The Bitch is Back

October 14, 2011

I spent last night re-connecting up my old computer back into the music studio. It’s a temporary measure while my super-duper CPU cycle slayer sits in the other room as an art studio system… which is needed right now as I learn a new modeling program for my Day Job. In the process of making that computer capable for that I had to get a new video card for it and so I got the fastest non-fan card there is… which means that the slow non-fan video card that used to be in it got transferred over to the old computer. This actually made the old computer a hell of a lot quieter and a much better companion in the studio.

It took a bit to get everything updated and sound card drivers reinstalled, but I was able to fire up the project I had recently started so I’m back in business.

On a side note, I’m considering a major website overhaul. A couple months ago I bought a domain name and a full-on web hosting package without too much thought as to what I’d use it for; I just wanted to claim the domain real estate. Now I’m thinking it would be cool to transfer over this blog and take things to a more robust level with it. I’ll be doing all kinds of research this weekend as to how exactly that is done. Things will pretty much stay the same, but I thought it might be cool to go more in depth with my experiences with particular synths as to perhaps give options to those curious about them. I know I enjoy doing synth searches and coming across subjective opinions on their strengths and weaknesses from regular nerd geek synth loser comrades.

Cleanup on Aisle Four

August 17, 2011

I took the drum and bass and cleaned up the fx and added a bass hit in between each kick. I have some tracks where one of the percussion tracks is heavily fx’ed and I’ve started feeding arps to the Nord’s INIT patch and started tweaking. The Nord’s FM section can dish out some nasty rips… not quite as expressive as the Microwave, but impressive still. The Nord is holding up to be a great synth. It doesn’t have much of a personality and yet it’s a jack-of-all-trades with an interface that just begs to be explored. No features are behind some tab in a tiny LCD window and making LFO modulations is a dream. I highly recommend the Nord3 as a beginner synth as it hangs all its shit out there to be molested and easily covers analog and FM tones. Fantastic synth to learn on.

Here’s the cleaned up drum and bass.

[audio https://detune.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/nord3-20119815.mp3]

I think I’m going to try and lay out a complete drum and bass track from beginning to end to define the structure of the track early and set up some chord progressions between the bass and a pad.

Back in Black, er… Red

August 9, 2011

Why hello there, it’s been a while. I’ve been hung up the last couple months, having to spend my free time not making music. But fortunately it looks like I now have a big window to spit out something.

I’ve been listening to a lot of  “dark psy” recently because it’s the only type that has a nice, commercial free, internet radio stream. I guess it’s what all the psytrance kids are listening to thesedays and as a whole I’m not that big of a fan, but the energy it provides is pretty good. I like the 147 clock speeds and I think the bass is a fine start. All in all a strong rhythm section, but the genre is plagued with boring, squeaky wannabe Virus leads and, well, dark sound fx.

So I started playing with my own rhythm section that’s influenced by that dark psy groove, but I got more tribal, more Mickey Hart. The darkness comes from something more natural, like deep a in jungle while you’re cleaving oxen in half.

[audio https://detune.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/nord3.mp3]

The kick is the analog Neptune and the drumming is Jamstix, but I envision the rest of the track being all done with just the Nord3. The bass is Nord and I’ve cleared all the presets from the machine in hopes of having to make all the rest from scratch on this one synth… and of course I’ll have a shitload of FX going on top of it. Mostly I’m curious how well the mix will sound with the digital synth, and I like the idea of just saddling up to a kickass synth that has the modulation range the Nord3 has with its amazing knobilicious UI.

 

It’s been a busy few weeks for me on the personal side so I haven’t been at a place to do any music making. ‘Still looking at mastering software and the possibility of doing some soundtrack snippets for my day job but the time just hasn’t been there to dig in.

Meanwhile, during the backup/file migration process I uncovered a few of my first tracks that I composed. Here’s my first real track I put together, I think back in 2005. It was done in some pirated copy of Cubase with Fruity Loops slaved to it along with Vanguard and Albino2 softsynths, also both pirated. The synching with Fruity Loops and Cubase was fucked, but I was just tickled to actually sit down and write a piece of music from beginning to end that I took halfway seriously. Before that I had done a handful of Fruity Loops compositions (I purchased that software), but this one I feel is my first breakthrough into “real” music making instead of just chaining together a bunch of pre-rolled samples.

[audio https://detune.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/trust-your-nervous-system_master.mp3]

This guy took a weekend to put together. I was pretty proud of the end result and in listening to it years later I think it still hold up pretty well for what it was. I was just starting to be influenced by psytrance so you can hear the gated low end synths and hi- hat action.

Old One

May 24, 2011

I dug this little diddy out of the old files and tweaked it a bit. I really like the groove of this one and it has a nice SH-101 and V-Synth combo thing going on under the Andy’s FM squeals.

[audio https://detune.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/abajoo2.mp3]

Case Closed

May 19, 2011

The new computer build had a few loose-ends that needed tying up before I could comfortably screw the case closed. The computer would double-post on boot so I had to figure out how to manually set the RAM speed and I had two serial code authorization issues that required some email back and forth, one being Aether reverb which is probably the most critical part of the whole she-bang.

But anyways, the new computer build is complete and the thing is Very Fast and Very Quiet. Playing my latest track with Aether running at twice the sample rate as normal (which is the track rendering sample rate, vs. the real time playing sample rate) my CPU load hums between 20-30%. My old computer with the reverb sample-rate halved chugged at 80% for this track.

Oh, and Ableton Live fires up in three seconds instead of thirty seconds.

