Thursday, April 30, 2009

Separating Your Sends

When it comes to mixing, there are basically two types of effects: insert effects and send effects. Insert effects are for effects you want to be totally 'wet'. Compression, EQ/filters, and Distortion are good examples here. These are effects that are applied directly to the instrument or audio channel itself.

Send effects, on the other hand, are useful when you want a mixture of the original, dry signal and the effected signal. Reverb and delay are the most commonly used send effects. These effects are applied to an auxillary send on your mixer (hardware or software) and you dial in the desired amount of effect with the send level on your instrument or audio channel. The added bonus here is that you can send as many different channels to the same send as you want. This not only saves you CPU power, but it can also make for a more realistic sounding mix, since in a real space, you'd have several sounds all being 'treated' by the space's natural reverb.

One technique that can be helpful sometimes in creating cleaner mixes, is to actually EQ the send. Why would you want to do this? Well, let's say you have a cool synth bassline that sounds a lot cooler with some delay on it, but the low frequencies in the bass sound turn into mud when sent through a delay. Leave your synth bass EQ untouched, and simply slap an EQ on your delay send and filter out those pesky low frequencies in the delay only. The mud is gone, but the mids and highs still carry the rhythmic interest the delays added.

You can also get unusual, artificial-sounding (in a cool way) effects by applying cuts or boosts to your reverb send. EQing your sends is not something you will do every day, but it can come in handy in a few instances, and can be a lot of fun to play around with at more extreme settings.

Sequential Circuits Prophet VS on Ebay

The legendary (and quite revolutionary at the time) Prophet VS is definitely one of the more unique digital synths out there. You can hear it all over Nine Inch Nails' "Pretty Hate Machine" album...

Info at the listing...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Get Tanked!

The always interesting
Music of Sound blog posted about this recently and I thought I would pass it on for those who might have missed it.

Tank-FX is a website you can upload your own soundclips to. Those clips are then output through a pair of speakers into an actual concrete tank measuring about 11 meters in height where they are recorded. The website then sends back your soundclip with the massive, natural reverb on it.

This is the kind of stuff I love the web for!!

Ladies and Gentlman... May I Introduce The Kazookeylele

Via crouts0 on YouTube.

I'm speechless.

Sherman Filterbank on Ebay

Really fun sonic destruction unit... Great for sound mangling.

Info at the listing...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

One for the Analog Freaks: New T.H.D. Album and Free EP Available Now!

I am happy to announce 2 new releases from 90's industrial act T.H.D. on my label 23db Records. These releases represent the first new material from the act in nearly 10 years!

Aside from being excellent releases in their own right, these may be of interest to my fellow vintage synth freaks out there, as T.H.D. have a drool-worthy studio packed with analog synths, vintage drum machines, and old school lofi samplers.

Still not convinced? Then
download the absolutely free 10-track EP "Subconscious Drip" and hear for yourself. (If you like what you hear, the EP is also available for purchase for those who want to show the extra bit of fan support...).

Both "Subconscious Drip" and the full-length album "The Evolution of Our Decay" are available through finer digital music retailers everywhere including iTunes, iTunes Canada, iTunes Europe/UK, iTunes Australia/NZ, Rhapsody, eMusic, Amazon MP3, Napster, Shockhound, Lala, and Amie Street.

Buy "Subconscious Drip" on iTunes.

Buy "The Evolution of Our Decay" on iTunes.

GE Announces New Storage Medium That Can Hold 100 DVDs on a Single Disc

According to an article in the New York Times, G.E. has announced that it has achieved a breakthrough in the technology of storing data that will allow users to store the equivalent of 100 DVDs on a single, CD-sized disc.

This sounds pretty amazing. Imagine being able to carry every sample library you own on a single, portable disc. Imagine being able to take your entire movie collection with you when you travel. Imagine how many illegally downloaded albums and software pirates will fit on it? haha

Don't get too excited just yet, though. The technology is still in the testing phase and won't be on the market for some time.

Billy Corgan Wants to Charge Fans $40 for Video Blog

We're in an uncertain time for the music industry. As such, we're starting to see many artists experimenting with different new business models to find new ways to make a living from their art as sales drop and piracy continues to be a problem. Given that these are experiments, it would be unreasonable to expect all the new ideas will be gems.

Enter Billy Corgan, the only remaining original member of the Smashing Pumpkins, who according to, has hatched a plan to charge his fans $40 a pop for 12 weeks of access to a 'video blog' documenting the process of making the band's next record.

On the one hand, if fans are willing to pay that (and it seems unlikely to me that they will), more power to him, I guess. But it seems a bit cynical to me. Lots of bands maintain blogs, video or otherwise, that are free as it is (like, for instance, this one). Why not make the film about the making of the record and release it on the Internet for free as an advertisement for the record? After all, how long has it been since the Smashing Pumpkins were really relevant? Maybe I'm wrong here, but I think Corgan's thinking is a bit backwards here. What do you guys think?

Rare Oberheim EPROM Burner on Ebay

Wow, these are extremely rare! Basically, it allowed you to burn EPROMs (sound chips) of your own sounds for use with the Oberheim DX and DMX drum machines.

