Playing A Spring Reverb w/ Intellijel Springray 2
Updated: Jul 5
Spring reverb is one of the great tools in the history of music making and sound shaping. It's a part of so many different genres, from the surf guitar sounds of the early 60's, to the vocals of a more recent electronic great like Broadcast. It's also one of the primary aspects of the sound in the experimental electronic music used by Buchla system masters like Morton Subotnick and Suzanne Ciani. I've been craving a hardware spring reverb to have in my own music production toolkit for quite some time. I always loved that Buchla spring sound, and how a good spring reverb could quickly transform the depth and space of a clean electric guitar like in a Fender blackface tube amp.
I recently picked up an Intellijel Springray 2 for my eurorack modular system. I found a deal on this module I felt I had to jump on, but there are a lot of good options of a good value in the eurorack world. This video by mylarmelodies on the Future Music Youtube channel does a great job in breaking down some possibilities, even if it's a little outdated with so many more options out there today compared to 6 years ago. The Springray 2 in particular though has a lot of great features and modulation possibilities. The ability to switch tanks on the fly, the limiter to control feedback and shape tone, the drive function for more tonal options, and a solid one band EQ with control over Hz, gain, and Q are hard to beat in such a small space without feeling too cramped to really play freely in a live setting. These options are especially valuable since I plan on using the Springray 2 for modular work, recording outside instruments, and for mixing in and out of my DAW.
I've also been trying to think a little outside the box when I do get new gear these days. With this in mind, I decided when getting started with the Springray 2 that instead of plugging in a synth voice right in the input to get a traditional spring reverb sound, or bringing in a track from my interface from a mix I was working on to bring out a different tone or sense of space or depth, I would create a voice in my modular system using audible feedback and playing the springs as the initial sound source.
I ran the Springray 2 mono out into my main standby filter module the SSF Stereo Dipole, coming out of the filter in stereo with the two channels each set with different spreads respectively. This allowed for stereo frequency separation, creating interesting movement over time and in space as the Dipole was modulated. Then, into a Make Noise Mimeophon for delay and reverb and all the lovely tones in between that it's capable of with the halo control. And lastly, into the SSF Vortices with the channel pushed for a little tape-style saturation and high end roll-off before going into my usual studio gear. These days, that's an Avedis KeyPre electronic instrument preamp, into a pair of Kush Electra EQ's for slight and broad EQ moves, and into a pair of Inward Connections Brute compressors for their lovely analog hifi tone and simple non-destructive dynamics control. A pair of low risk opto compressors at the end made a big difference in making the mix a lot easier to work with after establishing such an unpredictable and dynamic sonic scenario.
I also chose to limit myself to just this one voice. Inspired originally by Allen Strange, I always try to focus on the creation of limitations and working within them when I create music with my modular system and electronic instruments in general. Strange calls the mindset when working with the modular "Parametric Thinking". In this case, beyond limiting my parameters to one sound source and a few different opportunities for further sound manipulation, I also stuck to three basic means of control (beyond physical interaction with the Springray's springs and various knobs when performing of course). I used an Intellijel Planar 2 to control the feedback and EQ controls on the spring reverb, as well as turning on and off the reverse function on the Mimeophone delay. I used an Intellijel Tetrapad using the fader function to control the feedback and zone functions on the Mimeophon. This had the effect of creating lots of interesting patterns of longer delay loops and shorter self-oscillating sound fx when high feedback was used and the zone was manipulated. As I continued changing the zones, previous timbral motifs would come in and out in really interesting ways for me to further react to. Last, I used a Make Noise ø-CTRL to trigger and modulate a Make Noise Function envelope modulating the Stereo Dipole filter. That Dipole filter is also being modulated by an envelope created by a SSF Detect-RX envelope follower being fed the initial sound source from the spring reverb.
All together, this creates a new instrument where every action interacts with every other action in a way that feels alive and exciting. It feels like a new instrument that's like a living organism that I can only use my instinct and ears to try to contain. Luckily, I was really happy with the results and had a lot of fun doing it! I hope you enjoy it as well, and that it inspires you to try something new with whatever setup you have in your creative space. Sometimes the creating of a set of limitations in your craft can be just as inspiring as the act of the intentional art making itself. And just the same, it's always worth thinking about your tools in new ways that may not be the most obvious purpose.