Friday, 28 September 2012

It's A MIDI World......

The gear is now starting to arrive and so I've set about re-learning how to set up a working MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) system as well as patching instruments and effects through my little mixing desk and a patchbay.

I've spent the last couple of evenings getting my head around creating a good link between my aging external MIDI modules, a couple of MIDI keyboard controllers, 2 MIDI interfaces and a 5 month old computer. It's been a challenge, but I think I've just about cracked it. There will be some of you reading this who will no doubt be having a bit of a laugh as this is stuff what most people were doing about 15-20 years ago, but hey, I'm something of a late starter. And don't forget, I had not planned to go down the hardware route!!!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

D.I.Y. 4 Pad Electronic Drum Unit

At last, I've finally got the prototype electronic drum pad unit built, and very pleased I am with it I can tell you.

I've wanted an electronic drum kit for some time now and quite simply, I couldn't afford one. So, not being one that's easily deterred, I decided to take the D.I.Y. route - if you follow this blog, you may remember my mishaps earlier this year with the first drum pad I put together, using a book and a mouse-mat. I sat down with my son Callum (who will be getting the most use of the thing) and we drew up a basic design. I gathered the bits and pieces and away we went.

The basic materials used were the usual piezo transducers (sort of mini-microphone things), 1/4" jack sockets, gaffer tape (marvellous stuff), 8 cork-backed table mats (from Asda - £4 for a pack of 4) and wood from an old broken down wardrobe. yes, gaffer tape, table mats and a wardrobe.

I cut the wood to size to create a base to go onto an X-type keyboard stand and a surface on which to mount the pads (place mats). After I extended the wires on the piezos, I put one between two table mats and taped them into place - they were taped to the pattern side and not the cork side as I wanted the cork to act as a cushion on the pad surface on one side and to give a better playing surface on the other side. I then gaffer taped these to the pad surface and fed the extended wires through the pad surface. 1/4" jackets were soldered to the ends of the wires to allow connection to my Alesis DM5 drum module.

I plugged the unit into the DM5 and it worked!!! See the vid below ;-)

As I said at the beginning, this unit is a prototype and the "MK II" version will have a slightly different framework as well as better wire channelling. Also, the pads will be bolted onto the pad surface - gaffer tape is great for the studio and the prototype, but I doubt it would last too long on stage under warm lights. plus it looks crap :-D

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A Very Interesting Website

It's quite obvious that I love dereliction and that love goes beyond the photographs and the police interviews as I also very much enjoy looking at other people's photos and websites.

Well, I found a site recently called Derelict London and I have to say it's simply marvellous. After spending pretty much an entire evening poring over the photos contained therein, I now have a serious hankering to jump on a train and hit the capital city with The Fuji, just roaming around taking photos of the places and sites featured on Derelict London.

The site owner, Paul Talling, has done a terrific job with his site, and also a sister site called London's Lost Rivers. It's this sort of hidden/secret history that really resonates well with me and Paul's site has given me impetus to get my aging backside down to London and get with the snapping.

Paul has also written a couple of books that the websites accompany, so I may just avail myself of them in the not-too-distant future.

Blog Look

Apologies about the dark background/dark text situation. I really don't know what happened there, but rather than spend the rest of my life trying to sort it out, I've opted for a simpler looking theme.

Many thanks to the anonymous person (don't be anonymous!!!) who commented on the dark background/dark text thing, I hadn't realised the problem had occured but your comment brought it to my attention and I've been able to resolve it :-)

Sunday, 9 September 2012

More GTK Studio Additions

The last couple of weeks have seen a few new bits and pieces, both hardware and software, find their way into the GTK Studio arsenal.

First up is a brilliant software emulation of the Moog Little Phatty synthesizer, a real powerhouse of a synth has the looks and layout of a Moog that is future thinking rather than retrospective. And the virtual version of this synth is called "Little One" and is made by Xhun Audio. Like it's hardware counterpart, it's a little synth and has the same minimalistic layout design, but it has a big sound that's very analogue in it's feel and resonance as well as an added 16-step sequencer and an effects section. Xhun Audio have done a fantastic job and it's going to be a synth I'l use a lot.

