Going Straight: Week 3 – The Dream and the Fulfilment

Balham, a little while before the turn of The Millenium.

This was the first time I had moved out of home and my life is a haze of Northern Lights and Squishy Black. Doves, Mitzubishi and Red Bulls cost 15 quid a pop, I go clubbing at Heaven, Tennents Super actually tastes nice and “music is my life man!” The music I am obsessing over is The Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Nine Inch Nails and I’ve Just heard Aphex Twin’s Come To Daddy for the first time. My band mates have all buggered off to Uni and I can’t be arsed to find new ones so it is at this point I think Dance Music is the way forward. Guitar and Peavy amp mothballed in Ma n Pa’s attic, I trundle into the nearest WH Smiths and pick up the latest Music Tech Magazine (or it might have been Future Music.. not sure).

Adorning the front in glorious red and blue are KORG’s EA-1 and ER-1 Electribes. I fall in love with the look before I even know what they do, the CD given away with the mag has some samples and they sound just so.. so good! This surely is the heart, the squeal and chainsaw buzz of the music I love! (at this point I had no idea what a 303 was).

I then read the price tag: £350. So not gonna happen. I only just maxed out my first credit card on an N64 and Turok two years ago and really can’t do that again.

Upon further investigation it looks like you also kinda need a PC to do all this Dance Music malarkey and I don’t have one of them either. So I buy the mags for a while, read the articles and looks at all the pretty pictures (keep hold of the cover discs just in case, for later) but slowly the plan dies and I get distracted. The glowing and flashing KORGs get forgotten.

Fast forward a decade, three kids, a wife, a mortgage and a beer gut or so and we find ourselves on eBay again staring at this blue thing with buttons on it. And a wheel. And some pads that look suspiciously like they may glow in the dark… a quick internet search later and my heart leaps! Flashback!

This is the lead/acid synth I was looking for!

There are a steady flow of these going throught eBay it seems and they tend to be on Buy It Now for about £150. Some patience however can (as ever) reap dividends. After a fortnight of looking I found one on a 99p start that ended on a Tuesday morning(!?!) and snapped it up for 70 quid. 70 quid!!

It’s pretty knackered to be honest, scratched and dented to fuckery and some of the pots are a bits sticky but by God does it sound special. My first two hours were spent just playing with the cut off and res on all the pre-sets grining stupidly to myself. “Lookameee! Josh Winks!”

I’m just waiting for the wife and kids (and maybe neighbours) to all be out so I can run it through my Boss ‘Metal Zone’ distortion pedal. Hehehe, hehehehheeee.

NEXT WEEK: Second Hand Software.

Going Straight: Week 2 – The Plan and The Purchase

..and so it was that having decided to rid myself and my HDD of this illegal filth I thought I’d get all James May on the task and try and go about replacing all my bits and bobs in a sensible, logical and cost effective manner.

As discussed briefly before, it looked like Reaper is going to be the way forward as far as a DAW was concerned and to that end I have set aside some PayPal balance for it to be purchased later this month after my 30 trial runs out.

I though the best way to organise my shopping list was to look at my most commonly used bits of kits and find specific replacements. I’ve been flogging stuff on eBay over the last month and had gotten together a bit under 300 quid so had a half decent budget I reckoned.

While I have nothing against freeware I had my heart set on owning a couple of ‘big brand’ bits if I could and so it was back onto eBay and checking out what second hand stuff their might be. Turns out there’s a steady flow of it if you are patient. Of course they joy of ‘second hand’ software is that (barring scratched discs and registration problems) there is nothing second hand about it! As long as you are happy with a slightly battered box (fnarr) then there really is no point in buying it brand new… is there?

I was also in a mind to buy some of the stuff from the people I had previously not given any money to. If you know what I mean. The whole ‘try before you buy’ ethos perhaps actually ringing true.

With this in mind I started my search for the first thing on my list:

Primary lead/acid and bass syth.

