Friday, November 28, 2008

And now some Kluster...

Via freeartslab on YouTube:

"Kluster 1971. After his departure from TD Schnitzler, Moebius and Rodelius formed Kluster (when Conrad Schnitzler left renamed as Cluster). No film footage exists from the early days. This scene from a tv documentary was done with the few photographs that survived and shots from record sleeves."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Korg PSS-50: The Groovebox Before There Were Grooveboxes

Via 13837 on YouTube:

Nifty old school auto-accompaniment box from Korg. Read more about it here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Get $50 Off an Assemblage 23 Remix!

In the spirit of the holiday season, I've decided to discount my standard remix fee by $50 for anyone who wants an Assemblage 23 or Nerve Filter remix between now and the end of December. I expect these slots will get snapped up fairly quickly, so don't hesitate to email me to ask about the fee and availability to reserve your spot! (Also of possible interest to A23 fans, between now and December 19th you can get $5 off your order at the Assemblage 23 Online Store! Check out the news section of for details.

Unison The Hard Way

I'm working on a remix now where I am trying to mainly use some of my old analog gear, namely my modified Roland SH-101. The 101 is handling the main bass duties, but I wanted to fatten things up a bit on the choruses for some added punch. These days unison type sounds are very popular. UNISON, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a voicing mode on some synthesizers where several detuned versions of the sound play at once, producing a much fatter, thicker sound. Now don't get me wrong, the 101 sounds amazingly fat for a single oscillator synth, but I wanted to get things really detuned and contemporary sounding, which the 101 isn't really equipped for. But, if you're using any synth old enough to have a tuning knob or slider on it, the unison effect is easy to achieve.

1. Record the part in question once through in mono.
2. Now tweak the tuning knob/slider to detune the sound from its original setting.
3. Record the newly detuned part on a separate mono track.
4. Now pan one of the tracks hard left, and one hard right. Your sound should now sound much wider and thicker, as if you had used the UNISON mode on a more modern synth.
5. If you want to take this one step further, do some subtle, real-time tweaking of the sound as you record each part. The tweaking won't match up between layers, and your sound will be much more alive for it.
6. Don't feel you have to stop with just two tracks either. Try layering multiple tracks, each tuned a bit differently from the others, for absurdly thick sounds.

This sounds best on things like leads and string/pad types sounds, but you can use it on bass sounds as well. Just keep in mind that it is generally a good idea to keep bass sounds in mono for them to sound their strongest. In this instance, you might not want to do the hard left/hard right thing and should have both tracks panned to the center. Just be sure to filter out some of the low frequencies from one of the tracks, or your bass end is likely to be a bit muddy. Then again, stereo bass can sound great if done correctly. Just experiment until you find something you like the sound of. The only rule is that if it sounds good, it is good.

Here is a brief excerpt from the remix illustrating this technique. It starts out with just the SH-101 bass by itself, but after the kick comes in, the second, detuned layer comes in with the low end EQed out, a highpass filter being modulated and some stereo spread. This helps it blend smoothly with the original bass instead of causing audio mud.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thinking On Your Feet

So last week was the release date for the debut by a band called Burikusu!!! on my little 23db Records label. Or at least it was supposed to be. Let me backtrack a bit.

Last year, my band toured the US, and as a merch item, I put out a collection of rarities and tracks from before my project got signed. (I'm working on a second one as we speak, but you can check out the first one on Assemblage 23 - Early, Rare, & Unreleased (1988-1998)) They sold great, but about halfway into the tour, we started getting emails from some people indicating that their copy was fraught with disc errors. There ended up being about 150 bad copies out of 1000 (it was a limited edition). The company graciously agreed to print up some replacements plus some extras, but about a quarter of these replacements were also full of errors. Needless to say, I was in the market for a new CD manufacturer. Another label owner I know suggested a company and I decided to give them a try with the Burikusu!!! album.

Things started off great. They were attentive every step along the way, and my CDs even arrived a week before they were scheduled to. I was starting to fill pre-orders when I decided I should probably put a disc in to just make sure everything had come out alright. It was a good thing I did, as even though the discs were marked correctly as Burikusu!!!, the disc actually contained a promotional CD-ROM for a company aimed at helping people incorporate their small businesses. So now the NEW company had screwed up my order. I contacted them and was made promises that were broken within days without apology. The end result was, we weren't going to make our release date and the band wouldn't have copies on hand for their own release party.

Now, I know this seems like extraordinarily bad luck, and it is. But anyone who has been in the music industry for any length of time will tell you there are a million and one ways a release can get screwed up right before the release date. Most of the time, it is due to something you have no control over, so what can you do?

