Mad Zach is not giving you a paint-by-numbers Deep House set. He wants you to play and tweak – and he’s going to help us learn how to do it. Photo courtesy the artist.
It’s “the science of being imperfect” – and Mad Zach is one heck of a mad scientist at it.
We all know Ableton Live productions, even sometimes from fairly skilled music makers, can get painfully stuck on the grid. If that’s the disease, Mad Zach has the cure. Armed with Ableton Live and together with releasing a very special, very useful sound pack, this insanely-prolific DJ, producer, writer, and educator has some advice for how to get the soul and groove back in your machines.
CDM teamed up with our friends at Beatport Sounds to work with Zach on an instructional video that goes deeper into the craft of the groove. And I love what Zach has done with the tutorial. If you’re still learning your way around Live, I think you’ll still like it — just follow along the beginner and intermediate tutorials first before you tackle it. At the same time, if you’ve got a bit more production under your belt, it won’t insult your intelligence. I learned something, and I’ve been using Live since 1.0.
Highlights, as we “escape the grid”:
How to use the (oddly underused, misunderstood) Grooves section in Live
Extract an original TR-909 shuffle
Drawing in swing
Recording MIDI controllers
Now, some background: Continue reading »
If you’re reading this, and if you care about controllers at all, you’ve probably got one. Now the question is, what are you missing? LaunchControl XL is coming with a whole mess of handy faders and knobs if you’ve got more controls than you can map.
In fact, while it would make an utterly horrid marketing statement, I would dub the slogan of this hardware like this:
Twist knobs without having to constantly press shift and select keys or give up having some faders.
There’s Push, of course, the Ableton-controlling flagship, complete with pressure- and velocity-sensitive grid. There’s AKAI’s former APC, which already has a full complement of faders, encoders, and triggers. Beyond that, we’re talking about various combinations of faders and knobs and triggers in smaller controllers in some combination. For example:
There’s the Novation Launchpad – built like a tank, dirt cheap, just a grid.
There’s the new AKAI APC mini – grid with faders, but no knobs.
There’s the Novation LaunchControl – knobs and some pads, but no faders.
Well, now Novation is back with the LaunchControl XL. It’s knobs, yes – but more knobs. And those knobs get their own colored indicators so you know what they’re controlling. And now it has faders, too. And if it doesn’t sell like hotcakes to everyone, betcha it sells like hotcakes to people who have just a Launchpad.
24 knobs in three rows of eight – which maps conveniently to Live
Multicolored indicators on the knobs for multiple functions
Driver-free (so if you’re using Bitwig or Renoise on Linux, you’re in, too)
16 multi-color buttons give you track focus, mix controls
Works on iOS, too, via Camera Connection Kit
£159.99, coming late August, which is also roughly when we should have one in for review. Continue reading »
I stand by the plot as far today’s announcement that Pioneer is remaking the Technics 1200. This is a straight-up remake, bearing no real direct relevance to the rest of Pioneer’s offerings other than name. But as with the KORG MS-20 or the Moog Keith Emerson Modular, just reissuing something from the past already adds a subplot.
First, it’s worth reconsidering what Panasonic, makers of the Technics turntable, said when they exited the market:
We are sure that retailers and consumers will understand that our product range has to reflect the accelerating transformation of the entire audio market from analogue to digital.
In addition, the number of component suppliers serving the analogue market has dwindled in recent years and we brought forward the decision to leave the market rather than risk being unable to fulfil future orders because of a lack of parts.
The “lack of parts” question is still a mystery. It’s possible that Pioneer is making this turntable in limited quantities. It’s also possible (and I’d guess more likely) that they simply chose parts that are easier to source, or that this issue was overstated in that announcement.
But the “transformation” is simply wrong – and perhaps the absence of any mention of digital vinyl here is telling. In fact, let me emphasize this:
While digital has grown, it has turned out to be something other than replacing one thing with another.
The motivation for my snark this morning, though, is that this also means you might want to improve, not only remake. Continue reading »
Back at Musikmesse, it really looked as though Pioneer had simply cloned the legendary Technics 1200 turntable and re-badged it Pioneer.
But… that seems sort of obvious, right? Maybe there’s some sort of digital interface. Or extra I/O. Or some feature we hadn’t thought of. Maybe there’s a connection to digital vinyl control systems. Maybe it integrates with a new line of Pioneer hardware. Maybe they’ve invented a new platter mechanism. Maybe it was all an enormous distraction, and then they were unveil some new DJ touchscreen or line of running shoes or Minority Report interface for big clubs. Maybe they were starting a boutique vinyl record label. Maybe it’s a clothing line. Maybe inside the turntable is some new hardware. Maybe inside the turntable is another turntable. Maybe it will support Keurig K-Cup coffee pods, and you’ll be able to enjoy delicious brewed coffee for those 8-hour Sunday DJ gigs.
