Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Tale of 3 DAWs

Its been a big month for iOS music app updates with the iPad native NanoStudio (finally!) and updated to many others. I thought I would blog a little bit about what DAWs I use (and perhaps what I don't and why).

My "big 3" DAWs lately seem to be NanoStudio, Music Studio 2 and Garageband. Missing from the common list is Multitrack DAW, Meteor and BeatMaker 2. Multitrack DAW is primarily used with audio files and since I do mostly MIDI, I haven't found a need for it. It also is useful for live recording - another feature I don't use. Meteor is a bit more complete but expensive. Every little feature costs more - a bit of a turnoff though I hear great things about it. BeatMaker, I have to admit is a personal thing. In my opinion, the interface for MIDI editing was heavily borrowed (stolen) from NanoStudio and that sort of thing just turns me off on the company - great product by most accounts though. Music Studio also has a MIDI piano roll editor and at least they used their own design there.

iPad Native NanoStudio

So when to use what? NanoStudio is often the idea generator. When I think of all the soft synths I have and begin to get a sound in my head, I sometimes go to the Eden synth in NanoStudio and quickly patch up the sound there rather than work through audio copy/paste with the other synths. In many cases this is enough. If I have a few samples I want pulled in, I record them to the TRG pads and roll away. If I had to pick only one DAW to work in on the iPad/iPod, this would probably be it. The editing is complete, the sounds are great - the interface very well laid out and the author is extremely responsive to support questions and enhancements.

While waiting for NanoStudio, I picked up Music Studio 2 which is nice in many ways though very different. The biggest feature I like in Music Studio 2 is its support for audio files. Music Studio gives you tons of sampled instruments (think of them more as "presets" - very similar to Garageband on the iMac), but also lets you paste audio files. So, if I really want to use some of my stand alone synths from the iPad, Music Studio is a great place to consolidate and edit the resulting WAV files, as well as add additional sounds from its library. Where it is weakest is in its effect bus, but usually I add the effects on the synth before generating a WAV file.

Lastly, Garageband for iPad/iPod is still a very useful performance tool. I find it very different than its big brother on the Mac but it is a favorite. Recording guitar parts, bass lines or keyboards is a pleasure on it and it also support audio file "pasting" - though it is a one way trip. To finalize the song, I almost always have to upload it to the Mac and use either Garageband or Logic 9 for mixing/mastering - not really a bad thing!

I have many other tools I am just getting the hang of (iSequence HD, Rhythm Studio, etc) but I am still learning those.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Logic Semi-Pro!

Big news for the iMac - sort of. Logic X is still not released but Logic 9 has been repackaged in the iMac App store and the price reduced. If you haven't sprung for Logic 9, you can now get the Pro version for $199 rather than spending the $499 for Logic Studio. Some of the more esoteric wave shaping and video options are missing but otherwise, it is the Studio version for the former Logic Express price - Great news if you don't have Logic 9 yet.

Logic Express is a casualty though - it is no longer being sold and the new release of Pro is um... a point upgrade from 9.1.5 to 9.1.6. For those, like me, who have Logic 9 Express, $199 is an awful lot of money for a point release.

The appealing part of upgrading is getting access to a few cool synth modules that are not in Express (such as Sculpture) and access to all of the software instruments and loops in Apples jam packs. This is a considerable value - the instruments more than the loops since I tend to play my tracks these days!

There is somewhat good news there if you can live with a few compromises. Apple also has unbundled the performance software, Mainstage and is selling it for $29. Both Logic Pro 9 and Mainstage purchases let you download all of the jam packs.

Soooo, in my case, I am keeping Logic Express and I purchased Mainstage even though I have no interest in performing. I have downloaded all of the jam packs and instruments which all appear now in Logic Express as well - so a $29 "sort of" upgrade that i can live with.

The downside is that while the cool additive Sculpture synth is available for use in Mainstage, it does not appear in the Logic Express menus - trying to see if I can get that to work but I am not optimistic.

I probably will upgrade to Logic X when/if it appears, but til then, this seems to be a good option.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Synth1 plugin for my Logic setup

Just got an incredible freeware synth for Logic/Garageband called Synth1. Its been out a long time as a Windows-only VST plugin and has been ported (in beta form) to Apple. By using a freeware AU to VST bridge, I can use it in either Garageband or Logic 9. The site is in Japanese, but there is English documentation available.

I put together the piece below using drum loops and 7 instances of the Synth1 for 9 tracks total. The CPU barely registered anything despite all the parts. The analog sounds out of this synth are very fat.

The interface isn't the prettiest but one great feature is that everything is on a single screen - no tabs, scrolling etc. so as a performance synth its pretty cool. It also supports MIDI learn to set up CC events or knobs to your hardwire.

The piece below features some bass patches - tweaked from presets and several tweaked versions of leads - one phased, one with heavy unison and one legato. There are thousands of free presets available for download on the web - just Google.

This plugin sounds as good or better than my (very expensive) Moog plugins from Arturia.
Here's what I put together with it - sort of just a jazz/funk jam session:

Honey Seeker by oldlibmike

Edit: Just more trivia of interest to synth heads maybe - The scratching section half way through the song was sort of serendipitous. I usually rehearse a part a few times before recording and I was working on the lead when I heard the cool scratching noise which was weird since I didn't have any such patch in the song. I realized that I had the wrong track selected - I was playing the bass line in a higher register instead of the lead line. I decided I liked the sound so I duplicated the bass line and played it in a new track - no scratching at all though just clean notes in a higher pitch. I wondered what was going on and finally figured out that it was the monophonic track along with its glide. when I played on the bass line with the other notes there, the "scratching" was the slide from the bass note to the higher note.

I finally got the sound by copying the baseline notes to a new track, recording the high notes for the "scratch" and then using a spectral filter to filter out the low notes since they tended to "click". So there - far more information than necessary.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New DAW (for me)

With the universal version of NanoStudio coming up, I took another look around at what other DAWs were doing and finally took the plunge on Xewton's Music Studio 2. I had looked hard at this before purchasing NanoStudio a year ago and at that time, it was lacking many needed features (audio copy/paste, audio file support etc).

I'm happy to see that almost everything has been added and this is a very nice DAW to compose in. For my first humble effort, I used only instruments native to the app but it is an easy thing to record parts in other synths and then paste them in as full audio files - which I will be taking advantage of soon!

