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No, Beatport’s subscription will not kill music – here’s how it really works

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Labels,Scene | Fri 17 May 2019 7:18 pm

Pioneer and Beatport this week announced new streaming offerings for DJs. And then lots of people kind of freaked out. Let’s see what’s actually going on, if any of it is useful to DJs and music lovers, and what we should or shouldn’t worry about.

Artists, labels, and DJs are understandably on edge about digital music subscriptions – and thoughtless DJing. Independent music makers tend not to see any useful revenue or fan acquisition from streaming. So the fear is that a move to the kinds of pricing on Spotify, Amazon, and Apple services would be devastating.

And, well – that’s totally right, you obviously should be afraid of those things if you’re making music. Forget even getting rich – if big services take over, just getting heard could become an expensive endeavor, a trend we’ve already begun to see.

So I talked to Beatport to get some clarity on what they’re doing. We’re fortunate now that the person doing artist and label relations for Beatport is Heiko Hoffmann, who has an enormous resume in the trenches of the German electronic underground, including some 17 years under his belt as editor of Groove, which has had about as much a reputation as any German-language rag when it comes to credibility.

TL:DR

The skinny:

Beatport LINK: fifteen bucks a month, but aimed at beginners – 128k only. Use it for previews if you’re a serious Beatport user, recommend it to your friends bugging you about how they should start DJing, and otherwise don’t worry about it.

Beatport CLOUD: five bucks a month, gives you sync for your Beatport collection. Included in the other stuff here and – saves you losing your Beatport purchases and gives you previews. 128k only. Will work with Rekordbox in the fall, but you’ll want to pay extra for extra features (or stick with your existing download approach).

Beatport LINK PRO: the real news – but it’s not here yet. Works with Rekordbox, costs 40-60 bucks, but isn’t entirely unlimited. Won’t destroy music (uh, not saying something else won’t, but this won’t). The first sign of real streaming DJs – but the companies catering to serious DJs aren’t going to give away the farm the way Apple and Spotify have. In fact, if there’s any problem here, it’s that no one will buy this – but that’s Beatport’s problem, not yours (as it should be).

WeDJ streaming is for beginners, not Pioneer pros

This first point is probably the most important. Beatport (and SoundCloud) have each created a subscription offering that works exclusively with Pioneer’s WeDJ mobile DJ tool. That is, neither of these works with Rekordbox – not yet.

Just in case there’s any doubt, Pioneer has literally made the dominant product image photo some people DJing in their kitchen. So there you go: Rekordbox and and CDJ and TORAIZ equals nightclub, WeDJ equals countertop next to a pan of fajitas.

So yeah, SoundCloud streaming is now in a DJ app. And Beatport is offering its catalog of tracks for US$14.99 a month for the beta, which is a pretty phenomenally low price – and one that would rightfully scare labels and artists.

But it’s important this is in WeDJ as far as DJing. Pioneer aren’t planning on endangering their business ecosystem in Rekordbox, higher-end controllers, and standalone hardware like the CDJ. They’re trying to attract the beginners in the hopes that some of those people will expand the high end market down the road.

By the same token, it’d be incredibly short-sighted if Beatport were to give up on customers paying a hundred bucks a month or so on downloads just to chase growth. Instead, Beatport will split its offerings into a consumer/beginner product (LINK for WeDJ) and two products for serious DJs (LINK Pro and Beatport CLOUD).

And there’s reason to believe that what disrupts the consumer/beginner side might not make ripples when it comes to pros – as we’ve been there already. Spotify is in Algoriddim’s djay. It’s actually a really solid product. But the djay user base doesn’t impact what people use in the clubs, where the CDJ (or sometimes Serato or TRAKTOR) reign supreme. So if streaming in DJ software were going to crash the download market, you could argue it would have happened already.

That’s still a precarious situation, so let’s break down the different Beatport options, both to see how they’ll impact music makers’ business – and whether they’re something you might want to use yourself.

Ce n’est pas un CDJ.

Beatport LINK – the beginner one

First, that consumer service – yeah, it’s fifteen bucks a month and includes the Beatport catalog. But it’s quality-limited and works only in the WeDJ app (and with the fairly toy-like new DDJ-200 controller, which I’ll look at separately).

Who’s it for? “The Beginner DJs that are just starting out will have millions of tracks to practice and play with,” says Heiko. “Previously, a lot of this market would have been lost to piracy. The bit rate is 128kbs AAC and is not meant for public performance.”

But us serious Beatport users might want to mess around with it, too – it’s a place you can audition new tracks for a fairly low monthly fee. “It’s like having a record shop in your home,” says Heiko.

Just don’t think Beatport are making this their new subscription offering. If you think fifteen bucks a month for everything Beatport is a terrible business idea, don’t worry – Beatport agree. “This is the first of our Beatport LINK products,” says Heiko. “This is not a ‘Spotify for dance music.’ It’s a streaming service for DJs and makes Beatport’s extensive electronic music catalog available to stream audio into the WeDJ app.” And yeah, Spotify want more money for that, which is good – because you want more money charged for that as a producer or label. But before we get to that, let’s talk about the locker, the other thing available now:

WeDJ – a mobile gateway drug for DJs, or so Pioneer hopes. (NI and Algoriddim did it first; let’s see who does it better.)

Beatport CLOUD – the locker/sync one

Okay, so streaming may be destroying music but … you’ve probably still sometimes wanted to have access to digital downloads you’ve bought without having to worry about hard drive management or drive and laptop failures. And there’s the “locker” concept.

Some folks will remember that Beatport bought the major “locker” service for digital music – when it acquired Pulselocker. [link to our friends at DJ TechTools]

Beatport CLOUD is the sync/locker making a comeback, with €/$ 4.99 a month fee and no obligation or contract. It’s also included free in LINK – so for me, for instance, since I hate promos and like to dig for my own music even as press and DJ, I’m seriously thinking of the fifteen bucks to get full streaming previews, mixing in WeDJ, and CLOUD.

There are some other features here, too:

Re-download anything, unlimited. I heard from a friend – let’s call him Pietro Kerning – that maybe a stupid amount of music he’d (uh, or “she’d”) bought on Beatport was now scattered across a random assortment of hard drives. I would never do such a thing, because I organize everything immaculately in all aspects of my life in a manner becoming a true professional, but now this “friend” will easily be able to grab music anywhere in the event of that last-minute DJ gig.

By the same token you can:

Filter all your existing music in a cloud library. Not that I need to, perfectly organized individual, but you slobs need this, of course.

Needle-drop full previews. Hear 120 seconds from anywhere in a track – for better informed purchases. (Frankly, this makes me calmer as a label owner, even – I would totally rather you hear more of our music.)

There should be some obvious bad news here – this only works with Beatport purchased music. You can’t upload music the way some sync/locker services have worked in the past. But I think given the current legal landscape, if you want that, set up your own backup server.

What I like about this, at least, is that this store isn’t losing stuff you’ve bought from them. I think other download sites should consider something similar. (Bandcamp does a nice job in this respect – and of course it’s the store I use the most when not using Beatport.)

The new Beatport cloud.

Beatport LINK Pro – what’s coming

There are very few cases where someone says, “hey, good news – this will be expensive.” But music right now is a special case. And it’s good news that Beatport is launching a more expensive service.

For labels and artists, it means a serious chance to stay alive. (I mean, even for a label doing a tiny amount of download sales, this can mean that little bit of cash to pay the mastering engineer and the person who did the design for the cover, or to host a showcase in your local club.)

