Love. Photo (CC-BY acidpix.

Love. Photo (CC-BY acidpix.

We’re not so much in the habit of posting jams on CDM, but this one is especially nice – even through the freak-out visuals. And it comes from friends – Nigel Mullaney, with recording and engineering by Ian Boddy.

Seen in the film:
Elektron Analog4 keys
Elektron Octatrak
Elektron Machinedrum
KORG volca series

Look closely through that shaky video, and you might get some clue as to why people love hardware. There’s plenty of reason not to go the hardware route: computers alone still offer more power, more flexibility, and more sound for your buck.

But have a look at this hardware, and ask yourself – how much software, even in combination with controllers, offers this kind of control? Ableton Push, Maschine, and the like are more exceptions than the rule. Go one step further, and the design of even software/hardware combinations remains fundamentally different than hardware. Hardware is all about constraints: even with more powerful DSP innards and the like, there are restrictions on design. There’s a limit to the number of physical controls you can fit (or afford to manufacture); physical controls themselves can’t have unlimited functions. Continue reading »


MeeBlip anode is the monosynth with an analog filter, co-produced with CDM and shipping now worldwide – see – and open source, at GitHub.

Now, much to our surprise when we opened Synthtopia over the weekend, it seems someone has gone ahead and made a Eurorack version. You can’t buy it – this is a one-off – but it’s certainly a clever idea. 20HP wide, and tons of analog ins and outs: gate, envelope controls, inputs for the analog filter and resonance (the only way to external control resonance, actually, as that’s an all-analog control), plus two outs.

They’ve also produced an epic demo video. The sound quality isn’t exactly pristine, but some nice musical ideas and it shows off the patching powers clearly.

Details: Ninstrument, which has some nice things to say about what we’ve done with anode as a synth.

For a better idea of what anode sounds like, listen to our SoundCloud demos: Continue reading »


The 002 is starting to look like another synth you won’t be able to afford, but will drool over – like the synth equivalent of watching an Aston Martin roll by. But boy, is it sounding fantastic. Everything we loved about the Monowave appears to be massively expanded in polyphonic form, a full-on, big budget sequel. There are beautiful, shimmering wave sounds recalling wavetable synths of yore. It aliases in every perfect way.

And now we know what it looks like, too: like it means business. Sleek, futuristic, stylish, and crystal-clear in function, that front panel looks nothing if not like a Axel Hartmann design.

Have a look, and a listen to some new sounds. Because what better way to celebrate American Independence Day than with, erm, great British synthesizers. (Hey, 18th Century – bygones. Now we’re one world, under synth, indivisible, with polyphony and goodness for all.)

In fact, here in London with these and other engineers – hope to bring CDM very close to this instrument later this summer.

Previously (with a run-down of what we expect from this instrument):
Surprise: A New British Boutique Polysynth is Coming – Modulus Music 002


It’s a beautiful, sunny day in London. A velveteen grassy green field calls out under pure blue skies and lazy clouds. And… you can’t see your laptop in the glare, you’re out of battery, and your music studio is underground. Not only will you be miserable, you’ll be playing alone.

So, kudos to Striso, the Italian-dubbed (but Dutch-built) squeezebox, evolved digitally. And it’s an electronic instrument that you can still don to serenade your friends in a picnic.

Looking a lot like a free-reed instrument such as the bandoneon or concertina (or, yes, accordion), it’s in fact a purely digital instrument. Battery powered, there’s a digital microcontroller inside calculating the sound and piping it to internal speakers. But thanks to low power consumption, all of that runs easily on batteries, and the built-in speakers are loud enough you don’t need an amp. As a result, this is an instrument you can play anywhere; you can even busk with it.

Oh, fine, you say – but then I could just use an accordion, right? Well, that digital soul inside gives you some other advantages. For one, this could sound like anything you want. The instrumental code is open source, built in the rapid coding library for sound, Faust. That allows the Striso’s sound itself to be tailored to the control interface. Van der Toren says he will keep this a self-contained instrument, but the code itself could be used to produce other instruments with other sounds. Second, the gumdrop-like buttons are impressively expressive, able to put nuances of sound right beneath your fingertips in a way even the conventional instruments couldn’t.

The Striso is also a compelling exploration of key layout, working with the surprisingly intuitive DCompose layout. That arrangement strikes a nice balance between finding the key you’re in and deviating from it. It’ll take practice to learn as will any layout, but it’s nice both to easily find fourths and fifths and still work out where the scale is.

I met creator Piers Titus van der Torren at STEIM in Amsterdam late last month; now, he’s at the NIME conference in London (at Goldsmiths). He gives us a full tour of how this works.



