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


Celebrate the birthday of an amazing resource with free stuff for Ableton Live

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 20 Oct 2017 3:02 pm

It’s perhaps the most useful Ableton Live-focused resource on the Web. And we’re celebrating its fifth birthday with exclusive freebies for CDM readers.

To put it plainly, I think this whole music tech business is at its best when it supports those people willing to share their skills and knowledge. And I can think of few better examples of individuals who I’d want to support than Madeleine Bloom. A veteran of Ableton support, she’s an inexhaustible source of wisdom for how to use that tool precisely and creatively.

Sonic Bloom is full of free tips and inspiration, so it’s a great place to start if you’re just stuck and want to feel more comfortable and effective with this ubiquitous tool. From there, you can then go shopping for more advanced courseware, and packs for Live and Max for Live.

Talk about a personal story – Madeleine was able to solve health issues by using revenue from the site.

Five years ago, on October 19, I released the first Ableton Live tutorial on Sonic Bloom. I started it as a resource hub after realising there was a need while working in tech support at Ableton. Since then it has grown into the biggest Ableton related website on the net, with close to 600 articles available in English and German each. And that, even though I was very ill for about half of Sonic Bloom’s existence (I used my troubleshooting skills to figure out my health issues). I often just about managed to keep it going, the positive feedback I keep receiving from Sonic Bloom readers has helped a lot. I’m now looking forward to the next five years and creating more things I’ve dreamt up. I feel like I’m still just getting started.

I can relate to that struggle to make things work independently, and I’m really hugely happy Madeleine stuck it out. So, let’s celebrate a little.

We have a bunch of stuff to give away – including additional creations by Ableton’s Christian Kleine (like the modular Oscillot):

5 Max for Cats Complete Collection (6 packs, 9 devices)
5 Ableton Live & Push Video Course Bundles
5 House Operators Vol. 1
5 Oscillots
5 Pallas
5 Bengal

Feeling unlucky? Hate leaving things to chance? (Ooh, I hear you… I have a tendency to lose such contests!) Fret not – I asked Madeleine to provide one free download for everyone. So everyone who signs up gets a nice House Operator Device. I demonstrate how not to use it (but hey, I was having fun) here, and prove it’s not limited to house music:

And you can go shopping, because through the 25th of October, everything is half off.

Sign up for our giveaway here. By the way, I’d dragged my feet and had some false starts with the email list. I’ve now got a format I think should work perfectly – we’ll get all the big headlines to you in your inbox, plus some of the music I’m listening and tools I’m using, and the latest on our new video streams, so you don’t lose track. That’ll just be once a week, plus the occasional promo deal and giveaway (for more stuff free).

I’m actually rather enjoying email again as alternative to social media, so maybe the time is right.

Good luck with the giveaway. We’ll announce winners on Monday.


http://sonicbloom.net/

The post Celebrate the birthday of an amazing resource with free stuff for Ableton Live appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Kultsounds: Der Tape Slow-Down-Effekt

Delivered... Immanuel Brockhaus | Scene | Wed 11 Oct 2017 6:00 am

Im neu erschienen Buch Kultsounds – Die prägendsten Klänge der Popmusik 1960-2014 (Transcript, Bielefeld 2017) geht der Pianist, Komponist und Wissenschaftler Immanuel Brockhaus auf die Suche nach prägenden Einzelsounds der Popmusikgeschichte. Sounds oder Effekte wie der Hand Clap, der Synthesizer-Bass, Auto-Tune oder der Klang eines DX 7 E-Pianos sind genuine Popsounds und stehen in hohem Masse für die Identifizierung von Stilen. Brockhaus hat in diesem Buch – seine Dissertation an der Universität Bern – über 2000 Songs der Billboard Charts der vergangenen 60 Jahre analysiert. Er liefert damit Einblicke in Technologie, Anwendungspraxis und Ästhetik von Kultsounds sowie den damit verbundenen Netzwerken. Einer dieser Kultsounds ist nach Brockhaus der Tape Slow-Down-Effekt, der sich dieser Tage immer grösserer Beliebtheit erfreut. Ein Auszug aus dem Buch.

Cover von Kultsounds, erschienen im Transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld 2017

«Let’s do the Time Warp Again»
(Song/Tanz aus The Rocky Horror Show, 1973)

Mit dem Warping in Ableton Live hat das Faszinosum der Zeitkrümmung oder des Zeitsprungs seine Realisierung erfahren: Audiodateien können bei gleichbleibender Tonhöhe im Tempo verändert werden. Der Bandstopp-Effekt scheint am Ursprung dieser Technik zu sein.

Technische Mängel

Wenn ältere Bandmaschinen während der Abspielphase gestoppt oder abrupt in eine andere Bandgeschwindigkeit umgeschaltet werden, reagieren die Motoren und Mechanismen in der Regel nicht unmittelbar, sondern mit einer gewissen Verzögerung. Da sich bei diesem verzögerten Abbremsen die Bandgeschwindigkeit verringert, verändert sich dabei auch automatisch die Tonhöhe des sich auf dem Band befindlichen Materials. Dieser Effekt kann auch bei Kompaktcassetten auftreten. Ähnliche Effekte entstehen bei gleichzeitigem Playback und Spulen eines Tapes. Auch bei Plattenspielern tritt der Pitch-Effekt auf, wenn auf nicht konventionelle Weise die Umdrehungsgeschwindigkeit verändert oder der Drehteller manuell abgebremst wird.

Bei der Bandmaschine, von welcher der Bandstopp Effekt primär ausgeht, handelt es sich im Prinzip um eine technische Unzulänglichkeit, die in der digitalen Ära nicht mehr auftreten kann, da die Systeme keine spürbare Trägheit mehr aufweisen und direkt reagieren. Tonbandmaschinen stoppen und starten aufgrund ihrer technischen Voraussetzungen (Motor und Übertragungsrollen) nicht unmittelbar.

Bei Tape Editing, dem diffizilen, langwierigen und risikobehafteten Vorgang des Schneidens und Kopierens von Ton- und Geräuschmaterial, wird das Band von Hand am Tonkopf entlang geführt, um Beginn und Ende des zu editierenden Materials zu lokalisieren. Dieser auditive, haptische Vorgang wird scrubbing genannt. Das scrubbing hat sich in den DAW’s als Option gehalten, um sehr genaue Schnitte durchzuführen, obwohl eine optische Kontrolle durch die Sichtbarkeit der Wellenformen bereits vorhanden ist. Scrubbing als analoges Relikt führt im digitalen Umfeld eine handwerkliche Daseinsberechtigung da es die visuelle Kontrolle um die auditive und haptische Komponente erweitert.

Bandmaschinen aus dem Consumer (Heim-) Bereich (wie etwa die Akai 400 D) ebenso wie High End Studiogeräte von Studer (A 820) unterlagen gewissen technischen Mängeln. Ein erstes Manko ist das Bandrauschen, ein weiteres sind die Gleichlaufstörungen (wow and flutter), die auch bei Plattenspielern und Kassettenrekordern auftreten. Diese können zwar minimiert werden, sind aber dennoch Teil eines analogen Systems, das auf mechanischen Komponenten wie Motoren und Antriebsriemen beruht. Dies bedeutet, dass sich der Anwender damit arrangieren muss.

Die Studer A 820 Studio Master Maschine verfügte bereits über umfangreiche Pitch Control Features, die es ermöglichten, die Geschwindigkeit während der Wiedergabe individuell anzupassen, was zu ähnlichen Effekten führt. Aber selbst die hochtechnisierte Studer Maschine erzeugt beim Abstoppen den hier angesprochenen Effekt der bei grober manueller Kontrolle (indem man die Spulen per Hand abbremst) eine Art Scratching-Effekt erzeugt. DJs wie Ruthless Ramsey oder das Open Reel Ensemble arbeiten auf dieser Ebene mit Cassettenrekordern und Bandmaschinen. Im Prinzip ist der Tape Stop also primär ein unerwünschter Effekt der jedoch durch seine ästhetische Wirkung zum Artefakt invertiert wurde.

