Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Better By Miles

I've got some new luggage.
One of my presents this Christmas was a pair of Ortlieb roll top panniers. In my opinion Ortlieb is the best bike luggage there is. I also found and fitted my Altura handlebar bag. With everything in place my rear rack is freed up to add more luggage. I feel as if I could go for weeks with my bike carrying everything I need. I'll probably never do that but the option is there in case I fancy an adventure.
That makes me happy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

High Street Losers

A couple of hours ago I went to my local Apple store in Leicester.
I wanted a black 4S 16GB and I thought the Apple store would be the best place to get one. OK, so I know it's near Christmas and all that but when I was told they hadn't got any I was a bit surprised.
Why? Well for one, footfall in shops is up 20% this year but people are spending less and holding out for the sales. I found this data easy to come by but a global company like Apple hadn't. Maybe if Apple stocked more of the cheaper iPhones they'd sell a few more. The second thing that surprised me was that the salesperson didn't ask if I'd bought from the company before. Asking this they would had found out that I had and that they had my email address and they could send me details when they had some in stock. Thirdly, the salesperson went straight into the "We have the more expensive models." routine which instantly put me off. There is no way I'm spending £100 more because they think that I have to have one of their phones for Christmas.
I came home and bought what I wanted online. I'll only have to wait a couple of weeks. No big deal.
As a side note Carphone Warehouse got a stock of the same phones this morning. How did they manage when Apple so clearly failed?
Goodbye High Street. The affair is over.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Correspondence Chess

I've started playing chess again.
If I get a few spare minutes I'll open one of my chess programs or apps and play a few moves. I'm not very good but I enjoy playing all the same.
One thing I've always liked the idea of is correspondence chess. I know this can be done electronically these days but the idea of posting a card and waiting for a reply seems like a much more sedate and enjoyable way of playing. This appeals to me. I've decided that once I've got a decent chess set to sit and contemplate, which is a few months away, I'll throw out an offer into the ether and see if anyone wants to play. It's something to look forward to.
If you're interested then keep an eye on my blog next year. I'll put up a few basic rules. I'm aware that an official body is already in existence for this kind of thing but I'm not one for joining clubs.
One to one is fine and as complicated as it needs to get.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Goodies

I think my neighbour may have dropped the parcel round.
The 2TB hard drive I ordered and my drawing reference books were inside. I need the hard drive because all my stored media has left me with only 13GB of space and I'm not slowing down the collection of pictures or tunes. I think 2TB will keep me going for a while but then again I thought 500MB would last forever 10 years ago.
Only time will tell.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Pain In The Face

Hopefully by this time tomorrow I'll have a hole where a tooth once was.
I'm not keen on getting rid of the tooth but after a year of on/off pain I really have had enough. I spent most of last xmas in pain and I'm pretty determined that that is not going to be the case this year.
Despite my low pain threshold I'm willing to have someone pull the tooth out just so that in a few weeks time I can forget I ever had a toothache at all.
I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

MIDI Studio Video

I said I'd get round to it so here it is.
The quality is pretty poor as it was filmed on my netbook webcam and the audio is a bit out of sync because Windows Movie Maker only gives me one video track to edit.
It gives you an idea of what I have to play with and that's good enough for me.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The New Studio

Keep an eye on this post as I add more images of my music studio re-design.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Eight Track

Another productive night in the studio.
Last night I slaved to get one MIDI track into FL Studio and for my money the effort was worth it. What I had intended to do was get eight tracks in but that seemed impossible. I eventually left a question about how I would achieve getting all eight tracks in in one go and today I got my answer from the Loop Talk forum.
It seems that I have to have eight channels selected and ready in FL Studio before I press go on the QY100. This I did and as you can see I now have all eight backing tracks in FL Studio ready to be edited and made into a track. There's a lot of work ahead of me. I need to isolate sections within tracks and re-layer and re-order them but once that's done I can embellish to my hearts content.
But that's all for another day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Same Madness Different Method

My music head is on.
Don't worry I'm still hard at it with the cartooning.
Anyway, I've got this track. It was conceived on Chordbot and a couple of weeks ago I transferred it all manually to my QY100. It's been sitting there doing nothing since then. I re-read a lot of the manual tonight and I came across a nugget of information that will move it on. It seems I can get all the pattern data out of the QY100 on separate MIDI channels so the idea is to run the QY through my X-Session and into FL Studio and record the MIDI data in there. From there I'll assign new sounds and finish the track. Well, that's the plan.
As always I'll let you know how it goes right here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On A Promise To Myself

