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Modulate This! - Best of 2009 Electronic Music Tech

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Despite the economic downturn, 2009 was thankfully a huge year when it came to new technology for electronic music artists. Rather than try and cover every significant release, I’ll instead list some of my favorite products and notable trends.

The Year of Abletonimage
What a big year for Ableton. Live 8 with great new features set, Max for Live, 10th Anniversary of Ableton, launch of Live Intro, dedicated hardware controllers (APC40 & Launchpad). Awesome!

Grid (Matrix) Controllers
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Grid controllers everywhere in 2009. New controllers like the APC40, Launchpad and Bliptronics 5000. Continued development with existing controllers like Tenori-On and Monome. The grid metaphor also became quite prevalent in apps as well. I have the APC40 and Tenori-On and simply love them.

Percussa Audio Cubes “Tangible Interface”
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Not new in 2009 but new to me, Percussa AudioCubes are self-powered wireless computer systems. Cubes can detect and interact with each other and can detect the proximity of your hand near a cube face sensor and send this controller information to your DAW or to various free software apps provided by Percussa. I working with a 4 cube configuration within Ableton Live.

Fantastic Synths
A great year for virtual instruments. Below is a list of new and updates synths that I used over and over again in 2009 for both sound design and for music performance.

  • u-he ACE (Any Cable Anywhere)

    This synth just released by I use it all the time now! It’s a fantastic virtual analog synth with a great UI with patch cables. Sounds like butta’.

Continue reading "Modulate This! - Best of 2009 Electronic Music Tech" »


My Studio Setup: 1 Laptop/3 Configurations + Akai APC40 Eye Candy

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Revised 7-3-2009, changes are in red.

For over two years I've been completely laptop based and loving it. Here are some notes on the three configurations I run with my latpop.

First, I'm running an HP DV6500T running Vista, Ableton Live 8 Suite, and various vsts (Alchemy,Sylenth1,NI Massive/Absynth 4,Gladiator 2,Dimension Pro, Morphine...)

I run in one of the following states:

1 - Laptop Only - Laptop alone with Ableton Live +  VSTs. I use the qwerty keyboard and touch pad and do composition and sound-design on the go (or from the couch).

2 - Laptop + Korg Nano - Sometimes I want more control or want to user velocity sensitive keys when I'm on the go. I then add a Korg nanoKey or nanoKontrol to config #1.

3 - Laptop Docked - Last year, my awesome wife and kids re-vamped my studio space as a birthday gift. Besides painting and swanky new furniture, they created stand to hold all my gear by cleverly using the old Ultimate Support Apex column I used to gig with and attached two permanent shelves (painted black and attached with brackets). Shelves are  15 3/4"x 47 3/4" and I believe were from home depot. The footprint for this rig is 26" wide from the wall to the outside edge of the bottom shelf, and 47 3/4" wide. Underneath all this is a dock with tons of USB ports that all the gear plugs in to. The laptop is sitting on a mesh filing box turned upside-down that I picked up from Target (see last picture in post). This setup is pictured below. All I have to do is plug the laptop into the doc and the following comes online:

  • HP Notebook Quickdock
  • External Monitor - Samsung SyncMaster 930b
  • Novation Nio USB sound card
  • M-Audio Studiophile SP-5B reference monitors
  • Bamboo Touch Pad
  • Wireless Logitech diNovo Edge keyboard with built-in touch pad
  • Akai APC40
  • Novation Remote SL 25
  • M-Audio Trigger Finger (Still lovin it after all these years. After touch on drum pads and seamless integration with Ableton drum racks are great).
  • Rode NT-1A on an a broadcaster's boom which is fed into Behringer UB802 Eurorack which is routed to the Nio. I mostly use this for voice overs, recording voice related samples, and vocoding. I also record video tutorials through this mic.
  • Sometimes a Korg TR via USB is added to the mix when I want that "triton" sound or want to play a controller with more keys on it.

For me this strategy is simple, elegant, has a small footprint yet is extremely powerful and flexible. With Ableton Live and VSTs accessible in every configuration I can jump in and out of projects in any configuration. I find the combination of the APC40, Remote SL and Trigger Finger to be perfect for just about everything I do.

The APC40 has made this a dream setup really and has almost completely eliminated mousing for me. I'll close with a few photos of the APC40  in my studio setup.

Just a fun shot in a dark room.

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The  APC40, Remote SL 25, and a Trigger Finger fit perfectly on the bottom tier.

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Using the APC40 as a Lite Brite - "M" plus pretty colors :^).

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Picture of laptop docked.
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Mark Mosher
http://www.modulatethis.com
http://www.markmoshermusic.com
http://www.twitter.com/markmosher


Video Tutorial: Ableton Live 8 + APC40 + Remote SL Controllerism

I’m the proud owner of the new Akai APC40. I’ve already integrated it into my workflow along with my Novation Remote SL. I’ve put together a video of how I’m using these controllers with Live 8.

Watch the video on YouTube:

This video is a step-by-step tutorial describing Ableton Live 8's new custom parameter mapping methodology. The video illustrates how to map select parameters from VST plug-ins into devices and then control these parameters via the Novation Remote SL and the new Akai APC40. The video also discusses how to add and access more than 8 parameters. Lastly, the video covers use of instrument racks and macro controls to map parameters from multiple devices to an 8 knob group.

Stay tuned for more posts on controllerism and the Akai APC40.

