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

The Touché, adding expression to synths – just in time for Moogfest

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 17 May 2018 5:54 pm

After years of somewhat similar wheels and pads and keys that wiggle, we’re finally seeing the ability to get physically expressive with sound in new ways. The Expression E Touché is one of the most compelling cases of that – but to understand, you have to watch, and listen.

So the French company and its fearless young leader Arthur Bouflet have cleverly taken Moogfest as a chance to do just that.

You’ll spot the wooden paddle-looking device beneath Arthur’s hand. It’s something that looks simultaneously vintage and historical and futuristic – a design object whose origin and time can’t quite be placed. And your first reaction, probably, is some skepticism – until you watch just how sensitive and intuitively gestural it is. You may or may not be taken with Arthur’s musical sensibilities – hey, I find it rather cheery and groovy, myself – but pay close attention to the gestures that are possible with it, and I think you’ll be impressed.

There’s more than one connection here to Moogfest, the festival-cum-technology meetup coming to North Carolina this week. There’s the custom, limited edition overlay for festival goers, yes, and the fact that Expressive E are going to the festival themselves. But the company have also made great effort to make custom presets for loads of gear, Moog’s equipment included. So that includes apps (Moog Model D for iOS), and hardware (DFAM, Subsequent 37, just to name two in the video).

It’d be hard to demo an expression or sustain pedal, but there’s no need. And it’s easy enough to map those two inputs to any synth. Open-ended, gestural expression is something else – there’s some prep work involved. Hats off, then, to Expressive E for both making an exhaustive library of presets and producing lovely-looking video demos to show why this all matters. (They’ve even mapped our MeeBlip synth.)

With USB, CV, and, MIDI connections, there are all sorts of possibilities for connecting to instruments – hardware and software, digital and analog. And all of these connect to the high-resolution sensing data from the Touché.

I’ll do a full review of this hardware soon, with some advice for DIYers and musicians. But in the meanwhile, these videos really get the point across.

In the age of MIDI Polyphonic Expression, you’ll see a lot of new controllers adding dimension to the inputs they read. And that makes it clearer than ever that part of what was holding back more expressive electronic musicianship was simply the common standard to describe a wider range of human performance.

But this particular hardware is special, in that it suddenly opens up sound where it had once been static. Uh… well, the name fits. Touché.

Let’s watch some more, featuring Dave Smith and Ableton and Mutable and Novation and more:

The post The Touché, adding expression to synths – just in time for Moogfest appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Polyend’s Medusa is an expressive grid, powerful sequencer, and synth

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 8 May 2018 12:14 pm

Polish maker Polyend has one special grid – expressive sensing meets powerful sequencing and recording. And now, combined with a dedicated synth made with Dreadbox, it starts to really come alive.

The first impression of Medusa, the new instrument shown last week at Superbooth, is a little bit of a Dreadbox synth tacked into a case with the grid sequencer from Polyend’s SEQ. But that’s really not what you’re getting here. For one thing, Polyend had a hand in the synth portion of this instrument, too, suggesting new architectural features. And for another, because every single parameter on the synth side can be played live and sequenced from the grid, you really get the sense of a complete, integrated instrument.

That’s not to say that SEQ, Polyend’s expansive sequencer product, doesn’t work well at these features, too. In fact, Medusa acts as a nice calling card / advertisement for what SEQ can do. But there’s something about immediately getting sound when you press into a space on the grid that makes a big difference.

And even before you start up the step sequencer, Medusa’s grid is irresistible to play. Each pad responds to x/y/z input, not just pressure. It’s sort of the opposite of the lifeless, on/off digital feeling of the monome – every continuous variation of the finger, every movement around the pad controls the sound. (Apologies to the monome, but that to me is a significant evolution – now that we’re accustomed to the once-radical grid interactions of the monome, we might well expect this kind of expressive dimension.)

Polyend have equipped that grid with a dedicated display, and mapped every parameter from the synth. So you can play live, you can record those performances, or you can increment through steps and play or program detailed changes as steps, then play back and jam.

This is what it’s all about – deep control of parameters, which you can then assign to individual pads and automate step-by-step.

Of course, the other advantage of an integrated instrument is, you don’t have the bandwidth problems of MIDI. The internal architecture is there both for synth and sequencer, so you can modulate everything as fast as you like. (Richard Devine was on hand to turn up the bpm knob really high to test that.)

The Medusa is planned for availability August/September 2018 at 999€.

That’s 999 including VAT and shipping, so figure even a bit less in USD.

And yeah, if you want to know my favorite thing from Superbooth – this is it. It seemed to be a crowd favorite, as well.

Here are the full planned, confirmed specs as provided to CDM – though Polyend hinted there may be more in the works by launch, too. (Dreadbox may have more to say about this, too; I only had time to talk to Polyend!)

64 customizable three-dimension-expressive pads for a controller/sequencer
Step, live, and incremental sequence modes
256 independent sequences and voice presets
Per-step sequencing of notes, parameter locks, or even entire synth voice presets
Assign X and Y pressure axis to any modulation parameter, per pad
Randomization of voice and sequence
OLED display with customizable user menus

The synth is a nice digital-analog hybrid – 3 + 3, analog + digital wavetable (and comes with its own separate OLED display):

This synth end of Medusa means business, too.


Three analog oscillators with sync, four wave types per oscillator
Three wavetable oscillators
24dB Dreadbox analog multimode filter (2- or 4-pole lowpass, highpass)
Play modes: monophonic, paraphonic x 3, paraphonic x 6 (so you can route the digital oscillators through the analog filter, yes)
Frequency modulation for oscillators and filter
Audio input
Noise generator with color shaping

Powerful, assignable envelopes and LFOs let you shape the 3 analog + 3 digital oscillators… and all of this is accessible from the grid/sequencer, too.

