Lay Cool – Experimental synth song with the DeepMind and Microfreak

Lay Cool – shelfblack – Experimental synth song with the Behringer DeepMind

In this jam I started with some basic percussive elements from the Volca Drum and then added a child-like innocent sounding sequence from the Behringer Deepmind. To me this part of the jam has a lullaby type feel that maybe has more sinister undertones. I used the Volca FM to play a simple bass progression with a touch of reverb from the ElectroHarmonix Ocean’s 11 pedal. The Arturia Microfreak is playing another rhythm type pad that kind of glues everything together. Later on, the Monologue plays an electrified rhythm partner to the Microfreak.

The main drums that kick in are a slowed down 80’s hiphop type beat that I made on the Alesis Sr18 drum machine. I orginally sequenced those drums at a much higher BPM and I was surprised how well they worked with this track at about half the intended speed. There area also some additional percussive elements coming from the Volca Beats.

Thanks for checking it out, this is part of my Jamuary series on IG. If you’re interested to hear more make sure to follow me on IG and YouTube. The goal right now is to put out an album at the end of Jamuary. I’m working on a concept that I think you all will like. I’ve added an amazon link for some ElectroHarmonix pedals below. If you decide to purchase something through my Amazon link, even if it’s not that particular item, it costs you nothing and will help me fund future projects! I appreciate any support you can give!


Ice Water Ways – Microfreak and Monologue Jam for #Jamuary2020

Ice Water Ways – Microfreak and Monologue synth jam on YouTube

Quick brush fire in Australia update, we were able to raise $250! We made the donation on Thursday Jan 9, and a copy of the receipt has been uploaded to Instagram. Thanks so much to everyone that reposted, retweeted, bought a copy of an album or donated money directly. It was a fantastic effort and I’m beyond happy with how it turned out. I truly love how supportive and positive this community is!

Today’s jam is entitled Ice Water Ways. I started with a simple rhythmic beep from the Aturia Microfreak. The Behringer Deepmind is playing the ethereal sounding pad and I created a simple loop that the Volca FM plays during the chorus of the song. On drum duty is the trusty Alesis SR18 playing a sequence of my own programming.

Lots of more jams coming this month on IG, Youtube, and Twitter as part of the Jamuary event. Make sure you follow me on those platforms if you want to see and hear more synth and experimental jams.

Gear Demo – EHX Grand Canyon with custom light expression pedal – Carabss

EHX Grand Canyon with a custom Carabss light expression pedal from Kryptic Species Mutations

Another gear demo courtesy of the musical tinkering master and creator Kryptic Species Mutations. In this video we explore the Carabss , an expression pedal that includes a light sensor that adds some crazy expressions to your pedals and music. I also brought out the modded Craig tape deck that KSM also created that features a time-bending speed wheel.

In order to showcase the Carabss you must have a pedal that has an expression input. For this demo, I have chosen one of my favorite pedals the EHX Grand Canyon. The EHX Grand Canyon is a full-featured reverb and delay pedal from Electro Harmonix. It features a ton of reverb and delay types and works amazingly well with synths and drum machines.

If you are enjoying the Kryptic Species Mutations gear be sure to check him out on Instagram, YouTube, and his Reverb Shop! Pay attention to him as he is always creating and pushing boundaries with one of a kind homemade electronic gear. He really is something special. I’ll add his links below.

IG – https://instagram.com/krypticspeciesmutations

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzaKCjuyTpOPhyJPv_XdqFw

Reverb – https://reverb.com/shop/kretchs-boutique

If you liked this video, make sure you subscribe to my YouTube. I will be making more demo videos in the future and post my original DAWless jams on there as well pretty regularly. Thanks for checking it out and be sure to share this to anyone you think may be interested.

Blank Stairs – shelfblack – experimental synth jam

Blank Stairs – shelfblack – Experimental synth jam – all hardware.

This is a full version of a track I have created entitled Blank Stairs. It’s a play on words of the saying “blank stare.” I named it that because of the slippery way that the lead gets bent in the song. In this song, I used the Alesis SR18 drum machine to make a pounding, minimal drum beat and I’m using the drumbrute as nothing more than a master clock. The Arturia Microfreak is making the strange gurgly sound and it gets manipulated a few times throughout the track. The Behringer Deepmind 6 is playing the strange ethereal sounding pad.

