Who needs a Blofeld? Grab a K1m on eBay.

This week saw the release of the new Waldorf Blofeld keyboard synthesizer. I was thinking about posting the info here but since all the other music tech blogs have it up I thought why bother. I do like that it has sample playback and a nice German white/steel design but something in my mind whispered “booooring!”. I know the synth is well capable in the hands of a good songwriter but I want something in my studio that’s a bit more unique.

This morning I did my usual coffee and troll through the mighty Matrixsynth blog and saw the photo above. The Kawai K1M is a 16 voice digital sound module from 1988. I pretty much like any record released that year so this thing has to sound good. Of course this is completly subjective but I bet if you made a song using only K1M sounds it would very interesting.

I have a Yamaha TX81Z hooked up in my studio and even though I have several FM soft synths when I use the real thing people pick out the sounds it made and ask about them. So even if you have the software Wavestation or FM8 you will get a different color by recording something like the K1M into your DAW.

There is always a risk when buying used gear but if it works out you’ll never have to pay for a software update. The best thing? It’s got a $75 USD Buy it Now price! Check out the auction: click here

Check out some user reviews of the K1M at Harmony-Central: click here

via Matrixsynth

Adobe Soundbooth CS4 has Speech Transcription.

Adobe has released a beta for it’s upcoming version of Soundbooth that will be part of CS4. It has a very cool new feature called Speech Transcription. You record some vocals and Soundbooth then generates text for the words. If you then search a word it will show you along your waveform where it was spoken. Unfortunately, Christopher Breen over at Macworld says that the transcription is far from perfect. However, I still think this is an amazing feature and I hope Adobe can perfect the results.

“You have the option to choose High (slower) or Medium (faster) transcription, and if you have multiple people speaking, the program will attempt to identify each speaker. This isn’t a speedy process. Transcribing a file at the Medium setting works in just about real time—if you have 15 minutes of audio to transcribe, it takes about that long to create the transcript.” – Macworld.com

I feel like our move to an all digital world is entering a “next level” where data detection is incredibly useful. Recent new products such as Melodyne’s Direct Note Access, Google Piccasa’s Face Recognition, Evernote and hardware like the Eye-Fi (auto geo-tagging) card all come to mind.

Lynda.com has some free videos showing off some of the new features in Soundbooth CS4: click here

To for more info and to try the beta head to: labs.adobe.com

Createspace by Amazon for POD CD manufacturing.

When MP3 sales and distribution took off many artists broke the chain between themselves and greedy record labels. All a band needs is music, a little artwork and initiative to get their music onto iTunes, Amazon or Beatport. But what about your fans who still want Compact Discs? In the past you would have to manufacture a minimum of 100+ units. After spending about at least $300 (eg. Discmakers Short-Run) you would still have to deal with fulfillment to your customers (shipping, tax, returns).

Createspace which is owned by Amazon.com has launched a print on demand (POD) service for CDs. You sign up at Createspace.com, send them your music (snail mail only), artwork, set the price for the CD and viola it’s for sale at Amazon.com. Of course Amazon takes a cut: $4.95 fixed charge per CD and either 15% of the total price if you sell the CD via your own E-store or 45% if it sells from Amazon.com. So for example, if I send Createspace an album/CD and want it to sell for $21.95 and someone buys the CD at Amazon.com I will receive: $4.95 $7.11.

You will make less net profit than if you manufactured and sold your own CDs and more profit than you would by any major label record deal. A key advantage is if it turns out that only five people buy your CD you don’t loose the money you spent manufacturing 100 copies. If it turns out you have a lot more fans than you thought and you get 3000 people buying your CD you don’t have worry about getting more manufactured and then running to the post office a few hundred times!

Createspace allows you to buy copies for yourself at the wholesale price of $4.95. If you want more than 50 units the price per unit goes down.

So what are the disadvantages? As of today Createspace only gets your album on Amazon.com not any of their international sites such as Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.fr. Your international fans will have to buy the CD as an import. This is a big issue for me as more of my fans are based in Europe. Createspace discs are burned onto CD-Rs. The back of the CD maybe tinted Green or Blue. I am not 100% sure about this so I emailed Createspace to find out. I will update this post with whatever answer they give me. Does it matter?

You could argue that record stores won’t stock POD (print to order) CDs but let’s face some facts here: Soon there won’t be any brick and mortar record stores!

A nice aside is you can opt into MP3 sales and your album will appear in the Amazon MP3 section. Lastly, I would like to get a bit liberal on you and point out that manufacturing only what we need will help save the earth. What better reason do you need?

Update: I heard back from Createspace concerning the backside color of the CD-Rs. Here’s what they said: “Thank yo for contacting us regarding our products and services. The backs of the CDs are silver and blue.  We are working on producing a uniform product that consists of silver back only, however at this time we are producing both types.” – CreateSpace Member Services

photo credit: Silus Grok

My Implant and Satronica remixes are finished.

