Comparing the graphical interface of four different synthesizers

Hello, I am Brandon Fallout from Seattle, WA in the USA. This lesson is for week 6 of Introduction To Music Production at Coursera.org. I will compare the graphical interface of four different synthesizers. Clearly showing where the Oscillator, Filter, Amplifier, Envelope, and LFO sections are. If you missed last weeks post on Delay effects – The flanger and phaser, you can find it here.

 

Saving the best for last?

Welcome back everyone, as some of you know, this is the last week of our Coursera Introduction To Music Production class. It’s been one heck of a class with quite a bit of work due on all our parts. Just wanted to say a finial fair well and present you with this last lesson on synthesizer interfaces. Is this the end you ask? Nay, I say. I may not update this blog weekly like I have been but I will post new content on here as I discover it. If you’re interested, feel free to follow my posts or drop me a note or comment. With out further ado, onto the lesson!

 

 

TAL-NoiseMaker

TAL-NoiseMaker
You can grab yourself a free copy of this great synth by clicking on the image above!

With this synth it’s pretty easy to see where all the main functions are located. Under the blue section in the top middle we have the Oscillators under the OSC1 & OSC2 label. The Filter is  in the red labeled section, center middle. Over in the top right is the green section labeled Master that contains the Amplifier. The Envelope is located in the center right labeled ADSR. Last but not least are the LFO sections, you guessed it, top and center left labeled LFO1 & LFO2.

 

 

Oberheim SEM V

Oberheim SEM V
This is the Oberheim SEM V synth. It’s one of my personal favorites. You can pick up a copy for 50% off by clicking on it’s image.

This synth is also pretty easy to sort out where everything is at. The two Oscillators are under the Synthesizer Expander Module as well as the Filter. They are labeled VCO1, VCO2 & VCF respectively. The Amplifier is under the section labeled Output. The Envelopes are located toward the bottom of the interface just above the keys and the LFO’s are to the very left labeled SUB OSC & LFO2.

 

 

Sawer from Image Line

IL - Sawer
This can be acquired via Image Line’s website. Click image for more details.

Since the above two have been broken down pretty well in terms of location, I’m going to assume you get the idea. I’ll call out areas of the image to look in and you’ll find what the item says will be there.

Oscillators: Bottom Left

Filter: Right in the middle

Amplifier: Top right

Envelopes: Bottom center

LFO: Bottom Right

 

 

Wasp XT from Image Line

Wasp XT
Wasp XT can be picked up from Image Line as well. Click on image for more details.

This last synth is a little different than the rest. It actually brings 3 oscillators to the table as well a way to directly manipulate your envelopes. You’ll need to attach this to a midi controller or midi channel in order to get sound out of it. Not all synths have keyboard parts!

Oscillators: Top right

Filter: Top left

Amplifier: Bottom right

Envelopes: Dead center

LFO: Center Left

 

 

Final thoughts

Well class, it’s been a very interesting 6 weeks. If you’re reading this now, I’m assuming you didn’t give up and kept on keeping on. Good for you, that’s the spirit! Whether you’re taking this class for a hobby or something bigger, the key is to not give up. There are tons of resources out there to help you take it to the next level. You can check out reddit for more information. I am starting up a sub there called r/AllThingsSynthesis. Come check us out and bring your noise to the table.

Above all else, don’t listen to the haters and get your groove on. Thanks for taking the time to read this post, as I said above, this may be the last post for this class but it is not the last for this blog!

Brandon Fallout

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Delay effects – The flanger and phaser

Hello, I am Brandon Fallout from Seattle, WA in the USA. This lesson is for week 5 of Introduction To Music Production at Coursera.org. I will talk about two delay effects, the flanger and the phaser. If you missed last weeks post on Ableton Live 9 – Adding and using a compressor on a track , you can find it here.

 

The Flanger

The flanger is actually the name of an effects unit that produces a flanging effect. This flanging effect is created by mixing two identical audio signals together. One of the signals is delayed a small amount and is gradually changed over time, usually under 20ms of Delay Time. This creates a sweeping comb filter effect.

The comb filter effect consists of peaks and valleys in the resulting frequency spectrum. These peaks and valleys are related to each other in a linear harmonic series. By varying the time delay, they will sweep up and down the frequency spectrum.  This can be controlled via a modulating LFO.

