Disquiet Junto Project 0508: Germane Shepard

Instructions went out via tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto, as always.

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. (A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required.) There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, September 27, 2021, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, September 23, 2021.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0508: Germane Shepard

The Assignment: Use the Shepard tone to create a piece of music.

Many thanks to Robert Precht for having proposed this project.

There’s just one step: Use the Shepard tone to create a piece of music.

More on the Shepard tone at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepard_tone.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0508” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your tracks.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0508” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation of a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your tracks. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your tracks.

Step 4: Post your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:


Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #DisquietJunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Note: Please post one track per weekly Junto project. If you choose to post more than one, and do so on SoundCloud, please let me know which you’d like added to the playlist. Thanks.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, September 27, 2021, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, September 23, 2021.

Length: The length of your finished track is up to you. Given the topic, it may sound like it goes on forever …

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0508” in the title of the tracks, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: It is always best to set your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 508th weekly Disquiet Junto project – Germane Shepard (The Assignment: Make music with 10 acoustic instrument samples all in a shared key) – at: https://disquiet.com/0508/

Many thanks to Robert Precht for having proposed this project.

More on the Disquiet Junto at: https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here: https://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co: https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0508-germane-shepard/

There’s also a Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to marc@disquiet.com for Slack inclusion.

The image associated with this project is by Chris, and used thanks to Flickr and a Creative Commons license allowing editing (cropped with text added) for non-commercial purposes:






Hi all. Two great Norns scripts were used for this track. Endless-stairs was used for the shepard tones. New noise/drone processing script Smash was used for some percussive sounds and had a dictaphone recording of cv controlled radio going into it.
The other sounds are from Landfill Totems vst and FX from Unfiltered Audios Byome.


What a beautiful piece. I’d be interested to know how you made it.

1 Like

I had already used the Shepard scale in a previous Disquiet Junto project where we were supposed to create an audio illusion. So I had the code here.

From Gödel, Escher, Bach

I had an ascending version of the Shepard scale and a descending version. Then I slowly wacked them out.


Hey All,
When I hear the Shepard tone I get the sense of something falling, the rising not so much. Maybe this is a reflection of my current mood. I feel like I am slowly falling apart, the world is falling apart and there is no center to hold things in place. I am not being glum but maybe it is part of getting older but I think we are in strange times. That is why I like creating things. Being creative puts those thoughts on the back burner and I feel something I do not feel in very much else. My children also help me with this feeling of things breaking down but even parenthood is burdened with a sense of worry for their futures.
When I first started getting back into making music about a decade ago I made a CD back when CDs were quickly going extinct. The title was”A Language of the Heart” taken from a scene in the film “My Dinner with Andre”. I will post this scene down below for anybody that wanted to check it out. I think he is really seeing the fight against entropy and what form it should take. How do we keeps things moving in the right direction and not falling apart? I think he gets it pretty much right when he feels the need for “being connected with everything”. Although it may be more of a goal than a permanent state of mind, at least in my case. Man how did I get to this from a Shepard tone but that is what was running through my head.
To make this I took a Shepard tone sample and lowered it unwarped -16,-11,-5,-1,+4,+9,+14,+26. I then midi translated the lowest and highest to the Auturia soft synth CS-80 since that instrument reminds me of Vangelis , an artist the Shepard tone also reminded me of. My favorite part is the end when it is just the delays dying out. Hope all are well.

Peace, Hugh
@bassling This is excellent. Reminded my of the beat in the wiki ( Risset’s accelerating rhythm effect using a breakbeat loop.


Cheers @Bick_Brannigan, listening back and I think mine could be shorter.

Than again…


Disquiet Junto Project508

This one was difficult but I had to do it, a few years ago I was asked to create a piece of music for a documentary using Shepard Tones like Christopher Nolan does perfectly on his movies. They had no budget for Hans Zimmer and they called me, ok.

But unlike Zimmer I was incapable to create orchestral textures using Shepard Tone, it never worked and ended up giving up. I did something honourable with plain sine waves but using instruments and orchestral samples I couldn’t get that sensation of “never-ending” rise or fall, I could hear the cycle starting over, etc. Very frustrating.

I got took a rain check on that and kept my unfinished research sessions for later. Yesterday finally this junto prompt decided me to face it and try to do it. I worked 12 hours on this thing, it is still a work in progress but it is getting closer to what I wanted.

I used several Shepard Tones, always ascending, using orchestral samples, sine waves (Ondes Martenot and Reaktor) and added some proper music combined with the Shepard drones (solo cello, orchestral percussion, brass and string’s dystopian samples)


The playlist is now rolling:



Hi everyone. Been a while since I made a contribution. I’ve been feeling somewhat creatively stuck in recent weeks, but this was a good opportunity to make something quickly without over-thinking it.

This was done mostly on modular synth with the addition of a couple of pedals and one Reaper plugin. The sound source is the first four oscillators from a Spherical Waveform Navigator (SWM), with the pitches driven by the outputs of the Ornament & Crime Quadraturia app, which provides a quadrature LFO (so, one LFO per oscillator). From the SWN, the sound is routed through the following sequence of modules (in order): Ruina Versio, QPAS, and Mimeophon. I used a number of slow LFOs to modulate various parameters of these modules. The result is split into two stereo channels, one of which goes into Reaper with the Black Hole reverb plugin, and the other going through a Hologram Microcosm (Warp D effect) then a Context reverb, then into a separate Reaper track. This was rendered out, and then finished in Audacity (normalization and fade-in/fade-out).

I was not able to achieve a classic Shepard tone, but I think this is somewhere in the vicinity.


