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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » MIDI


Your body is a resistor – so it’s an instrument, too – in Collin’s Lab

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 8 Oct 2020 4:36 pm

Each part of your body - tongue, finger, arm - has its own electrical resistance. Our friend Collin Cunningham puts this to use, and then turns all of that into musical instrument controller.

The post Your body is a resistor – so it’s an instrument, too – in Collin’s Lab appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Akai Force 3.0.5 is huge: new macros, MIDI multis, linear arrangement, Ableton import, more

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 6 Oct 2020 6:32 pm

There’s nothing like a good, healthy rivalry. And Akai are back in a big way with Force 3.0.5, which transforms how their standalone hardware works as a hub for gear, arrangement tool, and hands-on creation device. 3.0.5 is a point-release firmware update, but the changes here aren’t just small tweaks or improvements. Think more like […]

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Start making sense: just use ‘in’ and ‘out’ for MIDI clock, if in doubt

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 23 Jun 2020 5:24 pm

To agree on a change, it's helpful not just to agree on what you're removing, but also its replacement. So, here's an easy solution: in, out.

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Your guide to the 3 best new underground synths from NAMM – not a clone in sight

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 21 Jan 2020 5:22 pm

Nothing new under the sun? Think again. Independent manufacturers are still creating novel designs for music making – and last week brought a lot of news.

Just as acoustic instruments often start with simple building blocks – blow on something, hit something, pluck something – these creations do work with existing known synth methods. (Think FM, wavetable, whatever.) But let’s dump the notion that “everything” is a clone now, just because one manufacturer starting with the letter B has been pulling its product news from a 1981 Roland product catalog.

In fact, there’s so much new stuff, it’s easy to get lost. So here’s your quick guide.

MEGAfm

The pitch: It’s a powerful synth with the heart of a SEGA. Imagine a hands-on, polyphonic instrument built around the same chip that powered the SEGA Megadrive and Genesis game consoles.

Who makes it: Indie French builder Twisted Electrons, who already has a great track record with handheld and desktop acid and chip music synths, plus a Eurorack modular collaboration with Crea8audio.

Specs in a nutshell: 12 voice polyphony (and various voicing modes), two of the YM2612FM chips already onboard, 8 algorithms, presets, tons and tons of controls, 3 LFOs, full MIDI I/O, and an arpeggiator and sequencer, all in an aluminum case.

How much, and when: 474EUR before VAT, apparently available now.

Buzz factor: This thing looks like a beast – an all-in-one, deep polyphonic chip music composition machine in a box, either with that onboard sequencer/arp or if you prefer using MIDI from the outside.

And oh yeah, prediction for 2020: the world will have a collective realization that we don’t always want to hear someone playing on a modular synth who sent over a four page rider and needs a three hour sound check, and chip music will come back. Nintendo Switch battles backstage, go!

Look/listen:

Learn more:

Erica Synths Bassline DB-01

The pitch: This is the bass from the luxury-priced Techno System, in a desktop box the rest of us can afford. So you get the distinctive Erica BBD delay-based detune on the oscillators, a swarming delicious sound, plus an aggressive Acidbox-derived filter, extras for modulation and dirt and noise, and an onboard sequencer.

Who makes it: Erica Synths, the Riga-based boutique superbrand who have turned ex-Soviet spaces and manufacturing into an assembly line for Latvian awesomeness – enough so that they hold their own festival every year. Look out, Ableton Loop.

Specs in a nutshell: DRIVE and DETUNE knob on the left. CUTOFF and RESONANCE on the right. There’s a reason the knobs are oversized for those. So it’s a transistor-based sub oscillator + overdrive + BBD-based detuned oscillators + noise source + syncable LFO + FM and VCF modulation + independent envelopes… well, you know that dessert menu item called “Chocolate Overload Deathwish”? This is what happens when that person specs out a bassline synth. Then add in CV + MIDI I/O, aluminum case, presets, and play either externally from analog or MIDI or with a simple onboard sequencer / arpeggiator.

How much, and when: Spring, 460 EUR.

Buzz factor: Sorry, 303. This thing is thicker / dirtier / nastier. I love the 303, but it’ll give you a daily fix of “wow, acid is my favorite thing ever,” before you get bored a few minutes later and switch it off. A DB-01, if you fall for it, will make you run away from home, assume a new identity, and live in a warehouse you squat in rural Latvia where you go feral and make nothing but experimental industrial music all day. Yes, Erica, you can quote me on that – if for no other reason than to warn the unwise.

Look/listen:

Sonicware LIVEN 8bit warps [Kickstarter]

The pitch: A lo-fi, grungy 8-bit synth with loads of voices plus onboard audio looping and lots of performance features (and warping) around the keyboard.

Who makes it: Sonicware, who created the portable ELZ_1 via Kickstarter – and which also shared a candy-bar keyboard design that recalls instruments from Casio and Teenage Engineering. It’s all the work of Yu Endo from Tokyo – part of a new generation of innovation in Tokyo’s synth scene.

