18 May 2014

A Well Timed Premonition

This piece approaches the ambience that I have been trying to achieve for a long time. The piece is centred on D Major at 130 Bpm. I began the piece trying to imitate some of the works of Burial especially when using short, pitch shifted vocal extracts. Somewhere, the piece drifted and developed its own feeling. The climax of the piece uses radical rhythmic patterns which contrast strongly with the peaceful underworld of the chords.

It includes some real-world ‘found sounds’ and combines them with some real ‘in-the-box’ sounds and effects.

Approaching the ambient sound-scape I was reaching for. Not there yet but stepping forward

17 May 2014


Here’s an exciting new free plugin… (well, as exciting as a “utility plugin” can be)…and it’s a big improvement over the previous Panipulator incarnation.

It’s a crazy name but this plugin just does exactly what it looks like it does; and the best part of all? It’s free!!

What will your mix sound like summed to mono? Flip a switch to find out. What if someone wires their system so that they can only hear the left channel? Flip a switch to hear what that sounds like. What if they reverse the wiring on one of their speakers? Flip a switch to find out to see how that will affect your song.

These are all common scenarios, and the last thing you want to do is find out is that your mum’s voice, that you thought was buried in the mix, pops out when played over the loudspeakers at Nordstrom.

You can download this great little plugin here, and as it is super CPU friendly place it as a default VST on your master channel.

Slick EQ

Here is another wonderful free (hard to believe because this one is so smooth) filtering/saturation plugin. It comes from Tokyo Dawn Records.

Three (and a half) filter-bands arranged in a classic Low/Mid/High semi-parametric layout offer fast and intuitive access to four distinct EQ modes, each representing a set of distinct EQ curves and behaviours. An elaborate auto gain option automatically compensates for changes of perceived loudness during EQ operation. Optionally, SlickEQ allows to exclusively process either the stereo sum or stereo difference (i.e. “stereo width”) without additional sum/difference encoding.

In order to warm up the material with additional harmonic content, SlickEQ offers a switchable EQ non-linearity and an output stage with 3 different saturation models. These options are meant to offer subtle and interesting textures, rather than obvious distortion. The effect is made to add the typical “mojo” often associated with classy audio gear.

You get to choose from four different EQ models – American, British, German or Soviet EQ. In use SlickEQ is very smooth and gives a real warmness to your sound. Absolutely recommended.

Download for free from Tokyo Dawn Records here

16 May 2014

Kepler for Carl

Inspired by the success of the Kepler project and as a nod to Carl Sagan – the man who knew everything.

The piece represents the growth of galaxies and the Kepler observation, one by one, of each star as it searches for passing shadows.

12 May 2014

Studio Views

Roland System-100M. Modular studio system back in operation. Needs a good dose of switch cleaner on all the cable connectors but is working fine

What can you identify here?

Akai MPK49 – new kid on the block.
Roland TR-808 – nothing quite matches the kick in the stomach you get from that kick drum.
Allen & Heath, Brenell Ltd. System 8 – Model 168. It has 16 inputs (Mic/Line), 8 outputs plus stereo mix and 8 track monitoring. It weighs in at a hefty 47kg. I don’t use this currently and it needs a bit of TLC (some meters stuck, back light bulbs failed and of course faders need a clean), but I may fix it up one day.

11 May 2014

More from the Studio

Today I spent some time getting some of my old equipment back into operation. Some of these have not seen the light of day for many years.

Here is the Roland JV-1080 with orchestral expansion board and below it is the wonderful Korg Wavestation SR … and wow are they sounding good.

Below them those educated ones amongst you may spot a Roland Dimension D SDD-320 which adds a very special sparkle to your sounds.

Back on line also is the Roland JX-3P – I have re-discovered all my sounds which were still carefully stored in the user banks. I will certainly be using some of these sounds very soon as they put some of the modern bass sounds very much in the shadow.

Above the JX-3P is a Roland SH-2 monophonic synth which needs a good clean but is still working well and giving some very rich sounds.

9 May 2014

Sound cards – a dilemma

The Focusrite Pro 14 is what I currently use

The Native Instruments Audio 6 is what I am considering using.
  • USB 2.0 vs. Firewire – not a problem
  • Mic pre-amps seem to be equally good
  • Both good sturdy construction
  • NI can’t easily power two powered microphones (as it’s not mains powered), but that is not a concern for me personally.
Bottom line is that the NI machine is just more sexy !
Caution – Unlike the Focusrite, the Komplete Audio 6 (and most other cards) doesn’t have a loop back feature to allow you to record sound directly from inside your computer e.g. record the sound you hear whilst playing something on YouTube. I used the Headphone output of the Komplete Audio 6 fed back to input 1/2 of the Focusrite to allow the loop-back recording.

7 May 2014


Now Iona didn’t turn out at all as I imagined – most of it came into my head during the night – and of course it never sounds quite as good the next morning.
I think it may be a bit too busy in the middle but I was quite pleased with the drums. Why the heck does it come out sounding like bagpipes though – I didn’t put any drones in there !!!!

Loving the bass – yes

4 May 2014

Bb Minor Emotion

Bb Minor Emotion has just been uploaded to Souncloud. There was some debate at the start as to whether the piece was in Eb minor or Bb minor – in the end I settled on Bb minor as the C was generally not flattened. I could (easily) be wrong about that though ! 24bit, 48kHz, 95bpm, Key of Bb minor all audio – so much went into making this piece …. I can’t begin to tell you.

I hope you enjoy the piece as much as I enjoyed writing and recording it. Below I have added a screen shot from the project which may be of interest to some readers – feel free to ask any questions.

Here is the Ableton view

Oh yeah – Its also available on Blend.io – 24bit, 48kHz, 95bpm, Key of Bb minor all audio – take it apart, use it, abuse it, have fun. The tracks are flattened so you don’t need the plug-ins.

2 May 2014

Zoom H4N

The Zoom H4n Handy Recorder is exactly that. Easy to use, superb sound quality and ready to record whatever, wherever, whenever.

It has built in microphones (variable degree directivity 90/120 degree) which sit on the top of the device, as well as two combi (XLR/Jack) inputs with phantom power (24v/48v).

Recording can be selected from four different modes: Stereo, 4CH (4 channels fed from jack inputs, or on board microphones), MTR (4 separate channels which can be overdubbed) or Stamina (power saving mode which limits quality to 44.1kHz/16bit and MP3).

Storage is on SD card but you can do a single take recording of 30 seconds without any SD card inserted.

Recording quality with Stereo WAV files is 44.1/48/96kHz 16/24bit and in MP3 from 48 to 320kbps or VBR44.1kHz

The list of possibilities is huge with one-board FX, Tuner, metronome, speed adjustment, punch in/out, bounce, etc. A fantastic addition to field recording options for pros and amateurs alike.