Free: get some groovy black-and-white pattern animations for VJ apps

Want to set the mood at your next jam? Learning VJ tools and experimenting with live visuals? Going deeper with shader coding? These free black-and-white animations will get you started.

Monochrome – ISF VJ plugins (OSX/Win)

ShaderToy, which I also wrote about yesterday, is a free community site for exchanging shader code. That GLSL code requires some wrapper around it to use in visual tools. Enter the cross-platform ISF (Interactive Shader Format), which makes portability a bit easier in VJ apps like VDMX and MadMapper.

This selection began its life as some of the nicer examples on Shadertoy, then got ported for easier use.

There’s even a converter so you can try the same thing:

https://magicmusicvisuals.com/utils/shadertoy_to_isf.php

There’s just one catch – the Shadertoy code isn’t cleared for commercial use. And Creative Commons’ definition of “commercial” is so broad, almost any use where you’re earning money probably qualifies. Still, that leaves unpaid (cough) VJ gigs as well as gatherings and jam sessions and experimentation.

Or better yet, once you’ve exercised these tools a bit, you can have a look at the actual code in ISF format or on Shadertoy in GLSL (the GPU standard), and help learn how to write your own original creations. You probably don’t want to show up at the paid gig with effects everyone else is using, anyway.

In the meantime – let’s party in black and white.

In case you missed it, the Shadertoy Cybertruck I wrote about yesterday got posted in minutes, thanks to David from Vidvox:

The post Free: get some groovy black-and-white pattern animations for VJ apps appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Someone replicated a GPU in JavaScript – and it runs in characters in a terminal

Imagine the love child of character art and modern GPUs. Okay, probably you totally can’t imagine that, but someone did it anyway, entirely in JavaScript.

And I do mean replicated the GPU. The appropriately dubbed South Korean user “sinclairzx81” built this with a scene graph, and the usual math libraries, and programmable shaders.

Just instead of those programmable shaders running on a GPU, they run natively in JavaScript and output to the characters in the standard Windows, Mac, and Linux terminals.

It seems crazy, but this does demonstrate the … uh … actually, it really is completely crazy, but it is very cool. And it does genuinely output all of this via stdout in Node.js. The author claims the reasoning is “to see how far one could reasonably push JavaScript performance,” but “just because I could” seems as likely an explanation.

Check these features in the free library, dubbed Zero, I guess in reference to the number of real GPUs involved:

  • Programmable Vertex and Fragment shaders (in JavaScript)
  • Perspective Z-Correct Texture Mapping
  • Per Pixel Depth Buffering
  • Adaptive Resolution on Terminal resize (TTY only)
  • Matrix and Vector math libraries.
  • A Scene Graph
  • Support for Windows Command Prompt, Powershell and Linux Terminals

It is licensed under an MIT license, so you could build on this. At the very least, I guess the OLED on your next hardware synth has no excuse not to render something interesting.

https://github.com/sinclairzx81/zero

The post Someone replicated a GPU in JavaScript – and it runs in characters in a terminal appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Around VCV Rack modular community, eclectic flowing sounds

A funny thing happened on the way to the VCV Rack forum. In a paradigm many still stubbornly imagine as chin scratching noise, software modular makers are producing beautiful, liquid electronic sounds.

The latest fruits of these labors can be heard in volume 3 of the Switched On Rack series. Actually forget that this has anything to do with software at all – what you get is really a perfectly gorgeous compilation of experimental sounds, lush textures, expansive ambient music, intelligent rhythms.

It’s hypnotic, warm, entrancing stuff:

What strikes me is actually how coherent the result can be. Despite coming from an open submission online, the results hold together both than … well, than the vast majority of various artist compilations! I occasionally hear some familiar sounds, particularly from the influential Mutable Instruments-derived stuff, but even that in a good way. It’s almost unfortunate that this is associated with a tool, and people might miss the musical significance.

But maybe that isn’t incidental at all. There’s always this question of what makes a scene. Having access to the same set of instruments and tools is always significant to music-making – VCV Rack itself is free, and even paid add-ons are relatively affordable and one click away. And not only that, but VCV Rack users also have various ways to share tips about modules, whether they prefer reading forum posts or sending messages to friends or watching detailed YouTube tutorials.

Or they can even simply post videos of their patches to share and inspire – and even if you prefer not to try to squint to see what they’ve done, it might still prompt you to try an idea or find a previously unknown module.

For developers, this also demonstrates that you don’t necessarily need a comprehensive online strategy to make users do this. If you make inspiring tools, they may well do it on their own. (In CDM parts, we’ve seen this story repeat, from Eurorack hardware to the open monome community to live coding and even larger phenomena like Ableton Live use.)

https://switchedonrack.bandcamp.com/album/switched-on-rack-vol-3

For still more music, one person I’ve been following closely is Iowa IDM maestro Kent Williams aka Chaircrusher. Not This Time, his newest, is crisp, brain-tickling stuff. It isn’t 100% VCV Rack here, but the mind dancing textural precision is very much influenced by his Rack workflows, which are, quite frankly, where I’ve gotten a lot of my own tips. Kent does what I tend to do, which is to start ideas in Rack, then record them multitrack (using the NYSTHI modules for the purpose), finishing tracks in a DAW (Ableton Live). I personally expect to continue to do this even when there is a plug-in of Rack available, as it makes a nice compositional process.