Modulation + control:
5 independent LFOs, which you can route into almost anything
5 independent DADSR envelopes with looping and its own parameter assignment
Mixer for all seven analog/digital/noise voices
Separate volume control for headphone and main audio out
USB MIDI in + out and DIN MIDI in + out + thru

Here’s Piotr talking about it in a couple minutes to FACT:

Sound demo, from Bonedo:



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MIDI Polyphonic Expression is now a thing, with new gear and software

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 7 May 2018 5:37 pm

MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE) is now an official part of the MIDI standard. And Superbooth Berlin shows it’s catching on everywhere from granular synths to modular gear.

For decades now, it’s been easy enough to add expression to a single, monophonic line, via various additional controls. But humans have more than one finger. And with MIDI, there was until recently no standard way of adding additional expressiveness for multiple notes/fingers at the same time. All of that changed with the adoption of the MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) specification.

Here’s a nice video explanation from our friend, musician and developer Geert Bevin:

“Oh, fine,” naysayers were able to say, “but is that really for very many people?” And sure enough, there haven’t been so many instruments that knew what to do with the MPE data from a controller. So while you can pick up a controller like the ROLI Seaboard (or more boutique items from Roger Linn and Madrona Labs), and see support in major DAWs like Logic, Cubase, Reaper, GarageBand, and Bitwig Studio, mostly what you’d play would be specialized instruments made for them.

But that’s changing. It’s changing fast enough that you could spot the theme even at an analog-focused show like Superbooth.

Here’s a round-up of what was shown just at that show – and that isn’t even a complete list of the hardware and software support available now.

Thanks to Konstantin Hess from ROLI who helped me compile this list and provided some photos.

Polyend/Dreadbox Medusa. This all-in-one sequencer/synth is one I’ll write up separately. That grid has dedicated X/Y/Z movement on it, and it’s terrifically expressive. What’s great is, it uses MPE so you can record and play that data in supported hosts – or presumably use the same to sequence oteher MPE-compatible gear. And that also means:

Polyend SEQ. The Polish builder’s standalone sequencer also works with SEQ. As on the Medusa, you can play that live, or increment through, or step sequence control input.

Tasty Chips GR-1 Granular Synthesizer. Granular instruments have always posed a challenge when it comes to live performance, because they require manipulating multiple parameters at once. That of course makes them a natural for MPE – and sure enough, when Tasty Chips crowd-funded their GR-1 grain synth, they made MPE one of the selling points. Connect something like a Seaboard, and you have a granular instrument at your command. (An ultra-mobile, affordable Seaboard BLOCK was there for the demo in Berlin.)

The singular Gaz Williams recently gave this a go:

Audio Damage Quanta. The newest iOS app/desktop plug-in from Audio Damage isn’t ready to use yet, but an early build was already at Superbooth connected to both a Linnstrument and a ROLI Seaboard for control. Set an iPad with your controller, and you have a mobile grain instrument solution.

Expert Sleepers FH-1. The FH-1 is a unique MIDI-to-CV modular interface, with both onboard USB host capabilities and polyphonic support. But what would polyphonic input be if you couldn’t also add polyphonic expression? And sure enough, the FH-1 is adding support for that natively. I’m hopeful that Bastl Instruments will choose to do the same with their own 1983 MIDI module.

Polyend Poly module. Also from Polyend, the Poly is designed around polyphony – note the eight-row matrix of CV out jacks, which makes it a sophisticated gateway from MIDI and USB MIDI to voltage. But this digital-to-analog gateway also has native support for MPE, meaning the moment you connect an MPE-sending controller, you can patch that expression into whatever you like.

Endorphin.es Shuttle Control. Shuttle Control is both a (high res) 12-bit MIDI-to-CV converter and practically a little computer-in-a-module all its own. It’s got MPE support, and was showing off that capability at Superbooth.

Once you have that MIDI bridge to voltage, of course, MPE gives you additional powers over a modular rig, so this opens up a lot more than just the stuff mentioned here.

I even know some people switching from Ableton Live to Bitwig Studio just for the added convenience of native MPE support. (That’s a niche, for sure, but it’s real.) I guess the key here is, it takes just one instrument or one controller you love to get you hooked – and then sophisticated modular and software environments can connect to still more possibilities.

It’s not something you’re going to need for every bassline or use all the time, but for some instruments, it adds another dimension to sound and playability.

Got some MPE-supporting picks of your own, or your own creations? Do let us know.

The post MIDI Polyphonic Expression is now a thing, with new gear and software appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

MFB have a killer live drum machine + synth in the hybrid Tanzbär-2

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 4 May 2018 12:07 pm

It’s an analog drum machine plus bassline synth. It’s a digital drum machine with sample loading. It’s packed with live features and modulation. The coming MFB box could be … The One.

While big brands have focused on digital machines (or even software/hardware combos), MFB out of Berlin are the little boutique brand who have come out with a steady stream of analog boxes that are nonetheless compact and accessibly priced. And it’s not so much the fact that they have analog circuitry inside them as the fact that they’re different. Those drum timbres will hammer through your music when called upon, just like the Roland classics and whatnot, but they also sound distinctive. And with so much music already made on the well-known machines, different is good.

That said, for all the lovely sounds packed into any of these boxes, they all fell a little short of “must-have” – great-sounding but a bit fiddly and more focused on sound than performance features and sequencing. Then there was the confusing availability of two similar compact boxes, the Tanzmaus and Tanzbär Lite, alongside the Tanzbär flagship which was also … a bit similar to the other two.