More info at the listing...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Creating a Custom iPhone App for Your Band

Much was made recently about Nine Inch Nails creating a custom iPhone app for their fans. In the ever-changing landscape of the music industry, it's more important than ever for bands to find new ways to engage and interact with their fans, and things such as custom apps allow you to do just that. The problem for most of us, however, is that we're not programmers and even if we are, most of us probably wouldn't know how to get an app listed on the iTunes website anyway. That's where a new company called Mobile Roadie comes in.

Just to be clear, I don't work for Mobile Roadie, nor have I ever used their services. I am, however, a bit intrigued by what they offer and thought my readers might as well. Basically, Mobile Roadie allows you to create your own custom iPhone App that allows you to share photos and music, post news updates and tour dates, interact with fans on your 'fan wall', list your discography and provide direct links to your music on iTunes, and a whole bunch of other stuff. All the updates are done via your computer and Mobile Roadie claims it's easy enough to use that if you can send an email, you can use their software with no problems.

The one drawback at the moment (for me, at least) is the price. There is a one time set-up fee of $399, and then it is $29 a month after that. This includes your first 1,000 fans. For every fan using your app after that, it's an additional 1¢ per fan per month. The monthly fee seems reasonable, it's just that initial $399 that seems a bit steep to be sensible unless you are a band of a certainly level of popularity who tours a lot. Of course, the idea here is that you will (hopefully) sell more music in the end and that it'll pay for itself in the long run.

Is there anyone out there using their services? Let us know your thoughts!

Yamaha DX-1 on Ebay

Ever wonder what would happen if a Yamaha DX-7 and an aircraft carrier had a baby? The DX-1 is among the rarest of Yamaha synths with a sound engine equivalent to having 2 DX-7's in a single, massive package.

Info at the listing...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Review: Wave Alchemy's Electro House Underground & Electro House Progressions

Libraries: Wave Alchemy Electro House Underground & Electro House Progressions
Format: Electro House Underground: Download or CD/DVD. Electro House Progressions: Download
Genre: Electro House
Distributed by: Loopmasters
Price: Electro House Underground: Download £39.95, CD/DVD £44.95. Electro House Progressions : Download £34.95
Demo: Demo for Electro House Underground, Demo for Electro House Progressions

Today I’ll be taking a look at two sample libraries from British sound designers Wave Alchemy. The company’s founders Daniel Byers and Steve Heath met a few years at school. They decided after graduation to form a company aimed at providing high quality sample libraries. So have they succeeded at that goal? Let’s have a listen!

Electro House Underground

Electro House Underground
consists of 1.5 GB of 24-bit electro house samples in WAV and REX2 formats. These break down to nearly 255 drum loops, 50 filtered percussion loops, 95 tech bass loops, 92 electro synth loops, and 50 effects. Additionally, there are 56 ready-to-go multi-sampled instruments in Reason NNXT, Halion, Kontakt, EXS24, and other formats.

We start off with a selection of bass loops. Most of the loops are featured in several variations (usually different filter settings), making it easier to use the loops to build a full track. The basslines are all very catchy and the sounds used all have a great vintage vibe. (The liner notes indicate the synths used were a Minimoog, Nord Leads 2 & 3, Access Virus, Roland JP-8000, and Waldorf Pulse). The tempo and key of the basslines are listed in the file names, so it’s easy to find riffs that go together well instantly. The production is great and just right for the genre. Most loops are compressed and in your face (some are even sidechained) and among a lot of dry loops, are ones drenched in bitcrushing, filtering, and other typical electro house effects.

The next section consists of a ton of drum loops. Although these are totally in line with what you’d expect in electro house, most are flexible enough to work in just about any dance-oriented genre you’d care to use them in. The production quality is great and the tonal balance is near perfect meaning these will sound great in a track without needing to do a lot of further processing. Like the basslines, most of the drum loops are featured in multiple variations so you aren’t just stuck with a single loop to build your song with. The beats also vary in their complexity with some being minimal percussion only, some being basic kick, hat, snare constructions, and others containing quite complex percussion arrangements. The feel of all the loops is excellent and guaranteed to get butts shaking on the dancefloor.

In addition to the drum loops is a decent selection of live percussion loops. These are all constructed with real world percussion instruments and run the gamut from shaker and tambourine loops, to conga patterns, to full-fledged percussion arrangements. All are tasteful and perfect for adding to your own programmed drums to give them a bit more feel.

The loops round out with a bunch of synth riff loops. These were put together with the same gear as the basslines and are of similar quality. Once again, the production and EQing are stellar and genre-appropriate. If you wanted to, you could pretty much build a full track using only elements from the loop section of this library and not need to do much, if any additional mixing and production.

However, you probably don’t want to rely on nothing but loops. Lucky, then, that there’s a nice selection of pre-built sampler instruments in various formats. These consist of vintage synth bass sounds, some small drum kits (which annoyingly aren’t mapped to the GM standard), a hefty selection of claps, hats, synth percussion, kicks, snares, hits, and FX, and a small selection of synth lead sounds. Of these, the one shot drum hits were my favorite. The synth percussion is contemporary and interesting, the kicks have just the right combination of smack and oomph, the snares sound crisp and present, and the SFX and reverse hits make it easy to add a credible club feel to your tracks with a minimum of effort.

I did run into a problem with the synth bass and lead instruments in EXS-24. In almost all of them, there was a small key range that had the root key set incorrectly. This is a small annoyance, but something to be aware of.