The next bit of kit is another software version of a classic synth, this time the Powertran Transcendent 2000. The Transcendent was designed by former EMS and Akai man, Tim Orr and was an affordable kit that you could build at home - the American synth company PAiA had a similar concept. It's alleged that the kit was marketed by Powertran because EMS didn't want their name to be linked to a D.I.Y. synth that would be of  variable build quality. Well, the software version is the Anti-Transpirant created by German software house, TubeOhm and it comes with a free monophonic 16-step sequencer called the TO-STEPPER 16 A-T. The Anti-Transpirant is another great sounding virtual synth and has many added features from the original hardware version not least a delay and other routing options. Coupled with the TO-STEPPER 16 A-T sequencer, it's a great package and can easily do those long drawn out Tangerine Dream/Klaus Schulze repetitive sequences, but both units can be easily altered on the fly and so you get a far more dynamic and variable experience. Highly recommended.

I also got hold of some very interesting algorithm software synthesizers by noted VSTi designer G√ľnter Hager, better known as HG Fortune. The HGF synths are more about soundscapes and effects rather than leads or basses - and they're all the better for it. They require you to explore their sonic potential, guided by some very wild, but also very useful presets. The name of the game with HG Fortune synths is about investigating each and every parameter. Expect to hear HGF synths alongside the Hollow Sun Music Laboratory Machines on the next Geigertek album.

We're not done yet :-) Good eBay delivered me the bargain of the century when I managed to snaffle myself a fantastic drum sampling program called Battery 3, made by German software house, Native Instruments. It's a total nightmare to install which if I were points-scoring type of dude I would penalise massively, but all said and done, it's quite simply awesome and has every tool required for producing some great drum sounds. It comes with a 12GB sound library and allows you to make your own kits once you've decided upon the sound you want. It uses a celluar system whereby you use a single cell for each drum/percussion sound. You can then edit those sounds within the cell or globally for every cell activated. It also has multiple audio outputs so that you can put the sounds through effects units with your sequencing lackage or send them to external hardware units. And talking of hardware, with a suitable MIDI interface, the individual sounds can be triggered by an external controller such as a MIDI keyboard or an electronic drum unit. I'm looking forward to patching it up to the D.I.Y. four pad electronic drum unit when it's built.

I've had a very pleasing hardware synth acquisition in the form of a Novation Bass Station Rack, bought off of a fellow EM artist. I already use a software version of the Bass Station that came with my Novation ReMOTE 61 SL MIDI keyboard controller, so I'm familiar with it's layout. But I wanted something that would be a more little hands-on, and when the opportunity arose to own a hardware one, I took it. I've run it through the studio system to get an idea of how it will sit with everything else and already I have to say it sounds amazing - the simple run-through I did has revealed that it has a lovely rich sound which holds the bottom end of the mix together nicely, and it is also capable of some very reasonable lead synth sounds. I'm looking forward to spending a bit of time with it over the next few days.

And last but not least, the second bargain of the week from eBay - a Digitech Vocalist II. The Vocalist II is a rack-mounted MIDI device to which you attach both a microphone and a MIDI keyboard which then allows you to actually play vocal harmonies. One of the most prominent users of the Vocalist II is John Foxx and this is where I got my desire to own one. It's quite an amazing piece of equipment and I will definitely be using it for the Impossible Men project and Geigertek, both in the GTK Studio and for live performance.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

CeeZee Rocket Launcher Ad!!!

Just having a mooch through YouTube (as you do) and came across this advert for the Casio CZ-101 synthesizer. I had one of these little beauties "back in the 80's" and still wish I had one - they were simply great.

Check out the flying hair guy in this ad - hair-larious!!!