Thursday, November 30, 2006

MAKE: Blog: 6-pack - Arduino-based controller for live audio/video performances


.:MAKE: Blog: 6-pack - Arduino-based controller for live audio/video performances:.

I found this little controller device over at the makezine blog. It is a kit and design instructions for a DIY controller that can be used for either audio or video performance.

"6-pack is an open-ended, highly customizable, and ultra-portable physical controller based on the Arduino board. 6-pack is an Arduino shield consisting of 6 linear potentiometer sliders that can be assigned to different variables in the user's preferred software. It can be used to control a wide array of audio/video applications, from software synthesizers to HDJ systems. All, with a minimal footprint (3,5" x 2,5") and on the cheap (just a fraction of the cost of an equivalent MIDI interface). The project is open source. Schematics and source code included."

I honestly have no idea what that all means but seems like a fun project for the DIY'ers out there.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Quick Tip: Add yourself to


If you are looking for a quick and simple little way to increase promotion for yourself then head over to to create an account that catalogs your releases and artist bio.

For those who don't know Discogs is a user created database for music that helps to catalog artists, music, labels and more and cross reference all of the information for indexing and searching. I like to think of it as the Wikipedia for music. While you are there, be sure to to try to add information for other artists that you might know or like who are missing information


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Nice tutorial on sound synthesis @


Stumbled across this tutorial on the basics of sound synthesis while helping a n00b friend of mine lock in the fundamentals of making electronic music. Quite handy for those of you who missed the first day of class, or just need a quick readthrough to refresh one's memory. Subjects covered include the nature of sound, different waveforms, and what some of that pretentious synth lingo means.

For those who are above that level, there's a good one on compression techniques, too.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Gauss Control: Liveset September 2006


Well I hope everyone had a fantastic thanksgiving. I know I did.

Lets get out Holiday season kicked off with a nice housey liveset recording from Gauss Control that was recorded sometime back in September.

.:Gauss Control Live:.

Tracklisting and more information can be found via


Monday, November 20, 2006

Absolutely Essential


Is it really essential that you "GET SIGNED" by a label?

Personally I don't think so. Let's face it, we live in the age of individual empowerment. The old adage is coming true where we're all getting our 15 minutes (C'mon, make a funny video and post to YouTube and you'll blow up like crazy). Some guy with a camera phone can have his clip be more popular than something made with a budget 10000000x higher than that (especially if it's a tazer video, man those things are hilarious)!

Think of the plusses and minuses of getting signed. They'll help a great deal with contacts and promotion, but also take a huge cut of any money brought in through sales (last offer I was made was 8% of 90% of sales, which is actually pretty good, however we just couldn't work out the details so negotiations stalled). A decent deal will probably get you around $1-1.50 per CD sold (at about $15-20 per CD). Meanwhile if you do it yourself you set the price wherever you want it and anything after the pressing cost is in your pocket directly. Also a lot of getting signed is compromising. You won't be their only act, probably not even top 10 on their list of acts to promote unless you're really well established.

What is for sure though, is that if you decide to do it independently you'll need to be serious about promoting yourself and give yourself the best opportunities you can. I'd seriously and strongly suggest you get The Indie Bible. It is hands-down the best book out there full of contacts that are willing to deal with independent artists, from radio stations to webcasts to magazine reviewers to websites that host music, etc etc etc.

Whether you decide to go with a hunt for a label to fit with you and your project, or do everything independently, be realistic about your goals with your music project. Set a plan up for yourself with goals! Find ways to attain those goals. It's the best way to work - setting daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and five-year goals is the best way to run your hobby/project like an honest business.

.:Digital Geist Online:.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Something to Think About


To buy or not to buy? With a studio-grade workstation computer, you might notice that prices of duo- and quadcore processor computers are dropping recently. Well, not for Macs, but Windows PC users might have noticed. If you are like me, you've had your eyes them.... I've planned on upgrading to a Mac Pro over the last few months. Well news has been coming out that a new Octocore processor will soon be available for Apple's Mac Pro line. Click here for an article. Right now, for producing music, a decent quadcore processor with around 2gb of RAM should be sufficient for most situations. If you really want to turn it into a workhorse, 4GB will make your machine unstoppable.

I'm a Cubase user, and over on their forums I came across a great conversation regarding the max amount of RAM that an application can access. That's something to think about as well when considering the expense of high-end workstations. Unless you do serious video/rendering work, getting an insane amount of RAM won't really impact performance....but of course, how many of us can really afford to have too much RAM?

.:Digital Geist Online:.


Cheap Plug


Digital Geist Online

I'm taking a moment to plug myself here, this album has been not only a huge investment of time, work and money but also the culmination of over a year's worth of work. For $10, you really can't beat it.

