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Learn electronics with the vintage Side Man drum machine

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

ENG_SIDEMAN_PREVIEW from Darsha Hewitt on Vimeo.

Darsha’s sound electronics class is in session — and it’s a little different to what you’d normally expect.

Rather than a bunch of animations of electrons moving about, sound artist and educator Darsha Hewitt has created a long-form video tutorial around the world’s first commercial drum machine.

Wurlitzer’s Side Man 5000 is hardly practical by modern standards. The pioneering 1959 hardware weighs some 38 kg, and is controllable only via push buttons and a speed fader, pre-programmed to happenin’ grooves like “rhumba.”

Inside, though, this gadget is an electro-mechanical wonder. And taking it apart and making it work again is an opportunity to understand how that technology worked, introducing ideas ranging from the basics of how a tube works to some novel ideas of how to use moving wheels to produce rhythm. You’ll be reminded both what a cathode is and how machines can produce music.


Darsha Hewitt leads with a friendly, patient style accessible to even those with no electronics background — but if you are interested in the intricacies of this hardware, there’s plenty of detail for you, too. The SideMan she’s got is one of only a handful left, to say nothing of the few in proper working order. That means that this is also the most comprehensive documentation yet of the Wurlitzer device’s innards.

The series is presented in episodes, with the teaser out today and the first episode launching on October 6. Or meet Darsha and celebrate the series in person, if you’re around Montréal:

03.10.16 — Advanced Screening and Q&A hosted by Jonathan Sterne @ Mutek_IMG Montréal
04.10.16 — Side Man 5000 Sample Salon Workshop @ Goethe-Institut Montréal

It’s great to see Darsha completing this project, having collaborated with her on a past MusicMakers Hacklab for CTM Festival. I got to visit Side Man in person; it’s an amazing machine.

Disclosure: CDM did publicity support for the launch of this series (and a little video editing), for which we were compensated. (Our coverage of the machine is not sponsored, though — we think it’s a cool project!) Additional funding was provided as part of the “Art and Civic Media” program — Innovation Incubator @ Leuphana University — Lüneburg. Further support provided by Foundation for Art and Creative Technology and Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.








The post Learn electronics with the vintage Side Man drum machine appeared first on Create Digital Music.


Learn Reaktor 6 at Kadenze & Get College Credit

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

reaktor_course_card_v3 (1)
A few months ago we have introduced Kadenze, a new learning platform specializing in the arts and creative technology.

Today Kadenze is launching a new course, dedicated to Reaktor 6. This is actually the first and only course about synthesis and signal processing through Reaktor 6 that students can take for real­world college credit. How cool is that?

The guys from Kadenze told us that “this course (normally offered at California Institute of the Arts) has been optimized for online learning and re­designed around the new version of the software. It will be the first time we are presenting a topic like signal processing (usually found in electrical engineering curriculums), but packaging it in a fun and creative context – creating custom sounds using Native Instrument’s Reaktor 6”.

As for other Kadenze courses, all students will be able to watch the weekly lecture videos and participate in the forum discussions free of charge on Kadenze’s website.

Students looking for a more hands­on approach can sign up for Kadenze Premium Membership (a $ 7/month subscription based service) allowing them to submit assignments and receive feedback, create a personalized portfolio to display their work, and receive a discount on the Reaktor 6 software.

Students can even take “Sound Synthesis Using Reaktor” for credit and receive transferable college credit at the California Institute of the Arts upon the successful completion of the course, further distinguishing it from competing online tutorials.

For further info, please visit the Reaktor course web page. We’ll have more on Kadenze soon, stay tuned.

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Learn Your Music Tools With Groove3 – 30 Days Free Full Access

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Here at ANR we enjoy covering new software and hardware tools, but what about mastering the ones we have? Modern DAWs, for instance, are incredibly powerful, but many of their features are often underutilized (if not totally unknown).
True, there’s many free resources available here and there, but when it comes to music making and learning production techniques, having the help of industry professionals is often invaluable.

That’s why we’re happy to announce a partnership with Groove3.com, a premier online Pro Audio tutorial provider, offering high-quality videos about today’s DAWs, plug-ins, recording, production, mixing, and mastering techniques.
They feature certified trainers and pros who love to share their knowledge and skills, inspiring you to use your studio tools more efficiently and creatively.
Groove3.com also features the All-Access Web Pass, which gives you instant access to every video on the site, plus any that get added during your membership, starting at a low price of only $ 15.

