Secure your recording studio from thieves.

Attack Bunny on Guard - photo

I’m currently living in Berlin, Germany. It’s a non violent place to live and I always feel safe. However, theft and petty crime is rampant. A few months ago our storage space in the cellar was robbed. Last year my wife’s bicycle was stolen from our courtyard. What about recording studios here in Berlin? Unfortunately, I hear about a new robbery every few weeks. In the Prenzlauer Berg studio building complex I am in Jazzanova and Tobi Neuman’s studios were hit. Just last week Richie Hawtin’s custom Xone DJ Mixer was stolen when the Minus office was broken into. In Kreuzberg mySecurity Stencil - photo friend Rob Wolf recently opened a project studio in a newly renovated building and already there were two robberies reported.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a Berlin specific problem. In 1996 my studio was robbed in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. They stole almost everything including my underwear! The only things they didn’t take were my DAT tapes and my Electrocomp-101. Those were the two most valuable things I owned so I consider myself lucky. In the end it worked out for me because it forced me to move into Manhattan were I was much happier.

So what can you do? Nothing can stop thieves if they really want to get in but you can do a lot to deter them. Here are some ideas.

Secure your door. Make sure your door is metal or have an aluminum plate added to weak wood doors. Have at least two strong locks with key hole tampering shields. Have a deadbolt going into vertically into the floor 3-4 inches. Have a peep hole put into Continue reading →

10 Macintosh Dashboard Widgets for pro-audio.

Apple Dashboard IconWhen Apple first released Tiger one feature I didn’t really like was Dashboard. It looked pretty but on my 12″ 867 G4 every time I hit F-12 the computer would slow down to a crawl. Even when the widgets would appear they would all take a good 20 seconds to fill up with whatever info they were grabbing from the internet.

As my computers and internet got faster I started using Dashboard for games like the great Asteroid clone from Christopher Marks. Lately I’ve been adding in useful little helper widgets on the recording studio machine. Here’s 10 Macintosh Dashboard widgets for pro-audio. Please note I took the descriptions of each widget from either Apple.com or the developer.

10. GuitarChords. Just pick a note and type of chord. Then watch as the widget displays how to fret that chord on the guitar. Scroll up the neck and see alternate ways of playing that same chord. Next, press the play button and hear what each of these chords sounds like. When you get tired of that, flip the widget around and change the tuning on your guitar. Ever wondered how to play a E-flat augmented chord in Open G tuning? Now you can find out. Download

9. Scales. Get lazy, and look up your major/minor scales or go crazy and write all your songs in Super Locrian and Six Tone Symmetrical. For a reminder, the widget says “Learn Your Scales”, in case you don’t have a music teacher to tell you that everyday. Also for your displeasure, this widget has the look and feel of Macintosh System 7. Download

8. Chord Reference. You choose a note and chord type. This ergonomic widget will display simply the notes composing that chord on your guitar. Your ear is the limit. This is a port of the original classic shareware for Mac OS in 1994. It hopefully offers an ergonomic interface for chords, one you’ll find useful and easy-to-use. Download

7. ittyBittyMIDI. A Dashboard Widget for Mac OS X that allows you to quickly monitor MIDI signals on your computer. You can use it to either monitor all MIDI devices or Continue reading →

Testing the zplane Vielklang harmonizer plug-in.

Vielklang screenshot

I have been working on a new song called “Born this Way”. It’s a dark tale about a killer who is apologizing for his actions. In the first part of each verse the subject states his sadness. The second part of each verse he details the evil he is compelled to do.

