As many music makers have discovered, limitation can be liberating. Indeed, when faced with an empty DAW arrange page and a multitude of plugins and creative options, the idea of creating a complete song or other project with just one synth can seem very appealing.
Of course, it helps if the synth you choose is a patchable analogue monster, and that’s certainly true in the case of the instrument that Ólafur Arnalds is playing in a clip that he uploaded over the weekend.
“Sometimes I want to make a whole album just dedicated to this beauty of an instrument,” says Arnolds, as he improvises on a Korg PS-3100, a 1977 analogue synth with a 48-note keyboard. Each of the keys features its own VCO, VCF, VCA and EG, and there are two LFOs.
Only 600 of the synths were made, so you’ll need pretty deep pockets if you want to buy one these days. Fortunately, there is another option: Full Bucket Music’s FB-3100 is a free plugin that promises to closely emulate the behaviour and controls of the original hardware.
Speaking to Future Music in 2020, Arnalds described the PS-3100 as the most interesting synth he owns. “I’m not sure if I’m 100% correct but I was told it was the only truly polyphonic synth because it has a full-on analogue chain on every note of the synth and it’s a bit crazy to have an analogue oscillator, envelope and filter for each key,” he said. "I use it a lot for melodic chords, rhythms and texture.”
There’s certainly plenty of that in his improvised piece, in which the PS-3100 sounds as warm and alive as an open fire. We could happily take a larger dose of the musical medicine that he’s administering - in fact, where’s the pre-order link for that album?