Sunday, August 18, 2019
Today has been a good day.
The Bear and I went for a small adventure to Astley Book Farm. I liked it there. There were obviously plenty of books, I bought a few on maths, and the cafe is very good also. We enjoyed fish finger sandwiches and coffee and cakes, but not all at once. I recommend that if you get a chance to go you really shouldn't miss the opportunity.
I also managed to get everything working in the hardware studio. Finally!
The QY10 talked to LMMS, LMMS recorded the MIDI signals and the RM1x played the MIDI notes back with fab new voices. The only problem at the moment is that I output a type 0 MIDI file instead of a type 1 but that's my fault and I'll rectify that next time.
I have a tune and an idea on the go at the moment so I'll get on with those next weekend which fortunately is a Bank Holiday so I'll have a few spare hours for mixing and mastering.
Hopefully I'll have something to play you next weekend.
Saturday, August 17, 2019
I'm going to stop saying that I'm not going to add anything else to my studio.
Every time I say that it's complete I find something else to add. This time it was a reconditioned Lenovo laptop. I installed Ubuntu Studio on it so that it has a real-time kernel. That means much less latency when I'm running multiple pieces of software.
I'm adding it to the hardware studio because although all my old kit is wonderful the MIDI implementation isn't. Fortunately the MIDI routing in LMMS is wonderful and I can't keep adding software to my everyday laptop because it's filling up with stuff that should reside elsewhere. Hence the new laptop which is basically a glorified MIDI controller and patch-bay.
Because it does so much else it'll also be a staging post for new tracks on their way to the software studio. The workflow will allow me to get ideas off the QY10 and into a MIDI file, something it can't do as a stand-alone unit. Other tracks will stay on the hardware side and be recorded into the R8.
I'll hopefully have everything installed by this time tomorrow so I'll post a picture then. In the meantime I have to sleep before a rare day out.
There may well be a post on that also.
Sunday, August 11, 2019
It's been a strange week.
Early on Tuesday morning two of my wisdom teeth decided that they'd have another go at pushing through. This is probably one of the most painful things I've experienced and requires hardcore painkillers. Luckily I had some codeine from a previous prescription and that with some paracetamol knocked out the pain. It also knocked me out for decent periods also.
By Thursday morning I was just on the paracetamol so I decided to do some reading. I read the QR10 manual about 5 times so that it was implanted in my brain and on Thursday evening I ran through the "How To's" and I can now fully operate this very useful bit of kit. On Friday evening I hooked it up to my laptop and ran it through LMMS to re-voice my trial file and to save it as MIDI. Everything went without a hitch.
The MIDI file imports into Bitwig studio and I can expand my ideas in there. Tonight was all about arranging a track I've been working on for a few weeks (pictured above). It's 90% done which is about done as it can be at this stage. There's always room for improvement before mastering.
So that's it. Normal start to the week, sudden drop and then a flourish to finish. Tomorrow it's back to normal which is bad because I'm on a roll but good because I need the head space before I start mixing. I might leave it until the Bank Holiday because I'll need some afternoon hours.
Some things just can't be done with just headphones.
Sunday, August 04, 2019
Here it is.
The reason I've just spent the last hour with screwdrivers, wire strippers and a soldering iron. Back in the nineties someone somewhere was producing button batteries with machine soldered circuit board connectors. Yamaha in their wisdom bought thousands and installed them into units like the QR10.
They make the circuit board look tidy and they probably earned a few quid for certified Yamaha repair shops. They take about half an hour of a technicians time to replace. In all honesty I imagine Yamaha didn't think anyone would be using the units past the internal battery's shelf life. They would have produced something better and more capable in that time.
If you started out in the nineties with a QR10, chances are that these days you're shelling out around £2000 for a Tyros 5.
I do love Yamaha for their dedication to producing hardware. They've never ventured into creating a software DAW and I'm glad they haven't.
These music composition machines from the early nineties onward have a bit of a cult following and people such as myself collect them, and mod them to extend their life. The QR10 I've just modded is perfect if you can't play keyboards, or bass or drums. Everything is there to get some kind of musical structure to your own tunes. It has features for creating tracks from scratch, something I'll get round to one day. In the meantime it's great for just getting a basic idea of the ground and running.
I'm glad I spent the time elongating this particular QR10's timeline.
Saturday, August 03, 2019
The Yamaha QR10 is here and I've already had the back off.
In the middle of the picture is a CR2032 battery. I need to replace it or anything I try to save into memory will be lost when I turn off the unit. Like the QY10 I had in pieces recently this battery is also soldered in place. I suppose that saving on the cost of a battery holder was something that Yamaha had in mind when these units were first in production. I don't think they reckoned on them being so popular 26 years later. I have ordered a battery holder and I'll have to add it so that the battery can be swapped out easily in the future. There's a space above the yellow circuit board underneath where the battery sits now.
The mod is worth doing because this unit can sample up to 2 sounds for use as either instruments or percussion. The massive sampling time is up to 3 seconds. I'm not sure if that is per slot or total. I intend to find out. The sampler can take its input from the onboard mic or a line in. That's not bad for a machine from the 90s.
Other than needing a new battery the QR10 is in great condition and is the fantastic scratch pad I wanted it to be. I'm already messing about with a chord sequence which I shall record to my DAW as soon as everything is working properly.
I'm really glad I've added this musical ammunition to my arsenal.
Saturday, July 27, 2019
After the purchase of the RM1x I did promise myself that that was it for studio hardware. That was a duff promise.
