Music Technology Posts from May, 2007

Tips and Tricks for Reason

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Reason is an amazing music production tool, and is so customisable and expandable that it would take several large books to properly cover what it can do. Included in the Reason Rack are samplers, drum machines, synths, mastering modules, effects units – everything you need to create professional-grade electronic music. However, Reason isn’t just for electronica – using samples in the NN-XT you can create any style of music you like.

I Can See My Sounds From Here

Monday, May 14th, 2007

Charts, graphs and visual representations of all sorts of data have been washing around for a long time now – for music, the classic visual guide is the trusty VU meter. As technology and computers became more evolved, more sophisticated means of visualising data emerged. If you take a modern audio mastering and processing package such as Steinberg’s Wavelab, you can choose between a variety of very psychedelic visual representations of what is going on in the sound signal, from FFT graphs to phase scopes and the more traditional spectral analysis bars.

Getting Started With Mastering and EQ

Friday, May 11th, 2007

At some point in your musical career, you may begin to wonder exactly why the CD of your favourite band just sounds so much better than the demo you recorded in your local studio. Some of this may be down to musicianship, extremely expensive instruments and high-end recording equipment, but a lot of it can be due to the expertise of a professional mastering and EQ engineer.

It’s a ReacTable Bjork

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

The very futuristic ReacTable, developed by the music technology group in the Univesitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, is to be used by Bjork on her “Volta” tour. In their press release, the group decribe the device as a “tabletop tangible multi-touch interface”. They then go on to describe its use – “several musicians share control of the instrument by moving and caressing objects on a luminous table”. This, I’ll admit, does sound interesting.

Thimbletron Has Musical Future Sewn Up

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

The Evolution Control Committee has expanded on its discovery of a new element (Thimbletronium) by constructing a glove-device which takes advantage of Thimbletronium’s unique properties to deliver copyright-crushing live performances. TradeMark G will be using the MIDI glove on stage at the Maker Faire.


ECC also has some interesting advice to offer Napster listeners – if you run a search for mp3s with a title of ‘mic in track’ you will find a host of recordings that were made by users themselves directly from their computer’s microphone input. Although the quality of these is understandably terrible, a few amusing gems may turn up in the debris.

The Maker Faire is also hosting the 2007 Cassette Jockey Championships – where CJs from around the world can strut their stuff using any sort of device that plays analog cassettes. Expect a myriad of bizarre souped-up tape decks and a whole lot of lead-in antics. More details on this event can be found at Create Digital Music as well as on the Maker Faire site itself.

I wonder if the Thimbletron will feature in Sonic State’s upcoming 20 Weirdest Instruments feature… at the moment, they’re almost done wrapping up their list of the greatest synths, as voted by those who used them most…

Internet Radio Takes A Hit

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Just when Internet radio was really beginning to take off, the US Copyright Royalty Board has announced a hike in playback fees. This seems like something of a knee-jerk reaction by the major publishers to new music consumption profiles sprouting up around the world – instead of embracing the changes and trying to adapt to them, they are attempting to directly quash a perceived threat to their burgeoning monopoly.

Linux For Audio Production

Monday, May 7th, 2007

Although a huge number of professional musicians and audio producers use a Mac OS as their platform of choice, and the rest are sticking with Windows, a third option is now breaching the horizon – Linux.

Linux is an open-source platform, which means that anyone can access and modify the code. This may seem like a security nightmare to anyone used to the endless procession of virus threats associated with a Windows system, but in fact Linux is pretty much virus-free. If something isn’t working as it should, it may be a bug in the code, but a quick pit-stop in a forum will usually iron it out for you. Linux is essentially community-based, and there are hundreds of coders out there who are happy to help with any problems you might have.

Up until recently, there just haven’t been any audio applications available for Linux that could rival the likes of Pro Tools. This is set to change, now that applications such as Ardour, Wired and Rosegarden have begun to push the potential of Linux as a viable alternative platform for high-quality audio production. Despite a lack of corporate funding, the sheer enthusiasm and dedication of the programmers behind these projects enables them to evolve products that respond to user feedback in a very direct way, and their feature-sets are increasing by the week. Paul Davis is the instigator of the Ardour program, a DAW that provides an impressive array of features.

However, it may not be time to make the switch just yet. Jono Bacon is a musician who uses Linux for some of his audio production needs, but he advocates a cautious and informed approach – Linux is definitely not for the faint of heart when it comes to DAW implementation. A major problem for the platform is a lack of hardware support – hardware manufacturers generally do not cater to open-source platforms, and so compatibility is a big issue here. Usability is also a concern, as getting everything working properly may well require some fairly in-depth modifications of your system – things aren’t plug-and-play just yet.

I’m sure that quite a few musicians will be keen to get on the Linux bandwagon (so to speak) as soon as they feel it has everything they need. Personally, I would need to have a Linux version of Reason up and running before I make the change, but that may be some time away yet…

By the way, anyone who has a copy of Windows Vista will undoubtedly be wondering how to get rid of all those pesky alert boxes that pop up every time you move your mouse. This is amusingly called User Access Control (meaning you can’t use your PC) and it can be turned off – the downside is that you lose some ‘security’, but at least you do get to use your computer. To do this, turn User Account Control on in Control Panel, and then uncheck the UAC box. When you restart your computer, the UAC will be gone.

Podcomplex Launches OMS Beta

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

Although Podcomplex has been developing organically over the past year (and will continue to do so), today a rather more dramatic change to the site has been implemented. As you can see from the homepage, Podcomplex is now an official part of the Open Music Source (OMS) network, which provides online distribution and promotion services to more than 6,000 artists via 36 platforms. These numbers are growing daily, and clearly illustrate that the way we consume music is inevitably moving towards an open source model.

You can now browse through a huge database of new independent music on the Podcomplex OMS Page, listen to and download mp3s from OMS artists, read bios and news updates, and keep abreast of upcoming performances.

If you are a musician, you can register a band account for submission to the database, which is a great way of gaining exposure and building your fanbase across the world.

Go and check it out – the features of this platform are constantly being refined and expanded, but it is already an amazing resource.

Why Aren’t You Listening To Me, Dave?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

Computers have been involved with the process of music creation for some time now, in a variety of different capacities – most often as an audio sequencing or effect processing tool. However, Christopher Raphael of the University of Indiana has demonstrated a program which is capable of performing live, in time with a human instrumentalist, without missing a beat.

Musical Suicide for All

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

About a year ago, in March 2006, Bob Ostertag decided to put his music online for free, under a creative commons non-commercial license. This is not particularly unusual in itself – however, the fact that he has 28 years worth of recorded material on his site means he is providing a large portfolio to the public, without any immediate or direct prospect of monetising such work. This is precisely what his article “The Professional Suicide of a Recording Musician” is referring to.