Have a back-up plan. I have recently started mailing promotional postcards out with all of my mail order business. The front contains info on new releases and the back contains a coupon code anyone who has one of the postcards can use to get free stuff when they place an order for whatever release the postcard is promoting. This is a good way to promote to your existing audience, but it also comes in handy in situations when you're going to miss a release date for whatever reason. If a band has shows or release parties where they had hoped to sell the delayed CD, having these on hand can be a good way to quell disappointment among the fans. Sure, they can't get the CD right then and there, but now they have a way to get it online AND get free stuff to boot. Kind of takes the sting out of it, eh?

Obviously, this isn't the only solution to a problem like this, use your imagination. Just put yourself in the shoes of the fans and potential fans of the band and figure out what would put a silver lining in a delayed release to you.

And yes, before you ask... I have found a new CD manufacturer to handle my next release for the label. Third time's a charm?

Check out a "Best of 23db Records" iMix on iTunes!

Monday, November 24, 2008

This Will Make You Hate Music Forever

If music really loved you, would it do THIS to you?

This was on the decidedly non-musical Hot Chicks With Douchebags website, but I see it is starting to appear on some music blogs as well. This video just confuses the utter hell out of me.

What Can We Learn from the New Order Remaster Debacle?

If you're a fan of New Order at all, you were probably pretty excited to hear that they were releasing re-masters of the band's first five albums (aka "the good ones") with bonus material. But as you may have heard in recent weeks, the remasters are apparently fraught with audio problems not present on the originals, some even sounding as if they were lifted from vinyl!

By now, the New Order fan community is rightly pretty pissed off. After all, it's not an unreasonable expectation to have a remaster of an album sound better than the original. If you are one of these pissed off fans, you can make your voice heard by sending an email to: The record company says that if they get enough complaints, they will do proper remasters. (Why is this something they even need to ask about?!?)

So what can we learn from this? I think this incident (along with abysmal mastering on the new Metallica and countless other 'louder is better' releases) exposes a deep cynicism in the record industry regarding its customers. I don't think that's exactly earth-shattering news, but it doesn't mean we as musicians can't learn something from it. For me, the lesson of this is not to underestimate the sophistication of your fans and listeners. And though you undoubtedly have some fans who are less discerning, always do what you do in an effort to satisfy that discerning listener. You don't have to spend ages tweaking everything to death (Axl Rose, I'm looking in your direction...), just don't take short-cuts or sell your final product short out of the belief that your listeners ears aren't finely honed enough to notice. Don't take anything for granted, and don't assume that fans are going to be thrilled with everything that has your name on it just because it has your name on it. Yes, it takes more work, some of it tedious, but your fans will appreciate it. And at the end of the day, the customer is always right. Even when they're not.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New England Digital Synclavier on Ebay

Wow, you don't see these up for auction very often. When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to get to take a course in using the Synclavier taught by Jon Appleton himself. It was all a bit overwhelming at the time, but it's hard to beat getting instruction from the inventor himself!

Check it out...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Modified Korg DW-6000

Via Synthasy on YouTube.

The Korg DW-6000 was supposed to be my first synth. I was in 7th or 8th grade when it came out, and spent a couple summers mowing lawns to try and save up enough money to get one. As luck would have it, just as I had earned enough to buy it, it was discontinued and replaced with the more expensive DW-8000. I was pretty sad about it, but ended up with a second hand Poly-800, which was certainly a decent enough synth to learn about sound programming on. Anyway, here's a video of a guy who modified his DW-6000 to have a vastly expanded waveform selection...

Roland TB-303 with Devilfish Mod on Ebay

I realize it is insanely overused, but somehow, I never get sick of the sound of a Roland TB-303. And all the better if it is one with the infamous Devilfish Mod.

Check it out...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Recommendation: Circuit-Bending: Build Your Own Alien Instruments

Circuit-Bending: Build Your Own Alien Instruments (ExtremeTech)

For those unfamiliar with the term, circuit bending refers to the practice of purposely short-circuiting electronic devices such as children's toys or home keyboards in order to get them to make bizarre new sounds. The man many credit with the start of the circuit-bending movement is Reed Ghazala, who also happens to be the author of this book. Can't get a much better source than that. Anyway, the book covers everything from what equipment you'll need to basic electrical engineering to how to solder all the way up to guiding you through about a dozen specific projects for modifying specific pieces of gear into shrieking monsters. The style of the book is very casual and easy to read, and the information is presented in a manner that is easy to understand even for people with no prior knowledge of the subject. Highly recommended to anyone with more than a passing interest in circuit bending.

