Friday, May 29, 2009

Phil Spector Gets 19 Years for Terrible Hairstyle

...or murder. Bad hair or murder. I can't remember which.

Anyway, read the full details here.

Crystal Method Studio Tour

Thanks to my bud Jesse for passing these links to parts 1 & 2 of a tour of Crystal Method's drool-worthy studio.

Part One

Part Two

Review: Dusted William's "Dope Ass Loops" and "The Dirty Dose"

Library: Dope Ass Loops & The Dirty Dose
Creator: Dusted William Sounds
Format: WAV, RX2, SoundFont, SFZ, MIDI files, Guru Kits, Battery Kits
Genre: Dope Ass Loops -Breaks, Big beat, Hip-hop, Trip-hop, Electronica, The Dirty Dose - Chiptunes, IDM, Electronica, Electrohouse
Price: Dope Ass Loops - $29.99 The Dirty Dose - $21.99
Demo: Audio demos on the product pages Small, downloadable 'snack packs' for evaluation available.

In recent years, something very cool has been happening in the world of sample libraries. Once restricted to a handful of industry heavyweights, the advent of easy online commerce and internet sales has opened the sample library market to smaller developers whose work we probably would never have been able to hear 5 years ago. Not only do most of these developers pedal their wares for significantly less than the big boys, but the libraries are generally a lot more interesting and specialized as well. Today, I'll be looking at two offerings from one of these new breed of sample developers, Dusted William Sounds.

Dope Ass Loops

First up is a collection of drum loops entitled "Dope Ass Loops". Before we get into this, I think we need to be clear not only about what this collection is, but what it is not. If you're looking for heavily-produced, lengthy loops to drop into an arrangement and forget it, then this might not be the collection for you. What Dusted William has done here is to essentially give you a blank slate. They've recorded an actual drummer playing a variety of beats on a nice sounding kit with little more than some studio ambience to sweeten the sound. Where you take the sounds from here is up to you. If you want to smash them with compression, knock yourself out! Want to bit-crush it to yummy 12-bit crunchiness? Go for it! Or maybe you just need some nice sounding acoustic drum beats as-is. It's entirely up to you. Dusted William has provided the starting point by providing some great sounding drum beats with minimal processing so you have an incredibly amount of flexibility regarding how you can process them. This is a refreshing approach, but it might not be for you if you're looking for something to just drag and drop into a track without any further work. For those of us who like to put our own stamp on sounds, however, it's fantastic!

The library consists of around 200 loops, all played by the same drummer, on the same kit. Tempos range all the way from 61 BPM up to 138 BPM. Via the RX2 files, most of the loops can work beautifully outside their original range, but some of the loops with heavy ride or crash cymbal use can get a bit choppy-sounding if you stray too far from the home tempo. The RX2 files are all well put together and accurate. If I can make an aside about customer service here, I actually had a problem with the RX2 files when I first got the package to review. The problem ended up being not with the RX2 files, but with one of my computer programs dropping the SYNC source on my soundcard, which rendered playback impossible. I emailed Derik at Dusted William about the problem and both he and a staff member tried to recreate my problem and pinpoint the cause. Now obviously, they couldn't reproduce it because the problem was unique to my system, but they showed a lot of concern for getting me up and running, and were very helpful. This is another advantage a lot of the smaller sample developers have - fast, friendly customer service.

On to the beats themselves! Most of what is here fits into the funkier side of rock and its related styles. As a reference point, with the right processing, I could see these beats finding lots of use in music in the style of Fatboy Slim or even the Beastie Boys' seminal "Paul's Boutique" album. Crushed a bit, they'd also work well for breaks. Really, any genre that needs sound acoustic drums with a human feel will benefit from what's here. Most of the loops are offered in multiple variations (often with fills), so building a full arrangement with lots of variation is a breeze.

