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    Reason Synchronous Video Tutorial


    2014 - 06.18

    I made this video so I may as well post it here… it’s a video tutorial on using the Propellerhead Rack Extension “Synchronous” in Reason 7.1 to make glitch percussion.  If you know what some or most of that sentence means, definitely check this out:

     

    I also made a shorter version, since this video was created for a contest, and (naturally) AFTER I made the above one, I figured out there was a 5 minute time restriction.  The short version is here.

     

    Saturday Brunch with The New Mastersounds


    2014 - 04.28

    The New Mastersounds at International Fest in Houston TX.  World Music... well they are from Europe I guess!

    Simon at IF“At this point we’re just making shit up.  I don’t even know what song we were playing there,” jokes Simon Allen from behind the drums as they wrap up an impromptu reggae detour lasting a couple minutes or so.  Midway through Simon had broken into what I’d describe as a dancehall or Caribbean type beat which is something I’ve never heard them do.  Having seen this band enough times to lose count, it was one of the more interesting moments in the show for me.  Rushing out the door to get there, I had debated bringing along my Zoom H4 audio recorder to tape the show but decided not to at the last second since I was pressed for time and wasn’t sure where the windscreen was.  Maybe about 3 tunes in I came to regret that decision; despite my familiarity with their catalog, the brits had again managed to step outside my expectations and bust out some new tricks.

    International Fest in Houston was this weekend and as Eddie noted toward the end of their performance, the first time that The New Mastersounds had visited “H-Town” as an audience member instructed them to call it.  They took a certain pleasure intoning this moniker in the most deliberately anglicized accent they could muster.  Eddie was sporting an off-white suit and Pete (who was announced in a nasal-sounding voice as “Peter” at all times during the show) wore a Brooklyn Bowl shirt, which I thought was pretty cool.  Weather was humid and what you’d call “pretty warm” here in Texas.  Thrice the band saw fit to comment on how hot they thought it was even though as their introducing stage manger explained, “this isn’t even the real heat yet.”

    It was a smooth Mastersounds.  Very much a groovy, jazz-in-the-park style performance, which I enjoyed.  There were two things of particular interest in the set: one, where a solo Eddie Roberts on guitar began their tune “Thermal Bad” stretching in a delicate, bare setting all the way until the B section arrived.  Typically this is a super rocking number, so it was intriguing to hear them give a wholly different take on it.  And sure, they took it there eventually.   But this show wasn’t about the meltdown, it was far more focused on the slow builds and the clear, thoughtful solo, delivered to an audience who had recently finished up a casual afternoon brunch and drank that Saturday coffee as I had.

    Joe Tatton on the keys took it into dreamy, full-on Mister-Rogers-Feeds-The-Fish Mode on the rhodes, drifting our minds off into the sky with those delays and open spaces in his phrasing.  There were some bursts of that dexterity he likes to keep hidden in reserve, and some eyebrow-tilting jaunts into the ‘out’ keys, but for the most part, he kept the dial locked on Spacey.  Which is perfectly fine by me since he doubtlessly excels in that realm.  Similarly, Eddie Roberts showed us in a few brief flourishes that “yeah, I could burn it down if I really wanted to, but hey it’s just our first date here, Houston, and I wanna take it nice and easy you know?  Make it special?”

    The second point of interest was a very gentle and chilled version of “Summercamp.”  The original tune is already laid back as-is, but this live version subtracted the driving percussion during the melody, instead seeing Simon mirroring its rhythm with light taps on the cymbals.  For me this was the coolest part of the show since Summercamp is one of my favorite joints off their most recent two albums and two, it’s always neat to see musicians taking a familiar song and going new directions with it.  Hopefully they return to Houston sooner than later…

    Dat Suit

    Carl’s Last Interview


    2013 - 12.25

    Check out this cool downtempo track:

    ok, and also, it is past high time that I give a shout out to Groove Salad internet radio from Soma FM.   I heard the above track there, as well as the mind-blowing downtempo masterpiece Music for Space Tourism.  I’ve been a fan for nearly 10 years now and they hold it down.  Microcosmologist Official Recommendation tag for them!

    Fixin Up Some-a-Them Vintage ‘lectronics From The Texas Countryside


    2013 - 07.05

    This week I welcomed another neat vintage piece of gear to the collection, the Panasonic RA-6600. Featuring an 8-track recorder. 8-track, kids! It’s like cassette but bigger! I bought this puppy for $20 from an oddball fellow with a loud-mouthed pet bird way out in the Texas countryside. His girlfriend, who had been sunbathing in the back yard, walked through the living room in a bikini and said sorry. Dude responed “ain’t like this feller’s never been to a beach before!” I tell you I felt right at home.

