Happy New Year from Wire to the Ear

I love writing to this blog. I love music tech. Google analytics tells me there are more readers than ever. The podcast test Peter Kirn and I tried out will turn into something real in 2011. What else in two zero one one? Music touch apps are going to become more awesome. WIth more DSP or purer analog designs we are in for treats. Pro-audio hardware and software is going to sound clearer, thicker and more interesting. The best thing is the cost to entry is lower than ever and the worlds “how to” is just a few clicks away for anyone. I will release a new album soon. I will continue on in my day job in the energy business. Every morning before I leave for work and write to you know I do it with care.

I will be in Stuttgart performing this weekend and I will spend and extra two days there with friends. Normal posting will resume Wednesday, January 5. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook for micro-updates from the road:

photo: Oliver Chesler

Axel F

First off, I apologize for including the Crazy Frog version of Harold Faltermeyer’s wonderful song Alex F in this blog post. The (very European) remix doesn’t hold a candle to the clean fresh sound of the original. However, the remix is a large part of the songs history so here you have it. There are a few reasons the original is so great. I always like music with a strong lead melody and no one can deny this isn’t catchy as hell. Now let’s talk gear: Roland Jupiter-8 (lead), Moog Modular (bass), a Roland JX-3P (chord stabs), Yamaha DX7 (bell/marimba), and a LinnDrum drum machine. I wish Eddy Murphy would make a real comeback and I wish there were more songs like Axel F.

“Axel F is the electronic instrumental theme from the 1984 film Beverly Hills Cop performed by Harold Faltermeyer. The title comes from the main character’s name, Axel Foley (played by Eddie Murphy), in the film. It topped musical charts in 1985 and remains a popular remix track. Mixes of “Axel F” topped European pop charts in 2003, and again in 2005 as the Crazy Frog song. In addition to the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack, the song also appears on Faltermeyer’s 1988 album Harold F. as a bonus track. Reportedly Faltermeyer was against including it, but MCA insisted, as it was his most recognizable track.” – Wikipedia

Buy the song: iTunes or Amazon

TC-Helicon VoiceJam

There are a few Loopers for iOS but the newly released VoiceJam from TC-Helicon is my favorite. WIthin the first hour I recorded some really cool stuff with it. The demo video above will give you a good idea of what’s possible with one exception. They don’t mention that if you use an iRig or similar device you can record drum machines or whatever “line in”. I used my iPhone into the iPad and FunkBox to lay down a beat, Beatbot for some synths and recorded some vocals. It was very fun almost to the point I will say this is a musicians iOS killer app.

“Traditional audio loopers constrain you to a single loop. While they often make it easy to build up a great phrase with each new layer and track, they never make it easy to go anywhere with the original idea. VoiceJam encourages you to expand outwards, giving you the tools to create a complete musical performance with all the dramatic structure of a fully mixed composition.” – tc-helicon.com/voicejam

Get the App in the iTunes Store: click here

Feliz Navidad

Merry Christmas Wire to the Ear readers! I hope you give and get toys that make loud noise today. The photo above is my kitten Tiffany in my pink plastic tree I found in Berlin. She managed to knock it over and swat all the ornaments all over the house. Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano is my all time favorite Christmas song.

“”Feliz Navidad” is a Christmas song written in 1970 by the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano. With its simple Spanish chorus (the traditional Christmas/New Year greeting, “Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad” or “Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year” and equally simple English verse “I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart”, it has become a classic Christmas pop song in the United States, Canada and throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Feliciano’s version of “Feliz Navidad” (in which he plays both an acoustic guitar and a Puerto Rican cuatro) is one of the most downloaded and aired Christmas songs in the United States and Canada. The addition of the horns as a final touch was the idea of producer Rick Jarrard. It was also recognized by ASCAP as one of the top 25 most played and recorded Christmas songs around the world. “Feliz Navidad” has been covered by many other artists including Celine Dion, David Hasselhoff, Moby (on their album Moby Presents: Alien Sex Party), El Vez, Jon Secada, Fenix TX, Home Grown, the ska-punk band Voodoo Glow Skulls, and The Wiggles, with the best known version in the UK and Europe being the cover by the disco group Boney M on their Christmas Album released in 1981.” – Wikipedia

Buy the song: click here

A great new Duran Duran song

Duran Duran – “The Man Who Stole A Leopard” Feat. Kelis by Some Kind of Awesome

Sooo what do we have here? Duran Duran spent the last year in the studio examining and trying to recapture the sound of their earlier albums. I give them great respect for knowing the old stuff is where it was at for them. Unfortunately the recently released new album titled All You Need is Now (iTunes link) is not full of great songs. There is one song however I think is a gem and I will always take a good tune from and old friend. The Man Who Stole A Leopard captures what makes a good Duran song. Wild lyrics that can mean a thousand things, glassy overlapping synths and a flow that makes you want to play the six minutes and thirteen seconds over and over.

