Category Archives: Figuring it out

Cardboard and Tape

Note: If you want to get updates about this, you can sign up for the mailing list here.

Enough of these schematics done in Sharpie on the backs of cut-up file boxes, with the string-compass and the straightedge. I got a crash course in AutoCAD from an architect friend the other night and this is how we’re doing things now.


In other news, the new amps sound really good and have plenty of power. I’d planned on modifying them to boost the input gain, but it looks like they aren’t going to need it. The batteries are working out well. Each box comes with a smart balancing charger and the cells can be fully charged from dead in about an hour from an 18 volt power supply. Way quicker than I’d though!

Guesswork becomes experimentation becomes something that actually works. The prototypes are sounding great.

Hoping to have a finished model of both the small box (pictured) and the big box (on the way) by Christmas. Who’s into some caroling?

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dBox Mailing List

Wow, there’s been a LOT of interest in the new boombox! It sounds awesome and it runs forever on a charge. I’m still working out some design kinks, trying to nail down suppliers and figuring out how to step up my production. I cooked up a mailing list for the project, so if you’re interested in ordering one (or just want to see how things go) you can sign up for updates. This helps me keep track of who wants one, and will be a good way to solicit feedback once these things start hitting the beach.


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Boom Boom Boom

So this boombox thing is happening. After some testing and some prototyping, we’ve arrived at a really nice design. We’re working on getting dealer status Got that hookup from a few quality audio component manufacturers so that we can offer better prices on our complete systems. Hold tight!

This is a tiny prototype we banged out in a hurry. Wanted to see how small it could be made without totally losing the bass. Well, this one’s not bad but nothing this small is going to make it to production!

Edit: actually…well, there are some designs involving passive radiators that may actually wind up being close to this size. Which is awesome.


The STUDIO at the DARKROOM Launch Party

So this is how bad it’s gotten–nevermind advance notice, I post shit about shows I already played. I’ve been way not-on-the ball with the internets, but This Thing was SUPER FUN.

Somebody sent me this picture. W/Keef Kringle. Pretty spot-on.

With Meth Dad, Unstoppable Death Machines, Yeah Well Whatever, Cum Blood (sorry y’all).

This has been a hell of a summer.

Honey Have You Seen My Keys?

Hot damn, it’s Friday!

There are a lot of functions in Live that don’t have keyboard shortcuts, which is infuriating until you make your own in the OSX Preferences. Here are some basic ones you can make that will save lots of time and make you look pro.

One thing I can’t figure out how to do is transfer all these settings to a new computer, which is something that I’ve been needing lately as I’ve installed Live on three machines in the last month….Anybody know how to do that?

Aaaaand a note to my dear readers: these posts have not been as fast or as furious as I’d like. Life’s been happening at a brutal pace. Perhaps I was a bit ambitious in thinking that this could be a daily thing…also, there have been a lot of new developments with work life in the last few weeks that have substantially eaten into the loads of time I thought I’d have to devote to this. I think I may go for better, more substantive posts in the future, even at the expense of missing days here and there. I try to go for quality over quantity in my music, and I’d like to hold this blog to the same standard. Bear with me.

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File Management for Complete Assholes

This is a good exercise in staying light on your feet.

Step 1: On Monday, begin working on a project for an art gallery installation. It opens on Friday, so you’ve got some time. It’s going to be a dark room with some drum pads in the middle, some ambient sounds and a DMX-controlled lighting rig running from MIDI triggers. Make it fun, make it interactive, make it a little bit random. People are going to wander in here between looking at art and seeing bands. Give them something to do, something to listen to!

Step 2: Edit the project from a flash drive all week. Get it sounding nice.

Step 3: On Wednesday night, put in a ton of work meticulously multisampling yourself and a hot female friend singing sustained vowel sounds. Lay them all out in a convoluted series of Sampler racks, creating semi-random paths for cool, evolving monkish choir chords. Add thunderous percussion. Wrap it all up tight.