Steiner Parker Synthacon on Ebay

I've never actually played one of these American made synths, but the demos I have heard of it make me want one badly. Very evil and gritty sounding...

Check it out...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Making Music on Your iPhone

There's no doubt that technology just seems to be advancing faster and faster these days. One need only look at how far cell phones have come in the past few years to see evidence of this. Once just a means of communication, now cell phones are more like Swiss Army knives full of useful gadgets from cameras to MP3 players. With the introduction of Apple's iPhone, the cell phone has now started to smudge the line between phone and computer. This has exciting possibilities all around, but especially for electronic musicians. With that in mind, I thought I would compile a round-up of some of the currently available iPhone Apps that turn your phone in a musical instrument. This is by no means a complete list, but it should give you a good starting place...

Synthpond by Zach Gage ($1.99)
Touch-based sequencer where the user moves 'nodes' around the screen to alter the music. Best used with headphones, this one also uses node position in spatial placement of the notes allowing them to be moved around the stereo field. Check it out on synthPond

Destiny Digital Synth by Magnus Larsson ($1.99)
16-bit 'Digital Wave Micro Synth' with 7 sound presets including a drum set playable from an on screen piano keyboard. More sound patches are promised for the future. Check it out on Destiny - Digital Synth

Digidrummer Lite by Magnus Larsson (FREE!)
Play drums with your fingers on 8 virtual drum pads. It allows you to have your Ipod music playing along in the background so you can jam along with your favorite songs. Check it out on DigiDrummer Lite

Digidrummer by Magnus Larsson ($0.99)
Sampled drum machine with record and playback functions, saveable beat library, multiple drumsets and more! Check it out on DigiDrummer

Creation Gig Bundle by Magnus Larsson ($5.99)
This bundled package consists of 3 programs: Bedrum (a classic drum machine), Destiny (a digital synthesizer), and Digidrummer (a sampling drum machine users can add their own samples to). Check it out on Creation - Gig Bundle

Minisynth by Yonac ($1.99)
Aka 'The MiniApollo". Virtual analog type synth playable from an onscreen piano keyboard. The synth has 2 oscillators (each with 4 waveforms to choose from), a modeled lowpass filter with cutoff and resonance, attack and decay filter envelope, glide, reverb, and more. Check it out on miniSynth Pro By Amido Inc. ($9.99)
A synth and sequencer combo boasting a ton of features including 3 generators, 2 filters, 3 LFOs, 3 sequencers, 6 effects, unlimited presets and an apparently very active users community. Check it out on Pro

Sound from Sound Synthesizer by Intelligent Gadgets ($2.99)
Essentially an FM synth you control by singing into your iPhone (or indeed by using any sound your iPhone can pick up) through the use of a special pitch to note algorithm. Check it out on Sound from Sound Synthesizer

Pitch to Note+ by Intelligent Gadgets ($3.99)
Uses a polyphonic pitch to note algorithm to display note or chord information using the iPhones built-in microphone. Check it out on Pitch to Note +

Synthesizer by Stefan Welebny ($0.99)
Extremely simple, additive-based synth. Check it out on Synthesizer

Voxbot by ($1.99)
Speech synthesizer that will speak any text you type into it. Check it out on VoxBot

Cosmovox by Leisuresonic ($2.99)
Essentially a theremin for your iPhone. Allows you to control a full featured synthesizer tuned to over 50 different scales using the iPhone's built-in accelerometer to track the location of your hand motions. Check it out on Cosmovox

BtBx ("BEatbox") by Pure Profit ( $3.99)
Drum machine offering both a sequencer and keyboard view, 8 drum sounds, 2 instrument sounds, 2 real time synthesizers, 16 step/16 pattern drum machine style sequencer, tempo adjustment, full low pass filter with cutoff and resonance, distortion and delay effects, and much more! Check it out on BtBx ("BeatBox")

Android FX by Pure Profit ($0.99)
Tap and slide your finger on the iPhone to produce all manner of blips and bleeps that would make R2-D2 nod with approval. Check it out on Android FX

PASY02 by Pankaku Inc. ($0.99)
Control the sound of this synth by manipulating an onscreen 'net'. Check it out on PASY02

BPM Tap Tempo by Audiodog ($0.99)
Tap-based utility for calculating a songs tempo, setting appropriate delay times, or setting an LFO rate to sync. Check it out on BPM Tap Tempo

FMScreen by Piticule ($1.99)
An FM synth for your iPhone controlled by tapping or sliding your finger across the screen. Check it out on FMScreen

iXY MIDI Controller by CM Software Design ($2.99)
An XY pad on your iPhone for controlling your MIDI instruments (over a wifi connection with your computer). Check it out on iXY MIDI Controller

