Pretty cool little 18 min documentary put together by the nice folks at Ableton about the band Battles. Check out their process writing and recording and see how they all work separately, but then together.
I think I’ve finally finished the geeky gigs series. I realized after making this last video that the past 5 videos before that were fitting together more so than the rest of the geeky gigs series. So I took those vids and this brand new one and put together a new playlist titled “Vaporphonics”. This is mostly my take on Vaporwave/Plunderphonics. I think Vaporwave is a genre that is still being developed, and that’s one of the reasons I’m having so much fun with these.
There’s still a lot of people out there that don’t take it seriously. I will admit to getting annoyed with the genre myself when I kept hear so many poor examples or it, or just ones that weren’t really serious in themselves and simply slowing down other tracks from the 90s.
That’s not what I’m doing in these tracks. Yes there’s a lot of pitched down samples, but I’m trying to use more original material for mine, as well as chopping the samples in unpredictable ways. Like using odd spaces in between beats and tails of hits rather than the hits themselves, which is how most beats are chopped. This song, as well as the rest of the tracks in the Vaporphonics playlist will be part of a new album I’m putting together.
Ableton Operator might be a predominantly FM instrument but it’s ideal for getting to grips with additive synthesis, too
Getting to grips with additive synthesis at its most basic level is straightforward and, because quite a few synths have additive capabilities, you don’t even need a dedicated additive-based instrument to get started.
We’re going to use Ableton Live’s Operator, which, while essentially a frequency modulation synth, also boasts a useful additive waveform editor, handy for making waveforms from scratch and editing the synth’s library of included waveform shapes.
Operator’s implementation of additive synthesis is quite straightforward and doesn’t allow for modulation of partial levels in real time, but it’s adequate for demonstrating the fundamentals of the technique. Building up harmonically complex waveforms is easy with the Oscillator editor page, and these can be used to create rich, evolving sounds when modulated by another of the synth’s operators. In fact, modulate one additive waveform with another and you can create filth to rival the likes of FM8!
For more on additive synthesis, pick up Future Music 292, which is on sale now.
Step 1: Operator is Ableton’s bread and butter FM synth, but unlike traditional FM synths, it has the ability to create and customise waveforms with additive synthesis. Load the synth up on a MIDI track and click the Oscillator button at the bottom of the envelope display.
Step 2: In default mode, this displays all of the oscillator’s 64 available bands. Currently, the oscillator is set to a sine shape, so only the first band is active. The additive display is pretty small, so click the 16 button at the right of the display to zoom in on the first 16 bands.
Step 3: Let’s edit the oscillator’s waveform by adding some energy to the third harmonic. Play a note and drag the third column about three-quarters of the way up. You’ll see the visual representation of the waveform at the bottom right change slightly, and hear the sound become more organ-like.
Step 4: Continue adding odd-numbered harmonics that get quieter. Our waveform begins to sound and look more like a square wave with each one we add. This is additive in a nutshell! With some synths, it’s possible to vary the levels of these harmonics over time but in Operator they’re static.
Step 5: By combining Operator’s additive synthesis and FM capabilities, we can create some useful sounds. Click User under the Wave parameter and select Saw 64 from this list. This gives us a 64-band sawtooth wave. Noise up the waveform by increasing the volume of some arbitrary bands.
Step 6: Click operator B, set it to 0dB, and adjust its Attack time to 1.38 seconds. This causes operator B to frequency modulate the sawtooth, with the complexity of harmonics increasing as its amplitude level increases during the attack stage. This gives us a filthy sweep, ideal for a grungy bass sound.
A Facebook friend of mine shared this video by jimpavloff who painstakingly recreated Prodigy’s Voodoo People in Ableton Live and went so far as to even track down all of the original sample sources.
It’s pretty cool to see somebody dissect a song like this and also pretty informative as to ways you can use and manipulate samples. Definitely a cool vid and worth watching the whole thing. Here’s the original as well to compare.
With Bitwig, EnergyXT and Ardour3, we are getting closer and closer to having good Linux alternatives to Ableton, Cubase and Pro Tools.
