Tuesday, 11 March 2014

GTK Studio Movements!!!

A few bits and bobs have found their way into the GTK Studio recently, but these are more of what I would term as ancillary items.

Whilst I have a very good Internet connection in the studio, the wireless bit was severely lacking, so as a matter of priority, I felt that I needed to sort that out. The problem is that we have very thick and quite dense walls chez nous, and even with a 300mbps wireless router in our end bedroom, there was still something of a "black hole". The answer was a second wireless router placed within the GTK Studio. We found the TP Link WR841N router to be pretty effective in our end bedroom, so we decided to go for a second one. The upshot is that we now have full wireless coverage throughout our little nest, that works beautifully with our Hudl tablets, laptops and smartphones. 


Another important addition has been a DJ-style laptop stand. I bought this to use with the Novation ReMOTE ZeRO SL MIDI controller because I wanted more room on my desktop area. So the laptop stand has been put on the keyboard stand, with the Novation now positioned above the Roland SH-201 synthesiser. I have to say that it is now more usable as it is more in reach. I've added a couple of bits of new software to the GTK Studio computer.


First up is a piece of programming I have been itching to get my hot and sweaty paws on for quite some time: Celemony's Melodyne. Melodyne is one of those truly awesome bits of software that make you shudder and say "wow!!!" every single time you use it. One of my musical heroes Midge Ure did a small video about it not so long back (I posted it on this here blog right HERE) It's principle purpose is that of pitch correction, but in my view, that really doesn't do it justice. I'm using the entry level version of Celemony's Melodyne which is called Melodyne Essential, and this edition gives you an extremely cost-effective introduction to the wonderful world of pitch and time correction. Melodyne Essential allows you to correct and manipulate the pitch and timing of monophonic tracks such as vocals, bass guitar or rhythm tracks. It has an excellent user interface that I have found to be both intuitive and logical. In turn, this makes editing both quick and simple without a massive learning curve or the sound quality compromised. WP_20140311_001[1]

Also in the fray are a couple of freebie VST's from software house SonicXTC that caught my eyes, ears and imagination. First is Ring Modulator 101 - no prizes for guessing what this one is :-) This little software unit is a re-creation of of a classic effects chain that combines a dual channel tube amp, a 2-pole ladder filter, a chorus/flanger pedal and yep, you guessed it, a vintage ring modulator. As the guys from SonicXTC state, ring mods aren't just for old fashioned sci-fi sounds (think dalek voices), but hugely useful for adding edge and a touch of grit to drum machines and synths. Also from SonicXTC is the rather lovely Fusion Delay. It's difficult to properly explain what exactly it does, but what it does do is create an interesting delay effect that just gives the sound that little bit of something else. In part, it could have something to do with it acting as a kind of spectral delay where the sound is broken down into it's component frequencies and the effect applied to those frequencies, but I fear that would not be doing the thing justice. Take it from me that it sounds great. 

