Wednesday, November 27, 2013
I was walking back from the shop along the dark terraced streets where I live this evening and I spotted a purse on the floor.
I picked it up and scanned inside for an address but the only one I could find was out of town on a driving licence. I knocked on the door of the house outside which I found the purse but there was no reply so I took the purse home.
Inside is over twenty pounds in cash, the driving licence, a couple of bank cards and a couple of loyalty cards and other bits and bobs. The best information I have is the driving licence so I rang directory enquiries for a phone number for that address. It's ex-directory. Next I tried the internet. A dead end for social media except a Google+ profile to which nothing had been added. I sent a message but I guessed that this mystery person didn't have much interest in keeping a high online profile and wouldn't receive the message anyway.
Undeterred I went back to the street and tried a few of the neighbours houses without any luck. A delivery man in the area suggested I take the cash and hand it in to the police. That's not nice. I don't want to hand it to anyone that doesn't own it or I fear the cash will go missing.
I returned home and decided the only thing to do was to write a letter to the address I have and wait. That's how things used to work and work they did albeit at a slower pace than these days. I wrote my letter and posted it. In a couple of days there should hopefully be a very happy young lady giving me a call and getting her purse back.
I'll let you know how it goes.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Welcome to the newest and greatest non-social media sensation.
Do you worry about your online privacy? Do you randomly type stuff just for the sake of it? Ever wished you hadn't posted something online?
SCRIBS is the answer to all your prayers!
Just requires a pencil and a piece of paper.
Write what the f*#k you want without having to add squiggles.
Can't be downloaded by NSA or GCHQ.
Can't be sold to people who want to sell you rubbish.
Never needs updating.
Has been beta tested for hundreds of years.
Easily add pictures by drawing them.
Add photos by sticking them on a pages.
No in app purchases ever. None.
This special non app can't be downloaded from any store (shop in the UK) right now.
Free your imagination.
Get scribbling with SCRIBS now.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Electric Dreams Realised
The first proper synth I owned was a Jen SX1000.
It took a lot of persuading to convince my dad that the loan was worthwhile. It took me weeks to pay back but I was in love with my synth and all I did was play it. That was in the 80's.
These days I'm overwhelmed with the variety and quality of synth apps at pocket money prices. In all honesty I think some devs are doing themselves out of a few quid because I'd happily pay more for what I'm getting.
I have a few favourites but I've just bought Arturia's iSEM. It is the synth I've always wanted. Not only is it just an amazing synth but it sounds the way I remember synths sounding. So why is that a big deal for me?
The reason is that deep within my psyche I can create music that has a certain sound to it and if I can hear the sound then I can concentrate on getting the tune right. I've messed around playing with iSEM's presets and adjusting them a little. Every starting point is there and adjustments are easy and intuitive. This synth for me is less about the synth and more about the music it'll help me create.
That's what the big deal is.
Well done Arturia.
Monday, October 21, 2013
It's been a year since I started growing my hair.
I used to cut it every 4-6 weeks and when I say cut it I mean Bic it off. The reason was that I was too lazy to grow it. Curly hair is a bit of a nightmare when you're starting out. Since growing it I've straightened it a bit using and Afro-Caribbean hair product. For a white guy I do have some serious curls. My hair will handle products made for Afro hair.
A year ago I became lazy about cutting my hair so it's been growing and now looks long because of the hair relaxing product. I think I'll keep it growing for a while longer but there's no telling when I'll get bored with my fringe falling into my eyes.
In the meantime I'm quite enjoying looking different to my previous self.
How long it will last, who knows.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
When I was 17, some 27 years ago I owned my first Bianchi road bike.
It was a major purchase. It cost me £100. I spent a further £140 on getting better components added to it. I only wanted to cycle and I wanted the best I could afford. In 1986 there was no Internet to buy stuff from and shops weren't cheap, one saved and built up ones possessions one by one.
These days there is the Internet and because of this stuff can be found cheaply and gained in fairly quick succession. To that end I've got my Bianchi winter / summer cycling gear fairly easily and without waiting too long either. I also own my second Bianchi road bike. As you can guess I'm a bit of a Bianchi fanboy, and unashamedly too.
In those past 27 years I've always owned a bicycle. Always for the love of cycling but sometimes as my only means of transport too. In those past 27 years I've also put on more weight than I ever wanted to. I'd thought of running but I'm no runner. I'm a cyclist and I should stick to what I'm good at. I needed some kind of encouragement to get back into shape. Of course I'm never going to be a 17 year old, I'm not kidding myself. What I could be was in better shape than I am. So I got myself my Bianchi gear. Strangely enough not to look good but to look somewhat ridiculous. Why? Because by the time I didn't look ridiculous in that clothing I'd have achieved my goal.
That is the position I'm in now. I have my rollers for when the weather is rubbish (as it usually is this time of year, and I've been using them.) and I have my Bianchi clothing for when it's good enough to go out.
The one thing I've maintained in all this time is that whatever the weather, however old or fat I become or how much money I earn, or not. I'll always own a bicycle, or maybe four.
One for work, one for fitness, one for travelling and one for two. That last one, my tandem, being my most recent acquisition.
Time has changed me but the bicycle defies time.
Sunday, October 06, 2013
The Unplanned Weekend
This weekend started off with me waking up on Saturday and heading straight into a small job of making a table for a neighbour who wanted to sit in his chair and do the odd jigsaw puzzle. If you've ever seen Roald Dahl's shed you'll know the kind of thing.
The small job took me some three hours and because I'd spent time buying wood and stuff and then making the chair-table there was no time to get a few miles in on the Bianchi. Never mind there would always be Sunday. Saturday evening put a stop to any thoughts of a Sunday ride because by 8pm I had bought a tandem (above) and Sunday would be spent collecting it from Burton upon Trent.
By the time I'd got home with the tandem it was again too late for a ride but myself and the bear went around the block a couple of times on the new bike to bed it in a little.
As I've said in the title the weekend wasn't planned. The table job was arranged for me and the new bike was an out of the blue thing. Nevertheless I've enjoyed this weekend and I'm happy with the outcome.
I'm planning to get a few miles done next weekend.
