Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
 

Tags: Kickin It Old School


July 18, 2016

Four Chords The Hard Way: Tech Talk No. 003...

by Chris Randall
 



Step 1: Plan out a cool video. Buy gear from eBay to shoot video about. Gear arrives broken.

Step 2: Plan out another cool video to replace it. Buy gear to shoot video about. Idea turns out to be stupid and not-working, and not in a cool way but in a stupid and not-working way.

Step 3: Look around office for _anything_ to shoot a video about. Shoot video about that.

 
September 30, 2015

Twitching...

by Chris Randall
 

This article on Engadget caught my eye this morning. The tl;dr version: Deadmau5 is streaming his studio work (and gaming, I guess) on Twitch.

Now, everyone reading this is no doubt familiar with my love of process, and while I don't particularly care about Mr. Zimmerman's process in particular, I like the general idea of sharing your work while you do it. I'm a visual thinker, and I get way more out of watching someone do something than reading an article or instruction manual. The vast majority of my learning comes from watching process videos and talks on YouTube. In point of fact, my favorite YouTube channels are Jimmy Diresta and I Like To Make Stuff, both of which are (while not music related, even a tiny bit) 100% about process.

I don't have any particular problem with people watching me work; in point of fact, the results are generally better because of the audience. (As long as I'm not doing vocals. That's a different story.) My questions about this idea is thus: is this something other people find interesting? I mean, would you sit on your couch for an hour and watch someone patch a Euro system or program beats on Twitch or YouTube Live? I personally don't generally watch music production process videos, because they are (and I am in no way tooting my own horn here; just stating a fact) usually put up by people that are far less experienced than I in electronic music production.

It wouldn't be that much trouble for me to pull this off. I have a commercial broadband connection here you can drive a truck through, and the technical knowledge to provide pretty good video and audio streams. However, I honestly have no idea if it's something you guys would be interested in, and thus worth the trouble.

(It would, however, be an excellent impetus to keep my office clean.)

 
May 4, 2015

Explorations...

by Chris Randall
 



For reasons passing understanding, I've decided I'm going to do my next release 100% Euro. So in my munificent free time the last couple weeks, I've been trying out different workflows to make that experience relatively painless, and by that, I mean that I'm looking in to ways that the context doesn't get in my way. My normal course of action would be to do everything in individual passes, and edit/mix/arrange in the DAW, with additional production being done digitally.

For this release, I'm hoping to avoid that and do entire songs in one pass. So I went through the trouble of assembling a Eurorack instrument-unto-itself; I'm still fooling a bit with the exact layout, but I pretty much have it down right now to something I can make complete tracks with. It's a 12U Monorocket case with a pair of Sequencer 1s and an obvious collection of modules. Taken as a single collective instrument, it needs to be learned and mastered. Which is what I'm doing right now.

The video above shows where I am in the process. This is by no means a musical statement, but rather just a recording of me exploring some different methodologies for performing with this thing, and learning what it is capable of. You'll note the thing I'm fiddling with off to the side, which is a Boss RRV-10 that I circuit-bent some years ago. It has made appearances in many of my videos, but it never occurred to me to "play" it in real time. So I'm experimenting with that here. The monome is hooked up to the Earthsea module, and I'm just using it to play the little melody that is running in to the RRV-10.

So, it's coming along. I think I'm getting close to being ready to patch some music in to life. I will be recording these tracks "stemmed" (in a manner of speaking) direct to 8-track tape, where they'll be mixed to my MTR-11 1/4" deck. I will _try_ to make a video of each performance, but I'm not making any promises there. Stopping a good creative flow to set up the camera, and deal with all that nonsense, is kind of a drag.

For an earlier snapshot of the current journey, you can have a listen to this (no video, sorry.) Unlike the above song, I made this before I made the decision to not multi-take things, so it is actually 4 passes, rather than one.


 
February 15, 2015

Eurorack Drums For Maschine...

by Chris Randall
 



In my explorations the last couple days, I accidentally a couple kits of more-or-less traditional drum machine sounds for Maschine (software 2.1.2 or later) with my Euro stuff. Since I'm reasonably convinced this is the sort of thing that is of interest to the above-average AI reader, here they are. (4.3mb zip file.) It is a pair of kits with 15 samples each; I've utilized pad 16 in both kits for the Maschine plate reverb.

