Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Free Rapture Soundbank!

For owners of Cakewalk's criminally underrated softsynth, the fine folks at Muz3um have put together a fantastic, wide-ranging collection of nearly 700 new presets (including 573 new waveforms and 36 new impulse responses) mostly based on waveforms from the classic synths of yesteryear. The bank is free, but note that only one download per IP is allowed.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Very useful MS-20 site

For those left a bit confused by the patch panel and ESP in particular...


Slow week...

How'd you spend YOUR weekend? I unfortunately had to have an emergency appendectomy and will be recovering for the next week or so. Because the painkillers they have me on are pretty strong, any updates to the blog this week will be minimal if they happen at all. I hope to be back in full force in a week, though, so thanks for your patience!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Making the Synth Part for Pink Floyd's "On the Run"

Via davidethesea on YouTube:

Can't get the video to embed for some weird reason, so you'll just have to follow this link:


Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Alternate Approach To Glitching

"Glitch" effects were once solely the domain of the chin-stroking neckbeard set, but as more and more software gurus are releasing glitch effects to the marketplace, this type of effect is making its way outside of just IDM music. The newer generation of glitch effects such as Illformed's Glitch or Sugarbytes' Effectrix allow you to 'sequence' the glitches, providing some control over the chaos. The majority of these types of effects, though, are purely random and thus, when you apply the effect to, say, a drum stem, the results aren't always musically useful, thus requiring a lot of editing. Truth be told, however, I actually prefer the purely random type effects because the results tend to be more interesting. However, if you want to apply these types of effects to something more clubby (as many electrohouse artists are doing these days), you probably want something a little more subtle so that the steady pulse of the beat isn't disrupted. One option to achieve that very easily is to apply the glitch not to the track itself, but to a reverb send. Here's how to do it:

1.) Load up a drum loop on an audio track, or call up a loop player as a software instrument. (Note that you can apply this to vocals, synths, guitars, or anything... the drum loop is just for simplicity's sake for this demonstration.)

2.) On the track or instrument in question, call up an effects send and set the wet/dry mix to around 50%.

3.) On the effects send itself, assign a short reverb, such as a room type reverb. You should now hear your drum loop with the room reverb applied to it.

4.) Now, on the same bus as the reverb, and AFTER the reverb, assign your favorite glitch effect. In my case, I'm using MDSP's excellent LiveCut effect.

If you've done everything correctly, you should hear the steady beat, but with the glitches happening on the reverb bus, thus giving you the interesting effect, but without interrupting the groove of your drum loop. I've posted an example below. The first 16 bars are with no effect, and the final 16 include the more subtle glitching effects via the send.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Logic Tip: Easy Editing With Option-Drag

Since the beginning or recording, editing has been an important part of the process. Thankfully, the advent of computer recording has made the editing process infinitely easier than the days where it was done by physically cutting recording tape with a razor blade and taping it back into the desired location. It's hard for those of us working in the digital age to imagine that the infamous clink/cha-ching rhythm at the beginning of Pink Floyd's "Money" was painstakingly built using this method, but that's the way it was done back in the day.
Nowadays, we have the luxury of completing the same sort of task completely non-destructively simply by clicking a mouse. And with the use of option-drag, Logic users can do it even more easily than before. Here's how it's done:

1.) Select the Marquee Tool (the crosshairs) and use it to select a portion of audio or MIDI you wish to cut and paste somewhere else. Note that this can be of any length, and does not have to be the length of the region itself. (And for purposes of demonstration, it shoudn't be...)
2.) After you've made your selection, switch back to the Arrow Tool.
3.) Press and hold the option key on your keyboard while clicking and dragging your marquee selection to the desired location.
4.) If you've done this correctly, Logic will cut your selection out of the region, make a copy of it, and place it at the new location. Meanwhile, the original audio is left in place undisturbed.