For serious users using that service, it means a higher quality way of getting music than other subscription services – and that you support the people who make the music you love, so they keep using it.

Or, at least, that’s the hope.

What Beatport is offering at the “pro” tiers does more and costs more. Just like Pioneer doesn’t want you to stop buying CDJs just because they have a cheap controller and app, Beatport doesn’t want you to stop spending money for music just because they have a subscription for that controller and app. Heiko explains:

With the upcoming Pioneer rekordbox integration, Beatport will roll out two new plans – Beatport LINK Pro and Beatport LINK Pro+ – with an offline locker and 256kbps AAC audio quality (which is equivalent to 320kbps MP3, but you’re the expert here). This will be club ready, but will be aimed at DJs who take their laptops to clubs, for now. They will cost €39,99/month and €59,99/month depending on how many tracks you can put in the offline locker (50 and 100 respectively).

You’ll get streaming inside Rekordbox with the basic LINK, too – but only at 128k. So it’ll work for previewing and trying out mixes, but the idea is you’ll still pay more for higher quality. (And of course that also still means paying more to work with CDJs, which is also a big deal.)

And yeah, Beatport agree with me. “We think streaming for professional DJ use should be priced higher,” says Heiko. “And we also need to be sure that this is not biting into the indie labels and artists (and therefore also Beatport’s own) revenues,” he says.

What Heiko doesn’t say is that this could increase spending, but I think it actually could. Looking at my own purchase habits and talking to others, a lot of times you look back and spend $100 for a big gig, but then lapse a few months. A subscription fee might actually encourage you to spend more and keep your catalog up to date gig to gig.

It’s also fair to hope this could be good for under-the-radar labels and artists even relative to the status quo. If serious DJs are locked into subscription plans, they might well take a chance on lesser known labels and artists since they’re already paying. I don’t want to be overly optimistic, though – a lot of this will be down to how Beatport handles its editorial offerings and UX on the site as this subscription grows. That means it’s good someone like Heiko is handling relations, though, as I expect he’ll be hearing from us.

Really, one very plausible scenario is that streaming DJing doesn’t catch on initially because it’s more expensive – and people in the DJ world may stick to downloads. A lot of that in turn depends on things like how 5G rolls out worldwide (which right now involves a major battle between the US government and Chinese hardware vendor Huawei, among other things), plus how Pioneer deals with a “Streaming CDJ.”

The point is, you shouldn’t have to worry about any of that. And there’s no rush – smart companies like Beatport will charge sustainable amounts of money for subscriptions and move slowly. The thing to be afraid of is if Apple or Spotify rush out a DJ product and, like, destroy independent music. If they try it, we should fight back.

Will labels and artists benefit?

If it sounds like I’m trying to be a cheerleader for Beatport, I’m really not. If you look at the top charts in genres, a lot of Beatport is, frankly, dreck – even with great editorial teams trying to guide consumers to good stuff. And centralization in general has a poor track record when it comes to underground music.

No, what I am biased toward is products that are real, shipping, and based on serious economics. So much as I’m interested in radical ideas for decentralizing music distribution, I think those services have yet to prove their feasibility.

And I think it’s fair to give Beatport some credit for being a business that’s real, based on actual revenue that’s shared between labels and artists. It may mean little to your speedcore goth neo-Baroque label (BLACK HYPERACID LEIPZIG INDUSTRIES, obviously – please let’s make that). But Beatport really is a cornerstone for a lot of the people making dance music now, on a unique scale.

The vision for LINK seems to be solid when it comes to revenue. Heiko again:

LINK will provide an additional revenue source to the labels and artists. The people who are buying downloads on Beatport are doing so because they want to DJ/perform with them. LINK is not there to replace that.

But I think for the reason I’ve already repeated – that the “serious” and “amateur”/wedding/beginner DJ gulf is real and not just a thing snobs talk about – LINK and WeDJ probably won’t disrupt label business, even that much to the positive. Look ahead to Rekordbox integration and the higher tiers. And yeah, I’m happy to spend the money, because I never get tired of listening to music – really.

And what if you don’t like this? Talk to your label and distributor. And really, you should be doing that anyway. Heiko explains:

Unlike other DSP’s, Beatport LINK has been conceived and developed in close cooperation with the labels and distributors on Beatport. Over the past year, new contracts were signed and all music used for LINK has been licensed by the right holders. However, if labels whose distributors have signed the new contract don’t want their catalog to be available for LINK they can opt out. But again: LINK is meant to provide an additional revenue source to the labels and artists.

Have a good weekend, and let us know if you have questions or comments. I’ll be looking at this for sure, as I think there isn’t enough perspective coming from serious producers who care about the details of technology.

https://www.beatport.com/get-link

The post No, Beatport’s subscription will not kill music – here’s how it really works appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Your music software goes modular: builder-friendly Bitwig 3 beta is here

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 10 May 2019 11:14 pm

It may have been in the temple of wires and racks, but Berlin’s Bitwig chose this weekend’s Superbooth to launch a public beta of their all-modular DAW, Bitwig Studio 3. It lets you wire together with hardware, or just inside software, or as a combination.

It’s called The Grid – and it’s all about patching inside your music workflow, so you can construct stuff you want instead of dialing up big monolithic tools and presets. And that sounds great to builders, I’m sure.

Going modular was really the promise of Bitwig Studio from the start – something to rocket the software from “oh, hey, I can run something kinda like Ableton on Linux” to … “wow, this is something really special.”

The idea is, get a music making tool that not only behaves like a set of tracks and channels, or a bank of patterns and samples, and more like a toybox that lets you built whatever you want from various blocks. And before anyone tries to launch another of those “hardware versus software” debates (yawn), a friendly reminder that computers used a modular generator model for digital audio in the late 1950s – years before any recognizable hardware modular was even a thing. (Okay, granted, you needed a stack of punch cards and access to an IBM mainframe or two and the user base was something like ‘people who happen to know Max Mathews,’ but still…)

Bitwig Studio 3 is in beta now, so you can toy around with it and see what you think. (Bitwig are very clear about not putting important projects in there.)

I wrote about this at the start of this year.

Bitwig Studio is about to deliver on a fully modular core in a DAW

But now there’s a friendly video to walk you through how it all works:

Basically, think friendly musical blocks for pattern and timbre, pre-cords so things are patched easily, and powerful features with phase.

With Beta 1, we also see some specifics – you can produce your own stereo synths and effects with the two Grid devices:

Patching may be a nerdy endeavor, but Bitwig’s design makes it much friendlier – and there’s already great tutorial documentation even in the beta.

Poly Grid: “for creating synthesizers, sequenced patches (like a beatbox), droning sounds, etc.”

FX Grid for effects

Signal/modulation I/O – including pressure, CV (like from hardware)

Visualization (labels, VU, readouts)

Phase – loads of stuff here, as promised: Phasor, Ø Bend, Ø Reset, Ø Scaler, Ø Reverse, Ø Wrap, Ø Counter, Ø Formant, Ø Lag, Ø Mirror, Ø Shift, Ø Sinemod, Ø Skew, Ø Sync

Oscillators (including Swarm, Sampler)

Random

LFO

Envelope / follower

Shaper (ooh, Chebyshev, Distortion, Quantizer, Rectifier, Wavefolder)

Filter (Low-pass LD, Low-pass SK, SVF, High-pass, Low-pass, Comb)

Delay types – need to dig into these; they look promising

Mix – Blend, Mixer, LR Mix, Select, Toggle, Merge, Split, Stereo Merge, Stereo Split, Stereo Width

Level – Level, Value, Attenuate, Bias, Drive, Gain, AM/RM, Average, Bend, Clip, Hold, Lag, Sample / Hold, Level Scaler, Bi→Uni, Uni→Bi

Pitch scalers and tools

Math operators

Logic operators

— all in all, it’s a really nice selection of tools, and a balance of low-level signal tools/operators and easy convenience tools that are higher level. And it’s also not an overwhelming number – which is good; it’s clear this should be its own tool and not try to replicate the likes of Max, SuperCollider, and Reaktor.

