Friday, October 26, 2012

Free Sample Friday: Oberheim SEM Part 1

Today's free sample collection comes from Adam and his nifty Oberheim SEM re-issue.  More to come!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rules of the Road: They're Just Not That Into You

Unless you’re extraordinarily lucky, if you’ve played a live show before, you’ve had one of those shows where the crowd seems completely indifferent to your band, if not outright hostile.  It’s just a fact of playing live.  That doesn’t stop it from feeling lousy, though.  Like most things having to do with touring, what matters most is how you handle the situation, not necessarily that the situation happened.  So today, I thought I’d go over a few things related to this very topic.

• Don’t Take It Personally – Although it’s hard not to do so, the worst thing you can do is take a difficult audience personally.  As I said before, almost everyone experiences this from time to time.  Maybe they’re just not into your particular style.  Maybe you just have an audience of “watchers” versus “dancers and screamers”.  Maybe you’re an opening act and people just aren’t familiar enough with your material yet, so they’re just checking you out.  There are literally dozens of reasons an audience might be indifferent to you that have nothing to do with you personally.

• Don’t Insult the Audience – Just about the worst thing you can do in a situation like this is to insult the audience.  “You guys are fucking LAME!”  “This is the worst audience we’ve ever had!”  “Our genius is lost on you!”  Even if the audience is outright hostile, you don’t have to take the bait.  Be the bigger person and soldier on.  There are few things that look more pathetic than a band the crowd isn’t digging lashing out at the crowd.  Man up and build a thick skin or you’re not going to get far.

•  Don’t Apologize – This is sort of the polar opposite of the previous item.  “Sorry we suck so bad.”  Take some pride in what you’re doing, even if you’re a newbie.  Again, it just looks lame.

• Have a Sense of Humor About It – If you’re a naturally funny person and are quick on your feet, a little self-depreciating humor can go a long way.  If the audience sees you don’t take yourself overly seriously, they may very well warm up to you.

• Be Gracious – You don’t have to kiss the audience’s ass, but be polite and thank them every now and then throughout the set.  It’s a privilege to play in front of an audience.  No one owes you a thing.  Remember that and express it frequently.

• Do the Show for You – Playing music is supposed to be fun.  It can be easy to forget that if you feel slighted in some way by an audience.  So don’t worry about the audience.  Focus on making the music happen and have fun with your bandmates.  Look at it as a glorified practice section. Few things are more infectious than a band that is obviously having a blast onstage.  Even if the audience doesn’t dig what you’re doing musically, they’ll at least respect the passion with which you practice your craft.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Eventide Releases H3000 Ultra Harmonizer Plug-in

There are certain pieces of gear that are so venerated that they are spoken of with a sense of near-holiness.  Eventide's H3000 Harmonizer was one of those pieces of hardware.  Now, excitingly, Eventide has translated several of the algorithms from that unit into plug-in form.  The H3000 Factory combines pitch-shifting, filtering, modulation, and delay type effects in a modular interface that allows the different effects blocks to be combined in virtually limitless ways.  The introductory price is $199, with the regular price coming in at a steep $349.  Certainly a fraction of the price of the real thing, but possibly a bit excessive.  The plug-in is available in AAX, VST, and AU formats in both PC and Mac formats.

My Kind of Keyboard

The Beer Cans Keyboard Movie from Viorel Spinu on Vimeo.

Waveformless Audio DIVA Prima Soundset Review on Rekkerd

Thanks to Ronnie over at for his review of my DIVA Prima soundset for u-he's awesome DIVA synth...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Moog Releases Free Update for Minitaur

Moog has released a brand new firmware update for their Minitaur synth offering several new features including the ability to store 100 user presets, a new Decay/Release mode that allows those parameters to be controlled independently, the ability to work as a MIDI to CV converter and more.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Analog Ultra-Violence

Very cool article over on CultureRamp on how the sound of Moog synths became associated with the sound of evil in 60's and 70's film...


Monday, October 15, 2012

Rules of the Road: For Your Health!

Fact: If you go on tour for a significant amount of time, you're going to get sick on the road.  You're shaking hands with fans, eating poorly, getting less sleep, you're traveling in a van/bus/plane with lots of other people breathing recirculated air, and you're often experiencing drastic changes in climates in short periods of time - all of this is a recipe for even the heartiest immune system to take a beating.  While there is no sure-fire way to avoid what I affectionately refer to as "the Tour Crud", there is a lot you can do to put the odds more in your favor.

