Category Archives: Electronic Music

NWEAMO San Diego – Feb/Mar 2012

I feel really blessed to have this wonderful event just a few miles from my house. Sometimes I think it’s a pity that more people from the community don’t attend.

This year there is a very nice article, mainly based on an interview (with a handy description of the festival schedule) with festival adjuvant Dr Joseph Waters, that hopefully will raise the series’ profile. But unfortunately it is still 90% music students from SDSU attending.

Tonight the Partch ensemble is playing; I only hope it will not be sold out before I can buy a ticket.

Spotify and Pandora

Update 2018 Jul 11 

If you wait long enough lots of things happen. I revisited Spotify a couple of months ago and it’s improved enough that I’m actually paying the $10 a month for the premium version. What’s changed?

Even more zillions of tracks. Want to dig into regional 60s psychedelia? You can spend the rest of your life exploring there.

I didn’t think I’d punt Pandora but at the present Spotify has the edge if I have to pay something monthly.

I thought I’d hit the jackpot since Spotify Premium touts a download facility which allows you to keep tracks on your devices that aren’t network-connected. Well, yes and no: it downloads an encrypted file which you can only then play on devices that have a Spotify player. So it’s useless on my FiiO media player, for instance. I think it’s false advertising, since claiming you have download privileges but can only download an encrypted file seems like a lie to me.

Incidentally, check out the more incredible every noise at once website. This is apparently managed by one of the Spotify engineers and has a gigantic map of every genre that Spotify identifies, with a sample for almost every one. By pinning down the genre of your favorite artists, the theory is that you can find similar acts. It actually works quite well.

So I enter “Carbon Based Lifeforms”, one of my current cool discoveries, and I find out they’re classified as “psychill, downtempo, psychedelic trance, ambient, electronic”. Yup, I’d buy that. So I click on the psychill link and a page comes up with a big cloud of similar acts, some of whom I do know and like such as Eat Static and Shpongle, and some I have not heard of, life H.U.V.A. Network, Desert Dwellers and AES DANA. So…time to explore.

The free version will get you roped in, but at some point those ads are going to either drive you away or drive you to the paid version.

Update 2011 Nov 18

(This is old now, but I’m just going to keep it here to maintain perspective.)

I still had the free Spotify account. So this is supposed to be the future of streaming music? Well, let’s give it another spin.

I sign in and the first thing it wants to do is connect me with Facebook. Besides the fact I quit that service, I can’t understand why I should care what other people are listening to. Why on earth should I want to do that? Furthermore, why should anyone care what I’m listening to? Is this really such a big deal to people?

So I skip that screen. I say to myself, let’s listen to some Ozric Tentacles…one of my all time favorite bands. Search the name, wow, quite a few tracks and albums show up. Impressive. Wait a minute, “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” is not an Ozrics album! Yup, they have a Candlemass album (which happens to be a metal act I do love) listed as an Ozrics album. I submit a problem report.

Finally the song ends, what’s it, 4 minutes? A chirpy female voice comes on with some kind of long message about scrobbling. I don’t care about scrobbling, but I can’t listen to anything else until that message ends.

Spotify? You have got to be kidding. I’m so out of here. Premium service is better, you say? Well, then I’ll go back to Pandora. I would like to be able to specifically choose albums and songs, but not that badly.

Original post

I got an invite to sign up with Spotify this week. I’ve been hearing all this buzz about it, so why not?

It has a lot of tracks. Not everything but a lot. It’s nice being able to hear tracks from artists I’ve heard about for free.

Naturally being ad-supported, the free version has limitations.

It will only sync up the tracks on your local machine with an iPod. It might not work with generic mp3 players, but in any case I don’t care.

You can’t download the streaming tracks. Not too surprising.

You can queue up tracks.

However, after 10 minutes or so of listening it plays commercials. You can’t fool the commercials by muting or even turning the volume down low; the timer stops until you raise the volume. That’s mega annoying.

For my kind of listening Pandora was much better. It now has a big enough library that you get a good variety of new tracks once you set up a station.

I suppose Spotify is better if you know pretty much exactly the artist/album/tracks you want to hear, Pandora if you want to find out about new things (I stumbled upon Animals as Leaders, set a new channel up with that and have already learned about a dozen incredible new post-rock outfits.)

last modified 18 Nov 2011

Scary developments

update 2012/02/19

Well, that turned out to be a false alarm. I’m back to my version of black metal compositions for the time being.

I still reserve the right to do vocals some time in the future. Maybe I can be the Gordon Lightfoot/Leonard Cohen of my generation (*snerk*)

original post: 2011/07/27

OK, confession time.

Probably giving my age away pretty badly; in my rotation of CDs to listen to during my commute, I pulled up my old Talk Talk collection.

The embarrassing admission is that I actually sing along to them in the car. So what the hell? I thought. I hooked up a mic on an improvised stand (adapted from an old camera tripod I had), hooked it to my ART preamp, and sang along with a bunch of songs on “The Party’s Over” and “It’s My Life.”

So far, I am persisting in my folly but I’m sure reason will return before I make too big a dope out of myself. My plan at the moment is to take one or two tunes and cover them. Basically, I’ll gradually build the track back up using my own tools around my own lead vocal.

This is a lot of fun, even if the tracks never see the light of day. For instance, one track I want to slow down just a few percent which is not much easier with the better elastic audio tools available in most decent DAWs.

Meanwhile I’m also working on a couple other tracks I started as long ago as 10 years which I hope to finish before I get too old to know what I’m doing. Hopefully there will be more frequent progress reports than I’ve been making.

(posted 2011/07/27; updated 2012/02/19)

“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. On top of that, I think it sounds great, there are literally thousands of grooves and fills to choose from, the filter function that allows you to choose drum pieces and drum patterns is logical and thorough, the tools for assigning grooves and drum hits to notes is great.

I haven’t really explored other drum software to this level, and for all I know they all do as much as BFD… but for my workflow and style I haven’t found anything I wished it did better.

I have an electronic kit and can play some drums, but why not let the experts do what they do best?

(Here’s the original discussion of our adoption of the BFD drum plug in)

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