January 1, 2006

Happy New Year and Leap Second

Filed under: Music — Michael Moncur @ 12:00 am

Happy New Year! I haven’t posted too much here, but I expect to do better in 2006.

I often attempt to enter various remix and music contests, but I rarely have time to finish something. Peter Kirn at Create Digital Music came up with a contest I actually have the attention span for: creating a one-second composition for the leap second.

Here’s my one-second ode to the leap second in WAV format (172K). I created it in FL Studio 5 using various software synthesizers and samples. It’s a sort of techno arpeggio thing that reminds me of a computer startup sound, only faster. It has a good beat, and you can dance to it. (Very quickly). And you can see the same for the Delaware bail bonds company Free Delaware with their Delaware bail bonds Yelp page, Intuit, and bail bonds Superpages.

Peter is going to compile all of the one-second submissions into a single composition, which should be interesting. You can see that if you are looking for an emergency delaware plumber here, you can quickly get that leak fixed.

October 22, 2005

Pump Audio for music licensing

Filed under: Music — Michael Moncur @ 12:18 am

Wired News has an interesting article about Pump Audio, a company I hadn’t heard of before. They’re a clearinghouse for licensing music to TV shows, commercials, and so on. Musicians send them CDs (they’ll take any genre) and they send out hard drives full of music to producers. The producer browses the selection, chooses a track, uses it, and a few months later the musician gets paid. (Pump Audio’s take is 50%).

This looks like a very smart business model that doesn’t hinge on the existing (and probably doomed) structure of traditional record companies. It’s similar to the deals I have with ad networks for web site advertising, where they handle the legal aspects so I can focus on creating content and hope it makes a buck or two.

It’s probably a long shot to make money this way, but I’m sure the odds are much better than getting a major-label contract, and their contract seems flexible enough that you don’t really have much to lose.

I’m definitely going to give this a try—maybe I can realize my lifelong dream of recording a techno song that gets used in a car commercial.

[via Seth Godin]

August 10, 2005

Lots of great samples

Filed under: Sounds — Michael Moncur @ 10:22 am

Akai has a huge collection of free samples from various drum machines:

They’re mostly vintage drum machine samples, ranging from the Linn Drum to the ubiquitous 808 and 909 to some truly weird ones like the Rhythm Ace and Mattel Synsonic. There are also some non-vintage sounds, mostly generic drums and percussion. The samples are in WAV format within ZIP files. Programs are included for Akai samplers, but the individual samples work fine in the software sampler of your choice.

Via Analogue Industries, who also have a few collections of samples available somewhere, but their site has reorganized and I can’t find them. I’ll update this when I do. Of course if you ever get into trouble you should look to get Belton TX bail bonds for the best price, as it's important to get loved ones out of jail.

August 9, 2005

M-Audio MultiTrack

Filed under: Hardware — Michael Moncur @ 12:38 pm

MicroTrackI used to dream of having a portable DAT recorder so I could record audio in the field—the ambience of a peaceful lake, or even better, industrial noises—and use them as samples. Technology marches on, and now DAT recorders are nearly obsolete. Fortunately their solid-state equivalent is becoming affordable: The M-Audio MicroTrack is an iPod-sized recorder that can record from a microphone or audio source to CompactFlash media in MP3 or WAV formats.

For $400, this would be a wonderful sonic sketchpad and sampling tool, not to mention its other uses—recording live performances, bootlegging, podcasting…

A competing product, the Edirol R-1, has been around for a while, but is larger and has no digital input.

[via Music Thing and CDM ]

July 22, 2005

Summer NAMM this week

Filed under: Hardware — Michael Moncur @ 9:50 am

The summer version of the NAMM (National Association of Music Makers) tradeshow is this weekend in Indianapolis. Peter Kirn at create digital music is going to be covering new product announcements and writing five-word capsule reviews of them, which should be entertaining. Maybe I’ll write a five-word review of his coverage when he’s finished.