Just to update, I released a new EP last week entitled Just Burn It All, currently it’s only available on BandCamp for $1. It will be hitting Spotify and all other major streaming services on Christmas Eve, December 24. Keep scrolling down to see the post!

If you are a fan of this tune, make sure you subscribe on YouTube and follow me on Instagram. I will be participating in the Jamuary event on IG which is a fun exercise that challenges you to create a jam every day during the month of January. Also, be sure to check back here on shelfblack.com for more gear demos, product reviews, articles, and synth jams coming up!

Just Burn It All EP – Dec. 10, 2019

Just Burn It All EP – shelfblack – Out on December 10, 2019 on Bandcamp

I’m very excited to announce that on December 10th 2019 I will be releasing a new EP entitled Just Burn It All digitally on BandCamp!!!

Want to know the best part? You can pre-order it right now for $1. Yep, one dollar. Less than a gallon of gas, less than a Starbucks coffee, less than 2 packs of ramen noodles. For that price, you’ll get six songs when it releases, but by pre-ordering it you get 2 songs now!

Track Listing:

  1. We Found Our Way
  2. Blue Boxes (AVAILABLE NOW WITH PREORDER)
  3. King of No Things
  4. Command and Control
  5. Thrash Day
  6. Just Burn It All (AVAILABLE NOW WITH PREORDER)

As alway, I appreciate your support. Any money raised through album sales will 100% get rolled back into making music and the Electronic Curiosity Collective. Feel free to share this page far and wide!

I’ve been a little quiet on music releases since the Black Zinda album. This album will be my last release of the year. Going forward I’ll be gearing up for the famous Jamuary event on Instagram. Check out the site, if you haven’t been here before. You can sort articles by music, info, gear demos, and more. If you’re looking for the last article I wrote about inexpensive music gear to get for Christmas, check it out below.

Affordable Gifts for Synth Lovers Under $100

Music gifts that are affordable and fun

If you know anyone like me, I have a small stockpile of expensive synthesizers, drum machines, guitar pedals, and noise makers that defy description. One of the most difficult things for friends and family to do, when it comes to Christmas or birthdays, is to find gifts that interest me that don’t cost hundreds of dollars. Lucky for you, I’ve compiled a great list here of very fun synth and electronic based music gifts that are affordable, fun, and will be sure to delight any musician or synthesizer nerd like myself.

First up is a miniature ribbon synth and effects box that I have demo’d previously on this site…the Korg Monotron Delay! The Korg Monotron Delay is a very fun and compact little ribbon synthesizer that also includes an amazing delay feature. With a headphone jack and an audio in, you can use it with your existing electronics and create some truly wonderful chaos. It runs on batteries and can be used with or without other gear . The Korg Monotron Delay retails for under $50.


Next up is another amazing little piece of art called the Stylophone pocket synth. The Stylophone is a recreation of a synth from the 60’s but now in convenient pocket form! This is a fantastic little synth also runs on batteries and includes three different sounds. You use the attached stylus to play. There’s a tuning knob that allows you to play with alternate tuning and do pitch bend effects. This one also includes an audio in, so you can run additional instruments through it! The Stylophone is tons of fun and retails for under $30.


The next one is from the makers of the Stylophone, this one is called the Stylophone Beatbox. This is a unique handheld, battery-operated, synthesizer and drum machine hybrid. This one includes a beatbox, percussion, bass and a new scratch function. There is also tuning knobs and a tempo adjust control to produce endless possibilities . The Stylophone Beatbox retails for under $40.


Going down the Stylophone product line, next one up is the Gen-X1. This is another portable synth box with two ways to play and can also be used as an effects box. What I like most about the usability of this one is that you can hook any other electronic instrument into the audio in and manipulate those sounds to your hearts content. The Gen-X1 has a built-in speaker for playing around on the spot and is run off batteries. It includes an LFO and filter cutoff, tons of delay options, sub-octave switches, and Pulse Width Modulation button which can be used to create a chorus effect . This one costs a little more than the other two types of Stylophones but that’s because you can do so much more with it. The Stylophone Gen-X1 retails for under $70.