This can be used for everything from compositing, to BT style stutter edits, to even salvaging that one good bit of a MIDI region that is otherwise unusable. And with option-drag, you don't even have to mess with cut, copy, and paste commands, let alone worry about cutting your fingers with a razor blade (unless you're an emo kid, in which case that isn't an advantage at all).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Book Recommendation: This Is Your Brain On Music

Daniel Levitin was a successful musician and producer many years ago. During that time, he gained an interest in the science behind the music he was making. Why do certain songs get stuck in your head? Why are some people able to play their instruments better than others? Why do we hear music the way we do? So, Levitin earned a PhD and became a researcher about the brain and how it 'decodes' music. He's compiled much of what he has learned into this book.

Although the topic sounds like it might make for dry reading, Levitin writes in a clear, concise style that even us dumb musicians can understand and much of what he reveals in the book is truly fascinating. This book obviously won't make you a better musician or songwriter, but it will certainly make you a better informed one!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Human League - Path of Least Resistance (live BBCtv 1979)

Rare late 70's clip of the Human League playing a track off their wonderful 'Reproduction' album. Subject for debate: Which Phil Oakey hairstyle was the worst? The one in this video, or his Bono mullet around "The Lebanon" time period?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lennar Digital Release Sylenth 1 For Mac

Long a favorite among PC users, Lennar Digital has finally released a Mac version of its famed Sylenth 1 softsynth (whenever I read the name I hear Cindy Brady in my head trying to pronounce 'Silence'). Currently, the Mac version is only available in VST format, but an AU version is promised. The new version 2.0 software offers several new features and enhancements to longtime PC users as well, including:

* Complete rewrite of the user interface and voice management, now fully written in C++ and assembly code.

* Fixes all previous problems (including sound stuttering) with several hosts including FL Studio, ACID Pro and Tracktion.

* Heavily improved loading and initialization times.

* Rebuilt MIDI learn functionality for ALL controls including support for RPN and NRPN messages.

* Onboard preset browser with 4 selectable banks of 128 presets each.

* Onboard menu for loading and saving presets and banks, as well as Copy, Paste, Insert, Delete, Init and Reset functionality for individual presets.

* Fully compatible with older Sylenth1 versions.

* Numerous minor bug fixes and improvements.

* Now ships with a total of 1024 presets divided over 2 soundbanks.

A demo is also available to try

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Logic's "Hidden" Plug-in Settings

Logic, as anyone who has learned to use it will attest, is a seriously deep program. For most of us, learning Logic is an ongoing occupation. Just when you think you've learned all you need, you discover some function hidden away on some sub-menu somewhere that totally rocks your world and improves your efficiency. So while most Logic users learn to properly utilize some of the program's amazingly high quality built-in plug-ins, many of them never noticed that little triangle at the bottom of some of the plug-in windows.
For some reason, the makers of Logic decided to 'hide' certain plug-in functions. This was probably just to keep the GUI from getting too cluttered, but it's a shame, because a lot of the extended functions are really useful. For instance, on Compressor, you can add in analog style saturation effects which REALLY can change the sound of the compressor. In the EQ effects, you can choose to have the signal analyser display in either Peak or RMS modes. In Tape Delay, you can select distortion level to filth up your sound further.
There are really only a handful of Logic's plug-ins that offer extended parameters, but keep your eye open for that little grey triangle at the bottom lefthand corner of the plug-in window! Clicking it will reveal all the hidden parameters and you're good to go.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sidechain Modulation in Logic's Synths

By now, you've probably heard of Sidechain Compression. This involves using the dynamics of one audio file to trigger the compressor on a different piece of audio. Usually, this involves using a kick drum to trigger the compressor on a pad or bass sound to make it 'pump' in time with the music. You can hear this technique all over the place in dance music these days, and used tastefully, it can be quite a cool effect.

Apple's Logic DAW was one of the first to allow sidechaining of effects, which helps explain its popularity among dance-oriented musicians. What a lot of people miss, however, is that some of Logic's built-in synths such as ES1, ES2, and Sculpture have the incredibly innovative ability to use a sidechain to modulate various synth parameters. This opens a whole new world in terms of modulation that is musically useful and dead easy to do. Here's how to try it yourself:

1. Open a new project and create one audio track and one software instrument track.

2. Import a drum loop and drag it onto your audio track. Go to the track's output assignment (you'll find this on the mixer channel for the track right above the track's name), and change it to 'No Output'. We want the drum loop to be used for the modulation, but not actually heard.