This doesn't look exciting.
If you thought that you'd be wrong. I'm turning my drawing skills into cartooning and comics skills. It's going to be a long road especially as I have two characters in my head that need bringing to life.
So why the simple drawings? Well to start if I'm going to learn this art I need to start from scratch. The temptation is to jump ahead and start at a level I think I'm at rather than go back to school so to speak and in doing so knock a lot of old and bad habits out of myself. As you can probably tell I'm at level one but it's good fun. Even at this stage getting something right raises a satisfied smile.
I know this is going to take a year, maybe more and that it's going to be a lot of hard repetitive work but it's work I'm willing to do because this is what I've always wanted to do. I'm happy I've finally started.
I won't let myself down.
Ever again.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Graphic Porn

So here it is.
This is my drawing studio. It's been a long time since I did any serious drawing. I've been doing other stuff, music mainly but I'm happy with where I'm at with that so I'll dip in and out when I've got something worth producing.
The reason I'm back with my pencils and paper is because for years I've berated myself about not learning to cartoon properly. I do my little cartoons every now and then but it's pretty much always the same stuff and as much as I love doing it I'm always thinking why not learn properly. So that's what I'm doing. It's back to school for me albeit self taught. Having said that I have some great books to learn from.
So that's it. Drawing with a bit of music every now and then. I'm slowing my pace.
More time to concentrate.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stupidity Pays

Sometimes I'm quite stupid.
Take for example the other day. I got my scanner out of the loft and plugged it in. Nothing. Dead as a dodo.
This lead me to buy an all in one printer, scanner and copier. It's the one in the picture above. Anyway, as I was unplugging the old scanner tonight I noticed that I hadn't flicked the on switch on the extension lead. See what I mean by stupid.
Actually this moment of clarity didn't phase me. You see, the new box of tricks was £40 instead of £100. It's also wireless which means I can print from any device that's connected to the web from anywhere in the world. It also prints right up to the edge unlike my old printer and the photo quality printing is as good as the maker claims so I'm happy.
I'm also happy because I can scan and print my cartoons from one box without having to faff about with USB leads. I'm extra happy because it takes up very little space on the coffee table which means I can actually fit a cup of coffee on there.
There's also room for booze so I'm delirious.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sometimes, just sometimes.

Life is a funny old thing.
Just today I had news via email that a book I have been waiting an age for had been virtually destroyed in transit. That's bad news. Still, I ordered another so everything should be fine.
After that I've had an evening of good wine and company and I've been given a gift of a very nice pipe which I shall treasure.
Then I sorted out my finances and made a few purchases which will change my life, literally.
All in all I'm happy. Life goes on with all its troubles and trials but in the mean time I can still manage to be happy so that's OK.
It's tough but still worth the effort.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Imperfect Perfection

Oh wow!
Did I make that? Is that the creation of my fair hands?
I'm afraid the answer to both those questions is yes. So what have I learnt? Well to start I now realise that polymers will be soft when they're hot and that getting them out of the oven sooner rather than later is a good idea. I've learnt that abstract still works and that I'm still happy with random results. I've learnt that the world isn't perfect nor are my plans. I've learnt that having fun is always a good idea and that planning a finale is a bad idea.
Just go with the flow.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Absolutely Sound

So here it is.
I'll let the letter speak for itself. Suffice to say that my Roberts Stream 83i is my new audio entertainment hub. Nothing comes close and I'll never look back. It'll take a lot to outdo this for now perfect radio.
In my opinion everyone should have one. It'd certainly up the game for UK broadcasters. When the digital switchover comes it'll be a radio revolution.
I'm already waving my flag.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Raise The Alarm

This thing wakes me up in the morning.
It's pretty good at what it does but I'm afraid that it's not quite good enough. The reception is fine but for a long while I've been hacked off with the limited range of output from UK based radio stations. I need a WiFi radio so that I can wake up to some cool jazz or chilled ambient beats.
Its time for my basic DAB to be replaced and I can't wait to show you the replacement very soon.
Exciting times are ahead.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Back To The Drawing Board

For years I've been drawing little cartoons.
What I've never done is learn to cartoon properly. I understand perspective and know how to draw it but I can't place a person or animal within that perspective convincingly. It's a situation that's been annoying me for a while now so I've decided to start again from scratch.
I'm going to start at the beginning and learn what I should have a long time ago.
I must admit that the cartoon above was fun to make and that with tech I can achieve most things but there is no skill involved and my mechanical pencils and Moleskine's are under used.
It time to change that situation.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Two Wheels Good