Digital Geist - The Zero Engine
Samples of the music on
$10US, shipping included.
First 50 orders receive a free bumper sticker!

1. Earworm (No Light Guides Us)
2. Phase I
3. Phase II
4. Someone Like Me
5. Mutually Assured Distortion
6. Red Techno
7. Circuit Crusher
8. Keep the Faith (featuring Christian K of Dharma Lab)
9. Segway
10. Someone Like Me (Front 242 Remix)
11. Red Techno (Neotek Remix)
12. Circuit Crusher (Timid Remix)

Also included in the CD is a link to a stockpile of extras including another Front 242 remix, unreleased tracks, rarities and more!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Choosing a Laptop for LivePA


Laptops these days have emerged to become the predominant weapon of choice for most livePA artists because of the relative flexibility over hardware and the general ease of setup for performing. It is hard to argue against a single piece of gear that is smaller and can do more sounds then the traditional hardware setup. With that in mind I think it is important to outline some considerations that new LivePA artists should consider when purchasing a laptop for LivePA.

1. Cheap meat is not good and good meat is not cheap
Choosing the right laptop for your setup can be a fairly complex process depending on the type of person you are and the work that you plan on doing with your laptop. As a general rule of thumb I have two broad concepts that I think should be applied to the purchase of a laptop.

The first concept is that you get what you pay for. The butcher down the street from me has a great sign in her butcher shop that states; “Cheap meat is not good and good meat is not cheap.” I think this message really applies to this particular case.

There are generally a few computer companies that are regarded as producing high quality laptops. Sony, Toshiba, Apple and Acer consistently get very high reviews on their laptop build qualities and often times feature better design, components and case structure then cheaper counterparts.

These higher end laptops oftentimes have better hardware features that are important for a live performance laptop. Most important of these features are probably more input/output options, firewire 800, dedicated video memory and pcmcia slots.

It is my opinion to generally stay away from most budget laptops from companies like Dell or HP. Now that does not mean that these companies do not make good laptops, but I am suggesting that the $400 budget laptop is not going to get you as far as a better laptop might. That $400 cost is often times subsided by the pre-installation of all sorts of demo software and poor customer support from the manufacturer.

On the flip side I am not saying that you need to spend $3,000 on a laptop. Computer technology improves at an amazing rate. Today's consumer line Apple Macbooks are actually more powerful then the Pro line Apple Powerbooks of just over a year ago. From this you can get an extremely powerful laptop for approximately $1,500.

2. Memory: As much as you can afford
When you are shopping for your laptop you need to keep in mind that you will be doing some pretty intensive computing tasks on your computer. Memory, Harddrive space and video are going to be issues that you need to think about. I would suggest trying to get the maximum amount of memory and hard drive space that your person budget can afford. Most laptops these days can support up to 2GB of RAM memory. If you spend anything at all on your laptop, try to max out your RAM because it is RAM that is generally in use during a performance with your samples and software plugins.

I personally suggest never purchasing memory from the hardware manufacturer because they mark up the price considerably. Instead look at a site like where you can purchase laptop memory for nearly half the price of what most manufacturers charge.

The hard drive is issue that many laptop musicians disagree on. Some prefer to use an external hard drive for the storage of their information while others simply use the internal hard drive. When you are getting a hard drive try to make sure that the hard drive is 7200 rpm. This higher speed hard drive will ensure that your computer can stream that audio information fast enough for your live performance set.

Those artists who purchase an external generally do so with two justifications. First, you often have more flexibility in purchasing the hard drive size that you want and can also take the hard drive to work on different computer workstations. Second the external harddrives are presumed to be much more durable then the internal laptop computers.

3. You will need to purchase a soundcard
I include sound card in this analysis generally have very poor built in soundcards and also feature only 1/8” outputs. So the purchase of a laptop for performance almost inevitably will feature the purchase of a sound card. The purchase of the sound card is largely up to you as the user, but keep this in mind. As I mentioned in the first point of this article, spending a little but more on a laptop will often get you some more important features. These features can include something important such as Firewire 800 or a PCIMA slot. Having features such as these will allow you with greater flexibility in the long run when choosing a sound card for your performance.

4. Operating System
Now this is not meant to be a debate on which OS is better. Whatever operating system you choose is ultimately your choice, but there are some issues to consider regarding the operating system.

Most of the popular software platforms that are used in live performance such as Ableton Live, Reason and MAX/MSP run on both Windows and OSX, and for the most part they run exactly the same in each environment. That being said however, there are other tools out there that are perfectly capable for live use that exist for only one operating system. .:Impromptu:., .:Devine Machine:. , and .:Brainspwn Forte:. are prime examples.

