Positif Synth School

Positif Synth School – Radiohead’s “National Anthem” on a Doepfer R2M ribbon controller

In the live and album versions of the “national anthem” there’s a very nice theremin-like sound (see 1:33 in this video). The way mr Greenwood achieves it is by using an $3200 Analogue Systems “French connection” controller like this one wich then controlls another really expensive -could be worth another $2K or $3k- modular system.

The bad news: we don’t have $6k to spend on this sound.

The good news: we don’t need $6k. Enter the doepfer R2M!

We’ll be using this thing wich is about $350 quid new (NICE!). You could also make your own ribbon controller for a LOT less with a ribbon strip and some electronics knowledge.

The R2M converts your finger movements over a ribbon strip into CV voltage control and MIDI CC signals. This way you can get a smooth pitch transition similar to a theremin, but MUCH easier to control.

This CV messages go into a synth with an EXTREMELY simple patch. It’s a pulse waveform VCO, into a filter with medium cutoff ,medium resonance, into an VCA with slow attack on it’s ADSR. I achieved it with an SH-101. I then applied a little bit of delay via a BBD pedal (MXR carbon copy) and voilá: instant $6K RADIOHEAD SOUND for a lot less!

For educational purposes we’ve now decided to make patch diagrams, in order to make our explanations easier to understand.

The modules are scanned from Roland’s “Practical Synthesis for Electronic Music”, a promotional 70’s vintage book on modular synthesis that uses the company’s old SYSTEM 100M for examples. We thought it gave the section a nice touch!

(To correctly view the image above at the original size you have to press “right click + view image”)