… purveyor of funky beats and assorted electric treats …


Wogglebug + DPO as White Noise Source

Posted on | April 6, 2014 | No Comments

So I recently got a MakeNoise SharedSys­tem mod­u­lar rig, and one thing miss­ing from it was an appar­ent lack of the abil­ity to make… noise. White noise.

How­ever, by push­ing the Wog­gle­bug and the DPO’s inter­nal mod­u­la­tion rout­ing to the extreme, you can get some decent-sounding white noise. Basi­cally, you turn most of the knobs on both mod­ules all the way clock­wise and lis­ten to the DPO final output.

Click for full image

Click for full image

Here’s how it sounds, going through an MMG for fil­ter sweeps and the Echophon for some delay:

FX Halos in Ableton Live

Posted on | February 29, 2012 | No Comments

This is a very sim­ple trick to do, but not so obvi­ous to fig­ure out that it’s even pos­si­ble.  The idea is to sidechain com­press the pro­cess­ing on a Return bus by its own input sig­nal, in order to clear out some “empty” space around the dry sig­nal. It’s like mak­ing a “breath­ing fx bus”.

For exam­ple, if you have a stac­cato vocal sam­ple being sent into a reverb or a delay, using this trick the effect tails will “swell in” over time after the dry sig­nal stops.  It’s sim­i­lar to kick sidechaining.

Here’s an exam­ple with­out a halo:


Now with:


That’s not the most inspir­ing demo, but this can sound very organic, and helps clear space in a full mix.  To set up in Live:

  • Send sound from an Audio track to a Return track.
  • On the Return track, add a plu­gin that cre­ates a tem­po­ral tail: ie reverb or delay.
  • Add a com­pres­sor after the fx.
  • Enable Sidechain, and set the Audio From drop­down to the same Return track you’re on.
  • Set the Audio From posi­tion to “Pre FX” in order to sidechain from the dry sig­nal.
  • Set up your thresh­old, release, ratio etc. to get your desired “halo” pump­ing sound around the input signal.

This can be a really nice way to get some breathy flut­ter­ing organic motion in a net­work of Return tracks that might even be cross-sending sig­nal to each other in a feed­back network…

Click for full-size

MiniCommand, Machinedrum, and OS X

Posted on | May 11, 2011 | No Comments

So I’ve had a Ruin & Wesen Mini­Com­mand for a lit­tle under a year, but haven’t been using it as much as I would like because it didn’t inte­grate well with my setup — until last night.

The stan­dard way to use the Mini­Com­mand is to con­nect it in a closed MIDI loop with the device in ques­tion — which makes it hard use in a computer-based MIDI setup with a sequencer. There are ways around this, eg. daisy-chaining the Mini­Com­mand between the computer’s MIDI inter­face and the device you want to con­trol, but I have found that this intro­duces some small tim­ing delays (enough to drive me crazy).

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Alien Autopsy Via Sample-Rate Reduction

Posted on | January 6, 2011 | 3 Comments

Here’s a cool sound-design trick. If you want to get a vocal-sounding ‘for­mant fil­ter’ effect out of a synth that only has a nor­mal low­pass fil­ter, you can take advan­tage of a quirk of sample-rate reduc­tion effects to gen­er­ate mul­ti­ple “mir­rored” fil­ter sweeps through the won­der of aliasing.

Here’s a sound clip from my machine­drum with a sim­ple saw­tooth note and a res­o­nant low­pass fil­ter being mod­u­lated down over a quick sweep. It’s played four times, each with increas­ing amounts of sample-rate reduc­tion applied:

increas­ing srr

This sam­ple looks like this in a sono­gram (I used the Sono­gram View plu­gin that Apple includes with XCode). Hor­i­zon­tal axis is time, ver­ti­cal is frequency:

Notice that as the alias­ing (reflected fre­quen­cies) increase with the sample-rate reduc­tion effect, you begin to see mul­ti­ple copies of the fil­ter sweep. This cre­ates the lovely, com­pli­cated “alien voice” sound. Here’s a short Machine­Drum loop I was play­ing around with when I real­ized what was going on here:


And for the Elektron-heads read­ing this, here’s the MD sysex for that pattern+kit:

PS: the wikipedia arti­cle on alias­ing has a good run­down on the details of this phenomenon.