If you really want to see someone light up during a gift exchange, check out the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator line. There’s multiple Pocket Operators, each one that specializes in different sounds, leads, and styles. There is an Arcade, Bass, Speak, Robot, Office, Rhythm and more. They are all battery operated and can be used as standalone grooveboxes , chained together to form a battery operated army, or synced up with other instruments to play a part in your next song. They all have sequencers built in that are easy to use and can create entire songs in the palm of your hands. Arguably, the most popular Pocket Operator is the PO-33 Fight. The PO-33 includes a built-in sampler which means you can sample you’re own sounds, noises, quotes, basically any sound you want into it. The PO-33 does cost a little more but you can do so much more with it! The Pocket Operators range from around $59 to $100.


Want something a little more traditional that doesn’t need a power source? One instrument that seems to be making a lot of noise on social media right now is the Kalimba. The Kalimba is a small handheld thumb piano that uses metal keys mounted to a sound board. Once you hear the sound that it creates you’ll immediately recognize it. The Kalimba has a soothing music box or lullaby type sound that you will instantly fall in love with. You will immediately be making beautiful sounding music with this device and it will be the hit of anyone’s gift giving experience. You can get an exquisite looking high-quality Kalimba for under $30.


After all this, there’s tons of other cases, cords, or additional accessories that you can add to round out these gifts. I can honestly say that any of these items will brighten up your Christmas or Birthday. Make sure you have some AAA or AA batteries on hand as most of these pocket synths require one or the other. Do you have any other additional ideas? Let me know in the comments!

We’re Not Pretending – shelfblack – Synth Jam with the Arturia Microfreak

We’re Not Pretending – dawless jam with the Korg Monologue and Arturia Microfreak

We’re Not Pretending is another full version of one of my experimental all hardware synth jams. The Arturia Microfreak kicks off the beginning of the jam with that off-kilter lead that underlines the jam. Once the Arturia Drumbute kicks in , the Korg Volca FM starts to play it’s dreamy pad sound. After the rest of the drums are unmuted, the Behringer Deepmind starts to punctuate the space between the lead with it’s own complementary synth stabs. You’ll also here some effects on the drums which are a combination of the EHX Grand Canyon and the EHX Ocean’s 11 pedals.

Suddenly, you’ll here the short stabs that the Microfreak were playing to creat the lead becomes long and drawn out. I’m changing that sound by using the Amp Mod button on the Microfreak which manipulates the envelope generator to completely change the sound. The final piece of the puzzle is yet another sequence that pops in from the Korg Monologue.

If you have any questions about the jam, just comment below. Make sure to subscribe on YouTube and keep visiting for more gear demos, synthesizer jams, and artist highlights.

False Visions – shelfblack – synthesizer jam featuring the Korg Monologue and EHX Grand Canyon

This is a jam I put together with my usual suspects of gear. I started by building a solid drum groove with the Arturia Drumbrute Impact. I wanted a warbly and disconnected type lead coming from the Monologue. So i went with a simple 16 step lead that was sequenced using the real time recording feature. In order to add that disjointed and unstable sound to the lead, I’m running it through the EHX Grand Canyon Pedal.

The Grand Canyon is one of my favorite pedals to use with any and all synth gear. It’s a reverb and delay pedal that offers up to 3 seconds of delay time, tap tempo and nine tap divide settings, stereo output, 13 presets, programmable EXP pedal settings, high quality analog bypass with soft switching and more. On False Visions, I’m using the ‘Tape’ setting on the EHX which is a simulated tape delay sound that is fully customizable and one of my favorite settings.

Stay tuned for a future gear demo of the EHX Grand Canyon and I’ll show you some pretty cool things you can do with it with synthesizers and drum machines.

Welcome To Space Lounge Volume II cassette – shelfblack – Andromeda’s Brain

60 second teaser of the new song available only on Welcome To Space Lounge Volume II cassette

Here’s the link for the Welcome To Space Lounge store!

