open-source

VCV Rack v0.3.1 open-source virtual modular Eurorack DAW

VCV RackVCV is an open-source virtual modular synthesizer system by Andrew Belt, in collaboration with Grayscale. Powering the VCV modules is VCV Rack, a standalone software in which you can add modules, connect cables, edit parameters, and save/load patches. VCV is designed to be used as a complete DAW for creating modular synthesizer compositions or as […]

Synthesis Technology WaveEdit & Wavetable VCO Hands-On Demo

At Knobcon 2017, engineer Paul Schreiber of Synthesis Technology gave us an overview of their free WaveEdit waveform editor and two new wavetable VCOs, the E352 and E370.… Read More Synthesis Technology WaveEdit & Wavetable VCO Hands-On Demo

What if you used synthesizers to emulate nature and reality?

Bored with making presets for instruments, one sound designer decides to make presets for ambient reality – and you can learn from the results.

“Scapes” is a multi-year, advanced journey into the idea that the synthesizer could sound like anything you imagine. Once you’ve grabbed this set of Ableton Live projects, you can bliss out to the weirdly natural results. Or you can tear apart the innards, finding everything from tricks on how to make cricket sounds synthetically to a veritable master class in using instruments like Ableton’s built-in FM synthesizer Operator. The results are Creative Commons-licensed (and of course, you can also grab individual presets).

The project is the brainchild of sound designer Francis Preve. Apart from his prolific writing career and Symplesound soundware line, Fran has put his sound design work all over presets for apps, software (including Ableton Live), and hardware.

As a result, no one knows better than Fran how much of the work of making presets focuses on particular, limited needs. And that’s too bad. The thing is, there’s no reason to be restricted to the stuff we normally get in synth presets. (You know the type: “lush, succulent pads” … “crisp leads…” “back-stabbing basslines…” “chocolate-y, creamy nougat horn sections…” “impetuous, slightly condescending 80s police drama keyboard stacks…” or, uh, whatever. Might have made some of those up.)

No, the promise of the synthesizer was supposed to be unlimited sonic possibilities.

If we tend to recreate what we’ve heard, that’s partly because we’re synthesizing something we’ve taken some care in hearing. So, why not go back to the richness and complexity of sound as we hear it in everyday life? Why not combine the active listening of a soundwalk or field recording with the craft of producing something using synthesis, in place of a recording?

Scapes does that, and the results are – striking. There’s not a single sample anywhere in the four ambient environments, which cover a rainy day in the city, a midsummer night, a brook echoing with bird song, and a more fanciful haunted house (with a classic movie origin). Instead, these are multitrack compositions, constructed with a bunch of instances of Operator and some internal effects. Download the Ableton Live project files, and you see a set of MIDI tracks and internal Live devices.

You might not be fooled into thinking the result sounds exactly like a field recording, but you would certainly let it pass for Foley in film. (I think that fits, actually – film uses constructed Foley partly because we expect in that context for the sounds to be constructed, more the way we imagine we hear than what literally passes into our ears.)

You wouldn’t think this was internal Ableton devices – not by a longshot – but of course it is.

And that’s where Scapes is doubly useful. Whether or not you want to create these particular sounds, every layer is a master class in sound design and synthesis. If you can understand a cricket, a bottle rocket, a rainstorm, and a car alarm, then you’re closer not only to emulating reality, but to being able to reconstruct the sounds you hear in your imagination and that you remember from life. That opens up new galaxies of potential to composers and musicians.

It might be just what electronic music needs: to think of sound creatively, rather than trying to regurgitate some instrumentation you’ve heard before. This might be the opposite of how you normally think of presets: here, presets can liberate you from repetitive thought.

I’ve seen this idea before – but just once before, that I can think of. Andy Farnell’s Designing Sound, which began life as a PDF that was floating around in draft form before it matured into a book at MIT Press, took on exactly this idea. Fran’s scapes are “tracks,” collaged compositions that turn into entire environments; Farnell looks only at the component sounds one by one.

Otherwise, the two have the same philosophy: understand the way you hear sound by starting from scratch and building up something that sounds natural. Scapes does it with Ableton Live projects you can easily walk through. Designing Sound demonstrates this on paper with patches in the free and open source environment Pure Data. As Richard Boulanger describes that book, “with hundreds of fully working sound models, this ‘living document’ helps students to learn with both their eyes and their ears, and to explore what they are learning on their own computer.”

But yes – create sounds by really listening, actively. (Pauline Oliveros might have been into this.)

Designing Sound | The MIT Press

Sound examples

A PDF introducing Pure Data (the free software you can use to pull this off)

But grabbing Scapes and a PDF or paper edition of Designing Sound together would give you a pairing you could play with more or less for the rest of your life.

