Harmony Navigator Screencast from wire to the ear.

This is a 20 minute Screencast showing Cognitone Software’s Harmony Navigator. You will get to see different “palettes” and accompaniments producing wonderful music. We show you how to create a verse and chorus and then export the midi into Ableton Live. Once inside Ableton Live you will see how to set up your imported data in a meaningful way. The video is nicely sized so be sure to click the TV icon under the player to view the show in full screen mode.

You can also read an interview with Andre Schnoor the developer of Harmony Navigator here: Interview with Andre Schnoor of Cognitone Software.

Be sure to check out Harmony Navigator at www.cognitone.com and Ableton Live at www.ableton.com.

Direct download links:
Download MPEG-4 Video (.m4v)
Download Flash Video (.flv)

Interview with Andre Schnoor of Cognitone Software.

Andre Schnoor

Cognitone is a music technology software company based in Hamburg, Germany. I have come to love their first product Harmony Navigator. With Cognitone’s second release Music Prototyping System to be released in 2008 I thought it would be a good time to interview the founder and developer Andre Schnoor. Be sure to also check out the special wire to the ear screencast showing how to create a verse and chorus in Harmony Navigator and then bring it into Ableton Live.

Tell us about Cognitone and it’s employees. Tell us what your job is there?

Cognitone is my baby and my job is to teach it walking. I founded the company a while ago already, but spent the past years in the office developing the technology. Cognitone actually started just now after a longer period of under-the-radar operation. As of today, it’s still mainly me and supporting friends and family. I’m talking about “us” for two reasons: The people who invested time and money to help making Cognitone possible deserve some respect and I consider them part of the project. On the other hand, it’s also a promise. This is not the first company I started and startups tend to grow quickly. It is impossible to be successful in the long term without build a team. That said, I hope we will soon be able to offer interesting and challenging jobs to talented people.

Harmony Navigator is based around some advance music theories. Do you have classical music training?

I’ve always looked at theory only from the perspective of a creative person. If some scientific concept looked promising with respect to /making/ music, I swallowed it within days. For more than twenty years, I gathered my current knowledge by following this path. Classical music education however, seemed rather static and repetitive to me. I didn’t feel the desire to study music at an university. Although I have a master degree in computer science. Interestingly enough, most scientific approches in musicology originate from the background of the cognitive sciences (which are my specialty: artificial intelligence, perceptional psychology, neuroscience), rather than classical music theory.

Harmony Navigator

Would you consider a version of Harmony Navigator as a VST or Audio-Units plug-in?

Yes, this is definitely on the agenda. Plug-ins however, can’t offer the comprehensiveness and comfort of a desktop application. The main challenge here is to get rid of the menu bar and all those in-depth “workstation” features of the program and shrink it to suit the plug-in philosophy. Hence, the Harmony Navigator plug-in will be more lean and compact than the current program.

Seems like a lot pro-audio software company come from Germany. Steinberg, Ableton, Native Instruments, Emagic, Celemony, Vielklang, for example. Do you think there is any reason for this? Do you have any relationships with any of these companies or people that work at them?

Harmony Navigator - ColoringsWell, this must be German Wahnsinn. I think a vital part of the German mentality, especially with engineers, is an incredible endurance and perfectionism. Music software is complex enough to require this. Us krauts probably love to sacrifice ourselves for the beauty of a technology. Me for instance. It took me many, many years of research and development to get a working model for the music prototyping technology. In the eyes of a reasonable businessman, this is economical suicide. Anyway, now it’s there and it lives.

The local software scene is truly open minded and friendly. Just like a family. Many of us know each other. An unsuspecting person will likely not notice any sense of competition at the surface, although (or perhaps because) the market for music software is tight and tough. Especially after broadband Internet promoted software piracy to a threatening extent.

Harmony Navigator has some similar features of PG Music’s Band in a Box. Have you looked at or used Band Continue reading →

Chris Pirillo shows off his Tenori-on.