More improvements

Also in this build:

Reworked audio backends for every OS (good)

UI overhaul

Ableton Link 3 support with transport start/stop sync

And – a little thing, but you can view the timeline with actual time (minutes, ms) …

More on this soon.

Beta users will find a really nice, complete tutorial so – you can start practicing building. Have fun!

BITWIG STUDIO 3: NOW IN BETA

The post Your music software goes modular: builder-friendly Bitwig 3 beta is here appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Ableton release free CV Tools for integrating with analog gear, made in Max

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 7 May 2019 6:32 pm

It’s all about voltage these days. Ableton’s new CV Tools are designed for integrating with modular and semi-modular/desktop gear with CV. And they’re built in Max – meaning builders can learn from these tools and build their own.

The basic idea of CV Tools, like any software-CV integration, is to use your computer as an additional source of modulation and control. You route analog signal directly to your audio interface – you’ll need an interface that has DC coupled outputs (more about that separately). But once you do that, you can make your software and hardware rigs work together, and use your computer’s visual interface and open-ended possibilities to do still more stuff with analog gear.

This is coming on the eve of Superbooth, and certainly a lot of the audience will be people with modular racks. But nowadays, hardware with CV I/O is hardly limited to Eurorack – gear from the likes of Moog, Arturia, KORG, and others also makes sense with CV.

CV Tools aren’t the first Max for Live tools for Ableton Live – not by far. Spektro Audio makes the free CV Toolkit Mini, for instance. Its main advantage is a single, integrated interface – and a clever patch bay. There’s a more extensive version available for US$19.99.

Rival DAW Bitwig Studio, for its part, has taken an entirely different approach – you’ll get a software modular engine capable of interlinking with hardware CV wherever you like.

Ableton’s own CV Tools is news, though, in that these modules are powerful, flexible, and polished, and have a very Ableton-esque UI. They also come from a collaboration with Skinnerbox, the live performance-oriented gearheads here in Berlin, so I have no doubt they’ll be useful. (Yep, that’s them in the video.) I think there’s no reason not to grab this and Spektro and go to town.

And since these are built in Max, Max patchers may want to take a look inside – to mod or use as the basis of your own.

What you get:

CV Instrument lets you treat outboard modular/analog gear as if it’s integrated with Live as a plug-in.

Trigger drums and rhythms with CV Triggers.

CV Utility is a signal processing hub inside Live.

CV Instrument, with complements existing Ableton devices for integrating outboard MIDI instruments and effects with your projects in Live

CV Triggers for sequencing drum modules

CV Utility for adding automation curves, add/shift/multiple signals, and other processing tools

CV Clock In and CV Clock Out for clocking Live from outboard analog gear and visa versa

CV In which connects outboard analog signal directly to modulation of parameters inside Live

CV Shaper, CV Envelope Follower, and CV LFO which gives you graphical tools for designing modulation inside Live and using it for CV control of your analog hardware

And there’s more: the Rotating Rhythm Generator, which lets you dial up polyrhythms. This one works with both MIDI and CV, so you can work with either kind of external hardware.

I got to chat with Skinnerbox, and there’s even more here than may be immediately obvious.

For one thing, you get what they tell us is “extremely accurate broad-range” auto calibration of oscillators, filters, and so on. That’s often an issue with analog equipment, especially once you start getting complex or adding polyphony (or creating polyphony by mixing your software instruments with your hardware). Here’s a quick demo:

Clocking they say is “jitter free” and “super high resolution.”

So this means you can make a monster hybrid combining your computer running Ableton Live (and all your software) with hardware, without having to have the clock be all over the place or everything out of tune. (Well, unless that’s what you’re going for!)

If you’re in Berlin, Skinnerbox will play live with the rig this Friday at Superbooth.

They sent us this quick demo of working with the calibration tools, resulting in an accurate ten-octave range (here with oscillator from Endorphin.es).

Watch:

To interface with their gear, they’re using the Expert Sleepers ES8 interface in the modular. You could also use a DC-coupled audio interface, though – MOTU audio interfaces are a popular choice, since they’ve got a huge range of interfaces with DC coupling across various interface configurations.

CV Tools is listed as “coming soon,” but a beta version is available now.

https://www.ableton.com/en/blog/cv-tools-live-coming-soon/

What do you need to use this?

For full CV control of analog gear, you’ll want a DC-coupled audio interface. Most audio interfaces lack that feature – I’m writing an explanation of this in a separate story – but if you do have one with compatible outputs, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the features here, including tuned pitch control. MOTU have probably made more interfaces that work than anyone else. You can also look to a dedicated interface like the Expert Sleepers one Skinnerbox used in the video above.

See MOTU and Expert Sleepers, both of which Skinnerbox have tested:

http://motu.com/products

https://www.expert-sleepers.co.uk/es8.html

MOTU also have a more technical article on testing audio interfaces if you’re handy with a voltmeter, plus specs on range on all their interfaces.

Universal Audio have already written to say they’ll be demoing DC coupling on their audio interfaces at Superbooth with Ableton’s CV Tools, so their stuff works, too. (Double-checking which models they’re using.)

But wait – just because you lack the hardware doesn’t mean you can’t use some of the functionality here with other audio interfaces. Skinnerbox remind us that any audio interface inputs will work with CV In in Pitch mode. Clock in and out will work with any device, too.

The post Ableton release free CV Tools for integrating with analog gear, made in Max appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Remember ACID? It’s back – and ready to split stems for you automatically

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 6 May 2019 5:35 pm

It may seem like there’s not much left for music making software to do that it doesn’t do already. But how about magically extracting stems from audio? The first software to do that is one you might not have thought about for a while: ACID Pro.

Back in 1998 when it came out, ACID – aka Acid pH1 – was ground-breaking. Drag and drop loops, make a song: more than any other single software release, this was what would change computer music making. Sure, Propellerhead had already established a few years earlier that you could use warp-able digital loops to remix music, make new music, and work with samples in new ways. But it was really ACID that established what an entire production tool would look like built around the concept. Loop-based music production on the computer was now a thing.

ACID’s place as a leader, however, faded. Original developer Sonic Foundry sold to Sony. Ableton ran with the loop workflow and built a tool with real-time performance. Apple built GarageBand and Apple Loops with strong influence from ACID – but on the Mac (and later iPad), whereas ACID was Windows-only.

ACID Pro has continued to see updates, and some users have certainly stayed loyal. But the pace of progress languished at Sony, and the tool was sold to Berlin developer Magix.

Well, it’s back – and with an idea that could put it on the map again.

ACID Pro Next makes “audio separation” its banner feature. It wasn’t developed in-house at Magix, but with fellow German developer Zynaptiq. That could mean you see other DAW makers license this, but it’s a natural for ACID’s workflow – and ACID has gotten there first.

And here’s the thing: the sonic results, in the demos, at least, sound really good – a new level. We’ve been wowed by Zynaptiq’s DSP prowess in the past, so I’m not surprised. I’ll want to check this on my own material with more time, but it’s promising.