ring-modulator-101  fusion_delay

I've been wanting to get into sequencing using a dedicated sequencer, such as the Moog sequencers used by Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulz et al, but in a software form - I really am running out of space here!!! And I found a really cool one from a German developer called Wolfgang Krumme who releases his wares under the guise of WOK. It's called CLOCKWOrK and it is just the ticket for me at this moment in time. It can do the usual pitch and ratchet effects a la TD that we all know and love so well, but it can also sequence various synthesizer parameters such as the filter cutoff, enevelope amount and resonance etc. This adds a nice, almost rhythmic element to a sequence and gives an extra dimension to the overall sound. It can also be used to sequence external hardware synths as well, so it can be seen as something of an all-rounder, in it's basic form. As I said earlier, at this time, more than good enough for me and it will be a great learning tool for using a dedicated sequencer, particularly for live stuff. I shall be looking to see how easy it will be to have CLOCKWOrK and the Hudl sequencers running side-by-side - but that's for another day ;-)
Back in August of last year, I bought a fab little VSTi synth called Scanned Synth Pro, made by Humanoid Sound Systems and I wrote a little blog entry about it – you can find that HERE. It’s a great piece of programming and I am using a lot for dirty leads and generally weirded out sounds. Anyway, HSS have recently released a new soft-synth that goes by the name of Enzyme and since hearing a few of the demos of it on the HSS website, I had been looking forward to getting it and was planning to do just that this month. However, I went to my Facebook a few weeks back and lo and behold, there was a rather lovely (and completely unexpected) surprise in the form of finding a complimentary download link for Enzyme in my Facebook messages!!! So, I have to say a huge THANK YOU to Efrain Becerra for that. It’s a killer synth and one that really represents what electronic music was always about – new sounds. For me, Enzyme seems to be everything that was good about Scanned Synth Pro plus loads of extras, not least the ability to import your own samples. I cannot tell you how gratifying it’s been to load the most mundane of sounds into Enzyme and then mangle the living bejesus out of it. You can do the bog standard leads, basses and pads if you really must, but this little floozy demands to be experimented with, and that’s what she does best. I have to be honest, I really don’t quite yet fully understand how things work in Enzyme, but that matters not one jot because that is what encourages the experimentation – “turn that, press that, slide that, oh my god, how did that happen???!!!” - you get my drift. When have buttons called “Psycho” and “Danger”, how the hell can you go wrong!!! It lots of controls, some familiar, some not, but a great array of options presented on a very clear and futuristic GUI that appealed to my eyes from day one, a fab little Connection Matrix and a lovely setting called Osc Freq that lets you do some seriously fetishixtic stuff to your sound. If you like radiophonic and such-like, get this little baby now, and see for yourself how she can corrupt the sweetest sounds. my kinda woman Winking smile

As reported in a previous post, I now have a Tesco Hudl tablet computer thingy. It's bloody marvellous and I love it. It may or may not be of interest to you to know that I wrote this here blog entry that you are reading using the Hudl. Fabulous little thing. Anyway, being an Android based unit means that there's stacks of apps available for it and I have found some seriously cool music apps that are going to be incredibly useful, not just for the GTK Studio, but I am hoping also for live stuff as I have found MIDI sequencers that claim to trigger hardware synthesisers. This for me is massive and a very exciting prospect, one that I shall be investigating in the very near future. I also found some really cool generative music apps that captured my imagination and I had a little fun earlier setting one of them off and then playing along with it using the hardware synths. I did something similar last year when my son, Callum and I performed at the Awakenings event where we used an iPhone loaded with the Brian Eno apps Bloom and Air. If I ever get the studio version of that performance completed, you'll hear that section as I used a live recording of it mixed into the track.
It's been fun gathering all this stuff together to populate my little studio, it's taken thus far just over the last 3 years, but I think that perhaps I should maybe start making music again, rather than just keep talking about it, don't you?

Little book of yesteryear……

WP_20140311_007[1]Took something of a trip day down memory lane this morning when the postman delivered a little book that I won in an eBay auction over the weekend.

When I were lad etc, I had a few titles from this little collection of books called “The Observer Series”. They were a series of small, pocket-sized books, published in the U.K. between 1937 and 2003 and their titles covered quite a variety of different things such as hobbies, art, history and wildlife. Their purpose was to help the reader become a little more observant about their surroundings in relation to their chosen subject, and as you might imagine, it was a series that was very popular with children – like I said, I had quite a few titles in my bookcase as a boy.

The edition I bought from eBay is “The Observer’s Book of Automobiles” and it’s very same edition I had when I was about 11 years old. They’re great little books and this one, the 1975 edition, has black and white photographs of all manner of cars from around the world and a stack of interesting information about dimensions, carburettor, chassis, tyres, the lot.

So, I have sat here over lunchtime, a little misty eyed, remembering how much pleasure I got out of leafing through the pages as car-loving 11/12 year old and mentally noting all the ones I was going to own when I grew up.