    Anyway at the time I bought it he said he thought it wasn’t working due to blown fuses on the back. Well, I replaced the fuses, still no dice. I noticed that the speaker cones would move all the way out to their max position when I hooked everything up and turned her on. That means DC voltage was going out the speaker terminals, thereby a blown transistor on the power amp section. Fortunately, this receiver uses a modular power amp design, so I just got on eBay and found a replacement STK-040, which clocks in at a devastating 10 watts RMS.

    Opened it up and removed the old power amp with the help of me mate Vincente and discovered that the solder pads fall right off the 1970s PCB. Hmmm. Can’t solder anything into a circuit without solder pads. I put up a thread about it on a forum, and the helpful folks at all about circuits said hey no problem, just add some extra wires that follow the traces and connect to the next component lead. DUH! So I added the wires and bam, the right channel started working! The taste of sweet half-success!

    I was feeling happy, having replaced the modular power amp and fixed the right channel, but also feeling a little daunted by the prospect of trying to troubleshoot the left channel which was still out. If it wasn’t the power amp, it could be something much trickier to locate. Hmmm. The Panasonic, along with a whole mess of tools and other junk, cluttered up my dining room table for a few weeks. My buddy who helped me install the modular power amp came back for another visit last weekend and we had sat down to chow on some tasty salmon burger action.

    I had turned on the radio because it was there, and there was a blues station on. My buddy, a guitarist, decided he wanted to hear this better, so he turned up the volume a bit. A ferocious crackle came from the dead channel… followed by music! Apparently Vince has got the magic touch?!

    I had previously tried working the volume control around, wondering if the potentiometer might be dirty, but I didn’t get any crackles at that time. Guess I just didn’t try long enough. Or maybe that inital round of deox-it had a delayed effect? Sweeeet. While the unit was apart I gave the volume pot a good blast of deox-it, and the crackles seem to have gone away. Also replaced the burnt out bulb and the dials light up now too. So it’s seemingly 100% now! I don’t have any 8-tracks to test out the player, but maybe I might get on eBay and pick some up soon. It’d be pretty neat to make some 8-track tapes…..

    You Might Be Cool. But You’ll Never Be ‘Personal Disco Component’-Equipped Cool.


    2013 - 07.02

    So recently I was looking to possibly purchase a boombox and, like I always do, I had to go research this matter and determine what is the coolest possible boombox as a point from which to work backwards in determining my final choice.  And I totally found the coolest boombox.  Ever.  In world history.  It’s this:

    image

    Texas 2-Step Sessions Pt.Deux …in one pic


    2013 - 06.22

    Recently had a music making electronic power session with two buddies which was a combination of fun, educating, inspiring, and amusing.  We worked with Propellerheads Reason 6.5 and two keyboard midi controllers, it was a nice setup for electronic composing.  Below is a picture of the trio in action, overlaid with a thor synthesizer and the pattern from the tapestry on the wall (visible in the mirror); both of those were other photos I took that night.  I want to get some finished audio together and post that up too.  More on that later…

    Green Meanie: The 12″/500W Sealed Box


    2013 - 05.31

    So previously I chronicled the construction of a set of hefty bookshelf speakers I built for my brother. They’ve got a new buddy: a 12″, 500 watt subwoofer, in matching green paint! I haven’t written about the process of building this guy near as much because the cabinetry was essentially the same process: cut up MDF, router in the driver openings, glue’n’screw together, router off hard edges, silicone seal all joining surfaces on the inside, primer paint the outside, 4 coats of green paint, and then coat the whole shebang in Enviro Tex for a piano finish.

    This time around I used a thicker, globbier primer called “gripper” in the hopes that it would more aggressively adhere to the MDF. When I put it on, it seemed like oh yeah, this stuff is gonna bond. But sure enough: I set the wet surface down on a few triangular wood blocks to dry, then each of them lifted off a small bit of the paint when dried. Seems like nothing can actually adhere itself to MDF, it just covers it. That’s going to be okay though, since the Enviro Tex finish is very thick and will seal any loose imperfections underneath.

