Pro Tools and the next stage of the album

So the grooves are coming together. But technology has two sides. On one, it facilitates creativity by not getting in the way. On the other, it totally gets in the way when bugs happen and updates are needed and formats get changed for more betterer fasterer (except installing 12 DVDs clearly isn’t) So if I may, here is a bit of a technorant!

Like a few of my friends I’m on the verge of changing over to Pro Tools version 11. The challenge is trying to retain your favourite plugins. Avid have changed the format. It’s a good change, it makes the whole DAW faster and more reliable. A lot faster for some things. But the code is very different, so some developers are struggling to keep up, while for others it’s not worth the cost of paying people to make it happen. Some charge for the update, some don’t, some charge a lot for an update but add in lots of great new features- like Native Instruments Komplete 9 above, which is amazingly wonderful.


A Korg M1 yesterday

There are some I’ve been using for years. The Korg M1 is a synth from 1988 that I grew to love. It’s really just a glorified crappy sampler that doesn’t sample. But the 4 Megabytes of onboard sounds are full of character, and are both quirky and playable. That piano has possibly overused, but a lot of the other sounds still have mileage. Korg made a virtual version which is what I use now. There’s very little hardware in my studio these days. So you can load your old hardware patches into the software one, and it has a better functionality than the hardware too. You also get the Wavestation, a great sounding synth that I don’t really understand but I use it a lot anyway. And you get the effects from the synths as a standalone plugin which is great- best phaser ever. But it’s quite old in software terms, and Korg have stopped updating it. Bummer #1.


Setup for sampling a chapel

Impulse Responses are something else I don’t really understand, but they’re easy to use. They allow you to sample the acoustic ambience of a real space, and stick it in the computer. So you can have everything from the inside of a shoe box to the Grand Canyon at your fingertips. No need to run cables for miles and miles. I went very meta and sampled my settings from my two favourite hardware reverbs, sold them and bought an inexpensive but perfectly formed plugin called Mellowmuse IR-1 to run the impulses. It’s a one man company and he hasn’t gotten around to updating it yet. Bummer #2.

Roger Nichols c. 1978. Note computer at the back- it’s a digital drum replacement machine. Yes, he invented that too.

The equaliser is one of the top three most important tools in audio. For the last 8 years my main one was made by Roger Nichols. A great man, he died a few years ago so this great sounding plugin will never be updated. I’ve changed over to the Avid Focusrite Red equaliser instead. It works well, it’s just a pain having to manually transfer settings and tweak them so they sound right. So notmuchofabummer #1.


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Dynamics is in that top three. For giving that final polish to a mix, a limiter is essential. It’s also nice to have the warm sound of tape, a format I don’t miss (it wobbled, it hissed, was expensive to run and required regular maintenance). Another one man shop is Massey plugins, and I use his limiter and tape simulation plugins (just the warmth, not the other stuff). He had a very cute updater for small money, so that had to be done. A few bugs but they’re sorted now. So notmuchofabummer #2.

A really old tape echo box.

Then there’s echo. I love echo. It gives space. It gives rhythm. It make da funk (I love syncopation). You’d think it’s not a big deal, the bundled plugins are very good. But in their wisdom Avid changed the look of the plugin which did two annoying things. The controls are now all in a different place for no particular reason except to annoy your 10+ year old muscle memory. The other thing is it has exactly the same sound and parameters as the old one, but it doesn’t recognise the settings. So you have to open your track in the old Pro Tools and manually convert each delay to the new one before it will sound the same in the new Pro Tools. And old Pro Tools is “unsupported” (translation: unstable) in Mavericks. Aaaaaargh! Bummer #3.

Echo problem 2
I said earlier I don’t miss tape- the wobble, the noise etc. The exception is echo. The messedupness of tape does lovely things to echo. A few years ago I bought Line 6 Podfarm for cheap. The TubeEcho in there is my ideal echo. I even use it to make stuff sound like it’s recorded on a crappy old tape. This is another plugin that will never be updated. After a lot of research and tips from friends, I was able to make SoundToys EchoBoy do the same thing. So I’ve started saving up to buy that one. Or maybe not- it doesn’t do the crappy old tape thing with quite as much character- or at least, I haven’t fully explored the possible tweaks. So that fully functioning demo is gonna be working hard for the next 21 days.