Here are some good examples of the flanging effect in use. Many large bands use this effect for a variety of reasons. One very popular use of a flanger is to get a jet plane noise or that white noise rush that’s ever so popular in Trance music.

Credit for image to soundsonsound.com
This is a flanger circuit. The delay portion of the circuit applies equally to the entirety of the signal it receives.

 

 

The Phaser

What can be said about the flanger in many circumstances can also be said about a phaser. Two of the key differences however, consist of the All-Pass filters and the type of comb filter that it can produce.  It’s also worth noting that phasers typically exclude devices where the all-pass section is a delay line. Those devices would usually fall under the flanger category above.

The part of the signal that is fed into the all-pass filter has it’s amplitude preserved but it’s phase altered.  The amount of change in phase depends on the frequency. Depending on the amount of All-Pass filters, you can affect several different frequency ranges at once. Once the processed signal gets mixed back in with the original signal, the frequencies that are out of phase will cancel each other out. This will create a comb filter.

The comb filter of a phaser, unlike a flanger, tends to have less uniformly-spaced peaks and valleys. The overall amount of these teeth in the signal tend to be smaller as well and less numerous throughout the mix. They also tend to be unevenly spaced and vary depending on the manufacture of the plugin or hardware.

The phaser effect is popularly used with the electric guitar to create otherworldly sounds. You can find a lot of phaser usage in styles such as Reggae, Funk and even 80’s Big Rock.

Credit for image goes to soundsonsound.com
This is a four-stage phaser. It utilizes four all-pass filters to delay different frequencies in the original signal by varying amounts.

 

 

Dry/Wet, feedback and the LFO

By utilizing a feedback function, part of the output signal is routed back into the input. This will produce a resonance effect that can further enhance the intensity of the peaks and valleys in the signal.

The dry/wet setting in your effects unit shifts the output of the signal from output = input at 100% dry to output = fully processed signal at 100% wet and any place in between. For example, a 50/50 mix of dry/wet would mix 50% of the original signal with 50% of the delayed or processed signal.

The LFO for the flanger and phaser works as a modulator. The flanger LFO can modulate the delay to create a sweeping like sensation. The LFO modulator sweeps those notches and peaks up and down the frequency range  by tweaking the All-Pass filters. This can create a spacey whoosh and swirl-like sound.

 

That’s all today kids, thanks for reading!

 

 

Credit goes to wikipedia and soundonsound.com for research and base material.

 

 

Ableton Live 9 – Adding and using a compressor on a track

Hello, I am Brandon Fallout from Seattle, WA in the USA. This lesson is for week 4 of Introduction To Music Production at Coursera.org. I will demonstrate the use of a compressor using a piece of my own music in the Live 9 DAW environment. If you do not have Ableton Live 9 you can download the demo here. If you missed last weeks post on recording how to make submixes in Ableton Live 9, you can find it here.

 

Adding a compressor to a track

In the video below, I’ll show you how to simply add in a generic compressor to your Ableton Live 9 track. It’s really pretty easy but I’ll show it just in case you’re not familiar with Live 9’s layout.

Since my working project for this class doesn’t actually use any live instrument recordings but rather just MIDI data, I have made a copy of my MIDI track and randomized the velocity data for each midi note. This is to emulate a live session where the velocity may be different per note on a real synthesizer. I have already recorded that data to an audio track that we will be putting the compressor on. Here is the video showing how to add a compressor to an audio track. I’ll also play the track so you can hear what it sounds like before I add the compressor.

 

Tweaking settings in the compressor to get the desired effect

As you can see and hear from the above video, some of the notes are a lot louder than the rest. I will set the threshold around the lower parts of the music to try and level out the sound of the track. The key is to use your ear and adjust to what you feel sounds best. I want the compressor to catch it when it goes over the threshold as soon as possible so I will be leaving my Attack at .01 and I will also be setting my Release to Auto which is based off of the incoming audio signal. I will set the ratio to 4:1 as it’s pretty high variance in the sound level. In addition, I will set the knee to help smooth out the transition and adjust the gain to an appropriate level. Last but not least, I will set the Dry/Wet to 100% (Not shown in the below video.) as I don’t want any of the original uncompressed signal coming through. Notice where it says GR in the video? That is visual feedback showing the compressor in action.

While this helped smooth out the level of the sound, it would have been a lot better if I recorded it right in the first place. I know, I know, I messed up the original track intentionally but you get my point. Without further ado, here is the video.