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
One Way Around
I think about secrecy a lot.
I like to think of cheap and or simple solutions that don't need a government budget to be used.
I've been thinking about my AlphaSmart 3000 recently. Mostly because it can't connect to the Internet but is in itself a basic word processor, and a fairly robust (in terms of construction) one at that. It has a four line LCD screen and so it's difficult for anyone to peer over your shoulder while you're working on it without being really bloody obvious. This means it can be used almost anywhere and is easy and practical to bump around in your shoulder bag. It's a good starting point for any text you'd like to keep to yourself or share with a select few. Each of the eight files you can store in the device can be password protected. It's weak protection but better than none. It also has an on / off button on the keyboard and when pressed off the device will hold everything in memory without a save so it's good for unwelcome interruptions.
So where now?
I plugged the AlphaSmart into my iPad today and by pressing the "Send File" button it happily transferred my text to the iPad. That's good but my iPad is far from secure so I needed an intermediary.
Getting files off the AlphaSmart is easy but could I get them in? The simple answer is Yes. A small piece of software called "Get Utility" is designed to send clipboard text back into the AlphaSmart.
One more step.
I have another piece of software called KRYPTA which uses strong encryption and copies encrypted text to the clipboard. So there is the complete puzzle.
Here's the method. (NB The netbook stays offline the whole time and the clipboard is purged before shutdown.)
1. Type on AlphaSmart.
2. Send file to KRYPTA and encrypt.
3. Encrypted content appears in Get Utility via clipboard.
4. Send encrypted text back to AlphaSmart.
5. Connect AlphaSmart to iPad to forward encrypted text.
So there it is. A simple and low cost solution for moving your secrets around. As long as your PC, Netbook or laptop remains offline (permanently) you can be 99% sure that by the time anyone gains access to your kit the message will be past its sell by date.
I hope this is useful to someone or inspires you to find work arounds to the problem of keeping your thoughts safe. If you can find holes in my method be sure to let me know.
I do like a good problem.
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
A while ago I was talking jazz with ConcreteDog.
I was trying to work out which scales go with which chords when playing Smooth Jazz. ConcreteDog is very helpful and suggested that I get the iReal b app which a lot of jazz musicians use.
At the time I thought it was a bit expensive for an app which taught you how to play jazz songs which one downloaded from a forum. I guess I wasn't concentrating that day and didn't buy the app. About a month or so later I had another look and thought that at least I could learn something by playing other people's songs so I took the plunge.
The app has lessons for you to practice jazz standards and chord progressions and one can indeed download tracks from the forum but what makes this app so outstanding for me is that it has an editor with which one can enter chords and have them played in just about any jazz style at any tempo. Suddenly I'm writing stuff that sounds like jazz and for me that's all I ever wanted.
Now, this would be a decent recommendation for an app if I left it there but iReal b has a killer move. Once I've entered my chords, set a tempo and chosen a style I can export the whole thing as a MIDI file straight into Cubasis where I can re-voice the tracks and add my own embellishments. How good is that.
One final trick up iReal b's sleeve is that it will suggest scales that work with my chords and I can then use those to create melodies.
I've only just started messing with this process and I know I'm going to have fun and get the results I've longed for so thank you ConcreteDog, it is and always be a pleasure to mine your vast knowledge.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Use Your Imagination
This is my new track.
It was born out of a couple of chords I'd left in Cubasis which is where the whole track was built. I was (am) working on another track which still needs vocals so I was just filling time and experimenting.
The whole track was recorded, mixed and produced on my iPad. As with the other track I wanted to prove to myself that the apps on my iPad could do as good a job as FL Studio which is my DAW of choice. I think I've accomplished what I set out to do.
For those of you that are interested here's a rundown of the apps used:
Cubasis, Audiobus, Magellan, iElectribe, Addictive Synth, DM1, Voice Synth, NLog Pro and Audio Mastering to finish the track.
Mobile music making has come a long way and my iPad setup is now easily as powerful as my FL Studio and PC gear. It's nice to have both but at the moment the former is better simply because its so accessible.
Here's a link to the track.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
A Basic Necessity, A Basic Pleasure
Since a very young age I've enjoyed setting fire to things.
I blame my obsession with being born in a landlocked city. I got in trouble at junior school for lighting matches, not much older I set a bin alight at home after throwing burning paper into it. Luckily for me the bin was metal, unluckily I picked it up to run water onto the flames, lesson learned. Then there was the old bomb site at the bottom of the road. It was a prime spot for watching flames dance without getting into trouble.
Through my teens I meticulously built model planes then doused them in white spirit and watched them burn too. I enjoyed bonfire night, not so much the fireworks, they're too noisy, too dangerous. Older still and I started to enjoy cooking on an open fire. Nothing quite beats corn on the cob smothered in butter, wrapped in tin foil and left to cook in the embers.
These days I'm careful with fire. I have a fire container in the back yard where I can listen to the crackle of wood and daydream whilst staring into the flames. I did that last Saturday and it was marvellous. Weather permitting I'm hoping to do it all again with a new supply of scrap wood. With a glass of wine in hand, a cool breeze to fan the flames and an imagination inspired by the fire I'll be blissfully happy.
Let's hope the rain stays away.
Monday, August 05, 2013
The Things That Dreams Are Made Of
I heard "The Things That Dreams Are Made Of" by The Human League tonight.
Apart from finding it on the net to listen to repeatedly it made me think about what my dreams are made of. In all honesty simple things really. My pipes, decent tobacco. Good wine and a few select friends topped off with fine coffee should do it. Not necessarily in that order you understand. The one thing that I've always dreamed of is driving an articulated truck and last week I got the go ahead to sort out some training in order to achieve that.
I'm also smoking a lot less in order to get fit enough to jog around the park. My e-cigarettes are helping me with that. I haven't given up smoking but I've put it back into an enjoyment category rather than it sitting in the necessity category. What could be better than daydreaming ones way through the nature in the park whilst losing pounds I don't need to be carrying around. I'll get there. Not sure when but I'm making it a reality in small steps.
I decided about a week or so ago that I was going to start taking control of my life and once that decision is made there's no going back. With perseverance I'm making it happen, there's a little luck in there too but that needs controlling also.