Well, forget all that: because even in prototype form, the Tanzbär-2 is a whole new beast. If Roland’s TR-8S and Elektron Digitakt look poised to be the live drum machines for the mainstream, then the MFB might be the best boutique rival.

Or to put it another way – plug this thing in, and you can jam like a crazy person, with bassline and drums all ready to go.

Highlights (there’s no press release so … I’m doing this from memory):

A built-in bass synth that sounds totally brilliant, with internal melodic programming
Analog drum parts, plus digital drum parts (hey, it worked for the 909)
Sample loading, via MIDI dump or over USB, so you can load your own samples
Tons of front panel parameters for hands-on control of both the analog and digital sections’ parts
Dedicated faders for all the parts’ volumes
Two additional parameters for each part (accessed by the screen)
An LFO you can route to absolutely anything
Step sequencer, with per-step parameter automation
Separate outs for each part

And it’s really compact, too – not exactly lightweight (though that’s okay when you’re jamming hard on it), but easily slipped into a bag with a small footprint.

Really the only missing feature is, there aren’t internal effects … but that would complicate the design, and it does have separate outs.

The TB2 is really three instruments in one. There’s a simple analog bassline synth. The analog percussion section houses kicks, toms, congas, and snares. And then a digital section handles hats and additional percussion – or load your own digital samples for more choices. Sounds about perfect.

Faders! Dedicated outs! And it’s all really compact. Those knobs feel great, too, if you had a more fiddly experience with older MFB gear.

There are already a lot of parameters on the front panel, but parts also have additional parameters accessed by the two data knobs, with feedback on this display. (You’ll see some hints as to those features on the silkscreen, too.)

I’m sold. I think the fact that it includes a bassline synth internally is already great. I’ve got lots of questions, but they’re working on finishing this up this summer, so it’ll be better to make a separate trip to MFB after Superbooth. Then we can get some real sound samples without a convention going on behind us, and learn more about the details.

Cost isn’t confirmed, but they’re planning for under a grand (USD/EUR). Given you could pretty much do all your live dance sets on this box alone, that sounds good.

But wait — there’s more! MFB also new modules coming, too. Here’s a sneak peak of that:

More on this soon.


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Bastl do waveshaping, MIDI, and magically tune your modules

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 3 May 2018 11:40 am

With a lumberjack-themed timbre-shaping module and a powerful auto-tuning MIDI interface, Czech builder Bastl are back to modular. And they might just solve polyphonic tuning in Eurorack, finally.

Bastl Instruments have staked out the quirky end of synth manufacture in past years. But this is probably the biggest modular news since their rollout of a whole line in 2016. There are just two modules coming out this week, but those two are each pretty powerful – and more is in store.


TIMBER (get it?) is a timbral-themed “Dual Waveform Lumberjack” module. There are two wave shaping circuits, each inspired by the sought-after, unique sound of the Serge Modular – a design beloved by composers since its early 70s introduction at CalArts, and one that has seen a resurgence (uff, sorry) of interest.

Best idea here: you can crossfade easily between signals, including using an external input.

It’s one of the friendliest, most sonically interesting modules we’ve seen from Bastl, and it looks like it just might be a must-have.

Cost: €170.00, shipping in July.



Okay, on the surface, this is a MIDI-to-CV module with a clever name (the year MIDI was first demonstrated).

But it’s more than that. It’s actually a solution to creating polyphonic racks without having everything fall out of tune. And while microtonal and experimental music is good fun, you generally don’t want those microtones being accidental because you can’t get your modules working together.

I’ve been talking to the Bastl engineers for some months about this problem, especially as virtuoso Brno musician HRTL, who has worked with Bastl on this problem, has been keenly working on a solution. (HRTL’s Windowlickerz duo with Oliver Torr makes heavy use of thick polyphony – and keeps it in tune.)

Here’s how it works: you get four channels of CV and gate. Each channel listens to the waveforms and with a press of the TUNE button, adjusts to whatever tune you want. It’s basically the same idea as having an orchestra tune – think of the 1983 unit as the oboe. It even maps across seven octaves.

There are a bunch of other features here, including transposition and other creative features. It could prove to be one of the most important modules of the Eurorack age, because it finally opens the format to practical, modular polyphony. Sure, you could add a polyphonic module, but that rather defeats the purpose of customizing a rack in the first place.

No pricing yet, but they promise “around 250EUR.” Due in September. We’ll watch this one.


More news

Last time we caught up with Bastl at Superbooth, they had unveiled their own line of roasted coffee. (Seriously.) They’re up to more now, too. THYME, shown last year, is finally shipping at 439EUR. And they’re heading to host events in Prague and Brno, Czech, helping open the new _ZVUK_ and Synth Library spaces in Prague, co-organizing a festival, and releasing music on their new Nona records label.

More on that later.

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Cakewalk SONAR DAW for Windows is back – and it’s now free

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 4 Apr 2018 2:43 pm

One of Windows’ most powerful, most popular, most native-optimized audio tools is not only back from the dead, it’s available for free. A version of SONAR Platinum will be available free, and finally, it’s just called “Cakewalk.”

We learned back in February that Singapore-based BandLab acquired Cakewalk’s assets from Gibson. And in a sign this was a serious deal, they also got some of Cakewalk’s team, including top engineers Noel Borthwick and Ben Staton. That differs from a lot of ill-fated acquisitions; music technology assets are often fairly meaningless without the humans who worked on them.

An online and mobile DAW called BandLab just acquired Cakewalk’s IP

Now, there’s more. This week, BandLab announced they’re re-releasing the DAW as “Cakewalk by BandLab.” And it is actually SONAR Platinum. You even get tools like the ProChannel modules for signal processing.

