May 9, 2013

Tweaking and Sliding: The Jordan Rudess Authorized Biography

The Loop > Magazine > Issue 1

By Jordan Rudess

I remember sitting on my bed with headphones on, playing the Minimoog and feeling like the knobs were inside my forehead. The feeling of pressing a key and holding it, while being able to open and close the filter (which brings in more or less harmonics) along with having my hand on a pitch wheel (which allows real-time control of every note being played) was life changing.

Shortly after discovering the Minimoog, I left the Juilliard School and my classical path and started making the rounds of the late night college radio scene. I played my beloved Minimoog with a custom foot pedal that controlled the volume, a huge experience for a classically trained pianist.

Now I had moved away from a fixed pitch instrument and onto an instrument in which I could not only change the pitch of a note but also remain involved with the sound as it was occurring. This was the beginning of my passion for creating new sounds.

I was always the type of Moog player that had one hand on a dial and another on the keys. Sometimes my music in those days was very, VERY spacey. It wasn’t until I met the late great electronic musician Richard Lainhart that I re-entered the Space Music world. We shared a passion for sound and electronic music improvisations, which we brought to live radio, the concert hall and live streaming around the world.

As synthesizers developed and became more advanced, the biggest changes seemed to be in the type of sounds that one could create. Although a MiniMoog seemed pretty infinite, it was only infinite in one particular sonic universe.

The arrival of the Roland D50 was another pivotal point since it allowed realistic sound attack transients to be merged with more traditional synth waveforms. This was an awesome concept which led the way to sample, based synthesizers like the Korg M1 — an important instrument in starting a revolution of keyboardists being able to play realistic sounds like pianos and drums (is that a good thing?).

It was about this time that I got a job working for Korg as a product specialist, the beginning of a new chapter for me since, not only was I getting a weekly paycheck, but because up until that time I played synthesizers by feel, mostly turning knobs and vibing on the sound without knowing much about the technical names of the various parameters.

The synths in those days actually started to have less knobs and sliders and these tiny LED screens so that, unless you knew what an LFO or a cutoff filter was, there was no hope in getting much out of it.

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