Step 4: Collect All And Save. Make sure all your samples are gathered in the project folder. Save the project.

Step 5 (important): Drag file from hard drive to flash drive to take it with you in the morning, forgetting that you’ve been editing the project from the flash drive copy this whole time. When the “do you want to replace File X with File X?” dialog appears, don’t think twice. Hit OK and voila! Your work is irretrievably gone and now is when the fun starts.

Step 6: You’ve still got to deliver something for Friday night, right? Now is when a little improvisation can go a long way. For example, you could still strip down to your briefs, grease yourself up with some kind of conductive fluid and allow visitors to touch hot electrodes to various parts of your bodies. Put a microphone in the room and amplify and modulate the ensuing screams for a haunted interactive soundscape.

I have no idea what’s going to happen with this, but if you’d like to find out, this event will be fun and free. Facebook page is here, more details after the jump. Continue reading

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Sends til the End

Put your hands up if you love your sends. Seriously, do it. While you’re at it, touch your toes. Sitting at a computer is terrible for your posture.
From the time I got my first hardware mixer, I’ve been all fuck yeah about aux sends. More is better. If they made a 2-channel mixer with 24 sends, I’d own it. Feed your monitors, feed the sub, feed the sampler input, feed your reverb, feed the weasels in the tub a little taste of the new track through the waterproof shower radio you had patched in…mixers are all about the downward-funnel shape; auxes let you turn that sumbitch into the Giving Tree.
But mostly it’s not rad like that. Let’s say you want to set up a bunch of sends for a vocal, and probably only for the vocal–you’re not going to be sharing these with the doumbek channel, are you? Quarter-note delay, eighth-note delay, dotted-sixteenth delay, a bright, close reverb, a washy, noisy hall reverb, maybe a feed to a Haas-effect plug with some overdrive and a filter….blah. You also, of course, want to automate them. Well, you can set up your template with a bunch of sends, hope you decide not to change your mind for a while and call it a day, or you can make this rack and drop it into any track, any time, AND you can automate everything, even at the clip level. Yeeeeeeah. So–yup, it’s Sender’s Game. Babe the blue Aux? This rack is a godsend. Let’s do it.

First up: Let’s make a Utility device that works the way God intended. Grab a Filter Delay, stick it in a Rack, disable all the delays and map the Dry level to a macro. Whee! It’s a volume knob that actually “goes down like Aaliya’s flight.” Save this rack and use it often, because Ableton, for some stupid, stupid fucked up reason, decided to only allow the Utility plug +/-35db of gain. It’s like a faucet that leaks no matter how much you tighten the valve, and it’s infuriating. Now for the cool stuff:
1. Set up an Effect Rack. Create a chain with nothing in it. This is your dry signal. Call it Thru.
2. Create another chain and drop in your new Gain plug, then map the gain to Macro A. Congratulations, you’ve done it. You have a fully-functional send that lives inside a track. Stick whatever effects you want to use after the gain plug. Or before it, if you want to be able to manually gate your reverb or something.
3. Want to automate from the clip level? I thought so. Go into Map mode and reverse the polarity of your mapping so that the Send’s gain is at -inf when it’s all the way up and–you guessed it–0db when it’s all the way down. Now the send is silent at 100% and you can draw cool envelopes in your clips by working downward. (I build pretty much all of my rack controls backward like this. It’s annoying sometimes but really, really handy if you work in Session view a lot, or want some approximation of the Trim mode you’d find on an automated desk, where your Clip envelopes stay controlling a parameter as a percentage of a base value, as defined by either the default state of the control or wherever its Arrangement automation is…at?)
4. Duplicate this chain as many times as you want, making the appropriate changes in mapping for each one. For my device, I made seven sends and used the last macro to control the level of the dry signal.
There are a few reasons that this kicks ass, not the least of which being that you can save a few versions of this in your Library with the effects you use all the time. Drop it on a track and you’re ready to roll.  Another awesome thing about this method is that within a Live project, devices travel with all of their automation. Want to try applying the same series of automated send effects to a different track? This happens a lot–say you’ve decided to mult a snare to layer it with another sample or want to drop the same send automation on your backing vocal subgroup that you’ve got on the lead. Easy. Want to fiddle with your effects without committing to anything? Duplicate the rack, mute one of them and go to town, then delete it when you realize you’ve just spent an hour dicking around. The less time you have to spend reproducing the same meat-and-potatoes effects on each track, the more time you can spend on things like sex and camping.
Speaking of which, I’m outta here. Peace!