These can, of course, be utilized in any sample playback device; there are a pair of folders in the zip containing the raw samples. They will not have the benefit of the (generally mild) production in the Maschine software, as I didn't bake the effects or EQ or anything.

Enjoy!

 
March 7, 2014

My Current Toolset...

by Chris Randall
 



Hey, hey, it's time for WORKFLOW talk! One thing that has been happening to me with alarming frequency lately (due in no small part to dipping my toe in the torpid waters of academia) is that Dude makes a declarative statement about Gear in the context of Task, then says "what do you use for Task?"

Now, I often point out that my way for Task, and the Gear I choose to accomplish it, is in no way the right way, or even the best way. It's my way. Sub-conversation: tools are just that, tools. You don't look at a beautiful house and say "gee, I wonder what hammers the carpenters used?" Same thing here. While it's nice to learn new techniques and move your craft forward, at the end of the day, figuring out a way to accomplish Task without knowing how Dude did it is far more satisfying than aping his technique. To that end, knowing how to produce is far more useful than knowing what to use to produce.

Anyhow, as a merciful return to the subject, it was recently pointed out to me (and the which is something I knew, but hadn't vocalised before) that when I'm doing an album project, I pick a palette of sound sources and tools, and use pretty much only that to create the end product, not straying from it too far. This conversation was started by way of inquiring what palette I had chosen for the album I'm working on now. It was further intimated that perhaps I could write this down as a conversation starter. Since this album is far more "produced" than my last few, and the first album to which I've applied significant production in some years, I agreed it merited some talk. Anyhow...

DAW: I'm actually splitting duties almost equally on this album between Ableton Live 9 and Bitwig Studio. The WORKFLOW is nearly identical in both DAWs, so it's not much trouble to flip back and forth between the two. There are things that Live does that Bitwig sucks at (M4L being chief among these, plus far more control over MIDI sync) and things that Bitwig does that Live sucks at (hosting 32-bit plug-ins and 64-bit plug-ins side by side, a much better arrange view), and I like keeping my brain nimble. I've mixed all the Live-based tracks and have moved on to the Bitwig-based ones. We'll see how things shake out.

Synths: For this project, I find myself using Monark for bass almost exclusively. I'll go out on a limb and say this is the best 3-osc subtractive mono-synth plug-in made currently. I wish it was a real plug-in and not Reaktor-hosted, but that's not a big deal. Most of the pads and FM-ish tones are coming from the DK Synergy II+. Bleeples and blorps are from the Euro, the Analog Four and Aalto. I just acquired a Novation Ultranova the other day, and it may make an appearance. A surprisingly handy little synth.

Drums: Here's where things get interesting. 99% of the rhythmic information on this album is location recording or real-time recording, to cassette or Nagra loops. I'll put up a detailed explanation of how I did this once the album is released, but I'm using a lot of ambient "open-mic" noise as rhythmic source material. This is very satisfying. Every track on this album has 10 to 20 tracks of ambient noise from tape loops that are gated, sliced, diced, Beat Tweaked™ (©2014 BT, All Rights Reserved), or otherwise coerced in to being drum-like. I'll put up a more detailed post of what I did once the record is released, but this is the unique aspect of this album and I'm fairly proud of what I came up with and how I pulled it off.

Effects Plug-Ins: I have, via either purchase or NFR trade, pretty much every native plug-in ever made. There's a strong temptation to go buck wild with the plugs, and thus, for this project, I made a separate plug-in folder, and only put the stuff in it that I'm "allowed" to use (circumstances permitting.) As a result, the only effects I'm using here are the Audio Damage plug-in suite (duh), Valhalla Vintage Verb (along with Eos, the main send 'verb on all tracks), Ozone 5 Advanced, DMG Compassion, and Trash 2. I am, aside from Rough Rider Pro, using the built-in compressors and EQ in Live and Bitwig exclusively.

Anyhow, that's my palette for this project, in its entirety. I personally find using everything to lead to non-finished tracks, which is why I do this sort of thing. Do you guys, when you're committing to a full project, similarly limit yourselves? Or do you just use everything you have all the time?
 

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