I really can't find much to complain about with this collection. One nit-picky bit is that the WAV and RX2 files are in the same folders (folders are divided by BPM), which makes it a bit of a pain to go through if you just need one of the formats, but like I said, this is nit-picky. It might be too homogenous for some people, but I think those people are missing the point of how this library is intended to be used. Look at it as getting some great grooves that are just waiting for you to put your own personal production touches on them and you'll have the right idea. (9/10)

The Dirty Dose

Dusted William's website sums up what this collection is about pretty well, so I'll just quote them: "The Dirty Dose is a sample set made up of over 500 one shot hits from an Atari 2600, a Commodore 64, and a vintage analog Tama Techstar electronic drum set, all recorded onto 2 inch master tape at ekedek studios. Then finely cut up and sampled, ready for you to drop in your tracks and start living again."

I love sample libraries like this. Sure, 808's and 909's are undeniable classics, but honestly, who doesn't already have a million samples of these already? Wouldn't you rather have something rarer... something more unique... something you might only find in a dusty corner at a yard sale? If you answered 'yes', then you would do well to check out this library.

In addition to the 521 24-bit wav files that form the backbone of this collection, 100 MIDI files are included for instant gratification, and pre-made kits are provided in Guru, Battery, Live Drum Racks, and SFZ formats. The sounds are all trimmed, edited, and normalized perfectly and are ready to go.

The sounds themselves are fantastic. All manner of bleepy, lofi, vintage computer and drum machine type sounds are here. If you're looking for 'normal' drums, you should probably look elsewhere. These ain't your grandaddy's drum sounds. But if you want something truly unique or just want some of the vibe that these types of old school sounds can lend to a track, these sounds will definitely put a smile on your face. The sound quality is superb throughout, which is no mean feat given the lofi nature of some of the sources.

There's not much else I can say that will do this collection justice, so you should probably just head over to the product's web page and check out the demos yourself. This obviously isn't a collection for everyone, but upon hearing the demos, you should be able to figure out rather quickly if they'll be useful to you. Personally, I really loved this library and it has me excited to see what other sorts of audio arcana Dusted William has up their sleeves next. (10/10)

Rare Oberheim OB-MX on Ebay

Fully analog rackmount synth that aimed to provide both Oberheim and Minimoog like sounds.

Info at the listing...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Synth from Tom Oberheim?

Via a post on Matrixsynth:

Tom Oberheim will apparently be giving a workshop on June 3rd at Red Bull Music Academy in Boston and claims he will bringing a new synth he is working on with him. Anyone here planning on attending?

Cool Old 'History of Electronic Music' Filmstrip

I know I have recommended WFMU's "Beware of the Blog" in the past before, but if you're new here, it's definitely worth checking out when you have some time to kill. If you have an appreciation for weird, old records, you will lose hours of your time on this site. Poking around there recently, I found this cool filmstrip from the 70's on the history of electronic music called Pathways to Music that I had somehow missed before. Enjoy!

Part One
Part Two

Roland VP-330 Vocoder Plus on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Song Structure Part Three: Bridges and Breakdowns

Thus far, we've discussed the function of verses and choruses, and what can help make a chorus work more effectively. Today, we'll talk a little about two additional, less common parts you can incorporate into your songs: the bridge, and the breakdown.

Although technically different, bridges and breakdowns both serve a similar purpose: namely, to act as a sort of musical 'palette cleanser' to keep the listener's interest and provide some variety over the verse and chorus parts in a song. Both parts achieve this end in different ways, however.

A bridge can almost be thought of as a secondary verse. With vocal music, there are usually lyrics during a bridge, often acting as a turning point in the lyrics or providing further emphasis on the theme of the song. That said, an instrumental or solo section can be a bridge as well. What's important is that the bridge differs musically from the chorus and verse sections. The aim of the bridge is simply to provide some more variety to the song and break up any potential monotony of just sticking with a simple verse/chorus structure. Bridges are nowhere near as common these days as they once were, but it is good to be familiar with their use anyway, as sometimes it really contributes to the strength of a song.