So, wait, what’s the catch? Well, you do need to install the BandLab client to download the DAW; this is bait for BandLab’s online services. And BandLab say that while this includes “the entire SONAR Platinum feature set” in a version with “full authentication and unlimited feature-access” for free, some of the bundled tools are evidently missing. Fortunately, at least, that appears limited to selected add-ons, not the core DAW:

Cakewalk by BandLab is a streamlined version of SONAR Platinum – and certain third party products and content bundles will no longer be included. Existing users who have already purchased bundles or individual third party products and plug-ins can still use those products with Cakewalk by BandLab.

This is still big news. Cakewalk was always a leader in support for 64-bit and Windows core technologies. SONAR supports touch, VST3, and other technologies missing from a lot of rival DAWs. And this could in fact reinvigorate the Windows platform for audio at a key moment. Heck, it might be a reason to consider a Surface Book with touch support, or to migrate to a fast laptop. SONAR requires some adjustment if you’re used to another DAW, but it’s got a long history in production.

On the Windows support site, this excerpt including a quote from Pete Brown is telling – Microsoft, lacking something like Apple’s Logic Pro, really need this:

Pete Brown, from Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, said “We’re thrilled that Cakewalk has found a new home with a company that understands the musician community, and that cares sincerely about digital audio production. Cakewalk has been a great partner, working to make their DAW better for their customers by quickly adopting new Windows features like pen, Bluetooth MIDI, multi-touch, Dial, and more. We look forward to working closely with BandLab to continue this innovation.” Cakewalk by BandLab will support pen, touch and Surface Dial throughout the user interface.

And that comes on the heels of a pretty significant reorganization at Microsoft. (It’s a boost of confidence to Windows pro users, too, right when these frequent reorganizations in Redmond are … not confidence boosting.)

Oh yeah, and let’s be honest: even the most die-hard SONAR user tended to refer to their DAW as “Cakewalk.” (That’s true of “Ableton,” too, but it fits this product even better. SONAR’s predecessors for Windows and DOS were all called simply “Cakewalk”; the original vendor name was the geeky “Twelve Tone Systems.”)

So now Cakewalk is Cakewalk. And Cakewalk is free. That counts as some good news. (Now if I can make this run on Linux under WINE, I’ll be even happier still.)

I’ll give this a spin and see if I can offer up a decent beginners’ guide in time for the release.

You can get “early access” now via the site. (Other info is a bit vague, but you can grab the download.)


More on the DAW and its functionality: https://www.bandlab.com/products/cakewalk

Joy rising, Windows users?

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Jam Maestro 3.5 adds features requested by users as these are the best kind

Delivered... Ashley Elsdon | Scene | Tue 3 Apr 2018 11:18 pm

Jam Maestro is an app that keeps on getting updated and in this latest version (3.5) the developer has responded to user requests and has added the following:

  • Support for 7 string Guitar.
  • Support for 5 string Bass.
  • Midi/IAA Instruments further support up to 8 string Guitar/6 string Bass.
  • Individual instrument tuning supported. You can now set each instrument to their own separate tuning if you wish. This can be done in the instrument edit/setup screen.
  • Capo support.
  • Fixed a bunch of issues importing/saving/opening custom drum kits.
  • iOS 11 File browser support.
  • Updated to the latest Audiobus SDK.
  • Various bug fixes.

Developers who respond to their users are the best kind. Apps that get updates in line with what users are after are ideal, it builds community, it builds trust, and it results in happier users. So, a big thumbs up to David Blake, the developer who makes Jam Maestro, and also Jam Maestro Lite too. Nice job David.

Jam Maestro costs $4.99 on the app store (was $8.99), and Jam Maestro Lite is $0.99

Jam Maestro

Jam Maestro Lite

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Xequence MIDI Workstation makes a big move into generative music

Delivered... Ashley Elsdon | Scene | Mon 2 Apr 2018 7:25 pm

Xequence MIDI Workstation has had a big update and introduces a new module called PolyHymnia. This is apparently a musical, engaging and fun generative music module right that lives right inside the app’s Pianoroll editor. You can find it in the new “+” menu in the bottom toolbar (which also contains the new Clipboard options).

Here’s what to expect from PolyHymnia:

  • Advanced, fully configurable algorithms.
  • Separately editable generators for note pitch, length, distance, velocity, and polyphony.
  • Single notes or chords with adjustable, intelligent polyphony.
  • Sophisticated one-tap auto-generation of algorithm settings, either global for all note characteristics, or separately for pitch, length, distance or velocity.
  • Visual selection of desired pitch range by simply zooming / scrolling in the Pianoroll editor.
  • Fully live and interactive, all parameter changes reflected immediately.
  • All PolyHymnia settings automatically stored and recalled per part: generated melodies and their settings can be edited at any later time.
  • Full Undo and Redo for all PolyHymnia parameter edits.
  • Live visualization of algorithms with LEDs.
  • All features can be used for free, however to actually keep and edit the generated sequences, a one-time In-App Purchase is required (SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY PRICE for a limited time!).

Here’s what else is new in this version of Xequence:

  • Pianoroll: Global Clipboard support. Notes and controller data can now be copied and pasted between arbitrary positions inside a part, between parts, or even between projects. Accessed via the new Clipboard (“+”) menu in the bottom left corner of the Pianoroll editor.
  • Keyboard / Drum pads: Much better handling of key and drum pad retriggers: When a key or drum pad is touched with a second finger while the first is still touching it, the current note will be sliced (triggered again) at that point.
  • Files can now be sorted by date.