Electro House Underground
essentially gives you everything you need to get started making electro house. It’s very nice when sample libraries offer a selection of sampler instruments and drum kits and not just loops, and this library has a very good balance of both. The sound quality throughout is uniformly excellent and the beats and riffs are all outstanding. Many sample libraries have good stuff, but you have to dig for it. This is one where no digging is required. It’s all good. (9/10)

Electro House Progressions

Electro House Progressions
is a bit like Electrro House Underground on a smaller scale (500 MB). Indeed, the two libraries are designed to compliment one another. The only slight stylistic difference between the two is that Electro House Progressions has a little bit of minimal and progressive flavor to it. Like Electro House Underground, this library consists of both loops and a selection of one shot samples and pre-built sampler instruments. All sounds are 24 bit and in WAV or REX2 format. These consist of 108 Minimal/Progressive Loops, 75 bass loops, 65 synth and stab parts, 37 Roland TB-303 loops, 55 SFX samples, 46 live percussion loops, & 210 drum hits and glitch percussion samples. Equipment used in making this collection consisted of Minimoog, Roland Jupiter 6, Juno 106, & TB-303, Dave Smith Prophet 08, Waldorf Pulse, Nord Lead 2 & 3, Sherman Filterbank, Big Muff Distortion Pedal, and the SPL Gainstation.

The first folder of loops consists of Roland TB-303 loops. A variety of different keys are represented and the loops are produced with everything from gentle overdrive to full on distortion to add extra bite. If you’ve heard a 303 before (and how could you NOT have at this point?!), you know what to expect here: lots of squelchy goodness with wild, sliding notes and plenty of attitude.

If it’s more standard electro house basslines you’re looking for, EHP has you covered there too. Like in the previous library, the loops all have plenty of analog grit and are pre-effected to perfection. These didn’t strike me as being quite as instantly usable as those In Electro House Underground. They’re skillfully done to be sure, but they didn’t strike me as being quite as ‘hooky’ as EHU. Taste is subjective, though, so your mileage may vary.

Next up are the drum loops. As good as the production on EHU was, I thought it was even better on the drum loops in this collection. Clear, present, well-defined, and punchy. The beats here have a more minimal/glitchy flavor to them and are a bit more restrained-sounding (not in a bad way). Many of the loops are featured in several different versions for a little variety in your arrangements. I guess the best way to describe the content here is to say that EHP is aimed a bit more at the techier, cerebral side of electro house,

Complimenting the drum loops is a selection of very simple percussion loops. These tend to be pretty minimal and as such, would probably work with a wider range of genres than the more busy EHU percussion loops. Not much to say here except that they’re well done and very useful.

The loops section rounds out with a number of synth loops. Again, the more minimal and progressive elements stand out here and there are some really nice sounding synth parts here. Again, I couldn’t help but feel the production sounds a little bit better on these than on EHU. (Don’t get me wrong, both are great… we’re talking minor differences here!) There are some very nice stabs, plucked riffs, and complex edits here.

Finally, for those of us who prefer to program their own beats, we have a half dozen kits of individual crashes, kicks, cymbals, snares, sound effects and glitchy percussion. The glitchy percussion section is definitely the most fun. The other kits sound great, although I do think they could stand a little more variety.

Overall, another very nice collection of everything you need to make electro house. The standard of quality is extremely high and the different feel to the loops here could make for some interesting results when used in conjunction with Electro House Underground. The price seems a little high to me given that this is a significantly smaller collection than EHU, so I’ll have to deduct a point there, but that still makes this collection a very respectable 8/10.

Paia Modular Synth on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Auto-Tune the News

I never would've expected the auto-tune effect to make a comeback after that damn Cher song, but I should've known better. Be sure to watch this to the end... Katie Couric busts some dope-ass vocal lines...

Homemade Synthesizer

I found this one on of all places. Want to hear what this thing sounded like? Get ready to plug your ears an click here.

5 Ways of Jump Starting Your Creativity

Have you ever found yourself sitting in your studio with tons of great tools at your disposal, but absolutely no ideas? If you answered 'no', then you're a dirty liar. Sooner or later we all have bouts of writer's block. It's incredibly frustrating, and if you happen to be up against a formal deadline, it can be even more stressful. So how do you drag yourself out of these creative doldrums? Sometimes you just have to experiment until you find what works for you personally, but here are a few ideas you might find helpful.

1.) Change Your Environment
I absolutely hate moving. Yeah, it's bad enough to have to box up everything you own and haul it in and out, but for me it also means dismantling my studio and rewiring it somewhere else. The one really positive thing that always seems to follow this, however, is that I feel creatively recharged and eager to get to work again. Your surroundings and work environment can have a tremendous impact on how you work, so if you're feeling stuck, try taking your laptop somewhere where you normally don't make music and see if that gives you a bit of a boost. It doesn't have to be anything drastic. If you normally work downstairs in your house, try working upstairs. Nice weather? Go to a park with some headphones and see if working outside inspires you.

2. Flip it and Reverse it

If you're having trouble getting started on a new song, try taking something you already completed and reversing it, either the audio or the MIDI. It may not lead anywhere, but you may just hear an unusual melody, rhythm or progression when you listen to music this way that gives you a direction to go in.

3. Art Cross-pollination

Try creating a soundtrack for a scene in a movie you like. Better yet, get more obscure and create a 'soundtrack' for a famous painting, photograph, sculpture, or city. Concentrate on representing visuals through music. Try to communicate a specific emotion solely through use of melody or rhythm.