The big problem solver
So there’s this guy (why is it always a guy?) somewhere in Europe called ddmf. He makes a lovely sounding Equaliser that I use when I want to pile on the top end with impunity. And it’s a total bargain. Now he makes Metaplugin. This will take almost any other plugin format (there are quite a few) wrap its arms around it and cuddle it so it will work inside Pro Tools. It does some other cool stuff as well. Bingo! The Korg and the Mellowmuse work with it. PodFarm doesn’t, but that’s OK.

So all of that technical crap is now sorted, it’s back to playing in the sandpit and making music. I plan to release one track a week. Starting soon. In a few months, I will have a completed thing we will call an “album”. A nice vague deadline, so I don’t get deafened as it makes that whooshing noise as it flies by (to paraphrase Douglas Adams).

Chow for now!


Edit- this was reposted on September 23rd because the original got lost in the changeover to new servers.

Two new releases

The first release is my effort to take what action I can for Gaza. It’s hard not to feel powerless against the human rights violations being committed by Israel. You might have seen the video by Israeli film director Naomi Levari. So here is a piece of music I composed in response to it. Any proceeds will go to the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) whose aim is “…to participate in international efforts to put pressure on the Israeli state to cease its oppression of the Palestinian people”.

“I call on the Israeli government to behave like leaders and put an end to this bloodshed now!”

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The second release is Amplituhedron, a collection of ambient tracks from the forthcoming album. If the news is getting to you, switch it off and let yourself get lost in these pieces 🙂

About the music

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For Gaza is based on a very minimalist piece I demo’d back in 1992 using a Sony TC-200 tape recorder and a Yamaha CS-5. It was just the pulsing bassline and a riff that has now developed into the Turkish style strings. I visited Tunisia in 2004 and was inspired by their pop music, most of which comes from Turkey. Using modern time and pitch manipulation tools, I was able to combine the bassline with a rhythm track I had done in 1992 using the Casio SK-5 sampling keyboard. Helped by the lo-fi sound of the Casio and the Sony recorder it is hard hitting and militaristic sounding, inspired in part by the Art of Noise track A Time for Fear (Who’s Afraid?) which was a response to the invasion of Grenada and the craziness of war.

It was a coincidence that the track came together during the horrors in Gaza, so I poured a lot of emotion into the strings as I composed them on the keyboard. The track is not perfectly 100% polished but it hits the soul I think. I just had to try to do something for Gaza, however small. I will be remixing it for the album.

Chinaphone was inspired by a woman having a very loud phone conversation on the train from Bournemouth. I recorded her on my iPhone and added some Fairlight and tape echo when I got home.


Slow Movement is another old piece, from around 1994. It was created using the rather cool step sequencer on the Casio CZ-5000. Cool because it lends itself easily to changing time signatures. I read about how Brian Eno used slowed down pianos for his Ambient 1 Music for Airports album, so I tried it with this piece and it worked much better than the original hi-energy dance track version 🙂

Voice Crystal is a piece I worked on with Michael O’Sullivan in 1994. Again it was a fast hi energy dance track on the Casio CZ-5000 with his wonderful acoustic guitar playing on top. It worked really well slowed down to about 10% of the original speed with Elastic Audio in Pro Tools, but with no change in pitch as I had done with Slow Movement. Using Melodyne I translated Mike’s guitar into the bright FM guitar sound at 25% of the original speed for a nice hypnotic effect.

Amplituhedron is a piece I demo’d in 1991 with the Casio SK-5, and again I slowed the tempo without changing the pitch. The sound character of the Casio gives the crystalline effect, which inspired the title. An amplituhedron is a geometric structure that enables simplified calculation of particle interactions in some quantum field theories (Wikipedia)

Slowing down these old compositions was not a mere gimmick. In the case of Amplituhedron I originally couldn’t make it slow enough because the Casio sampler was so limited- it didn’t have time stretch like most professional samplers of the time. The sequenced tracks originally had a youthful over exuberance and naievety, and were just a bit cheesy at speed. Slowing them down I think brings out their best qualities, they sound more mature- and they’re finally finished after twenty years! 🙂

Highly Liquid MIDI

Highly Liquid

Just finished installing the Highly Liquid UMR MIDI interface in a Casio SK-5. This was our first sampler. Very nice crunchy lo-fi sound. In combination with Redmatica Autosampler it’s a great source of new sounds. It changes anything you put into it. Look out for a new madtheory sample pack in the next few months! It’s really nice to play this toy from a weighted keyboard, and Kontakt adds a lot to it as well.