Upstream.tv is a site where you can watch people doing all sorts of things live. Chris Pirillo who is a uber tech geek can be found there chatting with people, demoing software and hardware. Upstream.tv also lets you record the interesting pieces of your live stream and leave them online. Well to my surprise I found this clip of Chris and his new toy a Tenori-on! You can read my thoughts on the Tenori on my top 10 Christmas Gifts post.

Make Roland TR-808 Hi Hat samples sound “real”.

Ableton Live - Impulse and Filter

The Roland TR-808 is my favorite drum machine. To hear a real one in action check out Cocteau Twins - Garlandssongs like Jam on It by Newcleas, Shallow Then Halo by the Cocteau Twins or Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye.

On eBay they usually go for well over $1000 USD so not everyone can afford one. Even if you do own one sometimes using samples is just more convenient. A big tip off to seasoned listeners that your faking it is the Hi Hat sound of most samples. Here is a trick that John Selway showed me on how to make Roland TR-808 samples sound more real.

Roland TR-808

I’m going to use Ableton Live’s built-in Auto Filter but any filter plug-in should work. This is a very simple trick but once you hear it “fix” the sound you may use it often. I am trying to get rid of it that symbalance, feathery, super high digital sound and replace it with something more metallic and clear. Check out the original untreated samples in action here:

Make sure your Hi Hats are on a separate audio channel and add Auto Filter as an insert. Grab the fluorescent yellow dot inside the automation display and drag it about a centimeter to the left and a half centimeter upwards. The kHz should read about 7.01 and the Q about 1.60. Take a listen to the Hi Hats now:

Now take a listen to what these improved Hi Hats sound like in action. Here they are in a song called Body to Body off my new album Attack Decay: click here

Here are a few places you can find Roland TR-808 samples online. Keep in mind that Roland TR-808′s sound different from each other, have lots of tuning settings and can be recorded many different ways. The kb6 set is free, the Gold Baby set was recorded to tape and my personal favorite is the Wizoo set.

If you know of any good TR-808 sample sets online let me know in the comments.

10 cool music toys to look forward to in 2008.

Happy New Year

LinnDrum II. Originally called the BoomChick the new MPC killer from Dave Smith and Roger Linn is already making a ton of noise on pro-audio blogs around the world. All drum machines are cool and this one looks meaty! Did I say one? Actually there will be two! The “Analog” edition will sport 4 voice analog synthesis and an extra 27 knobs. link

Linndrum II

Future Retro XS. They said it was coming in 2007 but they missed the mark. But the delay doesn’t dampen the excitement. Why not? It’s a real analog monophonic synth with 64 knobs and a MS20 style filter that can self oscillate. It’s semi-modular allowing you to use cables to patch and re-route the signal path. It has Midi and CV. The audio demos and videos sound awesome. $1299 is the right price too. link

Future Retro XS

Gforce S.O.B. The fine UK software house Gforce that’s responsible for software synths Oddity, impOSCar, Minimonsta and the new VSM have been teasing us with an Oberheim OB8 emulation for some time now. The screenshot below is from a Sonic State video in which Gforce was demoing another product and just so happened to flash the SOB! If it doesn’t appear in 2008 then it never will. link

Gforce SOB

Ableton meets Cycling ’74. One of the things Pluggo makes is a plug-in called VTheremin. This lets you use your computer’s iSight or chat camera as a virtual Theremin. This is one of the many creative things they do and the reason I am thrilled they have partnered with Ableton. I can’t wait to see what the partnership brings. link

Vtheremin

Touch Screen Madness. When I installed the new Mac OS “Leopard” on my computers I was a little bewildered as to why anyone would want Cover Flow in the finder. Then I thought to myself, “This would be cool if I could use my finger and flick through these documents like on an iPhone”. Duh! I had the same thought when using Quickview. People: these are sure signs a Mac “Touch” is coming. I can’t think of another industry that will benefit more than musicians from this technology. On screen controllers, keyboards and mixers and going to be super enjoyable! Invest in Kimberly-Clark now (they make Kleenex): KMB (NYSE) link

Mac Touch

Chimera SM16. Everyone should own a real analog sequencer. Everyone! Expect Chimera’s new sequencer to be Continue reading →

Micport Pro from CEntrance USB Micpre.