4. Remix One of Your Old Songs

Take a song you've already completed, and do a remix for it as if you were remixing another artist. Let yourself disconnect from your usual 'rules' and self-consciousness and go nuts. Try to put the song into an entirely different musical context from the original. Once you've completed it, try taking out the vocals and any remaining melodic elements from the original and use this remix as the start of a brand new track. Or, in a similar vein, try taking a musical loop from a song you like and building a new song around that sample. Then, remove the sample and see if what you've got might be a good start on a new track.

5. Do Anything But Music

Although it might sound odd, sometimes the best remedy for running into dead ends in the studio is to get out of the studio. Go for a walk. Clean out the garage. Exercise. Your mileage may vary, but I personally find that some of my best ideas come to me when I am away from the studio. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we sit down to write a new song, so take some of the pressure off by getting away from that intimidating blank sequencer screen and see what happens.

So there are some ideas to get you started. Do you have a personal method of breaking writer's block that you prefer? Tell us about it!

Emu SP 1200 Vintage Drum Sampler on Ebay

Check out the listing...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Depeche Mode Boxset Chock Full o' Gear Porn

So my copy of the "Sounds of the Universe" boxset just arrived. I was actually really pleasantly surprised with the amount of vintage synth goodness contained within. The pictures of piles of gear in the "Making the Universe" photo booklet alone will be enough to make most gearheads pee their pants in jealousy. The documentaries give a good look at some of the vintage synths used on the album too.

Even without the gear porn, this is a great boxset. The extra tracks include at least 3 songs that probably should've been on the album, the demos are really interesting to hear (Gore singing songs that Gahan went on to sing, hearing the songs before Wilder had a chance to do his magic to them...), the 5.1 mixes sound great, and the included films are very interesting. It's nice to see Depeche acknowledge their musician fans who are interested in their techniques and gear, though.

Filter FM on the Novamodded SH-101

A while back I posted some demos of some of the extra features added to the Roland SH-101 through the infamous Novamod modification. Here's another one - this time, it's a demo of the filter FM feature and I'm just tweaking the filter cutoff and resonance.

Studio Electronics SE-1 on Ebay

Nifty Minimoog-like modern analog...

Info at the listing...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sign Up for the Assemblage 23 Newsletter

If any of you reading this happen to be fans of my band Assemblage 23, please feel free to sign up for the new Assemblage 23 e-mail newsletter. I'm not sure how regularly they will go out, but I promise you're not going to get spammed into oblivion.

To sign up, visit the Assemblage 23 website and enter your email in the form provided at the top of the 'NEWS" page. Note that you will have to click a confirmation link that will be sent to your email. This will be coming from MadMimi, the company I am using for this, and doesn't mention A23 specifically, so just be on the lookout for it to pop in your in box once you've entered your email.

Today Only: Get the New Depeche Mode Album for $3.99

Today only, you can get the new Depeche Mode album "Sounds of the Universe" through Amazon MP3 for only $3.99!

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I realize most of you have never been in my studio before, so the answer might not be obvious, but my studio computer is gone. If you've been reading this blog recently, you already know that my studio computer recently stopped powering up reliably. I took it in to get fixed, and although they didn't locate the problem, I have an idea what the problem might be, so I'm picking it up today.

But this isn't my point. The point is, for the past two weeks, my computer was in the shop and work on my album and single pretty much came to a stop. This has become a bit of an unwanted tradition for me. For the past few albums, every time I am in the last few months of work, something happens to keep me from working on it. Last album, it was a flooded basement.

Obviously, this sort of thing only adds to the stress of coming up against a deadline all the more intense, but I've come to realize sometimes this isn't the worst thing in the world. For the past couple of weeks I did something I hadn't done in ages. I just sat down at my keyboard and -
played. It used to be that I played and improvised all the time and this was primarily how I wrote new songs. In recent years, however, I've tended to write in my head and only sit down to the keyboard to translate the ideas I've been kicking around into full songs once they've developed for awhile. Not only did I realize how much I had missed just playing for the sake of playing... I actually ended up coming up with a great new song in the process.

This reinforces a theory I have had for many years now that one of the best things you can do now and then is to try a creative process that is different from your normal routine. Try working in a different DAW. If you normally write on guitar, try writing on piano. If you generally save vocals for last when working on songs, try recording them first to a dummy track and build your arrangement around that. If you have been writing music for a long time, it can be easy to get into a creative rut. It's important to shake things up now and then. I think I lost sight of that and it took a 'forced vacation' to make me remember.


This looks like the Holy Grail that Celemony was reaching for with the next version of Melodyne. It's not perfect, and I can hear artifacts in it, but you can't deny this would be a blast to play around with. This sort of thing could totally democratize remixing by making it possible for anyone to extract the vocal from any track they wanted to. That may or may not be a good thing, but the possibilites certainly seem fun.

Custom Rack-mounted Roland Juno 106 on Ebay

Here's a unique one. This is the guts from the famous Roland Juno 106 put into a custom-made rackmount enclosure.

Info at the listing...

Monday, April 20, 2009

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Sorry for the lack of updates for the past couple of days. My buddy Craig was out visiting from the east coast. So if you see him, you can blame him. And Fat Tire Beer.

Regular posts will be back on track tomorrow. Until then, happy 4/20!

