Oct 31, 2007 Uncategorized
My studio is changing fairly radically these days (which is in part responsible for my silence on this place lately). The major changes, including one that you all know about, are:
Roland A-33 -> AKAI EWI 4000 S
Okay, maybe this one isn’t really a change. I plan to keep both of them. But the AKAI is quickly becoming my go-to device of choice for noodling and physical playing. This isn’t unexpected and I’m really not very good at it yet, but it’s an extremely satisfying device to work with. In fact, I have it hanging around my neck (ow — it’s heavy!) as I type this. I hope to have some material that incorporates it in at least simple ways soon. This will also be the first time in a very long time that I’ll have had to incorporate actual recording from outboard gear. That’s a whole different skill set and should be fun to explore. Note to self: Buy a real, high-quality instrument cable and a carrying case.
Logic Pro 7 -> Logic Studio
This is undoubtedly going to be the largest upgrade of them all. When I played with Logic Studio in the Apple Store, it took me about ten minutes just to find the pencil tool so that I could begin creating objects. However, I think that it will be a good move in the long run. The new interface is ill-suited to my current display setup (two displays side-by-side but with different sizes, geometries and resolutions), as far as I can tell, but it might be possible to work around that and make it very practical. If not, I’ll finally start saving up for a single nice big display to use when I’m at home. For mobile work, though, I think it’ll be fantastic. I’ve also heard a lot about Logic Studio’s new audio clarity, which sounds like a wonderful thing to me. I’m very much looking forward to exploring it. So far I’ve just installed it and verified that it will launch.
Kontakt 2 -> Kontakt 3
I don’t think I ever got around to really exploiting K2 the way that I’d always wanted to. I’m hoping to rectify this with K3. However, my biggest impetus for upgrading was the new world music chunk in its sound library, which I must say that I’m very excited about. I used to have a great deal of “ethnic” instrument sounds available to me via the E-Mu Planet Earth module, which I dearly miss. I had been considering buying MOTU’s “Ethno Instrument,” to take on that role. Now, I may not need to. Either way, this one is probably the best news for you folks out there, in terms of hopefully getting richer, more textured material in the future.
Tiger -> Leopard
This one is so far turning out to be the biggest stumbling block. I did a clean install, which I always find to be a better route in the long run. However, in the short run it means that I’m hanging in air over the precipice until I get everything working in the new system. And the problem with that is that I’ve been an uncharacteristically early adopter this time, so a lot of things just don’t work. Battery 3 won’t install, for example. Since I use Battery for all of my percussion, you’re either going to get a bunch of ambient tracks for the next little while or I’ll need a work-around. (I believe that Kontakt can load Battery kits, so that might be a workable bypass until Battery gets back up and running on Leopard.) I also can’t find my FM8 install disks. I’m genuinely baffled about that one, because Native Instruments’ product boxes aren’t exactly small. Did I possibly buy it as a downloadable update? I suppose it’s possible. I’m a little mystified if that’s not the case. FM8 is the source of most of my lightweight synths, though. It’s easy to track down the right sounds in it and customize them as needed, and it doesn’t take up a ton of CPU power. I use it like crazy. If it’s down for the count (at least until I can turn the place upside down and figure out what happened), things will be different.
On the other hand, many things about Leopard are nice. I haven’t used Time Machine yet, but it seems like a fantastic feature. Spaces is really great, and will be hugely helpful when working portably on just the laptop screen. The system in general seems more responsive. The new Finder has a generally terrible UI and Stacks are giving me hives, but I’m hoping that the under-the-hood improvements will make up for it. And if nothing else, my network connection has been a lot stabler since the upgrade.
MOTU 828 -> Apogee Duet
Those of you who know me may be surprised by this one, because I love my 828. However, the 828 no longer really fits my workspace. When I bought it, I had a PowerMac desktop tower, and was running an E-Mu Planet Earth, an E-Mu E4X, was bringing samples in via a MiniDisc recorder and had a plan for several future modules. The I/O was a boon. Now, I’m running almost entirely software, and that “almost” only just appeared now that I have the EWI. I don’t need 18 channels of I/O. It’s also large and requires a mains outlet, which makes it hard to take with me. And I never quite got mics working smoothly with it. With the duet, I expect the mic situation to be butter if I go that route, but most importantly, it fits my studio a lot better. It’s smaller, bus-powered and genuinely portable. It has a gorgeous, touchable interface. Its metering is far more useful. And with two channels of I/O, it’s exactly what I need — a mic or other instrument in if it comes to that (I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind a bass guitar occupying that) and the EWI, and the pair of outputs to my monitors. Perfect!