And I love the artwork. It also comes with this poetic, provocative accompanying text to puzzle over:

Somehow the main point of the story got lost in the telling. The digressions were full of details too specific to be true.

Over the course of a long life, the past disappears. New memories arise of alternate timelines, things that were never to be.

The ax laying rusted in the tall grass might cut again.

I have forgotten her face and her name, but the memory of my feeling for her is so vivid.

People are outlived by the smell of the cigarette smoke on their possessions.

What I want is to hear the music that no one makes, and to which no one will listen.

Everything is deadly if you wait long enough.

http://chaircrusher.bandcamp.com/album/not-this-time

So this really is somehow the point – some of the people close to their tools will be the ones working together to push a shared musical language forward, together.

For more on VCV Rack and the community – which now runs on an excellent independent forum as well as on The FaceBook:

VCV Rack: vcvrack.com
Community Forum: community.vcvrack.com
Facebook User Group: www.facebook.com/groups/vcvrack
Sign-up sheet: docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1FUi3cekjhm_WmEocb7KXg_qdnIYosZIyQyr1i_Q6EK4/edit#gid=0

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LiveCore is a free low-level, live patching for Reaktor

Reaktor lovers no longer have to be jealous of live coders – now they get a performance-ready, free, low-level tool of their own. Sonic mayhem awaits you.

Okay, first – “live coding” doesn’t necessarily have to mean typing. Text is just one way to represent software logic, that is – and tools like Reaktor (and Pd, and Max, and TouchDesigner) simply use a “dataflow” visual representation for that same logic.

Reaktor Blocks now gives you a high-level, Eurorack hardware-style way to patch. But there hasn’t been anything that can exploit the low-level, high power DSP capabilities of Reaktor in real-time.

Enter LiveCore. The goal: “inreasing liveness” when you work with Reaktor, so you can actually patch live. It’s the work of co-creators David Alexander (@freeeco) and Jack Armitage (@jarmitage), and it’s all free and open source on GitHub (provided you have a Reaktor license, of course). And it’s capable of some seriously awesome musical madness:

You actually don’t need to know that much about Core, Reaktor’s low-level DSP objects, to use LiveCore. It effectively makes Core more powerful for existing users, and gives an entry point to people who may have avoided it.

LiveCore gives you a set of modules, each insanely optimized (just a few bytes compiled, and efficient on your machine’s processor). In the first release you’ll find the following – and the developers say more are on the way:

  • Phase Driver
  • Sequencer (quantizes phase Driver Output to make patterns)
  • Splitter
  • Gate
  • Mixer
  • Limiter (not like a traditional audio studio limiter – it’s actually more like a simple two-stage envelope)
  • Waveshaper
  • Reader (intended for sample playback, from a table)

And, like, holy s*** this idea is cool. Everything is built around the Phase Driver – you make one-shot triggers or ramps with that, and then do all your signal mangling and such with the other modules to create interesting patterns for sounds.

It’s also refreshing to have a modular environment that isn’t tied up in a whole bunch of idiosyncratic hardware modules. If you look at the display, it’s very nerdy in appearance, sure. But the actual use of this is so simple that it seems open to exploration, even for people who don’t normally think about patterns in terms of signal flow.

And this looks like a really unique way to approach patterns. That Waveshaper, for instance, can be used to create irregularities and interest in patterns. (There’s also nothing stopping you from routing this to a patch built in Reaktor Blocks, if you really want to.)

This project is brand new, so please don’t immediately bug the developers with too many questions. Documentation is mostly still forthcoming, so you’re pretty much on your own. It seems like they’re progressing quickly, though, and I think you’ll agree – this was too cool not to immediately share.

https://github.com/freeeco/livecore

The post LiveCore is a free low-level, live patching for Reaktor appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

VCV Rack hits 1.0; why you need this free modular now

Software modular VCV Rack just hit a major milestone – it’s now officially version 1.0, with polyphony, full MIDI, module browsing, multi-core support, and more. And since it’s a free and open platform, you don’t want to sleep on this.

VCV and developer Andrew Belt have hit on a new formula. Rack is free and open source on Mac, Windows, and Linux, and it’s free for developers to make their own modules. It also has tons of functionality out of the box – both from VCV and third-party developers. But then to support ongoing development, those developers offer some superb paid modules. Once you’re hooked, spending a little extra seems a good investment – because, well, it is.

All those modules… now seen in the new 1.0 visual browser.