Specs in a nutshell: Sequencer with chaining and real-time and step recordings and parameter locks per-step, sync and MIDI I/O, runs on batteries and has an internal speaker. Multiple synth engines (WARP, ATTACK, MORPH, FM) meet powerful envelopes and modulation and filtering, plus a bunch of FX (chorus, flanger, delay, hall, plate).

How much, and when: Well, delayed gratification as it’s Kickstarter, but estimated for June 2020. But amazingly, early bird starts at … EUR148.

Buzz factor: Come on, at this price, how can you say no to this 4-engine synth + looper + sequencer? One indie Japanese developer might just outdo the fun factor of a KORG volca for the same price, with a more flexible housing and more powerful features. Sure, a 16-bit engine might have made the different modes more varied, but – sounds like Yu-san has programmed this so you can exploit the 8-bit grime.

Look/listen:

Learn more

Save up your pennies?

Honestly, I think any of one these three tops the other product reveals from this month. Sure, the KORG Wavestate looks powerful, but … the freak factor of that new Twisted box might well outdo the KORG offerings. It promises to build on everything designer Alex from Twisted has been working toward over the years.

The DB-01 meanwhile might quietly be the most indispensable thing Erica have done yet – it’s got some of the best bits of the Techno System, but in a form factor you can both a) actually afford and b) carry with you in an airBaltic carry-on allowance. Now if Erica just does a TR-01 drum machine to go with it, I’m completely sold.

And Sonicware have nailed the amount where you’d impulse-buy yourself a Kickstarter present for June.

So, dear Santa Claus… uh, wait, it’s the end of January… dear Saint Patrick, are you listening?

And with each of these priced under 500 bucks, can we collectively admit that the idea that independent synths are expensive or everything has to be a clone is just objectively not true? Thanks.

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Return of full-sized KORG MS-20, as retro trend continues

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 14 Jan 2020 3:56 pm

It’s badly upstaged by the ARP 2600, but for those who want it, KORG are again making full-sized MS-20 synths. That caps a long string of MS-20s from KORG.

The KORG MS-20 was one of the products that helped launch the current wave of big-name remakes. And KORG has done versions of the MS-20 every way imaginable. Let’s review just a few:

Nintendo DS game – KORG DS-10 (loosely based on the original)

iPad app – iMS-20 (plus KORG Gadget, too, if you want to be completionist)

MS-20 Legacy Collection plug-in, which briefly had available an external controller for the computer that supported patching:

A mini version – the MS-20 mini (hey, Japan does seem to appreciate things being small and – I’m totally with them on this, so like Japan and me)

The best of all of these, perhaps, is the full-sized MS-20 kit. I made one; and it’s brilliant – because of its reliability and flexibility, maybe even a little better than having the original around.

But the MS-20 kit was a limited edition. And so now we have the MS-20FS (for Full-Sized). It appears to be identical to the kit in every way – USB and MIDI, switchable filter, and even the original 1978 manual included in the box. But apart from the switchable filter and new I/O, it’s indistinguishable from the original – enough so that once it’s got some dust on it, these are regularly mistaken for the original.

The only news in the reissue is colors – four powder-coat options, in an attractive green, white, blue, and black.

No word yet on pricing, but this is coming this year.

White looks fresh. Note to self – idea for new stage persona, Colonel Sanders suit — new note to self, delete previous note.
Built like a tank, looks like a …
In blue, it’s obvious, but in black, these ports on the back are the only way to easily tell the FS isn’t an original MS-20.

That’s all fine and well, but am I alone in wishing for a new semi-modular, patchable thing from KORG? The MS-20 is great, but the more we live with it, the more I wonder what a new instrument catering to modern tastes might be.

Then again, I celebrated my birthday yesterday and I was also introduced in 1978 so — never mind. Things from 1978 are for more relevant than anything younger and cooler and all of you should really just throw money at us. Good, there, done. Oh wait – I should work on some color options for myself.

For more MS action – here’s a minisite dedicated to the MS-10 synth:

And sorry, 1978, but this NAMM is all about 1970, because of this:

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Roland has a new 88-key keyboard, and it means MIDI 2.0 has arrived

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 7 Jan 2020 6:45 am

Roland has a new high-end keyboard with weighted action and lots of extras. The real news, though: this is the first MIDI 2.0 instrument from Roland.

Roland was part of the birth of MIDI 1.0, connecting their product in the first public demonstration with partner Sequential (and “father of MIDI” Dave Smith). So it’s fitting that they’ve got something with MIDI 2.0 support, even if the product itself might not be so radical.

As a piano controller, the new A-88MKII looks solid – and it’s a strong alternative to something like Native Instruments’ popular 88-keyboard, in that the Roland here isn’t locked to particular software and doesn’t require a computer to use. (Cough.)

