Hold tight for some NAMM headline posts coming soon . . .
First up is an interesting article about the occurrence of midi jitter in some host DAWs. There have been times in my experience when I suspected something of this sort in the past. After recording a satisfactory midi performance sometimes the playback would seem ‘looser’ than what was played. I’d have to ask myself “I’m not a pro drummer, but I’m not THAT bad am I?!?!?”
This definitely warrants a refamiliarizing with all of the behind the scenes preference settings.
What the bejeezus is a bass guitar doing on an electronic music site you say?
Midi bass guitar has been a love/hate relationship for Studio Wormbone over the years.
Love: As a bassist who later got into synths I felt liberated from a timbre standpoint when I got my first midi bass. All of a sudden any and every sound imaginable was within reach. It was very much indeed a gateway drug in that respect.
Hate: However, because of the nature of the beast there has yet to be a system invented that’s truly accurate and playable. Physics itself makes the problem significant. In a nutshell, because bass guitar outputs such a low frequency the result is that either there’s an annoying latency (lag time) between the time a note is played and the time it’s sounded (because of the necessary time needed to analyze the initial note) OR notes get wrongly triggered or dropped altogether.
The Line6 Variax Bass is in the same ballpark as midi bass but it’s somewhat unique. It uses a similar system to one that’s been used in other midi basses before (piezo bridge pickups) but instead of outputting a midi signal to drive external gear it contains all of it’s electronics on board. It’s also not targeted at synth enthusiasts since there’s no midi output and most of it’s capability revolves around physical modeling of classic bass guitars.
I personally applaud Line6 for the forward thinking aspects of this instrument but am still waiting for the day when bass guitar and synth can dance together in unison.
This is a TED talk describing where art and science intersect. Music composed using natural phenomena for the input.
This is the ‘how to’ do-it-yourself video for replacing encoders with potentiometers on an Evolver synth from the Dave Smith Instruments website. Apparently some of the original encoders turned out to be fidgety from the factory, and also some Evolver players just prefer the action of pots.
Here’s yet ANOTHER useful article by veteran music tech guru Craig Anderton. It describes the next generation protocol in data transfer, improving upon the likes of firewire and USB. To date the only audio device that I know of that has thunderbolt is the new Universal Audio Apollo interface, however I think we’ll be seeing much more of it in the near future.
Below is a short video of a wicked modular patch using Metasonix and WMD modules.
It seems that most modular synth owners use their equipment primarily not in tonal music but rather as instruments of sound design. Perhaps this is because of the experimental nature of the modular beast. In my experience modular gear really lends itself to exploration, serendipity, and encourages a letting go of expectation of the results. Hence, the stability of pitch and rhythm that tonal music necessitate are often quickly left by the wayside in the process. In the end I’m sure most of the glorious sounds that come out of modular synths never get utilized beyond the enjoyment of their creation and a brief listening – until the next patch change.
At Studio Wormbone a modular session is just the first step in capturing incredible sounds – albeit the most fun step by far! The entire session would be recorded using high end preamps, front end ‘safety net’ limiting to prevent errant clipping, and top of the line analog-to-digital conversion. Next, about twice the amount of time of the original recording session is spent editing and mastering the sounds into discreet sound files. At this step many of the sounds are also treated with additional effects processing to add additional variations to their finished flavoring. Lastly another seemingly endless process takes place where the individual files are categorized, sorted, and eventually re-sorted again in a multi stage process of elimination to refine the final collections for future release. This ensures only the best-of-the-best sounds make it into a completed product. This intentionally lengthy final step allows some time to pass between the creative session of a sound’s origin and the final selection of individual files into sample libraries, so that they are judged as discreet files without prejudice from the creative session.
In other words, a ridiculous amount of work goes into this labor of love! Read more about the behind-the-scenes drama of Studio Wormbone sound packs here.
Here’s another excellent SOS article about the controversy over heavy dynamics limiting in popular music during mastering. The studies cited show some unexpected and encouraging results:
OK, this is the wave of the future for audio production preamp/dynamics/EQ hardware equipment – 500 series audio gear in the modular ‘Lunchbox’ style format. If you haven’t yet heard of this then there’s an explanatory article in Mix Magazine here. For small studios like Wormbone this idea has far too many advantages to be ignored. It’s space efficient, cost effective, and versatile. It’s based around the idea of mix ‘N’ matching your own channel strips and/or signal chains using small modules that share a common chassis and power source. The case can be a portable desktop version with a handle or standard 19 inch rack mountable. Though this format has only been around for about six years now it’s virtues have been embraced by leading manufacturers and as a result the list of brands available for it has exploded. Hence making it all the more attractive for us studio rats to head in the modular direction with future gear investments. You can expect to see Studio Wormbone’s preamp, compressor, and equalization racks going modular down the road (or at the very least the hardware preamps since almost everything else is software based these days). In retrospect this is the exact same notion that launched the rack revolution for synthesizers twenty years ago, and modular synthesis fifty years ago! C’mon sound engineers, it’s about damn time you caught up. I for one am certainly glad that it did.
If you haven’t seen the Reactable yet you’ve got to check it out. It blew my mind the first time I saw a video of it. This video is a walk through and demonstration.
I believe the iPad has an app now that mimics the Reactable which is simultaneously sad and exhilarating.
It’s sad because new innovative technologies like this are quite obviously labors of love that take years of research and development to refine, only to be made obsolete shortly after their release. The same thing happened with the Jazz Mutant Lemur when Apple knocked it out of the market.
But at the same time it’s exhilarating for these incredible new ideas to become available to all musicians instead of just a select few computer scientists and/or wealthy individuals. Let’s just call it the paradox of technologicalization.