Until all of my objectives are complete the above track is my theme tune.
It's all coming together nicely.
Sunday, August 04, 2013
It's Been A Week
A lot of people ask me to put DJ sets online. I say no. It's simple really, if you can't be bothered to discover new music by yourself then you should be at home listening to the damn radio.
Some people would like to hear what I'm up to to because they can't travel to where I am. That would be a good excuse to have me put online my original compositions of other people's music. Tough. No train, no gain. Why am I being so arsey about this? The reason is that not enough people go out to enjoy new music. They expect it on a plate when and wherever they are. That's just not me. Get off the damn sofa.
For those that can't make it I still have the talent to create for you at any time because I'm good at what I do.
For those that can't wait or want instant gratification I suggest (expletive removed).
That's it. Turn up, turn on, tune in.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
So. You wanna make your own funnies eh?
The thing is you can't or have no time to draw. Well here's a solution.
Toon Toolkit is by far the best cartoon app for getting your jokes, ideas or puns (maybe even political comment) into a strip fast. It has everything you'll need to grab those ideas and turn them into a reality.
I'm getting paid to say this right!? No. No way. I just don't endorse stuff that I don't believe in, don't use and wouldn't recommend to friends.
Toon Toolkit is in fact...wait for it...a kit. Pretty much everything you need to get started. Admittedly I use another app for titles and balloons because I like to get stuff the way I like it but as far as graphic content goes you've got it here. Why am I shouting so loud about this app? For one reason it's fantastic as is, no doubt about that. Secondly the dev is responsive and hard working. I mailed him about the low output resolution and a few weeks on here we are, resolution output doubled. Wow!
Before you say that I should be drawing my own cartoons read the post below. This app is for those "voice now" moments when drawing time is in short supply. If you want to make cartoons now this is the app. Don't be afraid of your finished product looking like other people's. If the message/joke is good no-one will care.
10/10 from me. Now you decide.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
I bought a rechargeable e-cigarette today.
I didn't really know what I thought it'd be like considering it's different from the real thing but I'm quite surprised. For a start it works as you would expect, draw air through and smoke (water vapour) comes out. It certainly feels like your smoking something. It doesn't taste much like a cigarette but that's not a bad thing. The nicotine hit works too. All in all it's a decent gadget and I'm glad I bought it.
So am I about to give up smoking?
The simple answer is no. Not yet at least. The reason for this is that I've been smoking too long to go cold turkey, I've tried and failed at that before now. I think a reasonably slow release from nicotine is required with me. The other thing is that I love my pipes and the myriad tobaccos that I buy. I enjoy the tastes and the ritual. It may be that one day I won't inhale any pipe smoke but just enjoy the taste. That'd be a good thing.
I have another bit of smoking tech on its way too and I'll show you that when it arrives. For now I'm hoping to cut out at least half of the harmful stuff in smoke from my daily routine.
It'll be an interesting experiment.
P.S. I'm enjoying my snuff collection too. It's all good.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Still Life Animation
It's been a while since I've written anything here, sorry about that but I've been engrossed in music.
That's not a bad thing but I have to give most of my free time to tracks I'm fond of. The reason behind the next track is to prove that I can produce something as good on my iPad as I would do with FL Studio. The explanation of that process is for another post though.
This post is about my cartoons. I've been meaning to set up a process that means that I can produce a cartoon strip with minimal effort. That sounds lazy but if one can't express the joke quickly then it becomes lost in the production of the strip. I have drawing tools to produce characters but I need those characters in one place. I need a stage so that I can shout pose!
The best way to do this it seems is to use animation software and take stills from scenes. There's plenty of good animation apps on the iPad.
I've been inspired by other apps too. Their simplicity has made me think in a much simpler way. I'm getting to a point where although I haven't produced anything I have a road map in my head. As soon as my next track is finished I'm going to put some effort into creating my cast, props and stages.
One thing I haven't decided upon is will I end up making proper animated shorts? It's a long walk from posed stills but it may happen one day, I'm certainly not going to dismiss the idea.
So that's it for now. Music then cartoon strips.
That'll keep me busy for a while.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
H2O Above & Below
I hadn't planned to ride along the towpath before I went out but it was suggested to me by my girlfriend and I'm glad I went along with that suggestion.
My journey started out riding against the wind. I didn't mind this as I was in no rush and I knew it'd be at my back on the return journey. I cycled into the Leicestershire countryside and it wasn't long before I was surrounded by fields. The roar of city traffic faded and the wind blowing through trees and hedges became my soundtrack punctuated briefly by the odd passing car. After stopping a few times to photograph my surroundings I rested at a rural centre coffee stop and filled up with my usual sustenance of caffeine, nicotine and cake. The clouds parted briefly to bath me in sunshine and a cheeky Robin even sat on my handlebars as if to befriend me in return for sharing my banana bread slice. I welcomed our short encounter even though I wasn't looking for company.
On my return journey I rode over a railway bridge and then a canal bridge which offered steps down to water level. With that suggestion from my girlfriend still alive in my head I decided to take up the offer. The beautifully flat ride took me further away from the bustle of city life. It was water, nature and I. Only occasionally did I meet up with fellow humans at which point a cheery hello was all that was needed. Canals seem to be the last bastion of civility in a world where technology steals our eye contact and greetings to strangers. I rode happily for a few miles and then rejoined a main road which would take me all the way home with that welcoming wind at my back.
As I returned to the Tarmac and traffic the rain poured as if to remind me of the water I was leaving behind. It didn't take long to soak me through to the skin. When you're wet you're wet and nothing can be done about it. It didn't bother me anyway, I was on my way home with a head full of images and experience. I don't take enough time to enjoy such things. Even when I'm in my truck working my eight hours I enjoy the views of nature but never get to stop and breath in the air I'm passing through.
Today I rectified that and I'm glad I did.
Time To Myself
I'm not in work today.
I've been in a strange mood for about the last week. I have a lot on my mind and I'm a bit darkside. Nothing too bad though. The best thing for me to do in this situation is just step back for a day or so. To avoid the rat-race and find some time for me. So that's what I'm doing.
