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Roland D-50 key contact cleaning 3. Januar 2017

The Roland D-50 is an amazing synthesizer, but its keyboard circuitry also has some small issues that may show up after all those years.

To detect the key velocity, there is a pair of electrical contacts below each key. Due to their arrangement, the time between closing the two contacts varies depending on how hard you hit the key. The contacts are protected by rubber caps, but small dust particles (or as my case when I got my D-50 five years ago, a piece of tin foil :-D) may get below the caps and prevent the circuits from closing. Depending on which contact the dust ends up on, the key no longer sounds at all (I have never experienced this), or it always sounds at full velocity (like in my case). It is also possible that this only happens randomly and not every time the key is pressed.

Luckily, it is possible to fix this issue by cleaning the circuit boards. There are various tutorials on the internet which helped me fixing the problem. However, some of these tutorials contain unnecessary steps or otherwise contradict each other, so I decided to share my experience with the procedure here. Still, you may read the other tutorial and watch the video to get a more complete idea of what you need to do. Read the whole tutorial first before doing anything!

Step 1: Opening the device

To open the D-50, it has to be put on its top. Mount it on some books or similar boxes to avoid resting the synth on the joystick and pitch bender. Remove the five screws on the back of the device and the screws on the bottom of the synth. You do not need to remove the four feet.

Step 2: Removing circuit boards

Once the synth is open, it's time to get the main board and key scan board out of the way. The main board is the big circuit board that sits in the middle of the synth. I decided to not unmount the board entirely, since I am not a masochist and do not want to disconnect all the connectors on the mainboard and ruin my fingers. I also wanted to cut a minimal amount of cable ties. I ended up cutting the two cable ties that hold the shielded cable at the bottom, as that will also help removing the key scan circuit board entirely. After that, I started disconnecting connectors on the mainboard until I could swing it away to the back of the synth.

Technically, you probably only need to unmount the key scan circuit board if you want to fix any keys below it, but I still recommend unmounting the board and keep it safe. To do this, you need to disconnect some more connectors below the board.

Once this is done, you can remove the six screws the hold the keyboard assembly in place. Have a look at the other tutorial if you are unsure where the screws are located. Also disconnect the aftertouch ribbon cable at the right end of the keyboard assembly from the board. Now you should be able to move the keyboard assembly out of the synthesizer. Be careful when doing so. ;-)

Step 3: Fixing the keyboard

To remove the keys, you first need to remove the springs that hold them in place. Note that black and white keys use springs of different length, so keep them separate! The springs for white keys have fewer coils than the springs for black keys. You will need to remove a number of keys next to the faulty key - how many pretty much depends on the length of the rubber strip below the keys, which varies across the keyboard. If you are unable to find the ends of the rubber strip, just remove more keys.

After the springs are gone, you may have to loosen the plastic film strip that holds the keys in place on the back of the keyboard assembly. You can pry it open carefully with a screwdriver. You can then remove the keys by pushing them below the film strip, but note that black keys cannot be pushed out before surrounding white keys are gone.

Now that the keys are gone, gently put the paper strips below them to the side (e.g. by fixating them with a screwdriver). Below them, you can find the rubber strips which need to be removed gently. Make note of how exactly the rubber strips were inserted (both vertical orientation and the horizontal "offset" is important!). Once those are gone as well, you can clean the contacts on the circuit board using rubbing alcohol (preferrably 90% or more) which you put on a q-tip. Be sure to clean the surroundings and the rubber caps from any debris as well - you do not want to repeat this procedure again too soon, do you? ;-)

Step 4: Putting everything back in place

Let the board dry a bit and put the rubber strips back in place. If they do not seem to fit at first, you possibly rotated them accidentally. Turn them by 180° and try again. Remember to put the black keys back first, then the surrounding white keys. Now you can put the springs back on the keys, and make sure the film strips on the back sit firmly again. If it no longer glues to the board afterwards, some tape or glue may help with keeping them in place.

Now you can mount the keyboard assembly again, reinstall the screws and connect the aftertouch ribbon. Reconnect the key scan board and install the screws. Do the same with the main board, and put some new cable ties on the shielded cable. Close the unit, put the screws back in place and you're done! :-)

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Why instrument plugins in IT/XM aren't necessarily a bad thing 27. April 2014

People like talking bad about ModPlug's IT/XM format hacks, and quite often they are of course right - ModPlug shouldn't extend these formats to add features that will either crash the original program or that simply make the file sound completely different. But is this true for all new features?

I wouldn't say so. One feature where I feel that quite the opposite is true are, surprise, instrument plugins (VSTi)! Why would I say that, given that VSTs are probably the most criticized feature addition? Especially VST instruments, which stay completely silent when played in any other player? Well, that's because those other players simply don't implement one of the most interesting features of Impulse Tracker and Fasttracker 2: MIDI output.