A few years ago my mode of transport was a Ford Transit.
I'd always wanted one and I got mine cheap. It became a little expensive for my weekday 60 mile round trip and so it was sadly replaced with a Ford Mondeo. I moved jobs and only had to do the 60 mile round trip once a week so it was better. More fuel efficient and with less travelling it by comparison seemed cheap.
Over the last few years fuel prices have risen steeply and I now have to complete the round trip twice a week. With all this to take into consideration and a looming costly MOT to come I decided the car had to go. And it did, to the scrap yard. The money I would have spent on the tax and MOT was spent on a decent bicycle. I have the use of another car to get to Coventry to DJ so the bike is fine for day to day commuting and I'll get fitter into the bargain.
After my first day riding 'Maas', that's his name, I feel like I've done the right thing. I arrived at work much more chilled out and because it's mostly down hill I was fresh as a daisy too. The uphill journey home is my daily workout and it only took 15 minutes to do that trip.
Am I sad to see the car go? Not really. I'm going to save a lot of money and be fitter in the long run and that's a good thing.
I will miss the radio though.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Getting On With It

It's a word that's been on my mind recently. After getting back from Europe and getting back to work I've been dissatisfied with my job.
Don't get me wrong. I like driving for a living and I like getting paid to do something I like but it's the same thing day in and day out. I like driving because I get to see what's going on in the world and despite everyone being poorer everything is the same as it ever was. That means the same opportunities and chances for anyone willing to go out and grab them. There might be less but the well isn't dry yet.
So what do I want to do more than driving? There is only one answer and that is to write. I love writing more than anything and I keep berating myself when I don't do it. Ive neglected this blog for weeks and that upsets me. I've neglected the novel for months and now it's time to get it finished.
Everything else can wait and one day it might just get me from behind the wheel.
I'll take that chance.

Friday, May 27, 2011

If The Cap Fits

What you know is probably true. The various countries stereotypes fit wonderfully well. Apart from Luxembourg which doesn't have one because it's way too small to make that much of an impression. I wait to be corrected there.
San Massimo is a suburb of Verona and very stereotypically Italian, right down to the young woman serving beer in red hot-pants and the youngish men trying to show off to two young women running a bar who had no interest in men at all. It's a bit of a caricature of itself but it works and I like it.
I may even return one day.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Path

So here it is.
As always I consider the process better than the result but that's par for the course. So how did I get here? Here's a quick recap.
The chord sequence started out on the iPhone app Chordbot. The MIDI file was supposed to go into Beaterator on the PSP but that didn't quite work out so I tried it on the Yamaha QY100. The result was much better but I re-entered the chords manually which turned out well. I then produced a MIDI file on the QY and dropped that into the Yamaha RM1x and re-voiced everthing and also edited some volume information. The track was recorded on a Tascam 424 MKIII and guitar and keyboard added.
After all that what have I gained? Well, the QY and RM as working partners are a great combinaton that I'll use again. Chordbot is still my favourite music app and in my opinion the best song writing notepad out there. At some point in the future I'm going to write my own patterns for the QY and build a track from scratch but for now it's back to my neglected FL Studio. There are a couple of things to work on there and one is sitting in Chordbot right now.
I hope somewhere in this process that I've at least given you inspiration to work with old and new technology. MIDI is still an amazing format and it's still the universal language of music. It talks to any bit of kit and that's its power.
Long may it reign.

While I'm here I'd like to thank Palm Sounds for his interest in this project and for adding links on his blog to my posts. Check my Blog List on the left and please subscribe to Palm Sounds.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


So, did I fall in love with it again?
Yes yes yes yes yes!!!
It's an awesome bit of kit. I had worried a bit about MIDI editing but that's half the fun. With the QY100 supplying the sequence the RM1x takes over and perfects genius with brilliance. I've been tweaking the track all evening and it sounds wonderful for a backing track made from presets and a touch of adjustment.
Will I write a tune this way again?
Absolutely. It's so much fun being this hands on. From iPhone to tape in a few weeks. I love my DAW but I love this method too.
It makes me happy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


