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iOptigan – MIDI Chord Detection Modes Tutorial

Posted by peahix on November 8th, 2017

Another iOptigan tip, until we finish the user manual: there are three triggering modes for the chord buttons, selectable in the settings.

“MIDI G#0-E2 for Chords” lays out all the chord buttons in a chromatic mapping. Priority was placed on fitting everything with the keyboard scale on a standard 61-note keyboard, so the layout isn’t very intuitive, but it gets the job done. Chords are at the lower end of the keyboard, SFX tabs at the upper end.

“MIDI Chord Detection I” is a more intuitive mode, which allows the user to simply finger the desired chord in the low octave of the keyboard. Playing a C maj triad produces the C maj chord. Playing a C min triad produces the C min chord. etc.

“MIDI Chord Detection II” allows for more extended chords to be played using the time-honored Optigan technique of playing two chord buttons at once to approximate more complicated chords. There’s alot of trial-and-error involved with this, and results vary depending on the disc, but if you finger, say, a Cmaj7 chord on the keyboard (again, in the low octave), iOptigan will play the C maj and E min chords simultaneously. Try fingering other extended chords to see what you get, and you’ll likely stumble upon some unexpectedly pleasing combinations!

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iOptigan – The BIG Soundtest and Tutorial for the iPad

Posted by peahix on November 1st, 2017

Thanks to The Sound Test Room for this nice little overview video!

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Introducing iOptigan! An Optigan for your iPad / iPhone

Posted by peahix on October 31st, 2017

Now available in the iOS app store!
More info at!

In collaboration with Stefan Stenzel of Waldorf, we’re proud to announce iOptigan! It’s an Optigan on your iPad or iPhone, complete with all 40 original discs (25 included with app purchase, an additional 15 via in-app purchase) and all the scratchy lo-fi character and playability quirks of the original. What we didn’t include is all the headaches that tend to go along with the flaky old hardware!

As shown in the video above, you can setup iOptigan with a MIDI keyboard to approximate the playing experience of a real Optigan (chord buttons on the iPad, keys on the keyboard), but there are also additional ways to control iOptigan via MIDI as well as on screen. iOptigan faithfully emulates the unique playback characteristics of the Optigan, ie the “constant loop” of both the chord section and the keyboard. You also get tempo, reverb and balance controls that also behave as the original hardware.

Specifications and Features:

• Disc loading right-side-up or upside-down
• Spring Reverb (virtual)
• Optical Metronome
• Audio Demo for each Disc
• MIDI in/out
• MIDI chord detection
• MIDI File Import
• Sequencer with Record and Playback
• Sharing for songs as Audio and MIDI File
• iTunes File Sharing
• Inter-App Audio
• Smart background audio
• Help overlay
• Headphone optimised stereo (optional)
• Radio Mode for Chord Buttons or Keyboard
• Comfortable speed control in semitones or BPM

Oh, and for those looking for the definitive library of Optigan and related loops for production work, we still offer that, too!

Legal stuff: You may use the iOptigan audio loop content (“Audio Content”), contained in the iOptigan Software, on a royalty-free basis, to create your own original soundtracks (ie derivative works) for your video and audio projects. You may broadcast and/or distribute your own soundtracks that were created using the Audio Content, however, individual samples, sound sets or audio loops may not be commercially or otherwise distributed on a standalone basis, nor may they be repackaged in whole or in part as audio samples, sound libraries, sound effects or music beds.

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Behind ‘Phone Call’

Posted by peahix on September 12th, 2017

Nice analysis of our friend Jon Brion‘s Talentmaker work on this soundtrack.

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Spooky “Big Band Beat” Music in Twin Peaks

Posted by peahix on June 28th, 2017

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A Mediterranean Optigan at Nixon’s Western White House

Posted by peahix on May 12th, 2017

Before he passed away, Mike LeDoux shared an intriguing Optigan story with me, which I was reminded of this week in light of everything that’s going on with our current president. He pulled out these office memos and had me read them.

Astute students of history will note that at the time these memos were written, Nixon was actually in the process of being impeached, and would resign just a couple of weeks later. You’d think there would be more pressing matters at hand than receiving the gift of an Optigan at the Western White House?