I tried in many ways. Finally I made my Shepard Tone this way:
I made a glissando with VCV-rack (Freesound - "Disq508_original_portamento.wav" by gis_sweden). Glissando from X to Y…
Opened glissando in Audacity and made 3 new versions in different octaves, +1, -1 and -2 octaves. So I had 4 versions of my glissando.
Made a project in Audacity with my glissandos placed like bricks in a (bad) wall. All glissandos now have fade in and out.

The outcome of my wall was opened in a new project. I made 2 new versions, +1 and -1 octave. Placed them time shifted in the project.
From the result of this I selected a part, and applied time stretch.
Now I had my raw Shepard Tone (freesound.org/s/588237/). Not perfect bot god enough.

Opened this in a DAW and applied reverb, but the reverb does not add much to a massive sound like this…
And… The Shepard Tone it self IS my piece of music :upside_down_face:
Sorry for long post.


My attempt at using Shepard tones. Not really all that great, but I enjoyed that it ended up continuing the robotic theme from two weeks ago even though I didn’t intentionally go in that direction.

A bit of searching led me to a Shepard tone module in VCV Rack, VCV Library - Count Modula Shepard Generator. I used that to create some droney textural things. Decided I wanted to pair a few sine wave bits with it as well. Played around with the rate knob on the Shepard tone module during the recording just to add something different.


I created a Shepard tone in Ableton’s Operator, used Ableton’s Buzz Bass for chords, and used audio clips for drums and percussion. My goal was to make something musical out of this weird audio illusion and provide a kind of release at the end. My thanks to Nate Trier for his help mixing the piece.


Thank you Robert Precht for your great concept.

Shepard tones are a new for me so this has been very cool to explore and spend time in.

So after doing a bit of research and watching a few YT clips I was away.
I wanted to use some birdsong I captured last night at golden hour as the source for all the tones.
I created three chords in the logic sampler from the birds samples and then set about turning them into Shepard tones. I went with quite long loops. Each a different length. I was hoping for something poly rhythmic but that didn’t really eventuate.
I then arranged my tones into the base track.
I also turned the birdsong into a Shepard tone and added that to the mix.
Sorted of percussion like.

Great fun. I feel like I am just scratching the surface here.
Some reverb. Some air.


Not so easy as it appeared on the first read. Created two tone sequences, one in MIDI using Ableton’s analog, with added spectral effects. As I changed some of the parameters and the BPMs a kind of chorus-effect appeared, which I liked and kept. The second tone I created in Audiomulch and then used a gate to chop it up in different rhythms. Finally used the first tone to also generate a drum patch, which I filtered most of the top end off of.


Definitely a tricky one this week. Finally went with a melody - Time Lord trickery; sequencing the BPM to manipulate pauses …


I did a couple of experiments with trying to create my own Shepard tone generator (in Ableton/M4L) but none of them were really satisfactory. I reckon that getting the illusion of the tone being a “single entity”, rather than a bunch of layers audibly fading in and out, requires some artful tinkering (if not some sleight of hand). Moreover, while it was easy to make something abrasive, disconcerting or stress-inducing (Dunkirk-esque if you will), I guess my mood called for something else.

To reset my brain and ears, I played around a bit with drawing in MPE pitch curves in Ableton midi clip window: creating sustained notes that slide up and down, entangling and disentangling into unisons, intervals, clusters, chords. Some interesting sonic possibilities there. I’ve never been a big fan of drawing in notes (a lot of my musical practice revolves around finding/programming ways to get away from music-making-as-editing) but it was actually rather interesting to get back to this way of doing things.

So I stuck with this approach. I figured if I created pitchbend curves that only ever moved in an upward direction, and then duplicated these notes/curves into a bunch of layers for different octaves which I faded in and out, I might get something of a “Shepard feel” — that vertigo-like feeling of simultaneously moving and staying in the same spot. So more sleight of hand than genuine Shepard tone, but I guess it sort of worked.

Played some electric piano on top, and a layer of “sounds from the studio”, which is currently (temporarily) in the French countryside: I.e. crickets and an owl :slight_smile:


I find the Shepard tone to be a bit of a pain to set up in Ableton, so I just relied on Anarchy Sound Software’s Corkscrew VST. It’s definitely not “transparent,” but it gets the job done!

I wanted to circumvent my first instincts on how to use the Shepard tone in this one and use it in unlikely places, which ended up being percussion and harmonic drones.

In the intro, the two bass notes are a whole step apart at C# and B, which creates an overtone series that previews the chromatic motion of the Shepard tone (in my own mind at least). In this section, I used the Corkscrew VST to make the “hi-hats” (actually an electric fan) imitate a Shepard tone.

At 1:00, the C# and B reappear a few octaves higher as Shepard tones to “accompany” the melody. (There’s also an unchanging B drone in there). I improvised a piano part here, using Spitfire Labs’ Soft Piano and Rare Piano Sustain to add a little electro-tines (and Baby Audio’s Spaced Out reverb on the “Harold’s Piano” preset - RIP Harold). The rhythm here is a sample of the photocopier at my new job. I used Ableton’s Corpus to make the low frequencies more like a kick drum and the mids more like a snare.

At 2:16, the low bass tones of C# and B return, but this time with the Corkscrew VST turning them into Shepard tones. A Spitfire music box and a Fairlight sample of an organ provide the final outro melody.

Overall, I’m satisfied with this one - it’s got the combo of pretty melody + weird noise that I aspire to. In the future I might want to think more about how to use the Shepard tone for harmonic inspiration (maybe every four measures, use Spectrum to figure out what frequencies aka tones are in the Shepard tone and construct a chord progression out of that???)