This, of course, solves two major use cases:

“Hey, will you do a remix?” “Sure! Can you send me the stems?” “What are stems? Here’s a stereo file.” “No, like separate tracks.” “Cool, here is a random selection of audio files that don’t seem to add up to the whole track for some reason.” “No. How does that help? I… augh.”

And the second use case:

“Oh, this track. I forgot I made this. Wait… I could do something with this. I just want to change the… where’s the original project? Wait, what do you mean Logic Pro corrupted the whole project and undo no longer works. Let me check the backup … backup… oh. #$(*&$@.”

I’m guessing that machine learning is involved in this implementation, as I know this developer has been working in that field. The results aren’t perfect, either – this kind of separation is difficult, so you will hear residual artifacts. But it might still work in a remix context.

No embeddable video/audio yet, but check out the demos on their site.

We’ve seen this once before in Accusonus’ software, but as a plug-in, which means extra steps when it comes to separation. This is the first time it’s been directly integrated in a DAW. I do hope we get to do side-by-side audio comparisons of Accusonus’ and Zynaptiq’s approaches – especially as the ACID Pro Next results sound so good, far better that what Accusonus gave us a couple of years ago. (That makes some sense; machine learning audio processing has evolved since then.)

Here’s a look at how the remix process works with Accusonus – and it is possibly to use this creatively or even abuse the results:

Try AI remixing in Regroover with these tips and exclusive sounds

And here’s our conversation with the developers about what happened behind the scenes from an engineering perspective:

Accusonus explain how they’re using AI to make tools for musicians

A simple but cool idea also in this release is the MIDI Playable Chopper. It takes audio files and splits them into slices – okay, basically everything does that. And then it lets you play those slices with an external MIDI controller, without any further configuration. No extra steps putting those slices into some kind of drum device, just play as you slice. Why doesn’t software work this way? I have no idea.

Play as you chop.

But those two features already could make ACID Pro the remix machine to beat. It’s good enough that I could imagine, while a lot of us don’t like to switch DAWs, some of us might consider giving this a go just to get through a tight remix deadline.

There’s more, too. There’s a new VST engine – adding VST3 compatibility, but retaining a 32-bit VST bridge even as most DAWs drop that. There are mastering-style metering tools so you can get your loudness right as you mix without third-party tools – nice. And you get a refreshed library of instruments and effects. So there are new virtual analog and lead synths, extra effects, and mastering tools.

For some reason, they’re also including … a concert guitar and a saxaphone plug-in? Not sure where that fits in, but fine.

Pricing starts at US$149, with Next – the one with the cool stem features – starting at US$399 ($299 upgrade). And there’s a subscription. And it’s kind of complicated, unfortunately.

https://www.magix.com/us/music/acid/acid-pro-next/

Still Windows-only, yes.

The post Remember ACID? It’s back – and ready to split stems for you automatically appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The end of iTunes, an opportunity for Pioneer, new tools and standards

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 2 May 2019 5:50 pm

Apple’s iTunes is not going away tomorrow, but the antiquated software seems to finally be approaching the end of the road. It’s long past time to talk about new solutions and new standards, for music lovers and DJs alike.

Goodnight, iTunes 12.x.

iTunes’ days are numbered

The logic runs something like this: even though Apple last year squashed rumors of the end of iTunes and iTunes downloads, it does nonetheless make sense that once the company migrates to a new music app, the old one will be deprecated.

In April, news leaked that the next major release of macOS was expected to unveil that new desktop software, at last. iTunes on Windows and Mac right now involves a bunch of tools that have since become more differentiated on iOS – Music, Podcasts, Books, and TV (for TV and Movies).

Multiple reports suggested Apple plans new standalone apps that will match the desktop experience to the iOS one – starting with a tweet by developer Steve Troughton-Smith.

And sure enough, these reports also suggested that Apple would extend the use of a project code named Marzipan, meant to allow easy cross-platform development between iOS and macOS. We saw this in a sneak peak last year, and if you’ve updated to Mojave, apps like Apple News use the library now. (Troughton-Smith is an early adopter and advocate for Marzipan.)

I expect more news is coming in WWDC, but in the meantime, the leaks have been pretty clear. Guilherme Rambo reported on 9to5Mac that he could confirm the leaks:

I’ve been able to independently confirm that this is true. On top of that, I’ve been able to confirm with sources familiar with the development of the next major version of macOS – likely 10.15 – that the system will include standalone Music, Podcasts, and TV apps…

The new Music, Podcasts, and TV apps will be made using Marzipan, Apple’s new technology designed to facilitate the porting of iPad apps to the Mac without too many code changes.

The important point: iTunes won’t go away yet:

With the standalone versions of Apple’s media apps coming to the Mac, it’s natural to ask: what about iTunes in macOS 10.15? According to sources, the next major version of macOS will still include the iTunes app. Since Apple doesn’t have a new solution for manually syncing devices such as old iPods and iPhones with the Mac, it’s natural to keep iTunes around a little longer.

But I don’t think it’s too early to begin moving way from iTunes. And that would be a big step. iTunes is significant to two, key (overlapping) demographics: music lovers who retain downloaded music, and DJs using iTunes to manage libraries across other tools.

That has another implication, though: a lot of the current ecosystem around music is dependent on iTunes use and the XML-based iTunes media format for storing metadata and playlists. DJ tools depend on it – TRAKTOR, Serato, but even many Rekordbox users, who use Rekordbox for sync to USB sticks for CDJs, but still depend on iTunes for media management as they’re digging through new music. And in turn, many independent labels and indeed the whole health of downloads sales on sites like Bandcamp and Beatport also depend on people having a tool for management.

Why wait for the ship to be half sunk before heading for the lifeboats? iTunes might already be considered deprecated even if it is shipping in macOS 10.15. And you’d be forgiven for calling it a slow, clunky wreck right now – particularly on Windows.

Plus, the move to Marzipan tech and closer iOS and macOS development also would seem to presage a move of Mac computer hardware to the ARM platform – leaving iTunes in the Trashcan of history.

Apple News running on Mojave is a good glimpse into the likely future of a Music app.

My guess is that it’s highly unlikely that the upcoming Music app will duplicate key features necessary for use by the DJ and enthusiast markets. That involves a whole lot of metadata editing, rating systems, playlist management, and media storage. Even if these features are duplicated, it also seems likely Apple would create a new file format – and there’s no real guarantee you’ll see a compatible app on Windows, ever (though I don’t know what Windows subscribers to Apple Music would do). These use cases also depend on specific file conversion and compatibility features – and iTunes was already deficient in lacking native support for formats like FLAC.

Zac Hall, also on 9to5Mac, has a great comparison of the two apps – with some useful reflections on what’s to be gained, and what desktop-specific features might be lost:

With Music for macOS coming soon, legacy iTunes features will disappear or spread to iOS

More on Marzipan:

Three ways Apple’s own Marzipan apps can benefit macOS [Macworld]

Marzipan: What you need to know about iOS apps on the Mac
[iMore]

What could be next

A snarky retort from Troughton-Smith helps reveal that there are two audiences for music listening, casual and enthusiast. (I won’t say the word “pro” as even many major DJs have other day jobs; the point is passion for listening.)

The enthusiast audience really needs new solutions.

Rekordbox is already the new iTunes.