Crucially, it’s a good deal for developers as well as users. Independent software developers, VCV included, are able to communicate directly with users, who in turn feel good about supporting the platform and community by spending some money. And hardware makers have a new way of reaching new audiences, as well as offering up try-before-you-buy versions of some of their modules. (Open source hardware makers like Mutable Instruments and Music thing were early adopters, but I hear some other names are coming.)

Maybe you’ve heard all this. But maybe you weren’t quite ready to take the plunge. With version 1.0, the case is getting pretty strong for adding Rack to your arsenal. Rack was appealing early on to tinkerers who enjoyed messing around with software. But 1.0 is starting to look like something you’d rely on in your music.

And that starts with polyphony, as shown by the developer of the VULT modules, which include many of my own personal favorites:

Rack 1.0

1.0 is really about two things – new functionality for more flexible use in your music, and a stable API for developers underneath that makes you feel like you’re using modules and not just testing them.

Mono- to polyphonic, on demand. Modules that want to support polyphony now can add up to 16 voices. Cables support polyphony. And the built-in modules have added tools for polyphonic use of course, too.

Polyphony, now a thing – and nicely implemented, both in UI and performance under the hood.

Multi-core accelerated engine. Adding polyphony, even on newer machines, means a greater tax on your CPU. There are a number of under-the-hood improvements to enable that in Rack, including multi-core support, threading, and hardware acceleration. This is also partly built into the platform, so third-party modules supporting Rack will get a performance boost “for free,” without developers having to worry about it or reinvent the wheel.

Adjustable performance: From the menu you can now adjust CPU performance based on whether you want lower CPU usage or more modules.

Adjust priority of the CPU based on your needs (more modules with higher CPU usage, or fewer modules but lower CPU).

MIDI out. You could always get MIDI into Rack, but now you can get it out, too – so you can use sequencers and modulation and so on to control other equipment or via inter-app MIDI routing, other software. There are three new modules – CV-GATE, CV-MIDI, and CV-CC. (VCV describes those as being suitable for drum machines, synths, and Eurorack and talks about hardware, but you could find a lot of different applications for this.)

Assign MIDI control easily. Previously, controlling Rack has been a bit of a chore: start with a MIDI input, figure out how to route it into some kind of modulation, assign the modulation. Many software racks work this way, but it feels a bit draconian to users of other software. Now, via the MIDI-MAP module, you can click a parameter onscreen and just move a knob or fader or what have you on your controller – you know, like you can do in other tools.

That will be essential for actually playing your patches. I can’t wait to use this with Sensel Morph and the Buchla Thunder overlay but… yeah, that’s another story. Watch for that in the coming days.

Meet the new MIDI modules, which now support output, mapping, and even MPE.

Numeric pad input as well as revised gamepad support. Now in addition to gamepads (which offer some new improvements), you can hook up numeric keyboards:

MPE support: MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) now works with MIDI-CV. That makes Rack a fascinating new way of controlling MPE instruments.

Enter parameters manually. You can also now right-click a parameter and type in the value you want.

Browse modules visually. All the previous options for navigating your collection of virtual modules textually are still there – type module names, use tags, search by manufacturer or type. But now you also get a pretty visual browser so you can spot the module you want at a glance, and click and drag to drop modules into place. VCV isn’t the first computer modular to offer this – Softube has an awfully pretty browser, for one – but I find the Rack 1.0 browser to be really quick and easy. And it’s especially needed here as you quickly accumulate loads of modules from the Web.

Get new modules by sorting by build. This feature is actually on the VCV website, but it’s so important to how we work in Rack that it’s worth a mention here. Now you can search by build date and find the latest stuff.

Sort by build now on the plugins interface on the Web.

Move and manage modules more easily. You can now disable modules, force-drag them into place, and use a new, more flexible rack. The rack is also now infinite in all four dimensions, which is a bit confusing at first, but in keeping with the open-ended computer software ethos of software modular. (Take that, you Eurorack people who live in … like … normal physical space!)

You can also right-click modules to get quick links to plugin websites, documentation, and even source code. And you can see changelogs before you update, instead of just updating and finding out later.

Undo/redo history. At last, experiment without worry.

Parameter tooltips. No need to guess what that knob or switch is meant to do.

You can check out the new features in detail on the changelog (plus stuff added since 1.0, in case you live in the future and me in the past!):

https://github.com/VCVRack/Rack/blob/v1/CHANGELOG.md

Or for even more explanation, Nik Jewell describes what all those changes are about:

An unofficial guide to the Rack v1 Changelog

Getting started

Rack 1.0 will break compatibility with some modules, while you wait on those developers to update to the new API (hopefully). Andrew tells us we can run the old (0.6.x) and new Rack versions side by side:

To install two versions that don’t clash, simply install Rack v1 to a different folder such as “Program Files/VCV/Rack-v1” on Windows or “/Applications/Rack-v1” on Mac. They will each use their own set of plugins, settings, etc.

You can duplicate your Rack folder, and run the two versions side by side. Then you’re free to try the new features while still opening up your old work. (I found most of my previous patches, even after updating my modules, wound up missing modules. Rack will make the incompatible modules disappear, leaving the compatible ones in place.)