The price is a bit higher than some - $15 for the app and $15 for additional instruments but I think I will get tons of use out of this. It surpasses NanoStudio in its support for Audio files but is behind in its lack of built-in synths and somewhat limited effects processing options and mixing. It will be more complementary to my other apps rather than replacing them.

Here is a quick example - a short melodic piece using all native instruments. 

Some Days are Like that by oldlibmike

Saturday, November 12, 2011

More on iPad music workflow

ReBirth Audio track with GB tracks added (iPad)
Its been awhile since I posted so I thought I might put a few new thoughts together again on musical workflows involving the iPad. I have put several songs together in recent weeks here, and have used many different methods to combine and produce finished works. Also there have been many new synths and updates to existing ones that make life slightly easier!
One gap on my huge list of iPad apps is an audio-file based DAW (or as SmiteMatter likes to term it - and iDaw). I have looked with interest at MultiTrack DAW, Meteor MultiTrack recorder, and most recently Music Studio. These all have their pros and cons. The first two would let me combine audio files together into tracks, apply effects, panning etc and master on the iPad. Cool idea but only half the solution - limited Midi and both a bit expensive in iPad terms ($15 and $20 respectively with additional in-app costs to extend them further). Music Studio is a bit more robust with software instruments, audio files and lots of tracks - and might be in my future.

For now, though, having so many other options, I find enough ways to edit audio, combine audio and midi and put together songs entirely (or nearly entirely) on the iPad. I am not a purist that will not export off the iPad before publishing - I love the interface of the iPad for creating and playing tracks but will take advantage of my iMac for mastering and converting formats.

I continually come back to NanoStudio as an iDAW and often find it entirely sufficient with its own Eden synths and TRG pads. When I want to add shortish snippets from other synths, it is fairly easy to use Audio Copy/Paste (ACP) to pop samples onto TRG pads. NanoStudio's powerful effects engines and mixer are probably my favorite option I have on the iPad. The incredible Animoog synth works very well with NanoStudio since it can only record small samples. All of these fit easily into TRG pads. Its worth reminding you that NanoStudio is an iPhone/iPod app currently. I prefer it scaled up on the iPad and there is a native version in the works but don't let the fact that its not iPad native put you off - it is extremely usable!

My other favorite iDAW (well much more than that) is of course Garageband which is now both iPad and iPhone/iPod compatible. Besides being an incredible musical DAW on its own, recent releases have added um...1/2 of ACP. You can paste audio into Garageband but can't copy it out (sort of a musical Roach Motel!). Indeed SmiteMatter passes on the app since you can't really produce a finished result without uploading to a computer - more on that in a bit. In my piece Running Sacred, I used another favorite of mine, ReBirth to do a techno track and then added some sampled voices and synths to it with Garageband. ReBirth also recently added audio copy to their app (GarageBand only pastes, ReBirth only copies - very symbiotic!).

Garageband is limited to 8 tracks so if you have many audio tracks, you probably want to combine them or "bounce" them before putting them into Garageband. My solution there is Hokusai audio editor, which lets me paste in multiple tracks, apply any number of effects or edits and then combine them and copy them back to the ACP clipboard. This reminds me of the early days of Garageband on my underpowered G4 iMac where I would bounce or lock many tracks since the CPU wasn't that robust. Of course I can't copy the tracks out of Garageband so the solution is to paste them out of the original apps, combine them and then paste the resulting combination back to Garageband.

There are some postings on how to bounce tracks from Garageband itself but this is a very bad idea. Garageband does let you export and email a file but it first mixes it down to a 128 kbs m4a file which is very lossy. Not a good way to move around audio!

I think Garageband is a much better fit for folks with Apple computers than Windows fans. Garageband does make it easy to upload your project file to Garageband on the Mac or Logic 9 (I use the latter). Once on the full DAW, you can do almost anything! I tend to clean up the mix, add any automations, fades or midi edits needed and then publish the song.

One point sometimes brought up about iPad synths is keyboard support. If I need to use the camera connection kit, a USB chord and compact keyboard on the iPad I really lose interest. Once the portability factor is gone, I may as well use my desktop DAW with a keyboard - way more powerful! But I do like the iPad keyboard for some things. You should check out all of the cool options in Animoog for keys. I have read many critiques saying that keyboards on the iPad feel unnatural. One area where I distinctly prefer the iPad is for portamento or glide parts. It is far easier to slide over smooth surface for these sort of sounds than carefully playing legato on a traditional keyboard.

Whew...well this post is all over the place - I welcome your comments or ideas on how you work with iPads or iPad/computer combinations. I haven't even touched on using the iPad as a wireless MIDI controller for Logic - maybe another time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No Static at all.....more on Mixtikl

After viewing some videos and playing around with Mixtikl, I was enamored with the FM DSynth in Mixtikl - predominantly because I was a bit frustrated with the Partikl synth. The FM synth is predominantly used for drum sounds in Mixtikl but does let you put together some nice bell-like tones as this piece hopefully demonstrates.

Mixtikl brings up the question on what a performance or recording is. This software is geared towards "Generative Music" as popularized by Brian Eno quite some time ago. So was this effort creative or just music engineering? The process to make the piece involved programming a rhythm pattern, then putting in rules on just how that pattern evolved - how frequent a rest versus a note - what scale to follow - what probabilities for each note - which voices should follow other voices in the mix - should a track be leading or harmonizing with others etc. etc.

In many ways this is a programming project which is probably what I love about this tool. In other ways, such as the creation of every synth patch, the effort is somewhat creative and musical. Defining the rhythms is definitely more music than programs even if it is shown as a sequence of durations, velocities and pitches.

So art or science? Or just another annoying etude of mine? :)

In any case, I like the outcome and hope to do much more with Mixtikl in the future. Here is the piece:

No Static at all

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pushing those buttons!

Brief Stop on the Median by oldlibmike

While I've been distracted by several cool new iPad tools, I finally got around to recording a piece I was working on in Aurora Sound Studio HD. I bought the tool when it reduced its price from $39 to $14 though it is still on the high side.

Aurora is very similar to the TNR-I (Tenori-On) app, but it tries to be a bit more of a full DAW with exporting, sequencing etc rather than a performance instrument like the TNR-I. I say "tries" because once I had painstakingly sequenced in my patterns, I exported the file to WAV format and was disappointed to see that Aurora distorted two of my patterns where a smooth sweep became a staccato mess. This prevented me from putting up the piece for so long that I finally gave up, put the headphone jack into the mic-in and recorded it via audio.