I haven’t yet installed the control software for it, since K3 is has been installing for the last few hours, but it’s class-compliant, which means that I can use it as a simple Audio output in the meantime, and I have to say, it sounds breathtaking. I’m using it with my Grado SR-125 headphones, and the clarity is just wonderful. I can only imagine what it must sound like for those of you with AKGs or something more exotic. The only drawback to its output so far has been that the old 128bit mp3s that I got while I was a member of eMusic are now almost unlistenable. I may have to go on a CD buying binge soon.Either way, there you have it, folks. That’s what I’m up to lately. No music in a little while, I know, but this is the behind-the-scenes junk that can consume a surprising amount of time.
Oct 14, 2007 Site
Actually, the oblique reference in the title is not really appropriate at all, in that it implies crossing a line. It’s also inappropriate because I’m certainly not going to stop at this time.
However, and I don’t know if this affects other bloggers or not, but the thing that’s affecting my mood the most when I come to think about this blog, and probably the reason that I post here so seldom these days, is the spam.
You see, I was okay, well, fairly okay with writing a blog that virtually nobody reads, or at least, writing a blog that nobody other than a few people who do it just because they really care for me read. And the one day I received my first-ever comment on a post by somebody I didn’t know. I don’t even remember what post it was or what the comment was, but I was incredibly excited.
And that ended up also being the last one. I also haven’t received any by people I *do* know in some time. That’s okay — I haven’t posted a lot, and I’m generally okay with the idea that people won’t comment unless they really feel that they have something they want to add. The problem is that I now get comment notices every day — sometimes several times a day. And they’re all spam.
The gigantic flood of spam has proven to be the most disheartening thing about the whole process. I’m not entirely sure why it gets to me so much. I think it makes me feel, more than anything else, that spam is is all this will ever amount to.
I wish I had more to post about for you folks. I’ve been mostly just practicing with the Akai EWI 4000S. I was just doing basic scales, and I can now play two songs on it — Happy Birthday and When The Saints Go Marching In. I’m really starting at a basic level again, and I’m shocked at how poor my sight reading has become. That’ll all come in time. I haven’t been doing a lot of composing of new material, though. Life has been hectic, and I don’t want to lose any skills with the EWI, so I devote my spare time to that. The sound set on it is interesting, but limited, so I think I will need to explore the sound editor soon.
Jamendo hasn’t produced any more reviews. I don’t recall seeing the more recent albums come out on the “new stuff for you,” feed, but it might be that it doesn’t send you your own material. However, the statistics have been good.
I’m back home visiting my family, and I think that that reinforces the melancholy always. It’s the only time when I find myself consumed with what-ifs and regrets. I normally just “don’t do” regret, but I find myself, when I’m here, thinking all about it. What if I hadn’t quit piano? What if I hadn’t quit accordion? What if I had … done anything worthwhile with my youth while I had it?
Hopefully tomorrow will bring me back to the drawing board. I’ve been saving to upgrade some elements of the studio — Kontakt 3 upgrade, Logic 8 (Logic Studio) upgrade, an Apogee Duet audio interface to replace the MOTU 828. I think I’m ready to go ahead with those, and that might bring with it some inspiration and a drive to move forward.
Oct 7, 2007 Uncategorized
I managed to play my very first actual song on the AKAI EWI 4000S today. When I say, “song,” here, I don’t mean, “amazing original composition.” In fact, I played, “Happy Birthday.”
So far, I’ve only been doing scales and warmup exercises. Partly I wanted to get some sense of how breathing worked, but mostly I didn’t have any clarinet/sax/whatever music. I had a bunch of piano books, but they had chords all over the place.
It only just occurred to me tonight to do a Google search for “free clarinet music beginner,” which immediately turned up some great results.
Anyway, it only took me about 50 attempts to get it right, but not only was I ecstatic when I managed to do so, but I’ve been able to play it with some degree of ease on several subsequent attempts. Go me!
If you’re feeling indulgent, you can even listen to me play it:
Bear in mind that that was recorded at 1:30am and the timing is not exactly tight.
Oh, and if it’s your birthday today, Happy Birthday!
Oct 1, 2007 Gear
Holy cannoli is this thing weird.
It’s both lighter and heavier than I expected. The overall package is very light. However, it gets really heavy around your neck after a while.
I have no breath control of any kind.
I’m going to need to dramatically expand my lung capacity and/or learn circular breathing.
It sounds much, much more synthetic than I expected. It’s not like playing a physically-modelled wind synth. It’s like playing a classic analog monosynth.
The construction is very neat and the fingerings are more intuitive than I expected.
Biting for vibrato is either something I will need to practice to master or not something I can really tell the difference of.
I really like the possibilities it offers. Already I feel like I’m getting some sounds and compositional lines out of it that I haven’t in the past.
It’s going to take a *VERY* long time before I become any good with it. While it’s easy to have fun noodling, even playing “Happy Birthday,” is a challenge.
The 1/8″ headphone jack on it is an issue. With my 1/4″-jacked headphones, I have several inches of adapter sticking out between the instrument and my belly. I really need to find a right-angled adapter.
Have not yet tried MIDI or anything like that.
UPDATE: Oksana just tried it out and was thoroughly weirded out by the experience.