If you aren’t familiar with Welcome To Space Lounge on Instagram you are definitely missing out on one of the best collections of talented artists making music on the Internet. They use the tag line “Keep your head in the clouds” and when you hear the atmosphere and layers that these artists create, it’s incredibly easy to feel yourself start floating up, up, and away. There is no denying that Welcome To Space Lounge is an absolute juggernaut of Instagram.

When I first started making music on Instagram, I couldn’t help but see that most of my favorite accounts were constantly tagging Space Lounge in their posts. Naturally, I combed through their posts and was blown away by jams that populated the submissions. I made it a goal of mine to try and be featured on their account.

It actually helped me branch out and change the way I made some of my songs. I started experimenting with lower BPM’s. It absolutely pushed me to take some steps and leaps into sounds and vibes that I had never created before. It made me experiment with drumless tracks and even pushed me to try and make some ambient jams. It took a lot of submissions and a lot of experimentation but eventually I was featured on the page. I couldn’t believe it. It was, at that time, a huge goal achieved for me. After that, I began to converse more with the Space Lounge founder and learned that his passion and excitement for music was beyond inspiring.

A few months after I was first featured, I was approached by Space Lounge and extended an invitation to provide a song for their second cassette release entitled “Welcome To Space Lounge Volume II” I was beyond excited and immediately accepted the invite . This is definitely a dream come true and I couldn’t be happier with my submission entitled “Andromeda’s Brain” The cassette will be released for sale on Monday 11/11/2019. You will be able to order it from their official website and I will update this article with the link once it goes live.

These cassette releases are extremely limited and usually are only offered in one shot. If you are interested in getting one, I suggest trying to buy it the second it goes live. Otherwise, it may be out of touch and float slowly away from your grasp, into the atmosphere and beyond.

Welcome to Space Lounge

Best hardware synthesizer for under $100? The Korg Monotron Delay

In this article I’m going to tell you about the absolute best synthesizer you can buy for under $100. You know what? I’m actually going to tell you the absolute best synthesizer you can buy for under $50!

The world of hardware synths is a high-end world of flashy nostalgia mixed with bank breaking pieces of sought after must-have gear. Within the community of hardware synths we actually have a term for it, it’s called GAS. Gear acquisition syndrome. It is definitely real, and it is very easy to fall victim to.

However, there are a lot of pieces that are fun to use, cost friendly, and easy on the wallet. In my opinion, a piece of gear that checks all those boxes for me is the Korg Monotron Delay!

The Korg Monotron Delay is very small ribbon synthesizer with built-in effects, a filter, and adjustable LFO
Korg Monotron Delay – the best hardware synth for under $100.

The Korg Monotron Delay, in it’s simplest description, is an analog synth mixed with a spacey chaotic delay. The notes can be played through a simple ribbon keyboard and you can modify that sound through the five knobs located on the front of the unit. Inside this tiny box is where the magic really lies. The Monotron actually uses the same VCF circuit from the original Korg MS-10 and MS-20.

My favorite part of the Korg Monotron is how easy it is to hook it up to other instruments and manipulate them in crazy and huge ways. The Monotron has a headphone out and auxiliary in on the top of the unit. With the headphone out, you can hook it up into your sound board or mixer if you are using a dawless structure like I am. This thing really shines with the auxiliary in. Through the input you can run other instruments, tape decks, samplers, and more through the unit and manipulate their output in real time with all of the nuances and craziness that the Monotron provides. One thing that I really like to do is to use the Arturia Drumbrute Impact’s individual drum outputs and run them through the Monotron Delay to take the drums into Outer Space.

Without further delay, I’ve compiled a video that really just scratches the surface with the amount of fun and creativity that you can harness with the Monotron Delay. In this demo I’ve paired the Monotron with a modded tape deck made by the incredible Kryptic Species Mutations. I’ve included the links to check him out below, he creates a wide variety of modded and circuit-bent instruments. Do you have one of these? Think there’s something that offers a better value than the Monotron Delay? Want me to demo another device? Let me know in the comments below!