Storytelling and synths

This post is motivated by the recent talks about intergenerational shruthi-ing, and NASA chipmunks. And yesterday when I was playing with my modular my girlfriend started doing the National Geographic documentary voiceover about an epidemic of diarrhea among mosquitoes.

The first experience I had of synths was when I was 4 or 5 years old. At this time I had this fantasy about a valley in the Alps in which live a bunch of 5 trucks which are friends, fire brigade truck, ambulance, garbage truck, tow truck and another one (yeah, I totally get it when I see kids absorbed in “cars”). My sister had a castiotone keyboard (like this) and I whenever I got a chance to play it it was trucks adventures. I was telling stories aloud about the trucks while making engine noises, horn noises, siren noises, the broken engine noises (slide the instrument selection slider frantically). It never occurred to me that the casiotone had something to do with “music”. It scared my parents.

So I am curious about this…

Those of you who have kids, do you let them play with your gear? Do your kids think of it as musical instruments or are they more interested in making noises? When they make noises, do they tell stories about it and what are those stories about? Have you ever tried recording them?

Has it ever occurred to you that you could use synths to make noises while telling stories to your kids?

Do you know people, story-tellers, actors, that integrate analog synth playing into story-telling (for SFX, creating ambiences as they narrate), for children or adult audiences?

Have you heard of educators using synths outside of a purely musical teaching?

Do you have recordings of stuff you were making with synths or audio equipment when you were kids? Things were a bit different at the time. The internet wasn’t there so I was exposed to things only through my parents, school, neighborhood kids and the TV - so everything I was doing was not “connected” to anything.


I have no kid, but last night I was having a drink with friends, and while drinking I was playing with one shruti through a distortion for showing them…
One friend, she is a kid teatcher, and we talked about making noises for illustrating stories.
Then we started listening to some telex songs, (we all love “rendez vous dans l’espace” and “en route”) and ended up listening to moskow diskow. With the superb train synth noises…


Time for a coffee now, en route en routeuh… vers de nouvelles aventures…

My son with Shruthi #001. Shurely he can use any of my Gear he likes as did my Father with me - i had the luck he bought a Yamaha U-1 Piano for me when i was 13, but just a fraction of Time later i saw in Colgones MusicStore this Black-Blue Thing that made Sounds i never heard before - but my Dad sadly simply didn’t get what was about a PPG Wave.

Johnny is highly interested in makin funny noises and a Synth with Knobs complements this - momentary his favorite is the Korg MS-2000 BR with its Blinkenlights Sequencer to twist - so ill have to get this Gorf made to connect to a real Synth…

Cool thread.

I took piano lessons on an old 1970s mini keyboard teaching synth. It only made one sound, sine wave probably. No knobs :-/

My brother and I bought intercoms from Radio Shack so we could speak to one another from other rooms. We quickly found out that it we removed the backs and placed our fingers over the solder points on the back of the PCBs, we could make crazy howling and squealing noises. They were way more fun for that. There was no wall wart. I don’t know what kind of power it used. I got shocked a lot, but that was just part of the excitement of creating electro noises. Been hooked ever since I guess.

i have no kids, but the topic is really interesting.

have you seen kids faces while circuit bending?

i have the (still very sketchy) idea of making a synth workshop for teenagers or kids with focus on the process instead of physics/math/theory.
has anybody any expirience with something like this?

I just heard something very interesting from a radio - something I had never heard before. Turned out it was J-M Jarre. I was about 12-13. After that, it has been synths all the way. I was over 20 when I was able to actually buy one (Kawai), poor student as I was.

My three-year-old daughter likes playing synths (also piano), but some noise can be a little scary, she thinks. She seems to like AN1X sequences especially…

I let my 6 year old son play with my synths all the time. He absolutely loves turning all of the knobs. One thing we like to do is I’ll set up my Moog to get some nice Star War’s laser zap sounds he he runs around pretending to shoot at things. He also likes to “write” songs with me. We will set up a couple of mic’s and he’ll plug a guitar into the amp while I set up simple arpeggio’s on a synth. Then we record it. this one which is obviously me on the arpeggiated synth and he is pulling vocal duties. He is also playing with a circuit bent Casio SK-1.

I feel it is absolutely necessary, for me, as a parent to encourage him to experiment with music. It’s a necessary skill set to develop as a child. It helps creative thinking and will help him stand out from the rest of the herd.

Of course, as I was writting this, he came down wanting to see the Shruthi he helped with yesterday. After playing with it for about 1 minute, he wanted to record a song! It’s in his blood haha!

When I was growing up, my dad was into music and had a guitar, that was a bout it. But, I took to music at a very young age. I would sit and listen to music for hours and hours. I grew up in one of those classic dysfunctional american settings with an alcoholic dad, so music was a way for me to retreat. As I got older, it became an obsession as I focused more on the band I was in in high school rather than school itself. But, I can say, that over the years working at recording studios and doing live sound, I learned everything I needed to know to do the job I do. It may not be music related, but because of the technical skills I developed, it became very easy for me to pick up on anything to do with electronics. Sorry , that was a bit winded :slight_smile:

Awesome post qp… your kid has a good dad.

thanks titus! I try. This dad thing can be tricky though.