Ableton Live, The Machinedrum and The Monomachine (Part 2): Minimizing Latency

Posted on | June 6, 2010 | 4 Comments

In Part one of this series, I posted tips for get­ting the Mono­ma­chine and Machine­drum synced and record­ing prop­erly with your Live ses­sions. The other half of the equa­tion is which oper­a­tions to avoid that might intro­duce latency and tim­ing errors dur­ing your sessions.

Ableton Prints Recordings Where It Thinks You Heard Them

I guess this design must be intu­itive for many users, but it con­fused me for a while.  If you have a setup with any­thing but a minis­cule audio buffer, mon­i­tor­ing through a vir­tual instru­ment witha few latency-inducing plu­g­ins in the mon­i­tor­ing chain, you will hear a fair amount of mon­i­tor­ing latency when you play a note.  The same goes for record­ing audio.

When record­ing a MIDI clip, I expected that Live puts the actual MIDI events when I played them — which it doesn’t.  It shifts the MIDI notes later in time to match when you actu­ally heard the out­put sound — try­ing to account for your audio buffer delay, the latency of your vir­tual instru­ment, and any audio pro­cess­ing delay from plu­g­ins in the down­stream sig­nal path.  There’s one excep­tion to this — it doesn’t worry about delays you might hear due to any “Sends” your track is using.

So your MIDI notes (and CC’s) are recorded with “baked-in” delays the size of your mon­i­tor­ing chain latency. I’m going to call this baked latency.

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Ableton Live, The Machinedrum and The Monomachine: Midi Sync Notes

Posted on | June 6, 2010 | 9 Comments

Recently I’ve been (going crazy) get­ting the tim­ing tight between Able­ton and two out­board sequencers — the Elek­tron Mono­ma­chine and Machine­drum.  On their own, these sil­ver boxes have amaz­ingly tight tim­ing. They can sync to each other to cre­ate a great live setup.

Add a com­puter DAW into the loop, and you intro­duce jit­ter, latency, and gen­eral zani­ness to the equa­tion.  And it’s not triv­ial — this is obviously-missing-the-downbeat, shoes-in-a-dryer kind of bad.  I tested the jit­ter / latency by ear, as well as by record­ing audio clips and mea­sur­ing the mil­lisec­ond off­sets from the expected hit times.

I don’t think this is fun­da­men­tally a slow com­puter / poor setup issue either — I’m run­ning a good inter­face, using a tiny 32 sam­ple audio buffer. The rest of the setup is an i7 Intel Mac run­ning OS X 10.6.3, Able­ton Live 8.1.3, Emagic Uni­tor 8 midi inter­face and an Elek­tron TM-1 Tur­bo­Midi inter­face for the Machinedrum.

Below is a jour­nal of what’s work­ing, what isn’t, and my the­o­ries on why… Read more

How To: Algorithmic Music with Ruby, Reaktor, and OSC

Posted on | November 20, 2009 | 2 Comments

The basic idea is to use a sim­ple OSC library avail­able for Ruby to code inter­est­ing music, and have Native Instru­ments’ Reak­tor serve as the sound engine. Tadayoshi Fun­aba has an excel­lent site includ­ing all sorts of inter­est­ing Ruby mod­ules.  I grabbed the osc.rb mod­ule and had fun with it.

I’m giv­ing a brief pre­sen­ta­tion at the Bay Area Com­puter Music Tech­nol­ogy Group (BAr­C­MuT) meet-up tomor­row, un-officially as part of Ruby­Conf 2009 here in San Francisco.

Here’s a link with down­loads and code from my talk.  It should be all you need to get started, if you have a sys­tem capa­ble of run­ning Ruby, and a copy of Reak­tor 5+ (this should work with the demo ver­sion too).

Ruby mono sequence example:

reaktorOscMonoSequences-192 MP3

Ruby poly­phonic drums example:

reaktorOscPolyphonicDrums-192 MP3

Leave a com­ment below if you have any ques­tions, or cool discoveries!