Micport Pro

Yesterday I was listening to a really great podcast called Macbreak Weekly. It’s one of the many podcasts Leo Laporte produces and as the name implies it covers all things Mac. AtMacbreak Weekly the end of the show Leo and the guests all pick a product of the week. Chris Breen the editor and chief of MacWorld magazine picked the Micport Pro from CEntrance.

I am in process of making some screencasts for this very site and to get a good voice over I kept having to pull out my M-Audio Firewire 410 audio interface from the live show gear. As you can see from the photo above the Micport Pro is simple USB Micpre that’s more like an adapter than anything else. The other great thing is it’s class compliant which means no driver installs! Just attach to the mic and plug in and you go. Now I keep an old Shure SM58 on my desk ready to use without hassle. The Micport Pro is $124… not bad!

Noise, electrical hum, LP scratches and warping.

Izotope Vinyl - screenshot

A few months ago I performed at a club called Rumours in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands. This required us to get picked up from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and be driven about two hours north. In the car I was shocked to see there was no CD player or MP3 jack. Staring me in the face was a cassette deck. Looking around some more I TDK D90 Tapenoticed about 50 cassettes stuffed in various places. About an hour into the drive I realized how good these cassettes sounded. There was some very nice high end going on that I had not heard in years. The bass sounded warm and sincere.

There is hardware software that will emulate tape saturation. On the hardware side check out Robert Neve’s 5042 True Tape FX unit.. Software wise there are lots of options including Digidesigns Reel Tape Suite and PSP’s Vintage Warmer.

But what if you want to bring back some good old fashion tape noise? Adding a few seconds of noise before your song starts will trigger your listeners mind into believing your song was recorded in the 1980s or earlier. My favorite plug-in for the task is Izotope’s free plug-in called Vinyl. Here’s a list of some of the “sounds” you can add into your song using Vinyl:Scratched Record

  • Mechanical Noise
  • Wear
  • Electrical Noise
  • Dust
  • Scratch
  • Warp Depth

You can also adjust “Warp Models”, year and RPM of the Vinyl emulation. Lastly, there is a mono/stereo switch. Using the Dust and Scratch settings you can get a nice Portishead sound. I have to say I really love this plug-in and if it cost money I would buy it. Big thanks to Izotope!

Sonic Charge - uToniq

There are many other ways to get some noise into your tracks. Sometimes I turn off a synthesizer’s Oscilators and turn up only the Noise Generator. Adding a filter modulated by the LFO to the Noise makes some nice wave or storm sounds. Sonic Charge has a superb software drum machine called uToniq. I use it as a noise generator by clicking the oh so ever awesome random button. Or why not record some real noise with a microphone? Even aiming a mic at your computer’s fan while it edits a large Photoshop document will do the trick!

photo credits: Lee Jordan and Breakfast for Dinner

Technical Difficulties inside and out.

Help - photo

Sometimes good intentions just don’t cut it. Each night before I go to sleep I load a certain webpage up called todoist. I use it for what’s it’s intended for a “to do list”. I have sub-sections created like “Things to Come” for my record label todo’s, Live Show, Music, Website, Personal, etc… I check though all the things I want to do the next day and tag them with a +1 which means due tomorrow.

Today I woke up and started on my list. Most of the things I really needed to get done had to deal with uploading things to my server. The next release on my label TTC-015/Ionic Vision with remixes by David Carretta, Millimetric, Stamba and myself needed to be uploaded to Neuton Distribution. This was priority number one as things were delayed a few times over the past months.

For some reason I could not connect to the server using my FTP client called Transmit from Panic Software. The Things to Come Records website was up and I was getting email so I knew that the entire site wasn’t down. I decided to not stress and just put the files on the wire to the ear server. Guess what? No luck! Same problem! I use the same host for both websites so it was tech support time. It’s always fun to wait twenty minutes on hold when calling from Germany to the USA. When I finally got through they told me it was a corrupted file and in thirty minutes everything would be working again. If this were the end then that would be ok but my friends this story isn’t over. Thirty later I try again and still the same problem. Thirty more minutes on hold and I am told everything is good on their end and I should not be having an issue. I call my friend Matt and ask him if he can log-in to my server. He logs in without a problem which means something has gone wrong on my laptop.