Run, don’t walk!
Click here to get 30 days of FULL access to Groove3 site (no credit card required to sign up)!

Code: anr30day

The link expires on May 13th, don’t miss this great chance.


Watch These Videos to Learn Use Pd to Make Musical iOS Apps

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

The challenge in making tools, as in making anything else, is really the making. It’s one thing for an idea to exist in your head, another to really get down to construction. And very often great engineering means testing, means building the idea and then refining it. So prototyping is everything.

That could explain the increased passion for hacking. Whereas big development efforts are a morass of meetings, or traditional prototyping could mean elaborate distractions from testing what we really works, “hacks” work to get something usable more quickly. And that means testing the usability of an idea happens faster.

libpd, an embeddable version of Pure Data, is meant to be a tool that works both in a weekend hackathon and in a shipping product. (For some shipping products CDM helped with, check out the mominstruments site — more on these this week and next, in fact!)

And this set of video tutorials by Rafael Hernandez is the best introduction I’ve seen yet to using them. I usually actually hate sitting through video tutorials. But these are clear, concise, and give accurate advice — and they walk you through the latest version of Xcode, which is sometimes otherwise confusing.

I have no doubt you could watch these over a half hour breakfast and build a cool app hack by the end of the day.

If you don’t yet know Pd, he also has a video series on that:

There are some real gems in there, worth a browse even if you’re a Pd user. Pd is a bit deeper, though, so I’m back to also liking to read and not just watch videos — see also the pd-tutorial and flossmanuals as they cover some more sophisticated techniques.

Maybe you’ll get to do some of this hacking with us in person, if you’re in Berlin:

This week seems to be all about hacking. Tomorrow, I join re:publica, one of Europe’s premiere digital media conferences, to talk about hackathons and collaborative development. Then, this weekend, CDM and MeeBlip are supporting MIDI Hack, a weekend of music creation-focused work hosted at Ableton’s headquarters. Those events are not open to the public and MIDI Hack is full, but we’ll certainly bring some reports your way.

Finally, Monday, we join Matt Black, the co-founder of NinjaTune and Coldcut, for a conversation on the future of musical apps and some tools he’s helping bring to the world for free that make tools more collaborative, more creative, and more connected:

Synced Up: A Conversation with Matt Black (NinjaTune, Coldcut)

Matt will be showing not one but two frameworks that use libpd for sync and creative coding / creative development, too. So if you’re in Berlin and didn’t get into MIDI Hack, you can still join us Monday. And, again, since only a tiny fraction of you are here in the capital of Germany, ask questions in comments here and we’ll bring as much as we can online.

Wherever you are in the world, get the coffee brewing and limber up those fingers for soldering and coding. More to come.

Are you using libpd in your apps?

We need help updating the libpd showcase. It’s got some great apps, but we want to add more recent work:


Send a description, one video link, and a couple of stills to us. You can contact us directly.

The post Watch These Videos to Learn Use Pd to Make Musical iOS Apps appeared first on Create Digital Music.


Learn to Use Komplete 10′s Real Gems – Those Great New Reaktor Instruments

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Just because there’s a nice marketing angle doesn’t mean that it has to be the story for you. And that’s been true of NI’s big, splashy product launches. Sure, there’s the epic-looking Traktor Kontrol S8 hardware launched this week — but you tell us you might be just as pleased with a compact controller or an update to the iPad app. And Maschine Studio does wonderful things with its big screens — but the MK2 still has great pads, costs less, and fits in a backpack.

And then there’s Komplete 10. Yes, NI is keen to talk about its light-up series of keyboards, which integrate with the software. But whether you want them or not, what you shouldn’t miss is the superb new Reaktor instruments that come with the bundle.

Rounds is one of the best synths I’ve used recently, full stop. It takes the new analog modeling techniques NI honed elsewhere and launches into new digital domains of effects, modulation, and FM sound generation. No surprise: it comes from Stephan Schmitt, the NI founder who also gave us Reaktor itself. Polyplex is simple but good fun as a drum machine (even if it makes me long even more for a better sample loading facility in Reaktor). And Contour is yet another deep synth.

Matt Cellitti walks through the trio of new Reaktor instruments in a series of tutorial videos, so it’s a great way to get started. Let’s watch.

