you talk about something small in your world of sound that brings you joy?
Dr. Heavy: Yes, I can. And itís the Nord Micro Modular. I use it as a sound generator. Itís four knobs, itís small, and itís affordable. It works like a modular synth. You pick a filter or an envelope, choose your programming option, and go. The Micro Modular can make up to 99 patches. You can use it as efx unit, a stand alone sound generator, or hook a keyboard up to it and play it with MIDI.

And itís tiny right?
Yeah. About the size of a VHS tape. I go direct into the mixer, run it through an efx pedal and a looping pedal, and have all the gear in a backpack. Get your Nord Micro, a couple cables, a pedal, and you can do a whole show. It mimics what a modular synth would do. You create how the patches will sound. Instead of having the normal synth rules, you can come up with your own.

Whatís the Phase 3 set up?
Weíre a Turntable DJ who runs stereo out, two Kaoss pads, a Micro Nord, and a Boss RC-20XL looping pedal. One other person uses actual modular synth, an electro harmonics looper, and a Kaoss pad. Itís more ambient sounding. We do have some beats, but theyíre glitchy and electronic sounds. The DJ messes with kidís records and medical records, and educational records.

Did you say educational records?
Yeah, you know, stuff about fog and anatomy. He puts two needles next to each other, and plays two grooves on the same record at the same time. It sounds really twisted. He puts pieces of wood under the record to create skips on the vinyl and does rhythmic things with those.

All this gear talk, I knew youíd be talking about wood at some point. Is it good wood? What kind of wood does he use? Tell me about his wood.
No, actually, this is where I kick your ass.

Hereís a video of Dr. Heavy in action with his Nord Micro Modular:

RSS icon Comments


Wow, that thing has some great sounds. Do you run synths through it via midi or 1/4 inch?

Technically you could run any sound through it, no?

Posted by Jeff | March 13, 2008 1:33 PM

You can run them in via 1/4 inch. Yes you can run anything through it. I have a Monotonic U-73 that I run into it when I play live, just to add a little more analog to the sound. I have also used it as an effect processor for guitar. I have some great ring modulator patches.

Posted by drheavy | March 13, 2008 1:55 PM

How much it set you back?

Posted by Jeff | March 13, 2008 2:07 PM

I got mine for $350 off craigslist. I don't see them for sale all the time, but usually around that price.

Posted by drheavy | March 13, 2008 2:19 PM

I'm confusionized.

So it acts like a synth? What does it do if you're not feeding anything into it? Just put out a steady pitch that you tweak various parameters of? And if you run an analog signal in it affects that sound with its various parameters?

Posted by Paulus | March 13, 2008 8:49 PM

When I said it works like a modular synth, I mean you patch together the different modules like you would in an analog modular synth, only with this it has a software program that allows you to program the patches in a GUI. Example of a very simple patch would be a oscillator - a filter - a envelope into the output. Now ot change the pitch of this patch I would have to control the Nord with a midi keyboard, or yes it would just be a simple tone unchanged, but I have choices of other control modules and sequencers, or lfo's to change pitch and modulate. Complex patches can be built that I use as loops, and three of the knobs can be programmed to control multiple changes, depending on how complicated you want to program.

The analog signal being run into it can be used as sound source, modulation, or changed into control signal. in the instance of the Monotonic synth I use it as another sound source. But as I said before the Nord can be used as a effect like ring modulator or envelope filter, bit crusher, so on.

There are several software programs that are like this Max/msp, Reaktor, various Moog Modular emulations and Plogue Bidule. I just chose this because I had my computer crash one too many times during a performance and thought I would try something else. Its a real cool tool in a small package.

Posted by drheavy | March 14, 2008 9:11 AM

thanks, doc.

Posted by Paulus | March 15, 2008 1:52 PM

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