Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sega FM Drive YM2612 Synth

Youtube user Aly James is working on a VSTI for windows that emulates the Sega Genesis sound chip. So far it looks really fun and the sound is very good.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Exploitive Products & Synthesizer Electronic Waste

You are a giant nerd. You can get any analog monosynth for 599, shipped to your home. What are you really thinking when buying it? You've been tricked by marketing. Avoid "exploitive products" where marketing trumps the actual uses of the product. It used to be that you could get something that produces an entire song, for cheap, and thats barely true today. Many instruments being sold are not enough to make a full song. You have to think about what you are buying and why now more than ever.

The Korg MS-20 is definitely a toy, an electronic buzzer. If you wanted one you would have already purchased one on ebay ten years ago. The marketing and actual use of of the product doesn't meet the price considering today's computing power. The purpose of the product is to exploit nerds in the same way rebooted movie franchises. They aren't as good as the original and trap certain types of susceptible people and their money.

Anything "analog" from modern instrument producers is definitely a trap. High prices on vintage synths are an ebay trap. You are paying their fees and a jacked up price.

You have to remember you are buying an over glorified buzzer. Most likely nobody will want to listen to your amateur noise. There is no art in copying another persons sound or producing more crap people have already heard. Do you want to pay $600 for "music" no one will listen to? What are you aspiring to be? Modern instruments are a better choice, and nothing analog today could be considered modern. The computer is a much better choice, especially for new creators.

Today's synthesizers are made in China for cheap and failing components will make the entire thing become garbage. They won't last as long as the originals made in the 70s, 80s, or 90s. The environment is taking a hit. You are part of the chain if you buy products from companies that are trying to exploit you.

Please be aware of people in china and the environment etc when you order an instrument. It should be something designed to last forever and give you infinite use. Cheap goods, even with a high price, will never satisfy you totally. It just might be that you are deriving little musical value from the instrument and everyone is paying a high price. Don't let the companies take advantage of you. When it comes to synths, stay digital, save the environment, and save your money. Don't be susceptible to the nerd economy.

Please re-use your stuff! Trade and find new uses for old things. Don't pay too much. No need to buy new.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Favorite Free Channel Plugin for Mac: Channel 3

api console

Channel 3 is a console channel sim. It does SSL, API, and NEVE. This plugin beefs up some the harmonic content and gives some overdrive to the sound. My favorite is the API setting with drive set to 60% It is for Mac. The GUI is very simple, but it sounds good. I will probably end up using it a lot.

Air Windows has lots of great free plugins!

This website has a whole list of free saturation plugins for mac and windows.

Reason 7 Announced!

A new rack adds midi. You can even control your gear with its internal CV!

This program looks like the holy grail of music making. I have been experimenting in other programs and hardware instruments for a long time, but nothing was as good for sampling and effects than Reason. I think I'll be purchasing a new copy.

What Type Of Plugins Do I use to Compress Drums For EDM?

While I think compression is mostly pointless on some sounds, there really are some great plugins that are worth using on percussion and on the overall master bus. I have all these plugins activated simultaneously to save time. You don't have  to produce in stages!

Insert FX: Tape Simulators, Tape Saturators, Compressors, EQs etc.

Saturators, compressors and other simulators are great on the main drum channel. The Crystal Method has been known to use "Fatso Jr" to get their beefy drum sound. It is a tape simulator with many options. It works on any type of drum or percussive sound. There are also tube amp simulations and others that slightly disort or compress the sound into warmth and fatness. A regular compressor won't cut it. We need some sort of saturation and an intelligent use of these plugins can get you some really beefed up drums. The people designing these hope you to keep feeding it more signal and that it never sounds bad. While these insert FX can be really energizing, for some genres and songs it might be a pass.

Tip: Before you insert a compressor or saturator make sure you place the reverb plugin. Pre-reverb makes a compressor "breathe."

Mastering Compressors & FX:

Dynamics compressor will work on the master bus and balance sounds together. Make sure its a good plugin specifically designed for this use. Generic plugins don't always work so well. Generic multi-band compressors, ones that come with the program or system can leave me completely lost. I try out presets and then start tweaking. Also going back to your individual channels and re-tweaking everything is a good idea. Just make sure you save the best setups to A/B them or you will get lost.

With a couple plugins and little bit of Mastering dynamics you can get a louder sounding recording that doesn't sound "overcompressed." Don't be afraid to use multipe plugins on the same channel or multiple plugins for mastering. There isn't an end-all, be-all plugin! But some of them are like magic for their specific use!

Thats all I have to say right now on compressors. Mostly you just find a good product and tweak the knobs till it sounds just right. If you have a "magic bullet" processor its a lot harder to end up with a bad recording.


Check out Sonnox Oxford, UAD Plugins, EZ Mix, Elysian, and McDsp to get yourself started.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Analog Synthesizers Don't Need Dynamic Compression.

Analog synthesizers don't need standard compression. You are lucky if your sound has any dynamics to compress in the first place. Dynamics usually have to be programmed into the sound. Dynamics are the result of amp envelopes, resonance modulation, and effects. Without these you don't have much range and material to compress. In a lot of tutorials, that were first geared toward mixing acoustic sounds, this knowledge might have been lost. Compression on synth sounds in EDM can be a waste of time.

Natural percussive sounds can have huge transients. This is a case where compression helps a lot. It can help on drum machines sometimes. But if you notice, when you put a synth in the mix, its super loud already and cuts through everything. It doesn't need to be louder. You could just bump up the mixer knob instead. Don't bother compressing and making it louder unless you really know what you are doing.

You should try compression on drums, so check out this article which helps explain mixing techniques for drums a bit better.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Universal Synthesizer Patch Format: A Work In Progress

What is USPF? It allows synthesizer patches to be shared across any platform and plugin. You could even broadcast patches from your website!

What doesn't it do? It does not attempt to recreate the sound quality or specific nuances of synthesizers. Every synth sounds different. The formats aim is to get similar sounds into new synthesizers that adopt the universal format. Not all tags will be read by every synthesizer. It is a general format.

USPF is similar to XML and html. There are tags, comments, etc. If you can program a webpage, you can make a USPF file.

Right now things are in initial stages. If you'd like to help develop it further please contact me through this forum.

An example of what USPF tags looks like:
<filter id="1" type="LP,-13db" cutoff="1/4" mod="1" velocity="1">
<amp val="1"/>
<osc id="1" type="square" width="9/10" portamento="on" legato="off" time="13" velocity="1" mod="5">
</filter><osc id="2" type="triangle">

Knob values are in fractions because synthesizers have different ranges!

Download the full beta file w/ comments here.

Some work needs to be done on documenting specifics of oscillators, envelopes, mods, and maybe different engine types etc.