Category Archives: Software

Good to Hear demos Fingerlab’s DM1

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For the past few years I’ve relied heavily on my mobile devices in my musical excursions. In fact, both my ipad and iphone are vital members in my current one man band. The reason I love mobile devices is because I have access to a huge selection of sounds even on just one device and I’m able to create wherever I go. (Not to mention, apps are significantly cheaper than their hardware counterparts… well, most of the time).

One of my most used apps is a drum machine called DM1 which was created by Fingerlab. This particular drum machine is host to many digital drum kit sounds; many of which are vintage classics such as Roland’s TR-808 and CR-78. There are also some great acoustic sets as well as some sets made specifically for the app. Check out the youtube video below for some hands on with DM1.

As you can see in the video, DM1 is very diverse in it’s sounds and customizations. You can compose entire songs inside the DM1 app making use of all the pattern slots or you can create just a simple beat.

If you are looking to fill the rhythmless void in your life or just want to play around with a bunch of great sounding kits give DM1 a try.

DM1 for iPhone 1.99
DM1 for iPad 4.99 (The iPad version has a few more features than the iPhone version. Check out Fingerlab’s website to see the differences between versions)

Sorry andriod users, no support for DM1…. yet.

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Need to Slow Down?


Often I want to slow down a sample and make a texture pad from the result. Or perhaps when I’m looking for an interesting loop found through planned happy accidents. But at a certain point you can actually run into some limitations by how digital audio is captured. By stretching it with most typical audio software, you will start to hear the quick shifts in tone instead of a the subtle gradients that you would hope for. So for a long time, I assumed this could only be achieved with expensive and dedicated hardware. But once again the open source movement comes to the rescue with a piece of software called PaulStretch.

With PaulStretch you can easily stretch audio anywhere from 50x to 10,000x… or even with hyperstretch mode: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000x. Holy smokes! And you can hear the playback in realtime without intensive processing just to hear it! Its easy to turn 5 minutes into 5 hours. And this software does an incredibly smooth job. It is so much fun to play with.

So how is this possible?

This program doesn’t process the sound as a single piece: it cuts the sound in small pieces and process them. Each small piece is called a “window”. The size of the windows controls the size of the window in samples, which affects the frequency and the time resolution of the resulting sounds. The small windows have good time resolution, but poor frequency resolution. Also, large windows has poor time resolution, but they has great frequency resolution. Usually, a window of 7-12k is good for most music. Very big windows (larger than 100k) can be used for special effects (for smearing the sound very much and transforming it into a sound-texture even if the stretch is closer to 1.0).

I’ve enjoyed playing around with this and using them for instruments within Renoise. Its also been fun to stretch some of my favorite songs and to my pleasant surprise suddenly hear a sample that had been sped way up.

Check out some examples of the extreme stretching below.

Here is the windows installer (sorry no mac love!). Or if your really interested, here is the sourcecode.


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MilkyTracker

Music composition is a tricky thing. I find hopping around to different instruments or music creation tools can be quite refreshing and can help to stimulate creativity. One of the tools that I use and love is a tracking program called MilkyTracker.

MilkyTracker is an open source, multi-platform music application for creating .MOD and .XM module files. It attempts to recreate the module replay and user experience of the popular DOS program Fasttracker II, with special playback modes available for improved Amiga ProTracker 2/3 compatibility.

MilkyTracker is amazing. As tracker, it creates a loose structure for you to plug notes into and then cycles through the notes you plug in. Think of it as setting up dominos. You choose what notes you want and then you place them where you want them to go. Once you are done, you can tap the play button and the notes begin to play in the order you placed them. There are no limits to how many notes you plug in or how many sounds are being played at the same time. You can upload samples, use basic waveforms or even draw a custom waveform. It has a bit of a learning curve but it’s not too hard to grasp the basics.  However, the more you learn the more you realize how crazy complex and powerful this application can be.

MilkyTracker is a fantastic tool for musical composition and it is crazy that it’s completely open source. If you are looking for something fresh to pique your musical senses you should definitely check out MilkyTracker. I mean why not? It’s free!