Rekordbox could open up its format. Pioneer has already become the de facto standard in music management for DJs. The CDJ is, by far, the dominant player in clubs. Pioneer’s strategy so far has been to keep its ecosystem proprietary; it only recently began to even license its PRO DJ LINK synchronization tech, and the Rekordbox format has been constrained to its software and hardware, at least officially. But third-party tools have already reverse engineered the media management tools.

Providing open third-party access to Rekordbox management could actually encourage more new customers in the Pioneer ecosystem. Right now, because iTunes is often the bridge, the user experience is terrible – just as Pioneer needs to reach a new generation of emerging DJs who may not want to manage this format. And barring that –

Developers could band together to make a new format. If Pioneer aren’t interested in supporting others on their de facto standard, it could be a chance for other players to step in. Native Instruments failed to reach out to other DJ tool developers with STEMS; they could learn from that experience and work cooperatively with rivals like InMusic (Denon) and Serato. Or the community of music lovers could work on a new open toolset.

New music management could bridge between streaming and downloads. I’m sure a lot of people will see the move from iTunes to Music as a move to streaming – which is absolutely right. But, while this is a whole other topic, it seems what we need most is tools that give us cloud sync and streaming on-demand, but also help us manage offline files seamlessly.

I believe downloads will remain important, as people look for higher-resolution experiences, multichannel audio, and rich media.

There’s an opportunity for innovation. With software like VOX [Mac] or MediaMonkey, there have always been great third-party players. But they always had to compete with the ubiquitous iTunes, which included many serious/”pro” features. If “Music” goes in a more consumer-oriented, streaming-centric direction – which seems almost certain – it opens up an opportunity for those developers to win over abandoned iTunes users.

Watch for new tools for DJs. One exciting possibility for DJ file management is SpinTools, though it’s currently in a closed beta.

I also think it’s contingent on stores like Bandcamp and Beatport to provide better tools for managing music collections – and that doing so will increase sales. (Don’t get me started on Bandcamp, love it as I do. I wonder how many sales are lost because of the site’s draconian, manual download system.)

All of these things will take time. But I think that could make the twilight of iTunes a perfect time to get started.

Sidebar: some history

As an aside, I think it’s useful to know the history of iTunes for a sense of why it is as outmoded as it is – and why new directions could be possible in music management. By the late 90s, music players were essentially librarian and player tools for MP3s. This started with some really basic tools like the Fraunhofer Institute’s own WinPlay3, but also led to ground-breaking software like 1997’s Winamp – the work of Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev. (Frankel would go on to lead development on the Reaper DAW.)

iTunes began its life as an acquisition, Casady & Greene’s SoundJam MP. I actually bought a license of that software, and exploited its compatibility with a Diamond Rio MP3 player. (Apparently long-time tech journalist David Pogue, also an amateur musician and whom I believe wrote the first-ever manual for the Finale music notation software, wrote the documentation for SoundJam MP, too.)

SoundJam MP. Ah, memories.

If you look at SoundJam MP, you see the core of iTunes as it’s used for music – player interface, playlists, playlist management. iTunes is significant in that it introduces the multi-pane display – something you see mirrored even in DJ apps – and more fluid file management.

Here’s how long ago 2001 was: Apple announced iTunes as the “World’s Best and Easiest To Use Jukebox Software.” Jukeboxes were still the devices most people knew when it came to large music management. There was even a custom jewel case printing tool for making pretty artwork for your mixes – anyone remember that? (Time flies. I recall actually making some of those.)

The debut of iTunes, in an age when we cared about The White Stripes.

But if Apple nailed integrating its iPod player, then its store, iTunes really began to drift as it had to take on too many unrelated functions. There’s muddled media management for iOS devices, TV watching, radio, books, Apps management – and now a bunch of legacy Windows code that slows your machine down on that platform, while on the Mac iTunes just looks old and weak. And iTunes has been a place for various missteps and dead ends, from the Ping social media service to iMix.

iTunes 11 in 2012 was a highlight, with a graphical album view and mini player, but as the world moved on to streaming and away from downloads, music management fell into the shadows.

Check Macworld’s great 15 year history:

15 years of iTunes: A look at Apple’s media app and its influence on an industry

Wikipedia even devotes a whole page to this… strange fascination with the evolution of the world’s leading music, erm media player:

History of iTunes

And for a visual evolution, a 2006 Engadget story has a decent overview:

iTunes from 0.0 to 7.0

But that’s why I think it is really possible for a fresh take. People still love music. They love buying and owning things. They love album artwork. And they still consume music in places with limited or no Internet, from clubs to lots of airplane flights – or at the very least, are willing to pay for “owning” digital content (think games, Adobe software, and even the fact that a lot of desirable movies aren’t on Netflix any more).

The post The end of iTunes, an opportunity for Pioneer, new tools and standards appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

KORG volca fm gets its own custom editor, plug-in

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 1 May 2019 2:34 pm

Manage all that FM sound depth of your KORG volca – or dust it off, if you need – with this handy editor for one of the most unique little instruments from the past years.

Momo Müller keeps putting out superb unofficial editors for popular gear – and the latest to get the treatment is KORG’s pint-sized FM synthesizer.

Of all the volcas, the volca fm might be the one that wants this the most – FM synthesis by definition gets some wild results from tiny tweaks. Adding Momo’s plugin lets you integrate your volca with your DAW and get precise control of those settings – plus automate and recall them.

Since you can save presets, this also solves a key issue with the volca fm, which is managing all that variability live and in production.

And yeah, you can give your fingers a rest from those tiny knobs … and have fun playing with the touch strip and sound instead.

U$6.90 / 5,90EUR for Mac (VST, AU, standalone) and Windows (32- and 64-bit VST).

https://korgvolcamidieditor.jimdofree.com

I’m going to put this and the editor for Roland’s D-05 (D-50 boutique reissue) as MVPs here – the D-05 because then you can get away from those well-known presets and take the synthesis engine in other directions.

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Surge is free, deep synth for every platform, with MPE support

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 29 Apr 2019 4:21 pm

Surge is a deep multi-engine digital soft synth – beloved, then lost, then brought back to life as an open source project. And now it’s in a beta that’s usable and powerful and ready on every OS.

I wrote about Surge in the fall when it first hit a free, open source release:

Vember Audio owner @Kurasu made this happen. But software just “being open sourced” often leads nowhere. In this case, Surge has a robust community around it, turning this uniquely open instrument into something you can happily use as a plug-in alongside proprietary choices.

And it really is deep: stack 3 oscillators per voice, use morphable classic or FM or ring modulation or noise engines, route through a rich filter block with feedback and every kind of variation imaginable – even more exotic notch or comb or sample & hold choices, and then add loads of modulation. There are some 12 LFOs per voice, multiple effects, a vocoder, a rotary speaker…

I mention it again because now you can grab Mac (64-bit AU/VST), Windows (32-bit and 64-bit VST), and Linux (64-bit VST) versions, built for you.

And there’s VST3 support.

And there’s support for MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression), meaning you can use hardware from ROLI, Roger Linn, Haken, and others – I’m keen to try the Sensel Morph, perhaps with that Buchla overlay.

Now there’s also an analog mode for the envelopes, too.

This also holds great promise for people who desire a deep synth but can’t afford expensive hardware. While Apple’s approach means backwards compatibility on macOS is limited, it’ll run on fairly modest machines – meaning this could also be an ideal starting point for building your own integrated hardware/software solution.

In fact, if you’re not much of a coder but are a designer, it looks like design is what they need most at this point. Plus you can contribute sound content, too.

