Category Archives: Electronic Music

“The Producers Conference” notes: San Diego 14 May 2011 stop

This was a great little one day session put on by Propellerheads, makers of the Reason software package. The web page that described it is gone now, unfortunately, but you can see its ghost via the Wayback Machine.

This was well worth the nominal $35 admission fee. It’s difficult to get good technical and business information about the music industry so these rare events are very welcome.

This seminar struck a great balance between technology and industry. The first two presenters, Matt Piper of Line6 (Reason’s US distributor) and Kurt “PEFF” Kurasaki (Reason expert from its earliest days) concentrated on technique, focusing on the Neptune pitch correction tool and advanced compression methods in Reason 5/Record 1.5. Even for producers not using Reason this was valuable info.

Ted Breuner then spoke about his journey into the innards of the music industry from his days as an amateur songwriter in his hometown band to working with L.A. A-list artists. At first I thought he minimized the business aspects in favor of “touchy-feely” concepts, but what he was trying to get across was that, if you enter the business to get rich it will be a miracle if you do, but with passion, commitment and persistence you will be rewarded. You could argue this point but I wouldn’t with someone as experienced as him.

Finally, dance music production wizard Jake Stanczak of Kill The Noise showed some secrets of producing monster tracks using Reason. But with his intensity and commitment, he could probably make fantastic tracks using a handheld cassette recorder and the contents of the average kitchen. Props to him for sharing so generously of his experience as well as his techniques.

I hope there are more of these sorts of events in the San Diego area.

It’s ironic how pop music production seems to have returned back to L.A. again just as it was decades ago…

Last modified (repointed web link to archive.org) 2019-07-18

Computer music pioneer Max Mathews dies at 84

The influence of Max Mathews on all aspects of electronic and digital music since its birth has been enormous. The seminal music programming system Max (originally sold by the now-defunct Opcode Systems was named for him. It has recently been rearchitected to work with Ableton Live as Max4Live.

Appreciation of Max Mathews at createdigitalmusic.com

NWEAMO festival in San Diego – Feb 2011

This year the two-day festival occurred on 25-26 Feb 2011. The performances were once again in the wonderful intimate Smith Recital Hall at San Diego State University. I saw two video cameras recording everything; hopefully these tapes will be made available for those who couldn’t make it in person. As in the previous years, the compositions and performances were stellar and most intriguing.
Here’s a PDF of the program:
NWEAMO 2011 Program

Life is like that…

I had really wanted to release another “on-line album” by the end of 2010, but it doesn’t look like I’m going to make it. I hate to disappoint all the tim p scott fans of the world, but there’s no help for it.
Meanwhile, this gives me a chance to consider the whole concept of an “album” in the 21st Century. It’s been pointed out that the model of mainstream pop music consumption has returned to the “pre-album” days of the 1950s and 1960s, when the unit of music purchase was the 45 RPM record with the “hit” on one side and the “B-side” on the other. Today, people still have their pop music favorites, but they are more interested in the individual song or track than in an album. Part of the problem was (once again) the “industry” where record companies (and even artists, I’m sorry to say) released their hit song on an album where the rest of the tracks were little more than filler. Or released what looked like and album with 5 or 6 remixes of the same one song. In combination with the artificially high price of records (and CDs), consumers got fed up with this and embraced the a la carte world that the internet age brought.
I hope I don’t get kicked out of ASCAP for talking this way, but it was the RIAA and its constituent company members that were primarily responsible for that boondoggle.
Meanwhile, I have a bunch of individual tracks I’ve produced since 2008, and those are mostly available easily for listening. Go to http://wp.me/PnrSR-nY to check them out.
Meanwhile I’m going to have some good new stuff out I promise, but my other work committments are weird and require travel and other strange scheduling stuff…

Crow Caw gets BFD 2!

Update 2019:

This is way out of date. I upgraded to BFD3 a couple of years ago and still love the product. Very well designed software; it adheres to one of my basic software interface design rules: it should be easy to do easy things, and not to difficult to do complicated things.

We have used various versions of fxpansion’s BFD drum plugin product for a couple of years. Having played drums in a previous life, nothing I programmed ever quite did it for me. BFD is one of those plugins that basically is a sample playback engine with 10s of gigabytes of drum hit and drum loop and groove recordings.

The first time we tried this it was a free demo version that came in the software disc included with a copy of Computer Music magazine from a few years ago. It was a special version of BFD 1.5 but still had an amazing amount of functionality and a ton of grooves. I always wanted to buy the full version, both to support fxpansion and of course to get more!. So finally in July of 2010 I burned a candle to the gods of debt and ordered it.

[Note to software developers; yes people do steal software, but for me being able to try a well-working demo has led to a lot of purchases of good products like this one.]