Right from the moment you start up VCV Rack 1.0, you’ll find some things are more approachable, with a new example patch and updated Scope. And for existing users, be prepared that the toolbar is gone, now replaced with menu options.

Here are some useful shortcuts for getting around the new release:

Now you can right-click a plug-in for an updated contextual menu with presets, and links to the developer’s site for documentation and more.

Double-click a parameter: initialize to default value

Right-click a parameter: type to enter a specific value.

Ctrl-click a connected input, and drag: clones the cable connected there to another port. (This way you can quickly route one output to multiple inputs, without having to mouse back to the output.)

Ctrl-E: Disables a module. (You can also choose the context menu.)

Ctrl- / Ctrl+ to zoom, or hold down control and use a scroll wheel.

Ctrl-drag modules. This is actually my favorite new feature, weirdly. If you control drag a module, it shoves other modules along with it into any empty space. It’s easier to see that in an animation than it is to describe it, so I’ll let Andrew show us:

Do check out the Recorder, too:

All the new internal modules to try out:
CV-MIDI
CV-CC
CV-Gate
MIDI-Map
Recorder

And developers, do go check out the migration guide.

Full information:

https://vcvrack.com/

The post VCV Rack hits 1.0; why you need this free modular now appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

VCV Rack hits 1.0; why you need this free modular now

Software modular VCV Rack just hit a major milestone – it’s now officially version 1.0, with polyphony, full MIDI, module browsing, multi-core support, and more. And since it’s a free and open platform, you don’t want to sleep on this.

VCV and developer Andrew Belt have hit on a new formula. Rack is free and open source on Mac, Windows, and Linux, and it’s free for developers to make their own modules. It also has tons of functionality out of the box – both from VCV and third-party developers. But then to support ongoing development, those developers offer some superb paid modules. Once you’re hooked, spending a little extra seems a good investment – because, well, it is.

All those modules… now seen in the new 1.0 visual browser.

Crucially, it’s a good deal for developers as well as users. Independent software developers, VCV included, are able to communicate directly with users, who in turn feel good about supporting the platform and community by spending some money. And hardware makers have a new way of reaching new audiences, as well as offering up try-before-you-buy versions of some of their modules. (Open source hardware makers like Mutable Instruments and Music thing were early adopters, but I hear some other names are coming.)

Maybe you’ve heard all this. But maybe you weren’t quite ready to take the plunge. With version 1.0, the case is getting pretty strong for adding Rack to your arsenal. Rack was appealing early on to tinkerers who enjoyed messing around with software. But 1.0 is starting to look like something you’d rely on in your music.

And that starts with polyphony, as shown by the developer of the VULT modules, which include many of my own personal favorites:

Rack 1.0

1.0 is really about two things – new functionality for more flexible use in your music, and a stable API for developers underneath that makes you feel like you’re using modules and not just testing them.

Mono- to polyphonic, on demand. Modules that want to support polyphony now can add up to 16 voices. Cables support polyphony. And the built-in modules have added tools for polyphonic use of course, too.

Polyphony, now a thing – and nicely implemented, both in UI and performance under the hood.

Multi-core accelerated engine. Adding polyphony, even on newer machines, means a greater tax on your CPU. There are a number of under-the-hood improvements to enable that in Rack, including multi-core support, threading, and hardware acceleration. This is also partly built into the platform, so third-party modules supporting Rack will get a performance boost “for free,” without developers having to worry about it or reinvent the wheel.

Adjustable performance: From the menu you can now adjust CPU performance based on whether you want lower CPU usage or more modules.

Adjust priority of the CPU based on your needs (more modules with higher CPU usage, or fewer modules but lower CPU).

MIDI out. You could always get MIDI into Rack, but now you can get it out, too – so you can use sequencers and modulation and so on to control other equipment or via inter-app MIDI routing, other software. There are three new modules – CV-GATE, CV-MIDI, and CV-CC. (VCV describes those as being suitable for drum machines, synths, and Eurorack and talks about hardware, but you could find a lot of different applications for this.)

Assign MIDI control easily. Previously, controlling Rack has been a bit of a chore: start with a MIDI input, figure out how to route it into some kind of modulation, assign the modulation. Many software racks work this way, but it feels a bit draconian to users of other software. Now, via the MIDI-MAP module, you can click a parameter onscreen and just move a knob or fader or what have you on your controller – you know, like you can do in other tools.

That will be essential for actually playing your patches. I can’t wait to use this with Sensel Morph and the Buchla Thunder overlay but… yeah, that’s another story. Watch for that in the coming days.

Meet the new MIDI modules, which now support output, mapping, and even MPE.

Numeric pad input as well as revised gamepad support. Now in addition to gamepads (which offer some new improvements), you can hook up numeric keyboards:

MPE support: MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) now works with MIDI-CV. That makes Rack a fascinating new way of controlling MPE instruments.

Enter parameters manually. You can also now right-click a parameter and type in the value you want.