Features:

  • USB-C connectivity
  • RGB-lit controls
  • PHA-4 keyboard action, fully weighted 88-keys (it isn’t just marketing speak – Roland do have a good record on response time, etc.)
  • Three zones for defining your own layers and splits
  • Arpeggiator onboard
  • Roland’s “famous pitch/mod lever” – yeah, it’s a Roland paddle, which you’ll love or hate
  • Full MIDI and USB compliance, so you can use this with anything, with or without a computer
  • Dedicated sustain, plus two additional control inputs (for expression or footswitches, as you define)
  • Chord memory
  • Pad triggers (assignable)
  • Assignable controls (also look handy with MIDI 2.0, and ideal for synthesists, for instance)
  • Wooden construction
MIDI 2.0 means easier automatic assignment between devices, and greater resolution, among other features.
Less future shock, more future proof? This is what we’d hope for in 2020: full backwards compatibility with 1983 MIDI, full forward compatibility with USB-C and MIDI 2.0, end result being compatibility with basically everything. We hope.

But really, this is the important part: the A-88MKII is “ready” for high-resolution control and all the extra features in MIDI 2.0. This should mean that you can take full advantage of the sensors, instead of mapping them only to 0-127 quantized values, and map more easily to software and hardware as MIDI 2.0 support rolls out. I really hope that includes full resolution for the key sensors, as that would make this worth the investment.

In the meantime, you can still use it with everything you’ve got now via that USB and MIDI support.

US$999.99 street, but will definitely be high on my list looking for an 88-key controller. Coming in March.

Obviously there are lots of questions here – even on something as similar as a piano controller – and there’s more to say about MIDI 2.0, so stay tuned. But while I hope MIDI 2.0 has some more far-out applications for its launch, it’s also good to see a bread and butter keyboard example there, too.

https://www.roland.com/global/products/a-88mk2/

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CHORDimist is an insane Max for Live chord-generating MIDI effect

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 3 Jan 2020 7:11 pm

Chordmaker, arpeggiator on steroids, harmonic processor – CHORDimist is another of the powerful Max for Live tools for composition.

I figured yesterday’s blitz of Max for Live news would bring out something I missed. Chris Hahn pointed us to this one, by South Korean-based developer Leestrument.

It’s a chord generator, but it’s also really an advanced arpeggiator / MIDI harmonizer, with modes for firing off, sustaining, or arpeggiating harmonies. Add in lots of parameters for direction and variation – both of the chords themselves and how they’re played – and you have a sophisticated MIDI effect.

CHORDimist is US$49 and requires the latest Max for Live, meaning you want Live Suite 10.1 or greater (or an equivalent Max for Live license).

https://gumroad.com/l/chordimist

Ha, also – I love that the filename for the screenshot on Lee’s site is _E1_84_89_E1_85_B3_E1_84_8F_E1_85_B3_E1_84_85_E1_85_B5_E1_86_AB_E1_84_89_E1_85_A3_E1_86_BA_202019-10-02_20_E1_84_8B_E1_85_A9_E1_84_8C_E1_85_A5_E1_86_AB_204.13.04.png.

That’s… specific.

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HEXO for Live is an arpeggiator transformed into a polyphonic compositional tool

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 2 Jan 2020 7:02 pm

Somehow, it started as an arpeggiator. But this Max for Live tool by K-Devices is now an advanced, polyphonic, polymetric tool for dreaming up rhythms and melodies.

We’ve got you set up for your new year’s food coma / hangover / days off / whatever, with a series of Max for Live tools to tinker around with into the winter (southern hemisphere summer) evenings of January.

HEXO is an important departure for K-Devices. If all you want is a tool that lets you generate rhythms and melodies parametrically or even randomly, HEXO does this – just like its predecessors.

But if you prefer to play live, HEXO can do that, too. In ARP mode, all its pattern generation is built live on incoming notes, meaning you can feed your own patterns or jam on a keyboard or other controller.

In RIFF mode, the tool is a polyphonic step sequencer. But that has a Thru function, too, meaning you can add notes live to the pattern.

Here’s a view of what that means – in ARP mode, you’ll see the pitch tracks are relative; in RIFF mode, they represent specific notes. It’s to me the best interface K-Devices has done yet – an intuitive brick grid giving you independent access to multiple tracks of notes with velocity, length, and probability controls always visible and editable.

https://k-devices.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/HEXO-modes-e1575300288682.png

Either way, HEXO is a great way of generating complex and even polymetric patterns. K-Devices keep topping themselves with each new creation, making advanced IDM-ish sequencer generators to spawn new ideas or elaborate live. This time, they’ve even added some unique instruments to play right inside the package.

But by the way, the K-Devices creations are ideal for sequencing software modulars – routing into tools like Reaktor Blocks or VCV Rack, you get some really beautiful sound generation facilities. It’s all working via MIDI, so any software, plug-in, or hardware will work.