Other improvements to Xequence:

  • Keyboard: In “Key slide” control mode, recorded controller data is now left unquantized by default.
  • Note velocities are now visible for selected notes (different shades of grey).
  • “Insert empty part” now uses the loop points if the song loop is active.
  • Better MIDI response when editing notes while playhead is moving.
  • The “+” button next to the rightmost instrument on the instruments screen now adds the new instrument with default settings, not with the settings of the rightmost instrument.
  • General performance and user interface improvements.


  • Fix problem with deleting soloed tracks.
  • Fix jumping controller values when multiple controllers were in “Slide” mode.

Xequence is on the app store and costs $6.99 right now:

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Steinberg adds AUv3 MIDI to their iOS DAW Cubasis

Delivered... Ashley Elsdon | Scene | Tue 27 Mar 2018 11:10 pm

Steinberg brings us the latest version of its flagship iOS DAW. Cubasis goes to version 2.4 and brings us one new main feature that will make power users and those who know what AUv3 MIDI is all about very happy.

Here’s what’s new in 2.4:

  • Audio Unit MIDI support – Playfully integrate third-party AU MIDI plug-ins such as arpeggiator, step sequencer and others like Bram Bos Rozeta Sequencer Suite (requires iOS11)
  • Files app support – Easily browse, search and organize all your Cubasis files – on your iPad, in iCloud Drive and across other cloud services (requires iOS11)
  • Maintenance and support

It feels a little short for a Cubasis release that isn’t just a maintenance. To be honest I was hoping for a little more in the next release of Cubasis. Not that AUv3 MIDI isn’t nice, but it wasn’t at the top of my list. Ideally I’d like to have seen a universal app or something on the way to that anyway. Perhaps that’s too much to ask for just yet. Maybe that will come later, in a Cubasis 3 maybe?

Anyway, Cubasis LE also got update, but the AUv3 MIDI functionality is in the IAP, so it doesn’t come for free.

The full version of Cubasis is on sale too, down from its normal price of $49.99 to $24.99, its Waves plugins IAP is also 50% off at $9.99. Cubasis LE is free, but with an IAP to get the full functionality.

Cubasis is on sale until the 10th of April

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Finally, a new controller for your feet, for software or hardware

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 23 Mar 2018 6:16 pm

Until we evolve more arms, foot controllers are very necessary. So it’s nice to see a new entry for both software and hardware control, in the form of the Nektar PACER.

If you don’t know Nektar, they’ve had a range of controller keyboards for some years now. They made a name for themselves by integrating with Reason, but since added loads of additional software support. And since they aren’t in the software business like Native Instruments and whatnot, Nektar has focused on deep integration with a range of tools.

The PACER does this, but for your feet – targeting software and hardware alike. And it’s about time – we haven’t seen a whole lot of competition in this market for a while, despite feet being something a lot of humans have.

There’s a lot of reason instrumentalists of various types may want foot controllers. You might need to control the transport of your DAW during a recording session, or switch effects in software, or work with preamps or effects on amps.

The PACER appears uniquely suited to all these tasks, for a few reasons:

Color: RGB LED color coding, programmable (get ready to shoegaze, apparently)
Works with DAWs and other MIDI gear: MIDI Machine Control, Mackie Control Universal (MCU)
Built-in support for Apple Logic and Garageband, Bitwig 8-Track and Studio, Cockos Reaper, Propellerhead Reason, Steinberg Cubase and Nuendo, Avid Eleven Rack (okay, so who wants to do an Ableton setup?)
Works with MIDI guitar products: Line 6 Pod and Helix, Fractal Audio AxeFX, Kemper Profiler, Elektron Octatrack Pickup Machine, Electro Harmonix 45000 Looper
Works with guitar products that don’t have MIDI (via standard amp switching and four onboard relays)
Expandable: 2 TRS jack connectors for up to 4 external footswitches, plus another 2 TRS for up to 4
Standalone MIDI operation (without a computer)
USB MIDI operation with a computer
USB bus powered (or use that USB with an adapter if you forget the PSU wall wart)

So, you could easily customize this for your favorite VST plug-ins, whatever. Basically, you get 10 footswitches with RGB LEDs, 1 footswitch for going through presets, 1 encoder with push switch (which navigates the interface and provides control and programming), and a mess of I/O.

The key is making each foot switch press flexible. These can send up to 16 MIDI message (or relay switch) states at once, plus up to six programmable steps sent at once or in sequence. So you can chain together lots of different settings.

It’s clearly not limited to guitarists. Anyone who’s playing an instrument or other controller or even holding a mic may need foot input for recording and effects control – and foot switches are a great way to externalize and control different effects chains.

And it doubles as a USB MIDI interface and works in standalone MIDI mode – or both at once.

Shipping in April 2018, MAP price: $229.99 US / £199.99 / €229.99

More: www.nektartech.com

That name, though.

The post Finally, a new controller for your feet, for software or hardware appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

RouteMIDI is a MIDI AUV3 Audio unit that lets you take MIDI out of your iOS DAW to external gear

Delivered... Ashley Elsdon | Scene | Thu 22 Mar 2018 12:15 am

RouteMIDI is an AUV3 Audio unit which will allow you to direct the output of your DAW tracks to external hardware Synthesizers via MIDI. Which is in itself a very cool thing. The app has come out of the developer’s own personal musical needs, and I think that the best apps come about that way.