Roland Jupiter 6 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Review: Deadmau5 Xfer Sample Library

Library: Deadmau5 Xfer
Format: Available as download or DVD.
Genre: All flavors of house from electro to minimal and tech, techno
Distributed by: Loopmasters
Price: DVD (with instant download too, so you don't have to wait) £64.95, download £59.95
Demo: Audio demos on the product page.

In case you've been living under a rock for the last couple of years, Deadmau5 is currently one of the most talked-about artists in the minimal house scene. It seems sometimes that not a day goes by on certain internet forums without someone asking, "How do I get a kick sound like "_________" by Deadmau5?" If you've found yourself among those ranks, here's your answer, Xfer, the new sampling library from Deadmau5 himself.

Xfer is available in both physical format and as a download. It's important to note that only the digital version features the loops in REX2 format. The physical version consists only of WAV files. There are no pre-made instruments for various softsamplers or drum machines here, these are just raw WAVs waiting for you to build into your own instruments. I do think it's a good thing for musicians to roll up their sleeves and map out their own instruments, but nowadays, I think most people expect mapped instrument files with their sample libraries. That said, let's see what this library offers.

We start out with a selection of 336 drum and percussion loops. All the loops are at 128 BPM and cover a pretty broad spectrum of styles, sounds, and complexity. Some loops are nothing more than shaker or hi-hat parts, some are kickless loops made for adding your own bottom end to, others are full-on drum loops containing the full spectrum. The styles of the loops varies nicely too with rhythms that would work well in electro house, tribal, minimal, techno, and really just about any contemporary dance style. The rhythms all have a really good feel, are very well-programmed, and are produced to the standard you would expect from DeadMau5. My one complaint here is that nothing is organized in a meaningful way. You just open the 'Loops' folder and are confronted with 336 files named XF_Loop 001 through XF_Loop 336. This means if you are looking for a specific loop, or specific type of loop, you basically have to search through each file until you find what you are looking for. Some sort of sub-categorization would have been really useful.

The rest of the library (ie the majority of it) consists of single, one-shot samples. This is a true raritiy in this day and age and made me real happy to see. I wish more sample libraries just gave me the individual sounds in addition to the loops for my own use. So big thumbs up for one shots!

We start out with 425 kick drum sounds divided into folders for Analog Kicks, Big Kicks, Huge Kicks, Hall Kicks, and Processed Kicks. Now THIS is the kind of organization I would've liked to have seen with the loops! The analog kicks have lots of sub energy, the big & huge kicks combine low end oomph with hard attacks great for electro, the hall kicks are well produced reverb kicks for breakdowns and intros, and the processed kicks are more unusual selections that would work great for techier styles. There's a great selection here, but there is also a lot of material the feels redundant and samey. This is a problem that a good number of the drum sounds in the library suffer from, but there is some really good material in here if you've got the time and inclination to dig for it.

The claps folder is divided into Classic Claps, Layered Claps, and Single Hand Claps (the sound of one hand clapping?). The single hand claps are the lightest-sounding and would be great for minimal and IDM style stuff. The classic claps would work for a wider range of dance styles, sporting a more typical 'generic' clap type sound. The Layered Claps consist of sounds made up from several different samples layered on top of each other for a bigger and more complex sound.

Next up is a whopping 1500 percussion sounds divided up by FFT percussion (techy, heavily processed percussion noises), Junk Percussion (think pots and pans), ShakersTambs (pretty much what you would expect), Synth Arp2600 Perc (a range of synthetic percussion created on the famous vintage synth), Synth Misc Perc (a mish-mash of different percussion sounds), and Synth Moog Perc (more synthy sounds, this time made on a vintage Moog). This is probably the widest variety of sounds in the library. Although most of them are synthetic sounding, there are all manner of bleeps, bloops, plips, thwunks, and doofs - all very contemporary sounding.

This is followed by 322 hihat sounds. These are divided into folders marked Amped, Analog, Misc, Open, Real, and Vinyl which are about as you'd expect. You'll find something for most dancey purposes here.

The selection of snare drums sounds (158) was a little bit on the thin side compared to the rest of the categories, but there's some good stuff here. Small, Classic, and Layered categories are similar to those in the claps folder. Some are synthetic, some are more realistic (relatively speaking), some are metallic, some are heavily processed. Despite this, like the kicks, a lot of the snares sound alike.

Just over 100 cymbal and cymbal effect sounds follow up giving you a pretty good line-up of various crashes and tranistional effects. The cymbal effect sounds in particular are well-crafted and the use of effects couldn't be better. These would all sound great in the breakdown or intro of your next club hit.

Everything rounds out with 227 synth and tonal sounds. There is some great stuff here. Unfortunately, the disorganization problem that plagued the loops section is present here. Some sounds are multi-sampled across several octaves, some are just single samples, but there is nothing in the file names to differentiate these. The library is divided into folders at least, which helps you separate the Moog Bass sounds from the Chords, for instance, but a better organizational system would be really helpful. Even just a meaningful file naming system would've been great. As for the sounds themselves... they're great. Lots of cool, buzzy analog synths and chunky sampled chords.