Fake Tip – Make Interesting Noises for Fun and Profit!

This is a fun trick, and sort of a PSA. Try it sometime. DIYFS! STOP SAMPLING! PLEASE! We’re already a marginalized group of knob-twiddling, laughing-stock quasi-musicians hanging by a thin thread of credibility–let’s not make it worse by making every production sound like a shitty collage of Vengeance 2010 Club Essentials, aaaight? It’s not that hard.

Today’s lesson: Making sorta-comb filters to give some texture and movement to a noise blast. Fun for days.

1. Grab your synth of choice. Mine is Live’s Operator for this example, but damn near anything with a noise generator and filter keytracking capabilites will do. 

2. Set the number of voices to something like 6, or one for however many bands you want your comb filter to have.

3. Set Osc1’s waveform to white noise. Make an amp envelope that’s appropriate for the track you’re working on. Set it to Trigger mode, so it will run through the attack and decay stages regardless of the length of your MIDI note. 

4. Activate the steepest highpass or bandpass filter you’ve got (24db/oct in this case), jack up the resonance and don’t touch the filter envelope for now. Set the cutoff someplace where it sounds good. Oh, and this patch is going to be pretty loud so turn down the master output level of the synth.

5. Now, if your synth has a unison mode, is the time time to use it. Operator doesn’t, so grab a Chord device and stick it up front. This is how we’ll determine the spacing of our bands. For now, try setting them in 1/3oct intervals, going up from the root note, and match the number of notes in the chord to the number of voices we specified in step 1 (6, in this case.) So we’ve got +3, +6, +9, +12, +15, and +18. Sweeeeet. Hit a note and it should sound the same as it did before we dropped the Chord device in, just louder. Now let’s make it rad.

6. Turn up the keytracking value (Freq<Key) in Operator’s filter. Yeeeeeah. Each voice will now have a different (progressively higher) filter cutoff frequency, and the spacing between these peaks will depend on the value of this parameter. If you want to envelope the filter to make it a rising or falling sweep, do it now. Turn up the Spread parameter to make it wide. (Huss huss.) Pan<Key and Pan<Rnd are cool here too.

7. Bob’s yer raver uncle. Save this combo as an Instrument Rack and map the filter keytracking to a macro. Map filter resonance and cutoff to another couple of macros, this way you can easily adjust the width and and “bite” of the sound. Then you can always turn up the Freq<Vel parameter if you want the frequency to be velocity-dependent. If you want to monkey more aggressively with the spacing of your bands to make it fit better into a busy mix, do it with the Chord device. You can make some amazingly thick stuff this way. This rack is a good starting place for all kinds of sounds, including sirens, risers and arcade-machine zaps. For a real kick in the pants, duplicate the chain containing these devices and fuck with the filter parameters for the synth in the second chain. You can have a tight set of sweeping highpass filters on one chain, and a more densely spaced, less aggressively enveloped set of bandpass filters filling out the midrange in Chain 2, maybe with some stereo delay or a phaser or something to keep it moving around. It’s all about experimentation, like group sex, drug use and the electric light bulb. And remember, you’re still sitting on an unassigned hot-shit LFO and three more oscillators…

It’ll look something like this:

And no, I’m not posting the .adg files. You’ll never learn anything that way!


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