RouteMIDI is available on the app store and costs

The developer has also left some useful instructions for set up, which might be helpful in deciding if this app is for you or not


Before diving into the actual guide to operating RouteMIDI, a few words regarding MIDI interfacing the external Synthesizers and modules you will be controlling are in order. MIDI devices go back decades, and so do the interfaces that Computers and Sequencers have employed to connect with them. USB MIDI Interfaces are the most common devices today that you can use to connect your IOS device (iPhone/iPad) to your external Synth/Module – either directly, or even using a Mac as a USB MIDI hub. Some newer MIDI Synths and devices have a choice of either USB “B” type connectors, Micro USB connectors and even the original 5-pin DIN In/Out connectors. The simplest connection, for example, that I have tested RouteMIDI with is a single Lightning-USB cable. Google will be your friend in researching what’s available, but I do promise to attempt to compile some sort of guide resource to point you to sources of MIDI interfacing Hardware/Software.

Setting up…

1. Once you have downloaded RouteMIDI from the App Store, you will notice a new App Icon on your device screen labeled “RouteMIDIApp”. This App is what actually creates the RouteMIDI Audio Unit and installs it on your system. So, go ahead and run this App and after a short time you should see a screen that displays a message “RouteMIDI Audio Unit is now ready for use in a Host App of your choice”. You can now dismiss/exit RouteMIDIApp

2. Since the IOS DAW that most evoked the desire in me to “play” my new Roland D-05 Synthesizer module from tracks of my DAW was Garageband, I am going to write the rest of this guide with Garageband as the DAW we will be using. So then, let’s fire up Garageband and start by creating a new song by tapping “+” in the top right. The first thing to do now is to choose one of the Instrument sources that are displayed when “TRACKS” is highlighted top center screen. Swipe left or right until the “EXTERNAL” panel is showing. Now, tap the “Audio Unit Extensions” icon, and the screen should change to display Icons for all of the compatible Audio Units that are available on your system. Among these Icons you should see the Icon for “RouteMIDI”. Tap it and you should be taken to Garageband track view screen. You should see the first track, which will be displaying the RouteMIDI Icon. Below, you should see the usual Garageband Keyboard, and also the two controls for RouteMIDI.

3. The first control, labeled “MIDI Out” consists of a text field, which displays the names of compatible MIDI destinations or “OUT” devices that RouteMIDI finds interfaced to your system. At the right-hand end of this box there is a “Stepper Control” that enables you to step forward/backward through the available destinations. Assuming that your desired destination is displayed in this text field, you are pretty much done and anything you play or record on this Garageband track will be sent as MIDI to the selected destination/device. If you do not see the destination/device you are searching for despite using the stepper control forward/backward, you should investigate and check that your cables are correctly connected and your external Synth/module is powered up and receiving MIIDI signals using whatever you may have at your disposal.

4. Below the “MIDI Out” control section you will see the “Out Channel” cluster of 16 buttons, each one representing a MIDI channel. Only one button at a time can be highlighted, and the default MIDI channel is 1. You would typically use these buttons when assigning multiple Garageband tracks to a Multi-Timbral Synthesizer where different tracks would be assigned to different MIDI channels in order to acess the different “parts” or “voices” within the Multi-Timbral device.

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From Argentina, spectacular custom controllers and a DIY platform

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 21 Mar 2018 1:23 am

Latin America has long been a source of creativity in electronic music. But a bright spot in growing its own electronic hardware comes from Yaeltex, and their vision of unique custom instruments.

A new producer in Argentina

Based in Buenos Aires, Yaeltex are specializing in custom controllers for a range of musical and visual applications, hardware and software. There’s the Miniblock – a high-end, boutique wood-cased controller made in a run of just 30 units. (The wood even comes from their hometown in Patagonia.) And they also make wild, one-off custom controllers direct from customers’ imaginations – plus a platform that lets DIYers make their own stuff from scratch. And they’ve got growing plans in the works, too.

Whether you’re a customer in Buenos Aires or Barcelona, it’s also a big deal that this is coming from Latin America. It’s a first indication of the kind of makers we could see spring up in the area.

And there’s a need. While the particulars differ from country to country, South America faces two major problems. One, a lot of people just don’t have the purchasing power on local salaries and with local currencies to afford products priced for countries like the US, UK, Japan, or Germany. Two, as if that weren’t bad enough, these countries typically slap high import duties on top of the products, making them even more expensive to import. (To the north, Mexico’s trade alliance and economic integration with the USA helps on that second point, at least.)

Of course, these problems could also be an opportunity for a new wave of musical inventors based in the region. And then there’s the chance to localize directly to Spanish and Portuguese.

Custom controllers

On the custom side, you’ve got a range of custom modules that can be combined into a dream controller, including faders, pots, switches with LED lighting, distance sensors, joysticks, and arcade buttons. And they do cool color panels. These are made into the one-of-a-kind rarities you see here, made in conversations with the buyers.

And an open platform

Then there’s the Kilomux shield, which makes it easier to produce your own MIDI controllers using the open, artist-friendly Arduino environment.

Around that, they’ve constructed a whole ecosystem of tools for connecting modular controller add-ons, and configuring the hardware with custom names and I/O mappings – all of these tools open source.

How is this being used? Mateo Ferley Yael tells us:

Most of our clients are making custom controllers for Ableton Live, Traktor, dedicated VST controllers and Hardware Synth controllers like MORPHI, that is designed to control Dave Smiths Mopho and Tetra, making possible to access most “hidden” parameters of the synth in its hardware interface. We also have lots of interest from VJs that are designing their own controllers to use in Resolume, Modul8, Isadora, vvvv or processing.

With Ableton users in mind, there’s a 20% discount for nativeKONTROL DDC for adding integration with Ableton Live.

In conversation

I asked some other questions of Mateo about how their projects are evolving.

Peter: What led you to produce the Kilomux?