 

Hearing the difference in the mix

For my last trick, I will show you a video with it all mixed together while I add in more tracks and enable/disable the compressor.

I hope you have enjoyed this little adventure and hopefully have learned something. Thanks for reading and enjoy the video!

Brandon Fallout

 

 

 

Ableton Live 9 – How to make submixes

I am Brandon Fallout from Seattle, WA in the USA. This lesson is for week 3 of Introduction To Music Production at Coursera.org. I will be going over creating a submix in the Live 9 DAW environment. If you do not have Ableton Live 9 you can download the demo here. If you missed the last weeks post on recording MIDI and quantization in Ableton Live 9, you can find them here.

Submixes, what’s the big idea?

Submixes are primarily used to simplify the task of mixing a selection of tracks. Additionally, if you have an effect such as a compressor,  you could use it to apply to the submix as a whole instead of each track. This would allow you to save a bit of computational resources when dealing with effects. If you have an aging computer or a lot of VSTi’s, effects, etc., this could really help smooth out your performance. It also gives the added benefit of controlling the one fader for any tracks assigned to that submix!

 

Help, I missed the buss!

As it turns out, Ableton Live 9 doesn’t actually have submix busses in the traditional sense but rather allows you to group track together to achieve the desired effect. Another method of creating a submix is to create an empty audio track, rename it something such as submix or buss and route other tracks to it. I will cover both methods in the videos below. While there are a few other methods for buss emulation, they tend to be a bit different than a submix and are outside the scope of this post.

 

Grouping the Tracks

This is considered easiest method to set up.

  1. Select the first track that you want to be in a submix.
  2. Control click to select other tracks until you have all the ones you want in your selection.
    1. If all of your tracks are already adjacent from one another, you can select the first one and hold shift down and select the last one. This will grab everything from the first track to the last track in the selection.
  3. Right click and select Group Tracks to group them. A new group track will appear with the other tracks assigned to it.
  4. Make sure to rename the group track appropriately.

Here is a video outlining the steps above, plus a bit of showing them in use.

 

Routing tracks to an empty audio track

You can also create a submix by creating a new audio track and routing other tracks to it. Something of importance to note: If you have the live lite edition of the software, using this method will eat into your total number of tracks. If you use the above method however, the submix won’t count against you.

  1. Create a new audio track and rename it to buss, submix or some such.
  2. Enable the I/O routing section.
  3. In the I/O section of each of the tracks to be submixed, change Audio To from ‘Master’ to the submix track created in the first step.
  4. In the I/O section of each of the tracks to be submixed, change Audio To from Master to the submix track created in step 1.
  5. In the I/O section of the submix track, set Audio From to No input and Monitor to In.

Here is a video outlining the steps above plus a bit of showing them in use.

 

Bonus material

A fun fact, the track I demoed in the videos was completely based on last weeks horrible MIDI performance. I used that recorded MIDI data to play everything you heard in the videos. You can check out last weeks MIDI recording train wreck here.

As an added bonus, I will show you how to add an effect or two to a submix and how let you hear the end result.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Brandon Fallout

Arturia & the 50% off Anniversary Sale

Hello all, it looks like Arturia is having a 15-year anniversary sale. That’s right, 50% off on a bunch of their offerings. This also includes their highly sought after V collection 3.0. “This premium suite includes no less than 10 of Arturia’s multi-awarded TAE® 64-bit software instruments : Mini V, Modular V, CS-80V, ARP2600 V, Prophet V & Prophet VS, Jupiter 8-V, as well as the new Oberheim SEM V, Wurlitzer V and Spark Vintage, a comprehensive collection of 30 classic drum machines” or so their website states. Seems like a really good deal for all you get in that package.

 

The Good

As I already own the Arturia Minilab along with the bundled Analog Lab software this seemed like a great fit. Apparently, if you own the softsynths counterparts that you’re playing with in Analog Lab (A.L.), you can fully edit the sounds stored in A.L. for it and save them back into the A.L. interface. Handy for quickly recalling that perfect sound any time you want. Rumor has it that you can also use the softsynths to make your own presets and load those into A.L. as well. What’s not to like about that? Armed with this new information I took the plunge and bought the V Collection 3.0. The purchase process was quick and within minutes I had my registration code and download link. The download finished fairly fast considering the size of the file. Even the install and registration was fairly straight forward. No real issues as of yet.