I have used Rob Papen’s Albino 2 and 3 on probably every track I have ever made. Simple layout, obvious controls, easy to learn and the best arpeggiator I have ever used.

Sadly there was no second hand Albino software that I found and brand new it costs a hundred quid or more and I didn’t want to spend that. What I did find on my search was an LE edition of Blue! I had tried Blue a while back and I didn’t remember it being particularly ‘lead synth’ material but that it had some great pads and really intricate and delicate stuff on it. It’s an FM synth and so not directly comparable to Albino but I like Papen’s stuff so well worth a punt at £35 (+ £6 p&p….).

Anyway having used Albino, SubBoomBass and the awesomely evil Predator for a while nowI though maybe I owed him some of my 300 squid!

 

So first purchased made: Rob Pappen’s Blue LE.

The LE edition looks pretty much like this but has fewer presets and also fewer editable parameters.

 

NEXT WEEK: Primary Lead Synth yearnings still not utterly sated.. Hardware!!

 

Learn To Live Vol 2: There’s More Than One Way To Rack

It’s Tutorial Thursday here on fwonk.com. Once again, I’m going to talk a bit about Ableton Live; specifically, this week’s set of tutorials is about Racks.

Ableton added the Rack concept in Live version 6, and then added the Drum Rack feature in version 7. They are, in my opinion, one of Live’s most powerful features. In the videos below I’m going to explore the basic usage of each of the three Rack types:

Drum Racks:

FX Racks: (with a quick discussion of the difference between serial processing and parallel processing):

and finally, Instrument Racks (wherein I discuss how to construct a big polysynth sound using only simplers and simple sawtooth waves):

There’s a lot more to discuss regarding Racks, so I will definitely come back to this topic in the upcoming weeks.

Other topics in the queue for Tutorial Thursday:
-the 100% legal way to get permission to post a cover version of a song online
-film scoring in Ableton Live (with some discussion of the music concepts used in developing a film score)

Let us know what you think!
Clint (Bachelor Machines)

P.S. What else would you like to know about?

Going Straight: Week 1 – Intervention

So stealing is easy and 99% of my three thousand pound studio is warez.

Last week this was true, this week it is not.

Gone is the (nearly) entire Native Instruments back catalogue, gone is Fabfilters entire range, gone is the lovely, lovely ‘Vintage Warmer 2’, gone is CamelPhat and CamelSpace and gone too is Sonnox’s powerful ‘Inflater’.

Perhaps most importantly though, gone is Ableton Live, the DAW I have been using exclusively for the last three or four years.

It’s probably worth me pointing out at this point that this isn’t a moral crusade that I’m trying to push. I’m not telling you WAREZ IS EVIL, purely that for me, I’m wanting to leave it behind. The main reason being that my kids are getting older and I’m thinking at some point they are gonna ask me where all this fun stuff on the PC comes from and I like to be able to tell them that I worked hard and saved for it and bought it. Not that I nicked it. I’m a lead-by-example kinda guy. But as I say, this is just me on my own personal mission, no preachy, preachy here, move along now!

Before I abandoned Live entirely I spent a week or so searching eBay for second hand copies of old versions, I was perfectly happy to use version 5 or 6, I don’t use half the clever stuff anyway, basic is good. It seems however that once you fork out for Ableton then you are sold for life, upgrade all the way baby so no second hand to be found.

So it was that the cry of ‘help’ went out to the Fwonk* forum and Cockos Reaper was suggested. It’s an affordable, fully fledged audio sequencer, with all the routing options of the big boys, only with none of the gigabytes worth of sample libraries. I’ve been playing with it for a little while no and all indications are good. Utterly different.. but good. I am gonna have another week with it before I give you a more complete opinion so watch this space.

Mondays’ Going Straight then is going to be me trying to replace all my nice shiny stolen goods with honest to goodness cheap or free stuff, hopefully this will be interesting and informative. Fingers crossed eh?