Last week I had to import some Midi files into my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). It was a commercial jingle I was to revamp and produce. To make it clear what instruments each part of the jingle were meant to be played with what instrument the writer (John) used General Midi. “GM” was created in 1991 and in short sets certain program numbers (sounds) to specific numbers. Doing this allows one to make a sound a flute and when the midi composition is played elsewhere using a GM module the embedded program change number will call up a flute sound.
I don’t often work with GM and when I received last week’s work John was adamant I listened to his fairly complex piece using a GM module at least once before I ripped it to pieces. It’s true that on a Mac one can just double-click any .midi file and it will open and play in Quicktime. However, I wanted to load the jingle into Ableton and view all the separate parts playing from a GM plug-in.
My first instinct was to ask Google for GM plug-ins and Native Instruments Bandstand popped up. Bandstand certainly would have fit my needs. It can be used stand alone or in your DAW and has over 2GB of samples from Sonic Reality, Big Fish, Best Service and others. Bandstand was in my budget at $119 but there was one issue: no download option. I really wanted to get working at that exact moment and as far as I could tell on the NI site there was no demo or download version. I may still grab Bandstand later because it looks to be the best GM player out there. My search for instant gratification continued…
I decided to do a little forum searching and on the official Apple Discussions I found a thread with my final answer. It turns out I already had a complete GM player plug-in installed on my Macbook Pro. Every Mac has a bunch of AU plug-ins installed by Apple for use in Garage Band and iMovie. I’ve used a few of them before in a pinch but rarely look hard into that folder. The Apple GM plug-in is called “DLSMusicDevice”. Very pleased I got to work.
Here’s a Keytar with “testículos de acero”… I will let you do the Spanish to English translation. The man behind this creation is a Circuit Bending pro who works under the project name ASMO (Anti Social Musik Order). For more info on ASMO: http://asmo23.wordpress.com/
“A friend found this in a skip, broken with wires hanging out. I fixed it, made a few modifications and gave it a nice black paint job.” – eddie23a
I wonder if he would sell me this one. I could use this on stage for sure.
People always ask me if it’s better to DJ with NI Traktor or Ableton Live. If I am making a mix that will be released as a CD/album I usually do it slowly in Ableton Live (aka not real time). If I am in front of an audience I would definitely use Traktor. Honestly, I never considered using them both at the same time until I came across the video above from Zettt.
“This video shows how you can connect Ableton Live and Traktor Pro on your Mac. It uses Soundflower from Cycling74 and Mac OS’ integrated IAC Driver.” – Zettt
While on the computer DJ subject a friend of mine let me play around with his M-Audio Xponent and Torq software and I loved it.
A Wire to the Ear friend Josh from Brooklyn gave me the heads up on an interesting video from the always amazing Ted conference:
“Hi Oliver. I saw this interesting video on the TED Talks site. Towards the end of it this guy talks about the musical applications of these intelligent blocks. Pretty rudimentary right now but could be very intersting as controllers or a host of other things in the future.” – Josh
“MIT grad student David Merrill demos Siftables — cookie-sized, computerized tiles you can stack and shuffle in your hands. These future-toys can do math, play music, and talk to their friends, too. Is this the next thing in hands-on learning?” – Ted.com
The Siftables in the Ted video are somewhat similar to Percussa AudioCubes albeit with some advance AI. I can see musicians of the future sitting on their full touch screen studio floors playing with blocks.
I’ve used iStockphoto for various things over the years. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that you can use iStockphoto for digital album covers fairly inexpensively. After a long build-up iStockaudio has launched to offer everything from a “baby screaming” sample all the way to complete songs such this one called “Nine Nails”:
Make sure you read the License Agreement carefully because how much you pay per audio clip determines how widely you can use your selection. The agreement is here:
As a musician you can sell your audio files but you can not be a memeber of a Rights Society (aka have a publishing deal). Unfortunatly that stipulation blocks me from adding to the site. Even though there is a lot to be said for making your own samples and for Creative Commons licensed material I am happy to see iStock in the game. Their site is well organized and the forums are full of activity.
