There is a House down in N’Awlins

I’ve been hard at work on a cover of “House of the Rising Sun” over the past couple weeks. I’m using it as an opportunity to find my way around new software and equipment, and to try out some new ways of working with what I’d had already.

One really big change? No programmed drums on this track. They’re still synth generated, but I played the whole rhythm section on the MPD18 drum pad controller. The results are a lot more organic than usual, with a lot more variation in dynamics. I’m sure I’ll gravitate back towards at least a few programmed loops, but this has been a really interesting experience. Granted, the fact that the song is in 6/8 helped push that decision, but it’s still been good. I’ve also been figuring out how to mix using the nanoKontrol2, and it’s already been a great upgrade to its predecessor. The physical control over volume sliders is actually making me use the volume automation a lot more than I used to, and doing things by ear instead of by what was easy to set up.

The song itself is really starting to come along, and I’m excited about the arrangement. I’m hoping to have it wrapped up sometime in mid August if all goes well. Subscribers to the newsletter will be getting a preview cut of it in the next week. Want in on the action? Subscribe today!


Sensitivity (in the drum department)

When I first got the Akai MPD18 drum mad controller, I immediately noticed that I had to hammer on the pads to get it to register much of anything. While playing on the pads did feel much more natural than playing drum patterns on a keyboard, the fact that I had to hit so hard did detract from the overall experience. Plus, it kinda hurt my fingers.

I poked around the internet for a bit and found out that my problem was far from uncommon. Why this didn’t come up in any of the reviews that I’d seen for this unit ahead of time, I don’t know. But as with many common problems these days, the solution was also ready to be found on the very same internet. Pad corx are simply little circles of very thinly sliced cork cut to exactly cover the underside of the rubber pads on the MPD18 (as well as all of Akai’s other drum controllers, it turns out). I poked around on the net and saw a handful of glowing recommendations, so I ordered a set.

They came in the mail about a week back, and installation was completely painless. They seriously just stick on to the bottom of the rubber pads, resting right on top of the sensors on the PCB. After using them for a few days here, I can gladly add my voice to the chorus of glowing reviews.

The transformation was immediately noticeable. Instead of having to jab the pads to get anything to register, I could now gently let my fingers fall by their own weight and have appropriately light-touch signals be picked up by the computer. Amazingly enough, this didn’t lead to spurious hits or a lack of volume control. On the contrary, I feel like I have much more control than before, and can actually use the whole expressive range that MIDI is capable of. I was even able to rattle along a fast hihat section without it skipping, which was an important and welcome change of behavior.

If you’ve got an Akai MPD or MPC, you really should do yourself a favor and pick up a set of pad corx. They are well worth the tiny cost for how well they help a very real problem. I’ve been using the MPD to track out scratch drums on several new songs already, and I will likely be using it to program many of the drums on the new album.

Speaking of the new album, if you want to be the first to hear anything about it, then you should sign up for the Electric Goodies newsletter. Incidentally, we’re changing things up with the newsletter, but more on that in another post. For now, if you want to sign up, just go here and drop your email into the form!


Now We Begin Again

As you all know, I’ve been in the process of upgrading the studio. Over the weekend, I finally got the rest of my packages and got everything installed and running. Now with all of that overhead out of the way, I can finally sit down and begin working on music again. Once I get my head wrapped around these new tools, I’ll start putting up a few blog posts about what’s what. I will say, though, that it’s nice not having to jump through a half dozen hoops every time I want to open a program now. It’s the beginning of a new era! Until the next upgrade is required, of course.

This has taught me that waiting for sales and special offers really pays off though. The way I calculate it, I spent about a third of what I would have if I had paid full price for everything. The makes my inner cheapskate very happy.


Sale Madness!

In case you haven’t heard, the folks over at IK Multimedia are having a pretty sweet sale right now in celebration of their 15th anniversary. Basically, buy any bit of their stuff, and you get 15% off and another product of theirs (of equal or lesser value) for absolutely free. Can’t beat that with a stick.

I was in the market to update my copy of Amplitube anyway when this sale came around, so the timing was really great for me. Most of the guitars in Psycliq recordings have been piped through one version of Amplitube or another, and the new version has some great capabilities to it that I can’t wait to exercise. I picked up T-RackS 3 Deluxe as my free download, and hope to use it for better mixing and mastering of my stuff from here on in. Maybe I’ll even issue remastered versions of old tracks or something, who knows?

Anyway, they make good stuff and it’s a great deal, so you should go check them out.


The MicroMoorg

I ran across this awesome little project the other day: The MicroMoorg. It’s an awesome little mod to the venerable (and versatile) microKorg synthesizer to make it look a bit more like the classic analogue synths from Moog, such as the Minimoog. I am so jealous of this that I’m very strongly considering pulling together something similar for my own microKorg. However, I think that I’d want the hinge to still allow it to collapse, so I could keep lugging it around in the same case I’ve been using for it. Still though, very sweet little setup, that.