Browse modules visually. All the previous options for navigating your collection of virtual modules textually are still there – type module names, use tags, search by manufacturer or type. But now you also get a pretty visual browser so you can spot the module you want at a glance, and click and drag to drop modules into place. VCV isn’t the first computer modular to offer this – Softube has an awfully pretty browser, for one – but I find the Rack 1.0 browser to be really quick and easy. And it’s especially needed here as you quickly accumulate loads of modules from the Web.

Get new modules by sorting by build. This feature is actually on the VCV website, but it’s so important to how we work in Rack that it’s worth a mention here. Now you can search by build date and find the latest stuff.

Sort by build now on the plugins interface on the Web.

Move and manage modules more easily. You can now disable modules, force-drag them into place, and use a new, more flexible rack. The rack is also now infinite in all four dimensions, which is a bit confusing at first, but in keeping with the open-ended computer software ethos of software modular. (Take that, you Eurorack people who live in … like … normal physical space!)

You can also right-click modules to get quick links to plugin websites, documentation, and even source code. And you can see changelogs before you update, instead of just updating and finding out later.

Undo/redo history. At last, experiment without worry.

Parameter tooltips. No need to guess what that knob or switch is meant to do.

You can check out the new features in detail on the changelog (plus stuff added since 1.0, in case you live in the future and me in the past!):

https://github.com/VCVRack/Rack/blob/v1/CHANGELOG.md

Or for even more explanation, Nik Jewell describes what all those changes are about:

An unofficial guide to the Rack v1 Changelog

Getting started

Rack 1.0 will break compatibility with some modules, while you wait on those developers to update to the new API (hopefully). Andrew tells us we can run the old (0.6.x) and new Rack versions side by side:

To install two versions that don’t clash, simply install Rack v1 to a different folder such as “Program Files/VCV/Rack-v1” on Windows or “/Applications/Rack-v1” on Mac. They will each use their own set of plugins, settings, etc.

You can duplicate your Rack folder, and run the two versions side by side. Then you’re free to try the new features while still opening up your old work. (I found most of my previous patches, even after updating my modules, wound up missing modules. Rack will make the incompatible modules disappear, leaving the compatible ones in place.)

Right from the moment you start up VCV Rack 1.0, you’ll find some things are more approachable, with a new example patch and updated Scope. And for existing users, be prepared that the toolbar is gone, now replaced with menu options.

Here are some useful shortcuts for getting around the new release:

Now you can right-click a plug-in for an updated contextual menu with presets, and links to the developer’s site for documentation and more.

Double-click a parameter: initialize to default value

Right-click a parameter: type to enter a specific value.

Ctrl-click a connected input, and drag: clones the cable connected there to another port. (This way you can quickly route one output to multiple inputs, without having to mouse back to the output.)

Ctrl-E: Disables a module. (You can also choose the context menu.)

Ctrl- / Ctrl+ to zoom, or hold down control and use a scroll wheel.

Ctrl-drag modules. This is actually my favorite new feature, weirdly. If you control drag a module, it shoves other modules along with it into any empty space. It’s easier to see that in an animation than it is to describe it, so I’ll let Andrew show us:

Do check out the Recorder, too:

All the new internal modules to try out:
CV-MIDI
CV-CC
CV-Gate
MIDI-Map
Recorder

And developers, do go check out the migration guide.

Full information:

https://vcvrack.com/

The post VCV Rack hits 1.0; why you need this free modular now appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Surge is free, deep synth for every platform, with MPE support

Surge is a deep multi-engine digital soft synth – beloved, then lost, then brought back to life as an open source project. And now it’s in a beta that’s usable and powerful and ready on every OS.

I wrote about Surge in the fall when it first hit a free, open source release:

Vember Audio owner @Kurasu made this happen. But software just “being open sourced” often leads nowhere. In this case, Surge has a robust community around it, turning this uniquely open instrument into something you can happily use as a plug-in alongside proprietary choices.

And it really is deep: stack 3 oscillators per voice, use morphable classic or FM or ring modulation or noise engines, route through a rich filter block with feedback and every kind of variation imaginable – even more exotic notch or comb or sample & hold choices, and then add loads of modulation. There are some 12 LFOs per voice, multiple effects, a vocoder, a rotary speaker…

I mention it again because now you can grab Mac (64-bit AU/VST), Windows (32-bit and 64-bit VST), and Linux (64-bit VST) versions, built for you.

And there’s VST3 support.

And there’s support for MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression), meaning you can use hardware from ROLI, Roger Linn, Haken, and others – I’m keen to try the Sensel Morph, perhaps with that Buchla overlay.

Now there’s also an analog mode for the envelopes, too.

This also holds great promise for people who desire a deep synth but can’t afford expensive hardware. While Apple’s approach means backwards compatibility on macOS is limited, it’ll run on fairly modest machines – meaning this could also be an ideal starting point for building your own integrated hardware/software solution.

In fact, if you’re not much of a coder but are a designer, it looks like design is what they need most at this point. Plus you can contribute sound content, too.