Most encouraging is really that they are trying to build a whole community around this synth – not just make open source maintenance a chore, but really a shared endeavor.

Check it out now:

https://surge-synthesizer.github.io

Previously:

Powerful SURGE synth for Mac and Windows is now free

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Reason 10.3 delivers on VST performance promises

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 16 Apr 2019 5:11 pm

We’ve been waiting, but now the waiting is done. Propellerhead has added the VST performance boost it had promised to Reason users – meaning plug-ins now benefit from Reason 10’s patchable racks.

I actually flew to Stockholm, Sweden back in the dark days of December to talk to the engineers about this update (among some other topics). Short version of that story: yeah, it took them longer than they’d hoped to get VST plug-ins operating as efficiently as native devices in the rack.

If you want all those nitty-gritty details, here’s the full story:

Reason 10.3 will improve VST performance – here’s how

But now, suffice to say that the main reason for the hold-up – Reason’s patchable, modular virtual rack of gear – just became an asset rather than a liability. Now that VSTs in Reason perform roughly as they will in other DAWs, what Reason adds is the ability to route those plug-ins however you like, in Reason’s unique interface.

Combine that with Reason’s existing native effects and instruments and third-party Rack Extensions, and I think Reason becomes more interesting as both a live performance rig and a DAW for recording and arranging than before. It could also be interesting to stick a modular inside the modular – as with VCV Rack or this week’s Blocks Base and Blocks Prime from Native Instruments.

Anyway, that’s really all there is to say about 10.3 – it’s what Propellerhead call a “vitamin injection” (which, seeing those dark Swedish winters, I’m guessing all of them need about now.

This also means the engineers have gotten over a very serious and time-consuming hurdle and can presumably get onto other things. It’s also a development for the company that they’ve been upfront in talking about a flaw both before, during, and concluding development – and that’s welcome from any music software maker. So props to the Props – now go get some sunshine; you’ve earned it. (and the rest of us can tote these rigs out into the park, too)

Reason: what’s new

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Max TV: go inside Max 8’s wonders with these videos

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 11 Apr 2019 8:20 pm

Max 8 – and by extension the latest Max for Live – offers some serious powers to build your own sonic and visual stuff. So let’s tune in some videos to learn more.

The major revolution in Max 8 – and a reason to look again at Max even if you’ve lapsed for some years – is really MC. It’s “multichannel,” so it has significance in things like multichannel speaker arrays and spatial audio. But even that doesn’t do it justice. By transforming the architecture of how Max treats multiple, well, things, you get a freedom in sketching new sonic and instrumental ideas that’s unprecedented in almost any environment. (SuperCollider’s bus and instance system is capable of some feats, for example, but it isn’t as broad or intuitive as this.)

The best way to have a look at that is via a video from Ableton Loop, where the creators of the tech talk through how it works and why it’s significant.

Description [via C74’s blog]:

In this presentation, Cycling ’74’s CEO and founder David Zicarelli and Content Specialist Tom Hall introduce us to MC – a new multi-channel audio programming system in Max 8.

MC unlocks immense sonic complexity with simple patching. David and Tom demonstrate techniques for generating rich and interesting soundscapes that they discovered during MC’s development. The video presentation touches on the psychoacoustics behind our recognition of multiple sources in an audio stream, and demonstrates how to use these insights in both musical and sound design work.

The patches aren’t all ready for download (hmm, some cleanup work being done?), but watch this space.

If that’s got you in the learning mood, there are now a number of great video tutorials up for Max 8 to get you started. (That said, I also recommend the newly expanded documentation in Max 8 for more at-your-own-pace learning, though this is nice for some feature highlights.)

dude837 has an aptly-titled “delicious” tutorial series covering both musical and visual techniques – and the dude abides, skipping directly to the coolest sound stuff and best eye candy.

Yes to all of these:

There’s a more step-by-step set of tutorials by dearjohnreed (including the basics of installation, so really hand-holding from step one):

For developers, the best thing about Max 8 is likely the new Node features. And this means the possibility of wiring musical inventions into the Internet as well as applying some JavaScript and Node.js chops to anything else you want to build. Our friends at C74 have the hook-up on that:

Suffice to say that also could mean some interesting creations running inside Ableton Live.

It’s not a tutorial, but on the visual side, Vizzie is also a major breakthrough in the software:

That’s a lot of looking at screens, so let’s close out with some musical inspiration – and a reminder of why doing this learning can pay off later. Here’s Second Woman, favorite of mine, at LA’s excellent Bl__K Noise series:

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Arturia’s 3 Compressors get creative, producer-friendly

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 10 Apr 2019 7:20 am

Arturia have followed up their hit “3 Filters…” and “3 Preamps You’ll Actually Use” with the inevitable trio of compressors – but as with the other bundles, there are some twists (and lower intro prices on now).

Before they expanded into doing their own MIDI controllers and synth hardware, Arturia rose to prominence on their modeling chops. And they have tended to spin those modeling engines and competency in recreating vintage gear into spin-off products. The trick with the “3 [things] You’ll Actually Use” series has been rising above the crowd of vintage remakes now available to music producers. So that’s been about doing two things: one, picking three blockbusters to reproduce, and two, adding some functionality extras that lets producers get creative with the results.

And that’s to me what has made the series interesting – while lots of vendors will sell you reproductions of classic studio equipment, these have been ones you might well use in the production process. It’s not only about perfecting a recording or mix, but also about integrating into your creative process as you’re developing ideas.

The compressors trio go that route, too – so in addition to using these routinely in mixing or mastering, you can also use them for some inventive sidechain or saturation.

The three compressors getting the Arturia treatment – and the circuitry inside:

UREI 1176 [FET transistor]
DBX 165A [solid-state VCA]
Gates STA-Level [tube]

The 1176 is pretty ubiquitously desired at this point – and of course among other recreations you can keep it in the family of creator Bill Putnam Sr. and try Universal Audio’s own creation. It’s something you can use for subtle tonal shifts even at lower levels, in addition to cranking up compression if you want. So why add another reproduction to the pile? Arturia has added a “link” button for automatic volume leveling if you want – giving you the 1176 sound but more modern behavior on demand.

And you can use the 1176 as a sidechain. Oh – wait, that’s really huge. And there’s a creative “Time Warp” feature with pre-delay. So thanks to the fact that Arturia aren’t being quite as precious with the historical design as some of their rivals, you can choose either an “authentic” 1176 recreation, or something that’s 1176-ish but does things that were impossible on the original analog hardware.

It’s surprising enough for the 1176 to be new again, but the other models here have some similar ideas.

Next, you’ve got the “Over Easy” 165A, an essential compressor in a lot of studios, which has both some nice dirty, gritty timbral character of its own and punchy processing plus Mid/Side processing. For this model, Arturia have introduced a whole new panel of additional controls that fold out when you want them in the UI.

Don’t be fooled by the skeumorphic knobs; the original DBX didn’t have these options. That also includes their “Time Warp” pre-delay, convenient side-chaining (here with an easy “manual mode” trigger so you can preview what it’ll sound like), and now an integrated EQ. That EQ is modeled on SSL-style channels, so it’s a bit like having a pre-configured mixer rig to use with your sidechaining.

The STA-Level is maybe the most interesting of the three as far as rarity. It also gets (optional) modernization, with an input-output link for automatic leveling, a parallel compression mode that’s integrated with the software (plus an easy “mix” knob for adjusting how much parallel compression you want to hear), and sidechaining.

