Free MacOS Sampler, Samplr For Touchbar

Samplr for Touchbar is a free app that puts a touchscreen sampler into your Mac’s Touchbar.… Read More Free MacOS Sampler, Samplr For Touchbar

How to get into a creative flow with FL Studio – and what could make it worth it

FL Studio’s reputation is deceiving: this is one of the richest, most surprisingly open-ended tools for music-making. But long-time users may miss some of its recent improvements – and newcomers may not be clear on how to start.

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Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular 2.0 is here – and friendlier, feature-rich, with more modules

Software modular just keeps getting better. Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular looks like a top contender, with a major (free) 2.0 update and changes to support free and affordable module add-ons. Where Cherry fits Just think how rich and accessible the modular world is in software – and Cherry just made it more so. VCV […]

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How to update your Mac to Mojave – not Catalina – for the new Logic and more

Unless you have brand new Mac hardware, it’s likely you want to run macOS Mojave for now for greater compatibility. Here’s how to do it (including links to advice for when your App Store isn’t cooperating).

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Apple’s sweet spot: which MacBook do you want for music making now?

Every price point in Apple’s notebook lineup has recently gotten an update, with revisions to the 13″ MacBook Pro this week. And they’ve fixed the keyboards. So if you’re in the market for a Mac, which should you get? We know from sales figures that even in the midst of dueling economic and health crises, […]

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Resolume adds transitions, better gradients – and here’s how to stream with it

Resolume brings some subtle but powerful improvements to this live visual/VJ/media server tool. Here’s a look – plus a quick tutorial for streaming live with OBS.

Resolume is a unique favorite in the live visual world partly for its elegant, straightforward UI. That hides some powerful features, which might not be immediately apparent if you’re used to tons of toolbars and palettes. These little changes pretty well fit in that category.

There’s a new gradient tool that handles multiple colors – so, basically, taste the rainbow, folks!

But what I think will have you really interested is the “Transition Phase.” Described in words, it sounds kind of boring – blah, blah, clip … parameter … linking … something. What?

Okay, let me put it this way – it lets you do mind-blowing animations between clips. So you can muck with stuff. And glitch stuff. And do wacky animation things in between clips, so you can edit together… motion… well, like this:

That looks like a nice way not only for live visuals (you know, the stuff that requires audiences) but also editing slick visuals fast. I don’t know about you, but that latter one is important, so I can get back to jogging/wheezing time and playing video games.

And these kinds of live tools have long been a secret weapon of people making edits faster.

If you do want to stream the results live, though, Resolume have a tutorial up for streaming – which will simultaneously bring you up to speed on OBS (the popular free streaming tool), OBS NDI (a tool for routing video textures between apps), and YouTube streaming.

OBS NDI plugin:
Youtube Tutorial:
Streaming Resolume:

Okay, enough tutorials, I want to see some raving EDM flamingos, and wish granted:

And this is trippy and beautiful:

And this is boxy:

Lots of other quick video tips are on Resolume’s Vimeo channel – and they really are fast, as great video tips should be:

More on the software:

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Free modular: open source Mutable Instruments ports expanded in VCV Rack

As the TV car ads say – no money? No problem. VCV Rack can get you into some extraordinarily deep sound making for free. And thanks to a crowd funding effort, what’s available in the Audible Instruments range has expanded.

There’s a bunch of new stuff in the world of Rack for synth lovers. Here’s the latest round-up.

More modules

VCV Rack is a free, open source platform for Mac, Windows, and Linux that emulates a Eurorack modular setup, with support for free and paid modules. And it does some things physical hardware can’t do – well, unless you have magic powers that let you summon unlimited numbers of modules out of thin air and recall previous states in an instant. Thanks, software!

Module makers are regularly updating their stuff, so you’ll see a friendly red dot appear in the menu that tells you there’s new stuff to download. And there’s been lots of activity lately, especially from developers like Vult ( Leonardo Laguna Ruiz), Bogaudio, Impromptu, Count Modula, and others. (I recommend that batch right now, in fact – trust me.)

But two recent developments from VCV themselves merit mention.

A new Library

First, with all that healthy module ecosystem growth, recently the Library feature got a major refresh. Rack uses a browser-based system for finding and managing your module collection, called the Library. From the browser, you can find and install modules, purchase paid modules, and deselect modules you don’t want any more to declutter your collection. Log in to Rack on any OS, and your collection of modules is immediately available anywhere. (For instance, I regularly boot between an Ubuntu and Windows partition; modules automatically appear in both places. Install your Rack files on a connected drive like Dropbox, and your whole modular studio can live in the cloud.)

The old interface looked like a big spreadsheet, and was dull and a little challenging to navigate. The new interface is graphical, and lets you quickly look at just premium paid modules, or just free or open source modules, or jump to particular makers or tags.

Search quickly for premium (great stuff to buy in there), free and open source (or not), or by tag, brand, and more.