Most encouraging is really that they are trying to build a whole community around this synth – not just make open source maintenance a chore, but really a shared endeavor.

Check it out now:

https://surge-synthesizer.github.io

Previously:

Powerful SURGE synth for Mac and Windows is now free

The post Surge is free, deep synth for every platform, with MPE support appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Alternative modular: pd knobs is a Pure Data-friendly knob controller

pd knobs is a knob controller for MIDI. It’s built with Teensy with open source code – or you can get the pre-built version, with some pretty, apparently nice-feeling knobs. And here it is with the free software Pd + AUTOMATONISM – proof that you don’t need to buy Eurorack just to go modular.

And that’s relevant, actually. Laptops can be had for a few hundred bucks; this controller is reasonably inexpensive, or you could DIY it. Add Automatonism, and you have a virtually unlimited modular of your own making. I love that Eurorack is supporting builders, but I don’t think the barrier to entry for music should be a world where a single oscillator costs what a lot of people spend in a month on rent.

And, anyway, this sounds really cool. Check the demo:

From the creator, Sonoclast:

pd knobs is a 13 knob MIDI CC controller. It can control any software that recognizes MIDI CC messages, but it was obviously designed with Pure Data in mind. I created it because I wanted a knobby interface with nice feeling potentiometers that would preserve its state from session-to-session, like a hardware instrument would. MIDI output is over a USB cable.

For users of the free graphical modular Pd, there are some ready-to-use abstractions for MIDI or even audio-rate control. You can also easily remap the controllers with some simple code.

More:

http://sonoclast.com/products/pd-knobs/

Buy from Reverb.com:

https://reverb.com/item/21147215-sonoclast-pd-knobs-midi-cc-controller

The post Alternative modular: pd knobs is a Pure Data-friendly knob controller appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

dadamachines doppler is a new platform for open music hardware

The new doppler board promises to meld the power of FPGA brains with microcontrollers and the accessibility of environments like Arduino. And the founder is so confident that could lead to new stuff, he’s making a “label” to help share your ideas.

doppler is a small, 39EUR development board packing both an ARM microcontroller and an FPGA. It could be the basis of music controllers, effects, synths – anything you can make run on those chips.

If this appeals to you, we’ve even got a CDM-exclusive giveaway for inventors with ideas. (Now, end users, this may all go over your head but … rest assured the upshot for you should be, down the road, more cool toys to play with. Tinkerers, developers, and people with a dangerous appetite for building things – read on.)

But first – why include an FPGA on a development board for music?

The pitch for FPGA

The FPGA is a powerful but rarified circuit. The idea is irresistible: imagine a circuit that could be anything you want to be, rewired as easily as software. That’s kind of what an FPGA is – it’s a big bundle of programmable logic blocks and memory blocks. You get all of that computational power at comparatively low cost, with the flexibility to adapt to a number of tasks. The upshot of this is, you get something that performs like dedicated, custom-designed hardware, but that can be configured on the fly – and with terrific real-time performance.

This works well for music and audio applications, because FPGAs do work in “close to the metal” high performance contexts. And we’ve even seen them used in some music gear. (Teenage Engineer was an early FPGA adopter, with the OP-1.) The challenge has always been configuring this hardware for use, which could easily scare off even some hardware developers.

For more on why open FPGA development is cool, here’s a (nerdy) slide deck: https://fpga.dev/oshug.pdf

Now, all of what I’ve just said a little hard to envision. Wouldn’t it be great if instead of that abstract description, you could fire up the Arduino development environment, upload some cool audio code, and have it running on an FPGA?

doppler, on a breadboard connected to other stuff so it starts to get more musically useful. Future modules could also make this easier.

doppler: easier audio FPGA

doppler takes that FPGA power, and combines it with the ease of working with environments like Arduino. It’s a chewing gum-sized board with both a familiar ARM microcontroller and an FPGA. This board is bare-bones – you just get USB – but the development tools have been set up for you, and you can slap this on a breadboard and add your own additions (MIDI, audio I/O).

The project is led by Johannes Lohbihler, dadamachines founder, along with engineer and artist Sven Braun.

dadamachines also plan some other modules to make it easier to add other stuff us music folks might like. Want audio in and out? A mic preamp? MIDI connections? A display? Controls? Those could be breakout boards, and it seems Johannes and dadamachines are open to ideas for what you most want. (In the meantime, of course, you can lay out your own stuff, but these premade modules could save time when prototyping.)

Full specs of the tiny, core starter board:

120Mhz ARM Cortex M4F MCU 512KB Flash (Microchip ATSAMD51G19A) with FPU
– FPGA 5000 LUT, 1MBit RAM, 6 DSP Cores,OSC, PLL (Lattice ICE40UP5K)
– Arduino IDE compatible
– Breadboard friendly (DIL48)
– Micro USB
– Power over USB or external via pin headers
– VCC 3.5V …. 5.5V
– All GPIO Pins have 3.3V Logic Level
– 1 LED connected to SAMD51
– 4 x 4 LED Matrix (connected to FPGA)
– 2 User Buttons (connected to FPGA)
– AREF Solder Jumper
– I2C (need external pullup), SPI, QSPI Pins
– 2 DAC pins, 10 ADC pins
– Full open source toolchain
– SWD programming pin headers
– Double press reset to enter the bootloader
– UF2 Bootloader with Firmware upload via simple USB stick mode

See also the quickstart PDF.