The post Learn to Use Komplete 10′s Real Gems — Those Great New Reaktor Instruments appeared first on Create Digital Music.


Learn to Jam with Just One Synth Voice: MeeBlip + Ableton Push vs. Gustavo Bravetti [Video]

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Ableton Live and Ableton Push afford new ways of working, allowing you to put loads of parameters beneath your fingertips. Of course, the means of doing that may not be immediately obvious, behind the dance between grid, encoders, and automation envelopes.

Leave it to Montevideo-born, virtuoso dance music maestro Gustavo Bravetti to show us how it’s done.

Gustavo pairs the MeeBlip SE, the enhanced “digital freak” original version of our synth, with Live and Push. To connect the hardware with automation of the external synth, he uses a Max for Live patch for the MeeBlip (which you’re free to download yourself if you own the MeeBlip/MeeBlip SE).

(The MeeBlip is not the first open source synth, as the video might imply, but could be considered the first widely-produced, ready-to-play hardware synth to be under a fully open source hardware license; others were available in kit form.)

The lessons here, though, work in any hardware synth. And you could also apply them to controllers other than Push, if you prefer.

In particular, note some particular tips:

  • The Max for Live device automates sounds on a single voice by associating melodic steps with different sound presets.
  • Preset automation will overwrite live tweaking, so you can tweak variations freely.
  • Built-in morphing in his patch creates still more variations.
  • You can use this as either a live performance tool or an arrangement tool — and even get obsessive with the latter, since it writes automation envelopes into your arrangement.

Check out the MeeBlip SE Remote patch — for your MeeBlip or another synth, if you feel like learning from it.
Meeblip Se Remote 1.0

It’s funny to hear the original MeeBlip again, as I mostly spend time these days with MeeBlip anode, which is now in stock from us and various dealers in America and Europe. (A sale is on now for US$ /EUR€ 129.95.) The original character is still in anode, but the unruly temper is more of the desirable variety, thanks to the new analog filter and streamlined design. (We also abandoned presets, which work better here in software.) And Gustavo promises an anode version soon.

Full description from Gustavo:

The Meeblip Se is an incredible synthesiser with a very interesting and distinctive sound. This sound is produced by (at first sight) a relative simple sound engine… but once you start playing whit its possibilities you realise that this little digital freak with an occasionally fretful temper, has a defined personality capable of a wide range of sonic possibilities.

The Meeblip Se default preset system can store up to 16 presets. To store and recall them, you have to use a combination of buttons and switches. Thinking on use it on my live performances, the Meeblip Se’s default preset’s system seems at first sight to be short-legged, unpractical, and overcomplicated, and in fact… kinda it is!

After creating dozens of very interesting and useful sounds on my Meeblip Se, and realising that most of them was lost in action, I decided to work on an alternative to store, recall and organise my Meeblip Se’s presets. Because I want to use the Meeblip Se on my live shows I also need to be able to recall those presets remotely and/or automatically in any given moment. At last but no least, I want to be able to control all the Meeblip parameters from a most informative surface controller, the Ableton-Akai Push Controller.

Lucky me that all parameters on the Meeblip Se can be controlled with MIDI CCs, the answer was pretty clear, a device in MaxForLive would be able to do all what I need an much more… and that is was bring us here.

Gustavo is an extraordinary producer — proof positive that you can mix hackery with the kind of dance prowess to move festival-sized crowds, all as one artist. (No, he’s not hiring teams of nerds. He’s entirely DIY.) Follow him on Facebook:


And I hope we hear more from him soon.


The post Learn to Jam with Just One Synth Voice: MeeBlip + Ableton Push vs. Gustavo Bravetti [Video] appeared first on Create Digital Music.


In 20 Minutes, with 20 Cables, Learn to Get Started with Modular Synths [Video]

Monday, October 6th, 2014
Photo (CC-BY) @ fr4dd. Music below.

Photo (CC-BY) @ fr4dd. Music below.

Modular aficionados are fond of describing the potential of their boxes full of wires as unlimited, endless. That might well raise the question — where do you actually start?

Schneidersladen, the unofficial headquarters for European lovers of Euroracks hidden away above a grocery store, has an intro course. Don’t watch this expecting stunning sounds — this isn’t about showing off. Instead, get ready for a big basket of bread and butter, the starting points to learn how to actually begin working. From there, you can get as fancy as you like. But the pace is methodical and beginner-friendly.