Tonight I bought a Yamaha QR10 online. I had looked at one a while ago but there was some intense bidding going on so I didn't bother. The one I've just bought was available to buy immediately, so I did. Why do I need another Yamaha product? The reason is I need a scratch pad. Something to flesh out ideas without having to start connecting audio and MIDI cables. I need a one-button-and-go machine. My phone is very good for that. Above is a screen capture from Chordbot. If you don't own the app I can highly recommend it. It's been on my phone for years. If you have an inkling where you're going musically it'll get your ideas saved in no time at all. Its only weakness is that if you're staring at a blank canvas getting going is a little slow. Once you've started though it's good at moving on.
The QR10 is another matter. Turn it on and press buttons until something sounds OK. From there add a style or create your own and get your track structure recorded. The only downside is that there is no way of getting the track off the machine except via MIDI cables. Having said that, once I have a chord sequence done I can copy the chords into Chordbot and mail myself the MIDI file.
That's what I did tonight. The chords above now reside in Bitwig Studio as the start of a track. It'll take a few weeks to finish but as ever, no rush.
Saturday, July 20, 2019
My week off work is almost at an end.
It didn't really go as planned. It took much longer than I anticipated to swing around onto a dayshift sleeping pattern. That meant I spent much more time indoors than going out. I used my time to try and get to know my Korg Liverpool better. After weekends of messing around with MIDI cables and the QY's I had learned a lot but the Korg being an all in one solution taught me a valuable lesson. That is that because it has an onboard MIDI player I can simply load a MIDI file created on any of the other kit and re-voice it.
This is a much better proposition than trying to connect everything with cables and here's why. Each bit of kit I have that can create a MIDI file has its own personality. The RM1x is great for dance tracks, the QY's are useful for anything as is the Korg, but they all have a different feel. What inspires me one day might not work the next. I can even export MIDI files from music apps on my phone.
Once I have a file I can load it anywhere that has the sound I want and record out the audio from there. I've never really been a fan of recording complete audio tracks, preferring to have MIDI data drive samples, but after watching a tutorial online for Bitwig Studio I was reminded that there is a ton of manipulation options available, the audio file is just the start. I need to change my thinking slightly but I'm up for that. I have so much decent equipment that quality won't suffer in the audio transfer process.
I just need to remember to pack a pair of headphones because I'll always have access to some kind of music production software.
Let's see what I can do with those few spare minutes that float around my day.
Saturday, July 13, 2019
I am on holiday for a week.
It's that time of year when my girlfriend decides that she's off abroad to hang out with friends. I was invited but I have a load of things that I want to do. Despite not going to work I will be working hard on personal stuff. I have a list of things to catch up on, I also have free time to wind down.
Tonight I have been working on MIDI hardware again. I know how it all works and what works with what and what doesn't work. That's one thing crossed off the list.
My software studio (DAW) has a major update so I'll be installing that at some point and getting to know the new features. That could take a while.
I have more LaTeX to learn so I want to speed that up and get ahead there.
I have also planned a 'Flaneur's Day Out'. I haven't had one of those in years so I'm looking forward to a day of mooching around and enjoying some wine and good food. As usual I'll be taking my Moleskine notebook to document the day but I might give Instagram Stories a go. I think I could make that work.
There are also a couple of airport taxi runs to do and other bits and bobs to fill my time.
I also hope to make this blog a bit busier over the week documenting the days so that when I'm back at work I can look back and know that I actually got stuff done. Holidays go too fast and before you know it you end up wondering what exactly you got up to.
By the way, the little mug in the picture above, and it is tiny, holds a decent shot of Scotch. I've allowed myself a second mug just because I am on holiday.
Well, it wouldn't be a proper holiday otherwise.
Sunday, July 07, 2019
Or is it?
In the 1970s there was a piece of furniture that sat under the window in the front room of my family's home. It was about five feet long, made of veneered wood and its purpose was to provide entertainment. It was both a radio and a record player and was known as the 'Music Centre'.
In the 1980s Music Centres became upright, like an encased rack of audio separates with wooden sides and a glass door. Eventually when the glass door and wooden sides disappeared and the whole fake stack was made of plastic they were renamed 'MIDI Systems'. I have no idea why. They were all audio and no MIDI.
I have no idea why I'm telling you this apart from the fact that I've been try to get my music hardware to talk to each other this weekend and every time I read the acronym MIDI it reminds me of the 80s. I should let it go but I'm still annoyed at the Hi-Fi makers for misappropriating the term.
The reason I'm connecting my audio hardware together is because I finally got hold of a Yamaha RM1x. The sounds on the unit are 1990s dance orientated and I love them. They're all useful. The Korg Liverpool on the other hand has just about every other sound I'm likely to use so that's it. The hardware studio is complete.
My MIDI problem is that all the units I use apart from my Yamaha keyboard have an onboard sequencer and that means they all want to be the boss and not take orders from any other unit. Plenty of MIDI out options but not so many MIDI in options. Communication is achievable but is far more convoluted than it needs to be. In the end I won and declared the Yamaha QY100 the boss. I will eventually declare the Korg boss but for now I'm keeping it simple.
As for the setup? Is it a music centre? Well yes, but its scope certainly isn't small even if its form factor is.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
In the picture above is a Yamaha RM1x.
I took the picture in 2011 of the RM1x that I owned. It was a major step up from the Yamaha QY100 that I had been using. The sounds are much better for a start and the on board arpeggiator is just the beginning of the audio adventure that awaits. By about 2015 both of the Yamaha units were gone. I was exclusively writing tracks in FL Studio and I didn't really look at my hardware so the units were sold. Big error.
That error has now been rectified. There is an RM1x on its way to me. It's the last bit of kit I wanted to rebuild my hardware studio. I've had a QY100 for a little while now and that's been waiting for a connection to an RM1x. Don't get me wrong, the QY100 has a very useful XG sound set but it's fairly limited.
I've also now got a Zoom guitar multi-fx unit which will be used with the Boss vocoder for vocal processing. I have a week's holiday coming up in a fortnight and I'll set everything up then and list my hardware studio kit list here. I might add a video of everything working together if I can produce a decent tune to demo it all. I'm not too keen on making videos. It's a lot of hassle and that's from an ex VJ.