3. On your software instrument track, call up an instance of ES-2. Load the present 'Wheel Syncer' from the '01-Synth Leads' preset menu.

4. Go down to the modulation assignments section of the synth and count 7 slots over. You should see an assignment for modulating the Pitch of Oscillator 2 (the Target of the modulation) using the modwheel (the Source of the modulation). If you play a few notes and move the modwheel, you can hear how this assignment alters the characteristic 'ripping' sound most oscillator sync type sounds use.

5. Click on the modulation Source (in this case, 'ModWhl') and you'll be presented with a menu of various available modulation sources. At the very bottom, you should see a selection for 'SideCh'. Select this.

6. Now look up at the very top right corner of the plug-in window. You should see a menu for selecting you sidechain source. This defaults to 'None', but we want to change this to be the audio channel with our drum loop on it (most likely 'Audio 1' if you've started from scratch).

7. Now, press play on your sequencer and play a few sustained notes on the ES2. If you've set everything correctly, you should hear something like this:

Please note that your sequencer has to be playing for the effect of the modulation to be heard! The above is just a simple example, but you can modulate virtually anything on these synths using this technique which opens a whole new world of rhythmic textures. Experiment with using different sidechain sources too. Generally, audio with heavily pronounced transients produce the best results, but you need not limit yourself to just drum loops... try using speech as an interesting source as well.

UPDATED TO ADD: I should note that the sidechain modulation I am talking above is not in any way related to what Native Instruments somewhat confusingly also calls sidechain modulation on their Massive softsynth.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Giorgio Moroder News Feature

Interesting, but short feature on the synth legend from 1970's US news show. The narrator reminds me of Ron Burgundy for some reason.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kraftwerk Interview

Part 1 of a fascinating series of videos from a Kraftwerk documentary from... I'm gonna guess Swedish television? Look for the other parts in the Related Videos...

Interview With Portishead's Adrian Utley Pt. 3

Via Sonic State:

Excellent Trevor Horn Interview

Via Failedmuso.

I meant to post this a couple days ago. Trevor Horn has always been one of my favorite producers. There is a sheen and size to his productions that is uniquely his. I often think of him as being a modern Phil Spector, but without all the crazy. At any rate, the interviewer is annoying as hell, but if you can get past that, there is a lot of really interesting info. I'm amazed at the detail with which Horn can remember things he did on records he made 20 years ago.


Friday, July 11, 2008

DVD Recommendation: The Zen of Screaming

One of the challenges every touring vocalist faces is in putting out a powerful performance every night without completely destroying your voice for subsequent shows. Especially if you do more 'extreme' vocals such as those in metal, punk, and harder-edged industrial, your risk of losing your voice is pretty high if you don't know what you're doing. Melissa Cross is a professional voice coach who specializes in working with these types of extreme vocalists and the exercises she details in both of the Zen of Screaming DVDs are aimed at warming up the voice in a way the allows performers to give harsh vocal performances night after night without completely destroying their voices.

There is a lot of good info in the videos, but you unfortunately have to sit through what seems like endless amounts of testimonials by Cross' famous clients about how great she is at what she does. Is this really necessary? I mean, assuming I bought the video, isn't it safe to assume that I trust that she knows what she's talking about? If you can deal with this, though, there really is a lot of valuable knowledge packed into these that would likely be useful to vocalists of any kind, not just the growlers and screamers.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rare Live TV Appearance by Severed Heads

It's quite rare to see live footage of these guys at all, let alone on television through a barrage of mid-80's video effects!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

5 Things to Make Your Touring Life Easier

Touring can be a lot of fun, but it is also undoubtedly a lot of hard work. If you're smart about it, however, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by making sure to have a few extra things with you to make your life easier. Obviously, your mileage may vary, but here are a number of things I've found useful when we do one of our DIY tours of the US.