No kids here, either, but I did develop an interest in synthesiser sounds at a relatively early age myself, though, though at the time I had no idea what made them. My parents were very much into classical music, particularly opera, so it wasn’t through them, it was mainly through the work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop on the original radio version of The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. That had synths all over it. I didn’t really start becoming interested in music generally until my mid teens though, when I discovered J.M.Jarre’s Equinoxe album, through the father of a school-friend. It was pretty-much electronic music all the way from then on. I got into Art Of Noise (discovering them, ironically, just as they were on the cusp of splitting up), Kraftwerk, The Orb, Orbital, Autechre.


i gave my little cousin my og shruti-1 and taught him how to use the arp. he used it for a show and tell at school, his project was “the history of techno music”. he was chuffed as hell.

My 3-year-old loves playing with my synths (turning knobs, banging keys). He even knew how to make a sample with my SK-1 when he was 2.

My parents bought me an SK-1 when I was around 8 and it was a favorite toy for a long time. I remember recording the laughter from a sitcom, going into my parents room, telling a bad joke, and then playing the laughter back like a bad laugh-track. They thought it was hilarious - one of those moments you remember as a kid when you really crack your parents up. It’s still a funny gag to play.

I’m not sure where this is going but I think it would be awesome if someone made a good, optionally-diy synth for kids. Built-in speaker, 4-5 knobs, SK-1-like sampler, small keyboard (or a row of buttons), and maybe a super simple arp or sequencer. Something that most parents would have no idea what it was or why their kid would be interested in it. I bet that’s why so many kid synths are lame, to sell it to the parents. Most kids would probably have sooo much more fun with an atari punk console than most current kid synths. But who would buy one of those for their kid (other than the people here :slight_smile: )? Are there enough of us synth-nerds with young kids to make such a project worthwhile?

Anyway, hope I’m not derailing…

Also, I used to play a soundtrack when I would DM Dungeons & Dragons games. I would hook up my SNES and play the soundtrack to Castlevania IV. It was a great way to add atmosphere to the game.

It would have been really cool to have a set of samples set up so I could do effects during the fighting. Unfortunately I didn’t have a sampler back then.

And now I’ve outed myself as the biggest nerd ever. I have a beautiful wife now I swear.

Those of you who have kids, do you let them play with your gear? Do your kids think of it as musical instruments or are they more interested in making noises? When they make noises, do they tell stories about it and what are those stories about? Have you ever tried recording them?

I keep my Monotribe in the living room for the kids to noodle with. It’s pretty well built, has an internal speaker, battery operated and the knobs/switches equal instant gratification for a 4 year old and 19 month old! They’re also big fans of the Nebulophone, though they frequently yank the stylus off the wire and have snapped off a leg once as well. I’ve let them tweak some knobs on the Shruthi-1 occasionally but nothing too involved yet. Maybe once I have a few more shruthi-1’s I won’t be as scared they’ll break it!

Though they do equate some synth stuff with sound effects, they’re definitely interested in the musical side of synths. Here is a little living room jam I captured a few weeks ago with my 4-year-old on vocals and toy piano, 19-month-old dancing and the occasional Monotribe tweak while I play guitar and let the Shruthi-1 hold it all together.

I grew up with an sk-1 in the house and desperately need to find another for my kids… ok and me, too! :smiley:

Has it ever occurred to you that you could use synths to make noises while telling stories to your kids?

NO! That’s a great idea! Gotta try that!

Enjoying that track bleo… lol. Whose finger is on the machine gun button?

Sometimes me, sometimes my 19-month-old. :smiley:

My 8 years old son love to play with all that synth stuff i have.
Also he’s a perfect crash test for repaired stuff. When i’ve repaired Solaris organ there was a week of “People are strange” until we totally bored of it %) Also he love to stuck with Picopaso clone and constantly asks, when I complete Paia Theremax.
His favorite synth is Midibox FM. I show him “patch randomize” function so hi can play with it for hours. After seeing Piscione’s case he began to build Shruthis from lego =)

Incidentally, this was my first ‘synth’, which I pestered my parents to buy me when I was about 15.

There’s a little synthesis section with about 8 parameters, and 5 memories for your inevitably horrible-sounding creations. And it had a 5-track sequencer. I used to turn the tempo right down, plink around inexpertly on the tiny keys, then turn it back up again for playback. I believe the sounds were based on 2-operator FM synthesis. It also had a basic programmable drum-machine, which you could program using the non-velocity-sensitive pads below the keyboard. We had no mains electricity where I grew up (yes, it’s true), so I used to run this machine from batteries. Must have cost my parents a fortune! Later, I took it with me to college, lent it to a friend, who swapped it for some drugs, and I never saw it again. I sincerely hope he still wakes up in the middle of the night in a fit of remorse every so-often.


I’ve used one of those. My brother’s band had one, it went wrong in the end.

The most famous user must be John Shuttleworth :slight_smile:

Can’t go back to savoury now

@6581punk yes! I remember John Shuttleworth on the radio, playing along to ‘Pigeons in Flight’ on the drumpads.