I like the first part of each verse clear, up front and with just a small amount of delay effect. However, when the subject states his evil doings I am looking to add more effects and possibly a second or third voice. To add the harmonies I would normal sing a backing track into the arrangement or possibly use Melodyne. I have been reading reviews of a new plug-in by German software making Zplane called “Vielklang” which creates harmonies in real time on the fly. Most of the reviews have been positive so today I downloaded and tried the demo.

vielklang “thinks musically” and prepares the ground. vielklang by zplane is packed with musical intelligence and music theory: it automatically detects the best fitting harmonies for each individual input melody, and automatically synthesizes up to four voices with the voices not merely running in parallel but with their voicings automatically selected to sound most natural (voice leading). vielklang gives you a natural-sounding result immediately and allows you to concentrate on tweaking the results rather than edit them from scratch as with traditional harmonizers. -http://vielklang.zplane.de/

In Ableton Live you load Vielklang into a MIDI track and to hear it you add an AudioHarmonies - photo Track and route the MIDI track into it. Open Vielklang and either drag or load an audio file into the plug-in. At first I could not get any sound from Vielklang but after reading the manual I was able to deduce I needed to start playing the song from zero. This worked and then I read the other ways you get Vielklang to play anywhere in the arrangement. It sounds a little fuddy duddy which it is but the end results are good enough it doesn’t matter.

I’m not sure I’m going to use Vielklang’s harmonies in this song but I am going to buy this plug-in. After hearing what it’s capable of I was inspired. Take a listen to a few audio samples:

Vielklang on the second part of the first verse:

Again Vielklang on the second part of the first verse but with a different key:

The song in progress:

photo credit: Dhamma

10 ways to get back on track in the recording studio.

Idea - photo

Writer’s block, distractions, lack of energy, inspiration and goals can all make your day at the studio a drag. Here are 10 ways to stay on target.

Coffee Mug - photo10. Drink coffee. The first cup of Joe I ever drank was when I was 35 years old! Can you believe that? I always assumed it wasn’t healthy so why start up with it? I flew to Malta from New York to perform a show and I was completely wiped out. The promoters of the event were waiting for in the lobby of the hotel. They were all sitting around drinking coffee. I really wanted to feel better so I ordered my first cup of coffee ever. First, to my surprise it tasted great. Next thing I knew I was awake and almost euphoric. I saw the light and my life has been forever improved. In the studio I find the best time to grab a hot one is right when your about start arranging. The five minutes to brew one up gives your ears a break and you get zapped with a mind boost right when you need it. Don’t break from music making while you drink it. Sip and move those waveforms around the screen. It works!

9. Pet your pet. We’ve all seen the famous website Catsynth.com right? There’s a reason all those felines are hanging in the studio. Somewhere between ten and fifteen tummy rubs your ears reset and are ready for vocal take two. Don’t worry if your the type of singer that needs Auto-Tune because Felix loves you anyway!

Cat on Synthesizer - photo

8. Listen to something very different. Four hours into any mixing section and your brain starts to believe it’s being exposed to a torture test of some sort. Stop and click iTunes open and then play the cheesiest, happiest song you can find. Besides realizing how much better any song you choose is better than the one your working on your brain will reward you with some new ideas.

7. Call your mother. Typically, phoning home lasts ten to fifteen minutes. Thats a perfect break time. Mommy’s voice will Continue reading →

Make a super YouTube synthesizer channel.

Television and Remote

I love synthesizers. I own a bunch of old ones, new ones and virtual ones. I can’t get enough of them. I love them so much I like to watch people demo them on YouTube. Here’s a tip on how to make a YouTube channel that will show you all the synthesizer videos that are uploaded to the site as they appear.

First you need to join YouTube. Sure you can go there an watch videos without being a member but to make our super synth TV channel you need to sign up. Next click on “My Account” on the top of the site. On the next page it takes you to under “Subscriptions & Subscribers” click on “My Subscriptions”. Now here’s the tip: See where it says “Subscribe to Tags”? In that box Continue reading →

Yellow Tools releases a free 2GB sampler!

Yellow Tools logoToday I was listening to the great podcast from Sonicstate.com called “Sonic Talk“. The last story of the show made me jump on the internet and start downloading. Nick and the Sonic crew were chatting about German software company Yellow Tools releasing a free gift for all musicians!