 

The Bad

Some of the VSTs don’t want to load and crash almost immediately on launch. I feel this is the where I should mention that I’m running a pretty fresh (less than a month old) install of Windows 7 Ultimate x64 on a i7 machine with 32gb of ram and a Seagate momentus XT hybrid drive. In terms of specs, this machine should be able to handle what ever I throw at it. I should also point out that this is a machine is dedicated to music production and is not my gaming / programming rig so it isn’t loaded down with extra software.

Let’s run through the list and see what loads out of the box. I’ll be attempting to use the stand alone application and not a VST loader or DAW.

  1. Mini V – This loads without issue!
    1. 2014-08-02 18_23_14-Mini V
  2. Modular V – This also loads okay.
    1. 2014-08-02 18_24_10-Modular V
  3. CS-80V2 – Nope, loads the GUI and then decides it just can’t handle it and crashes
    1. Windows Event viewer had error 1000 logged with this to say:
      Faulting application name: CS-80V2.exe, version: 0.0.0.0, time stamp: 0x4ff30688
      Faulting module name: CS-80V2.dll, version: 2.5.3.0, time stamp: 0x4ff3027e
      Exception code: 0xc0000005
      Fault offset: 0x00190b67
      Faulting process id: 0xb94
      Faulting application start time: 0x01cfaeb82accbec4
      Faulting application path: C:Program Files (x86)ArturiaCS-80V2CS-80V2.exe
      Faulting module path: C:Program Files (x86)ArturiaCS-80V2CS-80V2.dll
      Report Id: 6aabaad9-1aab-11e4-b667-f04da25fd607
    2. 2014-08-02 18_13_52-CS-80V2 - crash and burn
      CS-80V2 can’t even….
  4. ARP2600 V2 – Looks good.
    1. 2014-08-02 18_31_28-ARP2600 V2
  5. Prophet-V2 – Yay, another one loads!
    1. 2014-08-02 18_33_18-Prophet-V2
  6. Jupiter-8V2 – Nope, can’t even…
    1. Windows Event viewer had error 1000 logged with this to say:
      Faulting application name: Jupiter-8V2.exe, version: 2.5.5.0, time stamp: 0x52247edf
      Faulting module name: Jupiter-8V2.dll, version: 2.5.5.0, time stamp: 0x52247cb9
      Exception code: 0xc0000005
      Fault offset: 0x001c3922
      Faulting process id: 0x1824
      Faulting application start time: 0x01cfaebb2720accf
      Faulting application path: C:Program Files (x86)ArturiaJupiter-8V2Jupiter-8V2.exe
      Faulting module path: C:Program Files (x86)ArturiaJupiter-8V2Jupiter-8V2.dll
      Report Id: 66ce9d1c-1aae-11e4-b667-f04da25fd607
    2. It didn’t even load the GUI. Just failed to launch
  7. Oberheim SEM V – Same deal
    1. Windows Event viewer had error 1000 logged with this to say:
      Faulting application name: Oberheim SEM V.exe, version: 0.0.0.0, time stamp: 0x51b8e158
      Faulting module name: Oberheim SEM V.vst3, version: 0.0.0.0, time stamp: 0x51b8e0ca
      Exception code: 0xc0000005
      Fault offset: 0x00040ce1
      Faulting process id: 0xe1c
      Faulting application start time: 0x01cfaebb75825e0e
      Faulting application path: C:Program Files (x86)ArturiaOberheim SEM VOberheim SEM V.exe
      Faulting module path: C:ProgramDataArturiaOberheim SEM VOberheim SEM V.vst3
      Report Id: b44bde73-1aae-11e4-b667-f04da25fd607
    2. No GUI in this one ether
  8. Wurlitzer V – More of the same
    1. Windows Event viewer had error 1000 logged with this to say:
      Faulting application name: Wurlitzer V.exe, version: 0.0.0.0, time stamp: 0x51b8d3cc
      Faulting module name: Wurlitzer V.vst3, version: 0.0.0.0, time stamp: 0x51b8d388
      Exception code: 0xc0000005
      Fault offset: 0x000240b1
      Faulting process id: 0x1b48
      Faulting application start time: 0x01cfaebb9eb8beb9
      Faulting application path: C:Program Files (x86)ArturiaWurlitzer VWurlitzer V.exe
      Faulting module path: C:ProgramDataArturiaWurlitzer VWurlitzer V.vst3
      Report Id: dd65dd14-1aae-11e4-b667-f04da25fd607
    2. Still no GUI
  9. Spark Vintage Drum Machines – Last but not least, it loads
    1. 2014-08-02 18_40_43-Spark Vintage Drum Machines
      Oooo Shiny
  10. Analog Laboratory – IT’S ALIVE!!!, yeah this one looks like it loads too…
    1. 2014-08-02 18_46_07-Analog Laboratory
  11. Analog Lab – Strange, it’s loading today but didn’t work yesterday.
    1. I already had a copy of this installed when I got the V Collection and when I installed that, it simply overwrote the original install. Still don’t know why it refused to load yesterday but works fine today. I had rebooted several times and still had the same issue.
    2. This is not to be confused with Analog Laboratory. They are actually different products.
      This is not to be confused with Analog Laboratory. They are actually different products.