Digitaler Tape Stop

Die digitale Simulation des Effektes stand bereits ab 2008 in Pro Tools als freies Plug-in namens vari-fi und ab 2009 in Logic Pro 9 als Fader-Zusatzfunktion zur Verfügung. Dabei können sowohl Summen- als auch Gruppen- und Einzelsignale bearbeitet werden. Im Prinzip verstehen sich beide Applikationen als eine Erweiterung des Pitch-Effektes auf der zusätzlichen Zeitebene. Dementsprechend liessen sich auch Tape Slow-Down-Effekte mit einem über das Pitch-Bend Rad eines MIDI-Keyboards gesteuertes Audio Signal realisieren.

Aktuelle Plug-ins wie etwa Tape Stop von der Firma Vengeance bieten zusätzliche Erweiterungen auf der Filterebene und ein umfangreiches Handling an. Auch das Plug-in Effectrix von Sugar Bytes bietet den Effekt an, kategorisiert diesen jedoch als Vinyl-Effect: «…für uns ist der Tape Stop einfach ein naheliegendes Tool, um schnell und effektiv am Rechner Vinyleffekte umzusetzen.» [1] Andere Anbieter von DAW’s implementieren den Bandstopp-Effekt ebenfalls als Standard, seit sich in den letzten vier Jahren eine Popularität eingestellt hat. In diesem Entwicklungsprozess ist (wie auch in vergleichbaren, beispielsweise Auto-Tune) zu beobachten, dass ein Effekt erst von wenigen Anwendern per Zufall oder Experiment entdeckt wird und dann in relativ kurzer Zeit in allen vergleichbaren Produkten zur Verfügung steht. Dabei werden die Basisfunktionen von Drittanbietern in speziellen Plug-ins erweitert.

Historische Beispiele

Historische Beispiele mit Tape Speed-Up- und Tape Slow-Down-Effekten sowie Gleichlaufschwankungen lassen sich an Songs der 1970er und 80er Jahre wie Nazz «Hang On Paul» (1969), Black Sabbath «War Pigs» / «Lukes Wall» (1970), Rocky Horror Picture Show «Time Warp» (1973), Pink Floyd «The Great Gig In The Sky», (1973, Gleichlaufschwankung), Sweet «Sweet F.A.» (1974), Joy Division «A Means To An End» (1980), Talking Heads «Wild, Wild Life» (1986) oder Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers «Jammin Me» (1987), festmachen (Hörbeispiele hier). Diese weisen (ausser letzterem) allesamt ähnliche Charakteristika auf: am Ende des Songs wird das Band verlangsamt oder beschleunigt und erzeugt einen surrealen Effekt.

Tape Stop in den Charts – kreativer Einsatz?

Anhand von 40 untersuchten Beispielen aus den Billboard Charts lassen sich noch weitere Charakteristika feststellen. Zunächst wird der Tape Stop als Slow-Down und Speed-Up-Effekt in verschiedenen Geschwindigkeiten, bis hin zu sehr kurzen rhythmischen Einwürfen eingesetzt. Dies geschieht dann auch sowohl als Summen- als auch Gruppen- oder Einzelspureffekt, meist jedoch in der Summe aller Tracks. Die dramaturgische Erscheinungsform des Effektes reicht von dezent bis zu sehr plakativ, und wird oft an Wendepunkte eines Songs, aber auch ganz zu Beginn und am Ende eingesetzt.

Der digitale Effekt trat erstmals 2001 auf, erreichte aber erst in den Jahren 2010 bis 2014 grosse Beliebtheit. Fast ausnahmslos findet sich der Sound in Hip Hop, R&B und EDM-Produktionen, also in einem Bereich, in dem ohnehin schon stark mit elektronischen Effekten gearbeitet wird. Hier eröffnen sich durch die digitalen Möglichkeiten neue Varianten des Effektes.

Ein Grossteil der untersuchten Produktionen stammt aus den USA, einige davon wurden im Conway Studio in Los Angeles realisiert, ein Studiokomplex der mit vielen aktuellen Chart-Künstlern zusammenarbeitet. An sechs Beispielen sollen verschiedene Einsatzmöglichkeiten des Tape Slow Down Effektes erläutert werden:

Kevin Rudolf feat. Lil Wayne: «Let It Rock» (2009)
direkt zu Beginn des Songs, dann bei 2:22 plakativ und am Ende mit Speed-Up

Ellie Goulding: «Lights» (2012)
als Breakdown-Effekt bei 2:30

Ke$ha: «Tik Tok» (2010)
zu Beginn des Songs (0:39) sehr plakativ, bei 2:44 mit komplexen Speed-Up und Slow-Down-Effekten

Flo Rida: «Good Feeling» (2012)
an vielen kleinen Stellen wird der Effekt als rhythmische Komponente eingesetzt, ab 3:59 spielerisch

Nicki Minaj: «Starships» (2012)
hier finden vordergründige Speed-Up und Slow-Down-Effekte statt, die sich laufend wiederholen

David Guetta: «Turn Me On» (2012)
bei 2:45 wird ein Slow-Down-Effekt als Einleitung zu einem Rap Teil verwendet

Mehrheitlich handelt es sich also im Kontext von kommerziell orientierten Popsongs beim Tape Stop Effekt um ein Sound Gadget, welches spielerisch-plakativ eingesetzt wird, die musikalische Substanz jedoch nicht bereichert.

Vom Glitch zum Artefakt

Der Tape-Stop-Effekt kann auch unter die Kategorisierung der Glitch-Sounds oder Glitch-Effekte gezählt werden, da es sich gewissermassen um eine produktbedingte Fehlerhaftigkeit handelt. Die bei Bandmaschinen wie auch bei Plattenspielern oder Kassettengeräten angesprochenen technischen «Unzulänglichkeiten», die zum Wesen des Analogen gehören, werden als Plug-ins (so zum Beispiel Virtual Tape Machine der Firma Slate Digital, das Gleichlaufschwankungen simuliert) in DAW’s «implantiert», um der DAW zu suggerieren, sie solle sich so verhalten wie ihre medialen Vorfahren.

Abgesehen von einigen als gimmick eingesetzten Stellen ist der Tape-Stop-Effekt ein kennzeichnendes Exempel für den Transfer des pseudo-Analogen in das Digitale. Der Bandstopp-Effekt in der heutigen Form wird nicht nur deswegen häufig angewandt, weil sich die Handhabung einfach gestaltet. Auch die kreativen Möglichkeiten durch neue Plug-ins führen in populärer Musik zur Entwicklung neuer ästhetischer Strömungen, die sich schon längst nicht mehr nach den gängigen Beurteilungsmustern richten. Ob, wann und wie der Bandstopp-Effekt abebbt oder wieder aufblüht, bleibt ungewiss.

Dieser Beitrag ist ein Auszug aus dem Buch Kultsounds: Die prägendsten Klänge der Popmusik 1960-2014, erschienen bei Transcript 2017, S. 339-341.

Videos

Beispiel des Bandstopp-Effekts in einer Studiosituation. Ebenfalls zu sehen ist der Scrubbing-Effekt, der einem Scratch-Sound gleicht.

Beispiel einer Bandstopp-Software mit verschiedenen Editiermodi.

DJ Ruthless Ramsey 1991

Open Reel Ensemble 2015

Mehr zum Projekt Kultsounds auf Norient

> «Gärtner der Sounds – And.Ypsilon»
> «Boris Blank – Painter of Sound»
> «Bruno Spoerri: Swiss Sound Pioneer of the First Hour»

Anmerkungen

[1] Entwickler Markus Leucht im Interview mit dem Autor, 30.9.2015.