Chances are, if you're a music maker who is also a fan of Mr. Deadmau5, this item probably sells itself. But even if you're not, there is some very nice material here that would lend itself to a pretty wide range of genres. For the price they are asking, I think it is not unreasonable to expect more variety, a better sense of organization (at least non-generic file names), and pre-mapped instruments in popular file formats. But if you need these types of sounds and don't mind a little digging, the quality level here is very high. (8/10)

OSC Oscar on Ebay

Wow, you don't see these on Ebay too often. At least not in the US.

Info at the listing...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nine Inch Nails Introduces iPhone App

Trent Reznor has been in the news a lot recently, and regardless of how you feel about his viewpoint on the future of music marketing, at least he's trying some different things, which is more than can be said for most labels out there. True, just because it seems to be working for Reznor doesn't mean that it will for every artist, but hopefully just the discussion alone will act as a springboard for other ideas that might help lead professional musicians out of the dark spot many of them are in presently.

Reznor's latest experiment is a free app for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch called NIN Access. The program will allow NIN fans to post and read messages, send photos, and find other NIN fans in their immediate area. Other features and downloads may also become available in the future, but the important thing here is that Reznor is using technology to create a community among his fans. Given the popularity of social network sites like MySpace and Facebook, I could see this really taking off, especially among younger fans.

The program is now available through the App Store on the iTunes music store.

Togu Audio Line Unveils Free Elek7ro Softsynth

Well, that didn't take long. After placing a preview image on their site a couple days ago, Togu Audio Line has released it's latest free plug-in in the form of TAL-Elek7ro, a dual oscillator virtual analog with a focus on ease of programming and authentic analog-modeled sound. It's available in VST format for Windows and both VST and AU for Mac. What are you waiting for?

Gems WK2 Arabic Worlstation Synth on Ebay

"And now for something totally unique - Gem Wk2 quarter tone Arabic scale synthesizer. Works fine, has a few minor scratches."

Info at the listing...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Togu Audio Line Previews New Synth

Purveyors of fantastic (and free) plug-in effects and softsynths Togu Audio Line, have posted a preview image of their next release, a virtual analog softsynth called Elek7ro. It looks very simple and straightforward, and if their past work is any indication, I'm sure it will sound great too. No word when it is expected to be released.

Cool Circuit Bent Drum Toy

via noystoise on YouTube.

Homemade Purse Made to Look like EDP Wasp on Ebay

Here's an unusual fashion statement: a wooden 'purse' decorated to look like an EDP Wasp. Seems like a pretty niche market, but if you've got a synth geek girl in your life (I believe there are about 4 of them), this would undoubtedly put a smile on her face.

More info at the listing...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sonic Charge Microtonic Easter Egg (Literally!)

If you've never heard the term before, an "easter egg" is a hidden feature, message, or joke in a computer program put there by the programmer for fun. They really serve no practical purpose other than to make the user smile.

Sonic Charge, makers of Microtonic and SynPlant, took that a bit further, as you can see from the screenshot above, when they temporarily replaced the usual blue trigger indicators in Microtonic with colorful easter eggs.

What other easter eggs have you found in software you own?

Roland MKS-80 with Programmer on Ebay

"For sale is one Roland MKS-80 Super Jupiter (rev 5) with MPG-80 programmer. This is an awesome analog synth powerhouse, I am only selling because of the taxman! This is basically a Jupiter-6 in a rack with velocity sensitivity and 8 voices of polyphony. This is an absolutely perfect condition synth I would rate a 9 out of 10 cosmetically. There are virtually no scratches or scuffs on it anywhere, and the controller is perfect too! The sound is incredible for basses and strings. This may be one of the best synths ever for analog strings. Add a touch of reverb and you're all set for a really polished professional sound. Having the controller with it makes it a nearly perfect synth and extremely creative for sound design and sound creation. It comes with XLR outputs and is extremely quiet and tunes quickly (less than a second)."

More info at the listing...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Depeche Mode - In The Studio (2008) - Web Clip #16

Flashback Friday: Images in Vogue

If you've never heard of them before, Images in Vogue was a Canadian new wave act from the early 80's that ended up spawning the careers of both Cevin Key from Skinny Puppy and Don Gordon from Numb. By the way, be on the lookout for an unintentionally hilarious misspelling of the word 'homicide' early in the video...

MFOS Weird Sound Generator on Ebay

"This is my latest MFOS Weird Sound Generator project. It adds a
guitar/microphone preamp, and a transformer - diode ring modulator.

The preamp can be routed to the ring modulator signal input, or to the WSG


The WSG output is normalled to the ring modulator carrier input."

More info at the listing...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tempo Changes in Logic

The steady tempo of drum machines and sequencers is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the absolute, unforgiving precision can sound absolutely fantastic. Would Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" (produced by Giorgio Moroder) have the same drive if it weren't for the robotically strict synth sequence driving it? Would Kraftwerk's "The Robots" have been as evocative of its namesake were it not for the mechanical timing of its rhythm and bassline? 80's production team Stock, Aitken, and Waterman even built careers on making music that depended on the unrelenting timing of sequencers.

On the other hand, the constant, unerring tempo of sequencers can get a little dull now and then. Even the best drummers in the world can't help but vary the tempo of what they're playing slightly just because they're human, and this is part of what separates purely electronic music from more organic forms. But you don't have to be a wannabe rock band to make use of tempo changes in your music. Having an intro where the music starts slowly and quickly builds up to the main BPM of the track can be a very cool way to start a song. Likewise, having a song slow down at the end can sound really cool and dramatic. So today, I'll show you how to mess around with this in Logic. (Most other DAWs will allow you to do this too - just check your manual!)