“Yellow tools is proud to release a powerful free version of Independence – the ultimate sampler workstation! Independence Free 2.0 is already based on the new Independence 2.0 version which will also be released during this months. Independence Free 2.0 comes with all the powerful features of the Independence Sampler version 2.0 – only the import of audio files is not supported.”

After reviewing the download page I am happy to report that your also free to use the sounds in commercial productions. Most people don’t realize that if you download a Waves demo your not authorized to release any music you create with the demo until you buy the full version. Happily Yellow Tools is allowing this download to be a real “tool”. I also noticed at the bottom of the page they will be releasing three more free soundsets for the free sampler.Yellow Tools Independence Free

  • full version – no demo or tryout
  • no yellow tools Authorization Key required
  • beside audio file import all Independence features are enabled
  • no time or save restrictions
  • commercial use is allowed
  • for Mac OS X (Universal Binary), Windows XP and Vista

I think it’s a great move by the company to help get their name out in the competitive virtual sampler market. Let me know if you download it and try it out.

Use Melodyne to extract the notes of synth lines.

Melodyne Screen Shot

Die Krupps are a pioneering synthesizer/EBM band from Germany. In 1982 they released what I think is a great album “Volle Kraft Voraus!“. The title translates somewhat into “Advance at full Power!”. About two months ago founding memeber Jürgen Engler sent me an email. He told me they were going to release “Volle Kraft Voraus!” with all new remixes and asked me if I would be interested in doing one. There was one song on the album that I really wanted to remix titled “Todd & Tuefel” and after a few emails back and forth we agreed that would be my choice.

The song has a nice electro style beat with a unique pattern, great verse chorus vocals and a superb bassline driving everything. I wanted to use the same notes as in the original bassline but with new synth sounds. After about an hour of trying to figure out the notes I realized this was going to be tricky. The original bassline was a Yamaha CS15 analog synth through a real analog sequencer. According to Jürgen:

Volle Kraft Voraus - CD CoverThe 16 step sequencer was the most outrageous thing, though… it had the seize of a cupboard! The guy who ran the studio had built it himself… it had a patchboard, kind of like a telephone switchboard… we couldn´t get sequencers in Germany at the time, so that was the only way to record our music.

This explained to me why the bassline sequence was so special. There were some subtle micro-tunings happening that I was unable to copy by ear using standard keyboard keys. So what do to? I realized I needed to take the solo bassline loop and run it through pitch to midi software. Luckily I own Celemony’s amazing Melodyne software and it has Continue reading →

Missing letters when typing on a new Macbook Pro.

Macbook Pro Keyboard

Yesterday I received a brand new Macbook Pro, 2.2GHZ with 7200rpm internal hard drive. It has Leopard installed, an LED screen and all wonderful things you would expect from a new Apple Computer. It’s amazingly fast, bright, silent and I can’t wait to use it in a live situation. The huge boost in power is going from a 12″ 876MHZ G4 is going to open many new doors during the performance. I will be able to add a ton more effects and multiple video streams.

Unfortunately I am having what maybe a serisous problem or defect with my machine. Every now and then the computer won’t type a key I press. Often it’s the first letter in a word and many times it happens when I switch into a new window and start typing.The new keyboard does have a different feel from the old Powerbook so I thought it could be user error. But after this happening for a few hours I decided to look online for an answer to what’s going on and I found this thread:

ELP! – first letter always missing!

To my surprise this is a known issue that some people are having. I tried every suggestion recommended to see if it would fix the problem. First, under Trackpad in the Keyboard and Mouse System Preferences I disabled “Ignore accidental trackpad input” and clicked “Ignore trackpad when mouse is present”. Next, in the Universal Access panel under Keyboard I put the Acceptance Delay on Short. None of these things fixed the problem. I then thought maybe its a Energy Savings issue where the computer is going into a low power mode then having an issue waking up fully. I went into the Energy Saver System Preference panel and clicked off “Put the hard disk(s) to sleep whenever possible”. I also moved the sliders to “Never” for “Put the computer to sleep…” and “Put the display(s) to sleep…”. Nothing has helped and so today I will call tech support. If they don’t have a real answer for me I will ask them to exchange this machine for me.

