Monday, June 30, 2008
GO GET THEM!
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Pettinhouse, makers of the DirectBass sample collection for Native Instruments Kontakt, have made a special, free version available for people to give some of their sounds a try. They do accept donations, so if you download the free version and get a lot of use out of it, throw them a few bucks!
GO GET IT!
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Built by Henry Lim, everything except the strings is made from Legos. Predictably, it doesn't sound that great, but the sheer achievement of building it at all is pretty amazing. Follow the link for more info and sound samples.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Organisation was the name of Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider's pre-Kraftwerk project from the late 70's. The project only ever released one album before breaking up, after which Ralf and Florian founded Kling Klang Studios and began writing music as Kraftwerk.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Ever since I spotted it in a Devo video, I wondered what this thing was. Basically, it allowed you to build chords from monophonic synthesizers. This excerpt from Vintage Synth Explorer describes how it works:
"Poly-Box is a pitch following variable chord generator controlled by your synthesizer and Poly-Box's own keyboard with built-in memory. Poly-Box takes a single pitch from your synthesizer and creates two banks of pitch sources. Each pitch bank contains 13 simultaneously available pitch sources at precise semitone intervals - covering an entire chromatic octave. The pitch banks may be in the same or different octaves, and can cover the range from one above to three octaves below the synthesizer oscillator."
GO GET IT
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
AT&T Labs (formerly Bell Labs) have been at the forefront of speech synthesis research for a long time now. What many people don't know is that you can try this technology out for free via the web. Just follow the link below, type in the text you want to hear spoken, and you can either play it back immediately, or download it as a WAV file. Please pay special attention to the 'restrictions apply' portion of the website, as it indicates that musicians can't use speech from this website in commercial works. If you don't plan to commercially release something or just want to have fun making the speech synthesizer say dirty words (don't pretend you aren't going to do that, it insults us both...), the site is a very cool resource.
CHECK IT OUT
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Until I had actually used it, Native Instrument's Battery drum sampler was one of those things I thought wouldn't be all that useful to me (I had received it as part of the Native Instruments Komplete package). After all, I had been using regular old samplers for my drums for years. After giving it a try, however, I found it really did help my workflow and efficiency when working with drums. Because it is aimed at drum and percussion oriented sounds, it pares down the features to include just those that are useful to working with those types of sounds. Thus, screen clutter is cut down, and you spend less time sorting through stuff you don't need to get to the stuff you do.
One of the cool features of Battery is the pitch envelope. It's useful for turning raw synth waveforms into percussive sounds, but if you work with it enough, it can actually be useful for transforming existing drum samples into something quite different from the original material.
To try it out, do the the following (please note I am using Battery 2, so the layout in Battery 3, may be a bit different:
1.) Load a drum sound into one of the cells and make sure that cell is selected for editing.
2.) Find the pitch envelope in the lower right hand corner and hit the 'on/off' switch so it glows yellow.
3. ) Now use the D1, B, and D2 parameters to adjust the shape of the envelope as you trigger the cell to hear the changes you are making. Short, sharp envelope shapes will often 'punch up' the drum sound, while longer ones can stretch out sounds in strange, unnatural ways.
4.) If you have a basic envelope shape you like, but it seems too extreme, simply dial back the 'Amount' parameter.
Below is a quick and dirty example where I have taken a heavy, distorted 909 kick and used the pitch envelope to transform it into a tighter, more synthetic kick. The original sound is first, with the pitch envelope version afterwards...
Monday, June 23, 2008
I love it when musicians perform a traditionally electronic type of music with traditional instruments. (And if you haven't seen KJ Sawka's incredible live drum n' bass drumming, check it out here!) Here is a drummer and a bassist with a boatload of effects doing some dubstep and drum n'bass style stuff live. I wish I knew what his effects rig was!
Sunday, June 22, 2008
A company called KResearch has just released KS-Reverb FS, a free reverb effect for PC & Mac available in VST and AU flavors. I haven't had a chance to try it yet personally, but having another reverb option is always a nice thing in my book.
Friday, June 20, 2008
It's quite an interesting read. Alternately funny, cynical, and depressing, they give a pretty frank and honest outline of what the mainstream music industry is like. And they should know! Before starting their musical partnership (as The JAMs and the Timelords before adopting the KLF moniker...), member Bill Drummond was a manager of bands like Echo & the Bunnymen as well as an A&R rep for the major WEA label, while member Jimmy Cauty was the guitarist in a band Drummond had signed to WEA. Prior to the boom of the Internet, The Manual was extremely difficult to find, but these days some enterprising individuals have transcribed it to PDF format for your enjoyment.