Maybe things have changed.
Monday, June 24, 2019
My first shift of the week is done.
I was driving back in the truck listening to Noam Chomsky.
Sometimes I wonder why I do what I do. Spending hours in front of my computers in my free time while the world sleeps. I write for myself and others. I learn new skills in order to present my work to the world. I write and post anonymously. But there are times when I wonder why I bother at all. I question what difference if any, anything I write will make to anyone. At times what I do seems pointless.
When I get to this stage I listen to podcasts. Usually one Noam Chomsky podcast will get me back on track. It'll blow away the doubt and I'm ready to commit words to the page again. There will usually be a point in the podcast when someone asks Noam how the status quo can be changed. His reply is usually "You change it yourself." If that isn't inspiration to do or say or write something I don't know what is.
Will I change the world in any way? Probably not. But I might change the world for one person who in turn passes on the information learned and after a while a few people with certain knowledge might change the world. I may never know if I'll ever make a difference to anyone, that's fine, but I'm not going to deny anyone a little knowledge that I can pass on that might help them.
From small acorns mighty oaks grow.
Image courtesy of Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
Sunday, June 16, 2019
Saturday afternoon is the domain of the Flaneur.
I was sitting down at a pavement table drinking coffee and it was raining. The rain had mostly emptied the street of people and only the puddles and passing cars dared venture under the grey clouds. I, from my canopied vantage point, stared at the ripples in the shallow puddles with my thoughts heading elsewhere when it dawned on me that I was watching a show of random.
No two seconds or portions of a second were the same in the puddles. Drops hitting different places, ripples growing outward and colliding, the amount of drops. Everything was different from millisecond to millisecond. None of it predictable and nothing had any relation to what had gone before. I was seeing something for the first time that was never going to be repeated.
Although it's obvious once one realises what one is looking at, the act of a rain shower into a puddle is a completely unique experience. Something simple and beautiful and so often overlooked. Rain is often seen as a bad thing. A type of weather event that spoils a day out or a barbecue with family and friends. In large doses it can of course change lives in a devastating way. We build structures to take ourselves away from it and our vehicles offer similar protection. As humans we are programmed to avoid getting wet during a shower. Waterproof clothing and umbrellas remind us that we can cheat a good soaking and yet as the creature we are, we are perfectly waterproof in our own skin. We walk briskly to avoid as much rain dropping on to us as possible. Not many hang around in the rain.
Maybe it's time we did.
Saturday, June 01, 2019
When I want something to be as good as it can be I really obsess about the detail.
To me, detail is where the control is. The more I know about something the more control I can have over it and therefore I know the end result is as good as it can be. That can be a good or a bad thing depending on your point of view. To me it's very satisfying.
I have 2 projects on the go at the moment which I intend to give a lot of attention to. The first is a manual for a future generation. I want to give people a head start in pencil and paper cryptography. Nothing too challenging but enough to get a message to someone without the use of a computer. With current developments in government invasions of privacy it's looking like there will be a point in the not too distant future when all electronic communications, including end-to-end encrypted messages, will be seen as fair game for any agency and for any reason. There are ways around this, most of them old fashioned and time tested. Sometimes the simplest things like pencil and paper and a little ingenuity are all that is needed. My intention is to document a few of the best ideas and then make my publication accessible to anyone who may be interested.
I've chosen to write the document using LaTeX. It's a language for document preparation and has been around for ages. It can be used fairly simply but it is also complex to learn if you want to go deeper, and I do. Text books on the subject tend to read like manuals. I like manuals. The more I read the more fascinated I become with the possibilities of its options, and there are hundreds.
What's nice is that despite being an old thing it's actively developed. It's also used by countless people who want a professional document that can accurately convey things like mathematical equations.
I'm not sure how long it will take me but at least I'm enjoying the process.
My second project is a track I'm writing at the moment. It was born out of a jam with my Korg Liverpool synth last weekend. It's musically very simple but it'll be the production that makes it. I have lots of ideas for this track. As things pop into my head I add them in Bitwig Studio. The production tips and tricks I've learned over the years and stored in my head are now pouring out. I'm really enjoying the process.
I'm happy theses days to not put a time constraint on things I do. Having fun doing things and being happy with the result is all that matters. I have no interest in the number of people who may read the manual or to how many listen to my music. As usual it'll be out there, free to download and open to criticism, as has always been the case.
I've had no complaints yet.
Monday, May 27, 2019
The Korg Liverpool is primarily sold as an arranger keyboard chock full of Beatles songs to play along to. It does that job very well.
But as I've explained on this blog before it's a repackaged MicroArranger and apart from missing a handful of styles it is the same machine. The missing styles can be loaded via an SD card so you're missing nothing.
The tutorials and other videos on YouTube go into some detail about arranging styles, recording songs and other keyboard features but I haven't seen any about the synth capabilities of this keyboard.
I've been promising myself a night to see what it can do and tonight was that night. What was I waiting for?
This thing is a beast! To start with it has 4 oscillators and more waveforms than I've seen on any synth. It's full of options for LFO's, tuning and envelopes. If you know your way around a synth you have as many options as you'll ever need. It's just vast!
I think I now have all the synths I'll ever need (apart from an RM1x). I'll be sampling the sounds on the Liverpool until the day I die. I think the 'arranger' packaging of this synth doesn't do the unit justice but I am glad that that was how it was sold.
I'm paying nearly as much for 20 year old sound modules.
Sunday, May 26, 2019
I rarely change my sleep routine.
I work at night and sleep during the day and changing that pattern is quite a lot of stress on ones body especially if the change over is only for a short period. For the first part of this bank holiday weekend I wanted to change the routine if only to enjoy some time actually doing something rather than catching up with everything else during the latter half of the day.
