NAMM 2006 Day 2

January 21st, 2006
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There are certainly more people at NAMM on this year than the previous years. This probably explains why I had such a hard time securing a hotel room. The first couple of days have seen fairly large crowds, making it really difficult to leisurely go around to the different booths. My first real day the show started with a little visit over to FXpansionto see GURU. I haven’t really had the chance to check out this little drum machine plug, but it has some really nice features. It has the basic sample based triggers, but it also functions a bit like recycle in that you can extract slices and grooves and assign them to pads.

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I managed to catch a bit of the Cakewalk Dimension Pro and Rapture demo’s presented by Mike Prager. Everyone knows that I’m a mac guy, so I rarely pay attention to most of cakewalk’s products…until now. These plugs are now mac compatible! Rapture is really cool. It’s a wavetable synth with the ultimate in Ring Mod routing possibilities…and well… I’m a sucker for a ring modulator.

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Ableton is positioned right next to the Cakewalk booth (right where the props were previously), and my friend/editor of my book, Jim Aiken, was presenting a demo on using macros with Live 5. Jim had some really cool techniques for setting up tweaky effects in Live…and he even put on a bit of show with his dance moves… don’t let the scholarly appearance fool you :-)

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Anyone doing electronic music struggles with acoustic instrument samples, but I’ve been amazed at the complexity of the new sample systems on display at this show. One of these was the “Real Guitar” plugin from Music Lab. The strumming, plucking, muting, and various timbral artifacts are nicely captured and mapped to the keyboard in a way that allows you to using a MIDI keyboard to input a fret and strum combination.

Another interesting system was the Vienna InstrumentsLibrary and performance interface system. The demonstration was a solo violin sample instrument that (in the noisy conditions of the exhibit hall) seemed very expressive. The performance interface measures the time between notes and selects a different sample group depending on the duration.

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On the other end of the sonic spectrum there was Metasonix’s new S-1000 Wretch Machine! Eric has created a Vacuum Tube based synthesizer that features his multimode filter and the waveshaper with patch points and CV control… perfect for the analoghead… yeah, i want one too!

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Another interesting little piece of tube gear was the Z.Vex Nano Amp. A teeny tiny vacuum tube amp head. Zachary Vex also offers a line level valve power amplifier called the iMPAMP designed for the discerning iPod user who wants to have a portable tube hi-fi.

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So if you’re a fan of the old keyboard plug-ins and samples, then Korg has provided the obvious next choice to complement your FM7 and D-50 samples: The M1 le plug-in. Back in the day that’s what everyone had (present company included). I don’t know… I guess it would be handy if you’re doing some retro house tracks and really needed that M1 piano sound, or that organ bass… like i said… I don’t know… ;-)

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On the other hand, Korg has introduced another cool control surface called the padKONTROL, and it has some MPC-like features including the “Roll” button and a TR like “Flam” button. It functions like the keypads on the K49, but also includes a XY touchpad for KAOSS type of control. This surface along with Reason might make me sell the old MPC… but probably not.

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Moog Music’s complete ensemble of pedals including the the Bass MuRF and the new delay pedal.

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GW playing a new track for Jimmy who might do a remix. Everyone got into sharing some tunes off their iPods :-)

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GW playing with the Access TI. It’s a nice keyboard with a great feel…I went through the set of patches, and the sound set is really geared towards a certain central and northern european genre of electronic music. :-p

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And here’s my long answer: Forget the booty…This is far more interesting! The Euphonix MC Media Application Controller. It’s an amazing control surface for Nuendo, Pro Tools, Logic, etc, and integrates a keyboard along with a touch screen and 56 programmable soft buttons. The soft buttons are really cool-Each button has a little LCD display so the icons and button name are changed by software. There are also four motorized faders and eight rotary encoders…now i need to get the props to develop remote drivers for this baby!

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At the end of the day, Tage gives his thanks to the crew before we head out for Dinner. We went out to some steak house type of establishment before returning to Hilton party thing. I’m getting too old for that “scene” with drunk rockers. So I called it a night pretty early — this explains how i managed to get this entry finished this morning.