1. Open up Logic and create an AUDIO INSTRUMENT track. Assign an instance of the Ultrabeat drum machine to it.

2. At the top of the ARRANGE page, you'll see the text "GLOBAL TRACKS" with a disclosure triangle next to it. Click on the triangle and you'll reveal (duh) the GLOBAL TRACKS. You'll see tracks for MARKER (for inserting text notes on the timeline), SIGNATURE (for making changes in the time signature throughout a song should you decide to pretend you're Rick Wakeman), and TEMPO. We're interested in the TEMPO track, so move your cursor to the dividing line right below the name of the track and it should change to a line with an arrow above and below it. Click and drag downward to expand the window.

3. Right now, you should see a straight line at whatever tempo your project is set for (120 BPM by default). You can change the tempo of the entire track easily by dragging this line up or down. However, we want the tempo to change throughout the course of part of the track. To do this, move to the point were you want your tempo change to be complete. Now, double click either below or above the center line depending on whether you want your tempo to increase or decrease.

4. The tempo change will be created, but it will create an instantaneous change. While there is nothing saying you can't do this (and indeed, if you're doing soundtrack work where musical elements might need to match precise visual points, this can be very useful), this is very unnatural and doesn't reflect the way real musicians change tempo. To create this, drag the middle node. (There will be a node at the at the original tempo, one in the corner of the right angle you just created, and a third at the new tempo... you want the middle one.) By moving this node up or down and back and forth, you can create literally any kind of curve or even a straight up or down angle between the tempos. This will make the change more gradual and much more musically pleasing.

5. Make sure Ultrabeat's sequencer is turned on and go ahead and hit play on the TRANSPORT BAR to hear the results. Tweak as necessary. Keep in mind you can always add or subtract nodes to get changes of varying levels of complexity.

I realize this seems sort of like a special effect thing you might not do that often and in general, you're right. One cool application you can use it for on any track, however, is to imitate the way a real band tends to play the chorus of a song slightly faster than the rest of the song. We're only talking about a varation of a few BPM here, but it can really add energy to your choruses in a nicely subtle way. Plus, it will piss off DJ's trying to beat match and it's hard to deny the fun in that. ; )

Hougaku Suisho Conductor on Ebay

"Hougaku Conductor SUISHO(means crystal) is extremely rare and strange japanese electronic musical instruments it was originally made for playing and training in Japanese traditional music."

More info at the listing...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Very Cool DEVO Interview

Via Synthtopia.

Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale of DEVO being grumpy old men. That's not a slam, by the way. As a slightly younger (well, much younger, actually) grumpy old man myself, I appreciate their perspective a lot. (And if you've been involved in the music industry for any amount of time and don't end up a grumpy old man, you're doing something wrong... )

Lately, I've been embracing the 'less is more' approach they talk about in this video. It's actually a lot more challenging to strip away elements from a mix than to just keep layering. Every bit has to count more and it actually takes a surprising amount of skill.

On a side note, when I lived in Williamsport, Pennsylvania many years ago, one of the guys I worked with rented a room in town from Gerald Casale's dad!

Review: Electronic Critters Sample Library, Volumes 1, 2, & 3

Electronic Critters Sample Library Vol. 1, 2, and 3

Haunted House Records

DVD Sample Library (also available as downloads from

16 and 24-bit WAV files (except Vol. 3 which is 24-bit only)

€19.95 plus postage for DVD or as downloads $14.99, $27.99, and $27.95 respectively


One of the great things about the cheaper CD and DVD replication that's available today is that it has opened the sample library market to smaller developers who can offer more unique, niche titles. Never has there ever been a wider variety of sample libraries on the market, and chances are, no matter how weird or obscure your music is, there is something out there that will appeal to you. Today, I'll be looking at some of the latest offerings from one such talented developer: the Electronic Critters sample libraries from Haunted House Records.


If you’re not familiar with it, circuit bending is the process of opening up (usually) low end musical instruments and kid’s electronic toys and altering the circuit connections in order to get them to create sounds they were never intended to make. The results are usually noisy, glitchy, and otherworldly. Once fashionable only in experimental circles, nowadays, with glitchy sounds gaining more mainstream acceptance, other genres are discovering and integrating circuit bent sounds.

Of course, not everyone has the skill, time, or desire to learn how to circuit bend their own creations. And even if you do, circuit bent equipment can sometimes have a short life span. That’s where the first volume of the Electronic Critters Library comes in.

The library consists of WAV samples in both 16 and 24-bit formats divided into ‘raw’ samples of a variety abused toys and ‘processed’ samples which further mangle the already strange noises using a variety of signal processing. All in all, the library contains about 1,000 different sounds. Most are harsh, glitchy, abrasive, and alien-sounding – imagine the sounds a dying robot might make, and you’ll not be far off. The recordings are all clear, nicely edited, and well-organized.

In addition to the sounds, a folder with pictures of all the sampled circuit bent toys is included (a nice touch), as well as an compilation of music by creator Steve Haunt’s project Creature. I’m not sure if these libraries were intended to be viral marketing for Haunt’s band, but it is definitely a novel way to promote one’s musical work! Creature covers a variety of different sounds, but generally fits in a sort of ambient IDM feel to it and is very nice listening indeed.