How much time have I spent on this project?
Well, I spent all of this evening re-writing my track on the QY100. I then transferred it to the RM1x where it didn't sound so great. I'm really hoping that the next phase which is a voice re-assign helps me fall in love with the RM1x the same way that writing this track has made me fall in love with the QY100.
I know for a fact that I haven't pushed the QY100 to its limits and I also know that the RM is a more powerful machine. If I spend an equal amount of time with the RM I'll be rewarded, right?
I hope so. Only time will tell. You can sense the doubt. I know it's the same doubt I had with the QY so I'm hoping that by trial and error that doubt goes away.
Fingers crossed.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

One Step Forward Two Steps Back

So here's where we stand.
Ive been playing with the MIDI file on the RM1x today and I've learnt a lot about its MIDI editing capabilities. It's all good. But, at some point in the proceedings I've messed with MIDI velocities on the QY100 and there's a huge drop in volume in the main track section. What I need to do is write the track from scratch in the QY100 and make a new MIDI file for the RM1x. It's a pain but much less of a pain that editing each note by hand.
What I will say is that I'll have a much better backing track for the Tascam when I'm finished. It's been a good learning process going through all this and everything gets easier the more I play. It may be back to square one for now but I'll be back to this point in no time.
You live and learn.

Huge Grin

Who says that impatience is never rewarded?
As my last post shows I spent Friday morning creating a couple of MIDI files. I was going to wait until Monday to see if they'd work properly in different environments but I'm an impatient sort and with the company of a bottle of red wine I got home from DJing and set about testing the new files from my QY100.
Above is a composite of two very different but equally accepting environments. First is FL Studio playing the STM and second is my RM1x doing the same with the enhanced Yamaha XG file. It's important to note here that the sounds used on the QY100 aren't faithfully reproduced on either platform but the replacement sounds do an admirable job of getting the composition across. Each platform easily lets me change the original MIDI settings so that with minimal effort I can produce a track that I'll be very happy with once finished.
I'm going to stick with my original plan and plough on with the RM1x route. There really isn't too much work to be done here but I do need a couple of hours with the manual. For what I'll end up with it'll be worth a session of head scratching with added trial and error.
I'll drink to that.

P.S. If you want to mess with the MIDI files you can grab the Standard MIDI File by clicking here and the XG enhanced file here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

My MIDI Morning

I enjoyed this morning.
Having sorted out all my pattern data I spent this morning programming my track into my QY100. One false start later and the track was complete.
Next thing to do was backup my track and save out as MIDI which I did. I produced two MIDI files, one standard and one for the Yamaha XG sounds. These two files contain all the pattern and chord data dumped down to standard MIDI channels which means that they can be used elsewhere. The SMF will be dropped into FL Studio at some point but my next challenge is to get the XG file into the RM1x.
The RM1x has a floppy disc storage system and I have a disc writer so I'll try that first. If that doesn't work I'll just plug a MIDI cable between the QY100 and the RM1x and go from there. I'm excited about the next stage but it'll have to wait until Monday as I have stuff to do.
Until then it's back to the manuals.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Classical Approach

I decided to start what I'm calling my symphony tonight.
I'm glad I did. I've discovered that FL Studio 10 now works slightly differently from the way it used to. It's not a bad thing either, I like it. Another thing that I discovered or rediscovered was my old sample library. I bought a box set of ten discs over a decade ago primarily to be used with Music 2000. The contents are on my hard drive and one of the discs contains a whole load of very good orchestral samples. A quick re-tune from A to C in a FLS sampler channel and you're away. I'm mixing these samples with some decent plug-ins and the sound so far is fairly convincing.
I'm calling this my symphony because I want it to include lots of orchestral sounds and to have a classical structure. I also want to include some fantastic electronic sounds. Think Hybrid meets The Royal Philharmonic and you've got the idea. It'll be a labour of love but I've been meaning to do this for at least as long as I've owned the sample set.
The music has been written many ways and many times.
This will be my magnum opus.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I get distracted easily.
The last few days have seen the whole house get a proper spring clean. The studio hasn't escaped either. A bit of rearranging has paid off making everything just a bit more accessible. One thing that is very accessible now is Music 2000 on my PS2. Despite it being years since I completed a track on it I'll never get rid of the setup. Music 2000 originally came out on the PS1. I remember it well. I read previews and rumours months before the release and picked up a copy the day it hit the shelves. Each weekend I stayed at home and wrote a track while getting to expert user level, devouring tips and tricks and buying the strategy guide which I still have.
Considering how many musical projects I have on the go you might think that I'd leave the PS2 turned off, but no, not me. I just couldn't leave it alone and I've started a track. So that's now the PS2, PSP, QY100 and FL Studio 10 all with uncompleted tracks. It's said that variety is the spice of life.
It's also the inspiration too.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Rough Notes

