Category Archive: Technology
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Back in 1997, Steinberg released an innovative piece of software called the Rebirth RB-338. This was the first major analog synthesizer emulator and boy did they choose something tough to emulate… the Roland TB-303 bass box, which was initially designed to be a bass accompaniement for guitar players. The TB-303 never really took off in that regard, but like so many things in the technological arena, an alternative use was eventually found, and the early house producers used it to produce what has come to be known as the “acid” sound. These little boxes, now out of prodution, became the rage for electronic music producers and soon were fetching up to $1500.
The popularity of this sound in the mid 1990s prompted Steinberg to develop the Rebirth emulator and they nailed it. The Rebirth sounds very much like the 303 and even features a number of the little nuances so characteristic of the box. Throw in some effects, arpeggiation and an 808 and 909 step drum sequencer and you had a nice little platform to work with. Now of course, analog synth emulators are all over the place and all the classics, including Moogs, Waldorfs and Prophets are well represented by Virtual Studio Technology plugins (another Steinberg development); but the Rebirth is pretty much where it all started.
And the good news, for those who might not already know… the Rebirth is now completely free to download and use.
The Kaossilator Pro is an upgrade from Korg’s Kaossilator X-Y axis touchpad synth, and it has a number of noteworthy upgrades over the previous version. The Pro now features an SD card slot to save one’s work as well as a USB port to import and export to your computer. This little guy would be great for live performance as well as a portable workstation to generate ideas. It can now also be used to externally control other instruments through MIDI. Check out the demo.
Beatseqr is a hardware step sequencer that offers real time manipulation of parameters from your favorite virtual synths or Digital Audio Workstations. Designed and developed by Steve, an old friend from my DJing days, it is built using the arduino. It boasts some very impressive capabilities such as 4 pattern looping, pattern copying and pasting, and mute and solo… all rolled up into a very intuitive hardware interface. The sliders can be assigned to various parameters of a patch for further tweaking and this is where the beatseqr really shines. Here is some video of the device being used with ReDrum, providing a general overview of the features. There are a number of other informative demonstration videos over at the beatseqr blog.
I purchased an app for the Ipod Touch called ToneTable, which acts as a trigger control for software like Traktor or Serrato Scratch. It sends out a control pitch signal, like the timecoded vinyl records that are distributed with such mixing applications.
The app shows a virtual record and it has a pitch control to allow beatmatching as well as realtime pitch tweaking buttons. After hooking it up to my Traktor audio interface, I was indeed able to mix with it. But I really wanted to see if it was possible to scratch with it. And while it isn’t quite as precise as real vinyl; I was very impressed with the results. Below is some video I shot to compare it scratching with tradidiotnal vinyl as well as the Traktor control vinyl. It takes a bit of getting used to and finding a way to keep the Ipod in place is a bit of a challenge, but all in all this is a very impressive little app.
With a little practice, two Ipods, a mixer and a laptop, you could certainly perfrom with this amazing piece of work.
DJ Rafik is a DMC champ. This video show him doing a completely live remix of the Chemical Brothers Block Rocking Beats using Traktor Scratch software, turntables and a MIDI controller. One of the particularly cool things you might notice is the tight scratching he is able to pull of with the vinyl tracking emulation in Traktor. This is pretty impressive work.
This video shows what can be done with InfraRed transmitters and receivers, some coins and a turntable. A drum machine/sequencer! Schematics here.
This piano has been programmed to play notes in a sequence such that it replicates human vocal harmonic content and recites the Proclamation of the European Environmental Criminal Court. This is pretty amazing!
The Fall Quarter will be starting up this week and as a result I am really making a final push to complete as much of my project as possible. My goal over the summer was to complete as much of the application as possible, so I wasn’t scrambling during the quarter to wrap everything up. The good news is, I have made some significant progress on many fronts, but I am still not where I wanted to be when the quarter started.
Here is where I am at so far:
- I have redesigned the GUI somewhat, adding elements for some of the features that I am adding. For example, I added tabs to select the mode the AirDeck will be using based on user selection. Right now, my main priority is on the “SynthDeck,” which is the theremin app. I added tabs for ScratchDeck, a DJ scratching utility and MixDeck, a DJ mixing utility. These last two components are outside of the scope of my Project, although I would like to fit them in, time and resources permitting. Even when the Project is complete, I still plan to develop these elements… I Just had to limit the scope of my project work to something that I am 100% confident that I can deliver – which is the theremin/synth side.