After finishing work on Friday morning I stayed awake and the Bear and I jumped into the car and headed to Cambridge. It's a good location for us. Not too far away and enough going on to amuse us for a few hours. I'd booked a room earlier in the week so we had a base to head out from. We were in the pub / hotel for about 12:30pm which was fine for an afternoon of exploration.
There were 2 places that I wanted to visit. Firstly was King's College which was where Alan Turing studied and then became a fellow. I took my obligatory tourist photo at the entrance to King's. I still have 3 more Alan Turing sites to visit to complete my pilgrimage. The second location was the Raspberry Pi shop in the Grand Arcade. I bought a few bits including a RPi embossed Moleskine notebook. It's satisfying to me to think that the Raspberry Pi store and Mr Turing and Cambridge are all inextricably linked.
After staying awake for a total of 31 hours I slept soundly.
This morning we stopped in St Neots on the way back home to raid the charity shops and get the morning fill of coffee. We were in and out in a couple of hours. I'd like to return one day to see what I missed.
Another stop in Market Harborough and then home for a local wonder and a spell of flaneuring on the Strip.
I'm back into my night routine but this time I only have to stay awake for 24 hours. There's still some weekend left and I intend to cram in as much as I can before my return to work on Monday evening.
I am grateful to the effects of caffeine.
Sunday, May 19, 2019
I know, I know! I have too many sequencers already.
The Yamaha QY100 is no stranger to this blog, but the Roland PMA-5 is probably going to feature just as much from now on. So why another sequencer / sound module?
The answer is quite simple. I've had Yamaha and Korg covered so far but Roland has been missing from the setup. Not any more. The little PMA-5 has the TR-808 and TR-909 drum sounds as well as some lovely samples from the TB-303 and the SH-101. Who wouldn't want some of that? Before anyone reminds me that I can download numerous soundfonts with those samples included for free I'd like to remind you that one half of my studio is purely MIDI based. I don't know of any hardware soundfont players and I still need the sounds from the units mentioned above.
The QY100 is still probably the easiest to program along with the QY300 but while the QY300 has less distractions the QY100's distractions can be very useful at times. They both have there merits.
In the picture above I've re-voiced the QY100 with the PMA-5. It makes all the difference to have some really nice sounding 808 drums driving things along. The Roland will be used purely as a sound module.
There are a couple of other units I want before I'm done but they're a bit more expensive and so I'll have to be lucky to find a bargain. They're out there.
It's just a waiting game.
Sunday, May 12, 2019
I've been doing a lot of reading in the past 24 hours.
The printed manual that I got yesterday has been thumbed through and I have a work flow that incorporates the Korg Liverpool as a sound module in setups for my Yamaha QY sequencers and Bitwig Studio.
It's certainly not as straight forward as I'd have liked it to be but it's easy enough. I just have to think ahead. I won't bore you with the details.
Having worked it all out I'm free to write tracks from a variety of sources. The QY10 above is set up for "pick up and play" and is totally portable. I just need to carry it around a little more often. I also have my phone for jotting down musical ideas and that's pretty much always with me so my cheap Sony headphones also need to be in my rucksack on a permanent basis.
One thing that inspires musical ideas is to listen to other peoples music. In all honesty I don't do enough of that. I've used the stereo in my truck for catching up on podcasts which is a good thing but I need to break that up with a few albums.
It may sound strange but I need to draw more. I zone out with a pencil and paper, it calms my thoughts enough to let me concentrate on one thing at a time.
My head is probably full of ideas. I just need to filter out the noise.
Saturday, May 11, 2019
I have a new manual for my Korg Liverpool.
These days when you buy a complicated bit of tech there is often a 'Getting Started' guide and not much else in the way of documentation. Somewhere in the guide there will be a printed link to download a full owner's manual so that you may explore further the advanced options when you hit a brick wall. This is great for the environment. Who needs 100 plus pages of something you're unlikely to study in depth. On the odd occasion you actually do need that much information, prolonged perusing isn't that great on electronic devices, at least not in my experience. Post-It notes just don't cut it on a screen.
There's an upside and downside to PDF documents. On the upside you can print only the pages you need and this can be done at home. The downside is that should you actually need the whole document it's probably going to be costly.
The latter was my predicament. I needed the complete Korg Liverpool Owner's Manual and at 246 pages long my printer was going to be burned out by the end of the process.
So it was that I ended up calling a professional printer. I've used John E Wright in the past and they're very good. When I asked about next day printing they said it wouldn't be a problem. I specified what I needed and sent the instructions with the file. As you can see from the picture above, it's all done. You'll also notice that it's bound. I was informed in the original call that if the manual was bound it would be VAT free, something I didn't know. All in all it cost me a little over £20 and is worth every penny.
Now that I have the manual I've realised that while in depth at 246 pages it does need some simplification so I'm writing a concise version while I'm reading through it. I'll be able to cross reference with the original while providing myself with a memory jolt for the plethora of procedures that I'll be performing. I'm hoping that by the time I'm done with this little exercise I'll be at the expert level I want to be at.
I'm also planning on passing on my knowledge to help other Korg Liverpool owners. At the moment there doesn't seem to be much information on the advanced synthesiser functions of the keyboard.
I want to change that.
Monday, May 06, 2019
Some tracks take a lot of writing.
The above is one of them.
My approach this time was to sit down with my keyboard and play it until I had enough parts to build a track. Once done I moved the chord progressions into Bitwig and got the sound right for an electric piano and a pad.
Since then I've added some drum sounds which I'm happy with and started adding variation to the drum parts.
The bass has been and gone as have other sections like an arpeggiator and melody, all of which will return in other guises.