A breakdown (or drop, as it is sometimes called), on the other hand, has the same function, but achieves it by manipulating the energy level of the track instead of the melody or chord progression. It's most often heard in club-oriented electronic music, but it can be found in rock music sometimes too (think of any song by Boston where all the instruments drop out except the rhythm guitar, for example). Breakdowns usually follow a rather busy part of the song. When you remove a large number of elements at once, this causes a very noticeable change in the energy. Gradually, elements are re-introduced a bit at a time (for instance, every four bars), until the arrangement builds to a crescendo (often through building drum rolls) and at last the full arrangement kicks in again. Done correctly, it can really increase the excitement of an arrangement and work brilliantly in a live context. This is another example of 'teasing' the listener. One really effective thing to do in a breakdown is to take whatever the main hook of your song is and just have it play the first, say, three notes of the hook over and over, eventually adding more of the notes as the breakdown progresses until finally the full arrangement kicks in again with and you allow the hook to play through properly.

Because the function of both song parts is to shake things up and hold the listener's interest, you often find bridges or breakdowns before the final verse or chorus of a song. Again, you can change this up (my song "Decades", for example has a breakdown before the FIRST chorus), but there's a reason you'll find these parts near the end of a track more frequently than not: it just works best that way usually.

As with any portion of a song, it is important to pay attention to the length of a bridge or a breakdown. A bridge, in general, should be about the same length as one of your verses. A breakdown, on the other hand, actually needs more time to work properly since you are building up the track from next to nothing a little bit at a time. 16 bars would probably be a minimum in most cases, with 32 bars being more common. The key with both is not to let them overstay their welcome. If you string the listener along too long with either, they are likely to lose interest and you end up defeating the purpose of having these parts in your song at all.

What are some of your favorite examples of bridges and breakdowns?

Akai VX-600 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Song Structure Part Two: What Makes a Good Chorus?

Opinions will vary wildly on the subject, but I have always been of the firm belief that a song is only as strong as its chorus. If a song was a joke, the chorus would be the punchline. If the verses of a song are the appetizer, the chorus is the perfectly-done, melt-in-your-mouth steak. If music was sex, the verses are foreplay and the chorus would be the orgasm. (Speaking of which, I bet the guys in the picture above get SO much tail!)

The chorus is the part of the song you get stuck in your head at 3 AM. In fact, so important is the chorus, that most songs take their titles from lyrics in the chorus (unless you are New Order, in which case the song title should have as little to do with the song as possible because you're all clever and British like that...) So it pays to put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that the chorus to your song is as effective as it can be. Here are some thoughts as to how to do just that.

• Manipulating Energy Levels

Most commonly, the chorus portion of the song is the most energetic. So it's a good idea to find ways in which you can manipulate the energy levels of your track. In fact, manipulating energy levels is a good part of what songwriting is about - the constant fluctuations between the peaks and valleys of your verses and chorus sections. Most rock bands using a real drummer even play a little faster tempo-wise on the chorus than the rest of the song. You can do this in electronic stuff if you want to, but for most electronic styles, it's generally best to keep the tempo constant if only to keep the DJ from pitching a fit. One idea that works nicely is to boost the 'resolution' of rhythmic parts. For instance, if your drums have an 1/8th note hi-hat rhythm during the verses, try upping it to 16th notes on the chorus. The same idea works great for basslines and other synth parts as well. Doing something in a harder, more aggressive style? Try doubling the tempo of your drums during the chorus and wait for the mosh pit to break out.

• Complexity
It's not uncommon for the chorus to be a bit more complex in terms of chord progression than the verses. In fact, this can be a very useful way of manipulating the energy level of a track. If you have a highly repetitive verse section bouncing between, say, two chords/notes, that repetition can build tension that is then resolved with a chorus that might contain four. If you do this, you need to pay special attention to how long you let the verses ramble on. Too long and it becomes boring... Too short and the impact when the more complex chorus comes in isn't nearly as great. But if you get it just right, it can really make the chorus punch through and raise the energy level.

• Arrangement

Traditionally, the chorus is the part of the song where the arrangement (the number of instruments playing at once and in what frequency ranges) gets its busiest. Again, you can do just the opposite as well and have things strip down at the chorus, but a more busy arrangement is definitely more common. The important thing is that there is a noticeable change. Writing a chorus is not about subtlety. It's about clobbering the listener over the head with pure, unadulterated AWESOME. So whichever way you choose to go, try to make the contrast between verse and chorus a dramatic one. The types of instruments and sounds you select here is important as well. Generally, you'll want the instruments in your chorus to have a bit more power and oomph than those in your verses. This is where to break out the searing guitar power chords, the full string arrangement, and the taiko drummer.