Let me give you an example. Do you hear anything apart from a drum beat when playing this with your favourite IT player? No? You don't hear an organ? Well, sorry to disappoint you, but that's not ModPlug's fault. This file was saved in Impulse Tracker. It plays correctly on Interwave and AWE soundcards, since those are the only two drivers in IT that can have sample playback and MIDI output at the same time. Instrument plugins are just a layer on top of this MIDI mechanism, and instead of having to tell people which synth they have to hook their computer up to, you can simply store a reference to a softsynth and all its parameters in the module file, making this awesome feature of IT and FT2 way more portable. If you compose a song with VST instruments in OpenMPT, you can, in theory, load it into IT, use one of the two MIDI drivers and play it there as well! The additional information that's required to store the VST references won't interfere with IT or FT2, so it's no problem really.

I do agree, though, that effect plugins are slightly more critical than instrument plugins, but keep in mind that there's worse - like IT's AWE32 driver which could enable hardware reverb and chorus, but the settings for those two effects were actually not stored in your IT files. This is just like adding a chorus or reverb plugin to your song, except that with plugins, you can also store the exact settings. I do not necessarily think that it's a good idea to spread such IT files with embedded plugin settings, but the same is of course true about IT files written in Impulse Tracker that make use of AWE32 effects or IT files that make use of Impulse Tracker's MIDI output. And the same holds for XMs, of course.

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A tracking scene thriller 19. Juli 2013

Some of you may remember the story about A Scam Artist called Jay, a person that ripped of several well known modules by various tracker artists and sold them as his own on his band's CD. I'm not aware of many cases where people claimed to have written some tracked music that wasn't theirs, but recently The Mod Archive was contacted by two persons claiming to own the music released under the handle Timelord. Well, I was curious to find out who of the two was the real artist... So I did some research and wrote a story about it. Have fun reading it!

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Mod Library revisited 15. September 2012

Some of you might be using my program Mod Library for performing searches on their module collection. It works great for finding sample texts and similar things. However, what do you do if you don't want to know which module contains a certain sample text, but rather which module contains a certain melody? I often have melodies playing in my head, most of the time I even know that they are from a module, and typically I even know the module format and the rough time frame in which it was written (most often this would be an XM module written around 1997, but that's a different story :-D).

Wouldn't it be cool to have a program which would let you search for exactly this kind of stuff? It certainly would. And would it actually be doable? Yes, it would! And who would do it? Well, maybe I would! I am currently thinking about completely rewriting Mod Library. The new version might replace the BASS library (which is great for what Mod Library currently can do, but sadly not for what the new version should be able to do) with the OpenMPT core for loading modules and analysing their patterns. The note information from the patterns would then be stored in a database using relative offsets (so that it doesn't matter if a tune was written in A minor or D minor). I find this idea very intriguing, but I can make absolutely no estimates if / when I will be able to code this. Is anyone else actually interested in such a project?

Update: In May 2014, development has finally started!

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The jungle calls 16. September 2011

Hoffman of Unstable Label has released an awesome jungle musicdisk called 8-Bit Jungle at the Sunrise Demoparty last weekend. Although it's not entirely new material, you can safely say that this is one of the best music disks for the Amiga for some time. The download includes Amiga diskette images as well as the original Protracker MOD files as well as MP3 renders. Download and enjoy!

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The Sound of SceneSat Volume 2 17. Mai 2011

Finally, The Sound of SceneSat Volume 2 musicdisk is available in high quality OGG and FLAC! This epic collection of 73 fine tunes is nothing less than awesome.

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Chillout and Psy stuff 28. Februar 2011

Yersterday, I've come across some music by Maxus, and I was instantly captivated. On his website, you can find some really excellent chillout and psytrance music, all made with MadTracker. Some tracks I am especially fond of are:

If you like this, you will probably like other compilations by New Age Beats as well. "Andromeda" is for example included on M-Ether 2.

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Amigaaaaaaa! 27. Oktober 2010

I haven't heard a tune as great as Human Nature by cTrix in a while. Positive, upbeat, light-hearted, and tracked to perfection, as I'm used to it from cTrix. Although this has been just released as MP3, his advanced tracking skill is evident here. Just listen to it!

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Oldie but goldie 2. September 2010

Some of the first modules that I ever downloaded were In The Eyes and New Beginning by Sidewinder. True, they are rather old, but I still think their sound is simply fantastic. Crispy samples, punchy drums and the looping background sound make "In The Eyes" one of my most favourite tracks. Six years after downloading it, I still can't get enough of it. "New Beginning" is also a very upbeat track with great samples and a nice rhythm.

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Impulse Tracker awesomeness 12. Juli 2010

In case you have still any doubts that great music can be produced with good old Impulse Tracker (and in any other case as well), you should give Sphenx's music a go. Most tracks are absolutely wonderful compositions, often also pushing the tracker's limits. I especially love the "Space Ring" series, Shuttle Departure is a really awesome track!

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