SF Reason Laptop JAM

August 4th, 2006
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Last Saturday, The SF Bay Area Reason User Group finally had the chance to meet up for a full blown jam session with eight laptops running Reason + one Line6 Variax Guitar. Participating were Darin, Ed, Hayden, Mark, Mason, Mike, Nick, and me; along with a few guests. We’re lucky to have some enthusiastic people involved, because we managed to get this event organized quickly. It’s always nice to get together and talk about music and technology, but it’s definitely more fun to jam out!

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We were fortunate enough to be allowed to use a massive warehouse space in SF, where Mark’s wife works. There was no lease for the space, but we couldn’t make it an all out event and invite the public. In the future we will find a more public venue if more people are interested in coming… maybe something with a bar ;-)

The afternoon passed in a blur and a few of us walked away thinking that things didn’t turn out as cool as we had expected. When we did the test run with only 4 laptops, things ran pretty smoothly. When we added another four, things seemed to get a little out of control. Ed (EditEd4TV) brought in some gear to record and videotape the session, and I just had the opportunity to listen through the session, and there were some surprisingly cool moments.

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Mixing and Tempo control were handled with hardware. We had audio feeds from each person running into a Mackie, and MIDI Clock sent out from a Boss DR-202 and distributed via a MOTU MTP II. During the session, we could adjust the tempo and change up the styles from slow prog rock stuff up to some fast trance bits. We even had a few of Ed’s favorite Reason cover tracks mixed in. There were occasional problems with levels and sync, but for the most part we could just play without thinking about the technology.

The entire recording spanned about 2.5 hours, but i’ve reduced it to a few highlights in this 13 minute MP3. Bear in mind that this is mostly live - Real Time - most of the sequences were created on the fly including some drum arrangements:

LaptopJAM_0706.mp3

We will definitely make this a regular event and perhaps start mixing it up with live instruments, vocalists, and other types of software.

Reason Workshops: August 19 & 20 in SF

July 18th, 2006

I’ve been busy preparing for a couple of upcoming Reason workshops, to be held at Recombinant Media Labs in San Francisco. This are going to cover the same basic topics as the last time, however, the first class for beginners is going to be a little faster paced since most people who attended were already somewhat familiar with music production. GW and I are planning to streamline the advanced course in order to cover more ground in the time allotted, but otherwise, both days will basically be the same.

For the last workshop, a lot of people brought in MIDI controllers along with their laptops, and we will try to better accommodate the space requirements.

Registration is now open on the Recombinant Labs Website

Reason Laptop Jam

July 17th, 2006
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Ever since we got together for dinner several months ago, a group of us in the bay area have been discussing the idea of meeting and making some music. This electronic Jam Session concept has been taking shape, and finally things are planned for Saturday, July 29 from 3:00pm to 6 or 7pm. So if you’re free, please come make some music with us! We’re going to attempt to record the session and post up a stream. Ed has even managed to get a friend to shoot some video.

Participation is limited to 8 players simultaneously. So we will probably do a couple of rounds if more than 8 join. Because of liability issues, I can’t make the location public. Anyone interested in attending can sign up by posting to Ed on the Propellerhead User Forum

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Last week Ed, Mark, Darin, and I got together to give it a test run. We met up in the city at Darin’s place, and took over his living room for an evening. The core issue has been synchronizing multiple systems, and the plan was to set up a clock source being distributed through a hardware MIDI splitter - old stuff which I have sitting in my basement. I tested this at home, but this evening would be the real test to see if things would work.

Everyone seemed to have a few pieces to bring along as MIDI clock source. I brought an old Yamaha hardware sequencer, Mark brought in an old Boss Drum Machine, and Ed had an old Korg Drum machine. It turned into a bit of an antique technology show.

Surprisingly, everything worked out pretty smoothly. Short of a few driver problems that Mark had, and the fact that I didn’t bring a long a keyboard stand, we got things going and zoned out for a few hours while making music … with others … in real-time! It was a lot of fun.