Mark Mosher
http://www.modulatethis.com
http://www.markmoshermusic.com
http://www.twitter.com/markmosher


Modulate This Takes A First Look at Max for Live

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Last weekend I attended the Communikey Festival of Electronic Arts at the Atlas Center in Boulder, Colorado where I was lucky enough to be one of the first to see Max for Live in action. Cycling '74's Director of Engineering Darwin Grosse gave an hour and half seminar offering an preview of Max for Live. In this post I'll share my notes. Alas I only had my iPhone with me so some pics are low resolution.

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Overview of Cycling ‘74 Products
Darwin began the talk by describing Cycling '74's existing product line.

  1. Max - a graphical programming environment that provides user interface, timing, communications, and MIDI support
  2. MSP -for real-time audio synthesis and DSP
  3. Jitter - for video and matrix data processing

Max for Live
First Darwin gave us an overview of what Max for Live does. Rather than type my notes I’ll share the concise description from Communikey seminar description:

Cycling '74 and Ableton announced Max for Live, the integration of Cycling '74's Max/MSP environment into Ableton Live. Available as an add-on product to Ableton's  newly announced Live 8, Max for Live permits users to create devices that extend  and customize Live by creating instruments, controllers, audio effects, and MIDI  processors.

Devices developed with Max for Live utilize the same features as those created by Ableton engineers. This includes UI controls, MIDI mapping, multiple undo, tempo-based effects, sample-accurate automation, and comprehensive file and preset management. Devices created in Max can be shared with Ableton's new web collaboration features. An innovative “preview mode” feature permits editing in Max  while devices continue to process audio and/or MIDI as if they were inside Live. When an edited device is saved, it updates in place inside Live's device view.

Something For Everyone with Ready Made Devices
While the primary audience of Max for Live is certainly Tweakers who want to extend Live, it’s worth mentioning that Max for Live will ship with ready mad devices. Darwin demoed:

1. Step Sequencer
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“Play up to four concurrent sequences, each with up to 16 steps and each playing a different instrument. It also features adjustable step size and step probability, sequence shift buttons (up, down, left, right), a "random" mode and comprehensive real-time MIDI options.”

2. Buffer Shuffler
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 "Shuffles incoming audio by buffering the audio, then replaying it in whatever order you've specified. Each channel of the stereo signal can be shuffled with different patterns (unlike Beat Repeat) and there is also a "dice" mode that randomizes the shuffle pattern at each bar crossing. Finally, a smoothing setting limits the amount of clicking at each transition point. Use sensibly to add subtle variations or go full-on to see where it takes you.”

3. Loop Shifter
image“This instrument is essentially a creative loop playback device that generates some surprising and innovative results. If there was ever a "sound of Max," this device embodies it. It uses MIDI notes as triggers for playback states, each MIDI note representing one such "state": a combination of playback rate, loop points and filter settings. Although the Loop Shifter is a relatively simple device, these functions don't exist yet in any other commercial loop playback products.”

4. APC 40 Extension
Darwin didn’t demo this, but Max for Live will ship with an extension that “turns the APC40's button matrix into a hardware interface for programming MIDI sequences in Live. A mode switch on the APC takes you in and out of sequencer mode, where you can set and clear notes in a MIDI clip just as you would with an 808 or analog step sequencer.”

Live as a Real-Time Max Editing Platform
One of the downsides of working with Max Plugins is the workflow isn’t real-time. You have to edit, then compile, then preview as a VST. If something isn’t to your liking you repeat the process.

According to Darwin, Cycling ‘74 was looking for a platform that would support real-time workflow for device creation – which of course is why they partnered with Ableton.

So in Max for Live you simply click the edit button top on the top right hand side of a device and you enter the Max Editor. Close the editor and you are back in Live. In either mode, Lives audio engine doesn’t stop. The device actually operates while editing with no need for compilation! While demoing this feature he popped in and out of edit mode and built and played devices on the fly.

Continue reading "Modulate This Takes A First Look at Max for Live" »


Akai APC40 Overview, Links, Videos, Availability and Price For The New Dedicated Ableton Live Controller

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Out of all the controllers announced in the 2009 Winter NAMM, the Akai APC40 is the one I’m most excited about.

What is the AKAI APC40?
It’s a dedicated controller just for Live and is intended to offer real-time control of Live’s session view. It features 109 buttons, 16 endless encoders with LED rings, nine 45mm faders and a replaceable cross fader.

The APC40 features something called Direct Design which means that since it was designed specifically for life you don’t need to map controls. The APC40 works directly with Live using exclusive bidirectional communication so the state of the clip matrix buttons and LED rings surrounding knobs reflect what is going on inside the software.

If all this wasn’t cool enough, the APC40 can be further enhanced with custom Max for Live programs. For example, Ableton mentions a program that will allow you to use the Clip Launch Matrix as a step sequencer. Custom mappings can also be shared with Live 8’s new collaboration features.

It ships with an APC Edition of Live which looks a bit more like Live LE (see comparison chart).

Pricing and Availability of Akai APC40
It’s going to work with both Live 7 and 8, will be available in May. At only $399 I think this controller is a must have for Ableton Live users.

Update: Musicians friend is taking pre-orders and indicate that the delivery date is 5-22-09 – CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO.

Videos
The best way to get your mind around this product is to watch the videos below.

Here is an excellent walk-through video from Sonic State.

Here is a video from Ableton on the APC40.

Links:

Mark Mosher
www.modulatethis.com
www.markmoshermusic.com