Scapes is free (only Ableton Live required), and available now.

https://www.francispreve.com/scapes/

For background on how this came about: THE ORIGIN OF SCAPES [TL;DR EDIT]

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Sonoj Convention To Explore Music Production With Open Source Software

Free event to focus on music production with open source software:… Read More Sonoj Convention To Explore Music Production With Open Source Software

Here are some of our favorite MeeBlip triode synth jams

We say “play” music for a reason – synths are meant to be fun. So here are our favorite live jams from the MeeBlip community, with our triode synth.

And, of course, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, this can give you some inspiration for how to set up a live rig – or give you some idea of what triode sounds like if you don’t know already. We picked just a few of our favorites, but if we missed you, let us know! (audio or video welcome!)

First, Olivier Ozoux has churned out some amazing jam sessions with the triode, from unboxing to studio. (He also disassembled our fully-assembled unit to show the innards.)

The amazing Gustavo Bravetti is always full of virtuosity playing live; here, that distinctive triode sound cuts through a table full of gear. Details:

Again ARTURIA’s Beat Step Pro in charge of randomness (accessory percussions and subtle TB303). Practically all sounds generated on the black boxes, thanks Elektron, and at last but no least MeeBlip’s [triode] as supporting melody synth. Advanced controls from Push and Launch Control using Performer , made with Max by Cycling ’74.

Here’s a triode with the Elektron Octatrack as sequencer, plus a Moog Minitaur and Elektron Analog RYTM. That user also walks through the wavetable sounds packed into the triode for extra sonic variety.

Novation’s Circuit and MeeBlip triode pair for an incredible, low power, low cost, ultra-portable, all-in-one rig. We get not one but two examples of that combo, thanks to Pete Mitchell Music and Ken Shorley. It’s like peanut butter and chocolate:

One nice thing about triode is, that sub oscillator can fatten up and round out the one oscillator of a 303. We teamed up with Roland’s Nick de Friez when the lovely little TB-03 came out to show how these two can work together. Just output the distinctive 303-style sequencer to triode’s MIDI in, and have some fun:

Here’s triode as the heart of a rig with KORG’s volca series (percussion) and Roland’s TB-03 (acid bass) – adding some extra bottom. Thank you, Steven Archer, for your hopeful machines:

Get yours:
http://meeblip.com

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Export to hardware, virtual pedals – this could be the future of effects

If your computer and a stompbox had a love child, MOD Duo would be it – a virtual effects environment that can load anything. And now, it does Max/MSP, too.

MOD Devices’ MOD Duo began its life as a Kickstarter campaign. The idea – turn computer software into a robust piece of hardware – wasn’t itself so new. Past dedicated audio computer efforts have come and gone. But it is genuinely possible in this industry to succeed where others have failed, by getting your timing right, and executing better. And the MOD Duo is starting to look like it does just that.

What the MOD Duo gives you is essentially a virtualized pedalboard where you can add effects at will. Set up the effects you want on your computer screen (in a Web browser), and even add new ones by shopping for sounds in a store. But then, get the reliability and physical form factor of hardware, by uploading them to the MOD Duo hardware. You can add additional footswitches and pedals if you want additional control.

Watch how that works:

For end users, it can stop there. But DIYers can go deeper with this as an open box. Under the hood, it’s running LV2 plug-ins, an open, Linux-centered plug-in format. If you’re a developer, you can create your own effects. If you like tinkering with hardware, you can build your own controllers, using an Arduino shield they made especially for the job.

And then, this week, the folks at Cycling ’74 take us on a special tour of integration with Max/MSP. It represents something many software patchers have dreamed of for a long time. In short, you can “export” your patches to the hardware, and run them standalone without your computer.

This says a lot about the future, beyond just the MOD Duo. The technology that allows Max/MSP to support the MOD Duo is gen~ code, a more platform-agnostic, portable core inside Max. This hints at a future when Max runs in all sorts of places – not just mobile, but other hardware, too. And that future was of interest both to Cycling ’74 and the CEO of Ableton, as revealed in our interview with the two of them.

Even broader than that, though, this could be a way of looking at what electronic music looks like after the computer. A lot of people assume that ditching laptops means going backwards. And sure enough, there has been a renewed interest in instruments and interfaces that recall tech from the 70s and 80s. That’s great, but – it doesn’t have to stop there.

The truth is, form factors and physical interactions that worked well on dedicated hardware may start to have more of the openness, flexibility, intelligence, and broad sonic canvas that computers did. It means, basically, it’s not that you’re ditching your computer for a modular, a stompbox, or a keyboard. It’s that those things start to act more like your computer.

Anyway, why wait for that to happen? Here’s one way it can happen now.

Darwin Grosse has a great walk-through of the MOD Duo and how it works, followed by how to get started with

The MOD Duo Ecosystem (an introduction to the MOD Duo)

Content You Need: The MOD Duo Package (into how to work with Max)

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Brain Control Tunefish4 synthesizer goes open source

Tunefish4Brain Control has released version 4.1.0 of Tunefish4, a virtual analog synthesizer instrument. Tunefish4 now has a GPL license, and the source

Here’s how to download your own music from SoundCloud, just in case

SoundCloud’s financial turmoil has prompted users to consider, what would happen if the service were switched off? Would you lose some of your own music?