German, but with English subtitles — and you know that sounds cooler, anyway. (Added motivation. It is, after all, Eurorack, not Englishrack or Amerirack. Though for that, you can always stop by a German market and pick up some McKennedy’s mac ‘n cheese, fake OREO and Chips Ahoy, and marshmallows, for extra American culture.)


20 Kabel .. sounds like this. from Andreas Schneider on Vimeo.


Thomas K. — modular expert at SchneidersLaden — is introducing a mixed eurorack modular system for newbees and/or basic starters here. Explaining all single components nessesary in a classical analogue synth he is showing some first patch possibilities and finally a more complex installation with all modules combined over 20 cables.

Spotted modules:
Doepfer A-100, Tiptop Audio, others…

Find starter kits like this and more advice at Schneidersladen — or your preferred local dealer. (Modular definitely calls for talking to a real person, ideally in a store but at least on the phone!)


And after finding that lovely photo at top, you’ll find some great modular-made music from its creator, drøn:

drøn is an experimental electro / ambient music collaboration.

drøn published three albums on the german electronic label elektrolux (parsec, xenologix and homeworld). the drøn track “rem” was the opener for space night earthviews 7.

drøn was formed by christoph abert, ingo zobel, frederik dahlke in summer 1997.


Self Oscillate by Self Oscillate


The post In 20 Minutes, with 20 Cables, Learn to Get Started with Modular Synths [Video] appeared first on Create Digital Music.


-musicalentropy updates Guitar Gadgets to v1.1.0 with MIDI Learn and Gadgets chaining

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Guitar Gadgets, -musicalentropy’s contribution to the KVR Developer Challenge 2014, has been updated to version 1.1.0. Changes: New: up to 4 pedals can be chained in the same plug-in instance, using t [Read More]

Learn How to Get Your Drum Machine’s Soul Back with Mad Zach, Ableton Live

Thursday, July 17th, 2014
Mad Zach is not giving you a paint-by-numbers Deep House set. He wants you to play and tweak - and he's going to help us learn how to do it. Photo courtesy the artist.

Mad Zach is not giving you a paint-by-numbers Deep House set. He wants you to play and tweak — and he’s going to help us learn how to do it. Photo courtesy the artist.

It’s “the science of being imperfect” — and Mad Zach is one heck of a mad scientist at it.

We all know Ableton Live productions, even sometimes from fairly skilled music makers, can get painfully stuck on the grid. If that’s the disease, Mad Zach has the cure. Armed with Ableton Live and together with releasing a very special, very useful sound pack, this insanely-prolific DJ, producer, writer, and educator has some advice for how to get the soul and groove back in your machines.

CDM teamed up with our friends at Beatport Sounds to work with Zach on an instructional video that goes deeper into the craft of the groove. And I love what Zach has done with the tutorial. If you’re still learning your way around Live, I think you’ll still like it — just follow along the beginner and intermediate tutorials first before you tackle it. At the same time, if you’ve got a bit more production under your belt, it won’t insult your intelligence. I learned something, and I’ve been using Live since 1.0.

Highlights, as we “escape the grid”:
How to use the (oddly underused, misunderstood) Grooves section in Live
Extract an original TR-909 shuffle
Drawing in swing
Recording MIDI controllers

Now, some background:

Zach has been hard at work with Beatport on his Deep House Project, a sound library and construction kit both for live performances and music creation. It couldn’t come at a better time, I think: saying “Deep House” is only marginally more specific than saying “Techno.” It’s like saying “cheeseburger” or “pizza” — quality can vary.

The Deep House Project isn’t just a sound pack, a big box of LEGOs for making a generic toy. It’s a set of instruments, a gig and a half of material with hundreds of loops and analog synths and the like, and it’s designed around controllers so you can tweak everything, modify everything. You get 24-bit samples of the TR-909, Juno 106, Moogerfoogers, and British tube channel strip, drum racks, macros, synth racks, the lot.

In other words, you get a tool set that is tailored to the genre, but once you start twisting knobs and changing patterns and actually playing, you can come up with something that sounds … well, that sounds nothing like Mad Zach, in a good way.