The audio output of the headphone jack on the iPad is quite noisy so I used a noise-gate in Logic-9 to clean up the resulting audio and I think it came out ok. I may use this technique for other synths that make recording difficult (such as the TNR-I and the excellent but hard to record AniMoog).

Using the 16x16 grids for sequencing is a novel approach and in some instances I like it better than banging on fake piano keyboards but it can be very time consuming to get a full piece put together. I think as far as push button sequencing goes, I like the TNR-I a bit better but Aurora does provide more functionality - if only it would work properly!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Well, its been awhile since I posted and I was going to put up a post about the cool Korg M1 plug-in that I'm using with Logic 9 or the new work I've done in NanoStudio or the Korg iMS-20 still being so powerful on the iPad but....Moog went ahead and put out an iPad synthesizer called Animoog that rivals anything I have and they are charging a whopping 99 cents for it.

If you don't download it immediately, why in god's name are you reading this blog???
I could review it in depth but check out the review in Wired magazine. 

This is a phenomenal synthesizer at a ridiculous price - they claim it will jump up to $30 after 30 days. I spent $300 for two soft Moog plugins for my desktop so I didn't agonize over this purchase all that much. This joins their already excellent Filtatron app and I look forward to more in the software arena from Moog.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Obligatory Tribute :)

Well, so much has happened in the iPad music world and the Apple world in general. I suppose every Apple fan has to comment on the sad news so...

I think Steve Jobs was the perfectionist that took the genius of the other Steve (Woz) and made it palatable to humans. He transformed the geekiness of the Apple I/II/Mac to something consumer friendly and with a fanatical sense of taste, eschewed commercial success, ceded dominance to the mass-marketing PC industry and ultimately took back almost everything with a maniacal sense of style.

From a music perspective, he duped the Beatles into releasing their corporate name and then reshaped the entire music industry (and managed to settle it all in court). It is heartening to see how much Apple did and does love music and music creation - exactly how many companies would pump so much into products like GarageBand and effectively give it away?

For me, the Apple and GarageBand got me back into making music (albeit with my own amateurish slant) and for that I will always be grateful. Now with Logic on the high end and tons of products on the iPad and iPod, I can be creative where ever and whenever I want.

For me that is something incredible. I was not a "forever fan" of Apple but got in late in the game when Apple embraced Unix and could multitask effectively. There was always that sense of style, but before OSX, I didn't trust the tech behind it.

I think the company is on a good track and will continue to produce amazing products that stand out from the cookie-cutter PCs and cheap laptops that started to dominate at the start of this century.

I also think that we will see much more competition in all areas as the product lines mature and that will no doubt benefit everyone.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Back to tracks!

Analog Drip by oldlibmike

I have been looking at many new song tools and lately have put several pieces together with the Korg iMS-20 (still such a favorite!). I keep asking myself, however, why I don't do more with NanoStudio and I think the reasons are more aesthetic than logical. It is extremely powerful but the interface does involve a lot of navigation.

Nonetheless, I did dust it off and put together a sort of retro-cheesy synth piece above. I used the TRG pads for the drum beats (909 samples) which I put through a band-pass filter to play with the timbre. The lead is the Eden synth tweaked to sound a bit Moogish and the other melodies are my lousy voice sampled into NanoStudio, heavily effected (you're welcome!) and played on the keyboard.

This is still the most powerful DAW I have on my iPad and I hope to do a lot more with it - anxiously awaiting the native iPad release of the app!

Other toys I picked up and hope to use more soon are the cool TNR-i (Yamaha Tenori-On) which is a full blown implementation of the hardware version and I finally sprang for Aurora Sound Studio HD - very similar to the TNR-i which lets you make music with pattern-based sequencing - it finally had a price drop. Hopefully I will post something from Aurora soon. The TNR-i doesn't give you many options to save files out of it aside from raw MIDI.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Music on the cheap

Recently an young friend of mine started asking me about Logic prices. He is a college freshman using his MacBook pro for school as well as amateur music. I started putting a reply together and decided that it might make a good blog posting.

In his case, the platform (mac) is already decided so I won't cover Windows options - that is a different topic altogether right up there with religion and politics.

My advice to him is basically to stick to GarageBand '11 along with some great free add-ons. I made the move to logic express about 6 months ago and love the tool, but there is little that I use it for that is impossible in GarageBand, just a little less convenient in places.

It is important to remember that GarageBand is at least 100 times more powerful than the software/studio equipment used in past decades. As for saving money, it is generally free with a new Mac and only $15 if you have to buy it. So what are you missing compared to Logic?

Apple documents this fairly well but mainly it is large libraries of instruments, some effects and soft synthesizers. In the interests of saving money, these short-comings can be overcome. I don't discount the value of logic express or logic studio but on a budget, there are good free or cheap alternatives.

Garageband's loop library is a bit limited but there are thousands of free samples available online. With the Apple Loop Utility you can convert many simple WAV files into pitch shifting apple loops and build up the list. It is also possible to make use of the many soundfont libraries available.

As for Synths, Logic gives you many great built-in synths. GarageBand has a number of software instruments as well. Rather than have you tweaking every oscillator and filter, GarageBand gives simpler control of just a few parameters and bundles various sounds as software instruments. A software instrument in GarageBand is somewhat analogous to a pre-set on a software synth.

If tweaking is your thing though, GarageBand supports AU plugins just like Logic does. Two very good synthesizers to get are Crystal and TAL both free and both extremely powerful and flexible.

One necessary expense, however is a midi keyboard. You can use a laptop as a midi keyboard in a pinch but to do anything much you will need a piano keyboard. If you want portability to go with the laptop, I strongly recommend the Akai MPK mini. If you want full size keys though you sacrifice portability. In any case go for a midi over USB connection for convenience. Many keyboards can be powered from the USB port.

An iPad is also a discretionary expense but if you are fortunate enough to have one, you can get tons of cheap music making software usually for $10 or less. In fact GarageBand on the iPad is an excellent addition and uploads to the mac version (as well as logic).

Those are my initial recommendations. Feel free to comment on budget crunching music tips!

EDIT: I left out another great free tool - Audacity, a terrific and free audio file editor. By all means add that to the list.