NAMM 2006 Day 1

January 20th, 2006
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Yes, it’s once again that time! Winter NAMM 2006. I’ve arrived fashionably late this year, leaving me with only a few hours to see the show on the first day. The first interesting change is the new Propellerheads booth which no longer sits in the highly coveted software row. The new booth is situated to the south in what i call “Limbo”. It’s a space between Hall A and the Arena. The new booth is a cozy bar room setting. The old disco lounge feel has grown up!

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Of course, i had the chance to catch up with my old friends and meet the new crew from Sweden along with the people from Line 6. Magnus Lidström of Sonic Charge maker of the µTonic and developer of the Malström has also come. I was one of the few lucky recipients of the new Tin Tonic edition of the µTonic plug-in which comes packaged in a cool little can. Packaging designed (naturally) by Bitplant.

I took a quick stroll around and ran into Mike Prager, author of the Reason 3.0 Power! book, who is now working for cakewalk. I didn’t have the chance to take a look at the new products, so I’ll head back over today to take a look at Rapture (yet another bitplant GUI). Mike introduced to me his publisher at Thompson who happened to be checking out a demo, who extended an offer for future projects. So maybe another book might be in my future…who knows.

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The day ended with a few drinks at the Electronic Musician Magazine Party. Ben from Camel Audio and Magnus were trading tips on how to deal with Software Piracy. Both guys are basically one man operations who develop software and manage their businesses simultaneously. They don’t have massive profits, nor do they have the budget to contract protection systems, so piracy has had a serious impact on their businesses.

We finished the night off with our regular tradition with the Merkles at this italian restaurant, “Bella Marri” with a Pizza Napolitano: Anchovies, Capers, and Black Olives. Yes it’s really tasty, but only for the gastronomically adventurous :-)

Well I’m off to the show again.

Cirobiq & Random Reasons MP3s

January 15th, 2006

I have these two MP3 files online for a few weeks, but haven’t had the chance to explain what these tracks are all about. Cirobiq is something that took me months to work on. I started working on it while writing back in July 2005. I had the idea of coming up with a strange melodic track that I would mangle using an Oval-ish CD skipping technique. First I tried destroying the CD-R with a magic marker, but the results would cause the error correction to shut the cd player down. I found an old CD player that I was experimenting with and located a few contact points that would induce skipping. I also tweaked with the tracking fine tune controls which led to some interesting results, but nothing was consistent. In the end it was a fun distraction, but led nowhere. Eventually i rendered the clean version and processed it with some analog stuff, but it was not what i had in mind.

Right after I finished writing the Discovering Reason article (on the props site), I started toying with a method of fading between a dry mix of the track and a processed signal. I incorporated an old combi effect patch (that I contributed to Factory Soundbank 3.0) called “Freeze Stutter”, and customized the settings to match the tempo. This added a some but not all of the effect ornaments that I originally had in mind. Then I added yet another effect layer which was also blended using the equal power crossfade technique using a sample and hold combinator patch i devised. The effect is nothing new or spectacular. If one were working in Pro Tools, you would simply copy and paste the audio for several adjacent beats, but with the fader and combi effect, this beat repeating effect is applied in real-time.

Random Reasons also uses the beat repeating effect, but the entire track, including the effect is driven by a series of random LFO curves. For even more tweakhead results, I bumped up the tempo to 480 BPM so the repetitive artifacts shaped into new timbres themselves. This experiment only took a few hours to finish ;-)

Both tracks also use special self-modulating equalizer effects that change the frequency response of passing signals to boost the low frequencies and add some warmth and character. These patches are based around the MClass equalizer, and work in a manner similar to the Vintage RDK with input signal levels inducing subtle changes to the eq center frequencies for an inconsistent/unpredictable “analogish” sound.

Cirobiq.mp3

Random Reasons.mp3

I’m going to work on these patches a bit more and eventually post them.

Equal Power Crossfader

January 14th, 2006

The attenuation characteristics of both the ReMix and MicroMix mixer pan pots is not linear like the crossfade example above, instead the pan pots have a scaled attenuation rate called constant-power or equal-power. The output level of the two panned signals is constant between the left and right channels. The scaled attenuation of the pan pots can be used to create an Equal Power Crossfader.