• Speaking of Drums...

I already mentioned that playing around with tempo and note resolution on your drum tracks can be a great way to make your choruses punch through a bit more. It's not a bad idea to play around with the types of sounds you use on your drum tracks as well. Layering of drum sounds to make them 'bigger' and more complex works really nicely during a songs chorus. A real drummer might play sidestick for the backbeat during the verses, and then play the full snare on the choruses. With electronic stuff, try layering your snare with a big, noisy clap or even a rumbling tom-tom during the chorus. You can even use entirely different drum kits in between portions, although ideally, there should be some overlap so it's not completely jarring to the listener. Many times, I'll have electronic drum parts during verses, and have acoustic sounds layered on top of that during the chorus. A lot of power and energy in songs can come from the drum track, so experiment with different ways to really make them pound during a chorus.

• Effects
You can use effects processing to make your chorus punch through better as well. Try distorting a vocal, or introducing a heavily reverbed element among an otherwise dry mix. Compress some of the elements unique to the chorus harder than those in the rest of the song. You get the idea... As you can see now, a good part of what we're after with a good chorus is contrast, so check out what dramatic elements effects can produce to that end.

• Hooks, Hooks, Hooks
If you've never heard the term, a hook is an especially memorable or catchy part of a song. It's what 'hooks' you into wanting to play the song over and over again until your neighbors call the cops. The most obvious type of hook is a catchy melodic part, but it can also be an unusually infectious rhythm, a powerful lyric, or even a well-placed movie sample. Coming up with great hooks is not a skill you will develop overnight. In fact, it's probably one of the more difficult skills there is in songwriting and is the reason why we're not all millionaire pop stars. As with any aspect of music, practice is the key. As I suggested in the last installment, deconstructing songs you find really catchy and powerful is a good place to start. As your ear for melody develops, your ability to write more effective hooks will too. The important thing to remember here is that the hook or hooks in your chorus, should be the catchiest, most memorable, kick-ass part of your song.

• Lyrics

Related to the above, if you're recording music with vocals, you need not only melodic hooks, but lyrical ones as well. Lyrically, your chorus should summarize and underscore what your song is about. It's the punctuation on the sentence. It can also be the trickiest part to get right because you're trying to make a lot of impact in a relatively short time. So spend lots of time on the lyrics for your chorus. Ask yourself if another band wrote it, would you find yourself singing it in the shower? Can you imagine fans at a show getting excited for this part of the song and singing the lyrics back to you? Don't settle for the first thing you pull out of thin air. Is there a more powerful or eloquent way you can say what you're trying to say? Is the rhythmic cadence of the words the best it can be? Is it simple and memorable? It may very well be that the first thing you come up with ends up being the best, but most of the time, a little revision will take things to an entirely different level.

There's just a few ideas to get you on the right track. There are no rules, so try different approaches when you're working on a song to see what sounds the best. What are some of your favorite tricks for punching up a chorus?

Quasimidi Polymorph Synth on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Song Structure Part One: Overview

As both a touring musician and the owner of a small record label, you can imagine how many demos I get handed. Unsurprisingly, these run the gamut from slick and polished to "Holy crap, I think you just destroyed Music." Production cues aside, one of the most telling signs that a band is just starting out is a lack of coherent structure to their songs. So for the next couple of days, I want to talk about this topic a bit.

Music, at its most fundamental level, is about organization. Notes are organized by rhythms and pitches within bars, and those bars of music, in turn, make up verses, choruses, and bridges that make up the song as a whole. To totally suck all the romance out of it, the difference between a great song and a poor song comes about 80% down to how skillfully these elements are arranged. For the purposes of our discussion, we're going to focus on pop-oriented song structures, as they are the most common. At their most simple level, pop songs consist of two main sub-structures: the verse and the chorus. Less common (these days, at least) is the bridge. This is often replaced by a 'breakdown' section in dance music.