Also, when/if you go the logic route, all GarageBand projects are easily converted and all of the instruments, loops etc are compatible with both. Take advantage of student discounts on software!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mixtikl 4 - Still a favorite

I have to admit that for all of the many iPad synth apps that I continually purchase, one of the apps that I use the most is Mixtikl. In terms of interfaces, Mixtikl is um...well, unique? Complex? Esoteric? The appeal for me is that on the desktop (iMac) or iPad or iPod, the interface as quirky as it is, is exactly the same. Mixtikl, as I have blogged before, is a very interesting application that produces "generative" music or music that evolves algorithmically into new interesting patterns. I think the "hook" for me was that Brian Eno used an earlier version (Koan) to produce an entire album. This particular tool seems perfect for my own inclinations. I love computers, always loved synths and with Mixtikl, rather then performing keyboard parts and editing ad-nauseum, I get to program the music! The new release unleashes most of the generative engine and lets me add and manipulate rules and patterns to produce sounds. I think it is more music-engineering than performing which is extremely appealing to me!There are some phenomenal tutorials available HERE that show exactly how to create precise sounds with the underlying Partikl synthesizer. Every release of Mixtikl (free by the way) have added considerable functionality and power in creating unique sounds. 

So while I underutilize NanoStudio, Sunrizer, Nlog Synth etc, I continue to return to Mixtikl when I want to put interesting soundscapes together. Perhaps this has a little to do with my keyboard skills or lack thereof but this tool continues to evolve and amaze me. If you haven't checked it out yet or are turned off by the interface....get over it and try it for awhile! 

Attached is a mixed piece with some iElectribe beats, Mixtikl loops and generative rules rolled into one 80ish melange. So, mousse up that comb-over, die it bright red and enjoy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Featured in iOS Music And You

I just got a nice mention in the iOS Music And You website featuring my NanoStudio iOS piece called "Givin it 125" - check it out here!

iOS Music and You is a relatively new site that has had some fantastic reviews and tutorials - be sure to check out their tutorials on the Sunrizer arpeggiator and on the new Retronyms Tabletop app.

They are going to feature one artist every Monday - happy to be the first :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

RIP Synthstation 25

Well.....6 volts/1 amp does not enjoy being give 12 volts/3 amps! I put the wrong power supply on the Synthstation 25 and sadly it is no more!

Now to decide whether or not to replace it. I got it to use with my iPod touch and it worked very well with NanoStudio and other synths, but I still found the screen size too small and had to use it too much. Often I would find myself moving the project to the iPad for processing and I seem to prefer the keyboard on the iPad to the "real" keys on the Synthstation.

I have a MPK mini that usually remains on my iMac and I can attach that to the iPad with the camera connection kit but I rarely do that.

So, we'll see if I feel the need for the iPod music making any time soon. For now, its predominantly back to the iPad and iMac.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Some thoughts on iPad Music workflows

I still enjoy the convenience of being able to put together electronic pieces on my couch with an iPad. In "How to Make a Noise" (a great book for learning how to put together synth sounds), Simon Can stresses the point that you should thoroughly learn a synthesizer tool before purchasing many more.

While this is good professional advice, as an amateur, I am free to ignore it and buy synth apps as soon as they come out which, of course, affects my productivity - fortunately I lack the talent and the inclination to try to make a living a producing music so I am free to fritter away my time collecting new apps, DAWs and soft synths.

With so many tools to play with, when I DO want to create something I am forced to think a bit about where I am going with the project. Early on I have to decide:

  • Will this be developed solely on the iPad or will I upload and refine the project in Garageband or Logic 9?
  • Will I use a "studio" type app that lets me put together all the tracks in one go or will I be using Audiocopy and paste?
If I am going to go the "upload" route, I am inclined to use Garageband on the iPad as a starting point. It is one of the best "performing" tools that I have and is incredibly fun to use for guitar riffs, bass lines or even synthesized leads. With the new capability to paste in audio files from other apps, it can even act a a bit of a DAW. I can then upload to the iMac and continue to refine the project in Logic 9 or Garageband '11.

More often than not, however, I am finding myself putting together projects on just the iPad - not sure why that is but I seem to enjoy it more. There are several "self-contained" tools that let me combine beats, bass and leads and I do most of my work there. These tools include NanoStudio, GarageBand, Mixtikl, Korg iMS-20 and Xenon Studio. 

The tools I own that get neglected are the single synth gems such as NLog Pro, Sunrizer, Addictive Synth and SynthX. For these "single-tracking" tools, it takes a good deal more work and imagination to get something going and I have yet to do much with them. I tend to take a "layering" approach to building up songs starting with drum beats and basslines and then gradually adding in leads.

One project I am still working on was done as: 
  1. Creating some patterns in the Korg iElectribe
  2. Pasting the patterns into Mixtikl and adding some generative sounds and a few Mixtikl loops
  3. Moving the project to the iMac, mixing down the Mixtikl song with the desktop version to a WAV file
  4. Importing the WAV file into Logic 9 and adding some synth leads there
In tools such as SynthX or Sunrizer, they play more or less on their own. You can with Sunrizer play background drum beats but it takes a lot of imagination to hear the finished project. SynthX is much worse - a great synth but not even a metronome - how on earth do you create something that fits the beat? I don't really want to beat-stretch in Logic after the fact.

So for now I seem to be doing most of my work with the "studio" type products on the iPad. I'd love to hear other ideas and workflows that work for others if you care to comment.

Here is a "studio" style project I put together with the Korg iMS-20:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Going back to basics!

26 bliss by oldlibmike

OK, after doing a piece in 5/4 time on the iPad, another with only one synth plug-in and another in under 1 minute, I sort of wanted something basic.

I put together the song above in Garageband for the iPad, uploaded it to the newest version of Logic 9 Express and remixed there. Very basic track with drums, bass, 2 guitars and a synth. This one sort of sounds like it needs lyrics and vocals - maybe if I get ambitious or find a singer that will happen.

Garageband on the iPad is equally amazing and frustrating. The performance aspects are incredible and then you try to edit/mix....not so much there. Thankfully, it is now possible to upload to either Garageband '11 or Logic 9 easily and continue the process there. It is a one-way trip though.

My wife isn't a huge fan of electronica but 26 years is a very long time for me to be so happy.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

One Synth Challenge - MacJams

My first and still favorite music posting site is MacJams. Since 2004 I have been posting songs there that I put together in Garageband or Logic. The site is mostly very welcoming and has a mix of amateurs, semi-pros and pros contributing songs. I fall solely into the amateur status.

Recently they posted a challenge to use an open-source synthesizer to make a song using only the one plugin. I wasn't familiar with it but TAL is a pretty nice freeware synthesizer.

The hard part of using only the one tool for me was in putting together the drum track. Normally I use sampled drums or drum loops. Here I had to create one track per drum - bass, toms, snare, high hat etc.