All in all, it’s an intriguing approach. On one hand, you get panels that look and operate and sound more like the original than a lot of software models at the low end of the price range. (For instance, the compressors added recently to Logic Pro X, while free, are more loose impressions than authentic recreations.)

But on the other, and here’s where Arturia clearly has an edge, you get new sidechaining and auto-leveling and other features that make these more fun to use in modern contexts and easier to drop into your creative flow.

Sidechaining these kinds of compressor models alone I think is a win; the convenience of the UIs and the fact that these are native on any platform to me makes them invaluable – maybe even compared to the existing filter and preamp offerings.

I’ve been playing around with them a bit already; I’m especially curious if I can run a couple in a live context – will report back on that. But I’m already impressed on sound and functionality.

Everything is on sale, so if you own existing Arturia stuff, you could get these for as little as $/EUR 49 (or half off if you’re new to the series), or in discounted bundles. You can also buy the compressors individually, if there’s one that really catches your fancy.

Plus, there are some new tutorials to get you started:

https://www.arturia.com/products/software-effects/comps-bundle/resources#tutorials

Honestly, just one wish – this is such a useful bundle of effects in the nine Arturia has built, I’d love to see it on Linux. It might be the only bundle you really need.

3 Compressors You’ll Actually Need [Arturia]

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Alternative modular: pd knobs is a Pure Data-friendly knob controller

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 3 Apr 2019 10:02 pm

pd knobs is a knob controller for MIDI. It’s built with Teensy with open source code – or you can get the pre-built version, with some pretty, apparently nice-feeling knobs. And here it is with the free software Pd + AUTOMATONISM – proof that you don’t need to buy Eurorack just to go modular.

And that’s relevant, actually. Laptops can be had for a few hundred bucks; this controller is reasonably inexpensive, or you could DIY it. Add Automatonism, and you have a virtually unlimited modular of your own making. I love that Eurorack is supporting builders, but I don’t think the barrier to entry for music should be a world where a single oscillator costs what a lot of people spend in a month on rent.

And, anyway, this sounds really cool. Check the demo:

From the creator, Sonoclast:

pd knobs is a 13 knob MIDI CC controller. It can control any software that recognizes MIDI CC messages, but it was obviously designed with Pure Data in mind. I created it because I wanted a knobby interface with nice feeling potentiometers that would preserve its state from session-to-session, like a hardware instrument would. MIDI output is over a USB cable.

For users of the free graphical modular Pd, there are some ready-to-use abstractions for MIDI or even audio-rate control. You can also easily remap the controllers with some simple code.

More:

http://sonoclast.com/products/pd-knobs/

Buy from Reverb.com:

https://reverb.com/item/21147215-sonoclast-pd-knobs-midi-cc-controller

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Two free plug-ins and a music label take you into ambient worlds

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Labels,Scene | Thu 28 Mar 2019 6:42 pm

What’s to say a music idea can’t be both a tool and a tape, an instrument someone could play or an album they can get lost in? Puremagnetik are launching their new experimental label with two free tools that let you keep the drones and grains and ambient soundscapes flowing.

There’s a bunch of hype this week because Warner Music signed an algorithm. And in turn with everyone abusing the term “AI,” you might well think that a computer has automated a composer’s job. Except that’s not what happened – in the long tradition of algorithmic music, a group of composers applied their ideas to the development of software. One of the first apps launched for the iPhone, in fact, was the Brian Eno – Peter Chilvers “Bloom.” Endel has more in common with Bloom, I’d argue, than it does some dystopia where unseen, disembodied AI come to rob you of your lucrative ambient music recording contract. (At least, we’re not there yet. Endel is here in Berlin; I hope to talk to them soon – what they’ve done sounds very interesting, and maybe not quite what the press have reported.) Bloom in turn was a follow-up to Eno’s software-based generative music releases. Ableton co-founders Gerhard and Robert released software in the 90s, too.

So let’s talk about the role of musician as blurred with the role of instrument builder. Soundware and software shop Puremagnetik is made by musicians; founder Micah Frank was moonlighting in sound design for others as he worked on his own music. While this may come as shocking news to some, it turns out for many people, selling music tools is often a better day job than selling music or music performances. (I hope you were sitting down for that bombshell. Don’t tell my/your/anyone’s parents.)

But there are many ways to express something musically. Many of us who love tools as we do love playing live and recording and listening do so because all of these things embody sound and feeling.

It’s fitting, then, that Puremagnetik are launching their own record label to house some of the recorded experiments – Puremagnetik Tapes, which already has some beautiful music on cassette and as digital downloads.

And the perfect companion to those albums is these two free plug-ins. Like the label, they promise a trip for the mind.

The two first tapes (also available as digital)… gorgeous sound worlds to lose yourself in on loop.

The label announces it will focus on “experimental, ambient and acousmatic music.” That already yields two enchanting ambient forays. “Into a Bright Land” is in turns crystalline and delicate, warm and lush as a thick blanket. It’s Micah Frank himself, releasing under his Larum moniker. The musical craft is a digital-analog hybrid, part synths and tape machines – the kind the company has been known for sampling in its sound work – and partly Micah’s intricate custom coding work in the free environment Csound.

https://puremagnetik.com/collections/tapes/products/larum-into-a-bright-land

To accompany Into a Bright Land, there’s the plug-in “Expanse,” a “texture generator,” with a combination of “texture tone” filter, spectral blurring, adjustable pitch shift, and a healthy supply of noise generation and space.

Its drones and sonic landscapes draw from that same world.

Tyler Gilmore aka BlankFor.ms has crafted “Works for Tape and Piano,” pushing each instrument to its most vulnerable place, the tape itself becoming instrument, sounding almost as if at the point of a beautiful breakdown.

https://puremagnetik.com/collections/tapes/products/blankfor-ms-works-for-tape-and-piano

Since you can’t just borrow Tyler’s tape machines and such, Driftmaker is a digital equivalent – a “delay disintegration” device. Add your own audio, and the plug-in will model analog deterioration. The artist himself supplies the presets. Again, you have plenty of control – “parse” which sets the record buffer, “chop” which determines how much to recall, and then controls for delay, modulation, filtering, and wet/dry.

Both plug-ins are free with an email address or Gumroad login.

…and the plug-ins, each created to aesthetically accompany the albums.

There’s a pattern here, though. Far from a world where artists remove themselves from craft or automate the hard work, here, artists relish in getting close to everything that makes sound. They make music the hard way because each element of DIY is fun. And then they share that same fun. It might well be the opposite of the narrative we’re given about AI and automation (and I suspect that may also mean artists don’t approach machine learning for music in the way some people currently predict).

Or, well, even if you don’t believe that, I think you’ll easily lose whole evenings with these albums and plug-ins alike.

Details:

https://puremagnetik.com/blogs/news/two-free-plugins-expanse-driftmaker

Requirements: macOS X 10.8 (AU, VST) or Windows 10 (VST) 64-bit plug-ins

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NI Massive X synth sees first features, interface revealed

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 14 Mar 2019 2:58 pm

Native Instruments’ Massive synth defined a generation of soft synths and left a whole genre or two in its wake. But its sequel remains mysterious. Now the company is revealing some of what we can expect.

First, temper your expectations: NI aren’t giving us any sound samples or a release date. (It’s unclear whether the blog talking about “coming months” refers just to this blog series or … whether we’re waiting some months for the software, which seems possible.)

What you do get to see, though, is some of what I got a preview of last fall.