Okay, actually, spoiler alert – it is really just a 1200 clone with a Pioneer logo on it.
But it’s supposed to be … really good. And that’s good. I think.
It’s called the PLX-1000. List price US$699.
It has “a user friendly layout familiar to top DJs of the past and present.” Yeah, it looks like a Technics 1200 with a Pioneer logo on it. If you’ve never seen a Technics, they go on to explain that means it has “a quick tempo control capability on the right side of the player, start/stop button on the left side, and a high-torque platter with a lighted speed guide.”
It has a “high-torque direct drive system,” like a Technics 1200.
It is “Designed for optimal sound quality.” Um… good!
It has “Detachable power and audio cables.” Even better. The actual news there, though, is that the connections are just phono/cinch cables and electricity – nothing digital here. That’s frankly to me not so surprising – lovers of the 1200s probably just want a new 1200 from Pioneer, and would view any new-fangled addition as blasphemous. On the other hand, what makes this decision predictable and perhaps logical also makes it fairly boring. (In Pioneer’s defence, bad decisions would have entertained me more, but then they would have had to make a bad decision, so I’m not really faulting them so much as hunting around in the dark for something to write about.)
Okay, let me try harder. Continue reading »
If the album business model is collapsing, the frantic rush to everything else is at least interesting.
Hip hop as a genre, of course, came from a deconstruction and reconstruction of the album, from the early evolution of DJ techniques and sampling. So, the fact that Wu Tang is skipping the conventional release altogether is new, but it’s also connected to history.
Sure, plenty of artists have gone for remix contests and the like. What’s different in Wu Tang’s case is that this time, the debut track “So Many Detailz” from their Parent Advisory will head straight to Blend as raw session files.
Instead of downloading stems, Blend provides would-be remixers with Avid Pro Tools, Ableton Live, and Apple Logic Pro session formats, the exposed ingredients of the tracks.
Blend is a site and collaboration platform, backed by funding from NYC VC/startup seed Betaworks. (Tumblr, Airbnb, Groupon, and Twitter all saw Betaworks funding – this is one hot Silicon Alley property.) Blend uses Dropbox as the back end in order to manage multiple people manipulating session files in a variety of popular DAWs. Pro Tools, Live, and Logic are your three choices here, but FL Studio, Maschine, and GarageBand are supported, too, with more promised. We looked at GitHub earlier today for notation, but that tool was built for code (and text) first. Blend applies a similar approach to the more-complex DAW project format. As with GitHub, individual users “pull” projects and contribute them back again with changes – ideal for the solo workflow.
The site has so far been popular with nerdy electronic music producers – not so much hip hop. Think Moby and Prefuse73; Mad Zach even released an entire EP as a collaborative project. Continue reading »
Before there was computer code, there was music notation. And before there was forking code or remixing music, there were centuries of variations to the musical code, stored in notation. So it’s fitting that musicians would begin to use GitHub – built originally as a repository for programmers – to store notation.
And that means that in addition to music software and the like, you can find the WWII-era Nova Organi Harmonia organ accompaniments today on GitHub. Adam Wood, Director of Music with St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Hurst, Texas, made the addition, with help from a team including Jeff Ostrowski. The GitHub repository is hosted by the Church Music Association of America.
For musicologists and composers alike, Git seems a perfect fit. It makes it easy to track the contributions of any number of people, to file and manage variations, and to keep track of revisions over time. Continue reading »
While my elected representative gently weeps?
Yes, don’t miss this video, going social today, from Japan, in which a guitarist perfectly times playing to a politician’s sob story.
You might assume this isn’t relevant to CDM. But let’s say it hits the whammy bar — on your MIND. Earlier this month, I attended the NIME2014 conference – New Interfaces for Musical Expression. Year after year, groups like these discuss the merits of instrumental interfaces for expression. Generally, instruments like the guitar – good. Instruments like the piano – bad. No ability to add nuance after you hit a note, no ability to find any intonation between the pitches specified by the keys.
And with electronic instruments, the notion was to find things closer to guitars and violins and whatnot, rather than the preferred electronic method of making synths into a keyboard – or, better yet, a machine where you press a button and rhythms come out. Continue reading »