 

The Ugly

So that’s 6.5 out of 11 that work out of the box. I’m only counting A.L. as .5 since it’s been unstable and prone to crashing on load. To put that in perspective, only about 60% of the products in the V Collection actually ran without issue after the install. That’s a pretty bad rate of success given the nature of the product. If this is a sign of things to come, I don’t see how I could rely on these for any sort of live performance. Needless to say, it’s been a very underwhelming experience so far.

Please keep in mind that this is my experience with the product and is not necessarily going to apply to you. I have done a bit of research on these issues and there are quite a few forums with users lamenting over similar problems. As with everything in this world, Y.M.M.V.

 

The Fixes

First thing on the agenda is to update your eLicenser DRM software. (If you’re unfamiliar with the term DRM and how it can affect you, see this.) The eLicenser is what handles your licensing for Arturia products among others. Once that’s installed, you can update the eLC with the licenses from  your account page under the section titled My Registered Products.

  • CS-80V2 – Now Working
    • No idea why, it just started working on it’s own.
  • Jupiter-8V2 – Now Working
    • Checked an I already have the latest version installed. 2.5.5.0
    • I was able to get it to run using the windows 7 compatibility wizard but couldn’t get the A.L. Minilab keyboard to work with it.
    • I didn’t save the changes to compatibility mode and, for grins, tried to run in on it’s own without the compatibility mode enabled. What do you know, the freaking thing loads and my midi keyboard works just fine.
    • 2014-08-03 16_31_11-Jupiter-8V2
      Finally, it loads all on it’s own. Guess it just needed to run once in compatibility mode. I have closed it and reopened it several times without issue.
  • Oberheim SEM V – Now Working
    •  Version I had installed wasn’t listed so I ran the update from here
    • 2014-08-03 17_05_06-Oberheim SEM V - crash and burn
      Progress of sorts. It’s at least loading the GUI before crashing this time.
    • 2014-08-03 17_11_41-Oberheim SEM V
      Was able to get this running via the same method as the Jupiter 8V2. Just test ran in compatibility mode (right click on the icon an select the Troubleshoot Compatibility), setup my sound and midi settings and then closed it. Checked that it wasn’t in any compatibility mode and reran it. Launches without issue now.
  • Wurlitzer V – Now Working
    • 2014-08-03 17_25_30-Wurlitzer V
      Simply opened up the properties of the shortcut to the VST and checked the compatibility mode for windows xp sp 3. Hit apply, it came up and I set my sound and midi preferences and closed the app. It’s important to note that once that’s done, it’s safe to turn off the compatibility mode for that app. In my case, if i leave it in that mode, my midi keyboard won’t work. Runs fine now.

       

The DAW

I was able to load them all into Ableton Live 9 after a fashion. Live had crashed to the desktop on adding in the third VST. I was able to recover the project however and finished adding the rest of them in. Aside from that one crash, everything seems to be operating like normal.

2014-08-03 18_07_59-Untitled_ - Ableton Live 9 Lite

 

The Verdict

While I did manage to get all of them working after a fashion, I’m still very hesitant to use them in any live performance setting. I was able to spend some time with the Oberheim Sem V and while it was a lot of fun to mess around with the arpeggiator, there were several instants where notes got stuck. Even hitting the panic button didn’t stop it. I had to actually close the application and relaunch it to get things to work again.

All in all, these softsynths sound great and are a blast to play with, if and when they work. If you can handle the stability issues and are computer savvy enough to work through them, the price can’t be beat for what you get. On the other hand, if stability is a must or need it to work right the first time, look elsewhere.

 

Thanks for reading, hopefully this helps a few of you out there.

Brandon Fallout