Ableton Live is going 64-bit only – so what does that mean?

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 9 Oct 2017 12:18 pm

Later this year, Ableton Live will only be available in a 64-bit version. But what does that mean for you?

This is a development that has some implications for Ableton Live’s compatibility, stability, the pace of features and improvements, and that question of “wait, which version am I supposed to choose on the Ableton download page?” Ableton invited CDM to their offices to discuss the change and give us a chance to understand the thinking behind the decision and to help figure out what users might want to know.

But first, it’s actually worth understanding what 64-bit music software actually does.

What are 64-bit and 32-bit, anyway?

First, you know, 64-bit is twice as much as 32-bit, which means it’s twice as … well, 32 more … double the …

Okay, let’s be honest, even lots of fairly tech-savvy don’t really know what these terms mean, let alone what impact they have in real-world use.

Software runs on numbers. So when we refer to “64-bit” or “32-bit” software, we’re talking about the word length, or precision, of the numbers the software uses to reference memory. If you have a higher word length, you have more precision, and the software can address more memory.

Think of phone numbers for comparison. Leave out the area code and country code, and you eventually run out of available phone numbers. But add some additional digits, and you have more available numbers – and you can call a greater number of individual people.

With 32-bit software, Ableton Live and all of its plug-ins can use only up to 4 GB of available RAM (or even less on some versions of Windows). But 64-bit software can address all of your RAM, on any computer sold today. (The theoretical limit is so high, you can’t even buy a computer that comes close to hitting the ceiling, at least for the foreseeable future.)

What does more memory mean when you’re making music?

If you have a computer with 8GB or 16GB or more of RAM, there’s some reason to want to use all of that memory. As you load big sample libraries, and add plug-ins or ReWire clients, and as your Live set grows, all of that uses up memory.

Oh, yeah, and one other thing – running out of RAM can cause a DAW to crash. You might not even know that was the cause of a crash: Live crashes, you curse, and you might not realize that the choice you made on that dropdown when you downloaded could be a factor.

32-bit and backwards compatibility

Live added 64-bit support way back at Live 8.4 – that’s the summer of 2012. So if 64-bit is better than 32-bit, why did Ableton keep making new 32-bit versions of its software for over five years?

Running a 64-bit DAW requires a 64-bit operating system – for Live, that’s a 64-bit version of Windows Vista or later, or Mac OS X 10.5 or later. (Microsoft has their own FAQ to help you figure out if you’ve got the right OS for 64-bit.)

64-bit DAWs also need 64-bit versions of plug-ins. Most plug-in developers have already updated their plug-ins for 64-bit, but some haven’t. (There are wrappers you can use, and these were more popular when DAWs first started to go 64-bit, but let’s not go there – especially since part of the idea here is to improve stability!)

Okay, so you need a 64-bit OS, you need to update your plug-ins, and you need to have more than 4GB of RAM for this to be useful. Back in 2012, a non-trivial population of Live users fit that description.

Years later, the picture looks different. Nearly everyone has more than 4GB of RAM, meaning they’re going to benefit from the 64-bit version of the software. And not everyone seems to be aware of that. Ableton tells us that 85% of current Live users who are running the 32-bit version of the software have more than 4GB of RAM. That means 85% of those 32-bit users are actually unable to take advantage of hardware they already own.

That tips the scales. Now Ableton Live’s user base may be better off without new 32-bit versions coming out than with them.

Why are these developers smiling? Going 64-bit only will make the development process faster – and the Live experience more crash-free. Also, Club Mate.

Why go 64-bit only?

First off, nothing is changing for versions of Live up through and including Live 9.7.4. You can still download and run those older versions in their 32-bit versions. And remember that you can install more than one version of Live on the same computer, side by side. So if you’ve got a Live set that uses some old 32-bit plug-in, you can keep a 32-bit version of Live on your machine to open it.

What’s changing is, that dropdown on the download page is going away for every version starting later this year. Ableton will only develop a 64-bit version of Live and Max for Live going forward.

The downside of this is pretty simple: you won’t be able to use some old 32-bit plug-in and the latest version of Live at the same time. (Though you can still use the older Live with the older plug-in.) You’ll also need a 64-bit operating system (though on the Mac side, Apple tends to drag you along to new OSes and new hardware, anyway).

But the upsides to forcing Live users to go 64-bit when they update may be bigger than you’d expect.

Fewer crashes. The 32-bit version of Live crashes more than the 64-bit version – a lot more. Ableton collect the number of crashes. The 32-bit version of Live crashes 44% more often than the 64-bit version.

Most of these crashes are as simple as Live running out of memory – not a bug, not a misbehaved plug-in, but just hitting that 3.5-4GB memory ceiling imposed by running a 32-bit version of the software. (Some may be the result of dubious old 32-bit plug-ins, too, but that’s also a reason to dump plug-ins that haven’t been updated to 64-bit.)

Fewer Live crashes overall means fewer people having to talk to support about these crashes, which is better for everybody.

Faster updates. I also spoke with Ableton’s engineering side about why they’d want to drop 32-bit development.

Supporting both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Live adds overhead to the entire development process. More overhead can translate to us getting fewer new features, or getting them less quickly.

That overhead impacts the time spent coding and debugging Ableton Live, not only for the humans, but also for the machines those humans rely on to do their work. When engineers make a change in Live’s code, they have to wait while servers build, test, and output the results. Even with a room full of racks of pricey, powerful computer hardware making that happen, the process takes hours, especially at peak times.

Take away the 32-bit side of things, and developers get their results faster. In practical terms, that could mean they get their change back today, instead of having to wait until coming into the office tomorrow morning. Since engineers typically like to stay focused and in the zone, that’s important.

Add everything together – supporting more use cases, more old plug-ins, dealing with more crashes, added development time to support two versions, added time to test and build two versions of the software – and you get a lot of added drag to Live’s development.

This isn’t just about making Ableton happy. Removing that drag from the process means those engineers can work on Live more efficiently. The upshot for us is, we get more the stuff we want – fixes and new features.

What you need to do

It may actually have taken more time to read this article than it will to make the leap to 64-bit Ableton Live use. But hopefully it gives you some notion of what’s going on in the world of the people making the software we use.

For your part, assuming you aren’t already running the 64-bit Ableton Live, here’s what to consider:

On Windows, you might want to double-check you have the 64-bit version of the OS installed. (Click your Start button, right-click Computer, click Properties. Under System, you’ll see which version of Windows you’re running.)

As far as checking your plug-ins, Ableton have some resources on the topic:

Recommendations for using VST plug-ins on Windows

Recommendations for using AU and VST plug-ins on Mac

Since 32-bit plug-ins don’t show up in the 64-bit version, the easiest way to check compatibility is to launch the 64-bit version and see if the plug-in disappears. (Don’t laugh – this really is the easiest method.) If it’s invisible, odds are you need to go to the developer and download a 64-bit version, if available. And as mentioned earlier, you can still keep the 32-bit Live on your hard drive if you find a plug-in that requires it.

Relevant to versions from 8.4 [64-bit introduction] through now [prior to going 64-bit only], here’s Ableton’s existing FAQ:

64-bit vs 32-bit – FAQ

I hope this gives you some insight into how Live works, and ideally makes your Live use more productive and crash-free. If you have any more questions, let us know.

Thanks to various engineers and product managers at Ableton who contributed to this story, particularly Alex Wiedemann (former Ableton software engineer and now head of Technical Support Berlin).

The post Ableton Live is going 64-bit only – so what does that mean? appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Those standalone MPCs do wireless Link and MIDI and it’s the future

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 4 Oct 2017 8:40 pm

The world now: a bunch of mismatched cables, and then complicated setup. The world of the future: wireless, easy to configure. Or so we hope.

