NAMM 2020, as Seen by Frap Tools

A trade show is usually about telling other people about your stuff: speaking of NAMM 2020, this is true only up to a certain point.

We came with two big news, indeed (the BRENSO oscillator and the new Frap Audio brand), but what made this experience great is what we got, rather than what we gave. We had many interesting discussions about music and education, we met old friends and made new ones, and we brought home new ideas that we cannot wait to share. On with the report!

Day 0: Setting up the Booth

This year Frap Tools and Frap Audio were part of the Alex4 booth. We arrived in the afternoon of Wednesday the 15th, and we found everything already up and running. A large portion of the space was devoted to modular synthesizers, and the overall arrangement of the individual brands created an enjoyable environment for people to explore this fascinating instrument.

The Alex4 Booth, almost complete.

Day 1: First Contact

As soon as the fair started, we began with the first demonstrations. They were mainly focused on BRENSO and the new Frap Audio Dynamics 2806, but many people asked to try out other older modules.

We then met Dolores Catherino and discussed microtonal capabilities of voltage-controlled Eurorack synthesizers, with particular focus on the other octave divisions provided by our USTA sequencer.

Speaking of USTA, we also met Trevor Tunnacliffe, who helped us in defining the behavior of USTA with custom temperaments and made essential revisions to the manual.

It was nice to see also musicians who were just dipping their toes into the modular world approaching our modules for the first time and see how they quickly gained confidence with our interfaces as we explained them.

Just before leaving, Tom Hall popped by for a quick chat. He found time to try out the new products and give us some helpful tips and remarks. You can read his report here!

Day 2: Modular Synths and Education

On Friday morning, we had many students of different music colleges quite interested in the modular synthesizer. This made us think even more about the status of the Eurorack synthesizer (equipment or musical instrument?), which became the ‘hot topic’ of the whole rest of the exhibition.

Andrew and Simone trying the Frap Audio Dynamics 2806. On the back, Trevor and Chris having a talk. (Photo courtesy of Tom Körting.)

Later on, Chris Meyer from LearningModular, who had just released a four-video series about FALISTRI, came by our stand. We had a thorough and fruitful discussion about the upcoming BRENSO, which left us essential suggestions that will be useful in these months before the final version will be released. You can read Chris’ report here!

(To be honest, we met Chris on Wednesday evening for a dinner that involved an insane amount of cake, but we did not talk about modulars.)

We then met with Andrew Huang: apart from our upcoming new products, we talked a bit about educational content for people who want to approach the modular synthesizer. The main focus of our brief conversation was how to tailor such a complex matter to the YouTube format, thus requiring a careful choice of what to say and what not to say. A great example is Andrew’s video about the basics of modular synthesis, which we sponsored. In case you missed it, have a look!

Day 3: Accessibility and Performance

On Saturday, Ali the Architect and Aaron from Afrorack came to check our system. Just a few moments in, and they delivered a killer jam which has been caught on tape and will be published as soon as possible!

We also had an intense discussion with them about making Eurorack accessible to more people. Then, the relationship between equipment and musical instrument came in again. We realized that for some people, the mixer is equipment, something to level things up and balance everything, with a “set-and-forget” approach.

For some other people, however, the mixer is used as an actual instrument, and these people love to play with faders, mutes, and sends/returns. This is why we designed our CGM: to offer a versatile, performance-oriented mixer that can play a major part in a patch through its multiple CV inputs and interaction points. The conversation did not stop here!

Talking with Aaron and Ali. All the Italians in this picture are waving their hands. (Photo courtesy of Tom Körting.)

Day 4: Sound Design (and the Future of Modulars)

Richard Devine testing the Dynamics 2806 with Antonio.

On the last day, Richard Devine came to see our news. Despite being quite busy, he spent some time with the BRENSO oscillator and the 500-series, providing very precious and detailed insights.

Later on, we had a brief discussion with Dieter Doepfer about the current status and future perspectives of the Eurorack synthesizer. What came out of this conversation is that ‘competition’ can be something beneficial for the whole community, as everybody is aiming towards a common goal – providing, of course, that it takes place within the limits of equity and fairness.

We’ve also been joined by Neon Vines, who spent quite some time with us talking about the capabilities of the Eurorack synthesizer as a sound designing tool.

In no time NAMM was over, and we found ourselves quickly packing up the stuff and greeting some friends and saying goodbye. But more had yet to come!

Simone and Yuya. (Photo courtesy of Tom Körting.)

Post-Namm: Chilling in Burbank

The Post-Namm Synth Meeting at Perfect Circuit. On the front, Davide of SoundMachines patching up the BRENSO.

We soon made our way to Burbank for the Post-NAMM Synth Meeting at Perfect Circuit. Before setting up, however, we met with Josh Eustis, who meticulously tried our Frap Audio Dynamics 2806 and provided super valuable feedback. (We also talked about over-engineered food, Naples, old pianos and music on the airplanes – luckily, it’s not all about the gear!)
The happening went really good, with a lot of friends coming over for a more chilled talk and some great live performances in an intimate environment.

Just when everything seemed to be over, we got a couple of pleasant visits: Trovarsi came to further discuss the role of the mixing console in modular techno, and Michael Zähl spent some time with our Frap Audio gear, giving us precious tips that will improve the final version of this prototype.

As we said before, with this NAMM we brought home way more than what we carried to LA (luckily, all these thoughts don’t take space in the hand luggage!). There are many more people we met whose name we did not mention here, but the list would have been insanely long. We can’t but look forward to meeting you all at Superbooth 2020, with new ideas to share.

giovanni

Giovanni Grandi

Content Manager