Category Archives: Tutorials

How To Transfer SysEx Data From Computer To Synth For Free Using MidiOX

Sysex stands for “system exclusive”, and it is the format that was used by many synths to store the information of the synthesizer. You can store patches, settings and banks using sysex data. If you’ve ever wondered how to transfer sysex patches to your vintage synth using a modern computer, there’s plenty of commercial programs out there that can do this with, but you can also do it for free with a program called MidiOX.

In this older YouTube video of mine, I go over the process of doing this with my vintage K1 synth. The same technique can be used with nearly any synth that works with sysex data. All you need is a windows or linux computer, and a midi interface like this one or something similar and you can create your own library of patches on your computer for your vintage midi synths.

What is great about this is you can download thousands of patches online and easily transfer them to your synth achieving maximum fun.

Selecting your first cymbals – Guide for new drummers

If your just learning how to play drums, selecting your first cymbals can be a bit overwhelming. There’s literally thousands of options out there, and a lot of manufacturers making all different kinds of cymbals these days. To increase the complications, there’s many brand loyalists out there on the internet and YouTube who think their particular brand are ‘the best’.

I’ve been playing drums for 30 years now, and I’ve owned all types of cymbals, from dirt cheap to ridiculously expensive. And I can honestly tell you there is no ‘best‘ cymbal out there. There is simply what you like, and what you don’t like. However, this takes time to figure out. When you first start playing drums you haven’t really developed your own style yet, and like wine-tasting, you need some experience before you can really know what is good for you.

There’s also certain types of cymbals that lend themselves to certain types of music. But again, this is still a subjective subject, and just because most people agree on something, doesn’t make it a fact. When you’ve been playing as long as I have, I tend to judge a cymbal based on a particular application and how I can use it in regards to my own personal tastes and creativity. I may use a cymbal considered very bad by some in a way that fits my form of expression and it’ll work exactly as I want it to.

But when you’re first starting, there’s some information you should know BEFORE spending a dime on a single cymbal. There are a lot of falsehoods and myths out there about cymbals and I’ve decided to put together this little guide to help all the new drummers out there make up their minds.

  1. Cymbal Alloy – Alloy refers to the type of metal a cymbal is made out of. Most cymbals are made out of Bronze, but not all. Also, there’s several different types of bronze. These are usually identified by the letter B and a number, like : B8 B10 B20 etc…. There are also cymbals made out of brass, and more rarely, nickle-silver (sometimes called ns-12), and even more rarely, steel.
    THE MYTH: B20 bronze is the best alloy, B8 Bronze is cheap, All other alloys suck. This is just not true. It is true that there are entry level cymbals made out of B8 bronze, but there are also high end cymbals made from B8 by manufacturers like Paiste and Meinl. To my ears many of these cymbals sound better than some of the high end cymbals made out of B20 bronze by other manufactures. There are Brass cymbals out there today that make great special fx cymbals, and there are some vintage ns-12 cymbals that sound beautiful.
  2. Brands – There used to be something called The Big Three, referring to Zildjian, Paiste and Sabian. But now this is turning into The Big Four, because of the recent surge in Meinl’s popularity. Aside from those popular brands there is also some reputable Chinese cymbal makers like Wuhan and Kasza, as well as Turkish manufacturers like Istanbul and Bosphorus.
    THE MYTH: (BLANK) is the best brand. There is no best brand. Every manufacturer will makes some cymbals you’ll think sound great, and every manufacturer makes cymbals you’ll think sound bad.
  3. Price – cymbal prices range from moderate to insanely expensive.
    THE MYTH: More expensive means sounds better. Again just not true. Once again I need to remind you that all opinion of sound quality is subjective. If you like it, it’s good.
  4. Cymbal Types – Crash, ride, hi hats, splash, china, stackers, bells, fx etc…. The most commonly used cymbals you will want for a basic setup are hi hats, a ride and a crash. Hi hats are the two cymbals that are on top of each other with the bottom one inverted and there is a pedal to operate them to open and close. They are one of the most commonly used cymbals on the kit. The most common sizes are 14″ and 15″. A crash is a cymbal that is used to create an explosive sound to designate ends of fills or to add power to a part of a song. They’re size usually ranges from 14″ to 20″. A Ride is a cymbal that is used to keep constant patterns and rhythms on, much like the hi hat, but creates a more open and sustaining sound. Splashes, Chinas, Bells, stackers and other fx cymbals, are more popular now than ever and are used mostly for special accents and fills in drumming to create more color and fun.
    THE MYTH: Rides must be used as rides, crashes as crashes, hi hats as hi hats etc…. Not true, but usually is the case. However in the past there were no such names. Cymbals just came in weights like, heavy, medium, and light. At one point I used two 16″ crashes as hi hats and loved how they sounded. Many rides make awesome crashes. For example Wuhan’s Medium 20″ ride makes a completely powerful crash, though it’s not bad as a ride either.