I don’t remember all the details of Mike’s story, because he never put it in writing, but apparently Mike was known by someone associated with Nixon as a skilled audio tape editor, and given the Optigan office’s fairly close proximity to the Western White House, he was recruited to consult on a possible editing job of the famous “smoking gun” tapes that ultimately did Nixon in. Delivering an Optigan to the Western White House was simply the pretext for Mike’s visit. Here’s where my memory of Mike’s story gets a little blurry. I seem to recall that the Optigan was, in fact, delivered, but things were moving so quickly that by that time nothing could be done to prevent the impact of the tapes, and ultimately Mike never touched them. So that’s pretty much all I know and remember. I won’t venture to speculate further on this story, but rest assured that we won’t be sending any Optigans down to Mar-A-Lago (or editing any audio for the White House)! :) optigan002


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Optigan / OY Feature Story in Japanese Music Magazine “Map”, Summer 2000

Posted by peahix on May 12th, 2017

Going through some old things, I came across this Japanese music magazine called “Map” that ran a feature story on the Optigan and Optiganally Yours. I had completely forgotten it existed! I can’t read Japanese, so I don’t exactly know what it says, but it appears to be pretty enthusiastic.

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Bob Moog References Optigan/Orchestron in 1985 Keyboard Magazine Article

Posted by peahix on May 4th, 2017

The very first time I heard about the Optigan and Orchestron was in this article penned by Bob Moog for the Sept. 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine (with Jan Hammer on the cover).

bob moog keyboard mag article

Posted in Archives, Orchestron, Sightings | No Comments »

Vako Orchestron VIOLIN Disc Demo – KRAFTWERK – Franz Schubert

Posted by peahix on April 25th, 2017

I transcribed the Vako Orchestron VIOLIN disc parts from Kraftwerk’s “Franz Schubert” and put together a little demo / cover version. I cheated and used samples instead of learning the parts and playing them live on a real Orchestron, but hey, life’s too short. You can get my Orchestron samples here.

I put this together in Cubase. The synth sequence is played by Retrologue. I didn’t spend too much time dialing in the sound just right, but it’s close enough.

The other thing I didn’t take the time to do is emulate the dynamics of Kraftwerk’s original Orchestron performance. I’m assuming this was Ralf just improvising, most likely with a foot pedal to control volume, because there’s lots of dynamic volume stuff happening that isn’t possible by just playing an Orchestron straight. It would have taken a lot of time to re-create all these dynamics, so I didn’t.

I also decided to omit the “Endless Endless” coda.

The disc image you see is our own remastered version of the original Orchestron Violin disc. These are also periodically available, if you happen to have an Orchestron to play one in.

Posted in New Optigan / Orchestron Discs, Orchestron | No Comments »

1975 Photo Essay – How to Make an Optigan Disc

Posted by peahix on April 14th, 2017

I had some Optigan odds & ends sitting around and decided to mash them all up into one video. The slide show is from a photo album that Mike LeDoux (the guy in charge of making all the original Optigan discs) put together in 1975 in order to, basically, show his corporate overlords at Miner Industries / Opsonar (this was in the post-Mattel era) why they still needed to keep him, since he was their only employee on the west coast. The idea was to show them how complicated his job was, and that they couldn’t simply “hire some other guy” to do the work at their plant on the east coast. Needless to say, it was a hell of alot more difficult to make an Optigan disc back then as it is now! Though it’s still pretty tricky…

The audio is a variety of things from cassettes found in Mike’s archives:

First off is the only Optigan radio spot that I’m aware of.

Next is a series of demos made during the sessions that Art DePew arranged and conducted for Optigan. These are all big band recordings, and resulted in discs such as Champagne Music, Big Band Beat, Swing It, and Dixieland Strut. During the sessions, they had a bit of fun jamming on the basic arrangements, and that’s what you’re hearing here. Some of these arrangements never got used on any Optigan discs, so we may issue them at some point if there’s sufficient demand.

Lastly is the audio only from a Dec. 21, 1972 broadcast of the Dinah Shore TV show. Her guest was Barry Goldwater, who gets roped into attempting to play an Optigan. I’d love to see the actual clip, but I’ve yet to find it anywhere. If anyone finds it, let me know!

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