It took a while to install. Depending on how impatient you are, the available space on your hard drive, or just how many velocity layers you want, the installer gives you three installation options: small, medium and large. Having just plumped for a 500GB drive I went ahead and installed the large version which takes up about 55GB.

One of the interesting features in BFD 2.1 is “load on demand”. This allows you to quickly create a part with only a few basic layers and articulations loaded, and then when you are editing the track or rendering it, the entire kit is loaded.

Overall, the sound quality and programmability of the software is superb. You can program many articulations of the more complex parts of a drum kit such as snare rim shots and various strikes on a hi hat. The internal mixer lets you select microphone locations and contributions from room, overhead, and close mics, along with plenty of signal processing and routing options.

The only complaint I have at the moment is that the GUI is awful hard to see and read due to the tiny font and dark color choices. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the GUI can be customized, and a post on the FXpansion support forum indicates the company is not excited about creating that possibiity. But with the use of the Magnifier accessory and a little experience, so far I’m a happy camper.

Somewhere along the line in 2010 they released 2.2 (I think 2.2.0.48 is the full number; in late 2011 they appear to be beta-ing a 2.3 version) It’s been stable enough for me that I haven’t seen much of a difference but it gives me a warm feeling. After spending actual money for it I might as well upgrade…

last modified 2011 dec

Remixing myself…

For some reason I’ve been resurrecting ancient song data files and seeing if I can still recreate them. I started with the data from Jack of Shadows, which was essentially based on MIDI files run through the Roland SC-88 and the Emu Proformance+. The sequencer used was “Metro” which was Macintosh only.
For this track (“Eaterrock”) I re-recorded the MIDI from a Roland SC-880, using it as well for the piano part. The main change is a layer on the bass organ part of a bass patch designed on an RGC Triangle II synth. This is mixed fairly low and essentially just to give a little attack to the bass part.
All the parts were soloed and then recorded as audio in Sonar 8.5.3 and mixed in the box. The other big change is instead of using the Alesis Quadraverb (which provided the reverb in the original) I used my current favorite reverb plug in, the Cakewalk Perfect Space device. (Which is basically a convolution reverb.) A company named Bricasti provided a whole bunch of free impulse responses which work fine in that device.

Below are players of the original version and the newly recorded version.

“Eaterrock” (original)
(6:09) from “Jack of Shadows”
©1995 tim p scott
https://ccmw.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/tim_p_scott-0103-eaterrock_192k.mp3%20
(click (triangle) to play)
“Eaterrock” (2010 version)
(6:11) from “Songs in Work”
©2010 tim p scott
https://ccmw.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/tim_p_scott-2103-eaterrock_192k.mp3%20
(click (triangle) to play)

Hmm.. on laptop speakers or earbuds, you probably won’t hear a lot of difference, especially if you listen to it in a less than perfect environment. For a limited time, then, I’m going to give links to the underlying audio tracks (192Kbps MP3s) for you to download if you like. (Depending on your browser, you should be able to just right click on the following links.)

Original Eaterrock version 2010 remixed version

Last updated 20100606

Some notes on software guitar processors

updated 2019-07-29

This is one of those posts that was halfway in the middle of being modified when I got interrupted and abandoned it. So let’s see if there’s anything salvageable in it:

sometime in 2015

Well, this is already 5 or 6 years old and there has been much progress in this field….the last version of the below was dated dec 2010.

Introduction

I’m not much of a guitar player, and the guitar I have is of equal quality. So, can using VST guitar plugins make the proverbial silk purse out of a sow’s ear? Yes and no.

Here are some notes about a few demo and freeware versions I’ve used. Your mileage will certainly vary, but at the least it may be something for you to consider.

Also remember that many of these are continually being worked on and improved, so the versions I’m writing about are probably already obsolete as you read this.

Native Instruments Guitar Rig

My collaborator pointed me at this; the best part being that the demo version (5) sounds great even though it is very limited in the number of components you can select. Somewhere along the line I found an offer for this for $99. It’s still (in 2019) my best software guitar processor.

Amplitube (version 3 or 4?)

This may have changed but this was a real ripoff because for your $200 you got one or two amp models, one cabinet, and a handful of distortion and other processors. The NI product have nearly a complete library of models and processors.

To be fair, the few modules I was able to experiment with in Amplitube did sound great.

Line 6 (www.line6.com)

I liked the POD but ultimately I couldn’t get the sounds out of it I wanted. Maybe my problem. In any case they now have a software only version, the demo is worth checking out.

Studio Devil BVC (www.studiodevil.com)

+ VST

+ Free version  for eval! (BVC variant)

+ Cheap

Pretty nasty distortion tool which can border on shrill. A little of this goes a long way.

ReValver (www.alienconnections.com)

Free versions of this commercial product can be found that have a subset of its entire feature set. This is the ultimate tweaker tool. You have a tool box full of preamp and amp models and processors you can wire together into a virtual rack, sort of like the Reason model. In each device you can actually get in and edit it as though you were actually modifying the device’s electronics. Very powerful and capable of great sounds.

Not using it so much now in 2015 since the NI Guitar Rig 5 does everything it does.

♥ Dirthead 0.80

My favorite single processor. May require a little EQ to tame the “honkiness” you can get from a cheap guitar.

  • FREE!
  • Three levels of distortion
  • “Cabinet” switch is useful and adds good sound
  • Simple to use, stable, extremely light CPU footprint
  • Did I mention FREE?!

Voxengo Tube Amp

Voxengo BoogeX

After tinkering with these a lot, it became clear that they often had one or two great characteristics, but alone didn’t do the trick. This is where Ableton’s Rack paradigm comes in handy. It’s simple to create a Rack which is a layer of several of these tools. I have Racks that parallel three or four of them, usually Dirthead, Studio Devil and Boogex. Another channel with a Live Utility device allows you to add some clean signal.

Then you can map Macro controls to easily tweak the amount of contribution to the entire sound from each device.

Then I got a job…

Hallelujah and amen. Once I managed to get an income again (not through music…that’s not ever been anything in my life)–after some research I splurged on my guitar. First I paid an expert (Moze Guitars) to set up and intonate (is that a real word?) it. I replaced the pickups with EMG active pickups at great expense…the idea was it would be much more hum resistant. Not so sure about all that.

In any case, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to play now.

I decided my trusty DigiTech RP100 was due for retirement, so after some research I ended up with the Korg Pandora PX5D. That was OK for a while. It was cool how small it was – like pocket sized. Finally I replaced it with a Line 6 Pod XT.

As of 2019 that’s gone too. I have Ableton Live and NI Guitar Rig set up for short enough latency I can actually play guitar parts in real time. But if there’s ever any problem, I bounce the arrangement without guitar to a WAV file, move that to the Zoom R8 and play through that unit’s guitar modelers. That way I don’t even need to turn on the computer to work out guitar parts.

The short story is that it’s a great little unit but since this page is supposed about software I’ll write about these things elsewhere.

Last updated 3 Dec 2010

Snapshots from around the studio

Crow Caw Music Works International Headquarters

Gimme that comfy country vibe!

Guitar department - 2010

Guitar department - 2010

There’s a wealth of interesting detail here (depending on your personal understanding of the word “interesting”…) Notice the high quality $20 First Act guitar amplifier you can just see the top of under the desk. I’ve since relocated it a little bit and covered it and its mic with a heavy blanket. This seems to give me better guitar sounds…possibly because I can run it louder.

The photo below is from last fall, when I was still working on my piano lessons and the Novation Remote SL was still on the right hand side of the production desk. It’s sort of dark but you can make out one of the official CCMW Studio Cats on the task chair. When that happens I have to drag a wooden chair in to work on.

Last fall with Lucy

Welcome to the Crow Caw Music Works International Operations Center

Studio front door

Is this nondescript enough?

This rather forbidding looking entrance is the front door to the CCMW IOC.The loading docks and executive towers are on the other side of the building.

Another view of the front door

As mentioned elsewhere in this site, the hardware components are inexorably being taken over by software. The main production is handled by a big computer named Colossus with lots of software editors, synths, DAWs and processors on it. A few years ago Colossus would have been state of the art (it’s based on an Intel quad-core Q6600 CPU) but now it’s “venerable.” However, it still has the juice to do what it needs to.

This is what the main production desk looked like from the rear. It’s been cleaned up and improved since this photo. The rack mounted Intel box is visible at the lower left. The light gray box in the middle is the retired Macintosh G3. It’s still there since once in a while we need to resurrect old project files that run in Metro or Opcode Vision that are Mac only.

From mid-2009.

Last edited 20100605

New tracks: “Whispers of Doom” and “Robot Monster 3” – technical details.

Updated 2010 02 22

I’ve just finished “mastering” two new tracks that have been in the laboratory for a few weeks.

“Whispers of Doom: is pretty much like everything else I’ve been doing lately.

“Robot Monster 3” is more fun as it uses extensive dialog samples from the 1953 grade-Z science fiction movie “Robot Monster” – see page 43 in the “Listen” section: https://crow-caw.com/40-listen/43-some-newer-tracks/

These were produced once again in Ableton Live (currently v8.1.1.) They make extensive use of the fantastic sounding Zebra2 synth — you can hear it in the bass parts and some of the leads, The venerable soft synths Triangle II and Crystal were also used, along with a weird patch from Arturia’s Analog Factory.