Peak 5

July 8th, 2006
Can’t live with it… Can’t live without it

I resisted upgrading my operating system to 10.4.6 for months, mainly because everything was running smoothly under 10.4.5. Once again, I tempted fate and performed the OS update. Naturally, things started running a little odd. Peak 4 was stalling and crashing, which forced my hand to upgrade to Peak 5. I know there are probably some who are shaking their heads thinking “Why the hell do you use peak?”. It’s just part of my workflow, and I’ve become quite fast using regions and batch processing, so it’s virtually indispensable. Fortunately, Peak 5.2 seems stable under 10.4.6, so things are somewhat back to normal. My main gripe is that Peak 5.2 has this terrible lag between the moment you hit play, and the moment you hear something. I probably need to RTFM and tweak some buffer settings.

RB-303 Improvements

To get a feel for the new version of Peak, I picked up the RB-303 samples and started setting loop points. Looping and shortening the new sample set took a few days, but now the archive is drastically smaller than the current preliminary release. The sample directory is now a meager 4 megs rather than the unedited 74 megs, and for most applications, the sound is indistinguishable with short acid riffs.

The smaller samples have made it possible to add more flexibility to the NN-XT and Combinator patches, and I’ve devised a new velocity switching system that better simulates the accent feature of ReBirth and the TB-303. I’ll be posting the next preliminary release up soon, but there will eventually be some modifications to the skins.

Kato-City Visitors

June 25th, 2006
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Every other year, a group of 18 visitors from Kato City in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan (兵庫県 加東市 日本 ) come to the area on a goodwill mission and to experience life in San Benito County [Hollister Frelance Article]. My father was very active with the Hollister Sister City Association, and so I feel somewhat obligated to carry on the tradition. As an officer of the local JACL chapter, One of my responsibilities is organizing a send off dinner for the visiting guests, the host families, as well as representatives of the community. The JACL Hall is located a few block away from the Historic Mission grounds in San Juan Bautista.

The normal menu is a generic style BBQ - usually Tri-Tip Beef, Chili, Salad, Garlic Bread, and grilled vegetables. Going into the event, I was planning for about 75 people, and ended up with close to 90 showing up. Fortunately, the members brought in a lot of food including sushi and other japanese specialties, fruit salads, fried chicken, and even chap-jae! There was a more than enough food.

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One of the highlights of the evening was the entertainment provided by local taiko drummers of the Shinsho Mugen Daiko Group. Thanks to the help of my friend, Christine Bowes, the drummers came over from another gig they had earlier in the day. Inside the long space of the hall, the sound of the taiko drums was massive and rattled the neighbors. (This is a future sampling project at some point down the road. I want to hypersample some taiko loops!) It was pretty loud, and prompted the Sheriff came to see what was going on. The Kato-City Delegates also provided some entertainment by singing a song, and performing a celebration dance as well as an obon dance.

Despite the fact that we were short handed, I managed to enlist some volunteers who really helped make the evening special. The next morning, I went to see the delegates off, and again, they expressed their appreciation for our efforts. This type is a fairly large undertaking, and being in charge of organizing _everything_ was pretty stressful; but in the end it was all worth it.

Red Ginger

June 23rd, 2006

My friend, Ernst Nathorst-Böös, is visiting California on holiday with his wife and son. Unfortunately, my schedule has been quite busy, so I was only able to meet them one evening for dinner up in Half Moon Bay. It was one of those rare days on the Coast where the day started without fog, and continued into the evening. A perfect day to get out of the 100° heat of the inland area and get to the coast.

Our mutual friend, Christopher, has a restaurant called Red Ginger just north of Half Moon Bay in the little coastal town of La Granada. Our Dinner was excellent, and Ernst’s son was quite entertaining. The pan asian style of food was new to the lad, and it was interesting to hear his parents explain the concept of a fried wonton in Swedish. I was impressed that he had some skill with chopsticks! but I showed him that wontons should be eaten with your hands. He quite enjoyed them and practically ate the entire plate by himself.

Christopher eventually managed to join us late. Since the highway at Devil’s slide has yet to be repaired, his commute from SF was rather long. He ordered a slew of desserts including a Baked Alaska and home made ice creams. A selection of loose teas was brought out on a tray and Ernst’s son went through and smelled each one. Young Nathorst-Böös liked the sweet smell of the lychee tea, so we enjoyed dessert service with the lychee-oolong tea.