Do you know anything about this issue?

Update: After going back and forth with tech support and trying a few other things like zapping the Pram and using a guest account the problem did not go away. Apple is taking this machine back and sending me a new one. I’ll do a follow up post when the new computer arrives in about 10 days.

Update 2: I received a new replacement Macbook Pro and have been using it for a week. Here are my findings. The first letter missing issue has been resolved. This replacement machine does not have that problem. However, there is something that I have noticed. This keyboard has such a short throw that unless I am sitting upright in a good position I mistype. I think many of the comments I have seen on the Apple Discussion forums are from people simply not liking the keyboard so much. I am now used to it and currently love everything about this machine. I highly recommend having your computer switched out for a new one or repaired if it has the first letter missing issue.

Update 3: I hate to say this but the replacement computer is now exhibiting the same ELP behavior. I am pretty surprised. My next action is to bring it in for a repair at Gravis.de in Berlin. It’s free but I will be without the machine for 5 days. I have up to a year of free repairs so I may wait a few weeks and see if anybody figures out the exact problem on the Apple Discussion forums.

Update, February 20, 2008: Apple today pushed a software update and firmware update for the keyboard issue. It details the problem exactly so I suspect this will fix it completely. link

photo credit: aditza121

Virtual Drum Machines at Audio Playground

Drum Machines Buttons

I can spend countless hours searching on eBay for vintage drum machines. I rarely buy them but I love the photos and stories behind the sale. Many of these organ top beauties used real analog synthesis and have wonderful metallic hihats, rides and crash sounds.

Korg Drum Machine ManualI often sample the preset patterns and cut them up to use them in my own songs. At my old recording studio in Williamsburg Brooklyn I became friends with the popular rock group The Shorebirds. The lead singer Mark Ephraim liked to show off all the goodies they had lying around their studio. One day he let me record his Hammond Auto-Vari 64 drum machine. I used it as the main beat in a song called “Trapped in an Empty Void” off my new album Attack Decay.

Here is an audio sample:

There is amazing website that has over thirty vintage drum machines modeled in flash. You can play with the Tronix Rhythm Box, The ELI Computer Rhythm CR-7030, The CONN Min-O-Matic, Mattel Synsonic Drums and many more. I suggest heading over to the Keyboardmuseum.com’s Virtual Playground page and listening to each one of these gems. Don’t forget to play with all the knobs and buttons as they are usually selectable! Do you own any vintage drum machines?

photo credit: bdu

Audioease Speakerphone Group Buy

Speakerphone - photo

I use Audioease’s Altiverb on almost every song I create. I really like convolution reverb’s and Altiverb 6 is the king. When I first bought it I spent almost two weeks hunting down 1980’s digital reverb Impulse Responses. I even put photos of the Neuman U87 - photooriginal processing units into Altiverb! Often I will load Altiverb into a return channel, choose a Lexicon 480L reverb Impulse Response and pan the return hard right. Then on a vocal channel Ill turn up the send knob to get a nice thick shimmering reverb vocal in my right ear. Once and I while I will take an Impulse Response from a Neuman U87 microphone and run D16’s Nepheton Roland TR-808 emulator plug-in through it. This gives the Nepheton an extra boost of realism. It’s like you plugged in a real TR-808 in a room and recorded it to tape. Very nice.

A few weeks ago Altiverb released a much anticipated new plug-in called Speakerphone. According to the Audioease website it’s “270 speaker impulse responses powered by Altiverb, 30 Altiverb rooms, 5 gigabyte of ambiances and sound FX, conveniently presented to you in 500 presets.”. But actually it’s even more than that because inside Continue reading →