Today just a heads-up on something useful I discovered. Living in New York City I am a bit obsessive about washing my hands. Every time I walk in the apartment I head right to the bathroom and shock my hands with blazing hot water and industrial strength soap. A side-effect of all my paranoia is the skin on my hands gets crazy dry. Therefore, my bathroom ritual ends with a decent slather of moisturizer. My routine was all fine and dandy until the day I bought and iPhone. My silky moisturized fingers turned into iPhone screen paint brushes aka streak city! I tried an anti-glare screen protector but after a few weeks I realized it made my screen dull.
My usual moisterizer ran out and by pure luck I picked up the “Gold Bond Ultimate healing” tube you see above. I was surprised to see I wasn’t getting any more iPhone streaks and took a look at the tube to find sure enough “Non-Greasy” is a feature. This little tidbit in my life made me so dam pleased I thought I’d tell you all today.
I think it’s very important in electronic music to be extra wary of letting any part repeat without any change for too long. I like to add little variations all over my music. There are thousands of ways to make mini-breakdowns and fills interesting. Here’s a technique I use from time to time that involves hihats and Ableton’s Random plug-in. You can click the image above to enlarge it.
This is a fairly simple trick. In this example, I open a Drum Rack and load in a set of Sequential Circuits Drumtraks samples. You can get the same sample pack free from: http://samples.kb6.de. Next, I click on the Show/Hide Chain List icon to reveal all the samples being used and click/highlight the closed hat. I also click the Show/Hide Devices icon which reveals the closed hat’s waveform. I grab an instance of the Ableton Random plug-in and drag it in-between the waveform and the Drum Rack module. Inside the Random plug-in I set the Chance parameter to 93%, Choices to 12 and the Scale to 1.
Now whenever I want to add a little spice to a fill I drop out the kick, change a few snares, add some more HiHats and automate the Random plug-in to turn ON. Here’s an audio example. Listen to bar 4 and 8:
You can have the Random plug-in effect many different elements including filters, pans, and note lengths. If you keep the Chance Parameter set low you can add a subtle unique mark on your music.
Do you remember a post I made titled, “Music from a Little Stapler.“? Well it was about a sound designer named Diego Stocco and how he make a full composition using only the sound from a stapler. Today Diego emailed me…
“Hey Oliver, Few days ago I posted another experiment where I created a piece of music just by using sand, normal sand. This time I did a full video (2 minutes long) where you can see the different techniques I used. I used some piezo transducers to shake the sand and also to play it as a percussive instrument, I taped the piezo to my fingers to do that.” – Diego Stocco
All I can say is this guy has his zen knob turned to ten (except when he’s burning pianos). I feel smarter and happier now that I watched him work a bit. I need to find my Legos and Matchbox cars and play a bit now… brb…
I love visiting friends studios and watching them work. The next best thing is being a video voyeur. Vince Borelli from Petaluma, CA has posted a short clip of his Ableton Live and Propellerhead Reason workflow. I don’t know Vince or his tunes but I agree that re-wiring Reason’s NN-XT into live is a great idea. Something about the NN-XT has an old Akai hardware feel and sound. Personally, I like to prep and then play a lot in Session View and drag clips over into Arrangement view probably more than Vince.
Thanks for the look inside your space. Say hello to you cat and Leo Laporte for us!
I really like melancholic sad songs. I guess this is part of the reason I’m stuck in the 80’s musically. Every morning I do about 40 minutes on the elliptical or treadmill. Lately, I’ve been listening to music with my iPhone and the Pandora, Slacker Radio, AOL Radio and Last.fm apps. The best part of this method is the constant flow of new music. Honestly, most of what I hear disappointments me but this week a song really hit me in the heart strings. I heard something that was like a modern Erasure or Boy George but something told me it wasn’t those artists. I liked the song so much I was going to jump off the machine and grab a pen & paper but then I remember if I click the Sleep and Home buttons on the iPhone simultaneously it saves a screenshot.
As a child I knew
that the stars could only get brighter
then we could get closer
leaving this darkness
Now that I’m older
the stars shed light upon my face
but when I found myself alone
I feel like I, I am blind
The song was called Blind by Hercules & Love Affair: