Author Archives: A. Person

Raised by gypsies because the wolves wouldn’t have ‘im.

I never imagined it would happen

I jokingly have been using the subtitle “Welcome to the nightmare of [year]” on the top sticky post for a long time. When I changed it to 2020 late last year, little was I to guess it would come true.

Fortunately, in my little world my immediate friends and I have ducked the virus so far, but in my USA county, as throughout the whole country, the infection rate is jumping up after hitting a minimum in the late summer.

The good news is a vaccine seems about to be approved and released, but with 300 million people clamoring for it, and me not one of the critical people who should get early doses, I’m going to have to be content to wait, probably several months.

Meanwhile, I sold my Yamaha G-1 grand piano — it just wasn’t practical in my small home. I tried many, many digital pianos, and was about to give up on getting one I liked in my price range when I randomly played on a Yamaha CP-88 at a Guitar Center. It didn’t take me too long to fall in love with both the amazing keyboard action as well as the range of sounds available, so I threw my budget out the window and bought it.

Up on Spotify and YouTube!

I really like DistroKid as a route to get my material on these and many other sites (iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play, Deezer, iHeartRadio and many others). I was excited about SoundCloud when it first started, but I don’t think it’s aimed at my needs in it current incarnation.

Spotify: just enter “tim p scott” in the search box, and it will find all my released albums and a few newer things. This is the best place since it gives you more flexibility in choosing songs and albums.

YouTube: I have a YouTube Artist Channel. This is pretty much only a place to listen; there’s only a static picture along with each track. And you may have to look at/skip over ads if you’re on the free signup; not yet sure about that. Anyway, to get started just put “tim p scott” in the search box, or try https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDuhe3CJsVuG2QXUpmUFdnw

Hopefully more recent pieces will get uploaded as time goes by. Also I really need to groom these sites (and this wordpress one too)…

My band all got sick and died at once (or; woes of moving to Windows 10)

OK, that’s a pretty obtuse headline so let me come clean first. For many reasons you can read about elsewhere I do almost all my composing and producing myself using computers. Therefore it’s really important to me that the system be working and all the software be playing nice together.

Transitioning from my Old music production PC (Colossus; ended up as a Windows 7 Pro system) to the New one (“Guardian”, Windows 10 Pro) has been an utterly frustrating ordeal. If you’ve got nothing but time to read about it plunge right on in.

History

In 2007 I bought a custom built computer in a 4U rack from a company that still exists (www.silentpc.com). It has served me well, from its original configuration as a Windows XP machine through Windows 7. After 12 years and many thousands of hours of faithful service it finally failed, and I realized I was going to have to replace it.

The problem is that current motherboards don’t support Windows 7, and Microsoft is only supporting it in legacy mode (probably because so many corporations around the world have hundreds of thousands of licenses and are running critical applications on it.)

On top of that, many companies that make the software I rely on have notified their customers that there won’t be any support for Windows 7 for new software. All my crucial software (Ableton Live, NI Guitar Rig, Fxpansion BFD, Omnisphere, etc.) still supports Windows 7 but not for updates or new versions.

Finally, and one of the most screamingly frustrating of all my problems, is the “64 bit vs 32 bit” problem which I’ll talk about in a minute.

In other words, I had little choice but to order my new computer with Windows 10 installed. This is a native 64 bit OS, there is no option to install it as a 32 bit OS. That’s OK, since a 32 bit application will run on Windows 10.

The problem is that music production almost always relies on a collection of software working together: generally a host of some kind (Ableton Live, Reaper, Apple Logic) using a host of plug-in effects and instrument modules (countless old and new applications such as u-he Zebra, synth1, Native Instruments Guitar Rig, and fxpansion BFD3.)

So then I spent the next month trying to find a combination of software that would allow me to keep working, since I have many files that go back 2 – 5 years that I need to work on. (I work real slowly since I don’t have any serious deadlines.)

So here is a typical issue I faced. I have a song that uses Reason 4 ReWired into Ableton Live, a BFD3 drum track, and the Perfect Space convolution reverb that used to come with Cakewalk Sonar.

Well, since Reason 4 only works in 32 bit mode, I have to use Ableton Live version 9.7 running in 32 bit mode, as must be the BFD3 plugin. Well, the last version of BFD3 that supports 32 bit is 3.2.3.3, so I’ve installed that. If you install 3.3.0.4 (the most recent version) it only supports 64 bit mode.

Prefect Space is only 32 bit mode. So now I have to decide whether I can spend to money to buy a reverb that supports convolution mode.

The song also uses the Arturia Analog Factory plugin which — guess what — is also only a 32 bit plug in.

Now another song I have uses Spectrasonics Omnisphere. This plugin like BFD3 is only supported on Windows 7 up to a certain point; if you want to upgrade it to get new features and performance options, you have to be running Windows 10.

Encrypting File System (EFS)

This was something I never imagined I’d have to worry about. Anyway, it appears to turn out that some free software I obtained cost more than I thought.

Several years ago, the Loopmasters company made a lot of loops and sample available as a promotion…I ended up with nearly 5 GB of material. Never used a lot of it but it was interesting.

In attempting to copy the files off the hard drive I saved from my crashed computer, I found out to my dismay that all these files were ENCRYPTED. I never noticed it before, since apparently the OS on the old computer had the proper keys to decrypt these sample/loop files on the fly. Now that the files are being read by a different computer, they are locked out.

From what I can clean in internet research, I should be able to use the keys from the old computer to decrypt these. I’ve been experimenting with the command line “cipher” utility in windows, and the certificate manager adminstrative snap in but I haven’t found the secret formula to be able to unlock these files yet.

Because I installed them 3-5 years ago, I don’t think I have the original download install packages to try to reinstall, and they’re no longer available from the provider. Somewhere along the line I might have a backup of the original install file, but it’s not looking promising.

It turns out that there appears to be some methods to recover these files in a situation like this by being an Administrator and creating a “recovery agent.” But experimenting with that didn’t help. Finally, I found a promising piece of software from a company called Elcomsoft. Running the downloadable demo, it appeared to be able to retrieve appropriate keys from my hard drive and decrypt some of my files. Because they’re in business to earn their money, the demo only decrypts a small part of the file to prove it can be done. To unlock the full version of the software would cost me $150. (I do not think this is unfair in any way if the alternative is to lose the files forever or spent another 100 hours trying to see if I can figure out the Windows EFS system.) So I had to ask myself how badly I wanted to retrieve this sample set.

Lesson: be aware of this pitfall and export your certificates if you’re running Windows; you never know when you’ll need them.

[2020-01-02] OK, I was lucky in this case. I traced back to when I got these sample libraries. It turned out that since I was a registered Novation customer, I was entitled to a promotion of these sample libraries. Contacting them and explaining my predicament, they graciously provided me with a link to re-download them (yes, I should have copied the files to a DVD after I first downloaded them.) So now I don’t need to spend the $150 on the recovery software.

Update October 2020

Update October 2020

Well, on one hand Windows 10 is mostly stable and I’ve found workarounds, updates or alternatives to software that won’t work any more. On the other hand I’ve been spending most of my time in the last couple years working on the piano. This is part of my long term plan as a musician, realizing that realistically I’m not going to be that effective a mixer/producer as my hearing gets steadily worse over the decades.

Piano evolution 2018 – 2020

In 2018 a dream I had for decades came true when a beautiful Yamaha G1 baby grand was offered to me for a low price. I jumped at this and enjoyed it for a couple years, but the reality was that my living situation was such that even a baby grand was impractical to play at any hour of the day or night, particularly to am adult (re-beginning) piano student. To my sadness and regret, I realized I would have to sell the piano and buy a digital one.

The quest for a replacement

I knew that I was going to have to settle for a digital piano. So I at least had the fun of researching them. I was delighted to find that there were many more options than there were years ago when I looked into this. I remember buying a 60-pound Fatar 88-key MIDI controller years ago and trying countless sound modules. I have to admit that for the time I did love the E-mu Proformance+ half-rack piano module, and later on the Roland “Session” expansion cards for JV-*80 rackmount synths. But I knew these were only placeholders, as many of my software and hardware synths were…

I hope this will be continued soon…!

Welcome (back) to Crow Caw Music Works – Blog section

last modified 14 nov 2020

Welcome.

This is the place for all things related to and about the musical productions and writings of tim p scott, producer of electronic post-rock instrumental compositions since before there was post-rock.

If this is your first visit, welcome. This is the permanent landing page. Up above there are the main (“What”, “Who”, etc.) menus. You can go to the page “Listen” for samples of tps music, “Who?” for some biographical material, “What?” for general information about this site, and “Where?” for contact information. “How” discusses various aspects of what used to be called “DTMP” (Desktop Media Production).

All the music from the first 5 CDs are now available on Spotify as well. Just enter “tim p scott” into the search box. )If you subscribe to that service just think; you’re paying me about a ten-thousandth of a penny each time you play a track! Hey, it adds up!)

If you’re returning, welcome back. Apologies in advance for all the broken links and other embarrassments. This site may not be dead yet. My musical pal and I are planning a launch/relaunch of our sites so maybe having a partner will motivate me to resurrect this. We know that the most important thing about a website is interesting content and **FREQUENT UPDATES** so maybe we can make that happen.

Working full time and trying to keep up an old house does tend to suck up a mass of time.

Finally; while we try to be realistic and flexible about copyright law (who wants to spend all their money on lawyers and lawsuits [besides certain churches]?), we sincerely hope you’ll at least have the grace to give credit to tim p scott and/or Crow Caw Music Works if you use anything from this site. So please try to do the Right Thing, it no kill you.

(Apologies in advance for broken links; I have a lot of references to old websites/pages some of which have moved or disappeared. Don’t forget to check the Wayback Machine at http://www.archive.org which is a pretty good attempt to save every website that has every been on the internet.)

For instance, today I removed my cool pointer to a short interview with the great Robert Moog as the link disappeared. The curse of the internet.

Help — mystery sample!

2018-02-01

OK, I need the collective knowledge of the internet to help me out with this one!

Mystery Sample from “Haborthelem”(4:16) from “Songs in Work”

(click (>) to play)

Years ago in the Csound Book sample CDs there was a folder called “GomiPeace – KazuhikoGomi – SpeechProcessing” that had this file “pareq2.wav” — which I presume was intended to demonstrated parametric eq and a number of other signal processing techniques. But I found it intriguing and ended up building a piece off it

The basic sample just sounds like a woman saying a word that I would transcribe as “haborthelem”. She seems to enunciate it very clearly but I have no idea what language it is or what it might mean. What we need is a google – type search but of an audio file. Yahoo had something like this but they closed it down in 2008. Google doesn’t have it and Shazam, while a really cool way to find out what song is playing, doesn’t do it either.

Roughly related to this, I had a friend share with me a piece of audio that he got years ago from a friend on an old cassette, and never could figure out what it was. It was an approximately three minute piece of a young boy reciting a metaphysical essay with a very simple piano piece playing behind it. By using some keywords from the recitation, I found out it was a Ray Lynch production — I believe the title is “A great and wonderful mystery”.

When you are confronted with an unknown text or song as in this case, if your searching comes up empty, wait a couple years because every year the web adds terabytes of data. This is particularly true if your interest is in genealogy; I have found links in even casual searches that came up blank just a few years ago.

Follow up 2019-11-05 – well, a year and a half has gone by and I am no closer to solving the problem. I need to find a “speech-to-text” project or a “audio search engine” on the web and submit to file to those…

OK – back to music

After clearing up the “studio housekeeping” problems I am back working on songs. I have a few things currently in the works, early versions of which I hope to offer here soon.

I’m interested in extreme and death metal lately, which means guitar playing. I have been wrestling with my cheap electric solid body for a long time: with mediumweight strings and all 5 springs installed on the tremolo I still have too high strings. So finally a huge light bulb went off; I detuned all strings by a whole step and I get perfect action and a nice fatter sound.

I have been agonizing over guitar amp sims too, trying every demo in sight. The problem is that I’ll dial in a sound that seems perfect, then come back in the morning at hate it. Currently my strategy is to layer the fabulous free Dirthead 0.80 and Voxengo BoogeX as a group in live, tweak each plugin for a different part of the sound and then mix them. I also find myself returning to the built-in guitar processors in the humble but might Zoom R8 recorder. So maybe I won’t plunk down money for a software guitar sim for the moment….

Meanwhile let me recommend the interview with Oneohtrix Point Never in the latest (December 2015) issue of Electronic Musician. His process is intriguing and I note with satisfaction that he is also an Ableton Live exclusivist.

It all makes sense … ultimately

OK! After attacking all the bad smelling stains in my studio I have reassembled it and moved back in. It’s a much more pleasant space to work in now.

In order to avoid actually working on music, I spent a week experimenting with overclocking my PC. I can’t afford new computers right now. Cats are too expensive.

I got my home built PC with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad CPU overclocked and running stably at 3.2 GHz. That’s like buying a newer computer for free.

The next step is for me to clean up this site. The design that I thought was so nice 5 years ago is badly out of date now, and needs to be streamlined. But maybe even more important than that, I want to at least make sure that the sample tracks on other pages at least play correctly.

It’s all on the schedule to be done before I die! Stay tuned…

 

ZAR recovery program, and reading the orphan .bkf format on Windows 7…

Updated 2015-04-12

  •  ZAR Recovery Program

When I trashed the directory structure of my music computer, I knew I was in big trouble. Fortunately I had another hard drive I could use for the boot drive so I was able to CAREFULLY try some public domain and even Linux software to attempt to recover my precious system. I could probably have reassembled it from a huge collection of DVD backups but I had the feeling only the file system structure was damaged; not the data itself…

Since none of this was urgent, I had the luxury to try some various approaches. I have to say that the Linux tools approach did not work for me, although that doesn’t mean it won’t for you.

I ended up actually paying the nominal cost for the “ZAR” recovery software. I must say that it definitely worked like a charm. It took many, many hours to recover the gigabytes of data, and some sectors did show up as lost but by and large I am hugely satisfied with it.

  • BKF format – good news update

Updating this in April 2015; some ingenious person discovered that you could indeed read .bkf files through a very simple process. Basically you get the ntbackup.exe file and two other .dlls from an XP system and just put them in folder on your windows 7 system, and launch the .exe. This brings up the old faithful backup/restore application and I proved that it works fine. Unfortunately I don’t have the names handy of the .dlls but will put them here next time I get on the other system.

Microsoft claims to have a solution which is in one of their knowledgebase articles Windows NT Backup Restore Utility for Windows 7 and for Windows Server 2008 R2 (“http://support.microsoft.com/kb/974674”) but it did not work for me. I downloaded the fix files that were supposed to allow manipulation of bkf files but they didn’t work. The application appeared but as soon as you tried to execute any function it crashed.

Here’s my original comments on this issue:

Another problem with Windows 7 is the infamous .bkf format problem. From everything I read, basically there is no support anymore for reading files created by the old Backup tools. Again I have many GB of files in that format. Once again the third party vendors have created programs that unscrew that format, and Microsoft has no help for your whatever. I wish ZAR had a program in that category since I would love to give them additional business. So far I have decided that since I have recovered my old HD largely successfully, I don’t have an urgent need to decode the old .bkfs.

Page#21/last modified 20150412

Zoom R8 recorder — my favorite gadget

Updated November 2019

…(awesome) lap-sized 8 track recorder…!

I’m updating this in 2019 to add a few more comments. I’ve owned this since at least 2013 and maybe before. I see from a quick web search that this is still available which should immediately tell you something in this day of advancing technology.

See the outstanding review with photos by Rich Menga; a good takeaway is that he makes this comment, which I fully agree with:

I’m very surprised anyone who records at home doesn’t own an R8.

For various reasons I wanted something very small and portable I could use as a songwriting/scratch pad. I looked at several from Boss and Tascam but settled on this unit. It can be actually battery powered with AA batteries; and even supports rechargeable AAs (!) (see more on this below).

The recording medium is an SDHC card. It ships with a 2 GB card containing a lot of excellent drum loops, but you can install up to a 32 GB card, which I highly recommend, particularly as they are sub-$10 at this point. I copied the loops to the larger card and there is tons on room now for projects and takes. If somehow you fill up a card just put in a new one…but I’d be surprised if you did.

Two tiny condenser mics are built right into the device. They’re obviously not ultra high quality but fine for recording acoustic instruments/vocals.

The audio effects and processing options are very good. In particular, the guitar effects are great for me. With an electric or acoustic guitar, or a piano and your voice you can create really good tracks. There’s plenty of processing options for vox, bass, special effects, eq.

I cannot recommend this too highly. One of the things I’m finding out is that I’m more likely to record a passing idea when I can boot this up in 15 seconds, plug in my guitar or sing (or even take a voice note!) into it. You don’t even need to set up mics, but can play an acoustic instrument or sing right into the built in mics! Later on when the whole studio is booted I can easily transfer the audio files to Reaper or Live.

The included loops and rhythm patterns are surprisingly good. Not only that, but if you have a collection of your favorite loops, you can use your computer to copy them to the R8 and use them just as you can with the supplied ones! Of course they have to be 44.1k WAVs, but plenty of those fit on the 32 GB SD card.

Real guitar players have dissed the R8’s built in guitar effects, but for my money I never use my Pod or Korg Pandora. I never play live so for my needs the built-in effects are outstanding. Not to mention the bass, clean channel, mic channel and mastering effects. (Full disclosure: once I got Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5 I use that for everything; I can even track guitar parts with it and my computer is not that recent or fast.)

Long digression about the R8 audio interface capabilities

You may notice I haven’t mentioned its audio interface capabilities but I’m going to change that now (Nov 2019). Due to the demise of my Windows 7 computer, I was forced to buy a new one, and concomitantly I found I couldn’t run Win 7 no way no how any more with most current motherboards, so I was also forced to go to Windows 10. On top of that, motherboards no longer support old PCI, so my audio interface, my beloved m-Audio Audiophile 2496 was no longer usable. The built-in audio in the supposed great motherboard was shockingly bad: at high volumes there is a continual background noise, when when certain CPU operations occur or you use a mouse, you can hear a zipping or tearing noise in the audio.

So I thought, no problem, I’ll just buy a simple PCIe audio card. That’s when I found out that basically there no cheap PCIe audio cards. My salesman at Sweetwater, bless his soul, pointed out “hey, you have your Zoom R8 right? you can use it as a USB audio interface.” Well, slap my fro…I’ve had the thing all these years and never thought of that…well, I didn’t need it. It turns out that it works excellently and sees to sound pretty good (you can use its own software or something like ASIO4ALL, it can to 24 bit at 44.1 or 48k stereo…so: problem solved, with equipment I already had! And I can still play the guitar into it, into my DAW and guitar plug ins, and monitor at the same time.

OK: returning to the original content in this review:

  • The display is bright enough to actually see!

Yes, some of its functions can cumbersome to access (e.g. trim audio files) but for its size you just can’t beat it. Really, even though Zoom has released some newer and larger versions of these recorders, for my needs none of them are really as good as this one. I was looking at the R16 but I really have no need for 8 track simultaneous recording. The R16 uses 6 batteries too, and doesn’t have the rhythm unit that the R8 and R16 does.

Maybe it’s just my own personal taste, but I demoted my Line6 PodXT off my desktop (and onto ebay, sayonara) and only use the Zoom to record guitar tracks into my computer. Sometimes I’ll use NI Guitar Rig to punch up the processing. The nice thing is that you can record your guitar lead dry while monitoring effects, and bounce the effected part to another track. Then you can import the clean and FX track into your DAW, and add further effects.

Battery powered! Using 4 AA alkaline batteries you can get up to 5 hours of use, per the manual. But I am using 2500 mAh NiMH, which give at least 2 hours and more likely 3 or more depending on what you’re doing. (I’m going to actually measure this and will update the page when I do.)

Quick Pros and Cons list: based on my usage, YMMV of course!

The Amazon “From the manufacturer” section is informative and accurate. Not going to link to them for free though!

Pros:

  • Small and extremely light (257 mm × 190 mm × 51 mm, 780 gm) – not sure if that’s with the batteries or not
  • Boots up in a few seconds
  • Bright backlight
  • Built in stereo mics
  • 2x XLR inputs in the back
  • 24V/48V phantom power (you should probably be using USB power in this case)
  • USB 2.0; files transfer to computer pretty quickly
  • Usable FX
  • Simple sample feature
  • Simple drum machine feature with hundreds of usable patterns included
  • Up to 32 GB SDHC cards supported
  • Some of the supplied audio loops are pretty cool (I mean, how impossible is it to make everything thrilled with all the musical styles that are out there)
  • Quick control surface capability
    • I love this, I can quickly assign a couple faders to some of my Ableton controls if I decide I need to do some tweaking
  • Good audio interface (see above)

Cons: a lot of these are pretty trivial, but just to let you know:

  • This is not a cheap item. Pretty much everywhere will charge you USD299 for it.
  • Some functions like bouncing and file trim/split are a little arcane, but with some dedicated reading of the manual supplemented with YouTube lessons you can easily learn it
  • You can only record two audio channels at a time
  • Be careful; if you are wedded to 48kHz you can’t record with FX at that SR
  • It will lose the date and time if the batteries fail and you don’t replace them or hook to USB power within a few minutes. (It’s not a big deal to reset the date/time). If you don’t reset the time then new files will have wrong timestamps; I don’t know if there are any other gotchas.
  • Renaming files is cumbersome using the jog wheel/cursor
  • Supplied SD card is only 2GB; about half of it is supplied loops and drum patterns.
  • Setting loop timing on fx comes up in ms; but Rich Menga in his review above shows how to get to the musical tempo setting

I don’t know what I’m going to do if they discontinue this and mine finally dies, but I suppose I will still be able to find them on ebay.

Last modified 17 Nov 2019

Mr Blue Sky: genius of Jeff Lynne in great documentary

Yes, there is probably some element of marketing in this, with Lynne about to release new albums, but if anyone deserves to be exposed to music fans it’s Mr. ELO. This guy, besides his stellar career in ELO, has produced Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and the re-formed Beatles (you have to see the documentary for explanation). This is a short (60 min) production but packed with meat including drool worthy shots of (apparently) his home (walls covered with gold and platinum records) with expensive condenser mics and instruments in every room. Yet Lynne comes off (to me) as a modest, hardworking journeyman who just happens to be one of the five best producers in pop/rock music. See it if you can (I caught it on Palladia).

Last modified 2012/10/13