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History of Gentle Electric

While working at Aries Music in the Fall of 1976, Carl Fravel had some conversations with Dennis Colin, the designer of the Arp2600 and of the Aries, about pitch following for analog synthesizer control.  Dennis had prototyped a pitch follower using cascading octave lowpass filters, but didn't create a product from it.  After leaving Aries, Carl founded Gentle Electric, for which he designed a pitch follower a using a different approach (a time-domain pattern recognition algorithm), and included envelope following and envelope triggering features.  Gentle Electric's early business included custom synthesizer work and prototype quantity circuit board manufacturing, until the pitch follower was ready for manufacturing. Approximately 200 of these pitch followers were sold over the next 10 years. The pitch follower was produced in 6 configurations... In 1977, Carl relocated Gentle Electric to Santa Cruz, CA, concurrent with accepting a part time faculty position with the UCSC Electronic Music Studio.  Gentle Electric was operated literally out of the garage, and there were a number of employees during that period, inluding Kevin Monahan (later went to Sequential Circuits, then Emu), Steve Hoge, and Daniel Keller.

In the late 1970's, Gentle Electric considered creating a MIDI version of the Pitch Follower, and was issued system exclusive code 0x13 by the IMA, as documented in the 1983 release of the 1.0 MIDI spec (example example), but no Gentle Electric MIDI product was released at that time, so 0x13 was later reissued by the IMA/MMA to Digidesign.

Carl relocated Gentle Electric to Delta, CO in 1980, employed the services of Ed Horton, and turned over the daily operations of Gentle Electric to Ed in 1986 when Carl accept a position at WaveFrame in Boulder, CO.

The last analog Gentle Electric Model 101 Pitch and Envelope Follower was sold to Steven Adams in about 1986. Steven attempted to use it to create a prototype of a pitch reader input device for personal computers, for application in music education.

Carl and Steven created a company called AFI (Adams-Fravel, Inc) in about 1986 to build a new version of the pitch follower as a plug-in ISA card for IBM PC's and compatibles. Several hundred of these were manufactured in the late 1980's and early 1990's, these being resold as OEM units through several companies that created music training software products, including Electronic Courseware Systems (Dr. G. David Peters of Indiana University School of Music) and Music Lab Systems.

Artists, Recordings, and other uses of the pitch follower


Photos and Images

Gentle Electric Model 101 Pitch and Envelope Follower (rack mountable)

Photo courtesy Toby Paddock

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Please direct inquiries and feedback to Carl Fravel.