Akai has managed to deliver MPCs that function both as standalone production boxes, untethered from your computer, and computer accessories (they’re a controller/software combo when you plug them in).

But they’re also making these things work wirelessly with some new technologies.

Via Bluetooth, you can connect keyboards (making this a kind of weird computer, or letting you touch-type your musical sets), or wireless MIDI devices (so you can use a piano-style interface instead of just pads, among other solutions).

Via Ableton’s Link technology, you get the ability to jam with other software, hardware, and mobile apps over a wifi network. In fact, that makes this about the only standalone hardware to do so – though of course it’s really just a PC beneath that skin (and that’s kind of a good thing).

I suspect the stumbling block to this happening more is simply having more of a hardware ecosystem of stuff that does this.

It makes the MPC Live and MPC X still more appealing right now, as well as being a glimpse of things to come.

Now, you still have to decide whether Akai’s workflow is what you want, or whether you want to buy another piece of gear, with competitors from the likes of Elektron and Native Instruments eager to keep you on their side. But if you do, here’s what you get to enjoy, explained in video:

The post Those standalone MPCs do wireless Link and MIDI and it’s the future appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Reason 10 is a return to form: all about the instruments

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 29 Sep 2017 7:46 pm

Remember when the main draw of Reason was adding a whole bunch of toys to your computer and playing until you couldn’t play any more? Those days are back.

The last few years have seen lots of workflow refinements and maturity in music production software. And that’s all fine and well. We’ve even seen new DAWs entirely, new combinations of hardware controllers and software (Maschine, Push), standalone production tools that work without a computer (the new MPC). And we’ve seen a whole lot of music production software evolution, gradually working through the elaborate wish lists we foist on the developers – and with good reason. Heck, maybe you begin to think that adding new sounds is about buying fancy modular rigs, and the computer will quietly disappear into the background.

But since the beginning, Reason was always about something different. Reason users didn’t just get a whole bunch of effects and synths as a bonus, icing to sweeten the deal. Reason was those effects and synths. And you’d be forgiven if you assumed that era had come to a close. After all, most Reason upgrades focused on adding in the openness and multifunctional capabilities of rivals – audio recording, Rack Extensions and a store to buy add-ons, even VST plug-in compatibility. Once you have VST support in Reason, maybe Reason isn’t really about the stuff Propellerheads put in the box.

Think again, because – Reason 10.

Now, there’s some chatter at Propellerhead about this being the “biggest content upgrade” ever, but let’s talk specifically about which instruments are getting added. And it’s a big ‘ol Swedish smörgåsbord of the kind of synths that made us notice Reason in the first place.

So, to answer Thor, there’s Europa – a wavetable synth.

To those granular goodies in Reaktor and Max for Live, there’s The Grain.

And in the tradition of Reason, they look, well, Reason-y. Functions are encapsulated, simplified, hardware-like, but without sacrificing deep modulation. The Grain, for its part, looks like the native granular synth Ableton never quite got (outside Max add-ons). Europa has its own biggie-sized instrumental quality.

For more acoustic timbres, you get new sampled instruments: Klang for tuned percussion, Pangea for a potpourri of “world” instruments, Humana for choir and vocal sounds. (Even if Humana makes those of us in Germany think of retro DDR fashion…)

Happily, these aren’t just ROMplers or sets of presets – you still get the control panels that mimic vintage hardware, and CV routing for patching monster hybrids and strange sound designs.

Propellerhead took a similar approach with their aptly-named Radical Piano, which allows the construction of hybrid, physically-modeled piano instruments, and it’s nice to see that instrument now included in the box.

And there’s one really killer effect, too: Synchronous, which brings modulated signal processing, with sidechaining and LFOs, even with the ability to draw your own curves to route into filter, delay, reverb, distortion. That alone could fill albums of material, and with a lot of different takes recently on how to do this, the Props’ take looks genuinely unique.

There are a lot of samples, too – Drum Supply and Loop Supply get a refresh. Now, that would normally bore me, except — oh yeah, that granular thing. Interested again.

In beta now, out 25 October.

I think it’s going to be a good winter.

They’ve worked hard; let’s embed their video. They earned it.

https://www.propellerheads.se/en/reason/new

The post Reason 10 is a return to form: all about the instruments appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Buchla’s twisted waveforms get a software rendition

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 27 Sep 2017 6:18 pm

It’s pretty close to sticking Buchla inside your PC: Softube are adding a Buchla 259e Twisted Waveform Generator to their virtual Eurorack, “Modular.”

This is in fact the first officially licensed software rendition of a Buchla module, though the official part may be the source of some controversy. Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments wound up in court with its original founder, Don Buchla, before his death. The parties settled out of court, but certainly some of the shine of the brand was lost in the process.

That said, branding aside, this looks like it might be the most complete software rendition of a modern hardware Buchla module yet. And it’s got a price to match – US$99, so oddly just one module model costs you the same range as a lot of full-blown software modules. (US$79 intro price through end of October.)

What you get is one of the more interesting modules around, though – digital waveshaping and deep modulation. I’ll let them describe:

The 259e consists of two separate oscillators—Principal and Modulation—where Modulation can be used either to modulate the Principal oscillator or as a separate generator of audible notes. Furthermore, the sine wave generated by the Principal oscillator is simultaneously applied to two of the eight available waveshape tables. A morph voltage pans between the two tables and a warp voltage varies the amplitude of the sinusoidal (driving) waveform. Both these functions can be modulated by the Modulation oscillator. Three of the waveshape tables are actually not tables in the classical sense—they are simply portions of the 259e operating program, full of unpredictable noise and frequent silences. This is the innovative Mem Skew mode, possibly the most unique feature of the Buchla 259e. When these tables are selected, the FM controls are re-assigned to table scanning functions and the FM inputs become table modulators.

In short, while the Buchla 259e can certainly be used for more traditional sounds, it excels at creating otherworldly twisted digital sonic landscapes. Which is why it is one of the most coveted synth modules on the market.

Why is this man smiling? Softube tapped Buchla engineer Todd Barton to work on this recreation.

Video intro:

More:
https://www.softube.com/index.php?id=buchla_259e

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macOS High Sierra upgrade requires some caution

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 25 Sep 2017 3:19 pm

macOS High Sierra (10.13) is out today. And that means it’s time to check in on compatibility with all your gear.

High Sierra is mostly about under-the-hood changes, and what Apple promises will be some forward-looking architectural improvements. There’s a new high-performance 64-bit Apple File System, intended for those internal flash drives. There are major changes to graphics support, dealing with the GPU and Apple’s own Metal API – though no indication that has any particular implications for music and media just yet so much as in the future. Virtual Reality support, long possible on Windows, is coming to the Mac – well, sort of, in that you’ll need an iMac Pro or a pricey external GPU. But what most users will see right now is the usual bundle of minor refinements and usability features.

No, usually what this means – especially for the complex ecosystem of tools in music – is checking to see if anything breaks. And for once, this appears to be a relatively trouble-free update if you’re on the latest version of software.

Changes to the file system, though, mean some caution is warranted.

Here are some early reports. If you’ve got more to add, either as a developer or user, get in touch (comments on this post or Twitter are probably easiest).

One piece of advice: update your drivers before updating, as the only real wrinkle appears to be driver installation related.

Driver vendors need to catch up on validating their drivers, as reported by Serato.

Serato users are advised to hold off; Serato have a blog entry explaining. The culprit is a driver installation issue.

The latest AIR Music Tech plug-ins all work; see knowledge base story

New versions of Propellerhead Software work; old versions, though, don’t. (Think file damage with that new file system – danger, Will Robinson.) Reason 9.5.2, Reason 10, Reason Essentials 9.5.2, Reason Essentials 10 are all good, so just watch older versions. Here’s their statement:

Due to Apple’s introduction of a completely new file system (APFS) in High Sierra, many older versions are not compatible. This means that Propellerhead products before Reason 9.5.2 will not work correctly after updating to the latest version of macOS. Using High Sierra may in some cases even damage your documents, rendering them unusable.