The one benefit of not being so happy is that my creativity levels soar. As the strip above shows I can really make something out of nothing. I've decided that I'd like to get on my bicycle with my stills camera and go and get some shots of whatever I can find interesting. As long as its not raining too hard that's what I'm going to do. I haven't looked out of the window yet so I have no idea what the weather is like.
By doing what my heart tells me my head clears and getting out of the city for a few hours to munch on crisps and chocolate and to think always manages to rebalance my priorities and get me on the right path.
So everyone, have a nice day. I'm off to do the same.
Saturday, June 01, 2013
So first the bad news.
The cable seems to be omni which means it'll sent any MIDI data it gets and it seems to forget MIDI off notes. Ho hum, not the end of the world.
On the plus side I can send send QY100 patterns to the Yamaha MMS and record them which means that the whole QY100 pattern library is at my disposal as long as I send one channel at a time.
The fact that it works albeit in a limited capacity is a small miracle and the fact that with prudent usage it'll provide me with a library of styles is a major advantage. It means that the Yamaha MMS app just got a whole lot more interesting and as an iOS library that can power virtual MIDI apps its like having a huge download of styles on an arranger keyboard.
I'm in my element but there's a lot of work to do.
To Be Or Not To Be
Cigarettes, large Bloody Mary and a glass of Côtes du Rhône.
As well as all that stuff I have a package from Hong Kong. It, as you can see, contains a USB to MIDI cable. These things are designed to work with computers and keyboards. I've read a lot of reviews on Amazon and it seems to be a 50/50 chance that they'll work with ones setup if they work at all.
At £3.84 it seemed like the risk was worthwhile. The postage is excellent. I received an email telling me to expect delivery somewhere near Wednesday. But here we are with the package already in my hands.
What I want to do is connect my iPad to my QY100 directly without going through my Evolution X-Session. Will this cable work? Sort a problem of firing up multiple devices? Probably not. I'm expecting nothing.
So here goes. For what it's worth the booze and fags will probably entertain me more but if it does work I'll let you know so that you can purchase some cheap interconnects.
Or maybe not.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
PalmSounds Pt 2
So what happened next?
Well, the plan was to grab a beer or two and grab a bite to eat. The plan went well for the first part but the second was somehow overlooked. I usually gauge a friendship on how much you get on, be that interest or conversation or just a feeling that you've known that person like any other friend.
Over the hours the conversation flowed. Not so much like friends who hadn't seen each other for years but like friends on any other Saturday night. We moved from bar to bar talking, laughing and learning the kind of stuff that doesn't get posted online. The stuff that rounds out the online persona. Everyone has has public side and a private side. No secrets, nothing weird, just the stuff that's not for public consumption. The kind of thing you know about your mates that strangers don't.
The conversation flowed freely like I'd know this man for years, it never stopped. No awkward silences, no checking your phone for messages or the time. Just a damn good night out. And all this with a person I'd never met before. I'll explain a little more.
It sounds like I'm being sycophantic here but I'm not. Some people I like, some I hate, some annoy the (insert word here) out of me and some I just get on with with no effort. PalmSounds falls into the latter category. I mean, this is my blog and I get to decide what to write, no one else. No influence, no sponsorship. When I'm annoyed you know about it and the same when I'm happy.
Moving on. We never did get to eat apart from a selection of crisps and chocolate when we finally arrived at the hotel I was booked into, again arranged by my meatspace stranger friend. To make PalmSounds blush further I'd like to point out a small and insignificant thing to you, wonderful to me. I smoke. Period. Get over it. But for a non smoker to consider this and find one of the last hotels in the world where there are smoking rooms is no small achievement. I told you he was a nice guy.
If you ever get to meet PalmSounds keep some change in your pocket for a take-away burger or chips or something. On the way to the station or the bus or car grab a quick bite. It's good advice because for the rest of the time you'll be getting on like a house on fire and time will diminish into something so insignificant that you'll wonder where the hours went.
In the PalmSounds Lottery you can win a small amount each and every day. Occasionally it's possible to win the jackpot. Last Saturday was my day to win. I can only advise you all keep playing.
I know I will.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
PalmSounds Pt 1
Monday, May 20, 2013
Berlin seems a long time ago.
That was my last holiday not counting bank holidays and here I am now with a full seven days to relax in. Yeah, some hope there. There are jobs aplenty to keep me occupied for the next two days at least and that includes ferrying people to the airport, giving the house a spring clean and catching up on all those little jobs that just get pushed to the mañana pile.
Thursday will be my Flaneur's day off and even then I have to squeeze in grabbing my train tickets from the station for a trip to London at the weekend. After a couple of days in the smoke it'll be back home and collecting those that I dropped off at the airport. Following that it's back to work next Tuesday.
I'm just wondering if I'll notice my "week off", probably not. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Nothing bores me more than the idea of sitting in the sun doing nothing. I like activity, it's full of opportunity, and London in particular is looking like it'll be very exciting. That's due to the fact that its not me organising things.
When I organise things like my Flaneur's day out it always involves me starting with a greasy spoon breakfast and endless traulling of second hand bookshops, a fine lunch, more traulling then six o'clock cocktails followed by booze. It never changes. Never.
So here we go. Off into the known and unknown.
I'll try my best to give you a day by day summary.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Previous to my last post I've been thinking.
Why hasn't the iPad got an app that emulates the workings of an arranger keyboard? What I mean by that is an app that consists of musical styles, a sound bank and a sequencer. With Chordbot and Yamaha MMS you have the basic setup but there isn't a complete app that works in the same way as an arranger keyboard.
You may well ask yourself why we would need such an app with so many good music apps with different capabilities, not to mention Audiobus to bolt the majority of them together. After all, arranger keyboards are a bit of a niche market, they're for people who "don't really play" right? To answer that last point I usually respond "who does really play?". I for one used to play a lot but my sequencing is about 90% of my music making. And a niche market? Well maybe, sort of, but just look at the videos on YouTube and you'll find all sorts of people from all over the world using arranger keyboards.
The reason they sound a bit duff sometimes no matter the technology inside is that songs are arranged and songbooks are shared over the net so there always seem to be more players than writers where the output is concerned. Having said that the online community is vast so they're doing something right.
