Buchla Easel An Iconic Synthesizer For Experimental Soundscapes

Buchla Easel is a modular synthesizer designed for creating experimental and unique soundscapes. It is a compact and portable instrument with a complex and versatile sound palette, making it a favorite among musicians and sound designers for its ability to produce unconventional and out-of-the-box sounds.

Invented by electronic music pioneer Don Buchla in the 1970s, the Buchla Easel has become an iconic piece of equipment in the world of electronic music. Its unconventional design, features, and sound capabilities have made it a sought-after instrument for experimental musicians and sound artists.

In this article, we will delve into the history, design, and usage of the Buchla Easel, and explore its enduring legacy in the world of experimental music and sound design.

History of Buchla Easel:

The Buchla Easel was invented by Don Buchla, an American engineer and composer known for his pioneering work in electronic music. He created the Buchla Easel as an alternative to the popular Moog synthesizers, which were more widely used at the time. Buchla’s vision was to design an instrument that would allow musicians to explore and create unique and unconventional sounds, rather than imitate traditional instruments.

The Buchla Easel was first released in 1973 and quickly gained popularity among experimental musicians and sound artists. It became a staple in the electronic music scene and has been used in various genres, from ambient and avant-garde to techno and pop.

The instrument’s popularity declined in the 1980s as digital synthesizers became more mainstream, but it experienced a resurgence in the 2000s as artists began to appreciate its unique capabilities and sought-after sound. Today, the Buchla Easel has a cult following and is still in production by Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments.

Design and Features of Buchla Easel:

The Buchla Easel is designed as a self-contained, portable instrument, with a unique layout and interface. It consists of two main sections: the Touch Controlled Voltage Source (TCVS) and the Complex Oscillator. The TCVS is the main control panel, where users can manipulate sound in real-time through touch-sensitive plates and sliders. The Complex Oscillator section consists of two oscillators, a low-pass gate, a dual function generator, and a modulation section.

One of the most notable features of the Buchla Easel is its signature touch-sensitive plates, which allow users to manipulate sound by physically touching and moving their fingers across the surface. This unique interface encourages experimentation and allows for expressive and organic sound creation.

Another standout feature is the Buchla Easel’s ability to generate complex and unpredictable sounds, making it a favorite among experimental musicians and sound designers.

How is Buchla Easel Used in Experimental Music:

The Buchla Easel’s unconventional layout and features make it a versatile instrument for creating experimental music and soundscapes. Its unique interface allows for intuitive and expressive sound manipulation, making it a favorite among improvisational musicians.

There are various approaches to using the Buchla Easel in music, from creating ambient and atmospheric textures to creating pulsating and rhythmic patterns. It can also be used for sound design in film and video games, as its unpredictable and organic nature can add a sense of mystery and tension to a scene.

Artists such as Suzanne Ciani, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, and Alessandro Cortini have all incorporated the Buchla Easel into their music, showcasing its diverse capabilities and unique sound.

Tips for Using Buchla Easel in Sound Design:

For sound designers, the Buchla Easel offers a range of possibilities for creating unique and unconventional sounds. With its touch-sensitive plates and unpredictable nature, it is well-suited for creating alien and otherworldly sounds.

Key Takeaways:


  • Buchla Easel is an iconic synthesizer known for its experimental and unique soundscapes.
  • Invented by Don Buchla, Buchla Easel was first released in 1973 and has been used by influential artists in experimental music.
  • Buchla Easel’s design and features, including its touch-sensitive interface, make it a stand-out instrument for creating innovative and original sounds.


History of Buchla Easel

The history of Buchla Easel dates back to the early 1970s when Don Buchla introduced it as a portable, performance-oriented synthesizer. With its innovative touch-plate keyboard and modular design, the Buchla Easel revolutionized electronic music production and quickly became an iconic instrument in the history of electronic music. Over the years, it has been cherished by experimental musicians and sound designers for its unique sonic capabilities and intuitive interface, solidifying its status as a beloved and influential piece of equipment.

Who Invented Buchla Easel?

Buchla Easel was invented by Don Buchla, an American electrical engineer, and pioneer of electronic music instruments. He introduced this iconic synthesizer in the early 1970s, revolutionizing the music industry with its innovative design and features. Don Buchla’s vision and creativity led to the creation of Buchla Easel, which remains a cornerstone for experimental soundscapes and continues to inspire musicians and sound designers worldwide.

When Was Buchla Easel First Released?

The Buchla Easel, designed by Don Buchla, was first released in 1973, making it a significant milestone in the history of synthesizers. This innovative instrument revolutionized electronic music production with its unique interface and impressive sound capabilities.

Design and Features of Buchla Easel

Design and Features of Buchla Easel - Buchla Easel: An Iconic Synthesizer for Experimental Soundscapes

Photo Credits: Goldenscissors.Info by Mark Martin

Design Features
Easel is a portable, all-in-one instrument designed for experimentation. It includes a built-in 218 touch keyboard, a complex oscillator, and a modulation oscillator.

The Buchla Easel, named after its creator Don Buchla, was introduced in 1973. It revolutionized electronic music by offering a fresh approach to sound creation and performance.

What Makes Buchla Easel Unique?