Follow the link below to read the tutorial and download the example files:

Discovering Reason Article on Building a Crossfader

Not so Happy New Year…

January 12th, 2006

Yes, I’ve been strangely absent from the site, which normally means I’m working on a project. Unfortunately, a seemingly endless series of personal tragedies has occurred. This entry goes a bit off the theme of this site, but I just needed to get this off my chest.

A family friend tragically lost a battle with cancer right before Christmas, and the first few days of the New Year was spent at the hospital as my Grand Uncle George faded. I was busy helping my Grand Aunt and her family work out the details for the services held on Monday night. Now I’m in the 808 State for a couple of days for the funeral of another close family friend who passed away last week.

This is not exactly the way I’ve planned to spend my New Year. So I apologize if I haven’t been able to reply to messages or emails. I’ve just been a little too busy to play technical support.

My Holiday did have a nice moment: I had a really great New Years Eve with my family and friends. Everyone cleaned themselves up, and we went out to enjoy a really lovely dinner and rang in the new years together. It was a great opportunity to become better acquainted with my cousin Jasmine’s new “friend”, Chris. So i did enjoy a few moments of 2006.

Amazon UK Error

January 6th, 2006

the UK version of Amazon has the incorrect book title listed for my book. It says “Power Tools Reason” and inadvertently omitted the “for”. People searching Amazon UK are given an error. If you’re looking “for” the item, it can be found here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0879308613/

Power Tools for Reason 3.0

December 12th, 2005
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For those who placed orders with Amazon.com, it looks like orders have started shipping. Again, I’m sorry for the delay, and I hope people will not be disappointed with the second edition of Power Tools for Reason. The amazon page does not provide all of the accurate information. Pictured here is the actual cover. The number of pages is 294-not including the index which brings the total to 312 pages). Please remember, that my book is NOT INTENDED FOR ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS!

Commonly asked questions fielded my way are “what’s different from the previous edition?” and “is it worth it to pick up another copy?” The short answer is probably not. If you’ve managed to fully grasp the concepts in PTR-2.5, then programming the Combinator should be second nature to you by now.

Most of the projects were merely updated to adopt the Combinator Modulation routings instead of using Control Voltages. For example, the ‘Screamin Filterbank’ project is now a combinator project rather than an overwhelming rack of devices in a song. Naturally there were a few modifications which use the MClass compressor and limiter.

The only aspects which may benefit people who read PTR-2.5 are the new chapter on Mastering, and perhaps the rewritten Dynamics, Synthesizer and Sampler programming chapters.

The chapter on Dynamics is revised to explain the principles of compressors better as well as examples on how to use the features of the MClass compressor and Maximizer. The COMP-01 is still a handy devices and a brief example is included to explain when to use it instead of MClass comp.

The Synthesizer and Sampler chapters now include step-by-step projects which explain how to manipulate parameters to create different timbres from the basic walkthroughs of programming subtractive synthesis patches to FM and Phase Diff on the Subtractor, to creating lush stereo Malström patches. It’s a lot slower paced than the chapter in the first edition, and breaks down the different parameters and how they affect the resulting sound from the Subtractor and Malström. It’s not an exhaustive discussion, but the projects are pretty detailed. The same concept is applied to the Sampler Chapter as well, so that people who have very little experience with samplers can grasp the concepts behind creating a multi-sampled NN-XT patch.

I spent the weekend adapting an excerpt from the book to be published on the Propellerhead Software Website as part of the “Discovering Reason” series. Like the previous article “Filter Up” (misspelled in the reference in the book), published with the release of the first edition, the new article is a bit different with another bonus project not printed in the book. Unlike the book that only provides the procedures for creating the project, the article will have Reason Song files with the completed examples.

If you’re on broadband, please visit the PT-Reason site to see even more examples, and check out the credits for all of the people who contributed to the samples and material included on the CD-Rom. The desktop wallpapers created by my cousin, Miles, are really cool, and are available on the download section of PT-Reason.com.

Oh, and if you’re in San Francisco, you can pick up a copy at Robotspeak!