Impressively, this works in both Live 9 and Live 10, so even if you’re putting off that Live upgrade, you can get to work.

Features:

Per-step probability, on-the-fly variations

Six tracks, 2-32 steps independently per track

4 snapshots with modulation

AutoSnaps with probability-driven variation

Each track has independent number of steps and time resolution for polyrhythms and polymeters

Global velocity, length scaling, and delay per track

Bend parameter (which lets you bend out of the Live grid)

Rule-based randomization of note, velocity, chance, and length

Included presets, Ableton clips, and two Simpler-based instruments (the “atmospheric” Pluck and “acid stab” Hyperism)

There’s an intro sale on now with steep discounts on everything they make – or 24EUR (regular 39EUR) for this instrument individually. Everything is here:

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Amazon’s AWS DeepComposer is peak not-not-knowing-what-AI-is-for

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 3 Dec 2019 8:58 pm

AI can be cool. AI can be strange. AI can be promising, or frightening. Here’s AI at totally uncool and not frightening at all – bundled with a crappy MIDI keyboard, for … some … reason.

Okay, so TL:DR – Amazon published some kinda me-too algorithms for music generation that were what we’ve seen for years from Google, Sony, Microsoft, and hundreds of data scientists, bundled a crap MIDI keyboard for $99, and it’s the future! AI! I mean, it definitely doesn’t just sound like a 90s General MIDI keyboard with some bad MIDI patterns.” “The machine has the power of literally all of music composition ever. Now anyone can make musiER:Jfds;kjsfj l; jks

Oops, sorry, I might have briefly started banging my head against my computer keyboard. I’m back.

This is worth talking about because machine learning does have potential – and this neither represents that potential nor accurately represents what machine learning even is.

Game changer.

If at this point you’re unsure what AI is, how you should feel about it, or even if you should care – don’t worry, you’re seriously not alone. “AI” is now largely shorthand for “machine learning.” And that, in turn, now most often refers to a very specific set of techniques currently in vogue that can analyze data and generate predictions by deriving patterns from that data, and not by using rules. That’s a big deal in music, because traditionally both computer models and even paper models of theory have used rules more than they have a probability. You can think of AI in music as related to a dice role – a very, very well-informed, data-driven, weighted dice role – and less like a theory manual or a robotic composer or whatever people have in mind.

Wait a minute – that doesn’t sound like AI at all. Ah, yes. About that.

So, what I’ve just described counts as AI to data scientists, even though it isn’t really related very much to AI in science fiction and popular understanding. The problem is, clarifying that distinction is hard, whereas exploiting that misunderstanding is lucrative. Misrepresenting it makes the tech sound more advanced than arguably it really is, which could be useful if you’re in the business of selling that tech. Ruh-roh.

With that in mind, what Amazon just did is either very dangerous or – weirdly, actually, very useful, because it’s such total, obvious bulls*** that it hopefully makes clear to even laypeople that what they claim they’re doing isn’t what they’re demonstrating. So we get post-curtain-reveal Oz – here, in the form of Amazon AI chief Dr. Matt Wood, pulling off a bad clone of Steve Jobs (even black-and-denim, of course).

Dr. Matt Wood does really have a doctorate in bioinformatics, says LinkedIn. He knows his stuff. That makes this even more maddening.

Let’s imagine his original research, which was predicting protein structures. You know what most of us wouldn’t do? Presumably, we wouldn’t stand in front of a packed auditorium and pretend to understand protein structures, if we aren’t a microbiologist. And we certainly wouldn’t go on to claim predicting protein structures meant we could create life, and also, we’re God now.

But that is essentially what this is, with music – and it is exceedingly weird, from the moment Amazon’s VP of AI is introduced by… I want to say a voiceover by a cowboy?

Summary of his talk: AI can navigate moon rovers and fix teeth. So therefore, it should replace composers – right? (I can do long division in my head. Ergo, next I will try time travel.) We need a product, so give us a hundred bucks, and we’ll give you a developer kit that has a MIDI keyboard and that’s the future of music. We’ll also claim this is an industry first, because we bundled a MIDI keyboard.

At 7 minutes, 57 seconds, Dr. Wood murders Beethoven’s ghost, followed by at 8:30 by sort of bad machine learning example augmented with GarageBand visuals and some floating particles that I guess are the neural net “thinking”?

Then you get Jonathan Coulton (why, JoCo, why?) attempting to sing over something that sounds like a stuck-MIDI-note Band-in-a-Box that just crashed.

Even by AI tech demo standards, it’s this:

Deeper question: I’m not totally certain what has earned us in music the expectation from the rest of society that, not only is what we do already not worth paying for, but everyone should be able to do it, without expending any effort. I don’t have this expectation of neuroscience or basketball, for instance.

But this isn’t even about that. This doesn’t even hold up to student AI examples from three years ago.

