I'm writing this so I'm held accountable. I will put out two new EPs by the end of this year.
In other news, Soapbox is going well. It's hard to try and be a business but also have a social mission. Sometimes I think it might have made more sense to have gone the non-profit route. On the other hand, I don't think it really would have mattered. If anything we have to work harder to prove our message.
What does matter is knowing how to measure our success. For me, the business end is not as important as the social mission. Creativity is a weird beast, and there is a fine line between horseplay & bullshit, and really amazing creative breakthroughs. I hope that having this space and inviting lots of people in and supporting the music they are making will lead to breakthroughs of various kinds. The best projects work on multiple levels - whether there are only 3 people involved or 3000. So far, I already think we've had some amazing things happen. The tough part is to try and keep pushing forward and keep chipping away at things slowly but surely. The daily grind. The stuff that feels mundane and repetitive, but ultimately leads you somewhere (hopefully). Even if it doesn't lead you somewhere, if you pay attention you'll at least know why.
Today I spent a good portion of my day researching audio circuits. It's amazing to me how much theoretical knowledge I learned in 4 years but how I walked away with pretty much zero practical knowledge. I have lots of ideas for building things but I have no idea how to actually do it. Theoretical knowledge teaches you to make sure all your calculations are correct on paper before building. In practice, this never works, usually because you encounter things you never thought would be problems. It's all trial and error and dumb things like the thickness of the wire you choose becomes a monumental problem. The only way to learn that stuff is through experience and trying things out - knowing what works and doesn't work - it's not always important to know exactly why. Just fuck around until something blows up and then try again. It's time consuming and costly at the beginning but overtime it pays off if you have the patience. It seems like an often overlooked part of learning: royally fucking up yet trying again. You at LEAST gain some major style points.
To get back to the audio circuits, I want to build some basic building blocks that will act as a stepping stone to more complex projects. The basic stuff first would be a 2-5 Watt power amp + speaker, a preamp, and a stackable mixer. By stackable mixer, I mean creating a single stand alone 2-1 mixer stage that connects (like legos) to other 2-1 mixers to create larger mixers. So you could easily make an 8-1 mixer by stacking 4 of these together. Amplifying weak signals to line level, mixing line level signals, and amplifying line level signals to power a speaker - these are pretty much the fundamental audio components you need to get things in and out.
Ultimately I want to get to a point where I can make a standalone pocket keyboard type thing. It would basically be a really basic 12-note polyphonic, velocity sensitive analog synth controlled by an Arduino that receives input via MIDI signals. Controls would be basic - tremolo, vibrato, tone, ADSR, and waveform flavor. Each individual note/sound would be generated via a schmidt-trigger or a VCO and summed together to one output / speaker. I'm really interested in the design of the controls.
The reason I want to split things up is because I figure if I can make really generic bits of functionality (like a simple speaker) then this is something that can easily be used or re-configured for a later project, or would be useful on its own. That's the kind of practical skill, knowing how to build individual, re-usable parts (however, not necessarily that efficient) of something to achieve a greater goal, that separates real designers from everyone else. They have this intuitive ability to know how to achieve their desired goal despite not knowing all the information at the outset.
More about the EPs later.