Audible Instruments expanded

Audible Instruments is the set of modules based on the popular Mutable Insturments line of open source modular hardware. It’s not an official Mutable Instruments project (hence the name); it’s developed by VCV, but complies with Mutable’s open source GPLv3 license. It does show the power of open source tech, and may make you want some of Mutable’s hardware even more.

We got a one-two punch of Audible updates recently.

The big one is, Mutable Instruments Ripples got ported as Audible Instruments Liquid Filter, thanks to a crowd funding campaign. It’s a beautiful model of the filter, and as usual, you get a ton of features in a clear, minimal panel.

Mutable made this filter analog, so it’s worth checking the original module – a connection to the Shruthi synth lineage here.


Macro Oscillator 2 is now polyphonic. That’s huge news; this powerful oscillator really feels like a dozen or two modules in one space. There are eight pitched and eight percussive models, and a built-in low-pass gate in this single module. You can then make some extraordinary polyphonic patches using something like the excellent Sensel Morph MPE-compatible hardware – add a Buchla Thunder overlay and go to town.

and the original –

Check the full Audible Instruments page:

Great modules to buy, too

Free stuff is great – especially because it allows Rack to be a tool for collaboration and teaching in a way other environments can’t. But developers need support. That’s why it’s encouraging that crowd funding enabled Liquid Filter, and why hopefully software modules with hardware equivalents (from Mutable Instruments to Befaco, Erica Synths and others) will encourage sales of the real gear.

I’ve been happy to buy software modules in Rack, partly because the instant gratification is great – and there’s some beautiful stuff to buy. I find I actually even enjoy purchasing this stuff – that combination of consumer satisfaction with musical inspiration with knowing you support the developers.

One way to support Rack itself is buying the proprietary modules developed by its creator, Andrew Belt. These modules appear under the VCV name. Must-have modules for me include Console, a performance-friendly mixer, and Router, a superb set of three routing modules:

There’s some interesting new stuff out now from third-party developers. I already want to check out Unfiltered Audio’s new frequency and amplitude splitters, for instance.

For anyone feeling conflicted about saving money on a Minimoog from a certain clone hardware maker, let me present the Mockba Modular Model V – because you can’t beat US$20 as a price.

I recently bought the beautiful Stellare Modular Creative Suite, which comes with some wild options for organic modulation and sequencing.

And what’s this? cf now has a sample-based drum machine conveniently mapped to a numeric keypad? Well, I’ll take one of those and, please, some kind of weird mechanical keyboard kit! (Hmm, someone in Germany must be shipping now.)

Fiddling around with Rack I find endlessly inspiring. And there’s something grounding about having idiosyncratic, hardware-style modules as your building blocks – like having someone else’s personality staring back at you. Happy synth-ing to you! And let us know if there’s more we might cover in the world of Rack.

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Streamlabs is an easier, free all-in-one streaming app, now on Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android

Start with OBS, the now industry-standard streaming app, and add a bunch of special sauce to make it easier and friendlier. Now you’ve got Streamlabs – and it just added Mac support to its other platforms.

Mention live streaming any time in the past year or so, and someone no doubt told you to use OBS. Open Broadcaster Software, aka OBS Studio, is indeed free and powerful – not only for streaming but live recording, too. (It quietly displaced a lot of pricey and often incomplete commercial screencasting software, too.)

OBS has gotten a lot easier – a cash infusion from Twitch, Facebook, NVIDIA, and Logitech no doubt helped. But it’s still a bit intimidating as far as configuring settings for recording, to say nothing of the manual settings required to then make it upload to various streaming platforms.

That’s where Streamlabs comes in. It’s got its own desktop apps based on OBS, plus apps that let you easily stream from Android and iOS, too. So while you could do all of this on OBS desktop, Streamlabs makes it easier – basically, it’s a bit like having a custom distro of OBS. And then by adding mobile access, those platforms become easier, too.

Looks like OBS – but 100% less intimidating.

So in addition to all the things that make OBS powerful – using any video source or onscreen inputs, switching between them, handling resolutions and recording as well as connecting, you get:

  • Pre-configured streaming platforms and easy login (think YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, etc.)
  • Auto-optimized video settings
  • Custom alerts (so you can also beg for donations, add engagement)
  • Themes and widgets for customizing your stream
  • Built-in chat (normally requiring you to open another window in OBS, which gets surprisingly clumsy fast)
  • Easy recording
  • Cloud backups (so you don’t lose your recording)

Honestly, having played around with it a bit, maybe the best part of Streamlabs is that all the power of OBS is there, but easier to use. So it doesn’t feel like a dumbed-down version of OBS so much as a polished, beginner-friendly interface with all the same features – and some useful additions.

The easier-to-follow Sources dialog alone is probably worth the price of admission. And price of admission is free, anyway.

The mobile apps also feature a lot of nice integrations on these lines, too. Think similar cross-platform streaming support, importing OBS settings from desktop, and adding widgets for events, donations, and chat.

