The world needs another synth, so the other day I asked ChatGPT in a very sophisticated way about what is missing from this incredibly "undersaturated" electronic instruments market:

Alright ChatGPT, you know it better. Let's pick a genre then! Let's go with funk because that's just so obvious. So what would be the ultimate funk synth that I would want to use?

The first thing comes to my mind is the iconic sound of Bernie Worrel from the Parliament Funkadelic on the Model D. The way he goes crazy on the "funk shimmy"—ie. the filter with the modwheel—make his leads and basslines extremly funky. So the ultimate funk synth has to be analog and have all sorts of wah expression options including reacting to velocity, modwheel control, keyboard tracking, LFO and envelope. To make it ultra fat, there must be at least one more voice an octave down or up with a slight detune.

So far we talk about a monophonic synth with portamento, pitch bend and very versatile wah expressions which is a good start. This time though, I don't want to limit the sound to just leads and basses. I really want chords even if it comes with some limitations. Just listen to any Louis Cole song: he practically plays raw sqaure waves with no envelope. You literally can't go simpler than that yet because of the rhythm and harmony it is one of the funkiest things these days. So this synth should have some form of polyphony.

Polyphony vs paraphony

Full polyphony is hard in an analog synth. A "voice" in a synth means the combination of modules that build up a single note with expression — ie. it makes sound only if you press a key, it has a filter, an envelope generator (ADSR), and the sound might have some external parameter control such as an LFO. In a polyphonic analog synth you have to build as many full "voices" as the number of notes you want to play simultanously. You also need to take into account that full VCOs have an incredible temperature sensitivity so all the voices must be built from electronic parts with the exact same parameters. That is one of the reasons why e.g. an Oberheim OB synth is so huge and expensive.

Photo from

Instead of full polyphony, which is expensive and risky, I will build a paraphonic analog synth. Paraphonic synths still have multiple voices but each voice has reduced capability which makes it more limited but significantly simpler: just like in a polyphonic synth, they will make sound when you press the keys but they share a single envelope and filter. This means that for example the envelope is triggered by the first note and doesn't take any of the subsequent notes into account. There's a great demo of the Moog Matriarch (which is a paraphonic synth) by Cuckoo.


We already touched on VCOs, let's talk a bit about DCOs now. DCO stands for digitally controlled oscillator. It's a solution that was first(?) used in Roland Juno synths to overcome the temperature dependency problem of VCOs. In a DCO, instead of using voltage to define the oscillator's reset rate (ie. the frequency), a microcontroller does that with much higher precision and completely independently from temperature. This is especially useful in a polyphonic setting where each voice is a source of problem of going out of tune.

The drawback of DCOs is the same as why you'd want to use it at the first place: you somewhat lose the imperfectness of analog sound. Just like there is always a slight unnoticable detune in a guitar (because the strings simply cannot ever be 100% perfectly in tune), a fully analog VCO sounds more natural, more human than a digitally controlled oscillator.

In my monophonic synths I went with a VCO for the above reason, but for a synths with 6 voices I don't want to risk a massive tuning issue (plus I love to learn new things) so I'll go with a DCO.

This post by explains the inner workings of DCOs extremely well.


Presets are hard! There are a lot of ways to do presets and each requires that all parameters are digitally controlled in one way or another. It's one of the things on my list to figure out properly and I don't feel like complicating things further just yet.

I also generally like the idea of a synth without presets, especially when it's analog. Without presets you are playing much more consciously and in control. You need to learn the synth just like any other instrument.

The original idea of the Hog was to make an synth with a UI that allows switching between sounds without presets. To achieve this I used switches for most of the controls instead of pots and sliders. While it was an interesting experiment, some of the controls made more sense than others. One thing stood out though: the super simple envelope control made a ton of sense so I will certainly reuse that concept here.

Shmøergh Funk Live One features

  • Analog sound sources
  • Paraphonic / monophonic modes. Voice stacking and detune in mono mode for more fat.
  • 4-6 voice DCO. We'll see what the Pico can take
  • Mixable square and sawtooth waveforms. Square with pulse width control
  • Agressive funk filter. Steiner Parker worked great already in the Hog so I'll go with that.
  • Portamento and pitchwheel in mono mode. Obviously.
  • Various Wah expressions is central: keyboard tracking, modwheel, envelope, velocity and LFO (auto-wah).
  • Simplified envelope control for fast live performance
  • Bonus overdrive effect

This sounds quite fun and challenging, let's do it :)