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It’s easy to make an argument to any cash-strapped producer that a free DAW is good news. And it’s easy to convince a free and open source software advocate that a free-as-in-freedom DAW is a good thing.

But that’s not enough. If we’re going to talk about software, let’s make sure it’s worth using.

Ardour, the free and open source DAW, has always been powerful. But it hasn’t always been seamless to use – especially outside of Linux. Ardour 1 and Ardour 2 were incredible feats of engineering, and some people used them to make music, but let’s be honest – outside developers and Linux nuts, you wouldn’t find a whole lot of users. Then Ardour 3 came along and added MIDI – but it still wasn’t quite ready for prime time.

Ardour 4 is something different. It looks better – maybe not pretty, exactly, but easier on the eyes and more comfortable to use. It works better – loads of new functionality changes make it a more well-rounded tool.

But most relevant to most people, you can now install it on Windows and OS X and have it behave like you’d expect a DAW to behave.

Let’s go over the big differences: Continue reading »

Record Store Day has come and gone over the weekend. But 2015 will surely be remembered as a year in which Record Store Day did less to increase the visibility of vinyl records so much as to increase the visibility of how much everyone has grown to hate Record Store Day. And that seems it’s time for a post mortem – and a call to action.

I watched closely the reports from this weekend, just to see if there was anything positive – and there was. For every Foo Fighters (Grohl was this year’s ambassador, weirdly), there’s something with more worth to lesser-known music, like a 12″ for Kiasmos on Erased Tapes. And clearly there are some shops that are glad to have an extra excuse to bring people into a store.

No doubt, too, there was a time when Record Store Day served a purpose – one it may have simply outgrown, as records have moved from curiosity back to norm.

But it’s clear that Record Store Day organizers aren’t just setting out to create a fun holiday for vinyl records. (Compare, again on Erased Tapes, Nils Frahm’s more innocent “Piano Day.”)

The Case Against Record Store Day

The entire focus of the “holiday” is on exclusive releases. It’s straight at the top of the official website. The entire focus is exclusive releases on the day and limited runs.

In fact, it’s also clear that Record Store Day is by definition a celebration of inanimate discs and the celebration of spending money. (To quote Douglas Adams, “Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.”)

Yes, in fact, musicians and producers, the people producing the sounds on those inanimate discs, are a side show, a kind of incidental means of drawing your attention to buying some limited 12″.

From there, the litany of complaints continue: Continue reading »

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What a week it’s been. Musikmesse in Frankfurt, one of the world’s largest gatherings of the music instruments industry, was host to a range of new gear, new technologies, and new revelations.

I decided it’s finally time to crown my own picks as the most significant appearances at the show. Not because I have any particular right to do so, but I felt strongly enough about who was deserving.

First, some honorable mentions: Continue reading »

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There are plenty of fairly good audio interfaces out there. Decent-to-middling, yes. But if you’re picky about getting something really top-notch in terms of audio performance and stable low latency, that list gets a whole lot shorter.

Want it to be really compact? That list gets shorter still. “Pro” often translates to “rack mount” – but just because you want something light and small doesn’t mean you don’t want something serious.

RME is a brand that very often winds up on that short list. And their new BabyFace Pro I suspect ticks a lot of the boxes you want.

First, four is a very good number – as in four inputs, four outputs. A lot of boxes give you two of either of those, but that often finds you running out of I/O. Others give you more – which you often never use. Four inputs cover a lot of recording applications without needing a mixer. A separate headphone out means you can create listen to a monitor or cue mix, or simply have two more line out channels (say, for rear speakers).

And the BabyFace Pro has a lot of other stuff that other boxes leave out:
MIDI.
Digital (ADAT and S/PDIF).
Hardware meters (so you can actually see your levels easily). Continue reading »

Think of it as the real world interface for your Eurorack modular.

The boys from Brno have been busy. After a range of desktop modules (one that continues to grow), they’ve quietly put together a complete modular system this year. With a bunch of new gear announced at the beginning of the year, you might have thought they were getting some much-deserved rest.

Not so. Among other introductions this week, they have unveiled three modules that work with motors, and one that takes sensor inputs. Together, these can let your modular make stuff happen in the physical world. And they showed off just what that could mean in their Messe booth, to spectacular effect. Toothbrushes bang percussion. Solenoids tap out drum patterns and strum a guitar.

It’s just unreal. Watch the video at top to enter their wacky world, and then we’ll have a look at the modules themselves:

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Some people have to go to trade shows that cover nothing but various types of floor tiles. We’re fortunate that we get to go to one about musical instruments.

Benjamin Weiss, seasoned German journalist and now product designer, as well, lets us see through his eyes at the show.

I have to say, to anyone who has been to California’s NAMM show but not Musikmesse, the entire feeling is different. Space is spread out and oddly quiet; meetings include leisurely meals of Bratwurst and beer in the sunshine. Whereas the nerdiest sound technologies at NAMM are often relegated to hidden corners, here Schneidersb├╝ro occupies a central space in a bustling music tech hall, and knobs and patch cords are everywhere.

It’s Friday, so we’re all getting a bit bleary-eyed from the din and drinks, and more of the public is flooding in. But there’s still a nice sense of some of the good stuff assembled here.

We’ll have more picks through the coming days. Back to editing video. Enjoy.

(And for more photos, you can now follow us on Instagram.)

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Leave the selfie sticks to others – welcome to Music Nerd Instagram.

Social media can be a real chore at times, but Instagram for me is a bright spot. Following the right people and tags, it’s a place where you can actually find useful and inspiring stuff, and a visual record of where you’ve been, a form of external memory. I’ve been using it as such on a personal account, but it was high past time to give CDM its own home.

Follow us – and feel free to tag us, as we’ll be reposting the best images from around the world of music making, music technology, and creative technology and visual performance.

https://instagram.com/cdmblogs/

Right now, you can watch as we roam around Musikmesse looking for the cool and downright weird.

MeeBlip will follow soon, too.