“For over a year, Duran Duran and producer Mark Ronson have compared the recording of the music that is about to hit iTunes as All You Need Is Now to the band’s early ‘80s output. Whether they’ve done the job really depends upon how you interpret all that pre-game prattle.” – popmatters.com

Buy the album: click here

djay vs Sonorasaurus Rex

Here is a nice ten minute comparison of the current two best DJ Apps for the iPad. I’ve got both and I think djay from Algoriddim is the winner. It’s very close to being something I would use out in a club. Check out my recent posts on djay: djay for ipad and djay and tangerine.

“This movie compares two current DJ apps for the iPad – djay from Algoriddim and Sonorasaurus Rex from Pajamahouse.” – Rob Jones

In the App Store: djay and Sonorasaurus Rex

via Synthtopia


One of my all time favorite plug-ins PSP Nitro has been replaced with an all new version. I’ve used Nitro on almost every song I’ve recorded the past few years because it has a very unique and nice sound quality. It mangled audio but also has a professional sounding sheen. The replacement called N2O was rewritten from scratch, adds new modules, extended modulation and about 200 presets. Upgrade price is $69 until Dec 31. $149 to buy it new. More videos: click here

“Up to four sound processing operators at a time; among the available types are: morphing resonant and formant filters, eq, delay, reverb, pitch-shifter, compressor/expander, bitcrusher, distortion, full-wave rectifier and many more. Up to four modulators at a time; the list includes: LFO, envelope detector, ADSR step sequencer. Built-in limiter that uses algorithms from our extremely well regarded PSP Xenon hi-definition mastering limiter. Sidechain (key) input. Expandable architecture – new operators and modulator types to be added in future versions while preserving backward compatibility. – pspaudioware.com

For more info: pspaudioware.com

Liine Cliip Module

Liine has added a new Cliip Module for controlling Ableton Clips. I’m going to use my iPad live for the first time on New Year’s Eve. I’m not going to be using something like Liine quite yet. I’m still going to let my Macbook Pro do the heavy lifting. I do think at some point in 2011 I will start controlling Clip launching and more via the iPad. Baby steps for my square glass friend. I still need to discover how sweat is going to affect input!

“A world-first in controllers, Cliip allows you to create and edit Ableton Live MIDI clips with your fingertips using an elegant touch-enabled piano roll. The core Griid module is the most fluid, fastest and reliable tool for launching clips. If you need the best cliplauncher on the market you need Griid – pure and simple.” – liine.net

For more info: liine.net

The Early Days of Software Sequencers

KVR Audio has an interesting article from Chris Halaby where takes us back and shows us the very early days of software sequencers. The story is written from his point of view and I am sure the German companies would slant things differently. I also think Atari’s were rock solid and I never knew anyone who needed to keep a spare around. That said, it’s a great read and I appreciate some of the new info there. Check it out: click here

“Dave’s idea was to use the Mac to replace the dedicated hardware that people like me were using in recording sessions. In November of 1984, he bought a Macintosh, and after learning to program in a GUI environment, wrote the first version of ‘Sequencer’ (a software version of the aforementioned box) in six months. I loaned him my DSX for a couple of weeks so he could make sure that his software would be able to everything the DSX could do. In order to connect to the Mac he designed a simple MIDI interface that could be connected to the printer and modem ports (RS-422) and in a stroke of brilliance made the package narrow enough so that one could screw two separate interfaces to the ports on back of their Mac and get a total of 32 MIDI channels.” – Chris Halaby

Read: The Early Days of Software Sequencers

photo credit: Marco Raaphorst

Midi Punk

Slam Tracks have released a set of Punk Midi grooves for you to use in you DAW. $20 get you 500 patterns and fills. Every now and then I will use a prefab Midi part from a collection. It’s a good way to break out of your kick/snare/a few high hats doledrums.

“Over 500 slamming MIDI punk grooves and fills packed with the raw material you need for classic and modern punk styles. Hundreds of MIDI drum loops and drum fills ready to drag and drop into the drum virtual instrument of your choice.” – slamtracks.com

For more info including audio samples: slamtracks.com/punk

photo credit: What What