RB-303 ReFill

June 12th, 2006
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Rather than let this one continue to sit on my hard drive, I’ve decided to release the RB-303 refill. This fill is comprised of samples created using the ReBirth 303 Bassline synth, processed through a vacuum tube preamp and vacuum tube compressor. [Read More Here] I’ve received the OK from the props, so everything is set to go. The set is still in a semi-finished format. The samples have not been looped, and the combi skins are variations of the generic peff.com image. Every note is sampled, so note durations are not affected by pitch transposition. For typical 303 synth lines, the durations are long enough and should not be a factor.

The Slide feature in the same manner as ReBirth or a 303, so as a workaround, there is an extra set of samples with moderate portamento settings. I was torn between using the NN-19 which would have made this easier to implement, but something about the NN-XT 6dB filter added to the sound of the patch. So features were sacrificed for sonic character.

Also included in the ReFill is a ReBirth Type PCF combinator patch which provides another integral feature of the ReBirth Sound. Because I ran out of combinator knobs, the patterns must be selected manually by changing the Matrix Pattern Sequencer directly in the Combinator Device Rack. A Linear Pan Delay effect is also included in the ReFill. This is simply a tempo synchronous panning delay that is based on faders rather than panpots. The result is delay signals are louder when panned to either side and decrease in level as they pan towards the center. Something i wished I had in ReBirth but couldn’t achieve without the help of a ReWire host and a plug-in.

Several Demo RNS files are included which require the Propellerhead Software ReBirth RB-338 ReFill. Available through the downloads area on the Props Website.

RB-303 Combis

The RB-303 combis are based on the Bass Filter patches, released here several months ago which added filtering and specialized equalization that attempts to emulate the roland 18dB filters. Its a chains of effects that relies on the 6dB filter of the NN-XT in conjunction with an ECF-42 and a MClass Equalizer. It’s by far from a perfect copy, but it’s functional and provides a 303-ish experience.

There are four different combinator patches provided in the ReFill. RB-303.cmb loads both the sawtooth and squarewave samples, and allows the user to switch between the two by toggling combi button 4. RB-303 Sawtooth.cmb and RB-303 Square.cmb simply load one set of the samples. RB-303 Sawtooth & Square.cmb loads both sets and plays both sets of samples simultaneously for a thick layered sound.

RB-303 Combi Controls

FREQUENCY Knob controls the filter cutoff frequency and modulates the MClass EQ settings.

RESONANCE Knob controls the filter resonance on the NN-XT and the ECF-42. This control also modulates the EQ shape.

DECAY Rotary modulates the decay and release stages of the envelopes on the samplers as well as the secondary filter.

ENV.MOD Control increases the modulation intensity of the ECF-42 only.

DISTORTION Button, enables a preset distortion patch embedded in the combinator.

HYBRID FILTER Switch toggles between the 18dB Low Pass configuration and a hybrid of the NN-XT 6dB lowpass and the ECF-42 12db Band Pass filter.

SLIDE Enables the portamento feature on the NN-XT samplers nested in the combinator patch.

MUTE Button, mutes the output signal.

SQUARE-SAW Button, featured only on the RB-303 combinator, switches between the two sample sets.

ReBirth - PCF Combi Controls

This combinator patch requires users to show devices and select a Matrix Pattern that triggers the ECF-42 envelope. Many of the Original ReBirth PCF Patterns are transcribed based on the pattern illustrations in the ReBirth manual. Other patterns, especially in Bank D, are original.

FREQUENCY Knob controls the filter cutoff frequency.

RESONANCE Knob controls the filter resonance.

AMOUNT Control adjusts the modulation intensity of the Env.AMT and Vel. parameters on the ECF-42.

DECAY Rotary modulates the decay and release envelope stages of the ECF-42

BAND - LOW PASS Switch toggles between the ECF-42 BP 12 and LP 12 modes.

Download

As I mentioned in the beginning, I’m still not perfectly happy with this set, but it might be many months before I get around to perfecting the patches. This refill is subject to further changes down the road - new skins, loops samples, more patches, etc. Until then, try this one out :)