Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, synthesizers like the Minimoog Voyager add a whole new dimension to your sound. Here are a four of my favorite licks and tricks to get you started on the journey!
Outside-in - click for audio. I like to create tension by playing synth lines in and outside of a key, over an open vamp. This line uses major triads in various forms and rhythms, over an F pedal point. It begins with Eb, B, and Db triads in the first phrase. In the second phrase, Eb, Gb, A, C, and Eb major triads in an ascending triplet pattern create tension. The line finally resolves back to F minor. This works well with a synth patch that uses two sawtooth waves and a partially open filter.
Polyphonic trick - click for audio. The Minimoog is monophonic, but an easy way to play multiple pitches on any monophonic synth is to tune the oscillators to different intervals. In this E Phrygian melody, the first phrase is one pitch on one oscillator. For the second phrase, oscillator 2 is tuned to a fifth above oscillator 1.
Harmonic illusion - click for audio. Shifting harmony beneath a melody often creates the illusion that the melody has changed, even when it hasn’t. This two-bar phrase in A repeats, with the chords (played on piano) changing the second time around. I’m using three oscillators (two square waves and a saw) all in different octaves, slightly detuned. Flip on the release switch on the last note of each phrase for sustain, then turn it off at the start of the next one.
Funky bottom - click for audio. This bass line in G minor evokes Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters era. The Minimoog is still the axe of choice for a fat bass sound. This patch uses all three oscillators (one square and two saws this time) all in different octaves. The mod wheel opens and closes the filter, and I’ve added some resonance for extra effect.
Author Scott Chasolen is acclaimed for his keyboard work as a founder of instrumental group Ulu, his prog stylings in Pink Floyd tribute the Machine, and the piano-driven jazz-pop of his solo project SC3. For more info, visit scottchasolen.com.