1.) Gridwall - It's safe to assume that if you are in a touring band, part of the point of your tour is to sell merchandise. Given the tight schedule bands are sometimes under, however, setting up the merchandise display night after night can be a real pain. Obviously, it takes time to do this, but also different venues have different policies as to whether you are allowed to tape, staple, or hang your t-shirts on their walls. Even if you can, sometimes it doesn't always want to stay hanging on the wall. Gridwall provides a great solution to this and makes setting up easy regardless of the environment. Gridwall, as the name suggests, is simply a panel of metal framework usually used for displaying garments in stores. With a couple of these, all you have to do is lean it against the wall, put your shirts on hangers, hang those off the gridwall, and you're done. You can find these fairly easily with a little internet searching. They're not always cheap, but they are usually built like tanks and will last many tours.

2.) Hand Truck - Of course, displaying the merch is only half the battle. Night after night, you have to load in and load out box after box of shirts and CDs, sometimes up or down stairs and other obstacles. Having your own hand truck can greatly decrease your load in and load out time and is really useful for loading in your equipment as well. Look for a model with large tires, which makes transporting it up and down stairs much easier. Some models are 'convertible' too and allow you to transform the hand truck into a rolling cart, which allows you to load even more at one time. These should be available at most hardware or building supply stores. Be sure to mark your hand truck with your band's logo, too, so there are no mix ups at the venue as to who it belongs to.

3.) Vehicle Diagnostic Code Reader - If you're touring extensively, sooner or later, you are going to have problems with your tour van. Most of the time, this happens far away from home and your trusted mechanic, thus putting you at the mercy of whatever is available locally. Mechanics can smell desperation, and to them it smells an awful lot like money. The good news is, you can go into the situation better informed, and thus, less likely to get ripped off. All recent vehicles have diagnostic computers on board. What you may not know is that you can buy a code reader that interfaces with this computer and tells you precisely what is wrong with your vehicle. On most vehicles, there is a small port under the steering wheel. You hook the code reader up to this, turn on your vehicle, and the code reader displays one or multiple diagnostic codes. You can reference these in a book or online and walk into the auto repair facility able to tell the mechanic right off the bat what is wrong. If they know you've read the codes yourself, you are less likely to fall victim to expensive, unnecessary repairs at the hands of unscrupulous mechanics. These are available in most auto supply stores, or even from places like Amazon.

4.) GPS - Touring involves a lot of driving around in places you might not be very familiar with. In the past, this meant dealing with road atlases, or, more recently, directions from services like MapQuest. While these are great, they can also fall prey to human error. It can be easy to miss turns, and there is no guarantee that the maps you have are even current. GPS Navigators can be a godsend for tours. Not only will they give you turn by turn directions, they can instantly reroute you if you miss a turn, or if the preferred route is closed due to construction. Better still, many can find the nearest gas stations, hotels, restaurants, and other points of interest all based on your current position. These units aren't perfect (for example, tall buildings can sometimes interfere with the signal...), but you will be amazed at how helpful having one of these in your vehicle is. Dedicated units can still be somewhat pricey, but check with your cell phone service provider, as many of them now offer this service directly on your cell phone for a very reasonable price.

5.) Ear plugs - The most obvious use for these is to protect your hearing in loud venues, but where they can be even more valuable is in letting you get some rest. Sleep deprivation is pretty much an accepted part of touring, and oftentimes, you have to grab sleep whenever and wherever you can. Unfortunately, your surroundings might not always cooperate. Hotels can be filled with loud guests, the driver of your tour van might need to listen to some music to help stay alert on long drives, and the less said about the conditions in the backstage, the better. A good set of ear plugs can help block out the environment and allow you to grab some much needed on-the-run shut eye. By the same token, a sleeping mask can be helpful in blocking out light, but if you get one of these, expect rampant abuse from your fellow bandmates.

Obviously, there are many other things that can be really useful on tour, but the ones listed above are a good start and can really go a long way towards making your touring experience easier and more pleasant.

