Category Archives: Electronic Music

Two Little Known Yamaha FM Synths You Can Still Get For Cheap

  1. The Yamaha PSS-480 is a real FM synth (2 Op) that was marketed more as a toy than a real synth, but it is a real synth and you can store 5 custom patches. Even though it’s only 2 Op, it has a real charm and can make some pretty unique sounds. There’s also MIDI in and out, and 12 voice Polyphony. You can usually find them from $50 to $100. 
  2. The FB-01 is a monster of a synth in a tiny box. It’s a 4 Op FM synth, similar to the DX21, but relies on an external editor to edit patches. Fortunately there is one on sourceforge that runs on both Linux and Windows.  I just picked one of these sweet babies for only $45! 

Of course you can still pick up the Yamaha Reface DX at a good price if you want something new and compact. They are quite good at reproducing the Yamaha FM sounds and they’re under $300 brand new!

Reface DX

5 Ways to use MIDI Pad Controllers in Linux

Pad controllers are a lot of fun to play and use for making music. They’re great for live performance, or for composing drums at home and not disturbing the neighbors or taking up space. I have one just like the one pictured above (MPD24) that I used to make many performance videos on YouTube.

If you’re on Windows or Mac, a lot of people just use Ableton Live for pad controllers. But what if you’re using Linux? What kind of options do you have for fingerdrumming? I thought I’d put together a list of a few programs I know work well with Pad Controllers.

  1. Creating your own soundfonts with Swami.

Swami is great for pad controllers because you can create very complex sample sets then save them to .sf2 files. Then you just open them up with qsynth/fluidsynth and you have an awesome standalone sample player that is fully customizable with your particular pad controller.

2. LinuxSampler

Linuxsampler is a very powerful software sample player that can load many sampler formats like sfz, GigaStudo, and sf2. It’s a bit of a pain to setup and use though.

3. AVLDrumkits

If you’re wanting to just play drums on your controller, AVLDrumKits is an LV2 plugin that has some good drumsounds. You can program your controller to a comfortable layout to play the kit.

4. Drumgizmo

Drumgizmo is another great drum sampler for Linux. There’s some very high quality drum kits available for it, and you can create your own using it’s special editor called DGEdit.

5. Drumkv1

Drumkv1 is probably my favorite option for pad controllers on Linux right now. All you need to do is drag and drop any sample into whatever slot you want to have on your controller. This makes it easy for mapping, as well as easily apply fx, filters, and LFOs to any sample. No external editor needed! Then you can save your kits and use them any time!

If you’re looking for a place to get a ton of samples, loops, and one hits, check out this page!

2 Free Drum Sample Packs – 68 Slingerland 2015 Tama Imperialstar

You may remember my soundfonts I’ve created for the 68 Slingerland and the Tama Imperialstar drum sets. But these were both previously released in .sf2 format so you needed a soundfont player to use them.

That is why I thought it would be a good idea to release them as just wav samples as well for those of you who want to load them into Ableton drum racks, or the drumkv1 sampler for Qtractor.

Download them here!

 

Why Young Creatives Should Use Linux Instead of Mac or Windows

The tutorials I’ve made on YouTube about Audacity are by far the most popular of all of my videos. I started to wonder why this was? I realized the answer was pretty simple. It’s free software that is pretty good at what it does and runs on every platform. This is why Audacity is very popular among young creative musicians. This got me thinking about how these people are only using about 1% of the amazing open source software they could be using if the were all using Linux instead of Windows or Mac OS.

If you’re a teenager and want to setup a computer to become a YouTuber, Music Producer, Film Maker, Photographer, Graphic Designer, or all of those things, doing so with Mac or Windows is going to cost you an arm and a leg. It is hardly worth spending $3000 on a Macbook, then another $3000 on software when making money in the creative landscape can be challenging, especially when you are first starting out. A much better option would be spending $500 to $1200 on a PC then install a Linux distro geared towards creativity like  Ubuntustudio. You could even spend far less than this. I personally use a 10 year old Macbook running Ubuntu and KXstudio that I purchased for $150.

If you’re a young music producer, there’s a ton of great programs on the Linux platform. There’s several DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) like Ardour, Qtractor, Rosegarden, and LMMS. There’s high end mastering tools like Jamin, and of course Audacity. There’s the Jack Audio Connection Kit, that allows you to interconnect nearly every piece of audio software into one gigantic modular audio workstation, there’s thousands of plugins, software synths, and FX all available for free on Linux.

But it’s not just about audio, Linux has become incredibly powerful as a full multimedia workstation. For photography there’s full RAW development capabilities with Darktable, and Digikam, photo editing programs like GIMP and Fotoxx. For Graphics there’s Inkscape and Blender, and for video editing there Kdenlive and Openshot. 

This is all just the tip of the iceberg too! There’s always new and exciting software being developed for Linux, there’s a huge user support group online, and there’s more and more of us who use it for everything every day!

To me there’s also ethical reasons to use Linux as apposed to the other two. Mac is one of the worst companies when it comes to planned obsolescence. Every time they release a new OS, suddenly computers they made just 4 years ago are completely useless (if you’re using Mac OS). There’s no more security updates, no updated web browsers, software companies all play along and drop support forcing you to purchase software and hardware updates. This is not only unneeded, it is incredibly wasteful. It is completely insane that we live in such a society that normalizes throwing away a computer after only 5 years of use when the only reason is corporate software developers decided they want you to buy a new one.

If you’re a young creative person, I urge you to consider what I am saying here. You can spend a lot less money, make the money you DO spend last longer, and help the environment as well has have all the tools you need for complete creative expression if you switch 100% to Linux.

Vocaloid for English Speakers – Easy and not too terribly expensive

My adventures in Vocaloid date back to 2012 when I first started getting into the music I heard on YouTube with Hatsuni Miku. At first I didn’t even realize it was a completely synthesized voice! After I figured out what was going on and what I was hearing, I really wanted to start using it. At that time it was still really hard to get any information on using Vocaloid in the West. I was struggling though Japanese websites and trying to understand all the concepts behind using it. Licensing was a huge pain as well because I had to get my editor from Yamaha, and the only English voice bank I could find at the time was from a company literally called “Internet”, haha.

Thankfully it’s much easier now. Yamaha put together a completely excellent voicebank called Cyber Diva. Not only is it English, it’s one of the nicest and most realistic sounding Vocaloids I’ve ever heard. I used it as the lead voice on my track “Atlantis Falls” (video below).

So how do you use it? Well Vocaloid isn’t just a plugin you plop into your VST folder. It’s a bit more complicated than that. You need a Vocaloid Editor and a Voicebank like Cyber Diva, or Miku to make vocaloid work. The two together will cost you about $200. It’s not super cheap, but considering what you can do with it, it’s not that expensive either.

Using the Vocaloid Editor is a bit weird. It is a stand alone program, so my general workflow is to make a rough mix of the song I want vocaloid on, then export that from whatever DAW I’m using at the time as a stereo wav file.

Then I open up the Vocaloid Editor and import the rough mix into the editor. There is where you compose the vocals. Vocaloid Editor has the ability to mix tracks and add fx as well, though I don’t really use it for that. Once I finish my Vocaloid tracks, I then export each one individually, and import them into my DAW where I composed the song. Then I do all of my mixing and fx on Vocaloid like it’s a regular vocal track.

Anyway, I hope this helps any English speakers who are a bit lost with Vocaloid and gives them an idea of how to get going with this amazing software!