It’s “the world’s first” because they give you a MIDI keyboard. But great news – we can beat them. The AWS DeepComposer isn’t shipping yet, so you can actually be the world’s first right now – just grab a USB cable, a MIDI keyboard, connect to one of a half-dozen tools that do the same thing, and you’re done. I’ll give you an extra five minutes to map the MIDI keys.

Or just skip the AI, plug in a MIDI keyboard, and let your cat walk over it.

Translating the specs then:

  1. A s***ty MIDI keyboard with some buttons on it, and no “AI.”
  2. Some machine learning software, with pre-trained generative models for “rock, pop, jazz, and classical.” (aka, and saying this as a white person with a musicology background, “white, white, black-but-white people version, really old white.”)
  3. “Share your creations by publishing your tracks to SoundCloud in just a few clicks from the AWS DeepComposer console.”*

Technically *1 has been available in some form since the mid-80s and *3 is true of any music software connected to the Internet, but … *2, AI! (Please, please say I’m wrong and there’s custom silicon in there for training. Something. Anything to make this make any sense at all.)

I would love to hear I’m wrong and there’s some specialized machine learning silicon embedded in the keyboard but… uh, guessing that’s a no.

Watch the trainwreck now, soon to join the annals of “terrible ideas in tech” history with Microsoft Bob and Google Glass:

https://aws.amazon.com/deepcomposer/

By the way, don’t forget that AWS is being actively targeted right now by the music community with a boycott. Maybe they were hoping for a Springtime for Hitler-style turn-around, like if this is bad enough, we’d love them again? Dunno.

Anyway, if you do want to try this “AI” stuff out – and it can really be interesting – here is a far more comprehensive and musically interesting set of tools from rival Google:

https://magenta.tensorflow.org

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming of anything but this.

AI: I am the button.

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You can learn a lot from Surgeon’s live rigs

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 12 Nov 2019 3:04 pm

Our friends at Resident Advisor took a peek at the techno legend’s battle-tested live rigs. And it’s not so much about gear – it says a lot about musical technique.

First, it’s simple but irresistible – Surgeon’s live rig is devastatingly effective, thanks to some economical decision making and inarguable musicianship:

  • Octatrack – six drum sounds, some backing tracks
  • LEPLOOP – FM oscillators, noise, and then sequenced sample and hold and LFO, plus it filters and delays the Octatrack
  • Faderfox controller accesses Octatrack parameters without menu diving (the PC4 pot controller, though see also the new EC4 if you prefer encoders and display)
  • OTO Machines BOUM – compressor/warmer

Laboratorio Elettronico Popolare’s LEPLOOP is the unexpected star of this one – a unique sequencer – synth – drum machine. Surgeon does say that devices tend to come and go, but I’m glad RA caught him with the LEPLOOP in the mix – it’s really adding a lot of dynamism to his sets at the moment. (Well, and it’s nice when the lesser-known gear gets some love!)

It’s also interesting that he uses the BOUM as a kind of glue to keep things from jumping out in the mix.

“It does make you want to … jump around.” Hell, yes.

He also takes a look at the “abstract” live set. Actually, I think this is more idiosyncratic – meaning it’s harder to learn from how he works. So, sure, the inexpensive SH-01A from Roland makes loads of sense – it’s a melodic favorite of mine, and I think a more versatile instrument than the all-about-acid 303s everyone has talked about lately. (I’m sticking with its Juno sibling, myself, but the SH-01A is my other favorite Boutique.) And the LYRA-8 is simply dreamy – it’s the creation of the wonderful SOMA, who I’ve profiled.

Maybe the most telling part of this is the Electro-Harmonix looper, the 45000. Just as the techno set is all about controlled modulation, the spice of the LEPLOOP atop the foundation of the Octatrack, here the composition focuses on the looper’s structure. That allows spontaneous layering of new material, with the regular patterns from the Roland and Lyra building up a skeleton.

There’s a full feature interview on RA, and well worth a read – it’s a must if you’re a Surgeon fan, but full of sage advice even if your own music lies in another idiom.

The Art Of Production: Surgeon

The whole series from RA has been great, but I’d wager this one may be the most useful to other artists – and of course, I’m a sucker for anyone talking about how they actually play live.

For some longer-form discussion with Surgeon, he also gave a recorded 45-minute talk at Berlin landmark SchneidersLaden:

Oh yeah, and the set? It’s a couple of years old, but here’s a nice video from Glasgow:

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This is the new MeeBlip thru5 kit, and it’s free with our geode synth for 48 hours

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 22 Oct 2019 12:37 pm

We’ve got a new kit that’s indispensable for your gear. So hey, let’s celebrate Black Friday really early. Buy a MeeBlip synth, get a MIDI splitter kit for free.

The thru5 is a new MeeBlip kit. It’s a splitter (also known as a thru box), whatever messages are sent to the MIDI IN jack gets simultaneously passed through to all five MIDI OUT jacks. It’s perfect for routing clock in a jam session, for instance.