So how do you select? Well…. listen!  Watch YouTube videos, but don’t base opinions on ones recorded with built-in camera microphones, this is not a good way to judge. Also, visit the websites of the major manufactures like Paiste, Zildjian, and Meinl. All of them have extensive sound rooms to listen to and compare their cymbals.

My personal recommendations are:

If you’re on a very tight budget and want to get a lot of cymbals in one big pack, Meinl offers this amazing cymbal pack at a very good price (pictured above) that give you a lot of sound choices for very little money. I prefer these to entry level cymbals by Zildjian or Sabian. The HCS Super Pack comes with a ride, two crashes, a china, hi hats, and a splash, and is only $299 total.

If you have slightly more to spend I highly recommend Paiste’s PST5 Line.In my opinion these are the nicest sounding cymbals at an entry level pricepoint. Some of them sound so good they can be used on a professional level. I have a PST5 Crash that I bought when the line was first introduced, and I’ve used it on countless recording sessions and gigs. In this pack you get two crashes, a ride, and hi hats for $399. 

If you want to move up from there, I would consider Zildjian’s A series. The Zildjian A line is their most classic sound in my opinion. They will work with all styles of music and record beautifully. This A pack will also give you two crashes, a ride and hi hats, but it’s a little more at $699.

I personally very much like Paiste and Meinl cymbals, remember though, these are my personal subjective opinions. I highly encourage you to just spend a week or two online researching and listening to samples by all manufactures. Trust your ears, not other’s opinions!

How To Select a MIDI Controller – Buying Guide

Akai MPK Mini

There are so many MIDI controllers out there today and if you are on the market to buy one, all of the options and choices can be a bit overwhelming. So how do you select one? Do you just pick the one with the most stars on Amazon? Or do you pick the most expensive one?

The truth is neither of those are the wisest way to purchase. What you should first do before buying, or even considering which ones to buy, is ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Will you be using the controller for home studio use, or live use, or both?
  2. what type of playing style do you have?
  3. How much space do you have?
  4. Will you be using the controller for computer use only, or will you be controlling hardware as well?

1.  Home or live use will help determine what types of features you will want on the controller. For example, if you are using a controller live for mostly keyboard playing in a traditional sense as if it were a replacement for your stage piano or synthesizer, then you may want to look for something with at least 61 full sized keys.

Novation Impulse 61

The Novation Impulse 61 is an excellent choice for such a controller. It gives you 61 full sized semi-weighted keys, 9 faders, 8 knobs, 8 pads, as well as pitch and modulation controls. It’s a bit on the pricey side at $369, but you get a whole lot of controls at your fingertips, plus it comes with Ableton Live Lite, which is a great lightweight version of the famous Ableton Live Software.

Midiplus i61

If the Novation is too complicated and you just need something simple for playing piano or synth parts, the MIDIPLUS i61 is a cool and affordable option at only $83! MIDIPLUS is a company from Taiwan that I like quite a bit. I have one of their Classic 49 controllers that I love and it fits my needs. The i61 is a simple 61 key keyboard with full sized keys, volume fader and pitch/mod wheels.

2. What playing style do you have? This is related to question one, but if you are planning on using your controller more for controlling fx, DAW faders, filters, and drums, then one with 61 keys really isn’t going to be what you want. You might not even want one with ANY keys!

Novation Launch Control XL

The Novation Launch Control XL is just such a controller. It is mostly geared towards Ableton, but you could use it to control just about anything you could imagine. It has 24 knobs, 8 faders, and 16 buttons, plus transport controls. This would be perfect for live performance with Ableton in a compact size. Plus it’s only about $150!