I’ve focused on the FPGA powers here, because those are the new ones, but the micrcontroller side brings compatibility with existing libraries that allow you to combine some very useful features.

So, for instance, there’s USB host capability, which allows connecting all sorts of input devices, USB MIDI gadgets, and gaming controllers. See:

https://github.com/gdsports/USB_Host_Library_SAMD

That frees up the FPGA to do audio only. Flip it around the other way, and you can use the microcontroller for audio, while the FPGA does … something else. The Teensy audio library will work on this chip, too – meaning a bunch of adafruit instructional content will be useful here:

https://learn.adafruit.com/synthesizer-design-tool?view=all

https://github.com/adafruit/Audio/

doppler is fully open source hardware, with open firmware and code samples, so it’s designed to be easy to integrate into a finished product – even one you might sell commercially.

The software examples for now are mainly limited to configuring and using the board, so you’ll still need to bring your own code for doing something useful. But you can add the doppler as an Arduino library and access even the FPGA from inside the Arduino environment, which expands this to a far wider range of developers.

Look, ma, Arduino!

In a few steps, you can get up and running with the development environment, on any OS. You’ll be blinking lights and even using a 4×4 matrix of lights to show characters, just as easily as you would on an Arduino board – only you’re using an FPGA.

Getting to that stage is lunch break stuff if you’ve at least worked with Arduino before:

https://github.com/dadamachines/doppler

Dig into the firmware, and you can see, for instance, some I/O and a synth working. (This is in progress, it seems, but you get the idea.)

https://github.com/dadamachines/doppler-FPGA-firmware

And lest you think this is going to be something esoteric for experienced embedded hardware developers, part of the reason it’s so accessible is that Johannes is working with Sven Braun. Sven is among other things the developer of iOS apps zmors synth and modular – so you get something that’s friendly to app developers.

doppler in production…

A label for hardware, platform for working together

Johannes tells us there’s more to this than just tossing an open source board out into the world – dadamachines is also inviting collaborations. They’ve made doppler a kind of calling card for working together, as well as a starting point for building new hardware ideas, and are suggesting Berlin-based dadamachines as a “label” – a platform to develop and release those ideas as products.

There are already some cool, familiar faces playing with these boards – think Meng Qi, Tom Whitwell of Music thing, and Ornament & Crime.

Johannes and his dadamachines have already a proven hardware track record, bringing a product from Kickstarter funding to manufacturing, with the automat. It’s an affordable device that makes it easy to connect physical, “robotic” outputs (like solenoids and motors). (New hardware, a software update and more are planned for that, too, by the way.) And of course, part of what you get in doing that kind of hardware is a lot of amassed experience.

We’ve seen fertile open platforms before – Arduino and Raspberry Pi have each created their own ecosystems of both hardware and education. But this suggests working even more closely – pooling space, time, manufacturing, distribution, and knowledge together.

This might be skipping a few steps – even relatively experienced developers may want to see what they can do with this dev board first. But it’s an interesting long-range goal that Johannes has in mind.

Want your own doppler; got ideas?

We have five doppler boards to give away to interested CDM readers.

Just tell dadamachines what you want to make, or connect, or use, and email that idea to:

cdm@dadamachines.com

dadamachines will pick five winners to get a free board sent to them. (Johannes says he wants to do this by lottery, but I’ve said if there are five really especially good ideas or submissions, he should… override the randomness.)

And stay tuned here, as I hope to bring you some more stuff with this soon.

For more:

https://forum.dadamachines.com/

https://dadamachines.com/product/doppler/

The post dadamachines doppler is a new platform for open music hardware appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

How to make a multitrack recording in VCV Rack modular, free

In the original modular synth era, your only way to capture ideas was to record to tape. But that same approach can be liberating even in the digital age – and it’s a perfect match for the open VCV Rack software modular platform.

Competing modular environments like Reaktor, Softube Modular, and Cherry Audio Voltage Modular all run well as plug-ins. That functionality is coming soon to a VCV Rack update, too – see my recent write-up on that. In the meanwhile, VCV Rack is already capable of routing audio into a DAW or multitrack recorder – via the existing (though soon-to-be-deprecated) VST Bridge, or via inter-app routing schemes on each OS, including JACK.

Those are all good solutions, so why would you bother with a module inside the rack?

Well, for one, there’s workflow. There’s something nice about being able to just keep this record module handy and grab a weird sound or nice groove at will, without having to shift to another tool.