Mateo: We were inspired by Livid’s Brain, the Highly Liquid [DIY MIDI range], and the Doepfer DIY MIDI boards, which we used in our first projects. After using them, we had the idea to make an Arduino-based and open source take on this kind of board. Because “Arduino-based” sounds difficult by default for many musicians and artists, we also made a friendly framework to work with, without the need to solder (using ribbon cables to connect modules) or write code (using our Kilomux configuration tool, Kilowhat). We are now working on a new version of it, adding lots of new features and stuff we learned since 2015, that we hope to launch in early 2019.

What does it mean that you’re trying to build up the scene in Argentina – what’s that like?

Well, even if in Argentina we have a big and competitive software industry, there’s not much hardware development for arts and expression, but happily, we see more brands coming up every year. In a context with such economic constraints and instability, it is really hard to grow a business around products that are not about basic needs. Our brand and most of the hardware manufacturing brands around here are all led by passionate people that choose to risk their time and economic resources to make what we love. There is an amazing synth and Eurorack community and a growing offering of locally-made modules and synth-related products.

Are you finding you’re getting a Latin American customer base, too? What do you think the future of that may be?

Presently, our main target is Latin America. Most of our customers are in Argentina; we have a growing customer community in Mexico and we’re starting to get orders from other Latin American countries. For people from this part of the world, it’s not typical to see products like ours made in Latin America, because of the lack of a local hardware industry. Most of the equipment we buy comes from EU, US, or China, and that’s not because we don’t have the talent or knowledge – the main cause is high manufacturing costs. Shipping charges and taxes make it almost impossible for us to be competitive with the prices of leading manufacturing countries. So people that get to us and see our products are happily surprised when they find we have something special, well done, with support and care for details.

We find that Latin America is a missing voice inside this industry. The way we decided to go is to add value by making unique and original products. We already ship worldwide through FedEx, but we are looking forward to hitting the international market in 2019.

Ed.: this also of course illustrates why protectionism doesn’t necessarily benefit the local manufacturing scene – because it makes importing components more expensive, thus driving up local prices. So it’s terrific they’ve managed to navigate around that problem.

What are you sourcing locally actually, versus importing?

We are locally sourcing all the casing (front-back panels, wood case custom made in Patagonia) and have in-house software development, hardware design and product assembly workforce. All the electronics comes, after testing and tough-selecting the best providers, from the US and China. Even import taxes and shipping costs are really high, we are working hard to keep prices as low as we can.

Thanks, Mateo! We’ll be watching!

So, there’s so much to see with their custom platform for DIYers, that I’ll devote that to another story. And keep your eye out for other developments from Yaeltex and the scene in Argentina and around Latin America. (We’re spoiled with all the interchange in Europe, thanks to being closer geographically and bound together by cheap, fast trains, buses, and flights! So we should definitely get not only more coverage from South America, but see that it’s in Spanish or even Portuguese, since online information becomes critical! Happy to partner with any other sites working on this, too.)



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This custom TR-09 controller is also a great starting point for DIYers

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 16 Mar 2018 6:26 pm

Sometimes, when manufacturers don’t give us exactly what we need, a wonderful thing happens: people invent something to make up the difference.

In this case, while the solution involves Roland’s cute li’l TR-09, the resources here will be useful to anyone curious about making custom controllers – with or without pint-sized Roland drum machines.

Kyle Evans, aka pulseCoder, wanted more hands-on controls for live shows of the TR-09. Those tiny little pots on the machine just weren’t cutting it. The resulting build is beautiful and futuristic – partly because when you build stuff for yourself, you can lavish some extra expense on parts and not worry about pesky things like shipping weight and profit margins. (That’s one reason the DIYer will always, always have an edge over store-bought gear.)

But the other story here is, building this sort of controller has gotten a easier in the past few years than it used to be. Advancements like Arduino, Teensy, and kit-friendly multiplexers may not mean much to people building similar microcontroller-based projects some twenty years ago. But if you’re a musician and say something like “uh, what’s multiplexing?” – this is a nice leg up.

With live performances enjoying a nice renaissance on techno lineups and such, it seems the time is right for some tinkering. So here you go:

1. The Teensy LC microcontroller is the brains of the operation – it’s an easy, inexpensive, flexible chip you can program with the artist-friendly Arduino environment.

Teensy LC store

How to use MIDI with Teensy

2. Multiplexing is a way way to use all those switches, pots, and LEDs without needing so many separate wires. And to help you prototype faster, hobbyist emporium Sparkfun makes a kit that handles just this problem:

Sparkfun Multiplexer

Multiplexer hookup guide

3. The glue to make this work is a little bit of code. You can check out Kyle’s code as a model, especially if you’re also interested in making a TR-09 controller:

TR-09 MIDI code

4. Power tools! It’s not a fun DIY project if you don’t get to do some drilling, satisfying the basic human need to make loud noises and accomplish stuff. Kyle tells CDM: “these arcade switched are not illuminated by default, I drilled holes in the bottom of the plastic casing and added LEDs 🙂

Here’s a look at that finished build:

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Crazy8Beats puts MIDI, analog sequencing, and insanity in one unit

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 8 Mar 2018 6:40 pm

This boutique hardware melds live performance and programming, MIDI and analog triggers, into one desktop pattern maker. And it’s now shipping.

One of the nice things about Roland’s TR-8S this week is that it doesn’t try too hard to be a sequencer. That is, it’s a drum machine with the ability to do some triggering, but it doesn’t get wrapped up in so much functionality that it starts to get complicated.

All of this leaves room for desktop boxes that really focus on creating patterns. And ideally, they’d be suited not just to people who want to do a lot of involved programming, but might limber up their fingers and play live, too.

