Shibuya – Mecca for music equipment lovers

During my stay in Tokyo’s Shibuya a few days ago, I made a walk in the area around the Cerulean Tower looking for interesting spots. I knew this area already, but never checked it out on my own. This time I could manage and found six shops of interest: Two huge shops with wide range of music equipment, one with used instruments only, two with guitars and a special tiny one :-) I took pictures of the shops only and have no names or webpages (sorry for that). So this quick review is recommended for guys who are going to visit Shibuya and do not have much time (I made my walk within 1.5h). Tokyo has hundreds of such nice spots full of music stuff such as the one in Harajuku called Floor G, but I did not find an area like that one before. Here you get such a range of shops in the surroundings. Let me know if you know another one. I’d happy!

Bild 22.05.14 um 20.35 I started with a cup of Sunday Coffee’s black coffee (just in case you love coffee: Japan is not famous for coffee yet, so you have to search for tasty coffee spots). Sunday Coffee is nearby spot #1: Hoockie’s Musician Farm is your dealer No.1 if you go for guitars. A small shop in the basement. Friendly stuff (nerds) as usual. If you ask them, they get it for you done.

Having a nice walk away from the main road I arrived at spot #2, a store with seven levels. You get everything thee! Honestly. This is definitely the shop of my choice. Synths, recording equipment, DJ equipment, drums, guitars, pedals etc. and even a small recording studio. The prices are a little bit cheaper compared to Music Land Key (spot #3). Music Land Key is the biggest shop/store I have seen so far. So what to say, just check them out and get amazed.

Alright, if you do not have enough of all these impressions by now just follow the street and find a tiny shop (sorry, no picture) full of stuff you do not find in stores anymore, because you do not need them at all. Ha! I found there blank audio cassettes. 5min, 10min, 20min, 30min etc. Very cheap. If you are running a record company or are a sound artist using analog equipment and need audio cassettes per chance? – Do not forget to bring a huge bag with you! Spot #5 is the place to be for buying an acoustic guitar. Two floors. Did not check the basement (third floor). Amazing. And finally the last shop #6 with a huge advertisement on the front of the building. All used instruments: guitars, bass guitars, brass etc.

Wow, now I had to leave! Literally, I had to return to the hotel or staying there would mean a heart attack for me! Far too many impressions. I could buy so many things… The result of my Shibuya walk: I bought new strings for my old ukulele at Music Land Key and three blank audio cassettes at the tiny shop. Shibuya seems to me as a kind of Mecca for music equipment lovers, musicians, street artists and and and. You pass recording studios, record companies, Jazz bars, nice restaurants… A great area away from the mainstream on the other side of Shibuya station. If you consider to buy equipment in Japan and do not have much time at all – do it there. Highly recommended!


copyright by Dominik Grenzler

Seit 2008 besitze ich einen Kaossilator, den ich damals in Tokyo gebraucht gekauft habe. Um ganz ehrlich zu sein, ich habe paar Aufnahmen damit gemacht, die ich auch verwendete, aber mich nie ernsthaft damit beschäftigt. Mittlerweile gibt es diverse Nachfolger, Pro, Pro+ und iKaossilator.

Hier ein kleiner Überblick:

The Korg Kaossilator KO-1 is a portable dynamic-phrase synthesizer manufactured by Korg. It is capable of producing a wide range of sounds, can produce a continuous music loop, and can be tuned to various keys and scales.

Being related to the Korg Kaoss Pads, the Kaossilator is a synth that is played touching a pad that is not unlike a trackpad on laptop computers. For most sounds, moving horizontally on the touchpad changes the pitch over a range of two octaves (in one case, only one octave; for several sounds the range is much more than two octaves). For some sounds, horizontal movement affects a non-pitch parameter. Moving vertically usually modulates the sound in some way.

The Kaossilator features 100 programs, which are mostly synthesizer voices and sound effects, including acoustic (guitartrumpet,piano), percussion, and electronic sounds. The last 10 programs are complete rhythm-patterns, but since percussion sounds are included in the programs, users can develop their own rhythm-patterns by layering multiple overdubbed sounds. Programs are indicated only by a letter-and-two-digit designation on the LED display but are given specific names in the instructions. Most instruments can be locked into various keys and scales. The Kaossilator supports 31 different scale patterns including chromatic, blues and diatonic scales as well as more exotic scales such as Japanese and Egyptian.

The Kaossilator also has a gate arpeggiator and a loop function that allows the layering of instruments to produce loops. The loop recording function is somewhat limited, as the maximum length is two bars in 4/4 time. Despite this limitation, some artists have recorded full-length albums with the Kaossilator.

It is possible to overcome the two-bar limit as the Kaossilator records audio to memory. To do this the user sets the tempo to the desired value – 150 for example – and records his part. The tempo is then set to exactly half the tempo of before, in this case 75. When played back one hears the first two bars but then two more will be available afterwards.

Another way to fully overcome the two-bar limit is by powering up the Kaossilator while holding down the Tap and Loop Rec buttons. Doing this will make four bars available (by setting the Loop Length to 16), but this disables the Undo function.

An updated Kaossilator KO-2 was unveiled at the 2012 NAMM show, with 150 programs, two sound-banks, a save for audio files on a micro-SD card, built-in microphone and speaker, and touch-slide with + and – step buttons instead of a knob. The Kaossilator 2 was released in April 2012 at a retail price of US$160.