Computers – a category now very likely including the phone in your pocket – open up worlds of utility that previously required dedicated devices. Audio recorder? Metronome? Tuner? There’s really no reason that shouldn’t be right in the box.

That said, our friend Marco Raaphorst was musing on the absence of a guitar tuner in Ableton Live – and in the process, reminds us that that other Berlin developer has quite the freebie for anyone who needs a tuner in Live, or simply wants a whole load of cool effects whether they play a guitar or not.

Guitar Rig Player adds a fully-functioning guitar tuner to Ableton Live – the tuner Ableton left out. But it does more than that. You get a whole load of effects for instruments, enough stuff that producers who don’t play any instruments might want to give this a download. As with most things, it’s not entirely free. You have to give up your email address (though you aren’t required to opt into any newsletter), and you do have to install NI’s Service Center and enter a serial. That process was painless for me, though (having just repeated it on a brand new machine).

In exchange, you get not just a tuner, but a bunch of really capable effects and tools:

  • Jump Amp (British amp) and cabinet
  • Skreamer distortion/overdrive
  • Chorus/flanger, pitch modulation
  • Studio reverb
  • Delay Man vintage-style delay unit including chorus and vibrato
  • Twin Delay stereo delay
  • Parametric EQ
  • Shelving EQ
  • Pro-Filter, borrowed from the Pro-53
  • Limiter
  • Volume pedal
  • Tube compressor
  • Noise gate
  • Noise reduction

Note that you’ll need to go into Components > Products and select “Factory Selection” to avoid the demos of other things. Once you do that, though, non Guitar Rig users get a tasty selection of tools you can easily combine into some powerful chains.

Oh, and the tuner. Continue reading »


Let’s face it: the initial audience for the first version of music tech is often the developers.

That impulse to build something for yourself is a perfectly reasonable one. But music technology is constantly producing new ways of creating music, and that means it has to learn quickly. Unlike, say, a guitar, it can’t build on centuries of experience.

And if the industry and music technology community are to consider how to reach more people, why not go beyond just average markets? Why not open up music making to people who have been left out? If music making is an essential human passion, fulfilling a need to self-expression, that means not just allowing casual use or making toys. It means really finding what can make tools work for people who might otherwise be ignored.

As the NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression) conference is underway in London, it’s a perfect time to catch up with our friend Ashley Elsdon. Best known to readers here as the man behind Palm Sounds, a herald of mobile tech that preceded even the iPhone (hence the name), he’s got a different project here. It involves mobile tech, but with a new goal in mind.

SoundLab focuses on those with different abilities – particularly learning disabilities – and tries to make all these tools work for them. The results are encouraging – and, very often, futuristic. It might hold some answers to how to make better-designed musical instruments for everyone. Ashley here explains the project to CDM. Here he is… -Ed. Continue reading »


M-Audio’s first Trigger Finger might be the most ubiquitous controller in laptop music. Pads, faders, knobs. It was almost a stupidly simple equation, but it caught on.

The Trigger Finger Pro is something different. It takes on three roles:

1. It’s a controller for included software. If you want hands-on control of software right away, M-Audio has bundled tools that integrate directly with the controller: there’s Arsenal, a kind of drum sampler-style tool M-Audio calls a “production hub,” AIR Drums, a dedicated drum module, and Hybrid 3, a very lovely synth, plus loads of sample content. But what sets Trigger Finger Pro apart from things like Ableton’s Push, Native Instruments’ Maschine, and Arturia’s SparkLE is that the controller isn’t just for that software.

2. It’s a flexible controller for anything. Each bank and each pad can control something different, if you like. Every fader, button, and pad can be configured to work with software or hardware of your choice. You can route MIDI to the external device alone, to the computer alone, or to both. And you can do all of this while tethered to the computer or (if you get a power adapter) standalone. Also, unlike past M-Audio hardware, all the editing is available right from the front panel – no editor software needed. The only bad news, really, is that you lose the dedicated eight knobs on the original Trigger Finger.

3. It’s a step sequencer. It’s actually a reasonably advanced step sequencer. You can play on the pads, or use x0x-style buttons on the bottom, as on the original Roland TB-303. (And, notably, something absent from the AIRA follow-up to the 303 original.) Because it’s able to work in standalone mode, this is fairly powerful.

And as both a controller and a step sequencer, if you connect it to a power adapter, you don’t need the computer connected at all. It functions as true standalone hardware, which Push, Maschine, SparkLE – and the original Trigger Finger Pro – cannot.

It’s all something that’s easiest seen in action. M-Audio quietly released some videos to do just that, showing the basics of each of these features. Continue reading »