We strongly recommend you NOT to upgrade to High Sierra if you intend to use earlier versions of Propellerhead products on your computer.

Most Akai Professional products are supported; there’s a blog post covering both macOS High Sierra and iOS 11.

Traktor Pro has an update now in beta; 2.11.1 is now in release candidate so I’d wait for that to appear as an update before upgrading the OS. There’s a public beta available.

We’ll add to this story as we get more reports.

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Resolume 6 is big news for VJs and live visualists; here’s why

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 18 Sep 2017 10:19 pm

You can think of Resolume as the “Ableton of VJing” – a tool that lets you trigger visuals instead of musical patterns. And it just got a big upgrade.

There are lots of ways to play and composite videos and animations live on a computer. What sets Resolume apart is its distinctive, three-layer interface. That lets you group clips into convenient scenes, then add per-clip effects and automation, all while making a composition in three layers. It isn’t as open-ended as semi-modular environments like VDMX, and it’s not a from-scratch visual development tool like TouchDesigner or Max. It’s also not rigidly limited to a DJ-style mixing paradigm. Instead, it’s somewhere in between – somewhere that works really well for programming live visual shows to music.

Resolume isn’t the only clip-oriented VJ tool, but it’s probably the most comfortable to people coming from Ableton Live (and it can even mix audio as well as video), with some adjustments to how you think. Since you’re dealing with image, not sound, the three horizontal layers make more sense for optical composition than Ableton’s endless vertically-oriented mixer tracks.

Oh, and – it’s cross-platform. That alone allows for some convenience.

What’s new in 6

Resolume comes in two editions: Avenue and Arena, the former more for the solo visualist and indpendent VJs, the latter more for bigger-budget productions. (I could talk about where that line is technically, but frankly with all live visual software, this comes down to the fact that part of the user market has more money to spend because they get paid more. That in turn funds the development of the tools, so no complaints.)

Layer groups and masking! Okay, this changes everything. Layers can have sub-groups, expanding that powerful three layer metaphor. And a layer can work as a mask. So that changes how the whole tool works creatively.

It’s easier to manage and trigger clips. This alone I think might be worth upgrading – or switching. Persistent clips and locked clips make it harder to lose or accidentally trigger clips, respectively. You can also trigger next and previous columns, for scenes of clips. That should work well as they say for theater shows and the like. This should be familiar to Ableton Live users, but it’s also an idea Mark Coniglio has championed in his software, including Isadora. It’s something we should see more of – perhaps missing simply because developers aren’t normally familiar with what it takes to run theater, dance, and other performances.

There’s Ableton Link support. Easy networked sync with Ableton Live, iOS apps, desktop apps, other instances of Resolume – everything that supports the de factor Link sync standard, even without MIDI.

The interface is easier to manage. Without making Resolume hyper-modular (like something like VDMX), the developers have at least given us more flexibility. You can drag things around, and the UI works better on bigger screens. Most importantly, previews are more visible.

Standard features from other tools are there, too. A more-standard color palette, browser and media manager (à la Ableton etc.) are included.

You can make animated envelopes. A new editor, with presets, allows for more sophisticated envelopes – and might turn Resolume into a replacement for motion graphics software for a lot of quick jobs.

Text generators and effects. See above. Also: how to make the sponsor happy. Hey, you need to eat…

Map colors to MIDI, assign controllers more easily. A MIDI and OSC and DMX overhaul should make controller mapping easier. (Ableton Live, Traktor – I’m really waiting for you to someday get this right.) And you can use all those disco-colored music controllers for color-coding clips. (Oddly, it’s visual software that really needs this, much as music software really kind of doesn’t.)

That’s not all, but those are the things that I think will be the most relevant to the most users.

We’ll have a review on CDM. And yes, Resolume 6 (and some other news this fall) means — it’s time to bring back Create Digital Motion.

https://resolume.com/software/v6

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These guys reacting to Maschine MK3 is kind of hilarious

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 13 Sep 2017 11:18 pm

Choose your wardrobe carefully before you shoot, or be skewered by YouTube uploaders. But these producers have some points about the new Maschine, too.

YouTube videos are proliferating and – some of them are pretty strange. Maschine MK3 units are barely reaching artists and reviewers, and there’s an embargo on official press reviews until next week. But that isn’t stopping passionate YouTube users from uploading videos that just run webcam commentary over top of the official videos and promo shots from Native Instruments. (Not every product launch prompts this sort of reaction – it’s clear Maschine is a big deal to beat producers, and that NI has stolen some of that thunder from Akai and the MPC, even with recent standalone hardware competition.)

But, wait a minute… live video commentary over top of a video? This seems to set up some Mystery Science Theater 3000 / Beavis and Butthead commentary potential.

Well, UnQuantized Podcast, via Instagram livestream with SoundOracle and Triza, gets that vibe.

Oddly, the most irreverent commentary may also be one of the best informed – SoundOracle programs sounds for Timbaland and Polow Da Don; Triza is a producer for Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Rico Love, and Sean Kingston.

So, sure enough, I think they’re spot on with some of their comments. I don’t agree entirely about some of the criticisms of playability (though I’ve had at least a few minutes hands-on with the new hardware, which they haven’t yet). But they have some great points about layout and functionality, design and usability.

And – wait for it. At 1:37, their first comment is exactly right. Maschine MK3’s high-resolution color displays are in fact the same ones found on Maschine Studio. That’s not a bad thing, as those screens are great, and now you get all of that workflow and those displays condensed onto more portable hardware, with audio. (That said, I think if you’ve got a Studio, you should enjoy it – it’s still great hardware, even if I’d definitely choose the MK3 were I buying now.)

Of course, while I should be focused on the hardware and their production chops I’m… now also cracking up about them picking on the product specialist’s shirt. (Mean, but… funny.)

Given I may have some video appearances soon, I’m going to be careful not to look like a green-suited “lumberjack with the hat to match.” Though… heh, I have a sense of humor. Troll away.

Nice to “meet” these guys, though – skip the punters, going to subscribe to this one.

(What would you want in a video? Let us know in comments.)

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Now a DAW does pitch and time shifts the way you wish it would

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 13 Sep 2017 6:16 pm

If the last generation of production software was about UI, workflow, and add-on extras, the next generation may be about science. Witness MOTU’s DP 9.5.

DP, aka Digital Performer, is that DAW everyone forgets about, but really shouldn’t. Now on both Windows and Mac, and a long-time staple of hard-core niches like the TV scoring business, DP has quietly added all the stuff that makes using a DAW better, without too much extra stuffing, often advancing without any hype past other rivals in key areas.

But even doing that, it’s hard for a DAW to stand out.

So, how about this: how about if a DAW let you manipulate time and pitch in a way that sounded less artificial? Wouldn’t that be a reason to use it?

And while various DAWs have licensed technology for improving time and pitch stretching, most of them still sound, well, pretty crap – especially if you go beyond small changes. (That hasn’t stopped me from using the artifacts creatively, but then the problem is, even those results tend to sound too much alike.)

So, the pairing of Zynaptiq with MOTU gets pretty interesting.

Zynaptiq is one of a handful of developers working on brain-bending DSP science to achieve sonic effects you haven’t heard before. (For some reason, a lot of these players seem to be in Germany … or Cambridge, Massachusetts. The latter is an MIT thing; the former, a German thing? Zynaptiq is out of Hannover.)