I was using my fairly new Macbook Pro with Leopard and I knew there was a recent Software Update. This must be the issue right? I load up the old 12″ 867Mhz Powerbook running Tiger and to my surprise the same issue! Next I check Julie’s computer and again… same issue. All three computers at the office are unable to log-in. So it must be a router issue. Surely when I get to the music studio I will be able to log into the server. I eat LUNCH then head over.

So I’m at the studio ready to upload these files and get some other stuff done. Computer on. Oh crap. Same problem! Now I’m really confused. How could this be? How could I be on a totally different machine, different location and still not be able to log-in when several other people are able to? By now I’m a professional network administer and checked Firewall Settings, Passive/Active Modes, Router Configurations, my .Mac stuff, Keychains and I still can’t get things to work.

So the day is over, nothing has been solved, no work has been done. Ho hum.

Update: I took my laptop to a neighbor’s apartment and to my surprise I was able to FTP. Does this mean my ISP is at fault? Or are my settings automatically changing when I am at a new network location? Unfortunately Germany is now closed down for the holidays for at least a few days so getting someone here to help won’t be easy.

photo credit: LiminalMike

Back from London with a follow up tip.

Gerechtigkeitsliga Live

This past weekend I played a cool goth-freak club in London called Slimelight. I think it’s the de-facto place for darker music there. The opening band from Germany “Gerechtigkeitsliga” (photo above) reminded me of so many of the noise bands I saw in NYC during the 80′s. I’d like to thank Lenny from their crew for dousing me with his Beer during my set. I will update this post with a link to some photos once I collect and get them online.

The tip of the day as far as this blog’s focus and my trip to London is “the follow up”. It may seem obvious but keeping your focus and game on before and after a gig when meeting people is important. You should really consider your socializing important work. You never know who is there to see you. Never, ever judge a book by it’s cover! The youngest looking weirdo could be your biggest fan who through out his lifetime gets you more promotion then any magazine ad ever would. The old drunk guy missing a tooth could be an A&R scout.

Collect email addresses, websites and MySpace pages. Anyone who came out to see you and then also made point to come up to you to say hello deserves a thank you. Don’t you think so? It’s easy to forget when your in “Rock Star mode” that without fans your shows would be seriously lame!

I know more than anyone what’s it’s like to have some kid with bad ecstasy-alcohol breath try and yell over the music in my ear. More often than not besides the smell and screaming he only “thinks” he can speak English. But regardless how many times this happens to me I remain friendly. You can’t break theFront 242 - Front by Front kid’s heart. You will feel bad about it later.

I remember fondly getting a ticket stub autographed from Jean Luc Demeyer from Front 242. It was after a live show they played at Irving Plaza in 1987. I was 17 and he was gracious and friendly. Because of that fact every time I look at the my Front by Front CD in which I keep the signed stub I smile. Imagine he told me to fuck off. What would I be writing on this blog today? Get my point?

There are other advantages to keeping your fans as friends. They probably know ten other people who were at the show and can gather together some show photos for you. If any slug tries to steal your equipment if your a liked person chances are people will stop the fool. The list goes on…

Update: Photos from the live show are now posted on flickr: click here 

photo credit: Nikki Entwistle

Grandaddy is one of my favorite bands.

In the above interview Jason Lytle the lead singer of Granddaddy tells us what the secret of songwriting is. This video has been going around for a while but it’s definitely worth watching so I reposted it. I wish this band did not break up. I saw them live at Irving Plaza and they were superb. One of my all time favorite bands. Here are ten great Grandaddy songs:

  1. The Crystal Lake
  2. Jed’s Other Poem (beautiful ground)
  3. So You’ll Aim Toward The Sky
  4. Hewlett’s Daughter
  5. Lost On Yer Merry Way
  6. A.M. 180
  7. Nonphenomenal Lineage
  8. Underneath The Weeping Willow
  9. The Final Push To The Sum
  10. Rear View Mirror

Do you like Granddady? What’s your favorite from them?