To you this picture probably means nothing.
To me seeing this was a very emotional moment, I'll explain why.
Many many years ago I wrote a very simple tune on a Casio VL-1. It probably had a name but that was lost in time. It survived for a long time on a compact cassette and then it disappeared as most things do. The thing about this track was that it was universally liked. I suppose it was a stroke of luck but what I had recorded on various tape recorders using a sound on sound method seemed to gel with everyone that heard it.
When I got to 16 years old I managed to borrow a four track and the track was re-recorded. Again it resonated with listeners. Skip forward a few years and it was again recorded in a semi-pro studio. Same tune, different mix, same result. Move forward in time again and it was recorded on my PS1 as 'Hyperflow'. It didn't have the same magic but it still had its hook. It still caught the imagination.
So here I am in 2011 with the most complete studio that I'll ever own and I want to record 'Hyperflow' again. This time I want to try and strip it bare like the original but at the same time orchestrate it. It's a tall order. FL Studio 10 now lets me score my instruments. By the time the track(s) is or are finished I'll have something I can present to a real orchestra. Will they play my composition? Maybe not but I live in hope.
The picture above is the first time I've seen the notes of the violin part. That's why it's emotional. This tune has been around forever.
Hopefully it has a future.

Friday, April 08, 2011

TAB #7

I'm DJing tomorrow.
That means no work on the TAB project so I sneaked a little bit of extra time tonight.
I've found an intro that I like and I'm pretty sure that I can find some main parts to go with it but that'll have to wait until Saturday afternoon.
I'm going ahead with re-voicing on the RM1x and Tascam route. I'll leave the FL Studio track until after I've finished this. Once the patterns are sorted creating the track will only be an evenings work so I'm expecting some kind of result on the QY100 by the end of next week. Hopefully in seven days time I'll be complaining about voice mapping.
There's plenty to report between now and then so I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Head Of Time

"As I write this I am in the middle of a massive deja vu attack.
Most people experience deja vu every now and again, me too. But sometimes I have attacks that go on a bit. So far I'm about ten minutes in and the waves keep rolling in and out. Sometimes I think it's going to wear off then I'm layering realities again. It takes some getting used to but I enjoy the serenity of it all. It's just a bit confusing because I don't know if the memories I'm having are true or not.
Try to imagine having a memory of a memory of a memory that you're not sure is fabricated or not. It's like that. While I'm able to carry on doing what I'm doing my head is flicking backwards and forwards. It's like walking backwards and forwards through some kind of time gate. Fun but one can feel a little queasy.
Anyway, I've had to type this quite fast to keep the flow going and it's an effort so I'm going back to, well, whatever it is.
I'm enjoying myself because reality is probably just around the corner.
Time to drift again."

That was earlier. The deja vu turned into a migraine but I feel normal again now. It seems it was a night for neurological glitches.
Looks like it's a paracetamol day tomorrow.

TAB #6

This blog is fast becoming a QY100 tutorial.
That may not be a bad thing because the more I learn about the machine the more I think people would enjoy owning and using one.
One thing I hadn't noticed or simply overlooked was that the QY100 has two channels dedicated to pattern changes and chord changes. It then has 16 MIDI channels to do your own thing with. Now, stop and think about that for a second. Where does the pattern and chord MIDI data go when you export your track? That data is fine in native QY format but not so great for any other bit of kit. Fear not though. There is a way to dump all of your song data onto those extra MIDI channels and you'll still have some free space to add your own stuff. The other benefit of this is that should you want to keep your track within the unit every track can be re-voiced.
This presents me with a dilemma. I want to go to the RM1x for the next stage but now I also want to drop the finished MIDI file into FL Studio.
Another dual track duel?
I think so.

Monday, April 04, 2011

TAB #5

It was time to move things forward.
I played with Chordbot to get the chord sequence right. At this stage I'm not even sure I'm in key any more but the chords I've chosen sound right together and to me that's the most important thing.
Having got the chords right I needed to hear them in action, this is where things got interesting. Considering that most of the chords are sevenths I decided to use a jazz ballad preset on the QY100. The pattern setting allows you to input chords and changes on the fly. The result was OK but being the curious type I skipped through a few different presets. By the time I'd got to disco the chord timing had changed and here's why. Different styles require different chord structuring. Things sound better in one style one way and in different styles in different ways. But rather than turning into the new Klaus Wunderlich I'm using the different styles to formulate a plan for my own style and that will be the basis for the track.
The tempo and chord structure are now all new so it's time to create my own pattern and get on with this track.
I feel a new MIDI file coming on.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