Last Dance

May 9, 2011

Spent an evening doing an almost final mixing round. Compositionally I consider the track done, but some more level work is needed.

My next purchase in a few weeks will be a mastering software suite and that will command my focus for a bit with this track as the bait.

Assuming Control

God willing this will be the last track heard on this old computer. After posting I’m ripping her guts out and re-formatting the drives… turning it into a *gasp* game machine.

Edit… tweaked a couple of the last breaks.

I Like Meth

May 6, 2011

The new computer is built and very quietly humming along… doing its burn in. I under-estimated the need of a few parts, especially making the mistake of buying a SATA2 soild-state drive instead of a SATA3 one. I also had to buy a SATA DVD drive and a fan-less video card. But, with the new SATA3 SSD this machine is crazy fucking fast.

I’ve been using computers since 6th grade, with my first one being a Commodore VIC-20. Every computer I’ve had the pleasure of owning since then has been some sort of low to mid speed sloth, from Commodore 64 disc drives to half-hour waits to do a Photoshop filter or five minute boot sequences at work. I’ve never tinkered on a computer that didn’t have some sort of chugginess, even with a fresh Windows install. These things were just a given.

This new machine I built is the first computer I’ve encountered that is straight-up, blatantly obvious, crazy fucking fast. It powers up and is sitting at the Windows desktop in ten seconds. The little animating Windows logo on the boot screen only gets halfway done before the desktop is up. When I was installing all the various drivers and the system had to reboot each time, I would clap my hands and giggle in merry anicipation of seeing that desktop pop up again mere seconds later.

It’s something I’ve never witnessed before, and I was cynical that it wasn’t possible with software just bloating up bigger with any hardware speed improvements… but this machine has made me a true believer.

So next on my list is collecting all my music project files and moving them over. It’s a rat’s nest and will probably take an evening or two to sort it out.

Assuming Control

May 4, 2011

After about a week and a half of recording many tracks from the 777, the mWaveXT and the Nord 3 I think I put together a decent ending to the piece.

This is still a raw render, will probably need a couple mixing tweaks to wrap it up but I’m posting it early to keep with the spirit of the project as a journey.

The composition can suck balls, but it’s still an interesting romp through a bunch of hardware synths. Pretty much everyone had a voice in this one, except for the Yamaha. There may even be a smidge of Triton.

The Nord 3 is a tame synth, compared to the hoards of monsters it’s surrounded by… but it’s knob-based implementation of FM is very compelling.

Edit: After listening with headphones I think the very last little bit needs to be something else… it’s too undefined for a last statement. Kinda wishy-washy.

Edit Edit: Changed the last measure. Seems to tie it up ok.

It’s been a couple weeks since the Nord’s arrival and my synthy gear lust is still abated with no arousal anticipated for quite a while. Oh sure, I’d love to have a SH-101 and that will probably be my next purchase after I slowly save up the $800 they go for these days… in other words sometime next year. There is nothing in my current set up I’d sell with the intention of buying something else and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on any other particular piece of synth history. It’s a nice place to finally arrive at and it’s honestly the culmination of a dream I’ve had since 6th grade… but that’s for another post.

Meanwhile, this week I’ve begun the last bit of hardware construction for the studio: a new computer. This guy has been simmering on the back burner for a year and a half but I’ve never pulled the trigger… buying synths were always more important since they were new and different whereas I already had a computer that was almost good enough for the time being.

My current box was one that was given to me five years ago by my cousin and was acquired by him from Midway Games when they were upgrading all their shit so the system itself is at least seven years old, the heart of it being a 64-bit Athlon 3200 which back then barely squeaked by a Pentium 3.2 in a sprint. The system served me well through the years, but nowadays even with hardware synths doing the heavy lifting I max the poor thing out for each track by the time I have layered up all the software effects. And the box is fucking LOUD… it roars like a goddamn commercial airliner.

I had plans to build a new computer back in January and I was all excited that Intel had released a new generation of CPUs that the press proclaimed were the greatest jump in tech since the original Pentium… until Intel announced they fucked up some sort of SATA controller and pulled the entire line, followed by all the motherboard manufacturers. This lasted a couple months.

Fast forward to today and Intel fixed their shit and NewEgg stocked their shelves and I wipped out my credit card. But first things first… I needed a silent case, or a least one that whispered like a fart in church. This was the area I probably did the most research in and I settled on going with a local company called endpcnoise.com who provided a package deal with an Antec 183 coupled with Nexus fans and power supply… Nexus claiming that quiet operation being their hallmark. We use the Antec 183 case where I work and they are indeed very quiet even without the extra how-you-doins’ fans and power, but just to be sure I had endpcnoise install sound dampening foam in the case, just in case. These are the extra touches you can’t get from NewEgg and I have no problem spending a little more to help out a local company.

So my final configuration is as follows: a quad-core Intel i7 Pentium 3.4 2600k sitting on a mid-level ASUS motherboard with 8 gigs of RAM, a 80 gig solid state drive for the OS and apps and a 500 gig spinny drive for the projects. 64-bit Windows 7 is the heart of it and of course all the software will be 64-bit.

Last night I got all the hardware mounted. I still have to get all the cabling seated and organized and then begin the long process of installing all the software.

The current psytrance project is still ongoing. I spent a couple days this week trying to get an ending lead synth line to wrap the whole thing up but I have yet to capture the right sound and melody. This is the last statement of the entire track and it has to be good so I’m taking my time to make sure it has that finale that is appropriately grand.