Before I get into this, I want to stress that there are no hard, fast rules when it comes to what defines these parts. In fact, misusing or doing something unexpected with them can often sound genius. But you need to be able to walk before you can run, so let's keep it simple for now. At the basic level, a song is an arrangement of verses and choruses assembled together in meaningful way. While verses exist mainly to propel the song (and especially the lyrics) forward, the chorus is your payoff. You're essentially 'teasing' the listener with the verse to build up to the excitement and power of the chorus.

Ideally, your verse sections and chorus sections should differ musically. One sure sign that I've been given a demo by someone just starting out is that the songs consist of the same thing musically for 5 minutes. Of course, it is possible to write fantastic songs where the verse and chorus share the same chord progressions, but the most successful songs like this get around the repetition factor that by manipulating the energy levels in between sections. (More on this tomorrow...) So when you're starting out, concentrate on coming up with at least two musically distinct parts to serve as your verse and chorus sections.

From here, it makes sense to think of the structure of the entire song. Again, there are no rules here, but what makes for a successful song is at least partly based on knowing just how long to tease the listener with the verses before letting them have the payoff of the chorus. If that time is too short, the choruses (chorii?) lose a bit of their impact, and if you wait too long, the listener may become bored and lose interest. You mainly have to trust your gut when it comes to this sort of thing, and experience will make it easier as time goes on. In most western pop music, song sections come in chunks of 16, or 32 bars (and rarely 8 bars). So use that as a starting point for getting the length of sections right.

As far as the actual organization of these sections, there are several factors that can have an influence, not the least of which is how many verses you need in order to tell your story lyrically. But again, this is largely something you need to develop an instinct for. This isn't difficult, and you should rather quickly be able to get a feel for it just by dissecting a few songs you really like. I've given this advice more than any, but I think it's worth repeating - if you want to learn about how a good song is put together, the best thing you can do is to reverse engineer it. Find a song or two by another artist that you really like and put together a cover version of it. The aim here is not to get arty and make your own, dramatically different version, but to imitate the original as closely as you can. When you see the structure of a song you like laid out in your sequencer, I guarantee song structure will start making more sense to you.

Next time out, we will focus on the chorus and what makes a good one.

Waldorf Miniworks Analog Filter on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Turning Off the Visuals

Recording and mixing a song on a computer has many distinct advantages over doing the same on hardware, but perhaps the most useful advantage is how much visual feedback it allows us. We can literally see the structure of our song laid out in front of us. We can see where each of our channels is peaking. We can quickly and easily see what effects and patched to what tracks. You get the idea...

But sometimes this visual feedback has a downside when you're mixing. It becomes very easy to start making adjustments to your mix using your eyes rather than your ears. Relying too heavily on what the meters read versus just setting what sounds good is a common problem and can complicate the mixing process needlessly.

That's why I recommend, when you're giving a first listen to a mix you've set up, you turn off your computer monitor. Or simply turn you chair around. Or close your eyes. The important thing is that you listen instead of watch. You'd be amazed at how differently you will hear your music when you detatch it from the visual distractions DAWs can sometimes cause.

Do you have any unique ways of evaluating your mixes that others might find useful? Let us know!

Steiner-Parker Synthacon on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Logic's Vocoder Part Two: Less Traditional Uses

In the previous installment, I showed you how to use Logic's EVOC-20 Tracking Oscillator plug-in to do traditional vocoding: imparting the speech patterns of spoken or sung vocals on a synth sound for the traditional 'robot vox' made famous by bands like Kraftwerk. You may have already figured out that synth sounds and vocals aren't the only two things you can combine. In fact, you can vocode anything that makes a sound with anything else that makes a sound. Some combinations are more useful than others, though, so here are a few suggestions to get you started.

• Follow the procedure outlined in part one of this tutorial, but instead of using a speech or vocal sound file, load up a drum loop or drum machine instrument. The result is a rhythmic pad part with a spacey, otherworldly quality to it. Here's an example:

That sounds pretty complex, but all it took was a beat coming from Microtonic using a pad from Alchemy as the carrier. And your carrier needn't be melodic. Try using white noise, and you'll get a synthetic white noise rhythm that would be a nightmare to recreate on all but the most well-equipped modular synths.