The thing with this track is that it needs to morph and build and it's dictating what parts and sounds will come in at points along the path. It won't let me just add stuff and bring it in when I need it. It's going to take a long time.
Will it all be worth it in the end? I don't know. This track is steering me not vice versa.
I just hope it knows where it's going.
Saturday, May 04, 2019
It's been 7 years since I uploaded a track to Archive.org.
It's also been the same amount of time that I have been without a studio. I'm glad to say that I'm back producing music once again under my artist name of AmpUT (amp you tee).
I don't think that my music style has changed that much in the years I've been away. I wrote quite a lot of music on an iPad about 4 or 5 years back. It seemed that a lot was happening on that platform and the quality of synths and tablet DAWs was and is very good. The problem is that it doesn't quite feel the same as a fully fledged music workspace where adding instruments, virtual or otherwise is as simple as hitting a button or plugging something in.
I made a multisample a couple of weeks ago and it took me me about an hour to faithfully recreate the sound from a hardware synth. I can also record bass and guitars just as quickly and multisample those if I need to. Maybe I'm becoming a bit old fashioned but it's the way I like to work and it's quick for me. I've been working that way for 30 years.
The track above is my latest work. It's called 'Circus' because I'm pulling words from John Le Carre novels at the moment and that one seemed to fit.
As always it's free to download from archive.org if you like it that much.
I hope you do.
Saturday, April 27, 2019
My studio is complete.
The only thing that was missing was a pair of studio reference monitors. The thing that is special about such speakers is that they are designed to produce an uncoloured result when listening to audio. They have a flat frequency response and can only be slightly adjusted to suit the environment they are placed in.
My first choice was to be the KRK Rokit RP5 G3 monitors but I was advised that despite them being good speakers the Yamaha HS5's were better. This was based on testimonies from people that owned the KRK's but that had then listened to the HS5's. I could have gone for the 8 inch cones but in my small mixing space that would be overkill.
I plugged them in, set everything to 0 and played a track from Bitwig through them. Even without having broken in the speakers it was obvious where my track mix need some work. Muddy bass and not enough high end was my first thought. I know how to adjust my mix and the mastering won't need too much work after that.
The black and white speakers are very much at home on my desk next to the similarly coloured panda.
Expect results soon.
Monday, April 22, 2019
All good things come to an end.
Things like long Bank Holiday weekends and trackballs. I'm a huge fan of trackballs. There has been one on my desk for well over a decade. They're extremely accurate and you don't have to have your hand flying around knocking over coffee cups. My Logitech above is on its last legs. The occasional bump on the desk is needed to wake it up. I'll get another trackball but it'll be a wired one this time. There's a lot to be said for plugging stuff in. It just works. Unifying receivers are a bit hit and miss without the proper drivers especially on Linux. I'm surprised mine has behaved as well as it has.
The other thing that didn't work tonight was my CD ROM drive. Well, I say it didn't work but it did. It showed up in the file system but it wouldn't show the contents of any disk that was inserted. I'm trying to grab samples off old Computer Music magazine CDs. I'll try another drive at a later date.
In the meantime I had my small Sony dictation machine out today and recorded the ambient sounds of the road outside my front door. The most notable sound I sampled was of a Blackbird singing. That was loaded into a sampler in Bitwig and I granulated and then further processed it. By the time I'd finished I had something usable. I'll add it to a track in the future I imagine.
I hope you've had or are having a decent break.
For me it's back to work tomorrow, or should that be today.
Sunday, April 21, 2019
It's nearly 4am and my ears need a break.
After deciding that what has for years been a ballad would now be a Drum & Bass track I've quit Bitwig Studio for the morning / night.
It's always good to challenge how one sees one's own work. It's like walking down a path and promising yourself that you'll only take the right hand forks only to end up back where you started. Writing music is like that. One can develop a style and sit comfortably in it for years. That's probably good if one wants to be associated with a certain genre but for me, I'm not going to be widely known for anything so I'm allowed to experiment.
If I were to be pigeon holed it would be for electronic music but there are so many sub-genres in that space that it's easy and productive to wonder off course. That's how I've been spending my Easter so far.
The only thing about music creation for me that isn't so great is that the time I get to work on it, usually between midnight and 5am. That means headphones and after a few hours of sound design and composing it's time to call it a night no matter how far I am into a track.
I'll be doing some monitor mixing next Saturday, the day after I buy my new studio monitors. I hope the neighbours understand that the loud(ish) classical music that will be emanating from the house for three hours next Friday afternoon is totally necessary. New monitors need breaking in.
Hopefully the neighbours will be at work.
Sunday, April 14, 2019
Here is the start of something new.
As I've mentioned before my inspiration usually starts with either bass or chords but not this time. I was trying to create a multi-layered instrument, which I did, but to test it I threw some fairly random notes into a loop and voila! A weird thing that when played on my keyboard came out sounding like some 70s inspired acid track. Not old skool acid but more modern, along the lines of Luke Vibert. Anyway, I liked it so much that I saved everything as a preset and started a new track. That's the second one this weekend.
I haven't attempted any beats for either track because I'm not inspired at the moment but it'll come. I know roughly what I want but the ideas need a little maturing before committing them to Bitwig.
Sometimes I think that a little ignorance goes a long way. Take the example above. If I'd known exactly what I was doing I'd have missed this serendipitous opportunity. There would be a preset saved somewhere without an idea to utilise it. I have learned something along the way and that will pay off at some point in the future but simply messing around a bit has actually got me somewhere.
It'd be a good thing if we could all do something that required us to just have a go without having to learn and follow the rules.
Life has too much regulation already.
Sunday, April 07, 2019
It's a rare thing for me to get a decent amount of time to actually enjoy myself.
I've taken some time off from work between hospital check-ups and managed to fill it with stuff I like doing.