I hope it catches on. The Beatport Sounds section is working with some great producers, but I know my heart sinks a little when I read the top ten list on some days — only because any producer expecting to download some top drops and make a track work is probably in for a rude awakening. And, worse, they’re missing out on half the fun. Now, not every piece of music needs to be experimental; there’s something beautiful about the way styles and genres build communities. But it should be possible to be original inside that genre, and this is that.

It’s that for one good reason: it’s built in a way that invites you to dig in and play. And Zach is one of the most active people on the planet carrying that gospel.

Here’s a look at the pack:

Have a go at that sound pack — it’s a stunningly-good buy:
Mad Zach’s Lab: Deep House

And do check the full tips/tricks/tutorials page with Mad Zach. It’s a tutorial on Deep House, but it’s also an Ableton Live tutorial, and offers insights whether you’re curious about dabbling in this genre or could care less (though it might get you hooked before you’re done watching, fair warning).


We’ll have Q&A with Zach tomorrow on CDM, because I really wanted to know more about his work.

The post Learn How to Get Your Drum Machine’s Soul Back with Mad Zach, Ableton Live appeared first on Create Digital Music.


Learn How Pantha Du Prince Combines Acoustic Instruments with Ableton Live, In C

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Before triggering clips and samples on the computer, Pantha du Prince and The Bell Laboratory “trigger” the musicians.

Yes, before there were machine clips, there were human patterns, and in performing Terry Riley’s legendary classical new music composition “In C,” the ensemble has to do just that. In a beautiful chorus of chiming tones, that orchestra is augmented with digital embellishment.

The result makes for a live performance that expands the role of the computer into a large-scale instrumental ensemble, venturing into territory perhaps not as often associated with Ableton Live as genres like dance music are. But Ableton has lavished attention on electronic composer Pantha Du Prince and his ensemble in a series of videos that amount to a complete documentary on the work and how it was produced.

Pantha du Prince’s music has always shimmered with beautiful sounds, but here, percussion form an otherworldly realm of glittering rhythmic waves.

Ableton’s film begins with the artist side, and in fact less discussion of the gear. (I’ve heard people chattering about that lately, and pleasantly surprised that this isn’t an in-your-face promo video.)

Pantha Du Prince & The bell Laboratory, Centraltheater, Leipzig 2013 © R. Arnold/CT Via the project's Facebook page.

Pantha Du Prince & The bell Laboratory, Centraltheater, Leipzig 2013
© R. Arnold/CT
Via the project’s Facebook page.

But let’s do a bit of gear spotting anyway, just to parse how the setup works. In the “cockpit” of Hendrik’s computer rig arrive feeds from all the instruments for sampling, looping, and effects, plus a couple of contact mics for adding close-miked sounds of hand percussion. These are routed through hardware effects (delay, reverb), and then sampled and looped in Ableton, which is in turn controlled by an APC and MPD hardware controller. The full rig:

Akai APC40
Akai MPD32 pad controller
Moogerfooger FreqBox
KORG Kaoss Pad Pro 3
Eventide Space Reverb
VERMONA PERfourMER mk II analog synth — maybe the most interesting piece of gear in that lineup, actually

But the real stars here are the acoustic instruments. Microphones bring you closer to the delicate sounds, but this is otherwise timbral design in the world of physical sound. I actually had the pleasure of wandering the Drum hall for a few minutes at Musikmesse with Dave Hill, Jr. of iZotope, himself a talented drummer (and Ableton veteran) — thanks for that, Dave. We spent some moments handling cymbals and talking about their design. Coming from the realms of code and electronics, there’s something comforting about discussing the hammering of metal (and at least I’m not entirely inexperienced there, having played in a gamelan ensemble for some years).

It’s actually my favorite video of the set — create acoustic music:

Here’s the music video for “Spectral Split” with The Bell Laboratory:

Pantha du Prince & the Bell Laboratory “Spectral Split” (Official Music Video) from Sandra Trostel on Vimeo.

And the piece Photon:

Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory — Photon from Panta Rhei Project on Vimeo.

And from four years ago, the artist talks to Rough Trade Records whilst touring Teufelsberg, the abandoned US listening installation in Berlin.

Pantha Du Prince Documentary from Rough Trade Records on Vimeo.


The post Learn How Pantha Du Prince Combines Acoustic Instruments with Ableton Live, In C appeared first on Create Digital Music.