• Next, let's try changing our pad instrument to another drum loop. Keep everything exactly the same as the example above, but change the instrument track that was playing the pad sound to a drum machine instrument or drum loop player so we have one drum beat vocoding another. The result is a cool, totally synthetic sounding loop like this:

In fact, vocoding two similar types of signals can give interesting results outside of drum beats. On the album I produced for SD6, there is a song called "We Are As One". During a breakdown, both the male and female vocals sang the same line, so I vocoded one with the other... literally making the two parts into one.
Yes. I am a geek.

• You might have wondered if it's possible to vocode a signal with itself, and indeed it is. The results vary a bit, but you can get everything from filter and flanging type effects, to more synthetic sounding timbres. Simply set your ANALYSIS IN and SYNTHESIS IN to the same setting. In this example, I've set them both to TRACK, so a drum loop from Stylus is vocoding itself:

As you can guess, there's no limit to how you can combine different sounds for all sorts of unique and interesting sounds. Have fun experimenting, but keep in mind that some sounds (an 808 kick, for example) can REALLY drive the filters in the vocoder, so keep your volume levels conservative while you're experimenting lest you blow out your speakers.

Focusrite Releases New Compressors and EQ for Liquid Mix

I bought a Focusrite Liquid Mix last year and almost immediately it became one of the best things I ever bought for my studio. I've never owned any of the models of hardware compressor or EQs emulated on this device, so I can't say how faithful the recreations are, but I can say it sounds absolutely amazing and the controller makes dialing in settings a pure joy.

So I was happy to receive news in my mailbox announcing that Focusrite has released 21 new compressor emulations, and 1 new EQ, free to all existing Liquid Mix users. Here's what they had to say:

"The compression emulations are based on two compressors. The API 2500 Stereo Compressor (serial number 001475), provides feed-back or feed-forward options and variations on 'knee' and 'thrust'. The Millenia STT-1 (serial number 0-166), provides the sound of variable input stages, with valve or solid-state compression circuits. Finally, the EQ emulations are based on the original Mk1 Chandler Limited Edition EMI/Abbey Road Passive TG Channel. This uses the same circuit as the Abbey Road mastering console, providing the the signature Beatles sound."

SH-101 Novamod Video Demo

Via Rudeog on You Tube:

Drumfire Electronic Drum Synth on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Logic's Vocoder Part One: Traditional Vocoding

Vocoders were first developed as a means of encrypted radio transmission in the 1930's. The idea was that instead of sending actual audio, the military could send envelope shapes for a bandpass filter. You wouldn't hear anything until the receiver assigned a carrier wave of some sort to these filter envelopes after which you'd hear the familiar, robotic-sounding speaking. This method never really took off for it's original purpose, but later fell into favor with electronic musicians who found they could create mechanized singing by using musical instruments as the carrier. Apple's Logic happens to come with a vocoder called the EVOC 20 TrackOscillator. At its default setting, it uses an internal oscillator to track the pitch of a signal and vocoders that with whatever track it is assigned to. This can be fun to play with, but honestly I think the pitch tracking sounds like crap. The good news is, you don't have to use it this way, and it's actually a pretty nice sounding vocoder when you use your own signals.

1. First, record a little speech. It doesn't matter what it is, but let's be honest, it's probably going to be "Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto" because you're a dork like that. It's a good idea to compress the vocal. Once you have done that, we want to assign a SEND to BUS 1. Go ahead and dial it up to 100%. Finally, change the OUTPUT of your audio channel to "NO OUTPUT". We don't actually want to hear this channel, we just want to use it to shaper the filters of the vocoder.
Do the same for the OUTPUT of BUS 1.

2. Next, create a new SOFTWARE INSTRUMENT and assign it to whatever softsynth you like to make pads with. Your choice of synths and sounds here is important, because this will determine the timbre of the vocoded signal. Brighter sounds are generally preferable here. Sampled choirs sound great, as do string sounds. You may also want to adjust your amplitude envelopes to have a fast attack and short release so the notes are distinct from one another in a chord progression.

3. Assign an instance of EVOC-TO as an INSERT EFFECT on the channel of your softsynth. Go ahead and open up the EVOC-TO to access its controls.