After a decade and a half, making a satisfying reboot of Massive is a tall order. What’s encouraging about Massive X is that it seems to return to some of the original vision of creator Mike Daliot. (Mike is still heavily involved in the new release, too, having crafted all 125 wavetables himself, among other things.)

So Massive X, like Massive before it, is all about making complex modulation accessible – about providing some of the depth of a modular in a fully designed semi-modular environment. Those are packaged into a UI that’s cleaner, clearer, prettier – and finally, scalable. And since this is not 2006, the sound engine beneath has been rewritten – another reason I’m eager to finally hear it in public form.

Massive X is still Massive. That means it incorporates features that are now so widely copied, you would be forgiven forgetting that Massive did them first. That includes drag-and drop modulation, the signature ‘saturn ring’ indicators of modulation around knobs, and even aspects of the approach to sections in the UI.

What’s promising is really the approach to sound and modulation. In short, revealed publicly in this blog piece for the first time:

Two dedicated phase modulation oscillators. Phase modulation was one of the deeper features of the original – and, if you could figure out Yamaha’s arcane approach to programming, instruments like the DX7. But now it’s more deeply integrated with the Massive architecture, and there’s more of it.

Lots of noise. In addition to those hundred-plus wavetables for the oscillators, you also get dozens of noise sources. (Rain! Birdies!) That rather makes Massive into an interesting noise synth, and should open up lots of sounds that aren’t, you know, angry EDM risers and basslines.

New filters. Comb filters, parallel and serial routing, and new sound. The filters are really what make a lot of NI’s latest generation stuff sound so good (as with a lot of newer software), so this is one to listen for.

New effects algorithms. Ditto.

Expanded Insert FX. This was another of the deeper features in Massive – and a case of the semi-modular offering some of the power of a full-blown modular, in a different (arguably, if you like, more useful) context. Since this can include both effects and oscillators, there are some major routing possibilities. Speaking of which:

Audio routing. Route an oscillator to itself (phase feedback), or to one another (yet more phase modulation), and make other connections you would normally expect of a modular synth, not necessarily even a semi-modular one.

Modulators route to the audio bus, too – so again like modular hardware, you can treat audio and modulation interchangeably.

More envelopes. Now you get up to nine of these, and unique new devices like a “switcher” LFO. New “Performers” can use time signature-specific rhythms for modulation, and you can trigger snapshots.

It’s a “tracker.” Four Trackers let you use MIDI as assignable modulation.

Maybe this is an oversimplification, but at the end of the day, it seems to me this is really about whether you want to get deep with this specific, semi-modular design, or go into a more open-ended modular environment. The tricky thing about Massive X is, it might have just enough goodies to draw in even the latter camp.

And, yeah, sure, it’s late. But … Reaktor has proven to us in the past that some of the stuff NI does slowest can also be the stuff the company does best. Blame some obsessive engineers who are totally uninterested in your calendar dates, or, like, the forward progression of time.

For a lot of us, Massive X will have to compete with the fact that on the one hand, the original Massive is easy and light on CPU, and on the other, there are so many new synths and modulars to play with in software. But let’s keep an eye on this one.

And yes, NI, can we please hear the thing soon?

https://blog.native-instruments.com/massive-x-lab-welcome-to-massive-x/

Hey, at least I can say – I think I was the first foreign press to see the original (maybe even the first press meeting, full stop), I’m sure because at the time, NI figured Massive would appeal only to CDM-ish synth nerds. (Then, oops, Skrillex happened.) So I look forward to Massive X accidentally creating the Hardstyle Bluegrass Laser Tag craze. Be ready.

The post NI Massive X synth sees first features, interface revealed appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Use Ableton Live faster with the free Live Enhancement Suite

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 11 Mar 2019 6:30 pm

Day in, day out, a lot of producers spend a lot of time editing in Ableton Live. Here’s a free tool that automates some common tasks so you can work more quickly – easing some FL Studio envy in the process.

This one comes to us from Madeleine Bloom’s terrific Sonic Bloom, the best destination for resources on learning and using Ableton Live. Live Enhancement Suite is Windows-only for the moment, but a Mac version is coming soon.

The basic idea is, LES adds shortcuts for producers, and some custom features (like sane drawing) you might expect from other tools:

Add devices (like your favorite plug-ins) using a customizable pop-up menu of your favorites (with a double right-click)

Draw notes easily with the ~ key in Piano Roll.

Pop up a shortcut menu with scales in Piano Roll

Add locators (right shift + L) at the cursor

Pan with your mouse, not just the keyboard (via the middle mouse button, so you’ll need a three-button mouse for this one)

Save multiple versions (a feature FL Studio users know well)

Ctrl-shift-Z to redo

Alt-E to view envelope mode in piano roll

And there’s more customizations and multi-monitor support, too.

Ableton are gradually addressing long-running user requests to make editing easier; Live 10.1 builds on the work of Live 10. Case in point: 10.1 finally lets you solo a selected track (mentioned in the video as previously requiring one of these shortcuts). But it’s likewise nice to see users add in what’s missing.

Oh, and… you’re totally allowed to call it “Ableton.” People regularly refer to cars by the make rather than the model. We know what you mean.

Here’s a video walking through these tools and the creator Dylan Tallchief’s approach:

More info:

LES Collaborators:
Inverted Silence: https://soundcloud.com/invertedsilence
Aevi: https://twitter.com/aevitunes
Sylvian: https://sylvian.co/

https://www.patreon.com/dylantallchief
https://www.twitter.com/dylantallchief
https://soundcloud.com/dylantallchief
https://facebook.com/dylantallchief
https://www.twitch.tv/dylantallchief

Give it a go – will try to check in when there’s a Mac version.

https://enhancementsuite.me/

PS, Windows users will want to check out the excellent open source AutoHotkey for automation, generally.

The post Use Ableton Live faster with the free Live Enhancement Suite appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Unique takes on delay and tremolo from K-Devices, now as plug-ins

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 8 Mar 2019 7:20 pm

K-Devices have brought alien interfaces and deep modulation to Max patches – now they’re doing plug-ins. And their approach to delay and tremolo isn’t quite like what you’ve seen before, a chance of break out of the usual patterns of how those work. Meet TTAP and WOV.

“Phoenix” is the new series of plug-ins from K-Devices, who previously had focused on Max for Live. Think equal parts glitchy IDM, part spacey analog retro – and the ability to mix the two.

TTAP

TTAP is obviously both a play on multi-tap delay and tape, and there’s another multi-faceted experiment with analog and digital effects.

At its heart, there are two buffers with controls for delay time, speed, and feedback. You can sync time controls or set them free. But the basic idea here is you get smooth or glitchy buffers warping around based on modulation and time you can control. There are some really beautiful effects possible:

WOV

WOV is a tremolo that’s evolved into something new. So you can leave it as a plain vanilla tremolo (a regular rate amplitude shifter), but you can also adjust sensitivity to responding to an incoming signal. And there’s an eight-step sequencer. There are extensive controls for shaping waves for the effect, and a Depth section that’s well, deep – or that lets you turn this tremolo into a kind of gate.

These are the sorts of things you could do with a modular and a number of modules, but having it in a single, efficient, integrated plug-in where you get straight at the controls without having to do a bunch of patching – that’s something.


Right now, each plug-in is on sale (25% off) for 45EUR including VAT (about forty two bucks for the USA). 40% off if you buy both. Through March 17.

VST/VST3/AU/AAX, Mac and Windows.

More:

https://k-devices.com/

The post Unique takes on delay and tremolo from K-Devices, now as plug-ins appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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