Disclaimer, I do not hate Linux. I want to say before you read the rest of this post that I love Linux and have been using it for a long long time, also I was an avid Linux audio user for much of that time until recently I switched to using windows again for audio work because of wanting to use some commercial software that is not available in Linux. The first several demonic sweaters LPs were all done with Linux in one form or another.
With all of that being said, I feel 100% confident in saying that Jack (Jack Audio Connection Kit) is still a major pain in the ass and is probably one of the quickest ways to break a person’s sanity. I am pretty decent with using it because I have been doing it for so long, but I think the average user will not want to mess with it so much. Most people just want their stuff to work so they can spend time creating, not messing with dependencies and config files.
Since I’m a pretty big nerd, tinkering with the software and messing with all the ins and outs of Jack were kinda fun, but if Linux is ever going become a full replacement for Win/Mac in major studios and on mass stages, it really needs an ASIO equivalent audio driver setup that will install and run simply as well as coexist on a machine with something like Pulseaudio. Especially when more and more cool stuff like Bitwig Studio is making its way into Linux. If there were such a standard in audio for Linux, maybe larger companies like Ableton and Steinberg would actually port their flagship apps to the Penguin.
It’s cool how you can run inputs and outputs of software and MIDI in such advanced ways with Jack, but the configuration hassles and the pure instability of it can be a serious creative roadblock. For instance, does this following scenario sound familiar to you? You decide that you want reverb plugin A from (insert repository name here). Reverb A decides it needs such and such software dependency to work, however, Jack2 hates such and such dependency’s guts and decides to go back to Jack1 during that same install. That’s all well and good until WineASIO says:
“what the fuck Jack1? What did you do with Jack2 and my blabla.so files I need? Now I’m not going to run at all and make it completely impossible for you to uninstall what you just did without you completely removing me and all my friends then starting over and reconfiguring your entire audio system. And oh, by the way, I might have accidentally removed an essential part of your Gnome Desktop, so the next time you reboot you’ll probably just get a command prompt. But that’s okay, you’re going to be working on this shit all day anyway, so you can just fix that too. “
Likewise you can install the wrong thing or update Wine and your audio system is completely fucked then the whole day is spent trying to revert your system to get all the Wine VSTs, Qjackctl, Dbus (that asshole) and all of that crap working again. When it works it’s brilliant, and once you get it working the latency is low and it’s way cool! But so many things can break it that is like balancing an entire city on a toothpick that’s held up with tape. Not duck tape either, just crappy-ass scotch tape that if you sneeze or look at that shit the wrong way your entire city comes tumbling to the ground.
Anyway, I am still an avid Linux user, but have migrated to not doing as much audio in there now. I have another laptop I just did a fresh install of Debian Stable to, which runs perfectly. This should be the standard. Debian Stable is solid as a rock. But it’s not going to run any of that cool audio stuff without modifying repositories, changing config files, etc…etc…. then starts the problem I was just speaking of above.
I am not a developer, so maybe what I am about to suggest isn’t possible with any of the current Linux kernels, but if it were possible, all the old Linux audio drivers need to be completely canned and start with one standard and allow NOTHING ELSE. No Jack, no Alsa, no Pulseaudio, no OSS. None of those work the way they need to work. People will argue that Jack is low latency and it works great without all the others getting involved. But it is still weird. Something like qjackctl should be optional, not required. You should just be able to open Bitwig or LMMS and have them work without fucking around with a bajillion things. Until something like that happens, Win/Mac will always have the upper hand in audio production/performance.
Bitwig does look very cool though, which is what this post is supposed to be about before it turned into a completely insane rant. It really looks very much like Ableton in it’s concept and workflow. I really think that it’s great that there’s something like this for Linux now. Also, they have a demo download of the Linux version. If anyone reading this wants to check it out then please comment here about your experiences. I’m really curious as to it’s performance and ease of use compared to Ableton. I have not personally tried it, though from a lot of these videos I watch it appears very similar.
Anyway, thanks for reading my rant. If you want to hear some of my Linux-made music, check out my video below for the song Daydreaming. I made this one in LMMS on an Acer Chromebook running Ubuntu.