DOWNLOAD "THE MANUAL"
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The Screamers were an LA punk band (originally from Seattle) active in the late 1970's. What made them different was that they used electric pianos and synthesizers instead of guitars and bass. They never released an album, but were influential to the likes of Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys and Darby Crash of the Germs. Several video clips of the band do exist, however... here's one of them.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Compton-based producer DJ Quik (who has worked with many big name acts such as 2Pac and Janet Jackson), has apparently decided to retire from the music industry, and as a parting gift, he is offering his personal library of nearly 1,000 drum samples online totally free. Haven't checked them out, but with a resumé as impressive as his, I'd imagine he knows a thing or two...
Download them here...
I do a lot of remixing and as such, I am always looking for new ways to come up with loops and rhythms that can enhance a track's danceability. Last year I did a remix for the AFI side-project Blaqk Audio in which I used a tape delay effect to create a rhythmic loop in the intro. This technique is actually quite an easy way to create unique, textured loops to your music and could just as easily be applied to non-dance forms of music (for example, using slow note values to contribute to an ambient piece...). I'm using Logic in the example, but you should be able to recreate the results in just about any DAW with a tape delay effect.
1.) Select a snippet of audio. This can be literally anything, but for best results you want something that has some rhythmic content to it such as a drum loop or a vocal. You only need about 1 bar's worth of material.
2.) On your effects inserts, insert a Tape Delay.
3.) The only tweak here that is absolutely required is to boost your feedback level to around 56 or so. This ensures that the delays will repeat over and over. Also set the note value of the delays to whole or half notes. You can use smaller divisions as well, but they don't yield useful results as often. Additionally, I usually like to tweak the high cut or low cut values so that each repetition evolves a little bit. Finally, make sure your project's tempo is the BPM of the project you are creating the loops for.
4.) Now bounce the audio. If you've set your feedback level correctly, it should repeat for just about as long as you want it to, so you should bounce out about 20 seconds or so to give yourself a variety of potential loops to choose from.
5.) Import the audio to the project you are using the loop for and assign it to a track. The bar lines on your DAW's timeline will now mark start and end points for possible loops. Go through and listen until you find a section you think has potential. Once you have, make cuts at the start and end point, delete the extra, and work with the loop as always. If your loop evolves a lot, there is no reason you can't use the whole piece too. Whatever works!
Below are two really quick and dirty examples. The first features delays created from a drum loop. There is a bar of the loop by itself, followed by a few bars over a beat and with sidechain compression applied for the pumping effect. The second was created from a snippet of vocals. Again, it starts with the loop by itself, and then goes over a beat with sidechain pumping, and some light tremelo for the auto-pan effect. Towards the end I added a little rhythmic filtering. Remember... this loop can just be the starting point for something. Don't be afraid to mangle it further with more effects.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Construction and build quality are very solid. It has a good weight to it and feels like it could stand up to touring very well. It is also small enough to fit in an overhead bin on a plane for traveling musicians. Power is provided by USB or an optional AC adaptor. In addition to MIDI in and outs (MIDI info is transmitted over USB as well), there are two additional trigger inputs for additional pads if you need them, as well as foot switches for the kick and hihat and to increase or decrease the selected program number (all of which are optional). There are no audio outs, as this is just a controller and has no onboard sounds.
There are 21 internal memory locations for mapping out your own drum sets. The one thing that threw me off a little at first is that any changes you make to a set-up (which includes not only the MIDI note numbers each pad triggers, but individual velocity sensitivity, curve, and threshold settings, as well as individual MIDI channels per pad, if you like), are automatically written in whatever program number you are editing. There is no 'write' or 'save' switch. This is actually quite convenient and fast, but is something to keep in mind so you don't end up overwriting something you mean to keep.
In practical use, it really couldn't be simpler. You just plug in the USB cable to your computer and you are ready to go. There are no drivers or additional software to install (although it does come with a 'lite' version of FXpansion's BFD drum plug-in). I am not a 'real' drummer, so I can't speak to how the pads are to play on a very technical level, but the pads are solid with a nice 'bounce' to them that feels natural to play and isn't hard on the wrists like some drum pads I've tried in the past. My one criticism is that even with customized settings, the threshold level seems a bit high. You really need to wack it pretty hard even for low velocity hits. I suppose this is to prevent accidental triggers from stage monitors or other vibrations that can wreak havoc with drum pads in live settings. Honestly, though, this just takes a bit of adjustment to get used to.
Overall, I've been really happy with the ControlPad and would definitely buy it again. The price is about as cheap as you are going to find a drum pad controller for these days, and despite it being inexpensive, it feels well built and dependable. Is anyone else out there using on of these?
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
DOWNLOAD TOM'S FREE VIRUS PATCHES
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
UPDATE: Sorry for the previously broken link. It's fixed now!