The board is mostly assembled; all you have to do is solder on the MIDI jacks and (for power) the USB port. That’s about as easy as electronics soldering gets, meaning the thru5 makes a good kit if you’re just getting started with soldering. For everyone else, you’ll put it together quickly and have a useful tool.

Our geode synthesizer is in stock right now, so we’re making this easy to buy both: order a geode, and get a thru5 free, while supplies last.

But hurry: the offer runs just through Wednesday October 23, 23:59 West Coast time.

Check out the MeeBlip thru5.

And get it free when you buy geode. Plus, we’ve got free standard shipping on now.

About MeeBlip geode

If you’re not already familiar with geode, here’s why you’ll want our hardware synth – and now you’ve got a great excuse to get one right now.

Q&A

Can I use the USB port to make this a USB MIDI interface?

No – USB is just for power on thru5. If you want a USB MIDI interface, check out cubit go.

Isn’t there already a MeeBlip thru box?

Yep, we also make the cubit splitter, which comes in a rugged case and features vertical-mount jacks, and doesn’t require soldering. We had a chance to make thru5 really affordable and easy as a kit, so we wanted to offer it to you.

Why is it already partly assembled? I want to do everything myself!

Hey, more power to you – but this is the most reliable, cost-effective way to offer up this particular kit, so we kept it simple.

Will you make more kits?

That depends on you – let us know if you like this, and what you’d want to see.

Get MeeBlip geode now, with free thru5 [expires 23:59 Wednesday October 22!]

Get MeeBlip thru5 kit (free with geode for 48 hours, $19.95 after that)

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The dorky recorder you had in school just got a futuristic remake

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 18 Oct 2019 4:04 pm

The recorder’s simplicity has made it ubiquitous in music education. Digital builders want to refresh it and make it cool – and no, this isn’t an April Fools’ joke.

Italian startup Artinoise is taking on the recorder as controller, musical instrument, and learning tool, with its new re.corder. Davide Macini, who has made the excellent boutique soundmachines line as well as working on the latest IK Multimedia synths (among others) is behind the project, so this is actually coming from someone with real experience.

And recorder joking aside, this has to be a new standard in affordable expressive controllers. Short only of using your own voice, there isn’t another way to get something this portable and this expressive and this affordable.

Recorders have become a mainstay of music education, because they are so cheap – particularly with mass manufactured plastic instruments. Recorders of course have a relatively simple playing method – just finger the right holes and blow, with fairly basic pressure control giving reasonably consistent pitch.

Unfortunately, that same blessing is also a curse; those cheap instruments don’t exactly exude character, and the easy of playing them kinda sorta in tune versus the relative complexity of playing them expressively and precisely in tune means that a classroom full of kids can make a fairly horrid sound. That was my experience learning with them, at least, and perhaps yours, too. A consort full of poorly played plastic recorders is not a lovable sound. Basically, the problem is overblowing. So it was that the wonderful wooden Renaissance instrument was replaced by a cartoonish post-war parody in plastic, overused in education without actually teaching kids intonation. (Read a detailed article on the topic if you like.)

The re.corder might just salvage all of this. It’s actually three instruments:

  1. An acoustic recorder, in the traditional sense.
  2. A digital instrument with its own sound, provided by app but using the recorder’s expressive and simple controls.
  3. A controller for other instruments, via MIDI or CV/gate.

There’s a mute plug that lets you play it silently for scenarios 2 + 3, which also gives the ability to play this without disturbing others via headphones.

The re.corder is hardly the first digital instrument, or even the first to have teaching as a key use case – Akai, Roland, Yamaha, and others have attempted the same. But those instruments don’t double as acoustic recorders, and they come from manufacturers who spread attention across a range of different instrument forms. The makers of re.corder have really focused on this single solution.

And then there’s the price, which was what allowed the poor plastic pipes to take off in the first place. The re.corder pricing starts at just 62EUR (with a 55EUR early bird price), and costs even less in bundles. That makes it competitive with other educational offerings.

Their Kickstarter has only just launched, but it already has mounted some impressive sales figures. That suggests people are looking for this combination of inexpensive, simple, and educational. The launch video is a bit awkward, but the point is taken – this is an educational instrument that promises to be taken seriously by adults, in contrast to what has come before.

I just worry a bit that their design looks a little like a Doctor Who prop, but I suspect the idea is solid anyway.

In addition to the acoustic capabilities, you get touch sensors, custom fingerings, 3D accelerometer sensing for added expression, and Bluetooth LE wireless communication with the app (or your computer or other gear).

Plus, as period recorder players can tell you (while their gamba playing friends struggle up the stairs), the whole thing is eminently portable.

Given you could easily spend twice this on a crappy plastic MIDI keyboard you’ll toss or forget in a couple of years, I do think this product might have some success.