That’s essentially what the Crazy8Beats from Twisted Electrons is. True to their roots in making weird boxes for acid and chip music, they’ve packed it with features for lots of pattern permutations. But unlike some past attempts by other boutique makers, they’ve kept those features handy with one-touch buttons. (You know, I’m beginning to think that one easy test is – look for sequencers with either simplified screens or no screen at all, if you crave hands-on tactile control.)

The price is at EUR303, but integrates both MIDI I/O and plenty of dedicated trigger outs. So it’ll talk to your MIDI gear. It’ll talk to your analog gear. And if you must, you can even bolt it in a Eurorack case (though it seems way easier to access if it’s flat on a surface).

What I suspect may make this one tantalizing to people, though – in addition to that clever MIDI and analog integration, and a big punch-board style display showing off the different tracks – you get per-track swing and a “crazy” feature with live remixing and randomization.

Plus, you can modulate CC as well as patterns

So… it’s crazy. Oh, yeah, it’s crazy.

Check this nice walkthrough:

Or trip along as Liquid Sky Berlin puts this in action on some acid-flavored madness with other gear:

Via gearporn.berlin


8 Hybrid Analog/MIDI Tracks

8 MIDI tracks, 3 MIDI ports (1 In & 2 Out)
8 Analog Trigger outputs

Variable Accent/CV output per step

MIDI velocity amount, CC modulation, or both per step.
8BIT 0-5V Analog CV output per step

Trigger input/output to sync Crazy8Beats to other devices
MIDI input to receive MIDI clock and set up parameters
MIDI Clock sent on both ports
16 patterns per track
Up to 16 steps per pattern
Individual patterns change per voice (or all at once)
Up to 16 patterns can be chained to create a song
4 play modes per track (forward, reverse,ping pong, random)
Copy, Paste, Clearing of patterns
8 Levels of Swing per track
Crazy feature enables probability and live remixing of patterns
Rhythmic Drill effect with variable rate

16 Pads can be used to punch record patterns live or program visually.

The pads are backlit to provide visual feedback of the pattern you are programming and the tracks that are active.

64 Step LEDs enable you to see 4 tracks advance at any time.

Shipping now.

EUR303 including VAT.


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MIDI Designer Pro 2 adds its own inbuilt programming language with Stream Byter II

Delivered... Ashley Elsdon | Scene | Mon 5 Mar 2018 12:58 am

MIDI Designer Pro has been a go to app for many users who want or need to create bespoke interfaces for almost any MIDI purpose. It’s an app that continually gets improved on, so in some ways this update wasn’t a surprise. On the other hand, it’s a step forward that’s so big that I almost can’t believe it. Whilst it’s a big update, it’s probably going to be of most benefit to those users who are at the most advanced end of the spectrum. So what is it?

MIDI Designer Pro version 2.96 is now embedding the Stream Byter Plugin by Audeonic. This Plugin provides MIDI manipulation in two places: before MIDI Designer processes the MIDI, and before the MIDI produced by MIDI Designer gets sent to a Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Virtual or Hardware target via CoreMIDI.

Stream Byter itself was initially released in May ’13 as a way to extend Audeonic’s MidiBridge 1.5 ‘out in the field’ for customers and has been continuously improved since then. The Stream Byter in Midi Designer is the ‘Stream Byter II’ version that exists in Audeonic’s MidiFire app (iOS/macOS).

What does Stream Byter do? It allows you to make custom MIDI processing modules that you design yourself using a concise programming language made up of rules. There are simple rules for matching and transforming MIDI events and more complex rules for writing modules that behave conditionally, set/examine variables, perform math/timing operations, and of course, generate MIDI messages themselves.

For example here is a very simple case: you are playing a keyboard and you decide that you want to turn a single knob (“reverb,” for instance). The higher (to the right) you go on the keyboard, the louder the reverb gets.

That’s a single line match/transform Stream Byter Input rule:

9X = BX 5B X2

The above rule can be summarized as follows: For every note event received, set the value of the ‘reverb’ controller number (on same channel as note) to the MIDI note number of the note.

Rules can be joined. Imagine you want to toggle the value of another knob from top to bottom every time you hit an A3 on the keyboard, but you don’t want the message to go out for 10 seconds? That’s another rule. Generally rules do one or more of these things, and often combine them:

  • decompose and recompose longer MIDI messages
  • filter MIDI messages
  • transform MIDI messages
  • produce more MIDI messages

The first case, decompose MIDI messages, will be useful for parsing incoming sysex dumps for hardware synths that produce parseable sysex dumps for patches.

Writing Stream Byter rules does require knowledge of the MIDI protocol and how to construct rules correctly. There is an introductory tutorial on the Audeonic site and the full Stream Byter manual is available there too. There is also a dedicated section to the Stream Byter on the Audeonic forum. Midi Designer customers are welcome to post questions or requirements there where the developer and other Stream Byter users will help out.

Stream Byter input and output rules are saved and shared with your layout. Any MIDI Designer Pro 2 user may open a layout with rules someone else has authored free of charge. There’s an in-app purchase to author or edit Stream Byter rules. This IAP will be available upon release of MIDI Designer Pro 2.96. It will be priced at $1.99 for the first three months, and then return to its normal price of $8.99.

In addition to the Stream Byter Plugin, Version 2.96 provides Slow Reset to Default. When a supercontrol button is set to “Reset to Default,” it can now also snap the subcontrol to its value over time. This gives you a slow reset and a precursor of what’s to come with presets.

MIDI Designer Pro 2 is available on the app store for $24.99, and the Stream Byter IAP will cost $1.99 for the next 3 months

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