In that time I've struck a deal on a pair of studio monitors in a local music shop. Worked on my current track in Bitwig Studio. Had time to browse second hand books and found a few gems. There's also been time to kick back on a couple of evenings and enjoy some fine food and drink. All this with no pressure to fulfil and specific duty the next day.
Of course it couldn't last and I have my final appointment tomorrow and also have to swing back into a pattern of sleeping during the day. I'll use the long night tomorrow to arrange the track I'm working on and do a stereo mix.
It's also good to know that with Easter coming up I won't have to work a full week again this month.
April has been a good month.
Sunday, March 31, 2019
I don't think that it matters that I've just lost an hour, I've gained a track.
The best thing to do with it now it to leave it alone for a week and go back to it with fresh ears. All of the main elements are there, the blocks that hold the track together, but it's far from finished.
Next weekend I'll do a rough arrangement and export a copy. That'll be a backing track to listen to so that if I get any ideas I can subtract or add other elements.
With all the pieces in place I'll leave it alone again and work on other tracks. At some point I'll mix it all properly and drop it into a folder. When that folder has a few tracks in I'll master them all and release an EP.
I find it fairly easy to write tracks. The track above was started my me experimenting with a synth. I found a great bass sound and played until a riff emerged. The rest of the track has been built around the bassline. Sometimes it's a chord sequence. I suppose it's 50/50 when starting a new track. Bass or chords, the starting point is one or the other.
So far I'm enjoying using Bitwig Studio a lot. As far as Linux DAW's go it has to be the best and a suitable replacement for FL Studio.
Saturday, March 30, 2019
It's been a hectic week.
I've been off work since Tuesday because my car needed an MOT and I didn't know how much work needed doing. I decided that not going back to work until next week was a good idea because I had plenty of other things I wanted to do.
The first job was getting Bitwig Studio up and running. That worked fine until I tried to boot my new PC on Wednesday and nothing happened. It took me most of Wednesday night / Thursday morning to get the PC to work. What I think happened was that one of the dependencies I added to try and get some plugins working didn't want to play with the NVidia drivers and that argument borked the system.
It's all good now and I've been experimenting and writing tracks. Rather than rely on using plugins, as good as they are, I've been watching loads of YouTube videos to learn how the built in synths work. I've learned enough to design some decent sounds of my own and I'm saving presets along the way.
I've also downloaded a Soundfont creator so that I can build my own multi-sampled synths. I have plenty of synths around so that shouldn't be a problem.
Another thing I'm doing is carrying around a small field recording kit. Nothing special but enough to record sounds without it being too obvious that that is what I'm doing.
I just wish I had more free time so that I could visit places with interesting soundscapes but who knows what I can create from the mundane sounds that are part of my world.
I think I'm about to find out.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
As has been mentioned on this blog many times before, when Windows went so did FL Studio.
I'd been looking for a replacement DAW for some time and quite a while ago found Bitwig Studio. Not having a decent enough computer to run it on stopped me diving into the world of Bitwig earlier. Things are different now.
Tonight I bought BWS and so far I've worked out quite a bit without reading the manual. One third of it is very similar to Ableton Live which I had used a long time ago. This is no surprise as this is where the developers came from before starting this project. The only thing I can't get to work so far is native Linux VST's but I imagine I'll work that out at some stage.
BWS is now the heart of my new studio. It'll eventually run the QY sequencers and the Korg synth. I can then pipe everything into the Zoom R8 multitrack and take the files into Audacity for mastering. That's a lot of sound options.
It'll take a while to get stuck into BWS especially with an update imminent. In the meantime I'll keep experimenting and creating like I've always done.
AmpUT is back in business.
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Picture the scene.
Saturday afternoon. I'm out and about and have some time to kill. I usually find a coffee shop and do some writing. I like to support local businesses and with a recommendation I head to a small business. I order my coffee and a cake, the woman behind the counter takes my money, rings it in, gives me my change and says "I'll have to give you your coffee in a takeaway cup because we close in 10 minutes." It's 3:50pm.
This isn't the first time this has happened to me. Not at this place but at 2 other small and local to me businesses. If I'd been told they were nearly closing before they'd taken my money I would have gone somewhere else. If I'm out for coffee I don't want to have to rush through my purchase. If they're closing soon just let me know or put your opening times on the door.
It would seem that small businesses have a lot to learn about how to communicate with their customers. The corporates seem to have this covered and I'm leaning towards them at the moment which is a shame. Yesterday my sit in coffee option was Greggs. The coffee isn't bad at all and I can get something lite to eat for me and my girlfriend for the same price that I paid for what I had today.
It would seem that in this smartphone age I'm expected to have full details about where I'm going via the net before I get there. So long serendipity.
The flaneur in me is discouraged from places with poor communication skills. That's not what I want when interacting with the community.
Saturday, March 23, 2019
It's been a long time since I played with Lego.
Probably about 39 years I reckon. I didn't have a lot of Lego. A few road base plates, some mini figures, vehicles and enough bricks to built a very small town.
For a whole summer holiday I made up my own adventures in Lego. I had just moved house and didn't have any new friends so I stayed in and played. I taught myself how to draw Superman too by copying from an annual I'd been given.
Not long after that summer I moved again but my Lego didn't move with me and since then I've thought about building worlds to escape into.
Eventually I got a computer and played with 3D. Bryce 3D was my weapon of choice for a long time but that disappeared with Windows many moons ago now.
With the arrival of my new PC I've once again found avenues to wander down. With a decent graphics card and a world of free software I've opted for Blender and LeoCAD.
Blender is about as good as it gets for 3D and really needs no introduction. On the other hand LeoCAD is new to me. I'm so glad I found it. As many free bricks of all shapes and sizes and all the mini figures one could ever want.
They're both free. What more could I want.