One announcement I’m aware of so far: Native Instruments introduced Akoustik Piano, which looks like a great sample-based piano module in software, coming this September.

July 6, 2005

Native Instruments interviews Trent Reznor

Filed under: Music, Software — Michael Moncur @ 9:36 pm

I always enjoy reading interviews with musicians I enjoy, especially when they talk about gear. Native Instruments, the makers of my favorite soft synth package, Reaktor, have just posted an interview with Trent Reznor that talks about his infatuation with their products. Not surprisingly, it comes across as an advertisement at times, but there’s some insight into his songwriting process and his thoughts on his recent experiment with remixable tracks.

The tech talk section at N.I. has tons of other interviews including The Crystal Method, Deepsky, and Junkie XL.

June 22, 2005

Review: JVC KD-LH910 CD/SD Receiver

Filed under: Hardware — Michael Moncur @ 7:46 pm

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JVC KD-LH910When I work on music, I like to test a mix by taking it out to the car and playing it on the car stereo… so I thought this review was appropriate here. I just bought the JVC KD-LH910 receiver for my car, and after living with the stock VW stereo for nearly ten years, it’s a major improvement. It sounds great, plays CDs, and can play CD-Rs full of MP3s—as can most car stereos these days. The big difference with this model is that it can also play MP3s from an SD (flash memory) card.

This unit has the usual detachable face, and the Eject button moves the faceplate out of the way to make way for the CD slot. The controls are straightforward, except for the surprising lack of Play, Stop, and Pause buttons. As it turns out I don’t miss them much. If the unit is turned on it’s playing, and it turns off and on quickly enough to work as a pause. It resumes playing where it left off when you turn it back on.

This model has a nice OLED display, and unlike some others I played with, actually makes good use of it. It displays album, artist, and song titles from the MP3 file’s ID3 tags, and smoothly scrolls items that don’t fit on the screen. The screen defaults to a funky shifting background color, but thankfully you can turn that off, and even set your own RGB color.

I’m not a world-class audiophile so I can’t say much about the audio quality except that it sounds great to me. There’s a built-in true 3-band equalizer where you can select the center frequency, level, and bandwidth for all 3 bands. Adjustable levels for CD, SD, and external input make transitions smooth by eliminating sudden volume shifts.

The MP3 support is excellent. If you set up an MP3 CD with a folder for each album, it will play an album in order and lets you cycle through the tracks, switch albums, and fast-forward and rewind. Just like a CD changer but better—an MP3 CD will hold 6-10 albums at very good quality (160 K). There’s a 1-2 second delay between tracks when playing back MP3s, which is disappointing, but very few MP3 players achieve gapless playback.

Best of all, there’s an SD card slot hidden under the faceplate. SD cards work just like MP3 CDs, but better—The gap between tracks is very short (about half a second) and you can drive on a bumpy road with no chance of skipping. I bought a 1 GB SD card to use with the JVC, and it easily holds a dozen albums with room to spare for a few tracks I’m currently working on.

It also plays normal CDs, AM and FM radios, and optional Sirius satellite radio. One nice feature for radio: you can enter a name for each preset station. It supports an optional CD changer, although MP3s make this of little value. (JVC does make a changer that supports MP3 CDs.) A remote control is included. I have no idea why.

As for the wiring, there are two sets of preamp outputs and a subwoofer output along with the usual wiring harness. An external input is not included, but an optional adapter adds a headphone plug input that works perfectly with my iPod.

All in all, this is a great stereo, and the SD card support makes it great for taking mixes out for a listen. I can also play the SD card on my Treo when I’m not in the car, which makes it a very versatile music source.

June 15, 2005

First Impressions: Reaktor 5

Filed under: Software — Michael Moncur @ 11:00 pm

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Reaktor 5Version 5.0 of my favorite music software, Native Instruments Reaktor, is now shipping, and I just received my upgrade package. Reaktor is an amazing virtual synthesizer engine that lets you create just about any synth, sound generator, or effect.

