Following our interview with author Dennis DeSantis, we can start your weekend with some sage advice from his book Making Music. While published by Ableton, this isn’t an Ableton book. It lies as the boundary of software and music, at the contact points of creativity in the tool.

For a CDM exclusive excerpt, I wanted to highlight two chapters. One deals with the question of how to overcome default settings – this cries out as almost a public service announcement for people making 120 bpm 4/4 tunes because that’s what pops up when you start a new project in Live and many other DAWs. The other looks at programming drums by grounding patterns in the physical – it’s no accident that Dennis is himself a trained percussionist.

Even if you did land a copy of the printed edition already, this seems a perfect “book club” affair for us to share. Thanks to Dennis and Ableton for making them available; I hope it lights a spark for you and people you know. -Ed. Continue reading »


The blank screen. The half-finished project. The project that wants to be done.

We talk a lot about machines and plug-ins, dials and patch cords, tools and techniques. But the reality is, the most essential moments of the process go beyond that. They’re the moments when we switch on that central technology of our brain and creativity. And, very often, they crash and require a restart.

So it’s about time to start talking about the process of how we make music – even more so when that process is in some sense inseparable from the technology we use, whether the time-tested “technology” of music tradition or the latest Max for Live patch we’ve attempted to make work in a track.

Making Music is a book published, improbably, by Ableton. Sold out in its first paper run, with digital shortly on the way, it has already proven that there’s a hunger for creative tomes that harmonize with our tech-enabled world. Making the book Making Music is a story unto itself. Ableton’s Dennis DeSantis joins CDM to explain his own experience – and what happens when he gets stuck like the rest of us.

MakingMusic5 Continue reading »


How do you improve upon a sound that is already shorthand for noises that melt audiences’ faces off? And how do you revisit sound code decades after the machines that ran it are scrapped?

We get a chance to find out, as the man behind the THX “Deep Note” sound talks about its history and reissue. Dr. Andy Moorer, the character I called “the most interesting digital audio engineer in the world,” has already been terrifically open in talking about his sonic invention. He’s got more to say – and the audience is listening. (Sorry, I sort of had to do that.)

Andy 2

Continue reading »


Roland apparently doesn’t want to leave too much to the imagination – or online leaks.

Now, it’s official. Roland has posted a teaser image to their AIRA site. It’s marked with the catch phrase “Start Patching,” plus “Frankfurt Musikmesse 2015″ (next week’s industry trade show here in Germany).

So, we know a lot for sure now:

It’s an AIRA product.
It has patch cords.
It’s modular. (The filename on Roland’s own site is “b_airamodular.jpg”)
They’re doing a rack-mount SYSTEM-1. (That’s the AIRA SYSTEM-1 layout in the device on the top. It seems they’re breaking it out a bit like the Synthesizer-101 that was the heart of the 100 series modular.)

We can guess at a lot, too:
Looks like there are probably four modules to start.

Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB), Roland’s own component analog modeling technique introduced on the AIRA line, seems a natural for the modules since it’s already in this soon-to-be-rack-mounted SYSTEM-1. Of course, that still opens up analog control (via CV). A lot of great modules at the moment are digital, so no shocker there.

The one thing I can’t do? Unlike last year’s teaser image, messing about with the image levels doesn’t reveal all the labels. Heh.

We’ll be visiting Roland next week and then all bets are off.

As for everything else, I refer you again to this picture for speculation:



CDM quietly turned ten years old last year. And that means it’s time to get a fresh picture of who you are.

We need to know who’s reading, what you do, what you want to see on the site, and what devices we need to target. So, we’ll ask a couple of short questions – it’ll just take you about two minutes to fill out. And you can sign up for something new called CDM List, to stay informed via email and get free stuff and deals:

We also want to give you a chance to get a big reward for helping us out. Partnering with Plugin Alliance, we’re also able to give you a chance to get a free license for the newest version of the Brainworx 100% BX Bundle. One reader will win the full software bundle. (Only now through Monday April 13.)

CDM Getting to Know You Giveaway, 2015

More on what’s in there: Continue reading »


Native Instruments’ Traktor Kontrol D2 deck was all but revealed at WMC, but now we’re finding out more clearly how everything comes together.

And we know the price: the unit is US$499 (499€ / £429), even with that nice color display. (If NI is getting their part cost down, I wonder if we might soon see a display like this on a Maschine other than the Studio – which is great, since the Studio is kinda huge.)

That price is doubly impressive now that it includes TRAKTOR PRO 2. That’s an impressive deal for new users. (If you already own Traktor, though, you can’t resell it – it’s tied to the hardware. But still… now I’m curious what the upgrade path will be if there’s a new version of Traktor around the corner, and there’s reason to believe here there is.)

Availability date: 4th of May.

Mostly, none of the following should come as a surprise, even if we now get greater clarity: Continue reading »


You already know sound is something you feel, physically – you know this from the sensation in your head on headphones, from your gut as a PA produces big bass, from the bodily experience of thunderstorms or the siren on an ambulance.

But we may soon live in a world where increasingly the role of sound design is wrapped up in interaction – where those sounds can produce physical sensations and haptic interactions. And whether or not the Apple Watch is used by musicians and DJs with new apps, it could add to possibilities for sound designers.

Wired has a fascinating report on the design process behind the Apple Watch. It’s worth reading and reflection even if you have no interest in buying Apple’s gadget, because the lessons here might apply widely.

And in particular it notes that one of the most essential interactions of the Apple Watch depends on sound design as much as something visual. Vibrations are pretty crude on your phone, but on the watch, they become an essential part of the design – and the success or failure of Apple’s introduction may depend on whether people like the way they convey information, since part of the idea is to avoiding constantly digging your phone out of your pocket.

And here, the line between sound and feeling is basically nonexistent. Wired reports:

Because our bodies are enormously sensitive to taps and buzzes, the Watch can deliver rich information with only slight variations in pace, number, and force of vibrations. One sequence of taps means you’re getting a phone call; a subtly different one means you have a meeting in five minutes.

One sequence of taps means you’re getting a phone call. A subtly different sequence means you have a meeting.
Apple tested many prototypes, each with a slightly different feel. “Some were too annoying,” Lynch says. “Some were too subtle; some felt like a bug on your wrist.” When they had the engine dialed in, they started experimenting with a Watch-specific synesthesia, translating specific digital experiences into taps and sounds. What does a tweet feel like? What about an important text? To answer these questions, designers and engineers sampled the sounds of everything from bell clappers and birds to lightsabers and then began to turn sounds into physical sensations.

They spent over a year on this project. Now I’m curious what a lightsaber feels like.


iPhone Killer: The Secret History of the Apple Watch

This kind of thinking isn’t limited to Apple, either. Tactilu is a project out of Poland that I’ll be writing about soon (though its approach to haptics differs from the sound/vibration-based approach here). And that project, in turn, included tactile/haptic work by Warsaw’s panGenerator that featured in our hacklab at CTM. More on both of those shortly…