It's not often I get to stay up late drinking.
Tonight is one of those nights. So what do I get up to when I'm left alone with a bottle of wine and Google Chrome? I go deep browsing. That's the art of following links until the initial subject matter has disappeared off the radar or I've found another tangent worth pursuing. The idea is following a link which leads to another link which leads to another link and so on until the above criteria has been reached.
As I've just updated FL Studio I thought I'd try YouTube which itself creates linked searches. To get straight to the point I found 'Spicy Guitar' after wading through various FLS and guitar related links. It's a free guitar simulation VSTi. I've come across many of these before, some good and expensive, others free and not worth the download. 'Spicy Guitar' is different, very different. Not only is it free but it is incredibly good at what it does. It sounds like a guitar and you can program your strumming on any piano roll. Loosen up your DAW's rigid timing and you'd be very hard pressed to tell the difference between this and a real guitar either in the mix or out of it.
So here's to staying up late. Here's to getting tipsy, a bit, and here's to 'Spicy Guitar'.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Yes, Yes, Yes

So here it is, FL Studio 10.
I know I'm busy with my TAB project but I've been waiting for this release version of FLS for a long time. I've got loads of ideas for tunes that I can only put together here. I've been using FLS for years and years and I know my way around it quite well.
My first track will be an epic reworking of a very old track called 'Hyperflow'. I've written many versions of this track which first saw light on a Casio VL-1 in the eighties. I'd quite fancy doing something bordering on orchestral and now with the ability to score the whole thing I'll be releasing the sheet music online with the finished track.
Will an orchestra ever play it?
Who knows.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

TAB #4

It's not good news.
As much as I wanted to include the PSP and Beaterator in this process I'm afraid it was just not meant to be. The problem is that Beaterator is fantastic at what it does but it requires time and a little dedication to make a track. It's just in its nature that you tweak as you go along. It's made be a whole process and therefore fairly deep in places. What I need right now is a unit that will help me get my ideas down fast but with the ability to tweak later. That unit is the QY100. I have the option to tweak the life out of the QY once the basics are complete and to tweak still further on the RM1x.
While I've been getting into track building on both units I've got to know them quite well. The QY is what I need for building ideas quickly and the PSP should be a constant companion in my shoulder bag for building tracks on a slow burn basis.
So it's on with the project and a track restart. I'll also have to find some time to finish the new track I started in Beaterator.
Two projects, twice the fun.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

TAB #3

It's been a night of experimentation.
Sometimes I need to mess about with kit to get a better idea of what is possible. It also helps me to be better acquainted with my hardware. Tonight has been one of those nights. Because of the way the QY handles MIDI I needed to have a play with setting up voices and rhythms. The conclusion I have arrived at is that I need to get a working MIDI file off the PSP to see what it does inside the QY. If it works the same way as the Chordbot MIDI file I may have to eliminate that bit of kit from the process which would be a shame. Having said that, the more I play with the QY the more I get enticed to start writing the track on that. It's a great little machine and the temptation to complete the track using that and then MIDI overdub sounds from the RM1x into the Tascam is almost overwhelming.
At some point over the weekend I'll do a little file transfer and make a decision.
Everything could change.

Monday, March 14, 2011

TAB #2

This is my chord choice.
I will be moving these into Beaterator and working on an arrangement. This might take a while because even though I have the chords I am writing a track from scratch. The move to my PSP is for two reasons. Firstly I've used and like using Beaterator. Secondly the PSP is a mobile platform so I can take my composition with me. That's going to be an essential property because the process of writing the song is going to take a while.
If you want to use the chords and start your own track (using the same chords but not structure) you can download the .mid file that Chordbot produced. You'll find the link below.

Chordbot MIDI file.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Track Anatomy Blog (TAB #1)

Part One

Every song needs some form of inspiration. You need to start somewhere, you need an idea of or from something.
I took my inspiration from my favourite composer Debussy. I like his composition 'La Mer' so I decided to use the same key C#. This was a good starting place but I wanted a little variation. I consulted an iPhone app called Scales & Modes. I picked the Dorian mode because although it is one of the major modes it is considered minor because of the flattened 3rd.
I still wanted to tweak so I opened an app called Octavian and dialled in a C#m Dorian scale. This gives me the following notes:
C# D# E F# G# A# B
I'll let you work out the chords but the ones I am going to use will only use these notes.
The next stage is to create a chord structure upon which I will create a track.