The one thing that these keyboards have onboard is a style editor. This is where you can get creative. It's what's needed inside the iOS app along with the above mentioned attributes that would make a difference. Styles like most other types of musical inspiration are just a starting point. They're there to get you going in the right direction with the right feel, it's down to you to make the changes that make your composition unique.
I imagine that the reason the big names haven't dipped their toes into the iOS arranger pool is one of price. They'd find it difficult to shift many £500+ music apps and they're not about to undercut themselves in the hardware market. That just leaves individuals or groups of devs to come up with the goods. There's a hole in the market and someone could make a killing if they had the inclination. It'd be a big task but with the software side in place the iOS music community could provide the content. I for one would support that.
The big question is will it happen? I think it will but I couldn't give you a timeframe. My hope is that as fast as iOS music has plugged so many gaps thus far that the day of an arranger app can't be too far away.
I'm looking forward to the future.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Method Of Control
It's been said here before but I'll say it again.
Yamaha's Mobile Music Sequencer (MMS) app is a brilliant bit of mobile music making software. I'll give you today's scenario to point out why.
I decided to construct a bass sound as the basis for a new track. I opened Magellan and messed around until I was happy with the sound and that sound lead me to write a riff. To get that riff into Cubasis I opened Genome and wrote in the MIDI part. Then through Audiobus I recorded the MIDI with Magellan into Cubasis and then set about finding a chord sequence to fit with Chordbot. That done I copy/pasted the chords into a new track in Cubasis.
This is all very well but I have a reservation and that is that at this stage in the song writing process I really don't want to be messing about with a whole load of apps. What I want to do is get a chord sequence and track structure down as quick as possible. While Chordbot is genius at this I use it more on my phone to grab the inspiration while I'm on the go. I email the files to myself and use the iPad version for any final touches.
This is where the Yamaha MMS comes into its own. I can create a new pattern from scratch using a C major chord to get some rhythmic feel into the pattern. It's the same for bass and melodies. The structure of the track flies together so fast that the whole track is done in minutes not hours. The chords are simplicity itself to insert in the right places and once a pattern has a chord sequence the melody and bass follow that sequence. I'll often just put in a basic drum pattern because the remix options can change something very simple and with the addition of two remix options per pattern even more complex rhythms are now achievable. I'm not overly keen on the included sounds but they're certainly good enough to give you an idea of what the song will sound like.
The best part of MMS is that each track is a separate MIDI channel and can be assigned to individual tracks in Cubasis. It's easy enough to use the included sounds in Cubasis and then use it as an input and output in Audiobus at the same time to use other synth apps to change a sound where needed.
What all this means is that the track gets written first and fast and the messing around trying to find the right sound comes later. This for me is an efficient way of working as opposed to today's efforts of mine which resulted in some nice sounds but only 4 bars of music which for a couple of hours work wasn't very productive.
It took me a further hour to see if MMS was up to the task of building the rest of the track, which it was. The MMS manual is easy to read and I can recommend doing just that before giving the app a go. Once you know your way around you'll see why it's so easy to use.
It's my preferred sequencer for good reason. I've made the comparison between MMS and the Yamaha QY100 and with each new update the former becomes more like the latter. The song writing process is almost identical. I love my QY because of its ability to inspire then get the idea down while it's fresh and immediate. I suppose between Chordbot and MMS I have something close and in the the early stages of song creation both apps have their place.
For me it's a winning combination.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Get Cross Get Very Cross
Just a bit of fun.
The above picture requires you to cross your eyes so that a 3D picture appears.
Some people find this difficult if not impossible. But if you get the hang of it the effect is pretty darn good. You might experience a bit of eye ache afterwards as your eyes re-adjust to normal viewing but that's because you're using muscles you wouldn't normally use.
Anyway, if you get it and you like it let me know on Twitter and I'll post some more.
That's if you can type straight.
Eye In The Sky
How does it feel to have a camera strapped to your head?
In all honesty I do feel a little bit silly. As you can see from the photo above the camera is quite noticeable even in silhouette. Pedestrians seem to stare at me a bit more. They're probably wondering if they'll end up on YouTube, there's very little chance of that though.
What I have noticed is that motorists notice it more and I seem to be getting a wider berth. This may be because I'm aware of the camera and haven't noticed how good the majority of drivers are, which they are. The kind of drivers who wouldn't notice are quite probably the same people that the camera will catch doing reckless stuff.
As time goes by there'll be a lot more cameras on the road. Cyclists and motorcyclists will be the more obvious users but dashcams in all kinds of vehicles are becoming more widespread too. Buses and lorries use them already but I suspect that more car users will own one in case of a collision. What's better than a video to prove you're not in the wrong. At some point insurance companies will probably give a discount if you use one and it can't be long before Garmin or TomTom will integrate a camera into their satnavs.
What I'm not so keen on is people sharing their accidents and near misses on the internet. There is I suppose an entertainment value there for some and others see their uploads as some kind of revenge. Naming and shaming has a place but most of the time it smacks of some kind of call for vigilantes to take the law into their own hands. This can have the effect of creating some kind of hysteria at which point things get out of hand. This might be taking the argument too far but I also believe there's some truth in it. The idea is that all road users get along and that the roads become safer because everyone is responsible and I do mean everyone.
Hopefully there will be a day when helmet cams are only used for recording fun stuff and not used in insurance claims.
I look forward to that day.
Even though I got hold of a decent camera for my travels I recommend strapping a bicycle torch to your helmet if a camera is too expensive for you. I can almost guarantee it'll have the same effect as the real thing and will also be useful at night. I kind of wish I'd thought of that before I bought my camera.
NB I've just re-read my Insurance post below and I don't agree with what I wrote about posting videos online. It just goes to show that how enraged people, including myself can get at incidents like the one below. In retrospect and before I owned my camera I thought that that would be a good course of action. I was wrong.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
I smoke. I like it.
Sometimes like over the last four weeks I've been smoking roll-ups. They're OK, and convenient but they lack that something that elevates smoking from the ordinary to the special. Pipe smoking is much better. The choice of tobaccos is like wondering into a specialist off-license and being presented with a myriad fine wines.
