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 Post subject: Black Napkins
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2010 5:34 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2007 12:25 pm
Posts: 5
Anyone know what synth device Zappa is running his guitar through on the Zoot Allures recording of Black Napkins? It's not through the entire song but only the end of the solo.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Napkins
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2010 6:33 am 
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Joined: Thu Aug 22, 2002 12:58 pm
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Location: Birmingham, AL
A total guess here, but it sounds like it might be an envelope filter.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Napkins
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2010 9:40 am 
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I believe that's right. Same effect is on "Ship Ahoy" from later in the same concert.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Napkins
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2010 12:30 pm 
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I was thinking something similar. I don't think it's a filter, or just a filter though. Envelope Filters are actually two separate effect circuits. The first is the envelope, which determines when the effect is used, and the second is the filter, or wah type circuit (it is not a wah circuit but creates a sweeping tone effect similar to a wah). I was thinking that he may have run an envelope into an echo of some sort, or both and echo and a filter. The echos do seem to have a filtered tonal quality to them.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Napkins
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2010 2:22 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
The filter effect is an Oberheim VCF. It has two modes: an envelope filter which controls the filter opening/closing by the amplitude of the input signal, and a VCF mode (also known as sample/hold) which samples white noise to give random opening/closing of the filter. That's the mode used in Black Napkins and Ship Ahoy. In this mode there is a speed control which sets the rate of sampling, which determines the "tempo".

A very similar effect was used by Brian Eno on Robert Fripp's guitar solo on the song "King's Lead Hat". In that case I believe it was plugged straight into the VCF of an EMS synthesizer.

I still have an Oberheim VCF laying around. It needs to be cleaned up and re-soldered. Even though I have similar effects on my rackmount units, I still hold onto it. The Oberheim filters have a very unique (phat) sound.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Napkins
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2010 4:32 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2007 12:25 pm
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Thank you Rat Tomago. That's one nice write up. I'm looking into the pedal right now.


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