Metronome-iTick by Music Motion (FREE!)
Simple digital metronome with adjustable time signatures and tempo. Check it out on Metronome-iTick

MiniPiano by Junpei Wada (FREE!)
Simple, 3 octave piano simulation. Check it out on MiniPiano

Shazam by Shazam Entertainment Ltd. (FREE!)
If you've ever heard a song and wondered what it was, this is the app for you. Simply hold up your iPhone to the music and within seconds it will identify the song for you. Check it out on Shazam

Ocarina by Smule ($0.99)
Innovative virtual ocarina you play by blowing into the iPhone's built-in mic and fingering notes on the touchscreen. Legend of Zelda your butt off! Check it out on Ocarina

Pocket Guitar by Shinya Kasatani ($0.99)
Virtual guitar for your iPhone that lets you press and strum strings just like the real deal. 6 different instrument sounds are included along with 3 different editable effects. Check it out on PocketGuitar

MixMeister Scratch by Mixmeister Technology (FREE!)
This app allows you to play a song from your mobile device and scratch over it just like a DJ.
Check it out on MixMeister Scratch

Chords by Adam Zapletal (FREE!)
Simple chord reference tool for guitar chords featuring 28 chord types for each note. Check it out on Chords

More Cowbell! by Maverick Software (FREE!)
For win you have a fever and the only cure is more cowbell. Simple, playable cowbell for your iPhone. Check it out on More Cowbell!

Harp by You Just Made Music ($1.99)
Use your left hand to pick chords and your right hand to strum out notes on this virtual Harp for your iPhone. Check it out on Harp

Tuner 440 by Francois Baronnet (FREE!)
Free guitar tuner for your iPhone. Check it out on Tuner 440

GuitarToolKit by Agile Partners ($9.99)
Combines a guitar tuner with an extensive library of 1300 chord variations for quick reference. Check it out on GuitarToolkit

iTabla by Vidya Multimedia (FREE!)
A digital tabla and tanpura that fits in your pocket. Check it out on iTabla

Oblique Strategies by Far Out Labs (FREE!)
A virtual deck of Brian Eno & Peter Scmidt's infamous Oblique Strategy cards. Designed to be used when a musician is stuck on a song, the deck provides vague/crytpic statements that the musician is supposed to use as a way of getting 'unstuck' . Check it out on Oblique Strategies

BeatMaker by Intua ($19.99)
Full featured music creation studio for your iPhone. Too many features to list here, so just check it out on BeatMaker

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Synton College Multi-Level Instructional Synthesizer on Ebay

Man, what is with all the crazy rare stuff showing up on Ebay lately? I've never even heard of this..

Check it out...

Cyberworm's Free "Electric Drum Machines Megapack"

Download a free 46 megabyte collection of 728 synthetic drum and percussion sounds over at Cyberworm's blog. And if you enjoy the sounds, remember to donate to help ensure the blog goes on! Here are details about the material from the man himself:

"I worked on this samplepack for 2 months and finally did it! 728 single drums in one huge pack!
Samples made with Access Virus B/Virus TI, Jomox AirBase, Electron Machinedrum, Korg Prophecy, Polyvox synthesizer, Roland Juno-106 and "NoiseLab" drum synthesizer by Oleg Sharonov. Also used Alesis 3630 compressor, dbx 166XL, TL Audio Ivory 2, Izotope Ozone.

Pack contain:
bassdrums: 115
claps: 61
cymbals: 164
fx: 162
percussions: 64
snaredrums: 97
shakers: 19
stick/rim/cowbell sounds: 68
toms: 32

wav format, 16 bit, 44100 hz, mono/stereo, 46 mb"

Burikusu!!! Debut Released

Today is the official release of "2080", the debut album from Burikusu!!! on my label, 23db Records. If you haven't already, take the time to check out the sample clips from this album - I think you'll be impressed. These guys are definitely one of the most original acts I have heard in ages.

If you like what you hear, you can order your own copy here.

Or, for those who prefer to buy their music digitally get it on Burikusu!!! - 2080 or on Amazon MP3

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Waveformless Joins The Groove Network

The more observant among you ( ie the 2 or 3 of you who aren't drunk right now) may have noticed the new link bar at the top of the page. This is part of a new cooperative effort among music bloggers called The Groove Network. This is simply an effort to try and expose our respective readers to each others' blogs and hopefully turn people on to some cool stuff they might not been aware of otherwise. So take a few minutes to check out some of the blogs linked above. I bet you will find a new favorite or two!