The art of preparing a pipe is like karma. The more effort one puts in the greater the pleasure. Apparently as I learned on Sunday through one of the national newspapers pipe smoking is going through a bit of a renaissance. In other words it's getting a bit trendy and one may buy a £500 trendy pipe to prove one is dedicated.
Smoking is aided by the type of pipe one uses but the experience is about good tobacco. A cheap Falcon pipe with its history and unchanged design with a decent tobacco is a much better union that some of the off the shelf brands and a new trendy pipe.
While I applaud the interest I can by comparison still enjoy fine wine in a mug. As long as it's been decanted. Pipe smoking has gone from the ordinary man's choice of smoke to being seen as somehow elite. It's not. It's cheaper than cigarettes and in these days of austerity it should be adopted as the nicotine intake of choice for everyone.
I'm certainly convinced.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
About Time Too
Today is an exciting day for me.
The reason being is that I've booked some train tickets to finally, finally meet up with PalmSounds. It's been a long time coming, years in fact. Here's how the story goes.
I love good blogs. Ones that interest me and that are fairly concise and easy to read, no flim-flam just great solid information. So it was a long time ago that I stumbled across the PalmSounds blog and I was hooked. It was a permanent fixture in Google Reader before they decided to nuke it and now it's a permanent fixture in Flipboard. At the time I was getting into Twitter I discovered that PalmSounds was on there too, brilliant, instant follow. I really can't remember the first Twitter interaction but the fact that I got a reply was to me, well, amazing, especially as I respected his opinion and advice so much.
Over the years we've interacted a lot. We've become online friends, and we've never met in all that time. But that is soon to change. As I've said, the train tickets are booked, arrangements have been made and although we've spoken online many many times there are years worth of chat that we have to cram into a few short hours.
I don't think I've looked forward to meeting anyone so much in a long long time. They say "never meet your heroes". I say that's rubbish.
I simply can't wait.
NB ConcreteDog couldn't make this meeting which is a pity but badges will be worn and his ears will be burning.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
A Contour Roam2 will be my next purchase.
I've been thinking about getting a helmet cam for a while now. I suppose I've put it off because mercifully my encounters with bad drivers have been few and far between. This mornings very near miss has made me decide to bite the bullet and spend some money.
I ride to work each day on my Dutch bike wearing a lot of Hi-Vis and with my lights on, even in broad daylight. I abide by the rules of the road and I use cycle paths when I can to minimise risk to myself. I won't go into details but there was no way you could miss me this morning giving a right turn hand signal on the roundabout. I had a good breeze behind me and was travelling at the same speed as the cars. So why would you force me from following the roundabout round just so that you could go straight on? Why speed past me and force me to swerve in front of another car just to avoid being hit?
I can only imagine the answer is that you're a complete prick. Rant over.
If I had a helmet camera you could have watched it all. I haven't so you can't but that'll change soon and you can all have a laugh at just how dangerous people can be.
Don't get me wrong, I'm no evangelical cyclist, I see enough cyclists doing stupid stuff because I drive a truck five days a week. I'm thinking about making a short film pointing out everyone's faults as road users.
I'll certainly have enough footage.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
I've started thinking about my creativity again.
I gave myself three years to sort out where I was going with my art. I'm in my second year now, the experimental year. This year is about trying all kinds of disciplines to see what I'm good at or not good at. What I like and what I don't.
I suppose the big surprise this year has been video. I'm enjoying video again mainly because of the iPad and brilliant little Kodak cameras. Pinnacle Studio has proved to be a very versatile app. VJing for years eventually put me off video. It wasn't so much the editing or creation of motion graphic as the billion codecs I had to deal with in order to get anything done. Unfortunately nothing much has changed.
My thoughts are now turning to watercolours again. The idea is to sketch with my pencils because I'm happy with that, then block colour with watercolour paint and finally add detail with Indian ink. What I want to end up with is a pen and wash over sketch. This allows me the freedom of sketching with an almost cartoon / illustration finish.
I'm finally coming round to the idea that graphic illustration is fine as art. Ive made a lot of posters in my time and I've made a few that I've been really pleased with.
This idea that I can be more graphic than classic with a certain medium has come from using acrylic paints. I'm rubbish with acrylics. Because I'm rubbish and don't know the rules I've been more expressive, messy and free. What I'm ending up with on the canvas I'm working on is an over Photoshopped montage that has no style and so creates its own.
I'm going to start the watercolour work in late summer. In the meantime I'll carry on experimenting and chanting to myself...
...f*#% the rules.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
While I have no love for Mrs M Thatcher I have even less love of censorship.
At some point in our lives we will all be subject to a decision that goes against us. If this is a sensible and considered decision then we must live with it. That's the way of the world. Like it or not.
When the decision is made for us by a corporation that says it represents fairly the views of the whole population and that corporation is paid for by its users then the decision is up for scrutiny. If after scrutinising the decision it is seen as unrepresentative then the decision should be changed.
As far as I'm concerned it's that simple.
I am aware of the spelling mistake in the open letter. It's a little late to correct it now. Sorry for the error.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Podcasting is something I've always wanted to do.
I've never really got round to it, I'm not sure why not. Since I've had my iPad I've hoped that an app would come along to make the whole thing one easy painless experience. In my case it's not one but many apps.
Firstly the really excellent Bossjock came my way. It's an app with the sole purpose of producing professional podcasts and it does just that extremely well. Then there's the much awaited Koalasan which will send audio directly to an audio server for live streaming (can't wait for that one). Both Bossjock and Koalasan will be bolted together through the Audiobus app which means because of the fx slot you'll be able to add some decent compression to the audio before it's broadcast. These three apps will be the holy trinity of live mobile broadcasting. As long as you have a wifi connection you'll be a broadcaster. It won't get much better.
The other apps in my arsenal are of course my music apps which I've started using to create some idents and beds. iSequence (above) has a particularly good library of sounds which sound as good as those used by pro radio stations. One still has to do a bit of composing and sound design but its fairly minimal and the results as you'd expect are very good.
That's what I've been doing this evening, getting the audio bits and bobs together in anticipation of Koalasan being released and me getting myself on the air. Not forgetting that Bossjock can record what goes through it and I'll use those recordings as podcasts for this blog.