There were some really cool submissions in the electronica vein and even a tango! You can see the submissions from all folks here. Since most of my genres were covered, I went with jazz and tried to put together a keyboard heavy jazz funkish piece. I was hoping to use Thumbjam as a MIDI controller but was disappointed to find that it suffered some real latency issues and worse still was dropping a few notes. This might have been on the iPad side of things but I resorted to using my Akai MPK-mini keyboard instead. I did cheat and I transposed the keyboard for G-Minor so I could play on white keys.

I was reasonably pleased with the results and it was pretty cool having the limits imposed. I think it actually took less time since I wasn't searching for that perfect sound or effect.

Anyway, my own piece is here:

TAL in the saddle

Apologies for the title but I took this over TALoneous Monk. I have posted other songs with single synths such as the iMS-20 on the iPad or NanoStudio's Eden but this was pretty fun.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I got some time to spend with my iPod touch and new Akai Synthstation 25 and NanoStudio. This combination works very well for the performing aspects of a song. The Synthstation is nice in that it has a pitch bend wheel and Mod wheel (but no knobs or drum pads).

I found the actual editing and sequencer tasks to be a bit maddening and I decided to finish the tune on the iPad rather than on the SynthStation/iPod combo. I think overall, I prefer the iPad for sound creation - it is very hard to control the small screen of the iPod and the battery life is much lower than the iPad.

To make full use of NanoStudio, I decided to try a piece in 5/4 time. This forced me to play the tracks one by one and was really quite fun - not Brubeck worthy but I like the result!

Anyway, one more example from an iPod/iPad only effort - comments are welcome and since it is free, I will gladly refund 125% of the purchase price to anyone dissatisfied.

Givin it 125 by oldlibmike

Thursday, June 16, 2011

FInally Moogin' it

I finally had time to put some Moog tracks together. I had a groove that I had sitting around on the iPad created in Xenon Groove Synthesizer.

The track from the iPad involves 4 synths and a drum track. I took this into Logic Express 9 converted to Apple loops and performed two MiniMoog solos along with it.

One uses the Formant filter giving a sort of "vocal" feel to the track and the other is just a fast paced jam - both played on the AKAI MPK mini keyboard.

Took awhile mixing and refining but I was happy with the results. The first 32 bars are Xenon only and the rest involve the other synths.

Hope you like it!

Tiny Tim finally sees God by oldlibmike

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Still smaller...

I guess my iPad wasn't small enough for my music noodling, so a new addition to my collection is an iPod touch 4th gen and the Akai Synthstation 25. Some of my music software runs well on the iPod (NanoStudio, Xenon Studio, Moog Filtatron) but a few others I had to buy again (Nlog Midi is a nice mini version of NLog Pro synthesizer with a few less oscillators).

I also picked up the synthstation software from Akai which lets you play with 3 synths and a drum machine all of $2. Overall, however, NanoStudio is the best product that supports the synthstation.

NanoStudio runs flawlessly, uses some of the buttons to easily switch from window to window and sounds great. The synthstation is a bit different than the MPK mini that I also use in that it has no drumpads or knobs but does include the pitch bend wheel and mod wheel. It also can work with my iMac or iPad if I need the wheel features. I will probably almost never plug in my old Edirol PCR-30 now.

I have used the iPod touch by itself for a few NanoStudio pieces and it is actually not that terrible, but plugged into the Akia synthstation its a pleasure to use.

It doesn't have speakers so to hear your sound you have to use headphones and it is not compatible with every iPod music app but it is a very nice addition to my music gear.

It is a bit of a pain moving project files around for NanoStudio right now since you have to run NanoSync to move files from the portable devices to the computer and back again. Perhaps the new iCloud product from Apple will be of use in future versions - I would love to seamlessly work on projects from any device. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mixtikl 3!

It's been a busy few weeks. Besides a work trip to Denmark, two of my favorite tools upgraded. NanoStudio is now at 1.2 and Mixtikl 3 has come out.

I think NanoStudio is getting a fair amount of coverage so I thought I'd write a bit about my use of Mixtikl. Mixtikl first got my attention in it's ability to create generative music which is basically music that evolves algorithmically. In fact, the authors of Mixtikl previously had a product called Koan that was used by Brian Eno on his Generative Music 1 album.

The product had previously been released on pre-iOS devices and the interface sort of reflects that heritage. It is very quirky and seems to usually take more clicks than necessary. Nonetheless, once you get the hang of it, it is very quick to put together mixes.

I started with the iOS version and liked it so much that I bought the iMac version (it is available for Windows as well). The desktop versions will function as VST or AU plugins for other DAWs. I love using it where I want a nice evolving drone sound in a piece. No longer do I need to find a loop or play complicated synth sequences - just drop in a nice evolving sound and it is done.

On any platform, Mixtikl can also function as a DAW on it's own if you wish. The app gives you 12 tracks each with 4 cells that can contain either loops from the program or WAV files of any length. With the ability to repeat any cell as many times as you want, this allows you to put together fairly complex mixes.

You can set cells to repeat a set number of times and then a random number beyond that. If you are careful about your math, you can also create some non-evolving simple looping pieces. You do have to be careful that you count your measures properly so that the tracks cycle at the same rate if that is what you wish. For example, if you put a sample in a cell that is 2 bars long, you use the repeat count x 2 for determining length. You can set a "blank" cell to repeat if you need rests or delays.

The best features of Mixtikl are the generative capabilities though. You can put generative loops that slowly evolve as they play and you can now tweak the notes used, rules for generating and even change the sounds. The one part that is a bit difficult is that the built in synthesizer (Partikl) does not take any keyboard input - you have to feed it either a Noatikl loop or a MIDI file so you have to first bang out a melody elsewhere.

The track below is a nice chilled generative piece (though since it is recorded, it sounds the same everytime). If you were to play this in Mixtikl, it would be different every time you heard it!

Adrift in the passing lane by oldlibmike

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I've always had a soft spot for Moog equipment and never the budget to own the hardware. For quite awhile I've been looking at the offerings from Arturia.

Arturia offers some very precise digitally modeled versions of many classic synthesizers though at a significant price - usually around $200 street price.

In the Moog category they offer the Minimoog and the more intimidating but cooler Moog modular. I was on the fence about purchasing either of these for some time and was thrilled to see that they have combined them in a special edition along with some nice extras - the Moog DVD, a small book of some of Bob Moog's notes and a cool geeky button. Better still, the price is $300 with some of the profits going to the Moog foundation (creating a museum to honor Bob Moog and his inventions).