You can back the project on Kickstarter now, and find a lot more details:

Official site:

The post The dorky recorder you had in school just got a futuristic remake appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Polyend’s Medusa still looks unique amidst wavetable rush, and now it’s €798

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 7 Oct 2019 2:47 pm

With characteristic engineer’s modesty, Polish maker Polyend calls its Medusa wavetable+analog grid “slightly different.” But it’s really rather different, and a €798 price makes it more accessible.

TL:DR – the Medusa is a unique instrument sonically, nothing else has its control layout, the grid adds expression and doubles as MPE controller for other gear (including modular), and the price cut should bring it slightly more in range. (Plus you now get some colored knobs for customization.)

I’m honestly surprised, then, that it hasn’t gotten more attention, but I think it could be a slow burner. At the risk of being accused of shilling for Polyend, let me explain why I feel that way; you’re welcome to disagree, naturally.

Let’s get into it:

There’s an embarrassment of riches in the synth world now, both modular and desktop. And 2019 has quickly become a flood of instruments employing wavetable synthesis. At first, I thought that might make the more boutique, idiosyncratic Polyend Medusa lost in the crowd. But on reflection, I think now with all these wavetable options – and yes, more about those soon – the Medusa stands out.

I’ll be a bit blunt. One drawback of wavetable synthesis is that the sounds can become grating. And the same thing that makes wavetable appealing (wild possibilities as you modulate through the wavetables) can also make it tiring or hard to control (wild possibilities as you modulate through the wavetables). That’s arguably an objective assessment, even – the whole idea of the approach is, you get a bunch of harmonic and inharmonic content shifting quickly. We’re not accustomed to that in acoustic instruments or most natural sound. It’s exciting, but too much of it could then become like drinking hot sauce out of the bottle.

So with that in mind, Medusa’s split personality seems rather prescient. By pairing the three digital wavetable oscillators with three analog oscillators, the Dreadbox analog filter (to tame some of that harmonic content), and an analog noise generator, there’s ample opportunity to balance out the instrument’s edgier sounds with some warm body. And Polyend’s deceptively simple approach – putting dedicated fader smack dab in the middle of the unit – means you can literally just reach out and grab either side to adjust.

If you just want a wavetable synthesizer, in other words, you now have a growing number of cheaper options. But a big reason why I don’t want to part with the Medusa is, it has this strong tendency to be warm and fuzzy when you want it to be – and to mix hard-synced analog sounds with the wavetable ones.

That alone isn’t quite enough to set apart the Medusa, though, since there are various other architectures available. So now, some of the braver design decisions Jacek and Polyend made on the Medusa mean that it continues to stand out of the pack. That is, no one else is really attacking ideas like this:

  • The XYZ touch detection of the Medusa grid (which is still astoundingly precise and expressive, something that’s hard to nail on this sort of 8×8 grid)
  • MPE compatibility (now a MIDI standard for polyphonic expression, so you can use all those fingertips of yours independently, as intended)
  • Lots of independent modulation sources and the ability to route them with just a couple of button presses – that is, the five LFOs and five loopable envelopes – all without menu diving.

Here’s a beautiful demonstration of how well this MPE stuff works, using Polyend’s also-superb Poly 2 MIDI to CV converter. It really makes an excellent polyphonic controller for modular hardware and advanced MPE-compatible software synths:

On specs alone, other wavetable instruments do look competitive. But none so far under a grand offers this accessibility of modulation and expression that the grid and control layout of the Medusa provide.

And I feel now more than ever than owning the Medusa really is like having a unique Eurorack modular, minus the rack. And it’s one that you get attached to, rather than wanting to unscrew a couple of modules and put them up for sale used. (Yes, Dreadbox for their part even have a new line of budget modules. And they’re great, but note that you quickly reach the price of the Medusa, without a case, and with fewer capabilities and arguably even less-ready routing.)

All of this ought to be an answer to people droning on… Oh, wait – drones! I forgot! Drone mode is really superb, allowing you to latch tones and create gorgeous, shifting drones. You can spend hours doing this.

Sorry, got distracted there. Where was I? Oh yes –

People are constantly droning on (a much less appealing sound than music drones) about how there are no new ideas in electronic instruments, yadda yadda, everything is from the 70s, everything is a clone or remake…

The Medusa ought to be an answer to that, if more people paid it some attention. 3D grid sensing is absolutely new, as is the kind of integrated control possible here. Now, sure, individual elements like envelopes and wavetable synthesis and 24dB/octave analog filters are all new. But it’s peculiar that synths are suddenly held up to this idea of needing to reinvent fundamental building blocks every single time. If acoustic instruments were judged by the same standard, you could argue there was no difference between a bagpipe, an English horn, and a Cambodian Sralai because they all have reeds. The exact combination really does matter. You might love or hate the combination on the Medusa, but that’s the point – it feels like a particular set of instrumental decisions.