• Wash Your Hands - This seems like common sense, but every time I use a public restroom, I am constantly grossed out by how few people wash their hands after using it.  Your hands are probably the number one body part for spreading germs.  Handle some money at the merch booth from someone with a cold, rub your nose, and boom.  You're sick.  So wash your hands as frequently as possible without going all Howard Hughes.  Keep some hand sanitizer with you and be conscious to use it when you've been in contact with a lot of people.

• Take Your Vitamins - While there is a lot of controversy about whether or not vitamin supplements are as effective as the vitamins you receive in food, it never hurts to give yourself a boost.  Just be sure to take them with food or you'll just urinate them out without them being absorbed properly.

• Keep An Eye on Your Diet - Unless you have reached the levels of stardom where you only eat in the finest restaurants or have a personal chef, chances are, you're going to be eating rather poorly when you're on tour - snacks from gas stations, fast food, questionable pizza, etc.  Even if you're trying, it can be tough to eat right when you're on tour.  But, if you make the effort, you can at least intersperse the culinary atrocities of the Circle K with the occasional salad, healthy snacks like seeds, nuts, and dried fruits, or even fresh fruits picked up at a quick trip to the supermarket.  Try and make sure you're getting enough fiber, too, as the changes to your diet you usually experience on the road can cause digestive... issues.

• Subdue Your Booze, Dude - I know no one wants to hear this one, but it's true.  Excessive alcohol consumption not only robs you of REM sleep, but it can compromise your immune system as well.  By all means, have fun and party like the rock star you aspire to be, but not every night.  Give your body a chance to heal itself.  Alcohol is rough on your voice, too, if you're a singer.  Take it easy unless you aspire to sound like Tom Waits.

• Get Some Damn Sleep - This can be the toughest one.  Oftentimes, you're getting back to the hotel at 3AM and have to get up again at 7 or 8 to get on the road again.  You're usually in noisy environments that make it tough to sleep, too.  What helps you get more and better sleep is probably pretty specific to you.  Try getting a white noise app for your phone to help filter out arguing hotel neighbors or snoring bandmates.  Jacked up on the adrenaline of performing and can't wind down?  Try natural supplements like Melatonin or Valerian Root to help you fall asleep faster.  Learn to take "power naps" - you'd be amazed how refreshing even a 15-20 minute nod off can be.  Also keep an eye on your caffeine consumption.  It doesn't effect everyone, but for some people, too much can mean a night of counting the cracks in your hotel ceiling (holy crap, did that one just MOVE?  Is that a centipede?!)

Looking back at this handful of suggestions, you might find it amusing that they are all things your mother has told you for years.  Who knew?  Moms are the original rock stars!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rules of the Road: The Soundman - Til Death Do You Part

As I mentioned previously, I am on tour with my band at the moment, so I thought it might be valuable to share some tips on things I've learned over 16 years of doing live shows.  I thought I'd start out by talking about one of the most important rules of all: don't piss off the sound guy (or girl).  On the surface, this rule almost seems self-evident.  But anyone who has done a bit of touring knows that not all sound people are created equally.  Most will be great to work with, but sooner or later, you're going to have a bad experience.  How you handle that situation can make the difference between a good and a bad show.

Regardless of the skill or lack thereof your sound tech possesses, they have ultimate control over how you sound to the audience.  The first thing you should always do when you arrive at a venue is to introduce yourself to the sound guy and learn his name.  It sounds like a very small thing, but so few bands bother to do this, I think it really does at least show some respect.  Being a sound tech can be a soul-crushing job.  They generally aren't paid well, they have to work with tons of bands they probably can't stand the music of, and they get abused a lot.  Keep that in mind and afford your sound person some patience.

This doesn't mean you have to put up with everything.  If you're having legitimate problems working with a sound person, you are well within your rights to talk to the promoter or venue contact about said problems.  But take a second to ask yourself whether what you're up against is really a problem or if you're just being a dick.  Not every venue you play is going to be the Hollywood Bowl.  Chances are, a good deal of the venues you'll play in will be downright shitholes.  What matters here is not whether the venue is "worthy" of your brand of musical genius, but how you can get the best possible results for your audience with what the venue can deliver.  If that means a mono mix through the front of house, or less monitor mixes than you'd prefer, you can make it work.  Don't be a pussy.