Steinberg Cuts Cost of Cubase

German DAW purveyors Steinberg announced a drastic cut in pricing for Cubase 4 late last week, bringing the price down to $599. The move was largely expected after Apple cut the cost of its flagship Logic Studio package to only $499 upon its release last year. If you've recently purchased Cubase 4 at the old price, there are details on the Steinberg site on how to receive a rebate.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Interview With Portishead's Adrian Utley Pt. 2

Via Sonic State, the second part of the video interview posted earlier.

discoDSP Discovery Now Available for Mac

I realize this news is a couple of days old, but as I was in Europe playing a few festivals and catching up on my sleep deprivation, I got a bit behind. At any rate, discoDSP Discovery is a virtual analog plug-in synth that has been a favorite of many on the PC platform for some time. What sets it apart from your typical virtual analog is that it can import Nord Lead 2 and 2x patches via sysex. Please note that currently, there is no PPC AU version, but this is expected to change soon. A demo version is also available.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

See You In A Week!

My band, Assemblage 23, is headed off to Europe for a series of festival dates, so there won't be any updates until the middle of next week. If you're going to be in Sweden, the UK, or Germany, come check us out! The dates are as follows:

• July 4th - Arvika Festival, Arvika, Sweden on the Andromeda Stage
• July 5th - London, UK - The Slimelight
• July 6th - Blackfield Festival - The Amphitheater located within the Nordstern Park in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

See you when we get back and recover from the inevitable jet lag (so, probably mid-November). Just kidding. I hope.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

SH-101 Novamod

Many years ago, in a search on the Internet for some free drum samples, I came across a set of drum sounds made on a Roland SH-101 with something called the Novamod. The sounds were unlike anything I had heard out of an SH-101 sound before. They were more complex and aggressive, but with that same tightness and punch that the 101’s are known for.

Recently, I was lucky enough to find one of these on eBay, and seeing as there isn’t all that much info out there about the modification, I thought I would upload a couple of demos to give a rough idea at what the mod adds to the classic 101 sound.

This is a user installed modification that added the following features:

* Extended LFO Speeds – A switch allows you to select super slow, normal, or super fast LFO speeds. The super fast speeds go into audio range, which allows more digital sounding timbres and calngerous sounds to be created.

* An audio input to feed external audio through the 101’s filters. Honestly, as great as the 101’s filter is, I don’t think processing outside audio is really the machine’s strong suit.

* A CV input for controlling the filter.

* 1/4“ replacements for the 1/8“ CV and gate inputs (although mine doesn’t have this part installed)

* Filter Overdrive – This is one of the best features, in my opinon. Boosts the output by insane levels and can add a really nasty (in the good way) bite to sounds, especially drum and percussion sounds.

* LFO Clock Input - For syncing LFO and arp to an outside source such as a sequencer or drum machine.

* Extended Pulse Width Range for more PWM timbral options

* PWM Sources added – A range of different modulation options for PWM effects is available and is separate from the LFO’s waveform.

* Filter FM – This is my favorite feature, especially in combination with the overdrive. User can select from six different FM sources for a really wide variety of sounds, from traditional FM synth sounds to gnarly, distorted growls.

And now, on with the demos. There are 3 different features demonstrated in these clips:

1.) The first is a synth percussion sound going through the filter overdrive. I tweak the envelope decay and filter cutoff a bit.

2.) Next up is a synth sequence demonstrating the Filter FM. Only one source is used here (the 2 octave squarewave). I tweak the FM amount, as well as the filter cutoff and resonance levels, as these also have a big effect on the timbre. Again, this is only one of the 6 waveforms being demonstrated. Each one sounds very distinct from the others, so you can imagine how varied the timbres it can create are.

3.) Finally is a clangorous rhythm sequence that is made entirely of the superfast LFO speeds modulating the filter. There are no waveforms selected here, this is purely being produced by the filter modulation itself.

For more information and complete documentation for the NovaMod, you can download a very helpful PDF file here.