    This is only my second attempt at building a sub. The first one I built for a roommate in college. It used two Peerless XLS extra long excursion drivers, one active and one passive. Using a passive radiator extends the frequency response and lets you get some serious low frequency. The downside is that since the passive driver is, by definition, uncontrolled by a magnet, it’s free to vibrate however it wants. That will muddy up the sound. That sub was definitely LOUD as hell, and low too. We would bump that thing in the dorms and I’ll be damned if you couldn’t hear it on the other side of the building, 3 floors away. And we’re talking about a cinder-block building too!! So that thing was an outrageous amount of firepower for it’s size, which I would credit to the low frequency extension of the passive radiator. But it could never be described as tight, quick, responsive, or accurate.

    As my second attempt, I picked out a driver that could be used in a sealed box, to go for power and accuracy in the audible range. The lowest of the lows are really cool, for sure, but subs with very low frequency output are almost impractical in a sense: that low, low range is going to penetrate ANYTHING, as the cinder block dorm proved in college. You’re going to be irritating anyone within a thousand foot radius when you rock out, no if’s about it. This time around I wanted power in the range of human hearing. Yeah, that’s still going to punch through plenty of walls, but not on the level that <30Hz will.

    I went for a 12″ as a compromise between tightness/control and low frequency extension in a sealed box. The lowest audible frequency, referred to as “f3″, should be somewhere in the high 30s. The driver is a Dayton Reference Series 12″ model “RSS315HO-44″ with 4ohm impedance. It’s a dual voice coil driver, although I’ll only be powering one. The T/S parameters of this thing call for a one cubic foot sealed box for its optimum response, which is fairly small for a sub. This would be a superb driver for a car sub, where more amps would be geared toward handling that brutal 2ohm impedance you’d get by wiring the dual voice coils in parallel.

    Supplying the power, we’ve got a 500 watt amp made by Yung International, with a +6dB boost at 25Hz. I went for the 6dB boosted model as opposed to the normal model, with aim of pushing the f3 out a little lower than the driver would normally achieve. Why not use that EQ to my advantage!

    First impressions?  Punchy-est 12″ in recent memory!  It’s bass drum hits are concise.  Basslines are even, with no ‘bloated’ notes that pop out louder than the rest.  And the lowest audible pitch notes are there.  The tune “To Feel Good” in the music section is a great test of super low bass, since we used a sine wave bassline at -1 octave to the main bassline synth you hear.  That makes for some low, deep notes!

    Really digging this puppy so far.  Gonna be a hell of a sound system for this fall….

    Hip ‘n’ With It Bumper Stickers


    2013 - 05.06

    Taken on a recent camping trip, and posted to celebrate the release of Reason 7 last week.  Lucky #7!

     

    That Vinyl Sound: The Marantz 6100 Turntable w/ Grado Green & +1%


    2013 - 03.17

    So I picked up one Svelte (with a capital S!) looking turntable a little while back: the Marantz 6100. It had been up on Craigslist for quite some time and I had been eyeing it up, especially since it would match my Marantz amp I like so much. Finally I pulled the trigger. Immediately when I got it home I started noticing a series of issues. This post chronicles all that I’ve done to upgrade and fix it, for anyone who should want to do the same to theirs.

    First thing wrong with it was that only one channel worked. Yikes, that’s a showstopper! Step one was to diagnose: swap the L/R channels as they were connected to my amp to make sure it was the turntable at fault and not the amplifier. It was the turntable. I took the bottom off and used the “beep”/continuity test setting on my multimeter to see where the signal was getting lost. Note that on older turntables like this, with no internal pre-amps, the four connecting pins off your turntable needle/cartridge are, electrically, connected directly to your receiver/amplifier. That means if you’re missing a channel, it’s a continuity problem: The guts of the turntable are simply wires.

    First, I checked the continuity between the connections right at the needle and the solder joints on the inside of the deck. All beeped, so they’re good. Then I checked the solder connections to the end of the RCA ring/tip connectors. Sure enough, one was bad! I was surprised that old RCA jacks would actually fail like that. Hmph. I took a spare RCA cable, and cut off one end. Then I stripped the wires, revealing four different wire paths. I unsoldered the old one and soldered in the new one, making sure to leave a stress-relief knot, so the cable couldn’t be yanked out by accident.

    Second thing I noticed was that the speed of this turntable is slightly slow. I searched around online and found that this is a well-chronicled issue with the model 6100 turntable. It’s driven by an AC motor, so a simple adjustment of the input voltage to the motor won’t remedy this issue. Somewhere online in a forum I saw someone recommend getting a slightly shorter belt. I called a few hi-fi stores and came to the conclusion that 25″ belts are common but 24.9″ belts, in fact, do not exist.