Two, the big ongoing disadvantage of software modular is that it’s still pretty CPU intensive – sometimes unpredictably so. Running Rack standalone means you don’t have to worry about overhead from the host, or its audio driver settings, or anything like that.

A free recording solution inside VCV Rack

What you’ll need to make this work is the free NYSTHI modules for VCV Rack, available via Rack’s plug-in manager. They’re free, though – get ready, there’s a hell of a lot of them.

Big thanks to chaircrusher for this tip and some other ones that informed this article – do go check his music.

Type “recorder” into the search box for modules, and you’ll see different options options from NYSTHI – current at least as of this writing.

2 Channel MasterRecorder is a simple stereo recorder.
2 Channel MasterReocorder 2 adds various features: monitoring outs, autosave, a compressor, and “stereo massaging.”
Multitrack Recorder is an multitrack recorder with 4- or 8-channel modes.

The multitrack is the one I use the most. It allows you to create stems you can then mix in another host, or turn into samples (or, say, load onto a drum machine or the like), making this a great sound design tool and sound starter.

This is creatively liberating for the same reason it’s actually fun to have a multitrack tape recorder in the same studio as a modular, speaking of vintage gear. You can muck about with knobs, find something magical, and record it – and then not worry about going on to do something else later.

The AS mixer, routed into NYSTHI’s multitrack recorder.

Set up your mix. The free included Fundamental modules in Rack will cover the basics, but I would also go download Alfredo Santamaria’s excellent selection , the AS modules, also in the Plugin Manager, and also free. Alfredo has created friendly, easy-to-use 2-, 4-, and 8-channel mixers that pair perfectly with the NYSTHI recorders.

Add the mixer, route your various parts, set level (maybe with some temporary panning), and route the output of the mixer to the Audio device for monitoring. Then use the ‘O’ row to get a post-fader output with the level.

(Alternatively, if you need extra features like sends, there’s the mscHack mixer, though it’s more complex and less attractive.)

Prep that signal. You might also consider a DC Offset and Compressor between your raw sources and the recording. (Thanks to Jim Aikin for that tip.)

Configure the recorder. Right-click on the recorder for an option to set 24-bit audio if you want more headroom, or to pre-select a destination. Set 4- or 8-track mode with the switch. Set CHOOSE FILE if you want to manually select where to record.

There are trigger ins and outs, too, so apart from just pressing the START and STOP buttons, you can either trigger a sequencer or clock directly from the recorder, or visa versa.

Record away! And go to town… when you’re done, you’ll get a stereo WAV file, or a 4- or 8-track WAV file. Yes, that’s one file with all the tracks. So about that…

Splitting up the multitrack file

This module produces a single, multichannel WAV file. Some software will know what to do with that. Reaper, for instance, has excellent multichannel support throughout, so you can just drag and drop into it. Adobe’s Audition CS also opens these files, but it can’t quickly export all the stems.

Software like Ableton Live, meanwhile, will just throw up an error if you try to open the file. (Bad Ableton! No!)

It’s useful to have individual stems anyway. ffmpeg is an insanely powerful cross-platform tool capable of doing all kinds of things with media. It’s completely free and open source, it runs on every platform, and it’s fast and deep. (It converts! It streams! It records!)

Installing is easier than it used to be, thanks to a cleaned-up site and pre-built binaries for Mac and Windows (plus of course the usual easy Linux installs):

https://ffmpeg.org/

Unfortunately, it’s so deep and powerful, it can also be confusing to figure out how to do something. Case in point – this audio channel manipulation wiki page.

In this case, you can use the map channel “filter” to make this happen. So for eight channels, I do this:

ffmpeg -i input.wav -map_channel 0.0.0 0.wav -map_channel 0.0.1 1.wav -map_channel 0.0.2 2.wav -map_channel 0.0.3 3.wav -map_channel 0.0.4 4.wav -map_channel 0.0.5 5.wav -map_channel 0.0.6 6.wav -map_channel 0.0.7 7.wav

But because this is a command line tool, you could create some powerful automated workflows for your modular outputs now that you know this technique.

Sound Devices, the folks who make excellent multichannel recorders, also have a free Mac and Windows tool called Wave Agent which handles this task if you want a GUI instead of the command line.

https://www.sounddevices.com/products/accessories/software/wave-agent

That’s worth keeping around, too, since it can also mix and monitor your output. (No Linux version, though.)

Record away!

Bonus tutorial here – the other thing apart from recording you’ll obviously want with VCV Rack is some hands-on control. Here’s a nice tutorial this week on working with BeatStep Pro from Arturia (also a favorite in the hardware modular world):

I really like this way of working, in that it lets you focus on the modular environment instead of juggling tools. I actually hope we’ll see a Fundamental module for the task in the future. Rack’s modular ecosystem changes fast, so if you find other useful recorders, let us know.

https://vcvrack.com/

Previously:

Step one: How to start using VCV Rack, the free modular software

How to make the free VCV Rack modular work with Ableton Link

The post How to make a multitrack recording in VCV Rack modular, free appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.