Obviously, because of the nature of the types of sounds it contains, this library isn’t for everyone. But if you’re looking for an excellent source of unique & bizarre noises to spice up your tracks, you’re not going to find a better deal out there. The sounds are great as is, but they’re also fantastic fodder for further manipulation in your sampler of choice or sample-twisting synths like Alchemy and Absynth. (9/10)


The second volume of Electronic Critters takes a more subdued, creepy feel to it. The sources for the 277 sounds contained within are various radio and television transmissions. These sources are then further processed through all manner of effects such as filters, modulation effects, reverbs – you name it. As before, the sounds are available in 16 and 24-bit WAV formats. The 277 sounds are split into 63 groups, with each group offering variations on the sound via different (sometimes drastically so) signal processing. Drones, futuristic textures, and alien soundscapes are the order of the day here.

Although there are some harsh sounds here, the overall feel of this volume is more ambient and atmospheric than the one that precedes it. In fact, a lot of this material would probably be very useful to anyone doing soundtrack work, especially in the sci-fi and horror genres. These could have great applications as song intros for an industrial track or even as special effects for the breakdown of a dance track.

As before, the sound quality is top notch and the processing is creative and skillfully applied. Mr. Haunts clearly knows his stuff! This volume also contains the free Creature promo album, as well as a free demo pack of sounds from the first volume. If your productions are missing a sense of atmosphere, you’d do well to check out this collection. (10/10)


The third volume of the series is also the most varied. Inspired by the famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop, this collection uses sounds sources such as “field recordings, radio interference, ultra sounds, and Theremins reprocessed and chopped up to create electronic sounds out of this world.” And indeed, that’s what you get.

The sounds are all in 24-bit WAV format (no 16-bit option this time) and are split up into categories consisting of 103 Ambient Textures, 126 Loops, 140 Musical Phrases and Sound Beds, and 313 Source Samples. I really like that the unprocessed source sounds are provided here. Not only are they useful in their own right, but it encourages users to use the library as inspiration for their own processing. The sound quality is just as good as the other volumes and are very well-edited and processed.

As I mentioned, the variety of sounds here is really wide with the main unifying factor being that they’re all heavily processed (Source Samples excepted, obviously). Most of the sounds are featured in several different versions, each with different signal processing used. All the loops are helpfully marked by BPM and loop points are all flawless. I did feel like the loops are a bit of a mixed bag, though. They’re all well done, but some definitely are more useful in a wider range of styles than others. The Musical Phrases and Sound Beds category will probably only interest people looking for quick soundtrack music, consisting as it does of full musical arrangements (each individual layer is separately available as well). These are generally well done (although the snare drum on the Slinky arrangement was in serious need of quantizing), but they’re not the types of elements I think too many people would be able to integrate easily into their own music. They’d probably be very appreciated by amateur film makers and other people who need complete music beds quickly, though.

A very well done collection of interesting sounds to be sure, but the useful to non-useful ratio on this one isn’t quite as good as the other collections. It made it a bit difficult to sort through and find the really useful stuff quickly. Your mileage may vary, though. All of these collections are obviously rather niche in their appeal, and how much this one rocks your world depends on what your niche is. Even still, for the price, it’s hard to complain. (7/10)

Part 2 of W.C. Olo Garb's Ensoniq ESQ-1 Demo

Here's the second part of the ESQ-1 demo I posted earlier.

Technosaurus Microcon on Ebay

Info at the listing....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Interesting Trent Reznor Interview

on Digg Dialogg via Matrixsynth.

Very interesting interview with questions sent in by Digg users. No matter how many times I see him, I can't get used to the new 'mini-hulk' Trent. Good on him for getting clean and in shape, but it always throws me off every time I am expecting to see the scrawnier Trent Version 1.0. haha

A Sampling Gold Mine

I love movies. Of course, I have a deep appreciation for truly great films, but I also have a special place in my heart for movies that are so bad they're good (see Tommy Wiseau's "The Room" if you haven't already...), and old educational and "scare" films from the 40's, 50's, and 60's.

Enter the Prelinger Archives: a massive online archive of downloadable educational films from yesteryear. There are plenty of driver's ed scare films, 50's nuclear hysteria, stuffy corporate videos, social engineering films that tell you how to act 'properly', and now sadly ironic profiles of "cities on the rise" such as... uh... Detroit.

The best part? These films are in the public domain now meaning that they are ready to be plundered for dialogue samples without worry of infringing any copyrights. And even if you're not looking for samples, the films make for hilarious viewing. Frankly, it's a miracle our parents turned out as normal as they did.

Things Might Be Quieter Than Usual

What a Monday I had. I'll spare you the long list of things that went wrong all at once and stick to the one that may have some effect on this blog for a little while. Basically, my studio computer died. I'm pretty sure it's just a power supply that needs to be replaced. My single and what I have finished of my next album is backed up, so that's not a big deal, but unfortunately, the repair place is so swamped with work that it might be two weeks before I get it back. That is a great big bag of suck.

Anyway, I hope to keep things up with the blog on my laptop, but since it isn't set up the same as my studio computer, tutorials and stuff aren't quite as easily done, so things may not be as updated as often as usual. I do have some reviews I need to get to and hope not to miss too many days, but just so you know, it might be a possibility. I'm sure you'll all live. ; )

Here's hoping the rest of the week is a bit less... eventful.