Here is a song that someone created that really showcases what MilkyTracker is capable of.

The Dream of Desoloing

Have you ever wanted to remove the vocals or lead instrument from a favorite song? Often I wish I could extract and remix a specific element of a song for my own musical daydreams. So regardless to say, this has been a life long dream for me. I have thought up all sorts of possible artistic uses.

So imagine my surprise when I found an separateLeadStereo open-source python script that will do just so! Now it is by no means a perfect extraction, but I find the algorithmic decisions and accordingly glitchy sound quite fascinating. I really enjoy how the solo/accompaniment affect each other by ducking out the volume against each other and certain shared frequencies subtly leak through. I am in love with sounds that are obviously aleatoric. Music that shows its roots in a state of entropy.

This process is known as Automatic Extraction of the Main Melody from Polyphonic Music Signals. Or a short nickname: desoloing.

Here are a few examples of songs I have processed.

But there is a catch… By my own tests and rough calculations, it takes 24 hours of rendering for every 45 seconds of audio you want desoloed (estimated with a quad 3.2 GHz processor). Its also a fairly RAM intensive process, with 5 minutes of audio filling up 4GB of RAM. So you should know what your getting into and choose your audio tests wisely.

UPDATE (2013-11-25) – Since I’ve written this post, I’ve processed around one hundred songs. Now a 4 minute song takes only 3 hours to render! That is a huge speed boost. The bottleneck was fixed by installing the MKL build of the NumPy library (Intel’s high performance Math Kernel Library). Also, by installing the 64-bit version of python and the required libraries, you can use much more RAM and process longer songs. On 8GB of RAM, the max song length is about 10 minutes.

You’ll want to choose songs where the lead vocal or instrument stand out from the rest of the music. But some interesting things can happen when the algorithmically-followed lead catches pitches from other instruments. So there are many happy accidents to be expected from this process and maybe even choosing a song where you have no idea what it will try and extract. Only 44.1khz wav’s allowed.

Some command-line experience would be very helpful. But if that foreign to you, well then I’m going to try my best and outline the required steps below. There are no required settings to setup, you just need to point the python script to the audio file you want to desolo.

I would like to thank Jean-Louis Durrieu for releasing his work to the open-source community. It is utterly fantastic and fascinating work. Bravo!

 


 

INSTALLATION

1. Install Python
http://www.python.org/download/releases/2.7.6/

2. Install these Python libraries – (make sure to download the MKL build of NumPy)
http://www.lfd.uci.edu/~gohlke/pythonlibs/#scipy
http://www.lfd.uci.edu/~gohlke/pythonlibs/#numpy
http://www.lfd.uci.edu/~gohlke/pythonlibs/#matplotlib

3. Now we need to tell Windows to initialize Python as a regular thing to load. This will allow us to use the command-line prompt much easier with Python.
Control Panel > System > Advanced > Environmental Variables > System Variables > Path
Add this to the end of the line     C:\Python27;
Click ‘ok’ and close all those windows.

 


 

BEGIN DESOLOING SONGS

1. Download and unzip the separateLeadStereo Python scripts directly into a folder on your desktop called ‘desolo’. Make sure the scripts are not nested within another folder. Also drop the music that you wish to process into this folder (WAV @ 44.1khz).

6. Open the start menu. In the start menu search box, type: ‘cmd’ and hit enter.
This is your command-line prompt, where all the rendering will be triggered from.

7. Now we need to navigate the cmd prompt to the desolo folder where the python scripts and wav are waiting for us.
Type: ‘cd desktop\desolo’ and hit enter.

8. Now for the last step, to tell it to render the wav!
Type: ‘python separateLeadStereoParam.py name-of-your-audio-file.wav’ and hit enter.

9. And now its rendering! It may not look like its doing anything for a while but have no fear and just wait. You will know when its done rendering when it says ‘Done!’. There is no percentage meter. Just make sure not to close the CMD prompt until its done.

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