In the case of Zynaptiq, “artificial intelligence” and machine learning meet new advances in DSP. Whatever’s going on there (and I hope to cover that more), the results sound really extraordinary. Every time I’ve been at a trade show where the developer was exhibiting, people would grab you by the arms and say, have you heard the crazy stuff they’re doing it sounds like the future. That was aided by a unique demo style.

But there’s a big leap when you can integrate that kind of capability into a DAW and its existing workflow, without all the weird extra steps required to go back and forth to a plug-in.

And that’s what DP 9.5 does – in an update that’s free for all existing users, adding Zynaptiq’s ZTX PRO tech.

You get time stretching everywhere, so speeding up and slowing down by small increments or huge sounds natural. And they’ve done a bunch of work so you can change tempo adjustments and conductor tempo maps – which was always, always one of the best features of DP. (I was at the Aspen Music Festival in the late 90s listening to a film composer show off how easy scoring with DP markers was, fully two decades ago. Two decades later, the competition still hasn’t caught up, and DP has continued to expand on that feature.)

Plus you get pitch shifting and relative pitch editing, as you’ve seen with products like Celemony, but far more deeply integrated in the DAW and with (to my ear) better-sounding results. So yes, that does pitch shifting and pitch correction, but it also opens up some really interesting creative possibilities. This isn’t just about making bad singers sound better; it could be a boon to creative editing. (I just spent the last weekend poking around in Logic’s archaic and dated implementation for the heck of it, not knowing DP 9.5 was coming and… well, just no.)

There are “quality” presets, too, to help you find the right settings.

Have a listen in the demos. Here’s pitch shifting:

And here’s time shifting:

And from the ever-lovely Gotye (really nice chap with a terrifically nice band and some great producers, I have to say, just because I like nice people), some other examples:

Unrelated to all this, 9.5 also has a window that makes it easier to monitor processing load, so you can identify CPU hogs. (Heck, that may mean DP is now part of my standard test suite for plug-ins.) This combines with other unique performance management features in DP, like “pre-gen” capability, which eases the load on your CPU by pre-rendering audio.

Good stuff. More from MOTU:

http://motu.com/products/software/dp

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What to know about NI’s new Maschine, Komplete Kontrol hardware

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 7 Sep 2017 3:21 pm

Native Instruments just revised their Maschine and Komplete Kontrol hardware. Here are some early impressions of what’s new, in advance of our review.

It’s funny to think that back in 2009, the first release of Maschine really set the bar for integrating production software with a hardware controller. This was the year the APC40 and Launchpad had just hit the market – without a screen, and at that point with only limited control capabilities. Maschine was built with software and hardware designed in parallel.

Since then, few pieces of hardware have had quite the impact that Maschine MKI did. The MKII, with color, better pads, and better workflow certainly had some people selling their MKIs. And for hard-core Komplete users, Komplete Kontrol saw some popularity, though perhaps didn’t radically transform workflows.

My guess is the Maschine MK3 and Komplete Kontrol MKII will make a splash, precisely because they seem focused on how these two users bases work.

We will have a review unit in next week, and you know I like to get in depth with how machines work. But here are some important things to know – having at least met with the teams that developed the gear and gotten a quick hands-on.

In short, Maschine Mk3 is now the only hardware you need, thanks to built-in audio. It requires looking at your computer screen less, thanks to the displays found on Studio. And it packs the best pads and control layout yet.

Komplete Kontrol, while a subtler update, goes from being a keyboard with some extras on it to something you’d actually want to use for finding sounds, editing sounds, recording takes, and even working with your DAW or Maschine.

No major new software revisions (though more minor stuff to cover separately) – this is mainly about the hardware. Here’s what’s changed:

Both have terrific new industrial designs. It’s tough to overstate how much more refined these two instruments look and feel. It’s really a class act, even as some big rivals in this field leapfrog one another.

Both get big, color, high-definition displays. These look gorgeous, clear, and bright, and they have incredible viewing angles (like you can practically lay on the floor while you play). The screens are great news, especially on Maschine. I love Maschine Studio – the high-res color screens make sample slicing and production far easier. I also hate it – it’s too big. Too big to fit on my studio desk, too big to fit on a bag. So, the big thing here is, now you get all the workflow power of the Maschine Studio, all that ability to focus on the hardware and not look at the computer screen, but in the MKII footprint. And as if that weren’t enough —

Maschine Mk3 has an audio interface. Finally. 24-bit / 96kHz, though of course we’ll need to test the actual quality. If the Ableton Live template is as good as the one on Jam, my Ableton Push may cease to leave the studio. (Ableton, Push 3 – with audio, please?)

Forget all that shifting around. More dedicated buttons on Maschine and a thoughtful new layout mean less of the shift+pressing you had to do – and less hunting around for features. Given that’s the whole point of Maschine, that’s welcome news. Komplete Kontrol gets a similar overhaul.

Both have USB bus power. No. Power. Dongle. Needed. Yes.

Both have nice new navigation. The 4-directional push encoder makes it really easy to browse through sounds and parameters, and it feels lovely.

The pads on Maschine Mk3 are incredible. This is a first impression, not a full review, but — yeah, basically, wow. Sensitivity across the pad is fantastic and they’re eminently playable, perhaps finally besting Akai. This could also be a reason to choose a 4×4 grid over 8×8 (as on Push).

Maschine also gets a “Smart Strip.” Touch control of effects and parameters, as seen on Jam, are now on the MK3 – but unlike the Jam, you also get more controls, displays(!), and velocity sensitivity(!). Jam remains interesting mainly for its use as a fader or controlling multiple parameters.

Komplete Kontrol now generally makes more sense. The first Komplete Kontrol showed potential, but I could never quite justify its existence. What you got was a premium keyboard, this colored lighting and touch strip business, the displays and … not much else. The sum of all those parts would be almost hard to describe. The Mk2 keyboard, though, is another story, all thanks to some small additions. With a DAW, the keyboard has dedicated controls for transport, undo, and the like, so you can quickly add takes. With Komplete software (and NKS-compatible instruments), you get more hands-on controls and easier ways of finding and editing sounds. With Maschine, Komplete Kontrol integration finally works the way you’d expect – so if you’re a keyboardist but not a finger drummer, this keyboard at last gets you around your Maschine workflow, too.

And there’s popular DAW support. Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, and GarageBand support ships immediately, with Cubase and Nuendo to follow.

Preview sounds without loading. This is a big one. Now you can (optionally) hear pre-recorded sounds of presets in Komplete without loading the whole sound (which is slow).

Komplete Kontrol doesn’t have audio. Well, okay, I get that a keyboard is more of a studio machine, but for gigging musicians, it’s still a little disappointing. Then again, a great-looking keyboard with aftertouch and control features to me may move this from “who buys this?” to “yeah, buy this.”

Komplete Kontrol is mostly the same keyboard, physically. That’s not a bad thing – the Fatar keybeds on the NI are the best of breed.

Komplete with wheels. At last, you get a conventional wheels on the Komplete Kontrol for pitch bend and modulation, and not only touch strips. There’s still a touch strip when you want one – useful for its interactive quality, and the ability to “jump” to particular parameters. But now, you can choose the right control tool for the job.

The two share designs and hardware. Actually, this for me may be the biggest story. Previously, even on the Maschine line itself, there wasn’t a lot of consistency from model to model – Studio, Jam, Mikro, MKII, all seemed to introduce different ways of working. Now, Komplete Kontrol and Maschine share a lot of controls and layout directly. I expect that helped optimize production and cost – they certainly feel more premium without lifting the price. But more than that, your muscle memory and concepts can transfer between keyboard and Maschine. As a keyboardist who also likes the beat production workflow, I love this. And even if you only get one, it seems more thought has gone into the control layout.

One Maschine to rule them all. There’s only one Maschine Mk3. It seems Mikro and Studio are being relegated to the dust bin and … well, quite frankly, good.