The package is solely for desktop computers - Windows or Mac and the Minimoog and modular sound phenomenal! The Minimoog gives you immediate productivity but the modular takes things to another level if you have the patience to figure it out. You get to patch together any number of modules to make an infinite combination of sounds.

I am loving both modules and use them primarily as AU plugins in Logic 9 (they also work as VSTs). I hope to post some examples soon.

There is always debate about digital versions of analog synths but I think it is analogous to the CD vs vinyl debate. The emulations are excellent! Of course there are many software synths available at that price or lower with more capabilities, but there really is something special about using the same techniques that Moog pioneers employed.

On the iPad side, I wish Moog or Arturia would release something like the Korg iMS-20 but for now, the only iPad Moog item is the Moog Filtatron. This is a faithful recreation of the famous ladder filter and some other Moog effects. It is a bit limited. You can process WAV files through it or mix in it's single oscillator, but you can't play a keyboard directly into it. This means that you pretty much have to combine it with other iPad tools to make music. It does support copy and paste so it is pretty useable.

I haven't used it yet in any of my own compositions - maybe soon.

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Analog equipment with 6 vibrating oscillators

Marty Chamberlain offered up a nice performance on the analog device shown left which he oscillates via a "plucking" interface fed into a recording/digitizing device.

This new version of the track shows that while it is possible to emulate analog performances, there is a lot of expression that midi just can't provide.
Here is an updated version of "A Minor Urge" with Marty's live guitar performance replacing the Garageband instruments. The rest of the tracks, Clavinet, Synth, Drums, Bass are still synthesized with a small violin audio loop included.

So in three posts, I've tried Thumbjam guitars, Garageband guitars and finally, a guitar (albeit with a real guitar player). Progress!

A Minor Urge - Live Guitar by oldlibmike

Friday, May 13, 2011

Garageband for iPad Revisited

While I wait for the latest Nanostudio and Mixtikl updates to hit the App store, I went back to Garageband for iPad for my last piece. I wrote a bit before about some of its advantages and shortcomings. After creating a more complete piece I have a few more thoughts.  I found that the iPad screen makes for an incredible "ribbon-controller" for synthesizers. In the piece below, I was able to slide from note to note in the synth lead on the flat keyboard. You can almost accomplish this on a keyboard by using a high portamento or glide setting but it is actually much easier over the smooth iPad surface. I hope to use this a lot more in the future. 

I love the idea of smart drums where you move pieces of the kit on the grid (simple to complex and soft to loud). I found on a video that you can actually record the movement of the drums to vary up the beats a bit. I did not do that in this piece but will do so in future pieces.

As I mentioned in my Thumbjams post, guitar parts are not easy for me but I do love picking a scale and using the fretboard to pick out guitar solos. That is what I did for the guitar lead on this piece. The rhythm guitar is a smart instrument where I cycled through a few chord progressions.

The other good news is that Garageband '11 has been updated and you can now easily upload your project to the iMac to complete and enhance. This is good news because other than this, there is no way to combine other loops or WAV files into your Garageband projects on the iPad.

What is still lacking is a means of mixing various sources together on the iPad itself. Garageband is fine with live recording but does not let you copy/paste on the iPad or include other loops. Also, there is still no way to edit the MIDI data on the iPad - you have to upload it to the full version for that.

There is a lot of depth to what is possible with the program but it is still a bit of a "walled garden". I would love to see an easier way to combine different synths together with Garageband on the iPad.

Here is my last piece which is a bit more on the melodic side - has a portamento synth lead followed by an acoustic guitar lead. One loop was used and the rest of the piece is performed on the iPad Garageband instruments:

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jamming without talent :)

Guitar parts have never been my friend - I can fake some lines on keyboards, noodle around on garageband but my favorite tool for soloing right now is Thumbjam by Sonosaurus.

Thumbjam is an iPad/iPhone app that comes with tons of very high quality samples built in. It lets you easily perform parts, record them as loops and play them all on the iPad or iPhone.

This is the best sampler/jamming tool I have ever used. In addition to making it easy to put together jams on the iPad, you can use ThumbJam as a wireless controller for your desktop DAW.

With Logic 9, for example, via some free middleware (DSMidiWifi), you can play your solos on the iPad and directly record the midi onto any track in Logic 9. This gives me countless guitar and amp variations as well as any other instrument.

It is also somewhat easy to create your own samples to download to the iPad to extend ThumbJams when you are away from your desktop. When running solo on the iPad, however, it is a bit tricky to get your recorded loops to all synchronize but with practice it works pretty well.

I put together a small blues piece with Logic tracks and 2 solo Thumbjam tracks for the guitar and horn section.

Wireless Thumbjamming

This will definitely be part of my future music making tools and is one of my favorite iPad apps to-date.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Playin with the iMS-20 on the iPad

I've had the Korg iMS-20 for months now and finally got around to playing something with it. This app is an extremely accurate rendition of the MS-20 monophonic synth along with the Kaoss pad, Korg Sequencer and a drum machine - which would be a room full of several thousand dollars worth of analog gear!

All this for about $15 - not too bad. All of the patch cables work as expected and the knob twiddling works exactly as on the real machine. There are some good videos on youtube for the machine that work without changes on the iPad version.

Just another example of how inexpensive the iPad versions of software synths have become. For the PC or Mac, the legacy version as a VST or AU plugin would be many times the cost and really isn't as effective without the touchscreen.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

More Midi Gear

My Edirol PCR-30 is a nice keyboard with full features BUT due to its size, spends more time in the closet than conveniently attached to my DAW. Since I tend to noodle out parts on the keyboard and then edit them in Logic 9 or Garageband, this Akai MPK mini is a much nicer option. I got this about 3 months ago and it spends most of its time conveniently tucked above my iMac keyboard.

The MPK mini offers a very complete 25 key, velocity sensitive keyboard, 8 drum pads, arpeggiator and 8 configurable knobs that I can use when twiddling Low-pass filter cutoffs, Resonance or whatever you want to program the knobs to. The only missing features are the tone wheel and bend control.

I also can use this keyboard with the iPad camera connection kit to feed CoreMidi directly to my iPad when working mobile. 

Highly recommended! 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rebirth Song | Drum Techno

Rebirth Song | Drum Techno

Put together a ReBirth piece with only the drums - 808 and 909.
Highly effected with PCM and distortion. So maybe you don't ALWAYS need a 303.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Seriously, everyone needs a (virtual) 303

303 by oldlibmike

Since using ReBirth, I am loving the Roland 303 sounds. I've been experimenting with tons of them on the iPad including ReBirthtechnoBox2 and BassLine.

