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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 | 1 Comment

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.

Fractal Wavetables

Posted on | March 20, 2009 | No Comments

floatfractBased on work by com­pos­er Ter­ran Olson, I’m releas­ing a Pro­cess­ing applet that lets you play with recursive/fractal sound syn­the­sis by set­ting a few slid­ers.

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The Plant

Posted on | July 10, 2008 | No Comments

Tech-house mini-album The Plant is out on Har­mo­nious Dis­cord.

Spar­rowl­izm (Pre­view)

Check out the full release at any of these fine loca­tions:

Pacific Beats

Posted on | January 22, 2008 | No Comments

hd09scaled1My moody / funky/ drum-heavy track Pacif­ic Beats appears on this love­ly sam­pler album put togeth­er by Har­mo­nious Dis­cord Record­ings.

Head on over to the HD site for sam­ples of all the fan­tas­tic cuts on this release, or pick up a copy at Beat­port.

Cactus Girl

Posted on | April 13, 2007 | No Comments

hd051This four-cut release fea­tures an in-depth vocal ride through abstrac­tions and moods with a bass-heavy elec­tro rework by Philidel­phia-based glitch head Kilo­Watts.

The B side throws some funk into the well with a dance­floor rework by Cal­i­for­nia sound-nut Rith­ma (OM, Tweekin). Dis­tant bells and jackin chords makes this remix an instant body mover. Chaka­har­ta rounds out the EP with a deep and min­i­mal “Funky Dub”.

Sam­ples are up at Har­mo­nious Dis­cord Record­ings, or head over to Beat­port to pick up the EP.

Nuco Daze

Posted on | March 3, 2007 | No Comments

I’m final­ly post­ing an album of tunes I wrote while part of the NUCO down­tem­po improv col­lec­tive back in 2001–2003.  It’s avail­able for free on Band­camp.  Let me know if you like it, and please share with your friends.

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