The one big issue that you as a performer should be aware of at this point in time regarding operating systems is that the new version of Windows, Windows Vista is going to be released within the next six months. This new operating system is a major change in the Windows operating world and the release of this new operating system could present major issues or problems to the computer in regards to stability, longevity and features. Be aware that many of the computers

5. Keep it to LivePA
This last point is just summation point that I think people need to consider. The laptop for your LivePA should should be reserved for just LivePA. You should not be writing your papers on it, doing your taxes or storing your photo library. It is this author's opinion that there should be your operating system, your tools and that is about it on this system. When you are performing there is nothing more important then the stability of the computer that is on stage with you. Purchase your software and don't use warez. Don't surf the Internet and open yourself up to risks with this laptop. The worst possible thing that could possibly happen is your laptop crashing on stage leaving you in silence.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Article: MP3s Are Not The Devil-- Orson Scott Card gives the straight shit on copyrights vs. the MP3 tidal wave.


This article by author Orson Scott Card, originally published in a North Carolina print newspaper three years ago, takes a scathing and critical look at an issue that affects not just electronica musicians, but musicians in general across the country, and will continue to for some years: the music industry's knee-jerk whining, spearheaded by yapping has-beens like Metallica and other corporate puppets, about people "stealing" music on the internet. While slightly outdated, Card's main points remain relevant, and emphasize the real issue at hand-- the fact that every time new recording media technology emerges, the old status quo convulses in violently greedy spasms over the idea that someone, somewhere, might have just made them obsolete.

It also raises a few very worthwhile arguments, such as the idea that the record industry's norm of forcing artists to sign away the rights to their work is immoral to begin with, which leads to poignant questions such as "can these people really say that artists are being hurt by online file sharing when the industry itself, when functioning in the traditional way championed by organisations like the RIAA, exploits them without mercy?" It also examines the backward reasoning of those "profit loss" estimates we all hear about, the unequal relationship between heavy handed punishments and the actual severity of the crime of copyright infringement as it relates to online music sharing, the idea that online file sharing could actually be GOOD for the industry, and the idea that the people who are doing it most (high school and college aged youth) are the traditionally targeted age group of the Pop Music Machine, and also the demographic with the least money.

Give it a read, dammit, and see how things really break down.


Less is SOOO much more


One thing that amazes me when I see Live-PA artists that are just starting out is the variance in gear. Yeah it's amazing to see somebody that knows what they're doing use $10,000 worth of equipment with miles of cabling and power supplies everywhere, effect units up the arse and a full-blown orchestra of analog and digital whatnots; but you have only two hands and two legs. The point is to keep it live, I understand, but don't go overboard especially for your first few gigs. To use the old saying, practice the "K.I.S.S." method: KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!

I learned this myself the hard way. After a few amazing shows I decided to add a 16-channel mixer and bring a synth, effect unit (in a big rack) and MIDI controller (M-Audio Axiom 25). The result? Loads more setup/takedown time, a botched set spent worrying if I'm using this or that enough, the impossibility of mixing it all with my partner's stuff and keeping it even, and in short just a big FUBAR episode. Sure, I could give a gearhead a techno boner when I showed them my Virus TI in the rack, but without an hour to soundcheck everything properly it was a headache (not to mention worrying about that expensive equipment during the rest of the night).

This picture was taken on 10/28/06:

Take a close look. One instrument, two outputs. (If you include my buddy Quailman, that's two instruments, four outputs) Of course nobody's gear needs are the same, but we sounded essentially the same as if I had brought all the instruments in my studio with me. I took my time and found ways to simplify the live set.

What I'm getting at is this: Ask yourself when you're getting ready what you need. You'll thank yourself later on after a quick load in/load out, stress free setup and easy set. You are performing but you need to keep things moving quickly for the poor promoter that was nice enough to put you on the bill. Look at the sound tech's face when you tell him you're only sending him a left and right output instead of 16 individual sends....he'll practically get on his knees and thank you! Not to mention the DJs at the tables have a job to do and it's distracting to have somebody running around them when it's their time. ;)

Also another piece of good advice is to make a checklist of everything you need along with a schedule of what you're doing. Know how long it will take to you set up and take down, and have an extra cable lying around in case you have a problem. Sounds easy, right?


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Video: The History of the Amen Break


This is a short video by a clever bloke named Nick Harrison. It covers, from a few select perspectives, the history of the Amen breakbeat-- for those in the back, that's the single drumloop from which DnB seemed to spring, that one you hear fucking everywhere. It's by no means authoritative or comprehensive, but it covers a lot of issues, particularly historical events surrounding the growth of electronica into its current place in our culture, and the issue of sampling vs. copyright. It's an interesting couple of minutes. If you've seen it before, watch it again anyways.

After poking about his site a bit more, I found another for the TB303 that is worth a watch too.