Akai MPD218

The Akai MPD218 is another keyless controller that falls into the category of a ‘pad controller’. This type of controller is perfect if you wish to trigger rhythmic samples or for finger-drumming with soundfonts, Ableton or Reason.

 3. How much space do you have? This is one I have to think about all the time. I live in Brooklyn and in a tiny apartment. Things that take up tons of room are really not even options for me. This is also why I don’t really do hardware synths anymore.

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Korg NanoKey2

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Korg NanoKontrol2

Korg’s Nano Series Is in my opinion the best series for those with limited space. They take up virtually no space at all, have great feeling controls, and have a lot of configuration via software that comes bundled with the controllers. They make a lot of different controllers to meet your needs, like keyboards, control surfaces, and pad controllers. All of which are very affordable.

4. Do you need to control hardware? This is an important question. A lot of MIDI controllers out there today do not feature actual MIDI ports on them anymore! This is because the majority of people are using them plugged into computer via USB. However if you want to control a hardware MIDI sampler or synth module, a controller with external power supply and actual MIDI ports!

MidiPlus Classic 49

Midiplus Classic 49

The Midiplus Classic 49 is a great example of an all around workhorse controller. It has 49 full sized keys, 9 faders, 8 knobs, pitch and mod wheels, USB and hardware MIDI Ports and the ability to use external power, plus a sustain pedal input. I have one of these myself and I love it. I use it for home and live use. It has just enough keys and controls to make some interesting programming, but not so much that it’s overwhelming.

Wait! What about Linux???

Well I use Linux as my main system and have used all kinds of MIDI controllers from many different manufactures, and I have yet to plug in one that Linux does’t recognize.

Brands I have personally used in Linux are:

  • M-Audio
  • Akai Professional
  • MIDIPLUS
  • KORG
  • Edirol
  • Generic midi cable from China

Every single one has worked plug and play! But if you are unsure, google it and find your answer!

Anyway, hopefully this was helpful and whatever controller you end up buying, have fun!

 

Rendering on a second computer with Kdenlive

Have you ever edited your YouTube video but didn’t want to render it right then and there because you don’t want to bog down your system while you’re working on other things? This happens to me all the time. My solution was to use a second computer I had laying around for rendering. It doesn’t even need to be super fast. You’re not going to actually be editing on it, only rendering.

So how do you get your complete Kdenlive video project over to another computer easily? Well, Kdenlive has a feature that can do this for you! 

You’ll need a USB stick with around 8gb or more depending on the size of your project. Then when you are ready to render your project, all you need to do click on Project then Archive Project.

Once you do this, you’ll be prompted for an Archive Folder . Click the browse button then select your USB stick, then click Archive. Kdenlive will automatically copy all of the necessary files to open the project on another computer!

Then just plug the stick into your other computer and copy all of the files from the archive to a folder on that system, open up Kdenlive, then open the archive like a regular project and click render! You can then just go back to working on your main system and let your rendering computer do the work. Once it’s done,you can either upload it from there, or transfer it back to your main system with the USB stick.

Just make sure you are using the same version of Kdenlive on both systems. Also, if you are using any titlescreens made in Kdenlive, make sure you have the same fonts used on those screens installed on your rendering computer.

If it’s an older computer that’s pretty slow, you can expect the rendering to take quite a while, but it doesn’t really matter since you won’t be using that computer for anything else.

If you need a sweet deal on a complete camera setup, check out this T6!

Making a Linux Live MIDI Setup with SEQ24, Qsynth and Jack Rack

How to use a Linux laptop for live music performance with SEQ24 MIDI sequencer, Qsynth for soundfonts, and Jack-Rack for realtime fx manipulation.
Controllers used in this video:

Korg NanoKey2

MidiPlus Classic 49

This setup allows you to trigger loop based midi sequences on the fly, map MIDI controls to fx parameters, as well as play along in realtime all from a midi controller. This is not a fully in depth tutorial, but more of an overview of the full workspace. If you have any specific topics touched upon in the video that you’d like me to go further in depth about, just let me know in the comments section. This tutorial is a bit on the advanced side and assumes a general knowledge of Linux audio and Jack.