Saturday, 1 March 2014

New toy……

I’ve been considering getting a tablet computer for some time now. I’d quite fancied the iPad, but sadly I do not like Apple’s apparent business model of issuing a product and then upgrading it at prohibitive prices, adding new connections that make previous incarnations difficult to use with new accessories and also versions of their iOS operating system and of course, making older accessories unusable – this was a part of my decision to ditch the iPhone (which I actually enjoyed using) in favour of my Windows Phone (Nokia Lumia 520) that I have found to be as flexible and efficient as the iPhone.

So, I had a good look around the market place and had an idea of the type of unit I wanted. My needs are very simple: social networking, a usable camera/video, reading ebooks/magazines, e-mail, and naturally, Internet access for news, shopping and research for my exploration activities. Top of the list was a Samsung something, BUT, that seriously changed when my good lady, Anne, was bought a Tesco Hudl for her birthday. I hadn’t really given the Hudl a second thought – perhaps I was blind-sided by it being offered by a supermarket chain. Anyway, the bottom line here is that my mind was totally changed by Anne’s Hudl – she took to it like a duck to water and I have to say I was extremely impressed by it’s capabilities, efficiency and speed. And that’s without the vast library of apps available through the GooglePlay store.

The upshot is – I got a Tesco Hudl.

It’s great. It’s brilliant. I love it.


The Hudl is a low cost (£119) Android-based 7” tablet. It’s a rather cool looking and under-stated  that manages to pack pretty much all my entertainment needs into a very easy to use unit. I have to say that mooching the Internet is a doddle, video’s on YouTube or movies look absolutely terrific on the crystal clear screen, with the Kindle app, I’m able to read books, using BlinkBox, I can stream movies and music and of course, I’m able to take photos and shoot video. The Hudl comes with a built-in app for the world of Tesco (as one would expect) and getting Google apps is painfully easy.
I have many things now set up on it including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogger (perhaps I should have composed this posting on the Hudl and not the GTK Studio Computer!!!), Amazon, eBay and a whole host of other goodies. The cameras are basic and only 3mp on the front and 2mp on the back, but again, this isn’t an issue as I have plenty of cameras at my disposal.


I’ve got a number of things synced up between the GTK Studio Computer, the Lumia 520 and the Hudl using Microsoft OneDrive (a Cloud-based hard-drive formerly called SkyDrive, a name which I much preferred, but that’s the sci-fi nerd in me coming out – lol) and OneNote. This means that I can create notes or take photos etc. whilst out and about on my Lumia 520, and then pick them up on the Hudl when I get home.

Thus far, I haven’t added a micro SD card to boost the storage memory (that upgrade is most certainly in the pipeline), but I’ve already found the on-board 16gb sufficient for my needs at this time.

It’s powered by a 1.5GHz A9 Quad-core processor, using 1GB RAM with graphics powered by a Mali 400 Quad core GPU.

Watching an episode of Space: 1999 on YouTube :-)

It has 2 x 1w stereo speakers, a microphone and a 3.5mm headphone jack (into which I have put a stereo 3.5mm jack-to-phono lead and now have it hooked up to the GTK Studio sound system via the Mackie micro mixer).

The battery is pretty powerful and is capable of up to 9hrs of video playback, depending on video format, volume level, screen settings and processor load.

It connects to our home network wirelessly via dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 802.11 a/b/g/n, and it has both Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS capabilities.

Physical connections are through a micro-USB 2.0 port, micro-HDMI and micro-SDHC. And if that wasn’t enough, it has built-in gyroscope, accelerometer and compass sensors.

With regard apps, there are a plethora of different things available from the GooglePlay store, and I’ve already added a few synths, shopping apps and games – all free!!! I’ve even found a step-sequencer that is capable of controlling hardware synths, but as yet I haven’t had a chance to test that out, but as soon as I do, I expect I’ll be blogging about it. And the paid apps are ridiculously cheap, so nothing prohibitive on the financial front.

As you can see, I’m quite taken by this little red unit, and very quickly I came to realise just how useful these things are. So, it’s Hudl all the way and basically, Apple can do one as this consumer isn’t so easily led Winking smile