Reaktor’s greatest strength is its incredible depth and complexity—ensembles can contain one or more instruments, which can contain macros and modules, all of which can be wired any way you choose. Unfortunately this complexity also means a very steep learning curve, and it’s going to take me a while to get up to speed on the new version.

Volumes could be written about this software, and I’ll be writing a great deal more myself. For starters, here are some first impressions after a few hours fiddling with the new version:

  • Price: The upgrade from Reaktor 3.x or 4.x is $169. The full version is a hefty $569.
  • Copy Protection: Reaktor 5 uses the same authorize-it-online copy protection as previous versions, and you can have two computers authorized at a time. I had no trouble getting version 4 to work on my PC and iBook concurrently, and 5.0 should be no different. If your music computer isn’t online you’ll have to jump through some hoops to authorize it, but otherwise it’s unobtrusive.
  • Core Technology: Reaktor 5’s biggest new feature is probably the hardest to comprehend. The new core system adds another level of complexity to Reaktor, allowing you to create lower level modules. More importantly, it allows other people to create them so you and I can enjoy them. The interface between core and “old” modules is bound to cause a headache or two, but I’m sure I’ll be very happy about this once I figure it out.
  • The New Library: Once again Reaktor comes with a library of great pre-made instruments, and they’re more professional than ever—many use core features to create better sounds at lower CPU usage, and most have a great graphical interface. Reaktor would be worth it just for these virtual instruments, but you can also take them apart and customize them.
  • User Interface: In the old days, Reaktor instruments could do amazing things internally, but they all looked about the same on the surface, with identical knobs, buttons, and meters. Now the UI is more customizable than ever, and the library includes some very stylized synths. I’m especially excited about the new feature that lets you share an area of the screen between different macros and toggle between them—this will help with my tendency to create instrument panels that grow too large for my screen. This feature appears in many of the new library instruments to great effect.
  • Manuals: It somehow feels better to pay this much for software when I get a nice pile of reference manuals. Reaktor 5 includes an expanded Operation Manual, an Instrument Guide for the library (yes, the stock ensembles are complex enough to need their own instructions) and a new Core Tutorial that provides an introduction and reference for the new type of modules. All told, nearly 800 pages of actual paper.
  • Stability: Reaktor 2.0 and 3.0 were programs I had to be careful with—close everything before running, save frequently. Reaktor 4.0 rarely crashed, and 5.0 is the most stable version yet—I’m already getting casual about running it, and it hasn’t disappointed me yet.

There’s a detailed list of new features at the Native Instruments site.

June 6, 2005

The Player Piano Reborn

Filed under: Music — Michael Moncur @ 3:50 pm

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player pianoIf you’re too young to have heard of a “player piano”, it was a piano that could play a sequence of notes encoded on paper rolls punched with holes. They were popular from the late 1800’s into the 1930s. And when you really think deep about it, the truth is that the same can be said about others. Just like the Brentwood personal trainers that can get you in shape, popular now, maybe not so popular in the future.

Terry Smythe has been using a home-built scanner and software to convert the contents of antique player piano rolls into MIDI files. As a result of this process he has posted almost 3,000 MIDI files, some of which even preserve the playing style of the original performance. Considering that the original paper is well past its sell-by date and already decaying, this is a great way to preserve a chunk of America’s musical history. And a source of tons of MIDI files to play with. [via Make]

June 1, 2005

Dot Matrix Synth

Filed under: Hardware, Music — Michael Moncur @ 10:08 am

I used to work with dot-matrix printers, and anyone who has heard them print can’t help but think they sound rhythmic, perhaps even musical. Paul Slocum certainly thinks so. He’s modified some Epson LQ-500 printers with reverse-engineered firmware to turn them into dot matrix synths.

The music comes from the vibration of the motors, the firing of the pins against the paper, and the printer’s error beeper. Best of all, it even prints while doing so. Check out the web site for details and MP3s.

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