S-Series still has the same options. 49- and 61-key synth action keyboards, or an 88-key hammer action, though only the first two appear to be available at launch.

Prices are the same. The new corresponding models have the same pricing as the old.
MASCHINE EUR 599, USD 599, JPY 72800, GBP 479, AUD 899
KOMPLETE KONTROL S49 EUR 599, USD 599, JPY 69800, GBP 479, AUD 899
KOMPLETE KONTROL S61 EUR 699, USD 699, JPY 79800, GBP 559, AUD 1049

No word on hackability yet. One final note. NI are quick to talk about their “open,” expanding ecosystem. But if it’s expanding, it’s still closed. Maschine Mk3 is one I’d really like to hack, as it seems an ideal general purpose controller, but there’s no word on that yet. That said:

Both pieces of kit work with other stuff, not just NI stuff. Apart from supporting NI’s own NKS format, which is used by a number of software and soundware makers, the Komplete Kontrol keyboard now fully supports VST plug-ins. It’s really just a matter of how hackable/accessible the displays and controls on these two devices are from other pieces of software.

There’s a new editor. Burying the lede for those of you who use MIDI extensively. The NI Controller Editor gets a badly needed replacement, which hopefully will address some of the quirks and limitations of the original. And you can do all the editing directly from Komplete Kontrol. Quick picture, but I’ll be looking at this:

For Maschine users and Komplete users, I already feel pretty confident these hit the mark. My main interest in testing will be how to really get to the bottom of Maschine workflows, how adaptable Komplete is if you have a mix of software (that may or may not support NKS), and how well these work with software like Ableton Live. And my deeper question is really to do with how hackable and flexible these controllers are in the long run outside of the particular one vendor ecosystem – because it’d be a shame if we invested in hardware but were restricted to one vendor’s ecosystem. We’ll do a review by the 19th, and answer some of those deeper questions in the marketplace at large hopefully over the coming weeks.

Also worth investigating, if a niche note, is how well this hardware supports people with different physical abilities; Komplete Kontrol’s product owner showed us that keyboard range as used by blind customers. (A screen reader announces parameters.)

For now, more information:

Maschine (MK3)

Komplete Kontrol S-Series (MK2)

NKS information, for more on the protocol by which other plug-in makers can take advantage of control features on the keyboard

The post What to know about NI’s new Maschine, Komplete Kontrol hardware appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

What if you used synthesizers to emulate nature and reality?

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 23 Aug 2017 11:10 pm

Bored with making presets for instruments, one sound designer decides to make presets for ambient reality – and you can learn from the results.

“Scapes” is a multi-year, advanced journey into the idea that the synthesizer could sound like anything you imagine. Once you’ve grabbed this set of Ableton Live projects, you can bliss out to the weirdly natural results. Or you can tear apart the innards, finding everything from tricks on how to make cricket sounds synthetically to a veritable master class in using instruments like Ableton’s built-in FM synthesizer Operator. The results are Creative Commons-licensed (and of course, you can also grab individual presets).

The project is the brainchild of sound designer Francis Preve. Apart from his prolific writing career and Symplesound soundware line, Fran has put his sound design work all over presets for apps, software (including Ableton Live), and hardware.

As a result, no one knows better than Fran how much of the work of making presets focuses on particular, limited needs. And that’s too bad. The thing is, there’s no reason to be restricted to the stuff we normally get in synth presets. (You know the type: “lush, succulent pads” … “crisp leads…” “back-stabbing basslines…” “chocolate-y, creamy nougat horn sections…” “impetuous, slightly condescending 80s police drama keyboard stacks…” or, uh, whatever. Might have made some of those up.)

No, the promise of the synthesizer was supposed to be unlimited sonic possibilities.

If we tend to recreate what we’ve heard, that’s partly because we’re synthesizing something we’ve taken some care in hearing. So, why not go back to the richness and complexity of sound as we hear it in everyday life? Why not combine the active listening of a soundwalk or field recording with the craft of producing something using synthesis, in place of a recording?

Scapes does that, and the results are – striking. There’s not a single sample anywhere in the four ambient environments, which cover a rainy day in the city, a midsummer night, a brook echoing with bird song, and a more fanciful haunted house (with a classic movie origin). Instead, these are multitrack compositions, constructed with a bunch of instances of Operator and some internal effects. Download the Ableton Live project files, and you see a set of MIDI tracks and internal Live devices.

You might not be fooled into thinking the result sounds exactly like a field recording, but you would certainly let it pass for Foley in film. (I think that fits, actually – film uses constructed Foley partly because we expect in that context for the sounds to be constructed, more the way we imagine we hear than what literally passes into our ears.)

You wouldn’t think this was internal Ableton devices – not by a longshot – but of course it is.

And that’s where Scapes is doubly useful. Whether or not you want to create these particular sounds, every layer is a master class in sound design and synthesis. If you can understand a cricket, a bottle rocket, a rainstorm, and a car alarm, then you’re closer not only to emulating reality, but to being able to reconstruct the sounds you hear in your imagination and that you remember from life. That opens up new galaxies of potential to composers and musicians.

It might be just what electronic music needs: to think of sound creatively, rather than trying to regurgitate some instrumentation you’ve heard before. This might be the opposite of how you normally think of presets: here, presets can liberate you from repetitive thought.

I’ve seen this idea before – but just once before, that I can think of. Andy Farnell’s Designing Sound, which began life as a PDF that was floating around in draft form before it matured into a book at MIT Press, took on exactly this idea. Fran’s scapes are “tracks,” collaged compositions that turn into entire environments; Farnell looks only at the component sounds one by one.

Otherwise, the two have the same philosophy: understand the way you hear sound by starting from scratch and building up something that sounds natural. Scapes does it with Ableton Live projects you can easily walk through. Designing Sound demonstrates this on paper with patches in the free and open source environment Pure Data. As Richard Boulanger describes that book, “with hundreds of fully working sound models, this ‘living document’ helps students to learn with both their eyes and their ears, and to explore what they are learning on their own computer.”

But yes – create sounds by really listening, actively. (Pauline Oliveros might have been into this.)

Designing Sound | The MIT Press

Sound examples

A PDF introducing Pure Data (the free software you can use to pull this off)

But grabbing Scapes and a PDF or paper edition of Designing Sound together would give you a pairing you could play with more or less for the rest of your life.

Scapes is free (only Ableton Live required), and available now.

https://www.francispreve.com/scapes/

For background on how this came about: THE ORIGIN OF SCAPES [TL;DR EDIT]

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Hands-on: Maschine got this new bass synth in a free update

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 22 Aug 2017 12:07 pm

Maschine users, you get a little freebie in the 2.6.8 update Native Instruments quietly released this week – a new bass synth. Ready for some acid?

First, if you missed 2.6.6, that added drag-and-drop musical exploration in “Ideas View” – the non-linear arrangement tools that will feel welcoming if you’re used to Ableton Live and the like.

2.6.8 has two banner features. One is an isomorphic keyboard layout for Maschine Jam – basically, the ability to easily play melodic parts on the Jam hardware. (The “isomorphic” bit means that you can find chords easily by moving your hands around, even without a previous instrumental or theory background.) And the other big one, for everyone, is a new Bass Synth.

The Bass Synth isn’t an SH-101 or TB-303 clone, but it is inspired by various useful bass synthesizers and designed for easy use. Now, I’m a big fan of synths that use simple controls. Far from limiting your options, I think they encourage you to dial in sounds you love and push a bit against limits, focusing on listening with your ears rather than getting stuck thinking about parameters.