Frankly, we all should have been thinking about that sooner.

The reality is, with any cloud service, you’re trusting someone else with your data, and your ability to get at that data is dependent on a single login. You might well be the failure point, if you lock yourself out of your own account or if someone else compromises it.

There’s almost never a scenario, then, where it makes sense to have something you care about in just one place, no matter how secure that place is. Redundancy neatly saves you from having to plan for every contingency.

Okay, so … yeah, if you are then nervous about some music you care about being on SoundCloud and aren’t sure if it’s in fact backed up someplace else, you really should go grab it.

Here’s one open source tool (hosted on GitHub, too) that downloads music.
http://downloader.soundcloud.ruud.ninja/

A more generalized tool, for downloading from any site that has links with downloads:
http://jdownloader.org/

(DownThemAll, the Firefox add-on, also springs to mind.)

This tool moves to a new service – unattended – though I’m testing that now. (I do think backup, rather than migration, may be a good step.)
https://www.orfium.com/

Could someone create a public mirror of the service? Yes, though – it wouldn’t be cheap. Jason Scott (of Internet Archive fame) tweets that it could cost up to $2 million, based on the amount of data:

(Anybody want to call Martin Shkreli? No?)

My hope is that SoundCloud does survive independently. Any acquisition would likewise be crazy not to maintain users and content; that’s the whole unique value proposition of the service, and there’s still nothing else quite like it. (The fact that there’s nothing quite like it, though, may give you pause on a number of levels.)

My guess is that the number of CDM readers and creators is far from enough to overload a service built to stream to millions of users, so I feel reasonably safe endorsing this use. That said, of course, SoundClouders also read CDM, so they might choose to limit or slow API access. Let’s see.

My advice, though: do grab the stuff you hold dear. Put it on an easily accessible drive. And make sure the media folders on that drive also have an automated backup – I really like cloud backup services like Crashdrive and Backblaze (or, if you have a server, your own scripts). But the best backup plan is one that you set and forget, one you only have to think about when you need it, and one that will be there in that instance.

Let us know if you find a better workflow here.

Thanks to Tom Whitwell of Music thing for raising this and for the above open source tip.

I expect … this may generate some comments. Shoot.

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Ableton have now made it easy for any developer to work with Push 2

You know Ableton Push 2 will work when it’s plugged into a computer and you’re running Ableton Live. You get bi-directional feedback on the lit pads and on the screen. But Ableton have also quietly made it possible for any developer to make Push 2 work – without even requiring drivers – on any software, on virtually any platform. And a new library is the final piece in making that easy.

Even if you’re not a developer, that’s big news – because it means that you’ll likely see solutions for using Push 2 with more than just Ableton Live. That not only improves Push as an investment, but ensures that it doesn’t collect dust or turn into a paperweight when you’re using other software – now or down the road.

And it could also mean you don’t always need a computer handy. Push 2 uses standards supported on every operating system, so this could mean operation with an iPad or a Raspberry Pi. That’s really what this post-PC thing is all about. The laptop still might be the best bang-for-your-buck equation in the studio, but maybe live you want something in the form of a stompbox, or something that goes on a music stand while you sing or play.

If you are a developer, there are two basic pieces.

First, there’s the Push Interface Description. This bit tells you how to take control of the hardware’s various interactions.

https://github.com/Ableton/push-interface

Now, it was already possible to write to the display, but it was a bit of work. Out this week is a simple C++ code library you can bootstrap, with example code to get you up and running. It’s built in JUCE, the tool of choice for a whole lot of developers, mobile and desktop alike. (Thanks, ROLI!)

https://github.com/Ableton/push2-display-with-juce

Marc Resibois created this example, but credit to Ableton for making this public.

Here’s an example of what you can do, with Marc demonstrating on the Raspberry Pi:

This kind of openness is still very much unusual in the hardware/software industry. (Novation’s open source Launchpad Pro firmware API is another example; it takes a different angle, in that you’re actually rewriting the interactions on the device. I’ll cover that soon.)

But I think this is very much needed. Having hardware/software integration is great. Now it’s time to take the next step and make that interaction more accessible to users. Open ecosystems in music are unique in that they tend to encourage, rather than discourage sales. They increase the value of the gear we buy, and deepen the relationships makers have with users (manufacturers and independent makers alike). And these sorts of APIs also, ironically, force hardware developers to make their own iteration and revision easier.

It’s also a great step in a series of steps forward on openness and interoperability from Ableton. Whereas the company started with relatively closed hardware APIs built around proprietary manufacturer relationships, Ableton Link and the Push API and other initiatives are making it easier for Live and Push users to make these tools their own.

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The miniMO Is An 8-bit, Open Source Modular Synthesizer

Developer Jose Gonzalez has introduced the miniMO, a new 8-bit modular synthesizer that’s both Open Source & Open Hardware.… Read More The miniMO Is An 8-bit, Open Source Modular Synthesizer