As an "etude" I have been taking pieces of Fatboy Slim's EveryBody Needs a 303 and trying to emulate some of the sounds with the virtual offerings. My first effort is above - nowhere near the mix of the original but I did get some of the Acid House sounds of the Low-pass cutoff/Resonance tweaking that work so well on the original.

The challenge is in putting together a mix. ReBirth and technoBox2, sort of expect you to mix 303 synths with the 808 or 909 drum machines which is famous in techno but still limiting. To mix in other bass sounds, beats, etc requires a DAW of some sort. I wanted to do everything on the iPad with software I already own so my choices were a bit limited.

This example uses sounds from several music programs that support Audio copy/paste on the iPad to make moving samples around easy. The beats are from Korg iElectribe. The 303 was taken from BassLine in this sample - it does one thing and does it extremely well - just the 303 with full copy/paste support. Neither ReBirth nor technoBox2 support copy/paste so if I wanted their sounds, I would have to export to WAV, upload and then download back to the iPad.

The other bass line (a bit lamer I'm afraid) is from Xenon Groove Synthesizer. This has some nice synth tracks and a very easy way to enter bass patterns. Not the strongest part of the song but it does support copy/paste.

The DAW in this example is NanoStudio. This does allow samples up to 1 minutes to be imported which in this case was sufficient.

I first tried using another favorite of mine - Mixtikl and had it going very well but with several tracks with the same number of loops cycling, the sound drifted off 1/2 beat or so with the pasted WAV files.

In NanoStudio I recorded the simple vocal with the iPad mic and then pasted in the other samples. The low-pass filter Cutoff and Resonance tweaking on the fast 303 bassline were recorded on the NanoStudio against the sample after importing.

So there - more information than anyone needs to know about sound creation on the iPad. I am thinking of going for a more efficient DAW that emphasizes WAV files over MIDI/synth - maybe the next "impulse buy".

Thursday, March 31, 2011

NanoStudio - Full featured iPad Digital Audio Workstation

NanoStudio - The iPad DAW you come back to!
On my iPad (1st generation) I am definitely suffering from synth ADD. With every new synth offering novel sounds and interfaces all at $15 or less, it is easy to build up a large collection (which I have!).

The hard part is actually learning and using the tools. There are some semi-cumbersome file sharing standards on the iPad that let you copy and share sounds from one device to another and recently a few apps have figured out how to share sounds live over Core-midi.

I have many innovative synthesizer apps all unique and useful in their own ways. Even with the sharing possibilities with Sonoma Audio-Paste and other clipboard routines, it is still very cumbersome to combine sounds from different synths into a cohesive piece. There are a few apps that provide a full or nearly-full solution even given the limitations of the iPad hardware. One, of course is Garageband which I have already touched on. It is ground-breaking in many areas but a few shortcomings include:

  • It does not allow you edit your recorded performance at the MIDI or note by note level
  • It does not provide any real automation or editing of key velocities
  • It does not make it easy to import/export projects (though I believe that has finally been addressed with the latest Garageband update)
An older app that offers almost a complete solution is NanoStudio by Blip Interactive. I came across this app primarily by reading comments and posts on other music apps for the iPad. This application provides a built-in synthesizer with virtual-analog, FM and even crude sampling methods of sound creation along with a great drum solution, full-featured sequencer and editor, the best written documentation you are likely to come across and amazingly, this app runs on older iPod touch models on up to the iPad (though this is also a drawback). Not only that, but there is a fully free edition for Windows and iMac - with the "catch" that the interface is iPhone-sized. It all works, but within a very small window. The desktop versions are obviously marketing tools to encourage buying the app version - which you should!

The app is a one man show really with a very active user community. There are frequent updates that always seem to emphasize function over form. The developer is passionate about delivering functionality and this seems to be putting off some of the 'eye candy' aspects that would add to its appeal on the iPad - and I am convinced, would increase its sales dramatically.

In terms of coverage, there is more here than in almost any other tool. I think its heritage is a boon and a drawback though. I use NanoStudio on an iPad - I will most likely never use it on an iPhone nor on an iPod. When I started researching the tool, it looked promising but before spending the $15 on the app, I looked long and hard for native iPad alternatives - if I had found something better, I would have bought it. $15 puts NanoStudio just above the "impulse buy" level for me and I think the lack of native iPad support, was initially a big concern. 

Once you get past the "pixel doubling" interface though, you will find it extremely usable. The only feature that I find a bit cumbersome is bringing in external audio. You cannot just create an "audio track" in the sequencer. Rather than that, you have to either bring in the sample as a TRG-16 pad or put it into the synthesizer as a keyboard sample. You are also limited in the size of the sample so you might have to carve external sounds into pieces. 

That being said, this is the only app on my iPad that would let me completely design a song on the device. Of course, I will often take sounds from the iPad, bring them to my iMac and complete the projects in Logic 9, but I really do want to have a complete "mobile studio" experience. If you need to "do it all" on the iPad, this is the app for it. 

I am aware that there are competitors and some very good ones but having a solution in hand, any competition has to do something phenomenal to get me to switch! Garageband, while ground-breaking in many ways, has many short-comings.

NanoStudio, with its emphasis on its internal Eden synth for music creation, it is probably best suited for electronica, but since that is what I normally produce, it fits my needs very well. 

Longer term, it will be interesting to see how this app takes advantage of the new iPad 2 possibilities and whether or not it expands beyond its "least-common denominator" support for older hardware (remember Windows ME? Me neither!)

I think its competition will come primarily from Intua (Beatmaker 2), possibly Xewton/FL Studio and definitely GarageBand in its future iterations. For today, however, this is the app to use on the iPad.

Mistral - my amateurish example for NanoStudio 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Garageband for iPad
There have been many postings about the new app, but here is a very quick review. At $5, you really don't have to think too hard about downloading this one. Compared to the Garageband for iMac or Logic 9, it is not as capable but as a sketchpad on the iPad it is hard to beat.

You get 8 tracks that you can create with loops, "smart instruments" and/or manually played keyboards, guitars, synths etc.
The best part of this app is the virtual instruments. The drums for example, let you layout drum parts on an x/y grid based on complexity and loudness - this is a very interesting method of putting a quick drumbeat together. You can also just bang out a beat repeatedly on virtual drums on the screen and record it.