And sure enough, this one is fun to play with. Adjust the shape (from sine to saw), plus the filter and envelope, and you get heavy sub bass lines, tasty acid, and other basics. Here’s a look at those parameters:

The less-obvious one is glide. Hidden on page two, you’ll find a parameter that shifts glide on or off. Obviously, this needs to be on before glide works – including the glide time parameter on the first page. On Maschine Jam, the top row of the piano roll corresponds to per-step glide controls. On other hardware, or with your mouse, you can modulate the Glide parameter on the second page to add glide on particular steps (or leave it on) – just remember this is also going to be dependent on the length of your steps, plus the Decay parameter for the sound.

The Bass Synth is good fun – and maybe a reminder to explore other synths in Maschine, too. And there’s plenty you can try here:

  • Try some presets in the Browser.Select: All Sounds > Bass Synth. There are some great sounds, revealing this instrument’s hidden range, and they’re a good starting point for tweaking and experimentation.
  • Make acid basslines by turning up resonance and adjusting envelope and filter.
  • Create sub bass by adjusting octave down.
  • Use this as a melodic synth in higher ranges – and think SH-101 style, adjusting the oscillator shape.
  • Set mod amount to the middle of the range, and create accents with the JAM accent controls or by playing higher volumes.

And yeah – hardware, software? Why not both? This should go nicely with Roland’s TB-03 (or new SH-01A) or, for that matter, our own grimy MeeBlip, and of course you can either sync Maschine with external hardware or use it as a sequencer. (Plus, since the main gripe about laptops I hear is reliability, if you play live with hardware/software hybrids, what you get is all important redundancy – if anything breaks or luggage gets lost or anything horrible like that, you can still play.)

There are a number of fixes in this release, too; NI unusually quick to ship fixes on Maschine for its software and hardware.

2.6.6 contained a huge set of fixes, so if you’re behind on updating, it’s worth doing.

The post Hands-on: Maschine got this new bass synth in a free update appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Export to hardware, virtual pedals – this could be the future of effects

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 3 Aug 2017 2:07 pm

If your computer and a stompbox had a love child, MOD Duo would be it – a virtual effects environment that can load anything. And now, it does Max/MSP, too.

MOD Devices’ MOD Duo began its life as a Kickstarter campaign. The idea – turn computer software into a robust piece of hardware – wasn’t itself so new. Past dedicated audio computer efforts have come and gone. But it is genuinely possible in this industry to succeed where others have failed, by getting your timing right, and executing better. And the MOD Duo is starting to look like it does just that.

What the MOD Duo gives you is essentially a virtualized pedalboard where you can add effects at will. Set up the effects you want on your computer screen (in a Web browser), and even add new ones by shopping for sounds in a store. But then, get the reliability and physical form factor of hardware, by uploading them to the MOD Duo hardware. You can add additional footswitches and pedals if you want additional control.

Watch how that works:

For end users, it can stop there. But DIYers can go deeper with this as an open box. Under the hood, it’s running LV2 plug-ins, an open, Linux-centered plug-in format. If you’re a developer, you can create your own effects. If you like tinkering with hardware, you can build your own controllers, using an Arduino shield they made especially for the job.

And then, this week, the folks at Cycling ’74 take us on a special tour of integration with Max/MSP. It represents something many software patchers have dreamed of for a long time. In short, you can “export” your patches to the hardware, and run them standalone without your computer.

This says a lot about the future, beyond just the MOD Duo. The technology that allows Max/MSP to support the MOD Duo is gen~ code, a more platform-agnostic, portable core inside Max. This hints at a future when Max runs in all sorts of places – not just mobile, but other hardware, too. And that future was of interest both to Cycling ’74 and the CEO of Ableton, as revealed in our interview with the two of them.

Even broader than that, though, this could be a way of looking at what electronic music looks like after the computer. A lot of people assume that ditching laptops means going backwards. And sure enough, there has been a renewed interest in instruments and interfaces that recall tech from the 70s and 80s. That’s great, but – it doesn’t have to stop there.

The truth is, form factors and physical interactions that worked well on dedicated hardware may start to have more of the openness, flexibility, intelligence, and broad sonic canvas that computers did. It means, basically, it’s not that you’re ditching your computer for a modular, a stompbox, or a keyboard. It’s that those things start to act more like your computer.

Anyway, why wait for that to happen? Here’s one way it can happen now.

Darwin Grosse has a great walk-through of the MOD Duo and how it works, followed by how to get started with

The MOD Duo Ecosystem (an introduction to the MOD Duo)

Content You Need: The MOD Duo Package (into how to work with Max)

The post Export to hardware, virtual pedals – this could be the future of effects appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

PPG Infinite’s touch morphing could make it soft synth of the summer

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 31 Jul 2017 5:47 pm

Over the weekend, PPG mastermind Wolfgang Palm let slip his latest creation: PPG Infinite. In previews for iPad, we see an innovative touch synth full of morphing and wave shaping tools.

There are two videos. The first one … uh … well, mainly involves hearing some sounds and staring into the void of space. (True fact: this is what normally happens inside my brain when I look at my to-do list on a Monday.)

But the second video actually reveals plenty – way more than just a teaser. And even from these screenshots, the “Infinite” name suggests that PPG took basically everything they’ve ever done and built a fresh synth around it.

There’s vocal synthesis (à la their Phonem app and plug-in).

There’s wavetable synthesis, with fingers gliding through representation of waveforms, as per the original PPG Wave synths and PPG’s first app, WaveMapper. (Palm is the inventor of wavetable synthesis.)

There’s also the new functions of their follow-up synth WaveGenerator, with more ways of generating and navigating and shaping waves.

And then it seems there’s more.

If you blinked, you may have missed something, so let’s get some frame-by-frame replay. Infinite sees synth wizard Palm teaming up again with designer Cornel Hecht (who also provides the spacey background music for these videos).

Here, we get a unique-looking synth architecture, one that adds loads of touch-accessible morphing modes for combining sounds, as well as something called the “noiser” – which appears to be a spectrally-shaped noise source.

And at its heart, there’s the functionality that made the first PPG app such a breakthrough on the iPad, the ability to “touch the sound” by scanning and morphing wavetables with 3D and 2D views. That visual seems now greatly expanded as a central user paradigm, and it seems to me that it could be reason to see iPads running this app alongside beloved hardware synths in the studio or onstage.

Of course, the other Palm apps have also now been available as VST/AU plug-in, so I hope we’ll see that for this, too. (No reason to choose, either – you might use your iPad to shape presets, then loads those into the plug-in when it comes time to track and arrange and finish tracks. I need to research whether multi-touch computers on Windows can support touch gestures for plug-ins – not sure on that – but even with a mouse, this looks fun.)

Let’s have a look:

Touch is central to the UI. These morphing options look especially nice and accessible, even if you aren’t ready to delve into every nitpicky detail of the architecture and sound design:

A glimpse of the architecture, including simplified oscillator controls and these morphing and noiser options:

The oscillator interface really appears to shine via touch interaction:

A closer look at those controls:

The presets are suggestive of the combination of two or three of the previous instruments from PPG – and indicate some diversity of possibilities with this one, from vocal-ish presets to percussion to pads, bass, leads, and all that business:

For those so inclined, it appears you can get really deep with mapping by key range and matrix-style modulation:

I love the LFO interface, both for its advanced parameters (for going deep) and clever touch adjustment (for quick play):

Stills don’t do it justice, but as in the other PPG apps, it’s really getting your grubby fingers on the 3D waveform view that looks like fun. Combine that with some new vocal synth options, and … sold.

It’s about time for an exciting new soft synth, especially with Alchemy having disappeared into Logic and most of the headlines covering hardware. And for all the depth and diversity on the iPad, this could be one that stands out on that platform – not least if it’s paired with desktop plug-ins so you don’t disrupt your workflow.

Ready, Wolfgang. Watching for this one.

Stay tuned to CDM for this one, with team coverage by myself and Ashley (Palm Sounds).

wolfgangpalm.com

The post PPG Infinite’s touch morphing could make it soft synth of the summer appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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