I’ve reviewed the Medusa already, though, and thanks to being slow with my review incorporated lots of the firmware improvements early reviewers missed.

But I do feel reasonably confident in saying it’s worth a look if €799 is now in budget. It’s definitely not for everyone. But why should everything be that? What the Medusa proves is, even doing something relatively obvious (polyphony, wavetable sound sources), you can still remain unique by taking some risks.

And if I didn’t cheer-lead a bit for that, it would mean I had probably ceased being myself.

Previously, full review:

The post Polyend’s Medusa still looks unique amidst wavetable rush, and now it’s €798 appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

MeeBlip cubit go: USB MIDI anywhere, with ultra-tight timing

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 15 Aug 2019 3:57 pm

Today, we’re announcing MeeBlip cubit go – a unique USB MIDI interface with incredibly tight timing.

cubit go has the ports you most often need when mobile – one input, so you can perform, and four outputs, for sending notes and/or clock.

Here’s the twist: we’ve integrated hardware MIDI thru circuitry on the four outputs. Anything you send to the interface’s output goes to all four jacks simultaneously. There’s no software delay – you get rock-solid, ultra-tight timing.

That makes cubit go the perfect follow-up to our cubit splitter, introduced earlier this year. You still get four outs with identical timing – but now in a USB MIDI interface you can connect to your computer or mobile device.

Cubit go is driverless and USB powered, so it works with any desktop OS, but also on phones and tablets (with the appropriate cables, sold separately). And the jacks are top-mounted for convenience.

Just plug it in and use it – there’s nothing to install, no separate power supply needed, and nothing to worry about. cubit go is palm-sized, lightweight, rugged, performs perfectly, and is easy to use. 

Features:

  • 1×1 USB MIDI interface with integrated hardware MIDI Thru
  • Class-compliant USB MIDI – no drivers needed
  • One input jack
  • Four hardware-mirrored output jacks – no software lag
  • High performance 32-bit ARM Cortex processor
  • Bright green MIDI light flashes when sending or receiving data for easy troubleshooting
  • Size: 108 x 76 x 25 mm (4.25 x 3 x 1 inches), weighs 110 g (3.9 oz)
  • Includes 1 m (3 ft) USB cable
  • USB powered
  • Works with macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android*
  • Made in Canada, available only direct

cubit go is available now for US$59.95, with free worldwide shipping for a limited time, along with our geode synthesizer.

Buy it now

The mission of MeeBlip is to get musicians – and CDM readers – playing instruments easily, whether they’re a beginner or expert. So if we help make sure stuff is plugged in and playing, the cubit tools are doing their job. Let us know what you think and if there’s more stuff you’d want to see.

As with our past products, we made something we want to use, too. I’m definitely using my cubits all the time, so I’m excited now we get some in your hands, too.

https://meeblip.com/products/meeblip-cubit-go

Previously:

The post MeeBlip cubit go: USB MIDI anywhere, with ultra-tight timing appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Here’s how the Sensel Morph’s custom touch control works

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 13 Aug 2019 6:57 pm

The Sensel Morph’s specialized touch control lets you apply both multi-touch position and force (how hard you press). Some new and recent videos make it clear how to customize that for your different tools.

The Morph isn’t alone in the force + multi-touch position game. The growth of MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) depends on multiple controllers. But the Morph tool is uniquely adaptable, thanks to specialized overlays that let it adopt different layouts. So, as I’ve written before, you can swap between a musical control setup for a live show (say, with the Buchla Thunder overlay), and a different overlay for video editing (and fire up Premiere or Final Cut), and so on.

Peter Nyboer from Sensel is a perfect person to explain all this. Now we get to see his full presentation from Perfect Circuit in LA, right in the comfort of our own home. (The magic of the Internet – behold! It’s like we can be everywhere at once, instantly! Or something.)

Here’s his full talk on the overlays and how the customization software works – that last one being a big point, I know:

If you’re looking for a standalone control device, this isn’t it – it’s really more about being lightweight. But I do find the nice thing about the Morph is that it’s small enough you can put it in your backpack and forget about it – even more so than the iPad, and with greater accuracy and force sensing that the iPad lacks.

Sensel have also been busy with additional tutorials on how to work with the Morph. Bitwig Studio gets interesting because of its native MPE support – and there are custom control surface scripts there. (Bitwig seems well-suited to just this sort of tinkerer application.)

You don’t even need to buy a Bitwig Studio license to get started – there’s an included Studio 8-Track license included with the Morph.

It’s really the Buchla overlay that puts things over the top for me. Buchla himself had it right – this diagonal layout just ideally fits under the hand, especially for something performative.

And yeah, here’s the Buchla looking right at home with a modular setup – just as this controller was intended:

Here’s more on how the Morph works with MPE:

Find more at the Sensel Morph product page:

https://sensel.com/pages/the-sensel-morph

The post Here’s how the Sensel Morph’s custom touch control works appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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