Saturday, March 16, 2019
This is my first post from my new PC.
It's a bit of a powerhouse. That's all you need to know, I won't go into the specifications.
It's taken me all night to sort everything out. I've had cables in then out and back in again. I've re-arranged stuff so many times that I probably won't recognize this room tomorrow.
Some things didn't work as expected but most things did so overall I'm pleased with the outcome.
The one thing I can't find is my outboard sound card. I'll have to look for that tomorrow. I've seen it recently but where I've put it is anybody's guess. It's not a small thing and I need it for MIDI stuff. I've no doubt I'll find it.
It's just a case of when!
Saturday, March 02, 2019
Well here's a blast from the past.
I went into the loft today and dragged out my old Yamaha PSR-240. It's probably about 5 years since I last turned it on. I needed a bit of a wipe down and the rubber feet had perished so cleaning took well over an hour. Nevertheless it powered up and still plays nicely.
One good thing about limited keyboards is that with only a few sounds you'll ever use one spends more time actually composing because there are few distractions. After skimming through a PDF manual I noticed that in the MIDI section it recommended hooking up to a QY70. I don't have one but I do have a QY100 so guess what I did? The answer is nothing. I can't remember where I've put my MIDI cables. At 4am it's way too early/late to start rooting around and making a noise so I'll do that tomorrow.
The great thing about the PSR-240 is that it's already set up to talk to the QY series. The MIDI channels don't need any configuration. I'm looking forward to tomorrow night.
In other news, I'm writing this post on my Pi-Top laptop. The touch pad is quite big but not ideally suited to dragging windows around the screen so I bought it a wireless mouse. The Logitech mouse was cheap and cheerful and works right out of the box with Linux which is why I use them pretty much exclusively.
I bought a QY10 last week which MyHermes managed to lose so no new QY to play with. That's a real shame because I wanted a portable, carry anywhere sequencer. Oh well another time, I have bigger things to concentrate on, talking of which...
I'm hoping that in about 2 weeks time to bring you some exciting news on this blog about my music studio. I'm saying nothing at the moment. I'll wait until everything is in place.
Saturday, February 23, 2019
If you aren't interested in random numbers just skip this post.
Keep in mind that there is content here and log it for later. At some point in the future random numbers will be a valuable commodity.
The reason I made that last statement is that privacy is increasingly important and that privacy depends on good and absolutely random numbers. So why am I blogging about pseudo random numbers? After all, they're not really random. There may be times when you may not have true random numbers available to you. If pseudo random numbers are all you have they'll be better than nothing. This post shows you how to create PRN's on a cheap calculator. The calculations can be done with pencil and paper but a calculator like the one above will be quicker. I recently bought a similar one in a charity shop for £3. An even cheaper non scientific calculator will work for this also.
If your curiosity has got you this far I'd recommend watching a really good video on YouTube. It's just under 15 minutes long. The calculation used for the Linear Congruential Generator wasn't explained in simple enough terms for me so that's what I plan to do here.
How would you interpret the equation in the video so as to resolve it on a calculator? Here's how.
First the equation:
(seed · a + c) mod m
Where seed = starting value, m = modulus, a = multiplier, c = increment.
The values in the video would make the equation as follows.
(4321 · 378 + 2310) mod 7829
On your calculator press the following keys:
4321 x 378 + 2310 =
The result will be 1635648. Write this down or just leave it on screen if your calculator lets you calculate an answer. We'll be using this figure for the mod part below.
Let's just say you've cleared your screen, key in:
1635648 ÷ 7829 =
The result is 208.922. Next subtract 208 from the last answer as follows:
208.922 - 208 =
All we did there is to subtract the number before the decimal point which in this case was 208. The result is now 0.922.
Take this answer and multiply it by your modulator which in our case is 7829.
0.922 x 7829 =
The answer is 7216 which is the same answer in the video linked above.
This number is now the new modulator. Just keep repeating the steps above until you have enough pseudo random numbers.
The numbers used above can be whatever you like but as mentioned in the video the higher the modulus the better.
I'll be covering other methods of obtaining pseudo random numbers soon and later methods for true random numbers. Pseudo random numbers are fairly easy to create and can also be used for creating true random numbers.
More on that another day.
If you've made it this far, well done.
Thursday, February 21, 2019
I made a promise to myself to write this year.
The main object of that resolution was to get back to being creative. So far I've been doing alright. What I write doesn't matter. It could be music, fiction, non-fiction or just scribbles in a notebook. I'm covering all four so far and then some.
As mentioned last time I'm just getting into using LaTeX. It's basically a markup language which I'm very comfortable with having learned HTML in a text editor many moons ago. LaTeX is much more that HTML. It's the equivalent of HTML plus CSS with a bag of tricks thrown in.
I've just spent a few hours practising in the Atom editor, which in itself is a joy to use, and produced the layout for a work of non-fiction including a table of contents, chapters and footnotes. All I need to do now is add the content. Even before I've really started it's looking professional and that is encouragement enough.
It won't matter that it won't be published by someone like Penguin, I'll do it myself with a creative commons licence. My fiction will probably go the same way as my music has before. Like it or loath it, it's all free. I'll just be happy that my written words will look good and I'll leave readers to decide on the content.
What matters to me most is that I'm really enjoying my writing this year and that I have enough projects to bounce between. I like that when the ideas for one project dry up I can move on to something else until inspiration strikes that topic again. Talking of which, I've run out of things to say here.
At least until next time you know I'll be busy.
Saturday, February 16, 2019
I absolutely love text editors.
I'm easily distracted when it comes to the simple task of inputting text into a document. Linux offers a plethora of text editors. From Nano to Atom, I love them all.
It's not so long ago that I discovered Atom. I won't explain its capabilities here, you probably have better things to do with the rest of your life. What it is, is extensible. I use it for simple .txt files, python, markdown and now Latex.