Information on East Cork Local Election Candidates

In alphabetical order. And OK, it’s not purely information, there is some opinion here. You can probably guess from the links the ones I really don’t like 🙂

Buckley, Pat (SF) 404 page not found, had some drinking related troubles.
Bullman, Paddy (Ind) No web presence, leaflet here.
Collins, Noel (Ind) Midleton Town council (now being abolished) hoping to get on county council. No web presence.
Halloran, Wayne (Ind) Anti pylon, no web presence.
Harty, Natasha (GP) Good info on her page.
Hegarty, Michael (FG) Drink Driving case
Hennessy, Michelle (SF)
Linehan Foley, Mary (Ind) Kicked out of FF.
McCarthy, Susan (FG) Says she’s a teacher (among other things) on her Facebook, but no mention of that on her leaflet. Not much actual info on FB page.
Murray, Aisling (Ind) No web presence. Leaflet here.
Murray, Barbara (FG) FG branch chairperson, Mayor of county. No web presence apart from mention on David Stanton’s website.
Nolan, Eric (Lab)
O’Neill, Niall (FF) No web presence- empty page on FF website! Couldn’t be bothered linking to a leaflet., DIY.
O’Sullivan, Aaron (FF) Same empty page as above. Leaflet here. Don’t consider voting for him unless you’ve met him…

New Kontakt sample pack: Revolution Synths

This new pack consists of the classic sounds from the classic digital synthesizer used by Jean Michel Jarre on his 1988 album Revolutions. Over 1.4GB* of 24 bit sounds, perfectly mapped and looped in Kontakt for you to play, just like the original keyboard.

Creating this demo was interesting. Listening closely to the original, I realised that it is most likely sequenced. The left hand/ bass part is a very very consistent 1/8th note loop with an accent on the 1. The notes are exactly an 1/8th in length as well, which works fine if you stick to the DCA envelope times on the original synth. There seems to be a slightly longer note length on every second beat 4. The right hand velocity doesn’t vary at all, there are no accents except for the fourth “chord” which is only two notes- the top note is programmed louder so it fits in with the other 3 note chords. There is a little bit of phaser mixed in, and the reverb sounds like the short, bright ambience programme typical of the AMS RMX16.

So the above demo is exactly what you’d get from the synth itself, without any “mixing”.

List of patches:

Analog Chop
Grittar 2 Lower, Grittar 2 Upper (Layered as Main Lead)
Gurgel Strings
Jete Strings
Kokubo Strings
Machine Run
Marshy Zone
Motor Orchestra
Ocean Scenario
Octave Synth Bass
Orchester Philamon
Synth Bass 42
Yamatano Orochi

Rain Tree Crow

Sylvian-1 Rain-2
This was the name used by the band Japan back in 1990 when Virgin Records gave them a million to reform. For various reason it didn’t work out, but they produced some amazing music. I recently scanned two articles from the May 1991 editon of Music Technology magazine. There’s an interview with Sylvian, and a separate interview with the rest of the band (Karn, Jansen and Barbieri).

This is the first time these have been published on the web as far as I know. You can read for yourself why things didn’t work out! A must for all Japan fans.



Enough Bono bashing please

There’s a book out criticising Bono, written by one Harry Browne. I haven’t read it. Apparently sales are abysmal. But I’ve read the articles by those caviar socialists Monbiot and Eagleton. Then there is the (as always) brilliant interview work by Gay Byrne (it’s an hour but it’s worth it).


Bono is like the court jester, because he can get away with criticising the “king”. Remember his messing around with Pope John Paul? There’s all the laughing and joking with Bush, but he got stuff done that otherwise would not have happened. Yes Bono’s not the brightest, but he, basically, gives away a lot of money. He supports around 30 charities by himself, the band support a bunch more. And U2 have given away a large chunk of money for music education in Ireland.

Monbiot is babbling about how Bono is stealing the limelight from “real” Africans with “real” problems- but he didn’t provide any evidence of that, despite writing a lovely “academicky” article, with references and all, attacking Bono. I’ve searched around and found only scam “African” charities, I wonder If Monbiot is ignoring those? I’m open to correction on that one though.

The Eagleton article, and Browne’s book too, is a hack job in my opinion. Let’s go through it:

1. Eagleton makes the assumption that being a christian implies a lack of style. As Bono describes in the recent Gay Byrne interview, their street gang dressed as OTT punks before they joined the prayer group, though it did become an issue afterwards.

2. Eagleton’s comment about “the postmodern decline of politics into spectacle” is just stupid. C’mon, look at any newspaper from the 19th century, early political campaigns, or early Punch.