- I have the MIDI out working now. This will allow the user to select a MIDI out device and it either can use the built in General Midi Instrument library(from the soundcard), or it can be used to control an external sound source such as a VST instrument, a 3rd party synth application or MIDI capable keyboard/gear. One issue I am trying to work through is that because I am using the MIDI pitch bend control, which is a variable parameter depending on what MIDI capable device is being triggered, the notes on the keyboard grid do not line up with the grid that I currently have set up for internal synthesis. So I might have to dynamically reconfigure the keyboard grid depending on the range of notes the pitch bend is set for, although this is dependent on the external application. I did include a dropdown menu for choosing the General MIDI patch, so the user can change the instrument they are playing. Currently these are represented by numbers, if I can figure out how to get the list of instrument names programmatically, I will add that as well.
- The amplitude control issue has been resolved, although I need to work this out for midi control. It is my understanding that midi control has aftertouch and velocity signals that can be modified, so I need to figure out how to dynamically control these.
- The GUI has been tightened up in terms of event logic. I have individual methods for each of the GUI components such that choices made by choosing certain items make the appropriate calls.
Here is what is currently outstanding:
- While I added synth parameter sliders such as Attack, Decay, Resonance, etc. I still need to figure out how to program those to apply the actual effect.
- Same thing with the effects sliders, which will add global effects such as Reverb and Delay.
- I need to program the preset sounds. I want these to sound as realistic as possible and since I am still learning a lot about analogue synthesis, it will remain a challenge to program these right.
- I want to incorporate patch saving capabilities so that a user can tweak certain parameters of a sound and then be able to recall these later. That is why I have added a File Menu.
- I want to add status indicators that show the three following things: a) the Wii remote is connected, b)battery level of the Wii remote, c) Midi out is active.
Here is the GUI as it currently stands:
During the last Winter Quarter, I took the Advanced Electronic Music class, as required by my Recording Arts minor. I was excited to do so as I had just purchased Cakewalk Sonar 8 and was anxious to get working with it. We were tasked to create another original piece and while most of the class was again using Pro-Tools, my professor was gracious enough to let me do my thing with Sonar. This song is the result.
I’ve always enjoyed contrasts, so this song is an attempt to contrast organic sounding material with synthetic elements; also contrasting an upbeat jazzy mood with darker, moodier tones. Hence the name Bionic Brew. The initial melody line is latin lounge flavored with a little bit of funkiness; again my exposure to the Hotel Costes type sound is showing. Then it gets into an analogue synth arpeggiation and on into a spy vs. spy kind of bridge, capped off with a touch of scratching. One of the things I experimented with a lot on this tune is the use of LFO to modulate different parameters of a waveform through another waveform and I was able to come up with a few interesting sounds using Sonar’s z3ta synth module in this fashion. Again, probably not the most dance floor ready or DJ-friendly track, nonetheless… I present Bionic Brew.Mojo_bionic_brew.mp3
Bionic Brew © 2008 Mojo’s Dojo
I imagine we are going to start seeing many more apps like this for mobile platforms like the iPhone. This one actually looks pretty cool. It’s called Fingerbeat. Here’s the promo…
As I state in my About page, my musical career began with the woodwind instruments, primarily flute and saxophone (alto, tenor and baritone). Call me biased, but when it comes to pure expressivity, I still think nothing beats the breath-controlled instruments (brass included). The two biggest limitations on such instruments are their monophonic nature and the limited timbres available. I suppose this is what fascinated me about the Yamaha WX7 wind controller when I first learned about it 20 years ago. It opened doors for wind players; now you had an unlimited palette of sound to play with just like the keyboard and guitar players. And one could still keep that connection to the instrument that channels such wonderful elements of creativity and emotion – breath.
Here is the late Michael Brecker, virtuoso jazz artist, playing on an Akai EWI. He shows just how powerful this type of performance can be.
The Haken Continuum is a musical interface that reacts to touch like a touchboard, but allows one to control pitch, velocity and other parameters by sliding or pressing the board.
Yesterday, I posted about the emerging field of Augmented Reality. The folks at 5 Gum are already working on making this a music interface. The graphic pattern that is shown determines the beat that is played and the proximity of it to a given point determines the volume.
Augmented Reality refers to the computer science field where real world data and computer generated data are used in conjunction to accomplish certain objectives. GE has an example of this you can demo yourself that they use to present information on their SmartGrid. The following video shows their AR application in action.