The spin here of OBS is open source, like its sibling. It’s based on Electron, so I hope that now that macOS was added, we’ll see Linux, too. Linux users should meanwhile note that OBS packaging has improved a lot across distros, and Ubuntu Studio for instance even bakes a pre-configured OBS right into the OS. I have no idea how much work would be required to do the same with Streamlabs. (PS, you can beta test 20.04 LTS right now and help them squash bugs before what I think will be a very essential global pandemic stay-at-home OS release!)

So, since this is free and open source, what’s the business model?

Basically, you can grab this for free and have a nicer version of OBS. Tips and donations to content makers go 100% to you – no cut for Streamlabs. (Good – and a major difference with a lot of horrible startups.)

Then for a monthly fee, you can add additional effects (US$4.99/month, “PRO”), or a bunch of custom widgets, custom domain and website, and other extras (Prime, $12/mo billed annually).

I hope they allow month-to-month billing, but regardless, it’s nice to see a business built on open source software and that still has sustainable business support. (CDM is possible because of just that idea – thank WordPress.)

I’m sure some people are groaning at me even sharing this information, given how many streams are out there right now. But”streaming” doesn’t necessarily mean to a wide audience – it’s useful in any case where you want to teleport yourself around the world (while under stay-at-home orders, for instance) even if it’s to a small group. Plus, even if you haven’t been struggling with this yourself, now you can tip off your friends so they don’t a) bug you for how to set up their stream and/or b) stream really low-quality material you have to then watch.

And I think just as with blogs, the question is not really quantity or openness, but quality – and whether there’s a model for supporting the people putting out that quality. More on this soon.

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Here’s how to update KORG’s wireless nano controller, and use it with iOS 13 (and more)

In case you missed it, in November, KORG fixed issues with their portable Bluetooth MIDI controllers/keyboards and iOS 13. Wireless operation works with desktop OSes, too – and it’s really cool.

Firmware updates I know can be a bit scary, and it’s possible some owners of the KORG wireless devices didn’t even know that there was a fix (or that you can do this, for that matter)! So it’s worth sharing this video KORG posted at the end of last week.

iOS changes have kept developers scrambling lately, but at least this catches you up. And it’s tough to beat the iPad and a wireless nanoKEY as an ultra-portable rig on the road.

Wireless Bluetooth MIDI operation is a strong, low-latency solution on desktop OSes, too, though – useful if you have your computer handy and just need some input device to sketch in ideas or try our your latest virtual modular patch. (That’s me, anyway!)

KORG’s wireless controllers do support both Mac and Windows, too. (I’ll check if there’s a way to get this working on Linux; I suspect someone ported over Apple’s implementation. I also don’t see Android officially supported, but there’s some version there – or you can just use USB and an OTG cable, in a pinch.)

There are a few features that make the nanoKEY Studio easy to recommend, specifically. Everything is ultra-low-profile, so it’s more optimal for tossing in a backpack. There’s still velocity sensitivity on both the pads and keys, and back lighting for dark situations. But I think what’s especially winning is – not just knobs, but also an X/Y pad (KAOSS style), onboard arpeggiator, scale and chord mapping.

KORG push the notion that this helps when you’re not a skilled keyboardist but – obviously, even if you’ve got years of piano training, on a little controller like this you’re in a different mode.

Also quite useful on the go, nanoKONTROL Studio:

In fact, I can imagine nanoKONTROL Studio with the new (wired) Novation Launchpad mini would be ideal. The Launchpad mini has input but not anything that works easily as a mixing layout – other than a somewhat crude mode that uses the pads for that, but doesn’t give you continuous control. Both would fit in a slim-line backpack with literally nothing else, for an easy iPad or notebook computer studio.

Or couple the Launchpad mini and nanoKONTROL Studio, because then you can lock individual controllers to particular instruments without swapping (useful!), or separate clip triggering and instrumental playing.

I just personally love being able to work when traveling and to fit live rigs into small spaces.

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Map anything in Ableton Live’s Browser to MIDI, keyboard with Max for Live

Get push-button access to your favorite stuff in Ableton Live with this clever Max for Live tool.

Continuing our new year look at some of the coolest Max for Live stuff, flowstate has come up with a tool that lets you map anything in Live’s Browser. If you find yourself frequently using the same instrument, effect, sample, or whatnot, you can now map those to keyboard or MIDI.

The solution is a combination of MIDI Remote Script with Max for Live Device. And it works with almost anything – devices, sounds, third-party plug-ins, basically anything except Live Packs (which don’t support this mapping).

The package is name-your-price, with a £5 minimum.

The developers says instructions and an example set are included, plus 64 button slots pre-mapped to all of the internal Live Suite stuff (MIDI Effects, Audio Effects, and Instruments), including 5 user slots (or remap the whole thing as you wish).

It’s overkill for me personally, but I imagine it could be really useful to some. And it shows some of the potential of using the Live API and MIDI Remote Scripts to customize Live, so I imagine it might inspire other ideas, too.

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