Exciting times are ahead.
Friday, April 12, 2013
An Early Night
It's not often I go to bed early at the weekend.
Tonight is different though because tomorrow I'm meeting my sister in town for a day out. Like any good useless brother I live in a different city to her and so don't get to see her that often. In fact the last time I did see her was before her birthday and so I've still got her present here with me. It's not like I couldn't post it or otherwise get it to her but I'm a useless brother so I still have it.
I've made sure that I'm up to date with stuff so that I'll have a nice day tomorrow and not have to rush around because there's other stuff to do. I've even got the coffee percolator primed and timed so that when I'm out of the shower there's a nice brew waiting for me. How organised is that?
So that's it. I'm off to bed to dream about a fish.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
I love Neville the cat.
He's getting on a bit now and he feels the cold. With this in mind I bought him a cat type igloo thing. He loves me back and constantly wants to sit on me so I put a T-shirt I'd worn inside so that he felt at home in the strange shaped cat house thing. I put some of his favourite biscuits inside as a welcome. Like chocolates on a hotel pillow. Everything was in place. The new cat igloo thing was next to the radiator so that it was snug inside. What more could a cat want?
A bloody shoe box that's what!
The git ate the biccies and then wandered down the hall to where my girlfriend had left an open shoe box near a radiator. He shunned the special (not cheap) comfort and squeezed himself into a shoe box which is just about big enough to accommodate him.
Tomorrow I'm going to get the shoe box and put it in the loft. That's terrible I know but this calculating cat has just met is match.
After 15 years I will score one victory.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
I just can't help myself.
As much as I love good music and innovation in music technology and new sounds and software and apps I love "Styles" more. I think I need to explain what a style is first though.
Styles are musical styles, the kind you get on arranger keyboards like the Yamaha Tyros or on my QY100. The Styles emulate musical styles like country and western or surf rock or polka. You get the idea. As time has gone on modern arranger keyboards have got better at recreating the styles of real musicians. What I like about the Styles is that they never quite make it, they're always a bit duff, a bit like naff lift musak. I really do like that sound. I also like the fact that whenever I see people using Styles and playing some instrument or other the musician is really into it. They're either the exuberant showman or deep in concentration, something more like a concert pianist rather than a button presser.
I love anything that contains Styles like ChordPulse (above) that got its resurrection tonight thanks to a table to sit my netbook on. I love Chordbot on the iPad and of course my QY100.
What I like about all this software and hardware is that they all produce MIDI files which I use in other software or apps to re-voice. What I end up with is a mixture of questionable composition with some amazing sounds.
I think it's time to embrace my love of Styles and enjoy the fact that other people think its naff.
That'll only make me smile more.
The Bed Studio Table
You know the situation.
You're lying in bed and you need to get stuff done. You probably need space for a coffee and a bun, maybe a netbook or similar thing that needs a flat surface. The thing is that the bedside table is too small and it's full of clocks, phones and radios. What you need is an over-bed table. You know the kind. You get them in hospitals and old folks homes.
Maybe you thought you could do without one until retirement, but with a proliferation of gadgets and things to be done before you start the day it could be time to invest. I did and I'm glad I did. My iPad can sit next to my netbook while I decrypt messages with a Windows only piece of software. I can have a notebook handy too so that I can scribble temporary stuff and now I have flat surface to lean on. I'm no good at writing while leaning on my leg, I don't know why I'm just like that.
Anyway, go get one of these tables and have a mini iPad, drawing or food studio at your fingertips.
You know you want one.
Monday, April 08, 2013
Video Love & Hate
I still love and hate video.
I've spent this evening, yes all of it, working out how to get different types of footage into different bits of software. For one thing Blender, despite it being a world class 3D program is rubbish as a video editor. Hopefully that will change one day.
I found a Windows product on my PC that will convert .mp4 footage into wmv files so that's good. It's Windows Live Movie Maker and it's free on the web.
I know from the other night that Pinnacle Studio on the iPad is brilliant at handling my mp4 files and that getting them on the iPad is a breeze so that's still my favourite route.
So there you go, iPad or good old Windows Movie Maker are still quite basic but with a little imagination they can be used to good effect. If anyone knows of any decent free Windows NLE's I'd love to know as I still haven't found one.
There must be one somewhere.
Sunday, April 07, 2013
The best days are always unplanned.
Today is a perfect example of that. Despite a bit of faffing around earlier what happened after made Sunday afternoon a time to enjoy. The picture above is of some homemade chilli and garlic popcorn. I hadn't planned to make any but a lack of snacks made it a bit of a necessity. It turned out to be the best thing ever as far as snacks go and guilt free at only a few (ish) calories a bowl. Not that I'm worried about that kind of thing but it did justify a second helping.
The dull Sunday afternoon TV was entertaining enough and supper was very tasty.
All in all the kind of Sunday afternoon you'd want if you hadn't planned on doing much at all.
I might just not plan another soon.
Inside My Head
I didn't have much to film today.
I went to the pub and that was about the highlight of the day. What to do? I know, I'll take some footage anyway, colour grade it, mix it with some older footage and spend a couple of hours with the virtual razor.
The result is what you see above. When in doubt.
Chop it up.
Saturday, April 06, 2013
This is what I get up to when I'm not driving a truck around the UK.
My Matrix Mixer was made by the very talented ConcreteDog who can be found on Twitter under the same name.
Disclaimer: This video contains noise and not much else. That includes me going on.
Just in case you ever wondered what I do in the week when I'm not goofing around with AV stuff then here is your answer.
Where Have I Been?
The reason is that my PC really doesn't get turned on anymore and I've been having a lot of problems with mobile blogging applications. Some are good while others are really bad but all have had at least one fault that stops me from using them. I like the look of my posts the way they are without strange formatting introduced by app developers.
I think this app Blogsy is the best now that I've worked out how to rid each post of their little footer add. There's a lot to catch up on and hopefully this is the start especially now that I'm making videos again.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
This Is How MikiStrange Rolls
Here it is. My new audio/MIDI studio setup.