Next: Chord Structure

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Step By Step

I've decided on a new work flow.
Although it sounds like an overly complex way of making music it means that I will get maximum enjoyment out of the various bits of music tech that I own. So here goes, my new approach.
1. I'll use iPhone apps including my newly purchased Octavian to choose a key and a mode for the new track.
2. Writing in key I'll use Chordbot to structure my chord sequence and email out the resulting MIDI file.
3. Import the file into Beaterator on the PS3 and build a complete track and export another MIDI file.
4. Import that file into the QY100 and assign Yamaha XG voices and export an XG MIDI file.
5. Import the XG file into the RM1x and assign different voices and play with parameters to get a finished track.
6. Record this track onto my Tascam 4 track and add other live instruments via processing with the QY100 or the Pod XT Live.
7. Mix to digital from the Tascam to the Zoom H4 and import the wav file into my DAW for mastering.
So that's it. I'm going to post each stage and any MIDI files I create on this blog so that you can build a track in parallel if you want to. This is going to be the anatomy of a track and you're welcome to join in.
I hope you will.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Green & Machine

It's time to break out the melodica.
My soprano melodica is my favourite instrument. It has a sound which is somewhere in the region of awkward and cheap. It's an acquired taste.
Where there is magic is the processed sound. By adding chorus or flanger or reverb the sound seems to sit much more comfortably in a composition. How many times have you heard a melodica with tons of delay added in a reggae track? Works doesn't it.
I'm hoping to create something along the lines of trip hop and cool jazz. I like cool jazz's chords and modes but I like the electronic richness of trip hop. I'll be running a mic through the vocal processing capabilities of the QY100 and I'll shape the melodica's sound that way. The QY100 can handle the rest of the sequencing. Hopefully I'll then MIDI the QY to the RM1x for some extra punch and record everything on the fourtrack which can also handle any overdubs.
Now that I've got my SmartMedia card I can take some time making and saving building blocks. I want this to be right.
Let the work begin.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Modern Times

There is one thing I avoid doing.
I avoid plugging my iPhone into my PC because the two of them just don't get on. Recently I've had apps crashing after being updated so I thought id better get my iPhone in good working order. I installed iTunes onto my netbook and the update went like a dream. I now have an up-to-date phone. I also have some very up-to-date apps as there are some updates which are iOS specific and only installed after the update.
I also got a couple of apps back that I'd previously bought but which wouldn't install on a lower OS. All in all I'm very happy and promise to keep my phone in good condition.
It's well worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Question Everything. Twice.

I have so far resisted posting this little tale but it has reached a conclusion so here goes.
A couple of weeks ago I received a tax bill for the princely sum of £1446.08. It was from the tax year 07-08 so a while ago. For that year I had been paying my taxes through PAYE so I wondered how I had managed to underpay that amount of money. At the time I was working two jobs and there seemed to be some kind of tax conflict there. After receiving the first letter from the tax office I called them and they informed me that my second employer had given me my tax allowance as well as my first. Whoops! It seemed I'd had the money but someone, somewhere had messed up. I was led to believe it was the company I still work for as they were my second employer.
What the person on the other end of the phone had neglected to tell me was that they had mixed up my first and second employers. On the phone tonight after a little direct questioning I found that small but very relevant fact out. I had given them the correct information but they'd mixed things up. When the tax office checked they realised their mistake and wrote off the offending sum.
The moral of this story is to check and then check again. What at first seems straight forward may not be that simple at all.
I'm now in the wonderful position of not being £120 a month worse off.
In other good news today my black Fedora turned up and it fits. Pictures soon no doubt.
Right, time to celebrate a little.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me

This is what one can afford when one can't afford to add the "du pape".
I could have treated myself to the "du pape" but this is funnier so I bought it instead. Anyway, enough blogging it's time for a slurp.
Chin chin.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Space To Think

A place for everything and everything in its place.
That's how the saying goes and I totally agree. An organised workspace is much more productive. It won't make one more creative but when that vital spark ignites the kindling and the logs are in place to build a roaring fire. One nice touch I added to my small ideas space is a subwoofer that I lined-out of my 10W practise amp. The small but perfectly EQ'd amplification is easily loud enough for my studio which is only a spare room and not the Albert Hall.
The idea about this new space is simple. Get a few chords together using Chordbot and Applichord Mini while on the road. Sequence the result into my QY100 either manually or through MIDI (untested and experimental) and then record in my DAW or with the fourtrack. There is also the option of using my PSP which is easy to get MIDI files into.
All in all it's a fine space and one that will get used considering I've only organised tools I already utilise.
Now, where did I put that inspiration?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This Is Very Interesting