I am finally free of all obligations other than to finish my next album. It’s a good feeling especially because these last two remixes had me pulling my hair out. Satronica’s remix for a song called Shout will end up on Lenny Dee’s Industrial Strength Records. Originally he sent me a song called Revenge Plan but after remixing it twice and still not being happy with the end result I told him to send me something different. This brings up a point: Trash the stuff that you do that’s not great! There is a mountain of average crap out there. I spent a week remixing Revenge Plan and I put those files in my trash and emptied it twice! If I don’t love the remix I’m not going to torture the rest of you with it.

For the song “Shout” Matt (Satronica) only sent me vocals. The biggest nicety in this remix is the automated TC Powercore Chorus/Delay plug-in on his voice. As you can see in the faded orange circle above I spent a good amount of time tweaking the envelope breakpoints to catch certain syllables he was screaming and have them shoot off motion wise in different ways. When the Chorus is tight is has a modern Hip Hop vocal sound. I also like what I was able to to at the breaks using Effectix. Using only the Loop parameter I was able to make it seem like the song is slowing down and breaking up. What else? Ah yes, I like the 80s tom fills but those are standard in almost any song I do these days. Take a listen:

I decided to have my Italian pianist friend Gabri help me with my remix for Belgian band Implant. Their song “We Are Noise” was a simple but effective electro verse chorus type of diddy. I wanted to make it a bit darker so Gabri took their somewhat simple melodies and expanded them using several tracks and different synths. Gabri always picked his favorite VST ReFX Vanguard (Gabri is also a trance producer :)).

After Gabri left Berlin I spent a good amount of time taking each new synth line and dumping tons of effects on them. With today’s CPU power I like to add one 4-5 things to each channel and just let me ears pick out the tasty colors. For example I added Izotope’s Trash and Fabfilter’s Volcano 2 to several of the synth lines. A great thing about Volcano is it’s ability to generate internal feedback. You can hear it rolling along semi-randomly in several sections. The drums are from my new and beloved Vermona DRM-1 MKIII. Lastly, I used Simpler quite a bit on the some vocal parts automating the start and loop times. Take a listen:

Thanks as always for taking a listen. I wish I could put the full songs up here but I don’t have the rights. Now it’s time for my own tunes!

Don LaFontaine heads to the big mic in the sky.


Here’s a guy who spent more time in front of a microphone than probably anyone you know. Don LaFontaine was “the movie guy”. He is the voice you hear in countless movie trailers saying, “In a world full of…”. Don passed away on Monday at the age of 68.

“Donald LaFontaine (August 26, 1940 – September 1, 2008) was an American voice actor famous for recording over 5,000 movie trailers and (according to his website) over 350,000 television commercials, network promotions, and video game trailers. His signature voice was perceived as being both ominous and sonorous. His nicknames included “Thunder Throat” and “The Voice of God”. He became identified with the phrase “in a world…”, which has been used in movie trailers so frequently that it has become a cliché. He also parodied this cliché several times, most recently in a commercial for GEICO insurance.” – Wikipedia.org

I remember seeing a documentary about his work and noticed he had his own home studio. Over the period of his life he was a recording engineer, film editor, producer, and writer. He was also known to take the time to send fans personalized voice recordings. I wonder if he had a favorite microphone.

For more info: www.donlafontaine.com

Apple to introduce interactive albums.

One of the things I miss the most about vinyl records is the nice large artwork, inner sleeves and lyric sheets they came with. Compact Disc booklets forced us into reading lyrics in font sizes only really meant for legal fine print. When the MP3 took over on the original iPod we were left with nothing to look at all.

I’ve always said that technology will save us. Man will end up using solar power, curing cancer and inhabiting other planets. Technology will also bring back album art. Next month Apple will release an interactive album application for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The application will add artwork, lyrics and behind the scenes goodies to music.

“The new app also highlights an important point: CDs may lose one of the advantages they have clung to in their losing fight against digital downloads. Now that iTunes albums will offer the extras already found in CDs, the latter is quickly becoming even more irrelevant.” – TechCrunch

I know your thinking that, “Oh wow that’s nice but an iPhone is only 2.5 x 4.5 inches. That’s way smaller than my old 12″ albums!” You know where I’m going with this right? Time and tech will fix this issue too. Surely you can bet multi-touch tablet computers with large screens and nice speakers will be in our hands within 48 months. If someone makes a 12″ square tablet my credit card is done for! I can imagine tablet computers will get as thin as old 12″s too.

I hope independent artists will have a way to add their own interactive album artwork. Tunecore are you working on procuring that deal for us? So musician friends it’s time to start brushing up on your Photoshop skills!

photo credit: ntr23

via MusicWeek