The Buchla Easel stands out for its innovative touch-plate keyboard, which provides a tactile and expressive way of interacting with the synthesizer. Its distinct control interface, featuring the dynamic spatial controller, sets it apart from conventional synthesizers. Furthermore, the Easel’s inclusion of a built-in sequencer and its capability to create intricate modulation routings contribute to its uniqueness in the world of synthesizers.

What Are the Main Components of Buchla Easel?

The main components of Buchla Easel include:

  • Complex Oscillator: This component produces a variety of waveforms and serves as the core tone generator.
  • Envelope Follower: This component analyzes the loudness contour of the input signal.
  • Pulser: This component generates rhythmic trigger signals.
  • Program Card: This component stores and recalls preset configurations for the Easel’s functions.
  • Sequencer: This component offers a variety of functions for creating and manipulating sequences.

How is Buchla Easel Used in Experimental Music?

  • Modular Design: Experiment with patching cables to create unique signal paths.
  • Buchla Easel’s Controls: Utilize touch-sensitive plates for gestural control over sound parameters.
  • Complex Sound Generation: Explore the Buchla Easel’s complex oscillator and modulation capabilities for avant-garde textures.

Did you know? The Buchla Easel was one of the first portable synthesizers, pioneering the concept of a self-contained electronic music instrument.

How is the Buchla Easel incorporated into experimental music?

What are the Different Approaches to Using Buchla Easel?

When utilizing the Buchla Easel, musicians have the opportunity to explore various approaches in order to create one-of-a-kind sounds and experimental music. Some of these different approaches include:

  • Experimenting with modulation techniques to generate evolving soundscapes.
  • Utilizing the touch-sensitive keyboard for expressive and melodic compositions.
  • Crafting intricate rhythmic patterns by utilizing the built-in sequencer.
  • Employing the patch cables to experiment with signal routing and manipulation.

What Artists Have Used Buchla Easel in Their Music?

Artists from various genres have incorporated Buchla Easel into their music, showcasing its versatility. Notable examples include Suzanne Ciani, a pioneer in electronic music, and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, recognized for her innovative use of modular synthesis. Additionally, Alessandro Cortini, a member of the band Nine Inch Nails, has also utilized Buchla Easel in his compositions. These artists have demonstrated the expressive potential of Buchla Easel in shaping distinct sonic landscapes.

Tips for Using Buchla Easel in Sound Design

  1. Get Familiar with the Interface: Take the time to understand the touch-sensitive plates, sliders, and patching matrix of the Buchla Easel.
  2. Experiment with Patching: Utilize the patching capabilities to create complex and unique signal flows for your sound design.
  3. Explore Timbral Possibilities: Manipulate the complex oscillator and modulation options to discover a diverse range of soundscapes.
  4. Incorporate External Processing: Expand the sonic potential of the Buchla Easel by integrating external effects and processing units.
  5. Embrace Randomness: Embrace the inherent randomness of the Easel for organic and unexpected results in your sound design.

How to Create Unique Sounds with Buchla Easel?

  • Learn the Interface: Familiarize yourself with the touch-sensitive keyboard, modulation sources, and signal flow of the Buchla Easel.
  • Experiment with Patching: Create unique sounds by exploring different patching and routing options through various modules.
  • Discover Timbral Possibilities: Utilize the complex oscillator and modulation capabilities to discover diverse timbral textures.

The Buchla Easel, invented by Don Buchla and first released in 1973, is renowned for its innovative interface and unique sonic capabilities, making it an essential instrument for experimental music.

What are Some Common Techniques for Using Buchla Easel?

To fully utilize the Buchla Easel, try out different patching techniques such as utilizing the 218 touch-plate keyboard for melodic sequences or incorporating the 206e module for dynamic timbral shifts. Experiment with the 223e Tactile Input Port to manipulate sound parameters through gestural control. Additionally, explore the possibilities of using the 208 Stored Program Sound Source to create evolving sonic textures.

Enjoy experimenting with these techniques and unlocking the full creative potential of the Buchla Easel!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Buchla Music Easel?

The Buchla Music Easel is an iconic synthesizer first introduced in 1973 by Don Buchla. It is highly sought after by musicians for its unique sound and experimental capabilities.

What are the key features of the Buchla Music Easel?

The Buchla Music Easel features a 10-panel design, increase size, and modern controls, making it a prime choice for sound exploration and multidimensional sound control.

What is the difference between the Modern Edition and Retro Edition of the Buchla Music Easel?

The Modern Edition offers enhanced composition and connectivity possibilities, while the Retro Edition closely resembles the original unit but with modern updates and controls.

What is the 208C sound source on the Buchla Music Easel?

The 208C dual-oscillator sound source is the core of the Buchla Music Easel, offering a complex and versatile sculpting toolset with independent waveforms, tonal potential, and a built-in mixer and spring reverb.

What are the features of the 218e control surface on the Buchla Music Easel?

The 218e control surface includes a capacitive touch keyboard, ribbon controller, MIDI capability, colored knobs and faders, and front-panel patch jacks for easy patching on-the-go. It also has an arpeggiation control and enhanced connectivity options.

Is the Buchla Music Easel suitable for live performances and studio integration?

Yes, the Music Easel is designed for both live controller utilization and studio integration, with features such as a 48 slot Program Manager Card and input/output jacks for external gear. It is a top choice for both instrument collectors and DIY enthusiasts for its heritage stylings and sonic mobility.