Machinedrum Recursive Sampling Test 02

Posted on | November 16, 2009 | 4 Comments


So this is another exam­ple of using the MD’s inter­nal sam­pler to cre­ate a recur­sive “feed­back loop” of sam­pling and resam­pling and resam­pling.… This has a ten­dency of psy­che­del­i­cally twist­ing the under­ly­ing beat.  The way this stuff sounds has really sur­passed my wildest dreams.

MD Recurse Test 02

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Machinedrum Recursive Sampling Test 01

Posted on | November 4, 2009 | 2 Comments

This was a first test at using the Machinedrum’s inter­nal sam­pler recur­sively.  I was try­ing to emu­late my frac­tal waveta­bles sounds in hard­ware, as closely as the MD could do it.

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Cool Tricks For Better Mixes

Posted on | September 3, 2009 | No Comments

I recently slugged through mix­down on my track Super Bro­ken and found the fol­low­ing 5 tips invaluable:

1. Mono Is Awesome

I’ve heard this one a mil­lion times, but never actu­ally tried it. This arti­cle does a great job describ­ing the hows and whys: The Secret Ben­e­fits To Mix­ing In Mono. Among other great insights — if you sum to mono and lis­ten through a sin­gle speaker, you get less room and cross-speaker interference. 

2. FX Halos

This is a great trick for time-expanding effects like delays and reverb. In a word, duck your effects sends by the sig­nals feed­ing them.  The grad­ual release of your ducker / com­pres­sor cre­ates a “halo” around the dry sound, as the effected tail glides up into the mix. This arti­cle does a great job describ­ing how to set this up in Able­ton Live.

3. The Law Of “Common Fate”

Learned this one from John Chown­ing, the father of FM syn­the­sis, at BAr­C­MuT talk.

Gestalt psy­chol­ogy turns out to be a gold­mine for some mak­ing abstract works of art (like elec­tronic music). The law of “com­mon fate”, accord­ing to Wikipedia, is: “Ele­ments with the same mov­ing direc­tion are per­ceived as a col­lec­tive or unit.”

Chowning’s exam­ple had to do with apply­ing vibrato to FM string sounds, but it has applic­a­bil­ity all over the mix­ing process.

For exam­ple, when “pump­ing” pads, hi-hats, and basslines in syn­co­pa­tion with the kick drum, the prin­ci­ple of “com­mon fate” sug­gests your brain will gel them into a unit — pro­vid­ing more con­trast between the upbeat and downbeat.

4. Embrace Subtle Delays

This is related to the pre­vi­ous point on “com­mon fate”.  I’ve found it’s very use­ful to use a short “ambi­ence” ‘verb, and send low lev­els of many parts of the song in order to “seat” every­thing in an acoustic space.  Again, this is an old trick, but I found this arti­cle illu­mi­nat­ing in know­ing what my brain wants to hear.

5. If You Make Dance Music, You Need To Be Able To Monitor Down To 28 Hz

And unless you’re in a really, really well-setup room with no neigh­bors, that means get­ting a good pair of ‘cans.

After exten­sive research into every pair of head­phones I could find, I nar­rowed the field down to the Ultra­sone HFI-550’s. Got mine off Ama­zon for $89.  All I have to say is – 50 mm dri­vers (they don’t make the 550’s any­more, but the HFI-580’s are sim­i­lar).  I feel these come the clos­est to repli­cat­ing the sound of your track play­ing over a nice club sys­tem — espe­cially in the bass depart­ment.  They didn’t sound great when I first got them (com­pared to a 4 year old pair I’d bor­rowed from a friend), but I’ve been burn­ing them in with medium-loud pink noise and the bass exten­sion is loos­en­ing up nicely. Update 2011: I don’t love the sound of the HFI 550’s after all.  I found my old Sony MDR-V7506’s actu­ally seem more faith­ful in the bass depart­ment, despite their smaller (40mm) dri­vers. The insight still stands — if you want to rock the subs, make sure you can hear the lows with your mon­i­tor­ing setup.  A good pair of cans can help you check your mixes: you can hear the bass with­out the dis­trac­tions of any room modes or other free-air acoustic problems. 

If you can hear the sub-bass, you can mix the sub-bass. Sim­ple as that.

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