4. Go to the SIDECHAIN dropdown menu in the upper righthand corner of the EVOC-TO window. Select BUS 1.

5. Now, look over on the lefthand side of the EVOC-20's controls and you will see dropdown menus for assigning the ANALYSIS IN (the signal being used to alter the bandpass filters), and the SYNTHESIS IN (the carrier). Set ANALYSIS IN to SIDE CHAIN and SYNTHESIS IN to TRACK.

6. Make sure to set the LEVEL to FULL and that the SIGNAL is set to VOC. Now hit play on the transport, play some sustained notes, and enjoy the robot-y goodness.
Increase the number of filter BANDS to 20 for better intelligibility.

Now, I could tell you what all the other controls in EVOC-20 do, but playing with a vocoder is incredibly fun, and you'll probably understand it more on your own just by tweaking the different controls to see how it changes the results.
So have some fun and next time, we'll look at some of the less traditional stuff you can do with EVOC-20.

Free Bricasti M7 Impulse Responses
has posted some free impulse responses from the $3000+ Bricasti M7 reverb unit on their website.

Now This is Genius...

A story on techdirt says that Gnarls Barkley member Dangermouse's troubles with EMI haven't ended and he is taking a rather unusual approach to fighting back. Dangermouse famously battled with EMI over his solo "Grey Album" which mashed-up elements from the Beatles' "White Album" and Jay-z's "Black Album".

Now the label won't allow him to realease his new album "Dark Night of the Soul". So, since we live in the age of internet leaks, Dangermouse will be selling blank CD-Rs with extensive artwork and encouraging his fans to go find it online,and download and burn their own copies.

I gotta say, it's a ballsy move, but if it works, it's a strong win for musicians not being bullied by their record companies.

Doepfer A-100 Analog Modular on Ebay

From this auction:

Portable suitcase version 6u

the portable version of the a-100g6, measures: about 460 mm (width) x 330 mm (height) x 210 mm (depth), same specification as a-100g6 but built into a suitcase (flightcase design), because of the power input (8 hp width) at the front only 76 hp are available in the lower row, no audio processing modules (e.g. vco, vcf, vca, vcp, vcfs, ring modulator, spring reverb) should be mounted near the power supply but only control voltage modules (e.g. adsr, lfo, s&h, slew limiter, trigger delay, sequencer, quantizer, clock divider, midi-interfaces).

power supply : 115v I have included the power adapter and 30 patch cables. "

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vince Clarke Launches Website

Synth-pop legend Vince Clarke recently launched an official website to keep fans up to date on his activities, which includes some upcoming remixes and the opening of his new studio, "The Cabin" in the woods of Maine, where he now lives.

Customized White Roland SH-201 from Madonna Tour on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Open Thread Monday

As you read this, I am likely hung over and flying home from the Kinetik Festival in Montreal. So feel free to post whatever you feel like (be nice). Are there any gear purchases you're looking forward to this year? Do you have an album to plug? Any questions or requests for topics you'd like to see covered here? Sound off!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

No post today, as I am headed off to Montreal for the Kinetik Festival where my band will be performing Sunday night. I'll be coming back on Monday, so until then, have a great weekend!

White Face Arp Odyssey on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

16 Free Gladiator 2 Patches from Waveformless

"Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?" - Airplane

What does this have to do with anything? Nothing, really. I just love that movie. At any rate, today I am happy to offer you 16 free patches for Tone2's excellent Gladiator 2 softsynth.

Use them and distribute them as you like. All I ask is that you not try to sell them, and that if you upload them or pass them on to your friends, that you let them know about Waveformless. Enjoy!


VST Cafe Releases Free Soundset for TAL Elek7ro


VST Cafe has posted a free soundset for Togu Audio Line's excellent free softsynth TAL-Elek7ro called "Greeg Tal Elek7ro Progressive Soundset". Here's what they have to say about it:

"Great, freeware synth - TAL Elek7ro inspired my to create another soundbank. This time it's 38 patches - 24 progressive leads and 13 bass sounds. Greeg Tal Elek7ro Progressive Soundset is suited mostly for all kind of club music which means - progressive house, trance, elektro etc. I was focused mainly on creating some raw, powerful sounds because that's the nature of Elek7ro synth :)"


Ohm Force Releases Free "Cohmpost' Plug-in

Pretty much every music tech blog in the universe posted this a couple days ago, but in case you missed it, French insane asylum and plug-in developers Ohm Force have released an aggressive, free sound mangler called Cohmpost. (Be sure to check out the hilarious 'license agreement'.) It's available for both PC (VST) and Mac (AU & VST).