Korg unveiled the Kaossilator Pro at NAMM on 14 January 2010. The device has a metal casing similar to the Kaoss Pad 3 (KP3), but its touchpad (divided into an 8×8 grid of rectangles) is back-lit with green lights instead of the KP3’s red lights.


The larger pad makes it easier to hit specific notes compared to the original Kaossilator. It offers 200 sounds, vocoder patches, four channels of looping, MIDI, a gate arpeggiator, 31 scales, editor software, and other features. Unlike the original Kaossilator, it allows music-loops and settings to be saved on an SD memory card.

The Kaossilator Pro+ Version has even 250 sounds. The whole system has been unpated. Bigger and better.

100322_N90_BOW_PF_#1Band_no_pings_FL_PHO-10-0110 001

A software-only version is available as an application for Apple’s iPhone and iPad. The iKaossilator offers 150 sounds, a 5-track loop sequencer, scale/key settings, WIST support and the ability to save/resume an ongoing project but does not have an arpeggiator.

Bald mehr…

teenage engineering

Hell yeah! But what is this little white thing that looks like Korg’s nanoKey from a distance?
Let’s take a closer look…

The first time that I have realized an OP-1 portable synthesizer was in the studio live performance of Depeche Mode’s «Broken». To be honest at that time I thought that DM is performing a plugin with a nanoKEY. But it was not so. Some days ago I have made a post about Meme Antenna from Brooklyn and their customized modular systems. They had a plastic synthesizer with little plastic knobs and other additional plastic gadgets to buy there as well. Back in the hotel I had to find out more about that toy synthesizer and found a lot which impressed me!

This is DM’s studio live performance. If you do not like the track, just skip to 0:33 and 0:39 to see the OP-1 in action.

I went to the homepage of Teenage Engineering and got impressed by that video:

The accessory demonstration is great! If you like to play with Lego or even go for DIY instruments, you like it. Further on a full review by Sonicstate:

«Do you need it? I do not know. Do you want it? Hell yeah, I’d love one!»

rudy’s music stop: electro-harmonix

Four years ago I have bought my Zoom h4n at Manny’s Musical Instruments shop. A nice shop with a quiet wide range of all instruments. Now the shop is closed forever. A new one is too far away in the 33th Street and it is called Sam Ash Music Store. This is what the internet says and it did not mention, that Manny’s is closed. So, while it is raining it decide to go to Rudyl’s Music Stop – A tiny music store vis a vis. I saw it four years ago, but I did not have the time to check it out. Today I did. At Rudy’s I have meat Dave. We spoke about Electro-Harmonix, since I am very pleased with my Memory Man Delay, I was looking for a Reverb FX. He showed me the FX they have in stock and Cathedral made it. Not cheap, but of great quality made in New York. I came to NYC with a decision of buying Korg’s Kaoss Pad Quad. If i would see it somewhere in a shop by chance, propably I would buy it. And now I am happy I did not. I think if Korg is going to work on the Quad as they did with Kaossilator and Kaoss Pad, the updated version of the Quad will be worth of a purchase.
The Cathedral blew my mind! See you again in four years at Rudy’s Music Stop :-)

Customized Analog Modular Systems

If you are ever in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY – you have to go to this small shop called MeMe Antenna. These guys sell decoration stuff, music and customized analog modular systems. Wide range and not expencive at all. The two nerdy japanese guys are doing the customized stuff and sell this as Modular 3U or 6U Bento Boxes and Happy Ending KIts. Very nice!


Minute is my favorite App for iPhone currently. It is very easy to use and it is designed by Henry Lowengard. You can get the new version 1.0.1 for free.

Minute is inspired by works and ideas of composer John Cage, specifically his pieces “Indeterminacy” and “Essay.”

Up to one minute of sound can be recorded, by touching the central red circle.

The recorded sound is analyzed into “words” and “spaces” and then resynthesized in one of these two ways by flipping the “play grays silently” switch.:

  • “Words” are detected and the “spaces” around them are stretched until the resulting sound reaches the specified length, which is initially set to one minute. These “spaces” can be suppressed and played as true silence.
  • Instead of the “spaces” being stretched, the “words” are. The “words” can also be suppressed, so that only the silences between them are heard.
  • The level distinguishing words from spaces can be set by touching the screen, while the desired length of the resulting sound is controlled by the slider. If the stretch amont is less than 1, which can happen if there is a lot of silence relative to the amount of time to squeeze it into, it will suppress playing the stretched sound entirely!
  • A volume slider lets you adjust Minute’s audio to a comfortable level.
  • A message at the bottom of the screen tells you how much the stretched sounds are stretched, and the silence level.

    The parts of the sound that are played without stretching are marked in red, while the stretched or suppressed parts are in gray (or very light gray if they are “silent”).

    You can adjust Minute so that the sound you play is always stretched by setting the “spaces level” very high.

Floor G

In Harajuku, Tokyo befindet sich, unauffällig im fünften Stockwerk eines Hauses gegenüber vom Bahnhof, ein 2nd Hand für gebrauchte Synthesizer aller Art. Es ist ein kleines Mekka für Liebhaber. Der Laden ist klein, ruhig und preiswert. Allerdings kann es schnell teuer und sperrig werden, einen, der fantastischen Synths nach Hause im Flieger mitzunehmen. Als ich mit dem Verkäufer sprach, erzählte er mir, dass zu ihren Kunden auch bekannte in- und ausländische Bands gehören.