Latex (check online for pronucciation) is a way of creating professional .pdf files. It uses a it's own syntax for layout but its power comes from the fact that it is ideal for mathematical and scientific papers. This is down to its ability to correctly render equations.
I'm not going to be writing anything so complicated soon but I will need the capability as I continue my search for some kind of accessible way to create random numbers or at least pseudo random numbers.
I have a calculator app that will let me enter Latex syntax equations. I'm looking into whether actual programmable calculators have the same option.
In the meantime I will learn the Latex syntax and try and produce something worth looking at while my mathematics education steers me to more complex calculations.
It's all good fun even if I don't understand completely what I'm doing.
My destination is a long way away but the journey of learning is what I intend to enjoy. Besides I only have to understand what is going to be useful to me and from this angle that isn't a lot.
However I do understand that looks are deceptive.
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Here's something I've been messing with all night.
It's free software called Tonespace and it's very interesting and extremely useful. It's main job is to play chords which it does very well. The way it plays the chords can be adjusted in a wide variety of ways. What I found so inspirational is the way it will randomly re-voice chords. Just choose the setting and it jumps around your selected chord and adds or moves appropriate notes within your chosen scale. That could make a simple 3 chord song sound very interesting and varied. It's particularly good if you MIDI it into a decent string or orchestral sound.
A lot of this evening was spent patching it into various other bits of audio kit. I'm still getting used to routing everything through Jack. Jack is kind of intuitive but sometimes things just won't play well together and a fair bit of trial and error goes on. Having said that, once you've worked out where you're going wrong and fixed it you can save your MIDI patch for next time.
I expect I'll be orchestrating a few more songs than I thought I would.
Can't be a bad thing.
Saturday, February 09, 2019
I'm probably one of the few remaining people still using Google+.
This blog used to get pushed to G+ but that has now been stopped. I've rarely published directly to G+ but I use it every day as a news aggregator for stories about crypto and Linux. I'll miss it.
It has made me wonder how long Blogger will be around. The Android app is terrible and I don't have a use for it because there are no user definable layout options. So what happens if Google decide to retire Blogger?
Strange as it may seem Github may be an option. If one has a Github account one may have a Github Pages site. It's a little more involved than Blogger and requires use of Jeykll to publish markdown pages as HTML. The markdown part is OK, I already use the Atom editor for my markdown which is in itself a Github product.
Initially I like most people had reservations about Github after it was bought by Microsoft but Microsoft seem to be moving in the right direction with open source and that is encouraging. Things could and probably will change, they always do.
For now I'm sticking with Blogger. I've been using it for years and I like it but I do think I'll be experimenting with Github Pages soon to see if it could be a viable solution if this blog's home goes south.
Sunday, February 03, 2019
This is a step closer to the first of my new music.
It's the scratchpad before all this MIDI information gets sent to my QY100.
The basic elements of the composition above were created in Seq24 which in itself is a wonderful musician's playground. This phase in Qtractor is all about seeing if the elements work together well enough to form patterns that will create the backing track for further work.
My next step is to add all the elements to the QY100 and create the patterns. I'm going to try to save the MIDI file to my SmartMedia card and see if I can extract the bits I need. If that doesn't work I'll record each phrase one at a time. It's all still a learning curve but at least it's not too steep.
Saturday, February 02, 2019
It's been a long night.
I've been messing with the QY300 and associated peripherals for about 8 hours. The first job was to fit it with a virtual disk drive. It was advertised as plug and play which it certainly is. It's saving all the data into virtual drives so that I don't lose hours of work. The weird thing is that the drive isn't showing any files when I plug it into my Lubuntu laptop. In all fairness they are both using totally different file systems. That does't matter though because I've managed to get my laptop talking to the QY300 over USB to MIDI cables so it's all good.
The idea is to create new patterns on Seq24 and add them to the QY300 which will be the backing for my songs.
While I'm on the subject of QY's, the QY100's SmartMedia card is read perfectly well by Lubuntu so there's always the option of doubling songs back onto that before re-voicing with the Korg. It all sounds very complicated but it isn't really and bouncing MIDI files between devices (including my phone) gives me endless options for creating music. I have an OTG adaptor for my phone so I might try driving the QY300 with that tomorrow.
Now I know everything works it time to get down to the business of writing some music.
If only inspiration was as easy as MIDI!
Sunday, January 20, 2019
My first post of 2019.
Sorry it's taken so long, I've been having trouble with my domain name supplier.
I've spent the last couple of weekends finalising my studio work flow. The forthcoming tracks will start life in Seq24. It's a simple MIDI sequencer but very useful for getting tracks off the ground in a very short amount of time. One advantage of Seq24 is that it exports the short patterns that make up a song individually. This is also useful for building styles on my Korg Liverpool.
The exported MIDI file gets loaded into Qtractor and the song is constructed there. I can then export the Qtractor MIDI file straight into the Korg and re-voice it ready to record into the R8. All good.
I want vocals on some of the tracks but I can't sing. There are auto-tuning options galore these days but the result wouldn't fit what I do anyway. I do like the sound of a Vocoder so I bought the Boss VO-1. It's rare that I don't rip something out of its packaging and play with it straight away but I'll wait until I'm recording vocals before messing with the Boss. I think I'll record special harmony tracks while I'm in Seq24 but they'll only be used with the VO-1.
I'm currently sequencing some D&B drums but I doubt I'll be recording much at 185bpm. They sound really good slowed right down. I'm also experimenting with chord sequences again, probably my favourite part of building tracks. It does take a long time because I constantly change the chord structures but I always end up with something I'm happy with so it's definitely worth the effort.
Due to the limited time I have don't expect a flurry of tracks soon but there should be a decent collection of work by 2020.
I want to get this right.