What you can see above is a screen shot of my writing software.
It has a web browser built in for research which is really useful. Because my novel is set in a real place I use Google maps street view to get my bearings and information I need for the story. While I was in the browser I got an error message asking if I still wanted to run scripts on the page, I clicked yes then went back to writing. The next time I went back to the browser Google street view seemed to be in 3D. I went downstairs and grabbed the handful of coloured chocolate wrappers I'd saved from xmas. They're blue, red and green. Because the 3D shift was in red/blue I held a couple of wrappers up to my eyes and there was street view in 3D. Click on the picture to enlarge it and try for yourself.
I haven't heard any rumours of street view in 3D so is this a one off or are we all going to be treated to a 3D option at some point in the future?
Who knows?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fine Old Time

I really enjoy Sunday afternoons.
There isn't much to do and I can usually find something to watch on TV. Its about the only day I do watch TV and usually I watch hours of Antique Roadshows (sic). Sunday is also the day I get to sit down and enjoy a bottle of wine. Increasingly with my evenings taken up with either writing or DJing wine is off the menu. I also get round to eating oven chips and baked beans. It's a comfort food and drink day.
I don't get many.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

New MIDI Revolution

It's been a while since I've used MIDI files.
Until recently I hadn't given them any thought at all. Then Chordbot came along and changed everything. It's a fantastic chord sequencing app on my iPhone. I've blogged about it here before. It produces MIDI files which from the last update you can email to yourself. I mailed one last night and dropped it into FL Studio and it worked perfectly. I thought tonight however that I might try something a little different. I mailed a new file to myself and then opened the browser on my PSP. From there I imported the file to my Beaterator folder and as you can see from the picture above it worked.
The keyboard in Beaterator is only 5 octaves and so it missed most of the bass notes out but as the bass notes are the chord root I'll have no problem adding some more. Besides, I am going to mess with the bassline anyway so it works out fine.
My next trick will be to get a Chordbot MIDI file into my RM1x. That'll probably be a bit trickier but it's worth a go.
Here's to the new music writing revolution.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sound Tracks

I'm writing a novel.
It's set in a flat I used to live in but the story is pure fiction. There are plenty of things I remember about the time I was there and a lot of small details about the place are creeping into the story. One detail I had forgotten was the album 'Disgraceful' by Dubstar. I played that tape a lot and it became the soundtrack to that particular period of my life. While crate digging today I found the album on CD, I didn't hesitate to buy it. By listening to it again after all these years two things have happened. One, I've enjoyed listening to the tracks again and I can see why I liked it the first time around. Two, it has teased out a few more memories which in turn will become details that are added to the book.
It was a good purchase and a useful one too.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Memory Boost

It's time to upgrade.
Since I've owned my PlayStation 3 I've been surviving on just 40gb of hard disk space. A while ago that was enough but not any longer. I've had to delete so much stuff recently to get more space that I have decided to upgrade the HD to a massive 640gb. That's plenty of room for all my music, photos, game saves and Play TV content. It'll no doubt take me longer to re-install all my data than it will to swap the drives over but I can live with that.
It'll just be good to have my music and playlists back so that I have some decent music as my soundtrack on Burnout Paradise.
The upgrade is worth that alone.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My New Car

I've wanted one of these for a while.
Now I have one. My girlfriend likes them too but she wants one it matte grey. In fact when it comes to cars it's the only thing we agree on.
We both think that the Fiat 500 is just right. They're practical, easy on juice and add a bit of fun back into driving. I had to save for a while to get mine and if my girlfriend wants one to she'll have to get her own PS3 and a copy of Gran Turismo 5.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pushing My Button

Life could be so simple.
Take for example this morning. I got out of bed and the heating was off. It seemed to be the same problem as last year. I tried to reset the boiler and get it working but to no avail. Luckily the guy who sorted it before was on the other end of the phone and told me to call back when I'd got home. This I did and he talked me through getting it running.
All that needed doing was that a little button needed pressing and that reset something which let the boiler work. The thing is that the button was hidden away inside the case. There is no reason it couldn't have been located on the outside. Its where it is to create work for someone and that work costs.
While I'm all for trades people earning a living I'm against manufacturers creating that work through bad design.
Life could be simple but it isn't.
It needn't be either.