3. Another assumption- “why Bono is both maverick and conservative.” Bono explains that one in the interview, when he talks about including the left and the right in his activism. Basically he uses his fame to get people in power to commit to things they might not do otherwise. He gets them to do good instead of confronting them and getting nothing.

4. Eagleton cherry picks from Viz, a magazine of vastly greater wit than his own- their hilarious description of Bono “”the little twat with the big heart”.

5. “If Bono really knew the history of his own people, he would be aware that the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s was not the result of a food shortage”. Bono has often said that it is corruption that is the problem (again, see Gay Byrne interview) and that is the case with the famine. I don’t know if that’s in the book or if Eagleton made that one up as well.

Everyone is failing to understand the function of tax. Again, Bono answers that question in the Gay Byrne interview, where he points out that Ireland has a tax system designed to attract foreign investment. He also points out that U2 is a business (the implication being that they employ people and need to stay in business). Furthermore if the writers did their research they would be aware that it is only the publishing arm that is based in Holland. All of U2’s other business is based in Ireland. However copyright and tax is a complicated business and is possibly beyond his comprehension. Not surprisingly it’s beyond Joan Burton as well. The fact is that prior to the capping of the Artist’s Tax Exemption scheme, U2 were not taxed on earnings from publishing. I would imagine that in order to maintain the business and to keep Irish people employed, they decided to be tax efficient.

Bono might be annoying. But he is a genuine christian.

Casio VZ samples for Kontakt

Like my other libraries, I created this initially for my own use. I decided the VZ was taking up valuable rackspace in my new streamlined studio, and I could better integrate my sounds in software via Kontakt. I just got tired of waiting around recording several layers of hardware synths.

So for that reason, this is a very good representation of the VZ- which is why I’ve named it “Authentic”.

Click here for demo

The Casio VZ was intended to replace the very successful CZ range. Despite having a better keyboard, more polyphony and better sound quality, it didn’t capture the imagination and was discontinued fairly quickly. The User Interface was rather unpleasant, despite having advanced features such as graphical envelope editing.

It’s a shame, because this is an FM synth with a much bigger sound than the better known Yamaha offerings. It was possible to layer up to 32 oscillators while still retaining useable polyphony. The keyboard had a pleasant action, and there were three very useable modulation wheels.

These samples comprise the best of my own sounds and a good mix of the few commercial libraries that were available. So without buying a VZ you’ll have wrung the best sounds out of this difficult beast. Again I’ve left out the usual “string” and “analogue” sounds, and kept it to the more unique sounds this synth can do. I’ve also stayed at 16 bit/ 44.1kHz because that exceeds the specifications of the VZ and allows for faster loading times.

Details: 30 multisampled patches, Download size= 398MB (Kontakt’s built in data compression used).

So I hope you enjoy the sound of this unusual synthesizer!

Upright Pianos for Kontakt

These sounds have been created to retain the character and atmosphere of domestic upright pianos. They were originally created for the Emu ESI4000 back in 1998. The recordings were made with an MS pair comprising Coles 4038 for the sides and an Audio Technica MB3000L for the middle. The pre amp was an LA Audio MLX20, and the AD was an Echo Layla, the original 20 bit version. Some processing was done in Cubase VST/32 using Waves plugins.

With the limitations of the old Emu sampler removed, you can now enjoy these sounds in 24 bit/ 48kHz, much better than the old Emu. In addition I have reprogrammed the filter settings to achieve a nice timbal dynamic.

Hanson 717 audio demo

Hanson pianoforte- dual layer multisampled upright (pictured) MS miked.
Ladbrooke 717- an out of tune up right recorded with a Sony ECM717 mic.
Hanson 717a, 717b- two different mono and stereo mic pre amps.
Charlie’s piano- a very battered upright recorded in 8 bit.

Download size: 78MB (Kontakt’s built in data compression used).

There are no Steinways here, so you’ll have atmospheric creaky old uprights. The Hansons (pictured) was set up and tuned before sampling, and is multisampled in velocity layers. The Ladbrooke was never tuned-  but it has been used on the Nintendo game “Rubadubdub”! It’s also a favourite of William Coakley’s, creator of the Perfect Piano series of samples.

A new addition is Charlie’s piano. This is a piano that is seriously out of tune, and you will also hear the sounds of domestic activity on some of the notes. Recorded in 8 bit/ 22kHz with a Canon Powershot camera. This is the most atmospheric of all the pianos.