Sooner or later, you'll encounter the Angry Sound Person.  This is usually someone called in at the last minute because the usual person called out sick.  They're pissed.  They're not happy to be there.  And, in their minds, YOUR shitty band is to blame.  Sometimes they are inconsolable.  No matter what you do, they're going to do a half-assed job and try their best to make you feel guilty for having the audacity to want to play a show.  But you'd be surprised what a difference it can make if you offer to do something as small as carrying the monitors to the stage.  Call your sound person by their name.  Be cool and collected.  Offer to help however you can.  Let them know, you're not stressed and will give them the time to do what they need to do.  This has turned around bad situations for my band more times than I can recall.  It takes virtually no effort, and it generally gets them on "your side" and wanting to do a good job for you.

Under no circumstances do you ever speak abusively or get aggressive with your sound person.  I don't care if they are King Asshole of Douchebag Mountain.  Even if you're having problems in the middle of a set, let them know what your problem is politely, and I guarantee you get better results than if you berate them in front of a crowd.  Abusing your sound staff also just makes you look like a prima donna.  Seriously.  No audience member has ever thought a band was cooler because they yelled at a sound guy.  Ever.  If you give a good performance, the audience will like it whether it's coming through a knackered set of speakers in a metal club or a pristine 5.1 surround system.  If your sound person is impossible to work with, talk calmly to the promoter or venue management. Sometimes alternate arrangements can be made.

At the end of the night, always make an effort to thank your sound guy for a job well done if you feel they've done so. Shake their hand.  Make them feel appreciated.  Again, it takes virtually no effort, but so few bands bother to do even this.  Your sound person is your lifeline to the crowd.  Remember that and appreciate it.

One final Tour Truism I would like to share is a bit on the flip-side of what I've been talking about here, but I swear it's true. The more the sound person drops names or talks about all the "big stars" they've worked with, the worse they are likely to be.  In my experience, the people who have the skills don't brag about it.  They let their results speak for themselves.  Only afterwards do I usually find out from other people that a sound person worked at Abbey Road or toured with Pink Floyd.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Free Sample Friday: Demolition Clean-up

More samples courtesy of Adam's home renovation project...

"Four rich sounding samples of the tile clean up with a broom, pan, and shovel. I whacked a few tiles with the shovel just to be sure..."


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cableguys Introduce Curve 2

Cableguys have announced version 2 of their Curve synth.  You can download a fully-functional demo here.   The new version is totally free for existing Curve users and until November 1st, it is available to everyone else at the special price of $129 US.

Here's what they have to say...

• Sound FeaturesCurve features aliasing-free oscillators with custom waveforms, noise generation and broad FM options. Waveform crossfades provide for changing timbres; a comprehensive unison mode delivers fat lead sounds, wide pads and massive sound. Drawable LFOs deliver everything from melodic and rhythmic patterns to dubstep wobbles and punishing bit-crushing effects. Flexible filter routing, a feature-rich mono mode plus legato and glide, are all designed for great depth of control.

• Preset LibraryCurve's preset library is a shared online database, providing a constant source of inspirational sound. Public preset sharing allows an ever-increasing number of great presets, public preset voting will help you manage the vast number of sounds, all from within the plugin. Curve ships with an excerpt of this ever-growing sound library. Macro knobs let you explore vast sound variations quickly, for quick access to those parameters that define the core of a sound.

• Elegant InterfaceCurve shows you everything important at a glance, featuring high contrasts and a fresh color scheme. Inbuilt MIDI assignment allows you to set up external MIDI controllers quickly.

• Curve Community Since the first beta of Curve 1.0, the Curve community has steered the synthesizer's future by submitting feature requests, comments and bug reports, and by sharing presets. Curve 2 is the result of our users submitting wishes and uploading great sounds. Big thanks to all of you!"

EML ElctroComp-101 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Gear Porn @ Osaka's Implant4 Synth Store

[via MusicOfSound]

Ableton Releases Free Daniel Miller Arp 2600 Percussion Sample Pack

Ableton have released a free sample pack for registered users of Live featuring synthetic drum and percussion sounds form Mute Records head honcho Daniel Miller.  Miller famously created many of the drum sounds on the first Depeche Mode album using the formidable Arp 2600, which is precisely what he used to create the sounds in this sample pack.  150 sounds are organized into 8 Live Drum Racks.



Moog Source on eBay

Info at the listing...

Cheetah MS-6 on eBay

British synth that is very similar to the Oberheim Matrix-1000, but you can edit the sounds directly without need for an external editor.  I actually prefer the sound of the Cheetah to the Matrix, too.

Info at the listing...