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The British company Avid Hifi have introduced the Acutus turntable, which they claim uses a radically different design that reproduces music at a quality that was previously impossible. It certainly LOOKS the business. But seriously, if you have $24,000 to spend on a turntable, just give the money to me and I'll come to your house and play you some live music.
Monday, June 9, 2008
By now you probably have heard that Moog Music, known mainly for their legendary synthesizers, has decided to enter the guitar market. The Moog Guitar has e-bow sustain mechanisms built into each individual string for amazing sustain effects that were previously impossible. Oh yeah, and it costs almost $7,000 so you can believe that the guys featured in this video are among the 5 people in the world who can afford it...
In a lot of modern dance styles these days (especially electrohouse), very hard, snappy drums are common. One way of achieving this effect is by mimicking Parallel Compression, but using a bitcrusher instead to add the grit and hardness (By its nature, bitcrushing acts like a very extreme limiter). Simply set up the drum channel in question as you normally would, and then send that track to an effects send. Apply the bitcrush effect to the effects send and play back the drum track. As you are doing so, slowly turn up the send amount on your original track until you hear the drum getting a bit harder and more present. Please note that when I am talking about the bitcrush effect, I am not talking about extreme settings. You're looking for something like the default in Logic's Bitcrusher where it reduces the bit rate without the exteme aliasing you get from driving it harder. I find 12-bit sounds particularly nice on drums.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
One of the most frequent questions I see posted on online musician forums these days has to do with using your computer to sample sounds or dialog off of DVDs or from Internet services like YouTube. Of course, if you are still using a hardware sampler, this is as easy as plugging the audio outs from your computer into the sampling input on your sampler. It's a little bit more complicated, however, if, like most of us, you are using software samplers these days. How can you record the audio output of one program to the audio input of another program? If you happen to be a Mac user like myself, the answer comes in the form of a nifty little $32 program from Rogue Amoeba software called Audio Hijack Pro. As the name of the software suggests, this program lets you 'hijack' the audio outputs from any program on your computer and make a recording of it in any of a variety of file formats. You can grab sounds or dialog from DVD, record Skype conversations, record Internet radio shows or podcasts, etc. Still not convinced? There is a full-featured demo available whose only restriction is that if overlays noise over any recording over ten minutes long. Give it a try, and by all means, if you use it, BUY it. It's very important, especially in the Mac community that software developers get our support.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
A good example of this is drum programming. Some people out there prefer to program drums the old-fashioned way using step/grid programming. I've always found this a bit restrictive, though, and find I get much better results from simply playing out the rhythms manually using my drum pads or a synth keyboard. This method can present a problem of its own, however. If you've programmed the entire beat all in one pass, you can't solo the individual drum sounds so they can each be quantized, recorded and processed separately (compression, EQ). Yes, you could play in one part at a time, but I find that playing the snare and kick in the same pass at the very least leads to much more natural sounding results, especially with fills. Luckily, Logic has a feature that solves this problem. Select the MIDI region that has your beat in it and select Region > Split/Demix > Demix by Note Pitch, and Logic will put each drum sound on its own track, thus allowing you to record and process each sound individually. By the way, this feature is cool to use on melodies as well. Play in a melody and demix by note pitch as above. Now, assign each of the newly created tracks to a different synth. You can use subtlely different sounds for a more complex/'alive' sounding riff, or you can go nuts and use drastically different sounds for a sort of Trentemøller effect.
Monday, June 2, 2008
I've always had a thing for pre-digital sampling technology. Instruments like the Mellotron and the Chamberlin used note-by-note recordings of real world instruments on audio tape or disc-shaped media to allow musicians to easily and cheaply add previously big budget type sounds like orchestras and choirs to their own music. If you've heard the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields" (which used the Mellotron Flutes sound) or The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin" (which used the Mellotron Strings sound), then you've heard a Mellotron. The recordings themselves are certainly lo-fi by today's standards (these instruments were built in the 60's), but that's exactly the point! That 'wrongness' of the sounds is what makes them so cool. Because of their age, working Mellotrons are becoming increasingly rare. Thankfully there are upstanding citizens like Taijiguy out there to preserve and share these awesome sounds via the miracle of the Internet Tubes™! Currently he has posted samples of every note from the string section, GC3 brass, and the apparently rare Combined Choir. Get 'em while they're hot!
The content of this blog will likely be a little all over the place (thus the name) with the common thread throughout the whole thing being electronic music. At one time or another, that might mean info on cool free or cheap software for musicians, gear reviews, Logic tips, tutorials, free samples or synth sounds, profiles of musicians doing cool stuff, etc. I'm new to this whole blogging thing, so you'll have to bear with me as I get my feet wet. Or don't. Jerk.