It's all there. Digital audio from the iPad. An analogue mixer with built in effects, the QY100 with everything built in and to top it all a Matrix Mixer that I purchased from my friend ConcreteDog. It's built to produce all kinds of wonderful feedback and it does that very well indeed. I've only had a little play but I seem to have cabled it up in a way that works.
The reason for the new setup is because I'm giving AmpUT the year off as far as music making goes. As explained below I need to cut away from the clean and well produced work and make some noise. I need to get it out of my system and like my painting just go for it. Sod the rules and the practice and tuition just lose myself in some self expression.
The end result will hopefully be a collection of tracks produced in collaboration with both ConcreteDog and PalmSounds.
Both of these guys understand sound and its construction so their input will be as much excitement as education for me.
Here's to uncharted territory and great navigators.
Monday, January 28, 2013
Yes I know. That isn't the most exciting picture in the world.
It isn't even taken very well. There really wasn't much thought went into the composition. In this case it's the details that count. Some are even hidden.
Lets start with the mixer. It's new. I've needed a mixer with more inputs for ages so I bought the Behringer Xenyx X1222USB. I went with Behringer because up until now I've been using one of their Eurorack UB802 mixer's and its been absolutely solid and I got it second hand. It made sense to stick with a brand that I know and trust. The UB802 and the Tascam 424 mkIII that the Xenyx replaces will now both be sold, it's a shame but it's time to move on.
The reason for this new mixer apart from more inputs was it's also a USB mixer. So I get audio out at line level from the USB output. All good so far.
The reason I needed the USB out was to get a signal into my iPad 4 using the USB to Lightning adaptor. You'll be pleased to know it works just fine, no drivers needed. I can now plunder loops and sounds from anything I can plug into the Xenyx including my faithful QY100. I've tried it and its brilliant.
Of course I could have done all this on my PC but the process of recording to sample is so much quicker on the iPad. Add to that virtual MIDI triggering etc and not forgetting everything that Audiobus has to offer I can start making the made-up, mangled and mutated sounds that in the past would have seemed like a chore.
There is one piece of the jigsaw missing at the moment which is down to a delay in the post and I'll show you that in place once it gets here.
Exciting times indeed.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
It's been a few years that I've owned my Yamaha QY100.
In all honesty unless anyone ever creates a perfect copy of any of the QY series as an app or software nothing will ever touch it as a complete music making sequencer.
It's therefore very encouraging that Yamaha have released an iPad app that comes very close. The Yamaha Mobile Music Sequencer (above) is at least an emulation of the QY workflow. There aren't quite as many musical styles although you can top up with in app purchases and hopefully there will be more in the future. But for now what there is will keep a lot of people happy. There's also the option of creating and saving your own styles so the possibilities really are endless if you put in a little effort. The remix function does a lot to add variation to existing and created styles too.
Creating a song is simplicity itself and follows the QY workflow exactly. Individual instrument parts make Sections and Sections work together to make songs. It's really easy to get a basic feel for a track and then to adjust and tweak until the track starts to take shape. A little or a lot of effort will both create decent results.
I can imagine that there will be detractors who will point out that it's a bit of a closed system with tired old patterns. I think your opinion depends on whether you like what is basically a very basic arranger workstation. The QY series was always the front runner for keyboards like Yamaha's Tyros range. They're often seen as a lazy musician's instrument. The simple fact is that their power lies in creating your own styles and patterns and its the same with this new Yamaha app.
If this is what's achievable now then just think what you'll be doing on your tablet in five or ten years time. I can imagine that it'll be just as incredible as what's happening with mobile music now. I'm glad Yamaha are making moves in the right direction and I'm sure others like Korg will be eager to compete in the mobile market with similar apps.
It can only be good for musicians of all abilities.
Friday, January 25, 2013
The Revolution Starts Here
There are two sides to me.
The first side plays it safe, is calculated and assesses risk.
The second would like to put two fists through the table at your civilised dinner party before walking off and getting chips and beans in a tray from down the road whilst slugging mouthfuls of fine wine stolen from your teak sideboard.
This second reckless side doesn't get out much especially where music is concerned. I'm careful not to use presets, I make original compositions and tidy everything up before posting to the Archive. Every now and then I want to steal beats, mangle them and generally make a mess of nice music. I don't really publish any of this stuff and I like to delete it as the final act of vandalism.
I think it's time to keep those violent canvases and give other people a chance to analyse them. I'm reconstructing my studio so that I can get on with this years music project. For a while AmpUT will have to sleep. MikiStrange is on stage. Who knows? Will this be the support act it's always been or will it become the bill topper?
It's time for you to decide.
Sunday, January 06, 2013
The Last Day
I'm just sending myself a postcard to remind myself about the last two weeks.
I like looking back through my blog and this year, now that I have a decent app, I plan to add to it more regularly than last year.
As the postcard says it's back to work tomorrow which means plenty of time to think while I drive the truck around. I then plan to use every bit of spare time in the evenings and weekends to work on my own projects.
Happy New Year everyone. Let's hope it's productive for all of us.
Thursday, January 03, 2013
What Do I Know
This is my last full day in Berlin.
I'm glad I took some time to visit this city. It's certainly not my favourite place in the world. What I do love it for is its history. This place holds a lot of secrets about the past and has many to give up in the future. Not until long after I'm dead and gone will anyone know the full extent of what has happened here and at that point the full extent will still be riddled with holes like a Swiss cheese.
Berlin has made me think about people more. About how we perceive and treat each other. In my old age I've become more cynical about how those in power abuse their position. I've come to learn that anyone at any level with any kind of control over anyone can and probably will, at some stage, abuse that power.
And for what? Are we genetically trying to become the alpha male or female. Is it built into our DNA that we should be on the highest branch looking down. I don't know the answer to that question.
What I do know is that when you are a victim of those in authority you generally have no easy way to reply or seek justice.
There are so many victims in this world that it would be impossible to count them all. The majority will never even be recognised as victims because the perpetrators of the injustices will have covered their tracks too well.
It seems to me that to be successful and to gain and attain power then one is going to have to break a few bones while climbing over those that will be less successful in their journey to the top of the ladder.
If that's the case then I'm happy being an abject failure.