    Then I got the idea of adding something to make the motor shaft very slightly larger in diameter, since that would effectively make it turn the belt faster. Scotch tape, maybe?? Sure enough, it works! At first I added two layers of tape and now my speed went from like 5% slow to like 5% too fast–a thin layer sure goes a long way. I took off one layer of the scotch tape so now it’s just a single loop around the motor shaft. With only one loop, now the turntable runs very, very slightly fast; maybe like 1-2% faster than normal. It’s the kind of thing where, if you’re listening hard for it, you could pick it out with effort, but if you sat down not knowing that the table was ever so slightly fast, you’d probably never notice.

    At first I wondered if it would annoy me (5% too slow DEFINITELY annoyed me!) but after listening to a whole bunch of albums, I think I actually enjoy everything sped up by an almost imperceptible amount. It’s not enough to affect the pitch of familiar records; or if it is, being slightly sharp is less offensive to my ear than being flat. It does add a subtle extra ‘kick’ or energy, having that increase in tempo–an extra bpm or two. I’m digging it!

    Lastly, I was getting distortion in the sound, like the signal was being overdriven or something. I figured since the turntable is nothing more than wires and mechanical support for the stylus, it was probably the stylus. Spoiler alert: it was. The old stylus was a Pickering VX-15 with a dust brush on the front. That dust brush seems like a great idea in theory, but it sort of sucks in reality: seems like it makes the record skip more, and you need lots more tracking force to prevent that. I’m not sure how old that needle was, but from the looks of it… OLD.

    The Pickering was swapped out with a Grado “Green 1″ cartridge. Ka-BAM! This baby breathed a whole new life into the 6100. The anti-skate weight was missing from my deck, so I improvised with a couple zinc washers and some thread. I kept getting skips at the very start of every record, even when I had a lot of tracking force on the arm. Adding the anti-skate weight got rid of those skips at the beginning and allowed me to dial back the amount of tracking force needed. It’s still probably too much right now, but it is nice not getting any skips at all even on records which have known spots prone to it. I’ll keep dialing it back in the weeks to come.

    The 6100 has two simple but nice features that I’ve enjoyed: auto-return and auto-shutdown, and buttons to toggle between 33/45 rpm. My other deck, the venerable Pro-Ject Debut III doesn’t have either of these. Auto return/shutdown means that you don’t have to worry about accidentally letting the turntable skip on the last groove all night because you forgot to shut it off, which I’ve totally done. The 33/45 buttons are a very basic feature the Pro-Ject lacks–you actually have to remove the platter and move the belt by hand, which gets old. Maybe that sounds lazy, but you end up yanking on the spindle too much to get the platter off, and I worry about long-term wear that might be causing. It just makes me nervous doing it, so I listened to less 45s on that deck. No longer!

    But oh man, this Grado Green cartridge is awesome. The Pro-Ject Debut III has an Ortofon OM 5E cartridge, and that turntable sounds excellent. For the Marantz, I wanted to get a different brand, for the sake of sonic variety. Since I love my Grado headphones, it was a logical choice to try out their cartridge line. I’d describe the Ortofon as the “cleaner” of the two, and the Grado as the “warmer” of the two. That said, it’s not a jaw-dropping difference between them.

    I hooked up the headphone extension cable and put on my Grado SR-225 headphones for a long listening session this last weekend… now that was really enjoyable!! Laying on the carpet with my eyes closed, blasting familiar recordings and oh yes, hearing a bunch of new details within them, thanks to yet another different listening setup. It’s chicken soup for the soul, just doing nothing but soaking in the awesome sounds of your favorite albums. After the soldering, reassembly, and tweaking this is the reward; not critical listening but blissful listening. I’m going to make it a point to just hang out and listen to records over the next few weeks, reaquainting myself with the collection again and enjoying the tunes. That’s what it’s all about!

    That New Propellerhead Thang.


    2013 - 02.24

    Here’s an awesome milestone in my electronic music-making pursuits: this Thursday a copy of Reason 6.5 showed up on the doorstep!  Having used every update back to 2.0, it’s very exciting to have my own legit copy of the latest and greatest iteration. Probably the best part about Reason 6 is that it added support for recording external sounds directly into the program to layer them on top of your tracks; the lack of this was the single biggest downfall of previous versions. They’ve changed several other things and added some new devices which I’ll need to explore as well… it’s time for me to spend some quality time here and do some learning. PUMPED UP!