Other means of creating tracks include playing a virtual guitar by chords, or by individual notes OR by individual notes constrained to a particular scale - noodling up and down the notes will always be in tune for the non-talented!

Similar functions are available for piano or keyboards. You can quickly hit chords or just play individual notes either on a keyboard or constrained to a key and scale. You can also use "autoplay" for most of the instruments where a given rhythm is played automatically for selected chords/notes.

For the more talented, you can put instruments (guitars, vocals etc) directly into the iPad and record tracks as well.

Garageband also comes with a few hundred loops that can be put into the tracks as-is. This seems like a limited first release in many ways, however. There isn't really a way to control the volume dynamically (i.e. fade-ins and fade-outs). There also surprisingly isn't a way to manually edit the notes on midi tracks unlike the iMac version - hopefully this will be added. Right now, there is no way to add loops or import WAV files without resorting to live recording.

Also missing in the initial release is the ability to transfer projects to the iMac version - a future update to the iMac version is supposed to fix this.

For now, my favorite all in one iPad solution remains NanoStudio but this is a good addition.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Propellerhead software made Rebirth for the PC and Mac from 1998 until 2005 when it was retired (available for free from their website). With the iPad, they have brought back the program and it is great for putting together techno or dance tracks.

It emulates 2 Roland 303 synthesizers, a 808 Roland drum machine and a 909 drum machine. It is a laborious process putting together songs by dialing in 16th notes but great fun.

Here is my St. Patty's day offering - techno isn't my thing but at least its short!

Techno Irish

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, March 7, 2011

Some other gear...
I have used a PCR-30 full-size keyboard for years in my midi mixes. Recently I have "downsized" my "studio" but this was the first one. My friend has a full-room studio littered with what he calls "analogue" equipment with wood, holes, strings etc. Not sure how he oscillates, filters or attaches his adsr envelopes to the wooden monstrosities but he claims to get good sounds as well...go figure. I will write more on my efforts to use my iPad as my main synthesizer hardware.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My own musical meanderings are mostly done on either my iMac or on my iPad which I hope to write a great deal more about later.

My main DAW so far has been Apple's Garageband which seems to have a nice balance of simplicity and extendability thus far. I've just ordered Logic Express 9 which should be quite a bit more powerful.

Most of the shortcomings of Garageband are easily addressed with add-ons or plugins such as the incredible Crystal synthesizer. Using this to put together oscillators, envelopes, waves, filters etc. there are few sounds you cannot get together.

Added in to that are tons of software instruments and I've accumulated a library of 20,000+ sound samples so its pretty flexible for anything I might want to do. I've put together tons of songs over the years mostly located at Macjams.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In the early 70s my father was an avid ham-radio operator - geeky before computers! He was always building ham gear and even hand-soldered one of our first FM amplifiers that I later took to college - loved that Heathkit!

I remember seeing him and his friends mucking with tons of gear including oscilloscopes. Even cooler (at least for a 9 year old) was camping at an ARRL field day and going cabin to cabin seeing every hand-soldered setup made.

I remember in particular the cool "Squelch" button on some rigs used to "tune" the grainy voices bouncing all over the ionosphere on the ham bands. The purpose was mainly to make morse code more audible or voices listenable but playing with that dial would always make the coolest sounds.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My interest in music was primarily from my mother's side of the family. My mom attended Oberlin college, played Cello and was a bit of a "folkie" in the 60s and 70s.

My early albums were um..eclectic and included "The Monkees", "Partridge Family", "Banana Splits", "Bridge over Troubled Water", and interestingly enough my mom bought me Autobahn when it came out.

I think it helped cure me of the other albums...'cepting S&G - still like them!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

In the interest of remaining chronological, I am deferring a description of my iMac and iPad synthesizer software. In the 90s my first serious electronica investment was a wavetable sound card that cost around $245 and had memory slots for 2 MB of memory which was more than I had on my motherboard at the time! The AWE32 sound card from Creative labs gave me wave table synthesis which was worlds better in sample quality than the cheap FM synth cards that were prevalent on most PCs.

I remember getting software to use my computer keyboard as a monophonic "piano" as well as getting software to create soundfonts. Using Cakewalk LE I was able to put together rudimentary tracks of sampled music and better still, was able to sample my kids voices, pop them onto a keyboard and "play" them as instruments.

I don't have anything I created at that time that was worthwhile to keep, but it was a blast learning how to make/shape sounds and build up soundfonts into instruments.

It wasn't until years later that I left Windows for more Mac based software - and I didn't care at all for Macs until the release of OS X. My own hardware at the time ran either Windows 9x or Linux (pre 1.0 releases).

For music options, though, there were at that time very few open source options so it was Windows or Mac.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Film day

In or around 1974, I was gathered up with my class and we walked single-file into one of the "pods" (don't ask, it was the 70s) to see a film-strip.

They lugged out the screen, projector and in minutes we were viewing a bizarre musical score on what looked like a sci-fi monstrosity of wires, keys and switches.

An old engineer and a young musician were describing making electronic music and played some really funky Bach pieces. Of course these were Bob Moog and (then) Walter Carlos.

The film was a few years old and was describing the engineering of the Moog synthesizer. I was absolutely enthralled. I had been playing trumpet for a few years and had never thought that anything interesting could come out of a machine like this, and lets face it, patch cables are cool!

More than anything, I think that film got me hooked on the idea of electronic music. It would be years before I would really have a chance to make some myself but I knew I wanted to try it. Shortly after that experience, I bought "Switched on Bach II" on 8-track so that it never had to end.

The only way that film could have had more of an impact would have been if they had shown us all A Clockwork Orange.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Electronic kit

Another early exposure to electronic music was a shrill electric organ that could be built with my 150 in 1 electronic kit.

Get all of the colored wires in just the right springs and bamo - a variable pitch sine wave. Sort of my first try at patching!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Intro to Electronica

In or around 1970, my folks purchased a Kimball organ with tons of pushbuttons, voices and pedals. I think this was the first exposure I had to an electronic instrument of any kind. I quickly found that I had no aptitude whatsoever for keyboard instruments, but that did not stop me from spending hours playing with various sounds on the organ or just mashing keys.

I think this more than anything started a fascination with sounds that weren't quite "natural" as music went. There were buttons for "brass", "strings", "trumpet" and many more that sounded almost entirely unlike the instruments they were supposed to emulate but they did do something to the sound! I think the organ we had was state of the art for the time by being mostly "solid-state" - meaning no vacuum tubes.