Roland HS-60 on Ebay

It's pick-up only, but the price is really good. If you haven't heard of it before, the HS-60 was a consumer-oriented version of the Juno-106. It has built-in speakers, but you can use the headphone jack to bypass the speakers and plug it into your system. The sound engine is absolutely identical to the generally higher-priced 106.

Info at the listing...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Access Releases Virus OS 3

From the
Access website:

"After an extensive public beta test phase OS3 is ready to roll. The new operating system for the entire Virus TI product line introduces new and existing effects such as additional distortion types, a tape delay and last but not least a ring shifter. The new version is recommended for every user and can be downloaded free of charge as of today. We also launched the next public beta cycle for OS version 3.0.2 which will focus on stability and performance. The new OS version is available for public testing today."

One You Might Have Missed: Steven Massey's TapeHead Medium

It's ironic, but now that pristine digital audio is the norm, most of us like to find ways to introduce some of the imperfections and artifacts of he old days. Tape saturation is one such effect and there is no denying that it adds a great punch and sense of weight to nearly anything it is applied to.

For many years, Steven Massey's TapeHead plug-in was only available as a high-end plug-in for ProTools, but a little while back, he put out a free AU version for Mac. I never saw this get much mention, so I thought I'd bring it up here. TapeHead Medium is absolutley free and replicates the ProTools plug-in at its middle setting. It uses the generic AU shell, so there is no fancy interface, but it's free, so why complain? Requires at least OS 10.4.


Super Rare Crumar Spirit on Ebay

Apparently only about 100 of these were ever made. Designed by Bob Moog.

Info at the listing...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spotting Accidentally Layered Regions in Logic

Part of what makes DAW programs so great is the simple ability to cut and paste parts of an arrangement into other parts of a song. It really helps speed up the workflow of building a song's structure and lets you experiment with it quickly and freely without a lot of effort.

If you're like me, however, you've probably accidentally pasted a region (or whole section of regions) over an existing region without realizing it once or twice. There are usually audio clues to point this out to you (either a sort of comb filtered/flanged sound to the layered section, or a dramatic increase in volume in the offending spot...), but Logic also gives you a subtle visual cue, which can help you spot these goofs quickly.

As in the above picture, the section that has other regions 'hidden' beneath it shows up in a slightly lighter shade of gray than normal. It's a simple thing, but little visual clues like this can be very helpful when you initially can't figure out why the volume of your bassline suddenly leaps during one section when you haven't written any volume automation.

Elektron Sid Station on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Monday, May 11, 2009

This is So Stupid It Makes My Brain Hurt

Apparently the wonderful Synthtopia blog got an e-mail from Propellerheads to ask them to stop calling the company's new Record software a 'DAW'. You can read all the face-palmingly dumb details here. (Have a look at the comments section to and see if you can pick out the comment that was almost certainly written by a Propellerheads marketing person...)

Make no mistake, this is solely about marketing. Propellerheads know they can't compete with the likes of Ableton Live, Steinberg Cubase, Apple Logic, etc., so they want to pretend that this is somehow something different than just a DAW with a feature set that doesn't measure up to the competition.

Let me be clear that I have nothing against Propellerheads. I have fond memories of playing with Rebirth back in the day, I still use Recycle a lot, and although I didn't find Reason to be to my liking, I can understand why others do like it. I'd love to see Record develop into something exciting if for no other reason than that it will push the other DAW makers to innovate further, and that benefits us all. But I think they've got a long way to go before they achieve that and most of the chatter I've seen around the net today suggest a lot of other people do as well. I would hope the company would have a bit more respect for the intelligence of their potential customers and realize that if it walks like a DAW, and quacks like DAW, people are going to call it a DAW.