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Michael Tharrington
Michael Tharrington

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I'm a Teenage Engineering fanboy!

I've totally fallen for the Swedish synth-makers and electronic gizmo creators, Teenage Engineering.

They make the OP-1, a portable synth that allows you to make 4-track songs, from it's library of digital drum & synth sounds + sampling capabilities. It also has super interesting sequencers and other weird features that make it play more like a video game than a traditional instrument.

It's taken over my life for the past month, and I'm completely enthralled. Let me show you a quick video!

Kind of wild to me that it's been out for 10 years now. It still feels so fresh and interesting!

They also recently collaborated with Panic on Playdate, a handheld gaming console that features super simple black & white graphics and a hand crank. Oh yeah, and you don't really buy games for it, the system connects to wifi and games are sent to the thing willy nilly. Check it out!

While I only own the OP-1, the design and philsophy of Teenage Engineering's products all seem to follow a pattern. They're a bit toy-like, modern (but, often with a retro twist), sometimes a tad impractical (& expensive!), and almost always quirky. Anyway, I feel like they've cracked the code here with me as I find their design and delivery so damn delightful!

So, what are your thoughts? Do you also dig Teenage Engineering? If you're a designer (because I'm certainly not!) can you help to explain to me what Teenage Engineering is doing that is so attractive to me? And devs, what do you think about the software they've been developing for the unique devices they've created?

Top comments (9)

grahamthedev profile image

Never done a single thing with synths or audio creation, but I recognise the OP-1 instantly because of "Red Means Recording", and watching the process of creating a track is really interesting!

End result at 13:06 but the this is one track that I love that they did!

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

I love this show! 😄

The host is an OP wizard and the visuals/dialog are equally delightful. I hope one day I can come up with stuff that interesting. And you can bet that I've been watching the tutorials that Red Means Recording has posted.

This performance is great btw, I hadn't stumbled on this yet. Haha I seriously love the little sample loop!

All night, all night long... I need u

Classic! 🔥

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington • Edited

Thank ya sir! I'm using Ableton mostly, but admittedly, I make lots of jams without any DAW at all and frequently don't save them. 😅

I realize my picture is super zoomed out, but I have an Arturia Keystep Pro and that sucker allows me to jam DAW-less with multiple instruments pretty frequently. I end up setting up multiple sequences (one on my Moog Grandmoth, one on my Korg Volca FM, one on my Korg Volca Sample (then I run a patch cable from it over to Moog DFAM), and eventually plug in my guitar with some effects (delay, freeze pedal, distortion) and make some pretty weird spacey tunes, haha. I think I also love the OP-1 because it keeps me out of the DAW... after a day of looking at screens, I really just wanna play tunes without any computer. It's limiting, but is definitely fun and keeps me focused on what I can do versus all the possible things that I could do; and on that note, I really related to how you described the OP-1 as having intentional limitations that spurs different creative ways of approaching music — I think you're spot on!

The tool you built looks so rad. I'm a self-taught musician and know bits and pieces of theory but am not as disciplined as I should be. This could really be eye opening for me!

I freaking love your idea of an intelligent light show! Too bad you're in Arizona, lol. I'd be inviting you over to jam and tinker with this stuff if you were local to NC... which btw, ever find yourself in the Raleigh Durham area, hit me up (!! It's interesting that you brought up the idea of an algorithm that could map colors to properties of sound... I have an amp called a Boss Acoustic Singer that has some really smart harmonizing functionality which can tell if you're playing in major or minor and will adjust your harmony vocals accordingly. Check out this video if you're interested! Anyway, I'm just imagining using similar smart technology to create the correct mood lighting.

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

On the note of guns being designed as toys, somehow I'm not surprised, haha! 😅

As far as the Launchpads go, I love those things! They're so dang colorful and I'm pretty sure I've seen videos of one being used as a sequencer similar to what you're talking about. I'll have to look into the Launchpad more thoroughly if I continue down this route... who knows, I might end up picking one up one of these days!

The light and 3d mapping stuff is so interesting to me! I would love to sync different gear in a room with music and have my own little light show. I'm also quite interested in how the OP-Z (imagine that, another product from TE , haha!) lets you sequence photos, DMX lighting, and even graphics via something called videolab + Unity... but the buttons are tiny — it's like a little TV remote, haha! — and it's certainly more expensive than something like the Launchpad which may be just as capable with the right software!

Anyway, here's a picture of my setup. I'm a guitar player that has fallen for synths over the past couple of years! But, I also set up a little projector above my space and have aspirations to one day create visuals to go with my music.

my studio

highcenburg profile image
Vicente Antonio G. Reyes

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

Kenan Thompson saying "for sure"